Persistence has turned into a buzzword for developers.Â When I read “persistent world” I think of a world that is static and there at all times open and available to play in that will not change when you close the game.Â When I read “Massively Multiplayer Persistent World” I think of a world that is online and available to -everyone- playing that will stay online and open/available to everyone to play in together.Â The trick here is what they really mean by persistent.
Many say persistent world but they mean instanced persistence.Â Age of Empires Online is instanced persistence.Â Your “base” is persistent for you.Â You log in and see your town but no one else does unless they “visit” to look at it — when you want to battle against the AI or other players it’s a normal RTS game and your city has nothing to do with it; it’s a glorified lobby.Â I’m betting Trion’s MMORTS in development, End of Nations, will be the same way.Â Standard RTS games are instanced persistence in that they are there for the match, in that instance, and are gone after.Â Global Agenda is instanced persistence.Â You are in an instanced lobby (1 or however many are open because not everyone can be in their little lobbies at the same time) and when you go to do battle you are instanced away in something that is only persistent so long as that match is going on — it has an end.
What makes a MMORTS that instances their persistence any more “MMO” or persistent than the standard Warcraft 3?Â The answer is simply that you have a really cleverly disguised lobby that you may be able to run around in or build something in, but in the end it is just a lobby.Â This is why Global Agenda was ultimately not a MMO and had more in common with Call of Duty or Diablo than a real MMO.Â It’s not persistent when you have 12v12 fights just like Team Fortress 2 and the winner gets their name on a map.
Be aware of what you are being sold on.Â Understand the difference between something that is truly open and persistent vs. something that is instanced and merely hiding behind the guise of “social” interactions and rewards. Understand why developers do whatever they can to never use the word “instanced”; understand why it has become taboo to say the words yet use the method (hint: you sell more games if you mislead people) and how you can spot it before you spend your money.
A MMORTS that claims real territory control yet never shows you territory is hiding behind words. Playing a standard RTS match to decide who wins an imaginary territory is no more persistent than what we’ve been playing for well over a decade.Â The same principles apply to MMOFPS and even MMORPGs.