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Posted: Apr 12th 2011 4:15PM Degu said

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Given all the 'MMO story' hype going around lately, I've been hesitant to admit it publicly, but I just don't care about story in a MMO. I love having background lore to fill out the 'world' feel, but I'd rather 'live' in the world than play a character in a story taking place within the world.

The best times I've had in MMOs were either pvping (which has a rather random, human element to it) or just goofing around. When I think of it, I guess we were making our own stories with the tools we were given.
The epic of the deranged lunatics who jumped off the highest peaks in Middle-earth or the story of Deg's journey to the Rift on foot (living to tell the tale).

The follow-the-story stuff just feels limiting and dull anymore. I generally will click past text boxes and Epic Book chapters and cutscenes as fast as possible so I can get back to doing whatever I want.

I can see how some might enjoy that kind of thing, but it just doesn't appeal to me in a multiplayer game. Maybe some developer will break the mold and get me interested in MMO stories, but I haven't caught the bug so far.

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 4:25PM edgecrusherO0 said

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Gonna try to keep this short.

I skip over about 80% of quest text/dialogue, because in all honesty it's usually "Kill 20 wolves that are attacking our village!". The only point to it is to help you level. When there is an actual overarching narrative (I primarily played WoW, and there were certain stories in different zones that were GREAT and I read every quest and watched every cutscene), I find that most players are happy, if not overjoyed, to get involved with the story and actually genuinely care about it.

The problem is that those snippets of story are brief, generally non-interactive, few and far between, and generally unconnected. It's either a splattering of small stories that don't really mesh (but can be interesting nonetheless), or it's tons of random tidbits about the broader picture...broken up in between 50 fetch/kill quests that do nothing.

Honestly, I would LOVE to see more player made content. I've seen some in the past and while yes, some is complete trash, others rival what the biggest budgets and months of development time by a large team have delivered. You can pick and choose what you want, but it lets you explore more of the game through additional areas or side stories that either effect the overarching storyline or offer more of a backstory on something so you can understand it better, or offer different conclusions to a story already in the game.

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 5:09PM cowboyhugbees said

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@edgecrusherO0 Although I find myself skipping all the time, when I take the time to read quest dialogue (in LOTRO), I'm actually pleasantly surprised. Some of it is actually pretty entertaining.
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Posted: Apr 12th 2011 4:27PM Ghostspeaker said

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I'm confused by a lot of what you're saying here. You say that conflict is absent in the PvE of most MMORPGs because there are a finite number of possibilities as to how to get to the "end" and because nothing is risked by the player. And then you turn around and say that people turn to movies when they want story. Well by your definition books and movies don't have any conflict either because both of them have only one path to the end and the consumer sure isn't risking anything but their free time.

I'm also confused by your argument in favor of player generated content after making the (extremely cogent, IMO) point that most players don't really care about story. If they don't care about story, then wouldn't it be better to ignore story and focus on making gameplay fun? Hell, I've given up on most AAA MMORPGs because the gameplay just isn't fun to me anymore, and have moved to F2Ps that might have less focus on story and lower production values but much more fun gameplay. If players don't care about story, then the answer isn't to give players the tools to make something they don't really care about themselves. If most players are only interested in the ding, as you say, they will stick to the dev-generated content since it's already easily accessible and at least somewhat consistent.

I agree that story in current MMOs are lacking, though I would argue that it's mostly an issue of presentation. A lot of MMOs have really interesting lore but they utterly fail in communicating that to players. Ironically, I think WoW has done the best job so far in doing this with the Cataclysm revamp. Say what you will about the endgame, but the levelling game is by far the best out there at this point. The undead starting story up through Hillsbrad, Stonetalon, and Badlands are simply incredible examples in what storytelling can be in MMOs when done right. There are truly chilling, affecting, and tearjerking moments. The only other one that comes close IMO is LOTRO.

Still, I do share your skepticism towards Story becoming the new buzzword. Buzzwords are PR tactics and should be recognized as such, instead of pinning your hopes on any actual improvement. The proof is in the pudding, and we'll see if these games actually succeed in making MMO stories more compelling and relevant. Until then it's healthy to keep a gimlet eye on the whole business of the current buzzwording of "story".

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 4:33PM Ocho said

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I think this article is totally right, and it explains a lot of why I've always felt like an outsider when playing MMOs. I *enjoy* story. But I seem to be in a tiny segment of the MMO population. I don't really care about loot. The shiny, to me, just doesn't hold its shine. But the story and experience in getting it is where the value for me is. Sure, like everyone else, I like getting upgrades and seeing my character get stronger, but thats not my main drive.

Sometimes I feel like if you could take the WoW mechanics and just repackage it with a sci/fi cover, with a fantasy cover, with a steampunk cover, with a spy/espionage cover... just renaming and reskinning everything, people would love it. Why? Because they don't care about what the names/skins look like. All that matters is the acquisition.

The story becomes just icing on the cake. But to be a truly epic cake-maker... you need good icing, too. :)

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 4:51PM LordBeefy said

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"Sure, World of Warcraft has eleventy billion more players, but when is the last time anyone gave enough of a damn about what one of those players was doing to write a news story about it?"

This very site carried a story about someone's unique approach to non-combat levelling in WoW.

This a rant full of presumption that your feelings on certain matters are representative of the majority, aimed primarily at a game that hasn't even launched yet and therefore based purely on conjecture.

Consider for a moment that I'm not interested in any story you have to tell because if you were any good at it, it would be your job but Hall Hood, Drew Karpyshyn, Daniel Erickson etc?

They already told me some stories I really liked and am very interested in.

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 4:54PM Kualtek said

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This is why I continue to play EVE. No other MMO can give you the same sense of freedom over my own actions. It's not about the skill points it's about what you want to do with the universe you have been given. That said, EVE has a lot of issues that will need to be tackled if anyone wants to see the kind of subscription numbers WoW or Rift currently enjoy.

Rift started to reach for a type of 'dynamic content' but the world is too small and they did not reach far enough. Trion played it safe in the WoW model and it's disappointing. The rifts have no lasting effect and do not permanently change the players landscape. On the other side of the coin, the players can also not affect the world in a lasting way. You gear and level up and kill a giant baddie and go back to a main city to run in circles on the roof of the bank.

When I was younger the "crave the gratification and reassurance that dings provide." fit me like a glove. I was only interested in the next tier of gear. I would be looking up the next tier even before I had completed the current content. It's a soulless experience and games can provide better content if they want too.

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 4:57PM Thorqemada said

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Often, when i read that one or another mmo player claims that only the player is the story that matters, that only the conflict with other players and their organizations (guilds, bands, partys, whatever) give a good story and that the tales of the epic conflicts between server-enemys and the winners of it be the stuff that will be sung for aeons i feel sad.

NOBODY but you gives a shit about your personal story, success, lies, betrayals, epic fails and wins - nobody but you, a few close friends and some pr guy who will tell a tale in a cheap blog, podcast if there is a need to fill some themegaps.

So the overconfident publicity whore you may be crys out when you fear that your herosim is unnoticed in the depth of the information overflow of the internet age.

Begone!

A MMO is the culmination of game developing, offering a playground where you can gather a comunity of players with many different playstyles, tastes, needs.
Not the one dimensional mmo will win subs, the mmo that offers the best mix will win subs.
A good rope is not of a single thread and a good mmo isnt either!

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 5:01PM Djinn said

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I have 2 things to say:

1. Second Life

2. I detest Fan Fiction and will not read it. I am certain that there are some well crafted stories out there, but I don't want to wade through those that are not to get to them. And in the case of an established IP, it is popular because of the writing of the original author. I want to live in HIS world, not the world of a bunch of wannabees.

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 5:24PM Apakal said

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@Djinn

This is largely why I'm against user-generated content. 90% of it is inevitably crap. Look at YouTube. I've seen some amazing videos on YouTube, but those are very few and very far between.

Or even look at WoW's addon community. There are a few compilations (in my opinion less than 15) and a handful of standalone addons (maybe 75-100) that are actually worth a squat. And the people who make those quality addons put in a lot of effort to help players with problems, support their mods, fix bugs, and update for patches, and I respect those people a lot for doing so. But other than those few? Garbage.
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Posted: Apr 12th 2011 5:26PM Anciegher said

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Hear hear!

I hope developers take note! This is the kind of progress I have been waiting on for 10 bloody years!

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 5:38PM (Unverified) said

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I don't think user created content is the only way to go to make MMO stories have actual conflict. EVE has no player created content (at least of the Player Made Quest variety). The players are the story, as you say, and they ARE role playing.

The genius of EVE is that the player and the role they are playing are indistinguishable. A player who likes to mine is a miner. A player who likes to steal is a pirate. A player who likes to play tricky financial games runs a corporation. And doing all those things changes the world. In other words roleplaying is a mechanic that is built into the game, and affects the game, and other players experiences in the game.

This, I think, is the mechanic that needs to be translated into other MMOs. For roleplaying to mean anything, it has to have some impact on the game - and being a paladin who goes and fights a monster that respawns for the next paladin has no impact. For MMOs to have real conflict, what the paladin does has to do something to the game. The players must become the story.

I know this is harder to code than +5 armor or fair and balanced loot drops, but I think it can be done. Here are some suggestions.

1 - Voting. Create a working economy and a system of government in the game that can impose tariffs on various crafting resources. Let players or guilds own some of those resources, and then let them vote on which resources get the most beneficial tariffs. Players and guilds will soon be making deals with each other to influence each others votes. Bribery will run rampant. Dirty deals will be made. In short, create a system that can be gamed, and players will game it, resulting in conflict - which results in story.

2 - Leaderboards with in-game meaning. The best PVPers and the wealthiest grinders get the biggest piece of the economic pie. They are allowed to control the resources and set prices. The only way to break up these monopolies is for smaller guilds to band together and topple them from the top of the leaderboard. But there are always traitors and in every alliance there is always one or two players out for themselves. Conflict ensues. Story follows.

3 - Expansions that change the economy. The devs open up a new mountain range and suddenly iron is plentiful. The bottom drops out of the market. All those Iron Guilds are suddenly scrambling to maintain their power. Where are they going to get it from? Three months later, a plague breaks out, and suddenly healing herbs are incredibly valuable. Wars are fought over the forest where the herbs grow. Conflict and story again.

None of this would interfere with character progression or PvE grinding, but would add another layer of gaming that would allow players to rise and fall based on their interaction with other players, rather than play out set stories that remain static no matter how many times you play them.

What do you think, sirs?

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 9:32PM EilertAlemat said

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@(Unverified)

I thought I should voice it, but you did first.

1. Exactly. Point is no one needs the pre-defined story if he can create one himself.

I'm playing most of games as mage. What I gat every time I play? Ranged Damage Dealer. DD. DD. DD. Bleh. Boring. Being master of arcane arts is much more then throwing fireballs around. It may be fun for a newbie, but not for master of arcane game pretend me to be. Believe me, I will be creative given such powers over fire... :)

Mages should research mysteries of the world. Dark mages conspire with demons and find out how to bind monstosities to their will. Rogue must have ability to enter dark mage's dungeon to accidentially free monstosity mystic harbours. Paladins make a difference, killing runaway abomination.

Or maybe other way around.

Mage, proficient with dark arts but intentionally good-natured, finds out about horrible daemon and appears this entity is responsible for spreading fel infestation in neighborhood area. He consults the local church for aid, but frowned upon because he is dabbling in ars mysterium and clerics don't trust warlocks. However, while no one supports him officially, one young but pormising paladin agrees to help - it's his chance to prove himself. Together they seek help of infamous rogue to scout the area. When they prepared they banish abomination from the world. Everyone happy and famous, even maybe reawarded. Beside the daemon. Well, after all mage has insidious and ambitious apprentice...

All this can be done. This will be a headeche to impliment, but it can be done. The other thing no one creates games like that. Probably because it's _really_ headache. It is prefered to give prescripted story rather than give plenty of ways to influence the world. Players researching world's magic, players hiring other players for services, players making history of the world - that would be great. Monsters that killed stay killed - even better. Areas changing depending on players choices and efforts - fabulous. That's the game should be about. Maybe even player-driven kingdoms.

2. But player-driven games will not happen anytime soon. I'm allright with this.

I want to see at least KotOR immsersion in MMORPG. And yes, I DON"T MIND RAILS. Hear me, people. Every time I log in in WoW I'm put on those. My arcane mage is nothing but gunslinger with energy instead of bullets. And railed I am. And I think I will quit when hit 85 just because I have more interesting things to do. Maybe play Mass Effect. Maybe KotOR. Maybe some other game, where story is not limited to text windows. Oh, I forgot now WoW has cutscenes. Joy and awe. Anyway, they are not immersive enough for me. And when I get on rails I prefer an interesting trip.

3. I think any direction is better then current state of events.

I tried Everquest progression server. It is good, you know? There is no story at all. I go wherever I want until I get killed. I think that's fair enough. I don't need story in Everquest - I like it as it is. It's good old one. And I think it will be good to have great story in MMORPG. At least I will have excuse for all that grind - I want to know whats next. Just please be immersive. And yes, talking to my quest-giver and have a few choices in dialogue will be even better, instead of choosing whether to do it or not. Not that it really neccessary for choice to be epic and plot-changing, cosmetic would do. Anything but flying text windows. Text windows where good for '99, maybe even for '02. But not today.
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Posted: Apr 13th 2011 12:07AM Dblade said

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@(Unverified) That's like saying if you play Pong you role-play a paddle. EVE has little to nothing to do with playing an actual role in terms of the game's lore.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 5:54PM theBeast said

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@(Unverified) I think, you sir, are brilliant!
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Posted: Apr 12th 2011 5:46PM Chiren said

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Final Fantasy XI has some of the best stories of any game, be it MMO or single player or otherwise.

If you're never ever ever planning to play FFXI then here are two videos to showcase some of its storytelling (wotg windurst). Super spoilers abound!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiV7Ubmtr2I
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmOkGu5b1fc

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 5:48PM (Unverified) said

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I guess the article writer WANTS the old way of questing, since he so despises more immersive story-based questing, which in turn makes him a moron or a sandbox fanatic.

And apparently 3 MMO companies thinks the article writer is an idiot too, since ANet, BW and FC all implement more emphasis on storybased quests (for GW2: Personal Story) in their games instead of the lame questing that we've seen so far in MMO's.


And no, I'm not against player generated content, I love that too.

Posted: Apr 12th 2011 6:43PM deadborder said

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"Yes, it is true that players will always write their own stories, and most of these stories are largely unrelated to whatever universe the game takes place in," Tornquist blogged, effectively dismissing the ability of anyone other than a dev to tell a lore-appropriate story.

Unfortuntely, he seems to have a point. The simple fact is that many RPers don't care for the lore of the worlds they play in. When given the choice between creating their 'special' character that has no place in the gameworld's lore or going for something that is not their idealised image but better suited to the world, RPers will more often go for the former option.

Unfrtuntely, the idea of working within lore to create a chracter simply doesn't register to many. The desire to create a character or story that suits the world is secondary to the desire to create something that''s somehow *more* special (and thus, more likely to grab attention and be the centre of every scene). It's a simple fact of how far roo many RPers work and, more to the point, how far too many RP communities act.

Is Tornquist's statment depressing? Probably. Is it true? Sadly, yes.

Posted: Apr 13th 2011 7:10AM Irem said

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@deadborder
90% of everything is crap. That's always been the case. I don't think it's true that the majority of roleplayers create stories that are -unrelated- to the universe they're in, but it's true that a lot of them tend to spin and spin until their character is the height of specialness within the game world. You do have your fox people with angel wings running around in Stormwind, but they have an even harder time finding acceptance in the larger community than plain old Mary Sues.

The responsibility really has to lie on the players to take care of that. There will never be GMs that bust people for playing outside the lore, in any game, and there are two kinds of people: the kind who will change their character in order to fit in, and the kind who would rather wander around alone and have trouble finding RP than give up their ego-boosting backstory in which they fulfill some kind of prophecy and sleep with every major character they meet. This is why RP usually works best in self-contained groups that can establish their own rules for conduct and can then go on to interact with other groups they mesh well with. And actually, that's true of social interaction in games in general, which is why we have guilds.
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Posted: Apr 12th 2011 6:54PM Belmondo said

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There's no need to try to expand the definition of story to include the emergent gameplay of Eve, and similar player generated content. Emergent gameplay isn't storytelling--it's emergent gameplay, it's something new, modern. You're trying so hard to hang on to the word story that you create this phrase "pre-made story", which apparently refers to all of literature, myth, folklore, movies, tv, comics, etc, just so you can suggest that there's such a thing as an "un-pre-made story"?

I agree with you that most MMOs do have quest text that seems like it was written by the devs inbetweeon coding the game. But doesn't this also mean that most MMOs--have not focused on storytelling? Bioware is going to focus on storytelling, and that's pretty different for an MMO. But I get the feeling that you think this means that Bioware is just going to give the devs more time to write the quest text.

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