I was playing Elder Scrolls Online yesterday on my solo Dragonknight character and I was struck by just how effective and siren-like the sound and visual designs are for Dark Anchors (a k a Dolmen). These public events are regular occurences spread across the leveling zones for players to dive into as they see fit – you slay a few waves of creatures and get a reward from the chest that spawns at the end.
They are visually distinctive of course, given it’s a giant glowing ring and chains reaching down to the ground, if you’re facing even vaguely the right way you’ll see a Dark Anchor appear or when in place from a long way away. The sound of these events is even more evocative than the distant visuals, the echoing horns and clanking chains that herald the events arrival are unmistakable. The crackling background hum of the lightning that plays along those chains is also audible from a good distance and has alerted me to an active event just as often.
I find these sounds to be a real temptation, especially the start sound as you know if you hear that you have a good chance of getting to the anchor before it ends. If I hear it and am not already engaged in something hard to drop, I will race across to the anchor to join in. This reminds me, unsurprisingly, of similar content in Rift – the sound design of both rifts and invasions in that game had a the same effect on gameplay.
Always the sound of a rift opening nearby was a positive thing: a temptation to go check out what was going to emerge. Invasions are larger and more time-consuming than either rifts or ESO’s dark anchors, but when I was playing Rift recently I still found myself caught up often in these zone-wide dynamic events. Hearing the sound effects that heralded the invasion start, often followed by some otherworldly voice declaring our doom, I have always found to be a motivator to get involved.
The frequency of such content does play a factor, if you’re constantly hearing Dark Anchors drop or the tell-tale noise of a rift opening then it becomes easier to ignore them. It’s all too easy to get too railroaded into questing and to ignore the world around you to a larger extent in quest-focused games. So I normally welcome the interruption of these types of events, announced by familiar and evocative sounds, as a welcome change of pace.
Do you ever find sounds motivate gameplay in MMOs, especially something you’re not already doing?