The Spirit of Discovery

When was the last time you “discovered” something in a MMO? You are just going about your normal business when all of a sudden you find a new creature, item or area which you never heard of. With patch notes, developer comments, wikis, forums, fansites and everything else, there isn’t much room left for secrets. For the upcoming UO publish 57, which I talked about a bit a couple days ago, some people are requesting the new loot drops be published by the UO team.

My line of thinking is if it doesn’t need to be listed, don’t. Let players discover this stuff on their own. It isn’t as if this is a change to a skill or ability. These are decorations and artifacts which already exist in the game, just available in a new way. Some people will find it fun to explore these champions while the rest will find out within a short time what they carry.

A long time ago, some UO developer secretly slipped two new items into the game. After some time had passed no one reported finding them. I have no idea how long they were in, but it was long enough that a hint was provided that they existed. Players went out and found that Efreets carried daemon bone armor pieces. The other required a second hint (search some place cold), but was found to be the Glacial Staff on Ice Serpents.

If players were already inclined to search for secrets then these items would have likely been found without dropping hints. Or maybe some players knew about them and didn’t tell anyone. That would encourage more to go out and explore. But I think UO, and many other MMOs, have reached a point where nothing gets added without a note. So players just read the detailed guide on whatever they want to hunt and go do that.

Playing backseat developer for a moment, if I was working on UO or any MMO, I would make it a point that at least one secret gets put in every publish. It could be something small like a new decoration drop or something bigger like a cave with a special monster spawn. If no one finds it after a few months, then maybe a hint would be dropped. The goal would be that players would be encouraged to find this stuff on their own without hints. It is something small that will enhance the gaming experiance without a lot of effort.

Adding new content in this manner will also keep areas in the game fresh and interesting. A lot of MMOs suffer from the area treadmill of expansions, new ones replacing older ones. While the thrill of discovey will only be open to the first few who find it, just knowing that you might be the one who makes the next one can ehance the experiance.

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