Interactive objects #BattleforAzeroth #TESOnline #DDOUnlimited

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.

So much detail, none of it interactive

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.

So many papers I cannot read

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.

A container holds crafting material

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.

Sometimes a container in DDO is not in an obvious place

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.

Bioanalysis skill rewards an item that can summon a temporary pet

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.

A locked gate

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?

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10 Responses to Interactive objects #BattleforAzeroth #TESOnline #DDOUnlimited

  1. Shintar says:

    Playing Vanilla WoW on a private server I was reminded that WoW used to have a lot more of these: not just more random chests in bandit camps and the like, but also barrels of food and drink, readable books and random small items that started quests (such as the message in a bottle in Stranglethorn, or the vial of spider poison for Horde in Hinterlands).

    From what little I’ve seen of ESO, I actually found the amount of random stuff to click on a bit overwhelming there, as it left me with an urge to peek into every corner and click on everything, which just added to my frustration with overflowing bags. Kind of my own fault I guess, but I do think you can have too much of a good thing!

    • Alunaria says:

      Oh, yeah. I forgot all about those barrels of food. Those were the days!

    • You need to learn which things are worth picking up in ESO and which aren’t. It’s definitely overwhelming at first, but you get the hang of it. It’s kind of a learned skill — makes me feel like a real forager.

      For example, crates and barrels only ever have cooking ingredients, so they’re only worth looking in if you’re leveling provisioning.

      • Telwyn says:

        It’s very easy in ESO for gathering to become a real time-sink, especially as Tyler notes if you’re into cooking. But I do love the feeling that my surroundings aren’t akin to a painting – the fact that I can chose to loot boxes, barrels etc, and equally leave unwanted items behind adds somehow to the feeling of being there in the virtual world.

  2. Alunaria says:

    Great points. Just yesterday I came across a couch I wanted to lie on, and of course, I can /lie down, but it’s not the same thing.

  3. Bhagpuss says:

    GW2 is fairly good in this respect. As well as a plethora of objects you can pick up and use as weapons – something no-one ever does – there are lots of books and documents to read and of course, these days you can not only sit in chairs but get an achievement for doing it. Old EQ always had lots of things you could read – books and scrolls – and so does EQ2. In fact, it would probably be quicker to list the MMOs that don’t put readable texts into the game world.

    I’m fine with chests and containers such as those in Bless, my current novelty MMO, which uses Dwarven Chests found in the world as a source of crafting recipes but I’m wary of games that fill the environment with breakable objects that may or may not contain something worth having. It becomes a chore, having to smash them all just in case there’s a prize inside, which there almost never is.

    One thing that often happens is that interactables of a certain type get added as a feature of an update or expansion and then never get used again, so you find them in certain parts of the world and nowhere else. I’d actually forgotten until writing this that there are breakable jars in EQ2 that were a feature of the Bloodline Chronicles and the Deserts of Flames expansion. Then there were the moveable boxes you could place to climb over obstacles in The Splitpaw Saga. You do still see moveable objects, or the concept, used quite often in content up to the present day but I can’t recall seeing any more breakable jars once we left the desert.

    Tak #2 – I’m pretty sure it’s some issue with NoScript that makes me have to re-submit comments here, by the way, rather than any issue with WordPress.

    • Telwyn says:

      Oh, I’ll have to go looking for such objects more in EQ2, I can’t say I’d noticed them other than the common use of “hidden clickables” type puzzles as part of quests.

  4. I do wish MMO environments were more interactive, for sure. It’s something I admire about ESO.

    One long-time pet peeve of mine is how doors in most MMOs are almost never interactive. They’re either always open, or always shut, static set pieces that never change. How much more immersive would it be to hear a rusty door creak open every time you step into the inn in Stormwind?

    IDK, maybe that’s just me…

    • Meznir says:

      I think you’d like the new Waycrest Manor dungeon in BfA – quite a few creaky doors to open in this haunted mansion themed dungeon 🙂

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