An entry at Terra Nova links to a rather lengthy paper on architecture, space, and gameplay in WoW and Battle for Middle Earth 2. The paper is well worth a read through, but the Terra Nova entry has some choice quotes pulled out for those short on time. The paper concerns itself with how two different games use their spatial organisation and architecture - both in terms of buildings and the fundamental design of a game world - to impact play experiences:
World of Warcraft privileges architecture as a spatial experience. It is concerned with the ability to move through space, constructing architecture as a series of solids and voids. When we interact with the architecture we are alternately channelled and impeded. The architecture encompasses us, organising our activities into discrete zones and structuring the way in which we move between activities ....
The architecture has what architects call program, so that Ironforge can be divided into circulation space and activity space. This is space that works on a personal level, an intimate experience, where we guide our avatar through the intricacies of the game world looking through their eyes.
Some interesting questions are posed at the end of the Terra Nova piece, most notably "In WoW (or in any other MMO), are there places where you get lost where you'd prefer to have a mental map? Are there places where your mental map is too clear and you'd prefer to get lost more often? Which spaces are too big and which are too small?" The line can be very fine between 'too linear and confining' and 'too expansive and frustrating' - but where is the line drawn?
The Image of the Undercity [TerraNova]