Home > Borderlands, Bronte, Immersion, Opinion, Realism, World of Warcraft > “Sensible Spawns” or “WoW vs. Borderlands”

“Sensible Spawns” or “WoW vs. Borderlands”

Most modern MMOs like to define themselves as virtual worlds. What this implies is that even if the player logged off, the world would continue to exist regardless. Bears would roam the forests, wolves would chase down and kill rabbits, Frenzyheart would fight on against the Oracles, the Purple Gang would patrol the West Side Heights, and so on and so forth. This creates a sense of immersion, a sense of belonging in a living, breathing world teeming with its own life.


The immersion factor is however shattered when you kill a boar, and another one pops up. It does not dig out of the surrounding mud, or come out of a farm enclosure of some kind. It simply… materializes out of thin air.  In no other genre of gaming, be it FPS, RTS or even RPG, do your enemies pop out of thin air and re-populate the area minutes after you cleared the menace. The person who gave you the task of clearing out said enemies is still in the same peril, asking adventurer after adventurer to fix the situation for him.

Syncaine made a great post about how to address this issue from quite a few different viewpoints.

My post is more about the way in which these enemies (re)spawn. It’s a pity to see Borderlands, which is not an MMO, come up with a viable and intelligent solution to the persistent respawn problem, without succumbing to the same old lazy formula. I recently started “The Borderlands Chronicles”, a series of posts that recounts my adventures as Bronte the Hunter in Borderlands, providing narrative, critique and commendations along the way. You can find Part I here.


The skags spawn out of that cave on the right, NOT thin air.

The later section of this inaugural post covers my fight with some skags, the game’s version of demonic dog-like starter creatures. They too respawn over time. The difference is that they charge out of small caves built into the game world. You cannot enter these caves yourself, they are a little too small. But the overall effect undeniably feeds immersion.

You spot a skag, you snipe it from 50 feet out. Immediately two more skags come snarling, charging out of the adjacent caves. And even if you kill every skag in the area, the respawn process will involve more skags eventually walking out of the caves, instead of magically appearing out of thin air.

The system makes sense. It is intuitive, it allows for the beasts to be persistent in the world without breaking the tenous thread it has with the implied realism. Why can’t we have that in WoW? Or Champions Online? Or for that matter, any other MMO that uses the same respawn system?

  1. October 31, 2009 at 12:22 am

    It’s hard to believe that MMOs would be so negligent of such an easy immersion booster. Unfortunately, MMOs are generally pretty awful at telling meaningful stories.

    MMOs have room to play with this spawning-place idea further, as well. Quests to deal with a certain menace can send the player to actually destroy the creature-spawner. The spawner can then appear in a place where no PC is in a minute or two to avoid the “phasing in” immersion-break. Adding such a small change to a virtual world could lead to a lot more immersion–when you make players feel like they’re actually changing the world (without breaking everything), it’s a win-win situation.

  2. Matt
    October 31, 2009 at 7:19 am

    Actually, WoW does occasionally do that type of a spawn system. I’ve had a few occasions where a mob will respawn by running from somewhere else to where it would spawn. The problem is, they just don’t use it all the time for whatever reason (probably too hard to figure out so many places for spawns to make sense)

  3. leo
    September 8, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Borderlands has worst graphics bad pvp and easy bosses so…. we really complaining about spawns look at borderland story its soo bad not that its a bad game just gets boring

  1. July 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm
  2. December 21, 2010 at 7:14 pm

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