Friday, October 25, 2019

A Bottle of Pinot Noir, Please

One of the quirkier things you find around some MMOs are the shops that the average player doesn't use for buying things.

Of course, I could be talking about the armor vendor out in a mid to high level zone that only sells basic white gear, but my belief is that those are present just so that people can sell trash that they acquired out in the field without it looking too blatantly obvious.

No, what I mean are places like this:

Technically there is a quest for this place,
but it's a quest to get a free bottle of wine.

A Wine Merchant.

Believe me, I'd be in line to buy a bottle in real life, but the average MMO player doesn't really care about a Wine Merchant's shop in game. In modern game design, spaces like this would only exist simply for use at some point during the story, and not strictly for ambience. For example, I went hunting for something similar in Tatooine on SWTOR, and I didn't have much luck finding a shop strictly there for flavor's sake. There are the profession trainers, the class trainers, the vendors for said professions, the other standard vendors, and the cantina, but there isn't a shop just for something that doesn't directly affect the game in some manner.

For me, however, this is what helps to make some of these older MMOs come alive.

Maybe nobody frequents these places in a regular server, but for someone interested in Role Playing, these places fill out a livable world. I can easily see a player purchasing some wines at this place to enjoy an afternoon in a nice park in Stormwind, or even RP-ing by purchasing a case's worth of wine and making the trip to Astranaar to sell later. It's not a matter of profit and loss, but a matter of inhabiting another space for a while.

Maybe a little cheese to go with your
wine? I know where the oldest
mini-Red would be hanging out...
Or, until Pet Battles came along, non-combat pet collecting in WoW was very much a niche hobby.* You'd find a rare whelp out in the field as a loot drop, and you could have a companion while questing. Or you could visit the cockroach vendor in The Undercity or the Crazy Cat Lady outside Stormwind, and you could have a new friend who'd follow you around. The few times I hung around an RP server, having a pet was a great conversation starter.

It does seem that post 2009 or 2010, a lot of MMO devs stopped putting superfluous stores and vendors in their games. I was able to find some in LOTRO, but to surprise there as it is well known for it's RP-esque community, but very little in SWTOR and ESO. The lone exception of that era's MMOs is Guild Wars 2, which does have vendors and NPCs all over the place around the big cities, such as Lion's Arch.

Sure, he's a "Provisioner", but what you're not
seeing are all the other vendors surrounding
the square. He's kind of superfluous.
I can understand the desire to slim down interactive NPCs and just use the background graphics to fill in the blanks, but when you create this large space without NPCs to see or interact with, it just looks embarrassingly empty.**

Perhaps the rise of WoW Classic will also bring about an interest in these little quirky places that help to make a world out of a game.

*I used to collect pets on Quintalan back in the day, but the advent of Pet Battles kind of ruined it for me. Sure, there was the WoW Pokemon aspect to it that I didn't like very much, but it also meant that I couldn't simply collect pets just to collect them. If I'd have one out, people would want to challenge me to a Pet Battle, and that defeated the purpose the simple enjoyment of having a pet.

**I'm looking at you, Silvermoon City. I even wrote about this phenomenon back in... 2012??!! Yikes.


  1. Just want to say that the wine shop is a bad example for this, considering that there's an actual quest asking you to buy wine there. ;) And isn't an SI:7 guy hiding in the cheese shop?

    1. Yes on both counts (and I called out the Wine quest in the comment under the pic), but those people could have been in any vendor, really. The Cheese Shop does have a link to the Defias quests, but that's for a quest giver who's hiding in the upper balcony of the Cheese Shop itself. The Wine quest is totally superfluous, and if you arrive in Stormwind at 11th level (like I've done already) you are already too advanced to even see the quest.

    2. I saw that, but I'm talking about a different, longer quest, the one from Redridge that asks you to gather spirits from different zones (see link in the previous comment). :)

    3. Wow... I've never seen that quest before. (No, I didn't do much of anything in Redridge with Az, and I think this was removed in Cataclysm.)

      That looks exactly like some of the quests in LOTRO, particularly during their numerous festivals. The best part about the LOTRO ones is that they're timed, so if you dilly dally too much, you're not going to finish the quest.

  2. I love all the little Stormwind shops, particularly in Classic where everything is actually useful. Modern Dalaran has lots of fun shops as well, doesn't it? In LOTRO, there's a mall in Bree that I think has some of the flavor you're talking about. Also, I'm thinking in EQ2 there may be some vendors mostly for fun, in Queynos, in any case.
    I do love Classic Stormwind, even down to the multiple Profession level trainers who add to the atmosphere for me.

    1. Yes, the Stormwind shops are quirky, because --for example-- there are at least 2 and I think 3 or 4 shops just for Tailoring alone. The concept of spreading the trainers out like that, in what are essentially competing shops, is a really cool idea.

  3. I haven't played enough other Mmo's to really compare but I think you make an interesting point. Especially the fact that there are tons of little details around you that you don't really think about 99% of the time but that make the world around you feel more immersive and real. It could be a broken down wagon in some ditch somewhere, a scuttled boat, an old bucket… thousand little things that are there to make you think that things have happened here before you came along and they'll continue happening once you leave. The stores that you mention are a big part of that too (and then there is the RP aspect that you mention).

    1. Yes, it's the things that make a game a world that are important, and they're frequently lost in rush to complete quests and reach endgame.