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Reader Comments (18)

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 10:22AM (Unverified) said

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What if you're a fan of black boxes.

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 10:41AM (Unverified) said

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I agree with this article's assumptions but I disagree with how it's been written. I predict this devolving into a semantic argument and it's completely the fault of the author.

Lore matters. Does it? To whom does it matter? The players? The developers? The businesspeople who profit from both?

As far as the original article, let's break their experiments down a second.

1- NetHack, Rogue and MUDs for years had us fighting in ascii code. That we have graduated to virtual flesh and bone nemeses is more an indicator of our expectations for graphics in games, not a need for lore-fleshed foes. A better argument might have been that people played those games because the lore dictates that the @# in the corner was a manticore and we knew it meant us harm because the lore of the universe dictates that. Thus, we happily fight trapezoids because they are evil.

2- Same as example one, only personal.

3- Aside from the inability for most people to be able to separate aesthetic attraction to one over the other, this experiment's outcome assumes that we will appreciate 2 over 1. Perhaps there are people who appreciate the clean, efficient look of number 1. The Bauhaus art movement and the Art Deco movement, capitalized on minimalism, as do any number of artistic pushes. Who is to say someone out there doesn't like number 1 for those reasons, or perhaps BECAUSE it's impersonal and detached from any context?

If our expectations are for good graphics and a world in which to descend, then context is important for developers to create that world. It's not necessary for lore to be important for a player, even on a subliminal level as the article suggests.

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 10:54AM (Unverified) said

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whoops, forgot my point.

it's context that is important in the sense that the article argues. People don't want to fight trapezoids for no good reason. If that trapezoid represents something that you want to kill, like another player or a monster or something then people will. You don't need volumes of this person having done that thing.

Dragon Age is a good example of this. We don't actually start learning the lore until after the setting is established. Many people didn't read or even find a lot of the lore pickups. Killing an Archdemon is a pretty good way to motivate, though, and the ability to choose some noble (or really awful) paths is also a draw. If lore facilitates the creation of this context, then it is important to its creation. For the consumer, that's us, it's not necessarily important to the consumption.
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Posted: Nov 27th 2009 11:41AM (Unverified) said

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Here's my quote on his page I made the other day:



I think well written lore, as in it fits with the world or story, really helps suspension-of-disbelief.

In one movie we say “OMG he’s FLYING, psssh, /done”, while in another we’re like, “Yeah okay I can dig it”. In this way it helps establish parameters for writers.

suspension of disbelief and many other factors of story writing and reading, are, you could say, almost subconscious. It’s hard to take that fact, for what it is, and apply that to any realm of a persons intelligence one way or the other, as it’s a human condition.

We all do it. We watch movies, and simply by into the fact that the guy can fly. We don’t hypothesize why compared to the rest of the story(well some of us do).

Also in this respect, if you start to theorize about it, where does the game end and the lore begin? Because really if I took WoW and took out the name of NPC’s and the name of the spells, and everything else, you’d be left with what? Would the game be as enjoyable to the world in large?

I think a lot of players, who may not even know how to voice their opinion, would want just enough lore to mesh everything together enough to suspend their disbelief regardless of what they choose to do in an MMORPG, while to anywhere from slightly above that sense of lore to near infinite amounts above that other players want more lore or story.
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I think you can draw some lines because we're no longer dealing with MUDs, we're dealing with fully produced graphical games and the psychology behind it doesn't distinguish a difference, in my opinion.
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Posted: Nov 27th 2009 10:58AM Miffy said

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Lore makes me want to explore the game and can turn boring game mechanics to something fun. For example I loved exploring WoW's world because I saw lots of things from Warcraft 3. However if it was set in an original IP then I wouldn't have wanted to play the game because alot of the gameplay is boring. However I grinded all them quests cause I wanted to see Arthas and Illidan etc etc.

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 5:19PM (Unverified) said

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I completely agree.

I believe lore is what gives me a reason to care about a game. Take games like City of Heroes or Champions for example. I don't really care if Millennium City gets taken or if this random Super Villain is trying to kill us all. I would care if it was something I knew. I would care if it was Magneto trying to kill us all. I would care if it was Metropolis getting assaulted.

Familiar lore is what keeps me playing games like WoW, but not making me want to play games like Aion. If someone could make a great world behind the game and not just flashy avatars with a neat fighting system, I could give it a shot. The lore behind games like Eve, for example, keep me hooked into it and keep me playing.

Lore doesn't necessarily make a game, but it can slowly break it.

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Posted: Nov 27th 2009 11:09AM eNTi said

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lore gives the world a reason and a purpose and isn't just a cluster of random cities and mobs. it makes a world believable. it's not a feature, it simply a requirement, like the trees in a forest.

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 11:48AM breezer said

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I'm one of those people who's always touting, I could not possibly care less about lore.

When I played WoW, my RL friends who played were always trying to fill me in ont he lore and it was usually about 30 seconds before my eyes would glaze over and I'd chime in, I could not possibly care less about what you're saying right now.

I just don't care about the cheesy, convoluted stories a bunch of video game developers whipped up. I care about game mechanics and dynamics.

The only exception to this was FFXI where the story is presented in such a way, through cut scenes and genuinely intriguing characters, that it's unavoidable and it pulls you in. Unfortunately, once you're pulled in 9/10 times you realize that the stories are so ultra-complicated that even the most devoted FFXI lore nerds have a hard time reiterating the games major story lines.

But 99% of the time, I just don't care. I see lore as an arbitrary facet of the game that some poor shmuck in a cubicle was obligated to pull out of his ass.

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 12:06PM eNTi said

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well... that's because - as i already said - lore is basically useless unless you are some kind of historian, that gets a kick out of dead civilizations. but those old days formed our culture and thus much of our world. it's not impossible to build a whole world without lore, it's just not feasible. so what most people mistake as a very important part of a game, is really nothing less of just the foundation on which a believable (and thus immersible) world is built on. you don't need it spoon fed though and that's the problem and also why most quest (text) are utterly boring and useless.
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Posted: Nov 27th 2009 12:07PM eNTi said

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to add a probably good analogy: lore is not the salt in the soup, it's the water.
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Posted: Nov 27th 2009 1:00PM (Unverified) said

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While there good games without any lore (think of Tetris) i think it's quite important for the RPG genre. These are usually story driven games and a detailed game world, interessting characters and a rich history help a lot to tell a good story. As mentioned above: WoW wouldn't be half the fun if it was squares vs. triangles...

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 2:37PM (Unverified) said

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to me, in single player experiences Plot is more important in my enjoyment than "lore". in MMOs the Setting is more important than the story. in single player games you effect the story of the game until you reach the end, in MMOs you effect...well nothing, player interactions have zero impact on persistent worlds plot/lore/setting, since it just gets reset for the next play through

in both genres, mechanics and the gameplay are much more important to me. interface, graphics and how you play the game are the first conduit to the user's experience. if these are lacking then i don't care how nice and in depth your story is, i won't make it enough hours into the game to ever find out.

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 3:18PM Pingles said

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I'm in the middle.

Some games go through great lengths to create Epic, twisting intertwining tales of lore. For me it's like reading the Old Testamanet of the Bible. After six "begats" I'm skipping to the good part.

Others have silly second-thought themes that don't go anywhere or say anything.

In the middle are games which can grab you with a short story for a quest that ties subtly into a straightforward conflict in an overlying storyline.

I enjoy a good story. But once you get to the second page of text for a quest I'm just slipping to the bottom to see how many rats I have to go kill.

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 3:36PM cray said

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I think lore can be improved to point where it becomes a necessity to succeed in MMOs. Instead of games separating lore from the quantifiable data, they need to be more seamlessly integrated into gameplay. It starts with terminology and ultimately ends with the secrecy of the numbers.

Basically, saying "I'm Level 70 Warrior, with armor value of 130 and magic level 94." The lore is completely absent and the data is quantifiable. Wherein if I said "I'm an Elder Paladin, with the protection of Visagoth, and have attained the Right of Passage to Syriandra."

The latter could mean the exact same thing, but the difference is there's no numbers or quantifiable data. You would be required to know what an Elder Paladin is as well as the Protection of Visagoth and the Right of Passage to Syriandra. These terms would be learned by reading the lore.

Also by allowing lore to supplant data, the numbers become hidden and vague, which allow for greater flexibility in designing a game. So instead of saying max level is 20 (Guild Wars), which in the eyes of a WoW player seems incredibly limited, if the levels were given labels it would come across less restrictive. So those 20 levels could be divided up several different terms. The actual numbers would be secret and vague.

The point here would force players to learn the terminology through reading the lore. This is where lore would become a vital part of the game.

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 6:32PM LaughingTarget said

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Lore is, for the most part, useless. It's typically treated as some extra, out of game bit of information. My favorite is the EverQuest crowd. They claim there's a ton of story in the game, but in the three years I played it, I never once found any. All anyone ever did was direct me to websites and was expected to buy books from Amazon and read them to get the story. Sorry, no, that's not lore, that's lame marketing.

What the article described above isn't lore, it's graphics. People don't want to fight trapezoids, they want to fight rendered ogres. They don't care why the ogre is there to fight, all they know is that if it dies, it gives out experience and loot. It isn't any more complicated than that.

The reason lore doesn't matter one lick to any of them is in MMOs, the story stinks. "Lore" is stuffed away on message boards and websites and in-game stuff is just a series of excessively long walls of text.

No, lore isn't important, if it wasn't there, it wouldn't make a difference to most people.

Posted: Nov 27th 2009 11:54PM (Unverified) said

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I have to note the concept art used in example. In a game such as SW:TOR I believe lore will play an important part, if only because it exists in a universe that every man and his dog know a good chunk of the lore to at minimum. To that end, the importance of lore could partly be a function of the IP that a game uses, similar to what i think Venekor was saying. It will be interesting to see how lore is treated by both the upcoming Star Trek and Star Wars games as those two are some of the largest, most comprehensive and most pervasive IP's in the world. I for one will be sad if they turn their back on lore. Would it be necessary to play the game, no, but good, immersive and involving lore can be the icing on the cake.

Posted: Nov 28th 2009 8:16AM Miffy said

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I always have the problem with Asian games because their stories are so Asian generic and all look the same. Always about some gem been split up and then some major Dragon or some Evil escaping and killing everything lol.

Though not always the Case because coming off the success of Lotr I couldn't like Lotro because the Combat, character models and animations all sucked.

Posted: Nov 28th 2009 2:55PM Sean D said

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I agree, the article seems to focus more on what we see, which is represented by the graphics of a game.

That being said, I think lore is vital to a game's success. Lore adds quality to a game. Even if you don't read quests as a rule and are content to grind your way through a game (I can't see how that would be fun, but that's just my perspective), you know something about the character Arthas in WoW. You know something of his story and that makes the encounter with him more exciting and worth more than an encounter with, say, the same graphic, but with the word 'Mob 67' above it's head. Given two games, the one with Arthas and his history and the one with 'Mob 67', which one would you play?

Look at some of the most popular games out there right now. Dragon Age: Origins, Uncharted 2, Mass Effect...there are quite a few more. I think anyone would have a hard time arguing that the story of each of these games - the lore - isn't a major contributor to their success.

Go to the Aion website and read the comments below the new video posted about their planned changes to the game. You'll read all sorts of comments about 'the grind' being one of Aion's issues. Is 'the grind' a problem of time - as in, how much real playtime it takes to raise each level - or is it a problem of quality - as in the quality of real playtime spent raising each level is weak? I think it's a problem of quality.

There is a sense of quality that comes from performing a task well with purpose. Whether your purpose is to obtain the reward, slay Arthas, or complete the quest, you're performing a task with a sense of purpose that is invigorated by the lore of the game. What sense of quality or enjoyment is there in performing a task without reason?

I think MMO developers (it seems to be more of an issue with MMOs) have done themselves a disservice by giving less attention to the lore of their games, instead focusing more on the systems of their games. Both are necessary, but not at the expense of one or the other.

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