Why MMO Exploration is Unimportant & 4 Ways To Make it Meaningful

Want to know what other problems MMOs have? Check out our pieces on the problems with PvP and crafting.

MMOs are all about exploring and exploiting a vast, persistent world with many other players. Why is it, then, that so many MMOs tend to stifle this emphasis on discovery? Linear quest direction, emphasis on power-leveling over story-building, and the lack of new settings all negatively impact traditional MMO design. Rather than encouraging players to explore and uncover parts of the world and share the information with their fellows, designers usually focus on getting players to the endgame as quickly and painlessly as possible. While I do love good endgame content, I also enjoy discovering more about the world I am running around with my burly warrior. MMO exploration isn’t quite to where it should be, and that’s unfortunate.

Unlike previous articles, I don’t think that exploration and questing in MMOs is fundamentally broken. Designers have made huge strides since the esoteric and confusing days of Ultima Online and Everquest. Unfortunately, I feel that they’ve swung a bit too far in the opposite direction, leaving players little more as extensions of the designer’s will. Without good exploration and discovery, you are simply going through the motions to watch numbers tick up. While this makes for a measured experience, it prevents the player from creating their own interesting stories.

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