When MMOs take away your eyes

The above screenshot is from Dungeons and Dragons Online, and shows me mid-combat when some magic-slinging undead threw some sort of blinding or fog spell on me. Very quickly, the screen went murky and I couldn’t navigate very well. Because combat in that game happens fast and in real-time, I nervously started shooting all willy-nilly into the fog, hoping to hit something while I was being wailed on and waiting for the spell to lift.

It was a nerve-wracking 20-or-so seconds in which the game — without apology — took away my eyes and told me to deal with it. I did survive, although barely.

This experience was somewhat repeated the next night in a different game. To cross off another quest from my log in World of Warcraft, I went into the Kil’jaeden raid for the first time and got to experience that fight from start to finish. At about the 3/4ths mark, the boss more or less blinds everyone in the raid, bringing visibility down to a bare minimum and causing everyone to run frantically about to look for specific targets before we all got creamed.

So a good recipe for heart-pounding encounters is to put players in immediate danger in MMOs and then take away their ability to see.

It’s a bold move and one that games don’t do very often, for obvious reasons. Used sparingly, it can be a surprising and effective challenge, but more than that it would become highly annoying and set off no end to nerdrage in the forums. We depend on our sight in MMOs to do, well, just about everything, and without it — or with that sight limited — we become crippled in a way that feels constricting and cruel. Again, short bursts of this done very sporadically is an interesting idea, and I’m not saying to nix it entirely. But devs really do have to be careful with this.

MMOs have blinded us in other ways, too. Blindness can be a different kind of challenge outside of combat. Secret World has several instances where players must navigate in near-pitch dark settings, perhaps aided by a very limited headlamp. The darkness there keeps players from getting good situational awareness and makes them feel vulnerable — which, of course, is a great thing for a horror game to do. It slows the player down, makes them more careful and cautious, and could take what would be a routine task and makes it a puzzle by the virtue of a lack of sight.

I’m sure there are other examples, and I’m trying to think of any MMO that experimented with echolocation as a way to navigate while blind, but nothing specific comes to mind. Would be interesting, however.

It also reminds me of the pen-and-paper GURPS roleplaying game, since you could pick blindness or partial blindless as one of your character’s disadvantages. The manual suggested some possible counters to help your character stay viable and not completely dependent on others to function, such as heightened senses, intuition, technology, and magic. I don’t think any of this would really port over to an MMO, although I could see Project Gorgon perhaps being sadistic and creative enough to blind people as a boss curse or something and then letting them deal with it.

9 thoughts on “When MMOs take away your eyes

  1. Tyler F.M. Edwards January 26, 2018 / 10:47 am

    In The Division, it’s not uncommon for severe snow storms to roll in, bringing the visibility down to near zero. It’s a great touch of realism. Some rather over-zealous aim assist keeps it from being *too* difficult, though it’s still unnerving to be having a gun fight when you can barely see your hand in front of your face.

  2. Ettesiun January 26, 2018 / 12:09 pm

    In gw2 in Lions arch one of the most fun jumping puzzle had a dark area. Only character using a torch or some light spell can see easily, while other have to use the short of time of light on.

    It was of the most fun jumping puzzle as the jumping is ver light and you are followed by a angry ghost.

    I visited it before Lion arch destruction and restoration so i do not know if it is still the same.

  3. Jeromai January 26, 2018 / 7:45 pm

    I think it’s more interesting if there’s a level of consent from the player, as in the player opted to limit their sight somehow, e.g. walking into a dark room for the purposes of reaching the end, turning away to avoid the gaze of a basilisk or medusa, or as in Minecraft, wearing a vision restricting pumpkin over their head to avoid triggering aggressive Endermen.

    It feels less frustrating and random than some mob inflicting a debuff on you out of the blue; as a player, you want some kind of counterplay response to that, rather than be forced to wait out the full duration with no ability to do anything else. I suppose if you could hit a key to clear the debuff, or walk somewhere to do so, then that’s ok too.

  4. DonV January 26, 2018 / 9:17 pm

    Those durn mephites cast foggy stuff ss well. Also glitterdust can be a pain as everything turns white. In all fairness i have tossed my share of glitterdust on poor ususpecting undeads. Also tossed some blindness around on my Bard. All is fair I suppose.

  5. DDOCentral January 26, 2018 / 9:29 pm

    DDO has a mid-level quest in the Vale of Twilight explorer area that requires exploring caverns with a torch. If you lose the torch, you are in total darkness. It’s called ‘Rainbow in the Dark’ and is among the best quests in the game: http://ddowiki.com/page/Rainbow_in_the_Dark

  6. Shintar January 27, 2018 / 6:56 am

    The thing that frustrated me about the dark sections in SWL was that they seemed to be entirely dependent on monitor settings. I remember getting lost in one of those mines where you’re not given a lamp, and after a while my partner came over and went: “Duh, just crank up your gamma!” After doing that everything was turned a slightly bizarre shade of light grey but visibility was just fine.

  7. ~effs~ January 29, 2018 / 4:22 pm

    Recently WoW has been catching up with the times and incorporated vision impairing fights, with fog during the Kil’Jaeden fight, which was pretty nice to see a completely new mechanic for an end of tier boss.

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