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Day 2 Mabinogi: Tedium Sets In

Well, I'm bored of Mabinogi. It broke one of the cardinal rules of modern MMORPG game design: "Thou Shalt Not Make Thine Players Spend More Time Walking Than Anything Else." But, really, there's nothing wrong with Mabinogi that isn't often found at the core level of basic MMORPGs design.

Video Caption: A worry many developers have with allowing players to use virtual world instruments to play whatever they want is that they'll use it to translate their favorite songs from real life. Thereby breaking immersion and violating copyright law in the process. Mabinogi proves that these are not baseless worries. Still, it's the coolest feature in the game.

"Travel time" is actually a great time sink that also helps make a virtual world seem a lot more worldly. When it actually takes time to get places, there's a feeling of genuine worth to the virtual space your transversing. However, like any other part of a game, the traveling portion of the game should not be extended beyond the enjoyment it can offer. Mabinogi's dated, view-distance restricted landscape does not provide sufficient entertainment to enjoy the 10-minute jog from one town to the next. Final Fantasy XI's landscape, now there was something I actually enjoyed looking at as I slowly plodded my way around, avoiding danger at every turn.

The way Mabinogi over-zealously applies its time sinks equally also applies into the tedium of the greater body of the virtual worldly activities it offers. Harvesting in Mabinogi (and the vast majority of MMORPGs) is a simple matter of clicking and waiting to see if you get anything. The exciting factor? You might fail! Skinner's Box ahoy!

Good game design comes in recognizing that anything that is supposed to be worth the player's time should challenge them. Without a fundamental mechanic, perhaps instead leaving success up to chance, there is no satisfaction in the activity and no game. Mabinogi's harvesting routine, in which the player can only wait and hope, does not a satisfying game make. Mabinogi's Skinner's Box harvesting model is something only a computer or compulsive gambler could enjoy, and unfortunately is the basis of the majority of the things players do in the game.

I think that Blizzard realized this when they were making World of Warcraft's trade skill system. Because they couldn't put the neccessary effort into making a very robust and enjoyable trade skill system, they simply streamlined it to the point where it's a minor speed bump. That would have been the easy solution for Mabinogi: make harvesting quick and easy so the players can get to those trade skill production mini-games much faster.

Really, this is just MMORPG punditry 101. I haven't said anything here we weren't complaining about a few months after Ultima Online was released. In the end, Mabinogi's mistakes are nothing new, because it embodies the philosophy that made the greater body of MMORPGs what they are: Fair world simulations, but terrible games. If you're okay with that, you're okay with most MMORPGs, and Mabinogi is actually an unusually good shade of mediocrity.


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