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Sep 20, 2005



I am a fairly jaded game player, but sometimes I'll be doing something in WoW close to the edge of a high cliff and will suddenly get a real-world experience of vertigo. It sometimes happens when it sneaks up on me -- I know of course that I'm near an edge but get distracted and suddenly I'm 3 feet closer than I thought I was, and a mild fear of falling briefly takes me. But, even if I ease up close to an edge I know is there, slowly, a step at a time, it takes a conscious effort of ego-displacement ("it's only a game") to overcome a feeling of vertigo on looking over the edge.

It's clearly a mild physiological reaction of some kind, enabled by my identifying with the in-game character in some way. It's more pronounced in WoW, I think, but I also recall moments of vertigo while running on top of a tied-arch bridge in a third-party Return to Castle Wolfenstein map. The map included quiet wind and creaking noises which really added to the feeling of height!

Some Warcraft classes/professions (mage, priest, engineer) get ways to avoid damage from falling (levitate, parachute, ice block)... which led a French player to make this funny video tempting a group of enemies to run off a cliff:



One of my favorite activites in EQ was diving off the top of the cliff in Blackburrow into the water. But generally I undertake such activities with the intent of surviving the experience. In EQ I used a monk, in WoW I use a Rogue, or occasionally a Paladin (Divine Shield still works).

I did jump off Stonewrought Dam once, but I was trying (unsuccessfully) to hit the water, and not the ground. I find it more enjoyable when there is some risk to it.. So I pretty rarely do it with my mage.


I've had the vertigo-ish experience several times in different games, WoW being the most recent. For example it turns out you can jump from the top of the sewers in the Undercity to the floor below, but it's a longer drop than it looks like it'll be. During the brief fall I had a frisson of the same feeling I had years ago when jumping from a 45' cliff into the ocean (which itself is hardly base-jumping Yosemite-style) -- while in this case I remained seated, I still had the head-rush and brief feeling of "why am I still falling?"

Good call on ilinx in MMOGs. Put this up there with flight simulators in terms of the enjoyment of physical movement, or even the illusion of such movement.

I wonder if this is some of the appeal of riding zeppelins, griffons, etc., in WoW as well, and seeing the game world glide by beneath you.


I just want to comment that Tevis Thompson's presentation, which was at the Princeton gaming conference two years ago, was an inspired paper and well worth looking up. Mario is all about the jump. A triumph of ludology over narratology, if such an opponent exists ^_^


One of my more ignominious deaths in Dragonrealms was in the Ranger's Treehouse. Essentially, to get up, you have to climb a rope. Then you have to climb a couple other things to get higher.

But at a certain point, you're allowed to "JUMP ROPE". Missing the rope causes you to take severe injury, and usually kills you.

It never became popular (to my knowledge), though, and the last time I checked, I believe they added some hesitancy to younger players to keep them from breaking their necks.


I have spent a fair amount of time in GTA: San Andreas taking my airplane up as high as it'll go and then jumping out and trying to land on specific spots. My latest 'accomplishment' was landing on one of the spires of the Excalibur casino in their version of Las Vegas. My stomach still sometimes lurches if I jump out of the plane at low altitude. What a great feeling!



The greatest sensation I've gotten in MMOs was as a Bard in EQ. To date, I consider it one of the most creative classes developed, from both the standpoint of ability and the interface used to manage it (whether "twisting" was an accident the historians can decide). Favorite class to fight with and to explore.

Anyone who's played the class knows how fast they can run (basically, faster than almost everything in the outdoor zones, in most cases). They can also levitate, and adjust their run speed with better Percussion-skill modifying equipment. Before the Plane of Knowledge reduced the size of the game space, I used to twist levitate and selos the entire breadth of the larger zones, particularly Dreadlands which had a mountainous west side sloping down to the valley in the east. The single most memorable experience I have is the time I forgot to twist in levitate. I was so far above the world it wasn't even rendering. Then it did. Then I landed with 1 hit point, coincidentally just outside the awareness of everything in the area, heartpounding as I worried how I'd get my corpse back way the heck out there.

Anyway, I miss that sensation. Every game since, and in fact EQ in some fashion, seems to have been watered down to ensure the game controls the player's actions as much as possible. WoW could stand for more of this, though the game is largely "safe" for the aware.

Hearing that this sensation was possible in the earliest MUDs is quite fascinating. I would have assumed players needed graphics, even go so far as to say they needed to be first person or over-the-shoulder, as a crutch for their brain to suspend disbelief.


My monk in EQ, one Xandir Fairhand, loved to climb the scenery and jump off... Note: the top of the statue in the middle of the plains in the barbarian homeland is just over killing height.

Oh, and note that falling damage in EQ is (or was) fairly broken: dealt damage wasn't a smooth curve but instead had a height above which you'd just die.


We actually staged this "dam jump" as a publicity event in WoW, having a gnome make the jump on his mechanostrider, daredevil style:

Also, I have an animated GIF I somewhere I created from from EQ1 where we were jumping from the top of the big tree-house in Rivervale. Early on, you could climb on top of Rivervale by going out of an upper-story window-ledge and jumping across to some of the terrain. We used to climb up there and try to jump off into the river. Another live-die, based on how well you timed your jump. River = live. Riverbank = die.

Of course, others soon figured this was a great place for lower level characters to attack the sherrif (npc) who couldn't attack them back. So, the devs quickly put in an invisible wall that prevented access.

Another fun thing I've tried in WoW is flying from Darnassus to Auberdine, with my gnome mage and "Slow Fall". You can jump off from one of the tree branches, pointing south, and almost make it to Auberdine before you enter the "exhaustion" barrier that drains your health. With some healing potions, it'd probably be doable.

For the record, I LOVE this kind of Exploration goal, even if it's unintentional. One thing most MMOs fail to do is making exploration really interesting. AC evoked this sense, climbing WAY up on mountains that you were sure no other player had been to. SWG had the scope, but the landscape was too much the "same" to make it challenging. That, and without the danger of "falling" in SWG, it took some of the fun out of the accomplishment, at least for me.


I must say that I do this almost every time I m on WoW and passing through Booty Bay. I ve never managed to make my beloved Muun jump to his death and much prefer the (imagined) sensation of diving off the ship's (thingy sticking out in the front which i have no clue what is called in english) into the see. No matter how many times i ve done it I always get a thrill just before i hit the water. Most of all it is definitely because it reminds me of doing much the same thing back home in Malta.

One time I was with a party who followed suit jumping off one by one which led to a bunch of onlookers doing the same and having a long blab about how this sort of thing doesnt happen often enough while swimming about.

The most exciting jumping experience has to be leaping off high ledges in Counter Strike Source after planting the bomb, chucking a grenade beneath you and killing a CT or two as they rush up to nab you and defuse before hitting the ground and getting the inevitable crunch*moan*death.


In the early days of EQ the volunteer guides and even the GM's would do something like this. At that time the Plane of Air was the default 'home' for the volunteers as it wasn't open to the public.

At that time the zone had two big differences. Levitate had no drop to it. You could walk straight out off a floating isle and straight back on or just stand in the air indefinately (indeed I believe levitate didn't work at all in the zone when it went live). The second difference was it had a 'hard' floor (when it went live the floor was the zone out point).

This gave rise to a couple of games we used to play. The first was simply 'race to the top'. Because you never sank you could climb on various terrain features to get you just high enough to 'fly' to the next island and climb something else. One such manuever actually had to catching a 'lift' on the blade of one of the windmills to gain height.

The first game quickly soured when the GM's would use their ability to move in the vertical to win every race. Guides contered by binding at to top and the races kind of died out. This gave life to our second game: Planar Parachuting.

Planar Parachuting involved jumping off an island without levitation, free-falling a ways, then using an insta-click livitation item to halt your fall. The difficulty was there was no visable zone floor you just eventually went splaat if you opened your 'chute' too late. So, to make this interesting two would jump off at once, who ever ended up at the lowest altitude without dying (and die we did) was the winner. Great fun.

Another instance I can think of was halfling cliff dives. I'm pretty sure this was even sponsored by GMs at least once. The idea was to make a level one halfling, attempt to run through Kithicor and High Pass only to hurl yourself to your death from the cliffs on the other side.


Not an MMO, but what about Ico? That sense of looking down from a perch high above and where I'd been a few hours before was incredibly heady. I definitely felt a sense of vertigo when I moved the camera just so and got the full sense of the possible view. Too bad the save points were too far apart to consider jumping just for fun! But another thing that was really great about Ico in terms of physical sensation was the gentle tug of the girl's hand via feedback in the controller. It was so subtle, but it really enhanced my sense of the vulnerability of the girl.

The only thing that has compared for me in an MMO is the soaring sensation I sometimes get while flying or superjumping in CoH. I quite love that about the travel powers, how they change the quasi-physical sensation of play, and allow for fundamentally different perspectives on the world (a fact ripe for exploitation in terms of game design!).


Not sure if anyone mentioned above (i didn't see it), but there is a place to go base jumping for real in WoW. You buy a parachute from a vendor at the base of a large plateau, head to the top, jump off, and use your parachute to land safely. It's been a while (cancelled WoW a couple months ago) but if I recall correctly it's in the northwest corner of Feralas. In fact I'm surprised more people don't know about it.

Go do it - it's a lot of fun!


On one occasion, I saw a diving competition in Booty Bay, in WoW. Everyone stripped to their skivvies, and tried to do the best looking dive. Obviously, the Night Elves, with their rolling flips, had certain advantages, but everyone did their best. Some people even did synchronized diving, in pairs. Had I not been in a rush at the time, I'd have stopped to join them, but my Gnome, being the consummate geek that she is, would've put her diving helmet on!

I coded up a jump down a steep edge on a step-pyramid on a text MUD many years ago, as part of a sacrificial ritual, but we never ended up opening to the public.

I remember quite a bit of jumping in Dark Age of Camelot. The Shrouded Isles expansion had a deep ravine, with a river at the bottom of it, and if you jumped just right and landed in the water, you'd survive.

One day, a herd of us were all autofollowing an Armsman, and I, the minstrel, was playing speed drums. We were running a repeatable mission, through hilly terrain, and the Armsman was having so much fun enjoying the hangtime that he didn't notice everyone's health bars creeping downward. Eventually, on one fateful drop, the entire party dropped dead, except for the Minstrel, who had safe fall.


Among my various visually exiting and often confusing experiences in games, one that I fondly remember is the training simulators in the old dos tie fighter game. There was this track you'd fly through (to improve your flight and maneuvering skills if I remember correctly) that placed various obstacles in your way and required you to destroy certain targets while struggling to meet time goals and not crash into things in the process. Because of the way the views were set up, you'd constantly find yourself flying upside down and at various simmilar angles (although technically I mean upside down relative to the original orientation when the level begins, as the game doesn't really have a default orientation you can return to).

Descent 2 was also a great game with a simmilar feeling (albiet this was through the entire ame). Traveling through the mines viewing at a variety of angles was a great combination of exciting and disorienting - I wish they would've captured the same feeling with the newer games.

When I was creating various levels for doom 2, I had a lot of fun with making players fall off of various platforms (often requiring a running start to reach the next area) and having extremely long elevators with various traps and treats along the way (and of course at the end of the trip too). The impact of such a grand world vertically as well as horizontally really helps to keep people hooked on the experience.

Base jumping in world of warcraft really hit me as it's such a vast and beautiful environment that you get to survey on the way down, and the sheer excitement of falling -that far- and surviving (noggenfogger elixirs). I got quite a kick out of landing near other players and seeing their reaction.


Asheron's Call 2: The Deru Tree. Many of us spent hours jumping off the top of that gigantic tree, hoping to land in the water and live instead of hitting the ground and "splat". I'll have to go do that a few more times before it's gone for good.

Allowing players to explore vertically is a huge draw for explorer-types. Anarchy Online, City of Heroes, even Planetside have all been made a lot more enjoyable (for me) just because of the ability to fly.

I used to spend a lot of time in the Planetside training area flying under bridges at full speed just for the thrill of it.


Thanks to everyone for sharing the stories. By far, my favorite threads on TN are those, like this one, that feature all these fascinating responses that recount variety of personal experiences and anecdotes based on MMORPG play. This is really great stuff.

Also -- the trackback link above is worth a read. It points to another post that talks about the role that ilinx plays in video games. Interesting stuff.

Gus -- I wanted to cite or link to the article by Tevis Thompson, but I couldn't find it. Have you seen it anywhere since the Princeton conference?


There is a Horde quest in a Thousand Needles called the Leap of Faith (or something simular) which involves jumping off the tallest of the peaks.


Founding Member, Khayaban Cliff Diving Team, Thistledown.

I love the smell of burning vitae in the morning.


Test of Faith, I think -- I haven't done it, but this is a description:


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