“What MMOs Can Learn From Borderlands” or “Twice the Hogger”
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. 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.
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. Last year I 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 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 tenuous thread it has with the implied realism. Why can’t we have that in WoW? Or for that matter, any other MMO that uses the same respawn system? Why must we clear boar after boar in McLure Vineyards, only to have them appear by sheer force of will, out of thin air? Why must we wipe out all the worgens plaguing the town of Darkshire in Duskwood, only to watch them completely bypass the laws of nature and reproduction and re-populate their recently ravaged camp with judicious speed?
More importantly: anyone got a better idea?