Friday, September 11, 2009
Where do you want that database?
It is perfectly possible to play a MMORPG without looking up where to find what item or monster. But if you're just following a random path of quests and fights, chances are you'll end up with some of your gear being a lot weaker than the rest, because by pure chance you didn't find for example some new boots. So what many players do is to look up what gear to get, and where, in some database.
World of Warcraft, having so many players, has a lot of third party databases all over the internet. Places like Thottbot, WoWDB, WoWHead, or Allakhazam. Map sites like MapWoW, wikis like WoWWiki, crafting sites like Crafter's Tome, loot sites like WoW-Loot, the list goes on and on. Any data you could possibly imagine about WoW is available in a database somewhere. Only it's not always easy to find. And it's not always accurate, for example not having been updated after a patch. And of course you'll have to break immersion, and either alt-tab out of the game, or look at the database on a second computer.
So when I was playing Luminary for a while, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was an official database, and it was integrated into the game. Need a new sword? The database shows you what ingredients the sword is crafted from, which mobs drop those ingredients, and where to find those mobs. Then I played Atlantica Online, and they had a similar system, but you needed to fight mobs to unlock their database entries on basic stats, location, and loot tables. And of course Warhammer Online has the Tome of Knowledge, which also has unlockable entries, although not really detailed enough to serve as a good database.
I like the idea of the database being *in* the game, not run by a third party on some website. Not only because an in-game database would always be accurate and up to date, and easier to access. But also because you could actually turn it into a gameplay element: Imagine an NPC in game, a sage, who for a small fee looks at your gear, identifies the weakest piece, and gives you advice on how to upgrade it. Basically you'd get a personalized quest sending you to some quest NPC, or dungeon, where you could get the gear you need. Which would be a lot more fun than getting yet another quest with a quest reward you can't possibly use.
What do you think? Should games have more ways to look up game data inside the game, or do you prefer to rely on outside sources?