The Hanna-Barbera Effect in MMORPG's

Ombwah's picture

Scooby and Shaggy slink towards the kitchen of the creepy old house. As they pass a painting, it is hard not to notice that the eye holes are shaded in an entirely different palette than the rest of the scene. A lighter shade of paint that made it clear to the experienced Scooby-watcher what was to come. See, in all of those early Hanna-Barbera cartoons, anything that was going to animate would be drawn in a lighter color than the backdrop scenes. We knew that a ghostly bad guy was going to peer malignantly at our heroes through the eyes of the painting because the eyes were painted in that 'active element' color. Deliberate or not, it removed any suspense that the Scooby gang tales might have carried.

In most currently available MMO's there are quests where a player needs to go find a legendary idol or harvest a magic mushroom. Whether the player is asked to grab an axe from a stand in the inn, an apple from a tree or whatever-have-you, they will need to find the geo in the game-world and click on it. Usually, the idol, the mushroom - whatever the item is - will change the state of a player's cursor when the cursor passes over the collision hull of the object to indicate that it is indeed an interactable item. Now, some of these objects won't change when they're clicked or otherwise react at all to an attempt at interaction unless the player in question has the quest or mission related to that object. Nevertheless the game engine seems to telegraph to a player that the object is, in fact, interactive anyway. Even when it is effectively not. At this point, interactive-but-not-interactive objects become weird, sort of buggy feeling content quirks. What's worse, a player may draw impressions from these (not)interactive objects that lead to player experiences like the one in this tale:

The grim Commander of the King's Guard looked the scrappy swordsman over coldly. "We think that the Gremlorcks plaguing the trade-roads have encamped near the northern pass. I expect you to find their battle plans and bring them to me - are you strong enough to succeed, mercenary?" The young adventurer laughed, "Old man, I'll have your plans by nightfall, and be back here 'ere daybreak." It was easy to be so haughty, after all the youth had been to that Gremlorck camp just a day previous, and knew that the map object on the table in the camp was "usable", but hadn't gotten any reaction from clicking on the object then. This quest offer text confirmed his suspicion, that map object had to be what he needed to click on to complete this quest for the Commander.
He'd have to cancel that /bug report though. Can't forget that.

Just like in Scooby Doo, all suspense is gone.

The last time I came across one of these usable/not usable items it occurred to me how buggy that must seem to an unseasoned player, in most cases there isn't even a message delivered to the chat queue explaining that the object can't be used right then, and rarely if ever are audio cues given to the potentially confused player.

This seems like a small and innocuous bug, one so small that it exists in literally all of the current gen MMO's that I've played. Just a polish issue right?

Hanna-Barbera must have thought that about the lighter color thing too, back in the old days. It's good to see that their current teams don't continue the practice.

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Snipehunter's picture

In mildly related news...

I wonder if the Hanna-Barbera effect will be used as an intentional gameplay element on these games. That could be, in a way, interesting. I mean it's a context where you could actually play with the player's expectations, using an otherwise undesirable element of gaming...

Not that I'd be caught dead working on one of those titles, but that could be kinda fun, in its own way. Turning a weakness into an asset and all that.

- Snipehunter