Perusing the official SWTOR forums as well as the beta testing forums, I’ve noticed that Bioware has been using the term “phasing” as a substitute for the word “instancing”. This has caused a little confusion, especially among the older MMO players who have grown up with the term instancing and then later phasing as this technology made itself into some of the more modern MMOs, particularly WoW.
Let’s take a quick look at the traditional uses of both words in MMOs. Instancing (or sharding) has referred to an exact copy of a zone, dungeon, or other section of a virtual world. When a zone uses an instance, that zone is restricted to just your character or group. You will not see any other real player in that instance aside from the ones that entered into it with you. Other players are free to participate in that zone, but in their own separate instance. It is an exact copy.
WoW was the first MMO to use phasing quite regularly in a MMO. Phasing does not use a copy of any part of a virtual world. Phasing in the classic sense refers to how the world or environment changes based on the accomplishments of the player. For example, while being in the same zone, !EpicGamer! may be able to interact with a NPC differently than N00bPlayer based on which quests he has accomplished. The NPC may say different things to !EpicGamer! or appear in a different visual style. The key point to remember is that typically when players experience a different phase, they are both in the same version of the environment, not a different copy of the same environment.
I’ve seen numerous posts from BioWare employees that use the terms instancing and phasing as interchangeable terms. There have even been a few posts that proceed phasing with the word instancing (instancing/phasing). These are two completely different terms and should be treated as such.
I don’t know why BioWare is intent on substituting the word phase for the word instance. Is it one of the ways they are attempting to leave their mark on the MMO industry? More than likely, a lot of kids are going to play SWTOR. Are they trying to get the next generation of MMO players to start referring to it as phasing?
Maybe this is my “get off my lawn” moment, but it bothers me that Bioware is not using the correct term for instancing. Maybe it’s because it makes them look like a n00b in the MMO space and I know that they are better than that? Oh well. If phasing sticks, then so be it. I’ll put my soapbox away before I trip over it.