Chaos in MMORPGs
The topic of “chaos” came up in the discussion we’ve been having lately regarding things we want/don’t want in a next-gen MMORPG. I thought I might share my thoughts on the subject and get your input. First, what is meant by ‘chaos’? I like the second definition available from Google: “Behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.”
In terms of class mechanics, a little bit of chaos can be fun. A very static game is predictable. An ability that does 5 damage will always hit for 5 damage. Throw some chaos in there and that ability might hit for 5-10 or activate an effect. Some ideas I have for implementing chaos include a bit of RNG (random number generator) and skill. Imagine if you could hit someone with a sword on the leg. First you do some damage, but since it was a sword you might also inflict a ‘cut’ to cause the target to bleed. If you hit hard enough maybe you also hurt the target’s ability to move (snare or something).
Chaos can also be added into content. Forget about randomness for a second and consider the ‘experience’ or ‘atmosphere’. In EverQuest there was almost always an element of danger and unpredictability within a zone. Desert of Ro and Oasis were plagued by Sand Giants. For the majority of players in those zones, a Sand Giant would one shot you because it was a high level mob. This meant you were always watching your back in case a Sand Giant came up behind you. Unrest and Guk were infamous for ‘trains’ of mobs being dragged through the tight spaces of the zone. One wrong step and a train might wipe you and your group. This ‘chaos’ was more dynamic than it was random, and greatly increased my overall enjoyment of the game (even if it sucked hard dieing to a train).
In terms of RNG or unfortunate events, chaos can be really frustrating if it doesn’t go your way. But you can also have amazing moments where the stars align and the game’s fun factor shoots through the roof — even if only for a few seconds — and uncertainty or chaos can create an atmosphere 10x more immersing than a linear and predictable experience.
What do you think? Does ‘chaos’ have a place in MMORPG’s? Should everything be apparent, expected, and linear or should you be surprised every once in a while?