Every Saturday, a group of players from a site I regularly contribute get together and plays a game together. It seems to be a growing trend among gaming sites to help strengthen the ties within the community. The site, MMOvoices, is currently grouping up for some DDO sessions. The game may change eventually, however right now we are all very much content with the choice.
One of the things that I love about the MMOvoices community is that the members always seem to bring up talking points that lead to great conversations. Yesterday, one such talking point bore itself into my brain and got me thinking. It was the topic of Atmosphere within DDO. DDO seems to have this great ability for pulling you into the dungeon experience. Whether it is the narration, the sounds, or the visual effects, you feel like you are part of the action.
I love other mmos but I have yet to encounter a game that does this as well as DDO. Granted I have not experienced every mmo dungeon out there. I never touched an EQ2 dungeon. Arguably the closest for me would be GW. Specifically a dungeon during the Kurzick ( or is it Luxon? The forest side) that had some of the most breathtaking scenes I have seen in a video game to date. You can see a picture on my blog HERE.
I remember WoW having great immersion when I first started in Elwynn forest back in Vanilla. It could just be over saturation on my part, but I just dont get the same atmosphere from wow dungeons that I do from games like GW and DDO. Ya they have great visuals, although the air is always clear, mobs generally are itching their asses waiting to be pwned (aside from the one or two pats that have highly predictable routes) and the sound is usually drowned out by music. I turn off the music and really their isn’t much else to listen too. I find this sad because it is these things, the small things, that make a huge difference when creating effective atmosphere in a game.
The first dungeon in DDO, outside the tutorial, you enter a crypt with strings of spider webs, clicks of spider feet, moans of dark alters, drips of water, subtly screams of pain, all while enjoying the occasional narration to help set the mood. Its one of those things that you just don’t get sick of. Even the tenth time around it still feels like a dungeon. Something that I cant say for WoW.
On the opposing side, my buddy on MMOV (JayJay), says that it is that atmosphere that eventually got old and was one of the factors to push him away from DDO. I have not experienced much of the non Korthos stuff. I think I did maybe two dungeons on Stormreach back when the game was still P2P. He says something along the lines of every dungeon starts to look the same after awhile. I find that interesting because that is the exact feeling I have with WoW, especially the five man encounters. Perhaps it is just the style we get sick of.
I can imagine that creating such immersion through atmosphere is difficult at best. After awhile the company is bound to reuse some of the sound bits or textures to speed up the process and cut down the size. It’s a shame really. Id be more than willing to dedicate half my hard drive to a game that could boast an unique experience in every dungeon while maintaining great atmosphere. Of course Id also be willing to win the lottery without every buying a ticket.
If nothing else the conversation we had about atmosphere reminded me of one of the rules of what makes a game fun (from my perspective): Make the little things count. Be it sounds, visuals, how mobs work, speech, quest text, or narration; these things when done well can make the experience so much better for us as players. Likewise, players who learn to appreciate the small things in a game (like atmosphere) can almost always be privy to a more enjoyable experience.
What are you thoughts on atmosphere and its importance? Does it mean anything to you? What games do you think display or hope will display solid atmosphere? Would love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks again for reading.