We all have our white whales when it comes to MMO features or issues that we dearly wish would eat a barbed harpoon and then bleed out while uncaring players hacked away at their blubbery corpse. For some it’s raiding, others it’s welfare epics, but for me, it’s jumping puzzles.
They are, and I cannot emphasize this enough, the worst.
This rant comes to you specifically from an event the other night, in which I was attempting to get to another SWTOR datacron, most all of which are tucked away at the end of jumping puzzles. Whoever decided that jumping puzzles were the way to go in SWTOR obviously never talked to the animators, because my character has such tempermental, inconsistant jumping abilities that I am pretty sure an RNG rolls to check whether or not I’m going to even hop when I slam on the spacebar. It is certainly not a game that offers precision jumping and handling controls, because that’s not what MMORPGs are about. But here we have a bucket of free stats walled off by inexcusable, inexplicable platforming elements.
With the decrease in latency and the increase in poor judgement in developers, jumping puzzles are cropping up all over the place. Guild Wars 2 has so many of them that the only explanation is a severe fetish over at ArenaNet that needs attention by counselors before someone gets hurt. WildStar thought jumping puzzles were so cool that it devoted an entire path to them — although, to be fair, no one is forced down that path and there are double-jumps, which are super-sweet. One of the most frustrating RIFT quests in Storm Legion involved jumping to the top of a tower while being given an overdose of jumping power, so that it was incredibly common to overshoot everything.
Jumping in platformer titles is common, expected, and makes sense. It’s part of what those games are. But MMOs were never about platforming as a key gameplay element; our obstacles are bundles of numbers that we fight with other bundles of numbers.
I’ve seen some people defend jumping puzzles as “fun” and “another type of gameplay,” and while they are dead wrong, I suppose I should justify why I hate them so much in MMOs. First, at no point did I pick up an MMO hoping for a platforming experience. I love these games primarily because they are more about strategy and RPG tropes and not about twitch-based, reflex-centric gaming. Some of us (older?) gamers don’t care to play Mario Bros. all over again. We’ve done that. We are now interested in these games instead and resent the invasion of platforming influences.
Second, jumping puzzles are the worst when they are mandatory to a quest, an event, or hold a much-needed/desired reward at the end of them. I can ignore their inclusion otherwise, but when I feel pressured into doing them because I’ll miss out on advancement otherwise, the rebellious backlash brews within me.
Third, there is still enough latency and multiplayer issues that can make jumping puzzles far harder than they need to be. Missing a jump because the server hiccupped or because a giant player character obscured your vision takes the blame for the fail away from us while still making us eat the penalty.
Fourth, jumping puzzles are unforgiving by design. Mess up just once, and you have to do them all over again. Checkpoints? Ways to rebound from a setback? Pshaw. That might exist in other areas of the MMO, but not here. Of COURSE not here.
Fifth, repeated failures are frustrating and lead to immense disatisfaction with the game and its designers. I don’t need to be handed everything on a silver platter, but I don’t like it when the game I’m playing decides to become this OTHER type of game and then slam me into the ground over and over again to demonstrate how gravity works and how I have poor depth perception.
And sixth, jumping animations are… how shall I put this? Are not usually the strongest part of the MMO portfolio. Do devs want to us to repeatedly witness the goofy pose that our character makes while in mid-jump? So few MMOs get jumping “right,” both in looks and feels. Jumping puzzles rubs our faces in it.
The thing is, I’m certainly not against jumping. It can be fun, especially when you’re left to do it on your own as part of personal amusement or exploration. Seeing if you can get to a spot for the sake of it is far more enjoyable than having a timed guided path where the platforms start disappearing on you and you have to make 16 perfect hops in a row to reach that epic chest of loot.
Jumping puzzles. Stahp. You are not as loved or cool as you think you are.