How Does WoW Avoid Zoning?

And why don’t other games do the same? Immersion is really important to me in games (especially RPGs) and zoning kills immersion. I’m not a fan of WoW for other reasons but the no zoning thing is great and I expected it would have caught on by now.

What’s zoning?

Wow isn’t revolutionary in this… and WoW does have different zones, they’re just seamless (as in, you load into them before you hit the boundary).

Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided did this, with the only “transitional” things being Spaceshuttles from port to port on different worlds, which was a slightly bigger jump than the different zones of planets (planets tended to be from 30k by 30k to 12k by 12k, depending o whether it was a moon or planet). EQ and some others probably did this, but I never played those.

I believe it refers to getting transition or loading screens when moving between areas. In WoW you only get that when entering or leaving an instance, or teleporting by hearthstone or portal. Normal travel between one area and an adjacent one is seamless. Without having played them, the OP is presumably saying other MMPOGs such as LOTRO do have such immersion-killers.

The first game of this type I remember doing this was DungeonSiege, but if the OP is after technical details of how it is accomplished I can’t help.

Would you believe they got a zoning variance? :smiley:

Nope, Everquest had zoning with a vengence. Even Freeport [a single city] was divided into IIRC 3 zones.

Diablo II has smooth transitions, too. I get the impression that the game doesn’t treat zones per se as the relevant unit, but a set of regions surrounding your character. As you move, it loads up more of these blocks in the direction you’re heading, and unloads the ones behind you.

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Moved from General Questions to the Game Room, where the WoWheads hang out.
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There is, indeed, some zoning going on, but it’s cleverly hidden behind a window system that allows you to see into adjacent zones. When you teleport or hearth, you can see the zoning going on, but when you’re moving from one zone to an adjacent zone, it looks downright seamless. The only indication is that sometimes you’ll move into the other zone and it will be a second or two before the indicator on the minimap changes and other zone-specific stuff takes effect.

I remember seeing a long technical explanation of how they did this, but I don’t remember where it was. Sorry.

Not so; LOTRO is comparable to WoW in this regard. Run (or ride your mount, or take a hired horse) from zone to zone, it’s seamless; take instant travel or enter an instance and hit a load screen.

I remember from quite a while ago that one of the original design goals for the development team was to create a game with seamless zoning. They designed the system from the beginning with this objective in mind, and to some extent they were able to make the graphics as minimally demanding as necessary to ensure that they met it. WoW has few polys and simple textures especially in the old world, so there’s very little to load or store in memory compared to similar games.

In addition, they made excessive use of choke points and limited sightlines to give you ample time to load new zones before you have to display them. Classic examples are the front gates of Stormwind, Orgrimmar and Ironforge, where you have to walk around a barrier; Undercity, Thunder Bluff and Darnassus where it’s necessary to ride up or down an elevator of some kind; and zone boundaries like the tunnel between Dun Modr and the Wetlands. This tool gives the engine a lot of time to load zones with heavy textures without significant pop-in, so it’s not strictly necessary to have load screens instead.

As the average computer got a lot faster, they’ve been able to load more of the game world at once, since PC speed scaled faster than the increased complexity of zones in successive expansions. Northrend’s transitions are a lot closer to seamless than Kalimdor’s, and they’re now comfortable enough with the process to allow flight in the old world, which is a fantastic bonus.

Yes and no - I play on a 12 year old computer and while the old world loads seamlessly I don’t always have that experience in Northrend. Blizzard would also like to keep the game maximally accessible instead of forcing constant hardware upgrades, because they realize quite a few of their 11+ million subscribers are casual gamers who’d quit if they had to constantly shell out for new hardware on every expansion. There are tools to help those of us with relatively low end computers incorporated into the software. So, for example, in Dalaran I turn my video settings waaaaaaaaaaaaaay down in the evenings, which makes little difference in view as you don’t have long sightlines in the city and it greatly increases the frame rate and such, then when I go elsewhere with less lag I turn the video settings up again. This helps keep the game accessible and pleasant for as many people as possible.

I’m hoping I can continue into the next expansion on my current machine as I simply don’t have the money to upgrade.

But yeah, they designed it from the get-go for minimal noticeable zoning, and they had a whole bag of tricks they used. They’re still using them, and coming up with new ones.

I cannot wait for this. Seriously.

Although it would be great fun for them to throw flying in old world open for a weekend prior to the release of Cataclysm, just so we can check out the places where they “cheated” the visuals for ourselves.

There was a website that showed this. I’ll see if I can find it, cos it’s quite funny to see all the cheats. :slight_smile:

Here you go: http://www.wow.com/2009/05/10/flying-in-old-world-azeroth/

I’ve seen that. I just want to actually see them myself, in the game!

WoW has zoning. All the instances (including battlegrounds & arena) are their own zones. Both major continents of the old world are their own zones, Northrend is another, and Outland plus Eversong and Azuremyst are another.

As for how it avoids load times for an entire continent…the short answer is: Because it’s made for a computer.

Content being broken up into small segments for no discernable reason is a relatively recent phenomenon that comes of console hardware limitations being forced upon cross-platform games. Developers consider it more effort than it is worth to rebuild their levels for the PC version of their game, and thus everything is brought down to the lowest common denominator.

Four. Plus the sewers (one main zone and the 2 deeper dungeons), plus the 9 slums.

What are you talking about? I can think of several old pc only titles that had zoning of some kind. Eg Fallout 1&2, Baldur’s Gate(to make things even better the sewers and the streets in one city were on different discs) , Half-Life, just about anything ID Software ever made.

This is patently false, as I’m sure you’d realize if you stopped to think about it. The king of games with zones - indeed, the template that WoW set out to break, was Everquest, which never ever, even THOUGHT about being for a platform other than the PC.

Sorry. You can’t blame this phenomenon on consoles, nor is this, as you would claim “a relatively recent phenomenon”; Back in oldest of days, this was a PC problem for the simplest of reasons: Disk space. You’d just run out of room on your floppy disk, so when you entered a new town in Ultima 3, you’d have to change discs.

Eventually, storage got big enough to hold all the data, but the world still wasn’t seamless for a variety of reasons - memory being one of them. You could load a lot of stuff into RAM, and access it very quickly, but once you had too much data to pack into RAM at once, you needed to go to the disk - which took a lot longer. Usually this was done at natural boundaries if possible (Dungeon and town entrances, etc.).

It’s actually only relatively recently that people have SOLVED the zoning problem, by using multi-threaded programming (something that didn’t exist during the earlier phases of this problem) to load data from storage before it’s actually needed, allowing for a relatively seamless experience. And I say relatively, because there are still quite a few little quirks and immersion breakers - travelling too fast, like via teleport? Ooops. Load screen! (Changing zones without letting the buffer get ahead of you). Looking from one zone into the next, and the next zone looks VERY DIFFERENT from what it will when you actually get there - fog and the like suddenly painting in and your view distance plumetting as you cross an invisible line - yup. Zone change, with the visual effects of the new zone finally being applied, whereas only the geometry was loaded in advance, etc.

There might be some things that you can blame on console ports of PC games, but zoning sure as heck isn’t one of them.

All that said… what modern MMOs actually HAVE zoning in the traditional sense? LotRO certainly doesn’t. (Though it has a lot more instances than WoW). I haven’t played the likes of City of Heroes or Warhammer or whatnot, but I was pretty much under the impression that “no zoning” was one of the things everyone SUCCESSFULLY copied from WoW. (Which is not to say that DAoC didn’t have it first.)

Well, DungeonSiege (a single-player game) had it first, I guess. Which didn’t save it from being a hideous game in most other respects.

Ultima Online didn’t have load times but you knew where the zone lines where because of odd occurrences like creatures caught on the line, the mini-map clearing or rubber-banding. There were even some exploits linked with hopping over the lines and back. Even the dungeons were seam-less.

It wasn’t 3d though, so it probably doesn’t count. Still, back then 56k was a luxury…