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Reader Comments (64)

Posted: Nov 1st 2011 6:03PM Lenn said

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@Chambers I would look at LotRO as the benchmark, to be honest. WoW's has its share of fun storylines, but it never comes close to what Turbine has puilled off with LotRO.
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Posted: Nov 1st 2011 6:44PM DoctorSmart said

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@Chambers The biggest issue I have with WoW's storylines are their pop-culture heavy quests. I detest the new Redridge Mountain questlines for instance. I don't mind the occasional nod and wink to the community, but an entire zone designed to replay a movie? Break my immersion, ruin the story for me.
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Posted: Nov 1st 2011 6:01PM Avaera said

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Unfortunately, I must admit to being one of those who cringe when a new MMO trumpets their epic story that players have the honor of experiencing. Developer story-telling is an important device, sure, and it can provide a great sense of context, a way of learning about the gameworld, and a fun player-versus-environment distraction. The problem though is that the most immersive experiences in persistent, massively multiplayer games are not authored but emergent - that is, they are interesting because the drama happens through *players* interacting and roleplaying themselves, using the tools the designers have given them in unpredictable ways. The more often they are told to focus on their own individual story that evolves through well-scripted, predictable and non-unique ways, the less they are actually roleplaying new stories with fellow players.

Story designed into a game isn't bad, it's just that the pendulum in MMOs has swung too far to the pre-scripted, single-player style.

Posted: Nov 2nd 2011 1:46AM (Unverified) said

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@Avaera Correction. There hasn't been much story at all in MMO's of late.
Only with the upcoming MMO's there's an emphasis and upgrade to storytelling, so imo there hasn't been a swing to the singleplayer kind, the opposite was more the case.
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Posted: Nov 1st 2011 6:21PM JonBuck said

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Sometimes I don't want to bother with a story in a game. Team Fortress 2, for instance. But I've bought other games--Mass Effect 1 &2--specifically for the story and less the gameplay. In fact, in ME1 I used cheats all the way through because I was more interested in the story. I bought Deus Ex: Human Revolution for the story.

I'm looking forward to TOR.

Posted: Nov 1st 2011 7:10PM DarkWalker said

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I like good stories in MMOs, but with a caveat: I won't accept any gameplay sacrifice in order to prop up the story, or at least not in a game that expects me to keep playing after I finish the main story.

I play games for two main reasons: story, and fun gameplay. I prefer the games I play to be good in both aspects, but I might accept a game that is bad in one of them if the other truly shines.

But - and this is how I feel about this article - story can only hold me for a short period, while gameplay is what keeps me playing for weeks or months. Given the amount of time players are expected to spend on MMOs, on those games I don't accept any sacrifice in the gameplay front.

A game that only has the story going for it is one I will beat once (and, if I dislike the gameplay, even using cheats to skip ahead the non-story parts) and leave behind. After all, seeing the same story again gets boring fast.

Games with the kind of gameplay I really like, on the other hand, are the ones I will keep playing after "beating" them, even if they are lacking in the story department. Thus, any MMO that expects me to do more than just give a look around needs very good gameplay more than it needs story.

This is the reason I don't think I will subscribe to SW:TOR anymore, even though the story will most likely be fantastic. Too many gameplay decisions I can't agree with. If I actually purchase the game, the most likely outcome is that I will do so just before my vacations, do a gaming marathon in order to experience the whole story during the free month, and abandon the game; otherwise, I'm inclined to just read the story on a Wiki and watch the key parts on YouTube.

GW2, on the other hand, is one game I think I will really enjoy. Good story, plus game systems I'm quite eager to try, and, to sweeten even more the deal, no subscription fees. If it delivers everything it's promising, I'm even planing to set aside $10-$15 per month to spend on their store, just to show my support for the game.

Posted: Nov 1st 2011 7:16PM BigAndShiny said

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Story should not be the one thing that makes your game better. It should be a lot of factors. WoW succeeded because it innovated a little in everything. TOR only innovates in story, GW2 only in Dynamic Events.

Posted: Nov 1st 2011 8:24PM Lucidus said

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@BigAndShiny I wouldn't count GW2 out in the story arena. GW2 has a solid backstory and will have talky bits, probably not as long winded thankfully as TOR. And at least it seems that NPCs will react to your character path. Being called a "hero" when I've done nothing but dark side choices in TOR get grating after a while.
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Posted: Nov 2nd 2011 1:53AM (Unverified) said

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@BigAndShiny I think you're biased and uninformed.
Both SWTOR and GW2 have their innovations in quite a number of features, and certainly more than WoW did.

To name for SWTOR, its Companions, its Crew Skills, its choice based questing where decisions have impact upon follow up missions, and a lot of smaller tweaks just like WoW added its tweaks to existing MMO features.

Now, if those are of the kind that don't interest you, well, to each their own. But it isn't as if SWTOR doesn't have its innovations or distinctions, it's just that you don't care about those.
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Posted: Nov 1st 2011 7:16PM Protoavis said

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That first picture takes me back, that was an awesome childrens show when I was little...*goes off to see if it still holds up*

Posted: Nov 1st 2011 11:13PM Space Cobra said

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@Protoavis

The picture is from a Jim Henson studios production/series called, "The Storyteller" and it was pretty awesome!
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Posted: Nov 1st 2011 7:19PM Threecubed said

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Came here to say:

Thanks! Awesome soapbox, one of the best I've ever seen on this site.

Telling a story is one of the best things a video game can do. It can personalize an experience, turn it on its head and make you question your preconceptions.

Sure, some games are more fun to get head shots in, or some let you cut dudes in half, but the really interesting ones are the games that make you question: "why?"

Posted: Nov 1st 2011 7:55PM svartalfimposter said

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Story is held back by the textbox problem. I think that SWTOR is defying the lack of voice-simulation technology sufficiently advanced to convincingly emulate the human voice. When this event occurs, we will see games like City of Heroes finally showing how embracing a good story really is.

Another problem we have is that servers can't hold enough information or the web doesn't have sufficient bandwidth. This means that the REAL thing we're waiting for - players being able to make their own mark on a gameworld - isn't happening. Warhammer Online and Guild Wars 2 seem to be circumventing this by having stages of public quests, but as I say, it's a workaround. Since the early days of Dark Age of Camelot, I've wanted a gameworld where players can have real effects. The way Warhammer does this is in the capital cities, where they improve as the prosperity of the realm improves. Sadly, the game is horribly bodged to such an extent that this is an almost non-existent feature.

Posted: Nov 1st 2011 9:26PM StClair said

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@svartalfimposter
No, the real thing keeping players from "making their mark on the world" is that most of them want to put in a bunny that they and their friends can kill for a mountain of gold and enough xp to instantly hit the level cap, or draw penises all over everything, or both. When it comes to MMO players, Sturgeon was an optimist.
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Posted: Nov 1st 2011 8:00PM Ocho said

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Well said! I'm the same way, and thats why I feel like I was duped by WoW for so long. In the end, there was no real overarching story! (Keep in mind, this was 1 - 60). But then in the expansions, the story didn't happen until you were into raiding. You essentially were just playing in a world filled with lore... but there was no real story to follow.

I've since moved on, and am playing games like STO, GW, and LotRO. All of which are based around one primary thing: story.

Posted: Nov 1st 2011 8:38PM Threecubed said

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@Ocho

I agree that the tie-in to raiding (and to a good extent, dungeons) was difficult to find unless you really went in head-first into WarCraft lore.

However Blizzard became a little better at that later on, and there were some really great story arcs (Duskwood/Ashenvale/Worgen) and the (Zangarmarsh/Naga/StealingOurWaters) in TBC.

These upcoming games *will* change how MMO stories are changed, and I think that anyone that is interested in making MMO stories better should buy GW2, SWTOR and The Secret World, then subscribe to whichever does story "right" by them.
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Posted: Nov 1st 2011 8:36PM Mikx said

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Story sucks because what many people want is control over their character. They want their character to exist in the world, and not be some mass produced cretin that just left the factory.

Dungeons & Dragons allows for a sandbox story more or less. There are some basic rules, but the characters exist in your head or in what you write down on paper. You have control over your character and its choices. Themepark story removes choice from your character. If developers had resources to implement a themepark story that allows for all possible background choices and responses to problems, that is the basis for a great story, but none of the games allow for that, and the costs of implementing it would be astronomical, especially when you consider cinematics and voiceover development. These costs rise even further once you recognise a player might have killed or allied with a character that was supposed to be an important enemy, and therefore cannot be the centerpoint of that character's expansion, story or raid experience.

Posted: Nov 1st 2011 8:43PM Threecubed said

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@Mikx

Most people that really complain about being a "mass-produced cretin" seem to be whining for the sake of whining.

In any game ever, you will experience the same story, make the same choices, or learn the same thing as thousands (if not millions) of other players.

The ONLY difference with MMOs is that you can see other players, and many of their choices. Any story ever has the same issue, the events are the same, but the main difference is where people experience a personal connection, or a changing of perspective.

Basically, people are complaining about nothing.
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Posted: Nov 1st 2011 8:44PM Threecubed said

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@Threecubed

You will never have control over your character, whether it is D&D or WoW or SWTOR or LIFE.

Somethings are beyond your control, the point is to make things personal and meaningful to your own self.
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Posted: Nov 1st 2011 10:10PM Mikx said

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@Threecubed

This isnt true. Take a sandbox like EVE, where you can pretty much create your story any way you want. You can pretty much create your story in Warcraft because the official story, as it exists, can be ignored.

This cannot be done in SWTOR. This cannot really be done in GW2. You are force fed a story. You have no control over your character.

In Dragon Age origins, things start off promising because you can at least choose your origins, but then the game just shoves all this garbage you cannot choose on you and you have no control over your character.

An MMO offers a persistant world where characters can "grow" over long periods of time. That is a good thing. Its not good when you follow the same predetermined, factory standard story as everyone else.

When you emphasize story you are almost by definition removing options from characters and taking choices away from players.
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