Why I enjoy exploring

| Tuesday, August 24, 2010
When was the last time you found something actually new? Possibly never. Whatever you've found, someone probably beat you to it. Of course I'm no different. The odds just aren't on our sides: too many other people.

We're not going to figure out the first strat, the best DPS rotation, the new loot, the coolest quest chains. Someone will get there first. Someone else will also find the troll village and the airport and the strangely obvious and trivial path from Swamp of Sorrows to Redridge Mountains. But there is something different.

It's useless.


So useless information is free to be found as we desire. We will never be steered to the wowiki page for the strat for jumping to Ironforge. We're free to not know it and until we want to know it, we won't. Words seem to be failing me here, let me take another shot at it.

If you don't know your spell rotation, you're a noob. Someone will probably say it. Someone beside me, I mean. It's negative information, in the sense that you don't reach a new peak by knowing it, instead you only are gimped, stuck in a valley, by not knowing it. Knowing it is the default.

In contrast exploration is mostly unknown. The default is to know nothing, so every little bit you find is new to you. And likely new to many other people. You'll never get rich off it or kill a boss with it, but you'll know it. It's intrinsically rewarding.

When I found that most of Icecrown and Storm Peaks could be traveled by land mount, I was excited. It was utterly useless. Who knew? Who cared? Almost no one at all. But I knew, and that was exciting.

Remember when you first started playing and everything was new? The most irritating quest could still be fun if it was new, if it took you somewhere new, showed you a new land, a new story, a new idea. That's hard to get anymore: newness. You've done it all, read the guide for it first, and it's old even before it's new. Except exploration.

Since I wrote this, over at That's a Terrible Idea a post has come up about fun, which I think is perfectly relevant to what I was trying to say here.

P.S. Having to spirit res isn't fun.


caerphoto said...

Familiarity is the reason I can't play Morrowind any more. I can't overlook its datedness in favour of exploring all the cool places on the island (dwarf cities were awesome) because I know where everything is, or what it looks like. Nothing will surprise me in the game any more and I really wish that wasn't the case, as I spent so long in that game just having fun seeing what was around the next corner or beyond the next mountain.

Anonymous said...

Exploring is an exercise in discovery. If I'm exploring somewhere new, I'm already/always in a particular place, looking in a certain direction. I see how the trees grow, how the ground slopes and how it looks like there's a path through the hills over there. From where I am, I can already see some of what I haven't discovered yet in detail. As I get closer, more of those details are revealed. I see the roof of one building and then another. I see what looks like a path and soon I come to discover a village. Is it deserted? Hostile? Is there a unique vendor somewhere here that sells a rare bean? In this way, the world is incrementally revealed; not from pure non-knowing to full knowledge but in glimpses, inferences and partial views. Exploration is about discovering whether the details you think might be there are or whether they are in fact entirely different than you'd ever imagined.

Klepsacovic said...

@Andy: Are there many player-made areas to explore? I'm sorry if the questions sounds stupid, but I'm assuming it has some sort of way to add content.

@Anonymous: That was almost poetic and definitely accurate.

Syl said...

I like your post. Funny enough I published a very similar one over at our place only yesterday!
Traveling and exploring are such a huge part of playing MMOs for me, when wotlk was released I spent the first few days doing absolutely nothing but exploring (and dying rather often!)

The world can't be too big for me in an MMO. :)
I also agree that especially the flying mounts take a lot of that adventurer feeling away later on.
and have you ever tried playing without the map, navigating by terrain only? it's quite an experience.

Klepsacovic said...

I've done terrain-only a few times. It's not so hard in the air where a misturn isn't a big deal, but on the ground, oh the places I've gotten lost...

On that same note, a while back I wrote about navigating the areas of Northrend which we tend to assume require flying mounts. I did use the map, but it wasn't a ton of help for actually finding any routes.

Glyph, the Architect said...

I found something new not even 20 minutes ago. In EPL, there is a small Argent Dawn encampment on the south side of the road to Stratholme, off in some trees. There are no vendors or anything and only one of the NPCs has any dialogue.

I know it's probably been in the game since the beginning, if not a patch or two after release, but after 5 years of playing I'd still never seen it before. There'd just never been any reason for me to physically venture over there since from the road there appeared to be nothing but rock.

Klepsacovic said...

Try escorting the dwarf with the mules sometime.

Nick Carraway said...

Exploration-based MMO

That would be a nice change. I tend to lean towards the "Explorer" edge of the spectrum, and I agree totally with Anonymous.

The fun of exploring is what you don't know. In World of Warcraft, you know everything. You are the master of the world with information about every mob and NPC at your fingertips. And it's not fun. In fact, it's quite boring.

Syl said...

I agree but then I reckon blizzard would by now have to force the majority of their wow audience to play in such a way, no?

no more flying mounts!!! hmm , I think I like that actually. :D

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