#Wildstar – Zone Transition

In architecture frameworks, we find a few levels of detail.  Conceptual, Logical, Physical are the most common.  Concepts are arts styles and a few words to describe.  In games this is the sketch work you see on most sites and what kickstarter usually has with.  A picture of a house is a solid example too.  These are guided by principles.  This place is red, this place is in the sky, etc…

Logical models are a bit more in-depth.  They show how things interact with each other but don’t go down to the detail level.  So for a game, it would be where the main hubs are, the general sub-zone themes and what-have-you.  This side of the map has tunnels, this side rivers, that sort of thing.  An architecture blueprint for a house has this level of detail.  It has to make sense, so that you don’t build a river system above a volcano and that your windows aren’t all on one side of the house, basic rules for the system to work.

Physical models are where the objects are built and placed.  Mob placement and pathing.  Aggro chains.  Key NPCs.  Where harvesting materials spawn.  Zone elevation.  That sort of thing.  In a house design this usually goes down to the exact measurements of the door, or the electrical wiring in the house.  These models are highly restricted, either by law or by design. I mean, you can’t have an ocean in the sky (well maybe?) and you can’t put an outlet in the bathtub.  Breaking these rules means bugs/breakdowns/fire.

And that’s just what the zone LOOKS like, how is actually PLAYS is another layer on top of it.  Quality games design the story (the playing part) before the actual visual (the looking part).  Zones that are designed on looks before the story give you a fractured and disjointed feeling. Sort of like Wilhelm’s recent post.  I found that ESO suffered from this too, and J3w3l has some explanation of that too.  By and large, the zone quests in Wildstar are strongly linked and make a lot of sense.  The tasks are mostly one-offs.  They fit into the story but don’t bog it down with at ton of exposition.  You can read the lore as an option (and you should) but it doesn’t interfere with the game – it augments it.

One of the odd little wrinkles in Wildstar is Farside.  This is the belly button of the game, for levels 25-35, ish.  Rather than a single zone, it’s actually a bunch of smaller distinct zones.  A jungle, a desert mesa, a moon and a support base.  They have their own story that makes sense but given the concentrated design elements, it seems to resonate better with people.  I mean, I loved that moon level, with 1/3 of the gravity.  Robot suits, laser beams hitting big ships, aliens all over the place.  Awesome.  Farside, I will posit, is going to be the favorite zone for the majority of players.

And then you hit Wilderrun, a proto-typical jungle zone.  Very reminiscent of STV back in the old WoW days.  The story isn’t too bad, wild amazonians protecting the water of eternal youth.  It’s just that the zone is massive, uses a lot of vertical space and it the type of zone people are used to seeing.  It’s a bit like having a bite of the absolute best piece of homemade designer cake one day and the next, you get a grocery store frozen cake.  I mean, the other cake is OK, but compared to the one before it takes like dirt.

As I play and enjoy Wildstar, I do see my designer hat come on from time to time and look at the meta of it all. By and large, the core design decisions taken here are ones that I questioned originally but end up working extremely well in practice.  It’s a themepark, fine.  But rather than have a single ride from start to finish, it’s a bunch of rides, interconnected, thematically linked.  It’s like the difference between 6 Flags (just a bunch of stuff) and Disney World (same stuff but all under the same theme).  It’s pretty neat.

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One Response to #Wildstar – Zone Transition

  1. Pingback: Link Dead radio: Rights, Race and Improving Our Experience | Healing the masses

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