I’ve been praising the environments and landscapes of Battle for Azeroth’s new zones in the last couple of posts. Something I would like to see in future World of Warcraft content, however, is more interactivity in the indoor spaces. There are lots of houses, huts and other buildings in these zones – most of them are decorated with myriad objects and pieces of furniture but so little has any purpose or function.
This blog has a comparative foundation to it, and I’ve played quite a few MMORPGs, so comparing ideas across them is something I like to do. My experiences of playing other games shows me that Blizzard could add extra little things for us to do, something to make it more worthwhile to poke our characters’ noses around, and to coincidentally, appreciate all the loving time and effort artists have spent on designing these places.
The first idea that comes to mind is the ‘lore’ object. Story items that aren’t connected to current quests are found, as a system, in a few MMOs – Elder Scrolls Online has plenty of them of various kinds (Mage Guild books, zone-specific collections, etc). They can relate sections of a story of the zone itself as more background. They can be part of a wider world or expansion narrative. Or they could be not geographic and be themed around characters or other topics.
Another type of object is the container. Admittedly since Warlords of Draenor we’ve had the ‘purple chests’ as containers, but they’re marked on the mini-map and tied to certain progression mechanisms (in BfA, they give war resources). I’m thinking having a few boxes, barrels, cabinets or other furniture that when opened have small random rewards not tied to the expansion per se. Again other MMOs have plenty of ideas here: Elder Scrolls Online has the wonderful bookshelves that give you so many historical and literary texts to read, plus the odd skill up bonus.
Dungeons and Dragons Online has a variety of different containers that you smash open to reveal small but useful rewards such as coins, potions or the odd piece of equipment. That’s a niche, although viscerally pleasing implementation of this idea – running around smashing ‘all the things’ is great gameplay in instanced dungeons. I can see how that might be annoying or impractical in shared world areas.
A third category of interactive object could be crafting profession (or other skill) specific items, I’ve written about this before. These interactive items could trigger an event, a fight, a reward or just some small amusing effect. Star Wars the Old Republic had these in dungeons (called flashpoints), where characters with a specific gathering or crafting skill could for instance trigger a special fight or open a shortcut. In Legion there were a couple of these in dungeons, although they were cool they were also a mixed blessing as they blocked progress of that profession. I’m certainly not advocating that here, rather these interactive objects should ‘add value’ to the profession beyond the items you can craft.
Dungeons & Dragons Online has a second variety of this in terms of objects requiring certain character skills to interact with (pick locks, high strength to turn a rusty valve, etc).
That’s mostly game specific, but World of Warcraft used to have a good number of locked objects (chests and doors) in dungeons that a rogue class or specific profession consumable item (e.g. a seaforium charge) could open. In a recent run of the new Freehold dungeon we were delighted to see a return of locked doors that our rogue could pick to open – it’s just one dungeon, but hope perhaps that the devs might finally be changing their mind on this class feature being effectively obsolete.
I suppose the argument against all of these ideas, collectively, is that it might clutter spaces where you are already looking for quest objects. It could cause confusion for players with poorer eyesight. In a sense that depends on implementation and would be a factor of WoW’s graphical style – the tendency in recent expansions to colour-highlight anything that is interactive may be great for accessibility, but could become a negative if lots of little objects are interactive within a small space.
Do you like to see lots of interactive items in MMOs? What kinds do you prefer, beyond quest-related objects?