I’ve recently gotten back into Vanguard again, an event ushered in with the installation of a few much needed computer upgrades. In my search for metagaming material, I’ve stumbled across various pages on the dungeons of VG and there are lots.

I love to instance. Well, let me rephrase that, I love to dungeon crawl. In WoW, I’m always using the Looking for Group tool or keeping an active eye on the chat channels for a group looking for someone to fill a DPS slot. The same behavior applied to WAR. If I was online, I was looking for an instance run or PQ group. And if I leveled a character high enough in LotRO, I’m sure it’d be the same.

But it’s not the amount of dungeons Vanguard has that I find interesting, it’s that most of them are totally open. And not just that, some of the early dungeons can be completely soloed.

Talk about something you don’t see very often. Generally, I think that instanced dungeons is probably the better way to go for AAA MMOs. There’s less kill stealing, griefing, and personally, it tends to boost my FPS fairly substantially. In today’s gaming world, instancing solves issues created by players who don’t work well with others. Open dungeons definitely feel more immersive, though. That castle you’re raiding is actually part of the world and not a mini-game within a wider universe. Keeping dungeons “in-game” so to speak means that the world is now layered and not simply “what you see is what you get”. Maybe you can enter that cave and find a sprawling underground citadel. Or maybe beneath the ocean is a city of ice serpents.

In my mind, the main draw of MMOs is that they provide a virtual world to adventure it. The key idea there is adventure. Flat worlds, totally charted worlds, or instance segmented worlds tend to lack the unknown that makes exploring an exciting past time. In the age of the internet, to expect a game to be unknown isn’t realistic, so games must compensate for that in other ways. Regardless, an MMO that lacks the essence of a world also lacks a big part what makes the genre appealing to many, if not most, fans.

The tagline of Vanguard sums up this concept nicely, “The Only Limits Are Your Own”. Freedom. Choice. Adventure on your own terms. I know that it may seem like I’m promoting Vanguard at the moment but I’m not. That tagline is so representative of the heart of MMOs, that I wish it’s essence could be something that all MMOs subscribe to. I’ll play a Sorcerer not to deal the most DPS but because the class can do the fantastic. The same could be said for any class; you can’t experience that type of adventure in the real world, so we turn to MMOs for the opportunity to step outside of ourselves and, with the aid of imagination, feel like you’re a part of a whole different place. A place that is whole heartedly at your fingertips.

This article started about dungeons because of the amount that they can lend, through teamwork, challenge, excitement, and reward; and that they can make the world more than what it may at first seem. WAR’s PQ system is perhaps the first of several revolutionary steps towards world immersion. They bring the best parts of dungeons into the open world, breathing life into it. It brings players together and, instead of encouraging griefing, encourages team work. They provide you with a means to make an impact on the world, even if temporary. And, speaking for myself, I find some of them just plain epic. Monsters ripping trees from the ground before looming over you? Yes please.

The heart of the genre began its lifebeat in the MUD world and then exploded in a Big Bang with Everquest. Since then, pieces of it have spread from universe to universe, each without all of its missing pieces. One day, a game will come out that pulls all of those pieces together and presents it in a new… revolutionary… Evercrack.  😉

Until then, we recognize the grandeur of each game’s particular approach on the bigger gaming picture. WoW’s epic dungeons and wonderful PvE, WAR’s PQ system and RvR, LotRO’s epic questlines, and Vanguard’s massive world and open dungeons. Every MMO can have something good pulled out of it that future games can learn from. Some day, a new gorilla will come home to roost.

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