MMO starting areas are one of the most overlooked concepts despite being directly related to one of the most debated subjects out there: The World. The latest EQ Next poll asks for feedback.
I am 100% against having just one starting area. I feel like I’m always saying this, but that’s one of the big problems with MMOs today. The experience is controlled, throttled, and linear. I don’t want one starting area, and I don’t care how much the lore of the game is involved. If your lore restricts you to one starting area in a MMO then there’s a big issue with the lore.
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes and EverQuest are two of the best examples out there for starting areas. Heck, even WoW didn’t do a bad job back at launch. Players need to be spread out however it makes the most sense. And I don’t mean spread out like you’re seeing in modern themeparks today where there’s a 2 minute walk or teleport to each of them. Starting areas need to be very far away, and actually be part of the character creation process.
The classic example I’ve given in the past is #MyEQStory. Players start hours apart, and in areas of the world so different from each other that the social mechanisms are different. I remember seeing people say, “We do things differently in this part of the world.” Someone hunting in Crushbone might be used to players behaving differently than those in Blackburrow. Even the experiences are totally unique; Players on one side of the world might have a dungeon crawl deep into the depths of a vast cavern network, and players on the other side fight camps of orcs in a forest. The unique experience matters because people can swap stories.
I like knowing that my decision to start somewhere matters. I can’t be a shaman and start on the continent of Faydwer. That makes meeting different classes and races a really neat experience. I like knowing that the world is big and there are players far away experiencing something unique. That feeling enhances my own experience and gives the MMO a huge sense of replayability.