I’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s to offer in Terraria this time around and the overwhelming feeling I have is that playing Terraria online with other people is a better mmo experience than most others out there. It has a lot of what I’m after mechanically and I what of what should be there to create and engaging virtual world
Wide World of Wonders
Compared to the size of the characters and how quickly you traverse the world it really does feel absolutely massive at times. The top of the world is small enough that you can run from side to side within a reasonable time but once you take into account all the area underneath it becomes enough space to provide a large amount of exploratory fun. As you progress it slowly becomes easier which makes exploration easier as well.
There is a lot to see in the world to with the variety of environments and monsters keeping it interesting. The regular environment tropes are there but since the various biomes provide different materials that enable the crafting of new things, each area is constantly used and I find myself frequently going back to old areas in order to gather more of a particular material.
It’s also a world that strongly rewards exploration not just on some sort of achievement checklist but also as means of progression, finding hidden chests and valuables, as a way of progressing, attaining fluff items and just finding new amazing visuals. It strongly supports both extrinsic and intrinsic playstyles, I find myself regular exploring for precious metals as a way of getting stronger but also keeping an eye out for more items like flags, paintings, and furniture that in no way help progress my character. This is the reason why I can find myself digging for an hour at a time.. to search for more of everything.
Making an Impact
It is amazing how your actions have a defined impact on the world that continue to leave its impression on the landscape, it’s the same draw of Minecraft in many way and a feeling that seems to be missing from our regular mmo’s. Actions in these worlds of ours need to have an impact for the world to evolve from the usual static style to something dynamic. New mob Ai and fancy event coding can only do so much.
In Terraria, our houses and outposts have a huge impact on the gameplay in those areas, an area to rest away from the storm is vital at times and just having a place to store things is needed. Then there is the impact of the paths through the land the player carves that progressively make it easier to explore surrounding areas, you are, at times basically creating roads that can serve as vast transportation networks. My labyrinth of tunnels and underground highways improve travel time dramatically…. and I don’t even think the game would be playable without the hellivators.
Then there is just the small actions like smoothing out land, replanting trees, creating a bridge, or just leaving torches interspersed throughout the world that are solemn reminders of how vital the player actions are and how much they impact the experience for the better. Our actions on the world can also serve as short and long-term goals or just a subtle reminder of where and what we’ve done.
Open World Bosses
I love the open world boss fight aspect of the game as well, everyone can join in regardless which makes it an extremely welcoming affair or you can try to do them solo for the extra challenge. Before it used to be more of a constraint towards others play, whoever beat certain bosses first stopped anyone else from experiencing it but now with the addition of various crafting components anyone, at anytime, and usually in any place can enjoy these experiences as well.
I like the instanced affairs of the modern mmo’s but there is something magical about these open world experiences that I really miss, they can be made for the elite with time constraints or far more community orientated and social when enabled through player interactions.
It’s good how these open world bosses are actually tied into the progression of the world as a whole as well, it’s not just a personal moment but something that truly changes everyone’s experience. For Terraria this can be as subtle as a new npc, the spawning of a certain material, or a complete change in difficulty. This would definitely be a hard thing to manage in a mmo but I would love to see this more often but on a much larger and more inclusive scale. I don’t just want one person to be able to enforce change but for an entire community like TSW just did with its whispering tide event, like Firefall is planning with its Diamond Head expansion, or like EQ next is claiming with its larger events.
Terraria has a rather defined progression system but I love how it isn’t so rigidly defined. It isn’t about gaining levels and having gear restrictions to match, I can equip nearly anything regardless of anything character based, I can skip entire tiers of gear and weapons if needed and just continue and be rewarded based on regular play, there are certain restraints like mana but it’s still a remarkably free system. I don’t have a rigidly defined progression path that restricts available activities, certain areas will be a greater challenge but with smart play you can still go about your merry way.
Power is well-defined in the game but I don’t find it as abhorrent as I sometimes do. You do get progressively stronger until old content is ridiculously easy, this is not just based on gear but in gaining health and mana as well until you’re at a point were there is little challenge to it… but yet, there still is. Your power is mostly contained within the gear so if you are after a certain challenge then you can effectively equip lower tier items.
What makes progression in Terraria great though is that it isn’t just about this vertical gear progression but also has a lot of other options not even related to combat. At times I think that Terraria is close to the epitome of what horizontal progression should be.
There is a huge amount of weapons available that drastically change how you fight, many many melee and ranged weapons that can change gameplay dramatically just on aesthetic ways, in how fast they hit, the damage, the range, the knock backs, and even other secondary effects. Collecting them is a big part of the experience, enough that you are constantly on the look out for new weapons to try.
There are a large number of cosmetic options to craft, find, or buy. Even with the small number of pixels changing your appearance creates a strong intrinsic draw. There are sooooooo many collectibles as well that serve as a sort of personal achievement index. I know we’ve beedn collecting both the flags and the statues at the moment but there are many other ways as well.
Then there is housing. The amount of materials and combinations available is staggering and is a huge part of the gameplay. Just because of how prominent the housing is I feel this is the main focus of play, you want these bigger, flashier, and just more amazing. You want them to represent you as well as your travels.
The crafting system in Terraria is remarkable diverse and extensive containing everything from gear, housing to frivolous fluff items like a potion that makes your melee attacks spew confetti (soooo awesome). It has an extreme focus on gathering materials and using this in a number of ways, you craft your own gear, gear for others and none of it is bound to your character so if you’re finished using something you can easily pass it on or save it for when it’s needed
After enjoying the resource gathering, crafting and progression of Terraria I’m thinking I might actually have to recant on my previous rant about EQNext and of it creating a system fraught with issues. I still attest that it will never create a reasonable economy but if the materials in the various areas are as used in both crafting furniture and collectibles, as well as the housing system then I can see each and every area seeing frequent use and the trading of these rather common. Also, I know it is in tiers but if these materials are more vague in the areas they spawn like here than it will go a long way in stopping the emergence of an end game area.
It is a great game in many ways, at times I think it would also be a great mmo. Having the huge number of players in these worlds does create certain issues and require a number of allowances that small multi-player games don’t have to worry about.