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The End Game

A debate among enemies.

Author: Craz_z

Debate 1

Posted by Craz_z Sunday October 19 2008 at 9:56PM
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Demosthenes:

I don’t know if you remember the original EQ storyline that well, but it really wasn’t a solid lore based timeline until the expansions came out. Regardless, the story really kicked into gear when EQ2 was released. The only major lore updates one gets in EQ, was the discovery of the planes, their respective gods, and a constant battle between man and god. When EQ2 was released, it was thousands of years after the original Norrath, the gods had abandoned the world in retaliation and left in constant turmoil, run by men, or demi-gods.

For number 3 I’d like to see the gods return only to be so infuriated, they wage war on humanity and themselves, literately wiping out all existence in the process. The entire battle should be capped off with one divine over-being, destroying all gods and humanity. The world left in complete and utter ruin. From one tear from this being is a seed planted for good, and from one drop of blood, a seed for evil. From these two drops, is the formation of life that takes hundreds of thousands of years to evolve. I’d like EQ3 to be the set at the VERY start of a new civilization. Where the races are just beginning to establish themselves and discover a newly built world. The lore and quests of the game should ultimately lead the races to the answers of their existence and form a general quest to find and win the favor of the over-being.

That would be most good.

Locke:

Err might as well just create a new title in that case.

Demosthenes:

Well yeah, I mean, it doesn’t necessarily have to be called EQ3, but a similar story would work very well.

One of these days, someone has to come up with something unique, or simply better than what is out there.

Locke:

We already did. Modern warfare MMORPG

The high fantasy theme is over done, I mean everyone uses it because it obviously works but that doesn't mean that people haven't gotten bored of it.

Honestly if I wanted to create a decent MMORPG story line I'd either use the modern warfare... or if I wanted to go the fantasy route then I'd do a story where there really is no good or evil but everything is a big shade of grey. Minimum of three different major factions each competing against the others, various smaller factions. Players wouldn't be considered KoS in any of the capital cities unless you've lost too much faction w/ them by killing too many players on that side. PvP would be regulated to certain areas and keeps/forts would exist as take over objectives, city seiges would take place in event of capturing enough of these objectives. Base classes spread out across the factions but varying specialties existing for each side. etc.

Demosthenes:

What you have there is the recipe for a listless existence. You have to remember, that models solely based on player inputs fail. The game has to have controls that keep the human variable in check, that’s what makes games fun and challenging. Otherwise, a defined challenge does not exist.

A good game is like a good storybook. There are key elements that it requires. Protagonists need antagonists etc… The plot unfolds in a series of expansions that keeps game-play fresh.

Also, the key to having a good MMO, is having a game that cannot be beat. That’s why EQ was enormously successful. Even WOW had to keep releasing content to match the pace of the overzealous gamer. The fact is that complex, multiethnic game models don’t do well because there is no unifying challenge to the game-play.

An MMO is only as good as the community that plays it. That community needs to feel empowered, and unified behind clear and precise goals in order to achieve an objective greater than one’s self. That’s why good and evil work so well. But imagine if the makers of say, Oblivion, created such a game as the one I described. It would be quite fun. That, my friend, is why WOW has been so successful, it’s because the level of absorption in the game is quite high, it has a strong community, and clear unified goals for players to get behind (g vs. e). In essence it’s the same as ANY other MMO, begin > kill massive amounts of things > level > kill more > level > make sh(stuff)it > hit buttons > level > quest > level > repeat ad nauseam. It’s how well one is absorbed in said activities that keeps a game successful….. so a complicated and very cool game could never succeed in today’s world. It would have to be cliché and simple enough for the average player to get behind it.

(A quite depressing admission that the MMO's of today and tomorrow will never be as good as any MMO before the release of Everquest 2. This is indeed science, and can never, in any way/shape/form be argued or disproven. IF you disagree, you are wrong.)

Locke:

I think you're missing the spirit of western RPGs. Eastern RPGs (aka Japanese RPGs) always focus on a basic linear storyline with the protagonist vs. anatagonist theme. Western RPGs and modern western fantasy literature for that matter, focus more on the choices of the main characteres and on the fact that many of life's choices exist in a grey area. Take Oblivion, or BG, or Icewind Dale, or Fable, or Jade Empire as an example. These RPGs thrive because they allow the player to choose... and not just once, but many, many times throughout the game whether they should be good or evil or if they fall somewhere in between. MMORPGs should take this theme and run wild with it. You shouldn't choose a high elf character and then be forced to play some noble, goody tooshoo character. You should be given the opportunity to turn traitor and give into the dark side etc. etc.. True, giving players too many choices in an MMO can have disasterous consequences but there are ways to mitigate these consequences.

RPGs, in my oh so humble opinion, have thrived because they embrace many aspects of fantasy literature. They run concurrent themes, races, plots, protagonists / antagonists, quests etc. But fantasy literature has evolved within the past 5-10 years (single player RPGs have stayed pretty close actually) and as the literature changes, so must the games.

It's a cultural thing. You can see it in television too. Look at one of my favorite programs, 'Heroes'. 'This show loves not letting you know who is good or evil at any given moment, they often have the main protagonists fighting against each other because they both think they're doing the right thing, and so on in this vein. We're living in an age where we recognize the ambiguity of moral choices.

MMOs have been around for a while but with the debut of EQ 1 they really took off. Just compare EQ 1 to EQ 2 and notice the vast difference in their levels of complexity. Things will only get more complex as time goes by. Actually diverse is a better word to use than complex. Complexity makes it sound like it'll be difficult to understand and use.

Demosthenes:

First and foremost, much like the moral ambiguity you describe in your argument, Eastern and Western RPG’s simply do not exist anymore. “Western” RPG’s like WoW and EQ2 are immensely successful in Asia. Just like final fantasy and other Japanese RPG’s are successful here. The line is now gray, it’s not about style, it’s about presentation and game-play. It’s about what’s popular and fun, that supersedes any spirit of a particular social taste.

If you think for one second “western” RPG’s aren’t linear, you are mistaken. EQ2, WOW, and most console RPGs exist within a quite finite linear space. Fable was so linear in fact, I beat it in less than two days. The guise is that choice and freedom of game-play are part of the linear design. One can implement all manner of nuance in a game and still focus on a linear story. Oblivion, regarded as one the most open ended games ever, still revolves around one concurrent story line, and every single aspect of that game eventually ties into the main, linear focus. MMO’s are no exception.

Literature has nothing to do with how well a game does. Myself, along with hundreds of thousands of players, have never read a piece of fantasy literature, let alone current ones. Some have. Maybe it’s the other way around, maybe literature has adapted to encompass new fantasy themes popular today. Baldur’s Gate, IceWind Dale, hell…even EQ have spawned countless books. Arguably, eq, eq2, lotr, and most every other high fantasy game are based off Tolkien literature. That theme hasn’t changed in nearly 30 years since the books were written. Oblivion is based off the same medieval concept, that game was immensely popular, the concept has been around for decades. In fact, the original EQ was actually designed by three gentlemen familiar with pen and paper D&D, and other computer based MMO’s, not literature at all.

If anything MMO’s have started to scale to the side of user friendliness. EQ1 was much more complicated than EQ2 is. Now, there is much ease in adopting new players. Complexity is a more difficult thing to use and understand. That’s why most games are geared to bring in more casual players. Try playing EVE online, a game so complex, that a recent patch has designed specific programs and tutorials to help aid more casual players. Because with popularity comes the need to appease the bottom line. Which is why most MMO's, like bars and service businesses, concentrate not on the top 10 percent of the customers that keep them in business, but by catering to the bottom end, or the casual one timer that steps in off the street. That is how they fail.

Social aspects aside, there has always been a single underlying force that drives these games. Community. Feeling part of something greater than one’s self, and becoming absorbed in something outside of normal, everyday life. Having the ability to earn respect and achievement outside of ordinary life…that’s why the goal oriented MMO’s are so successful. I mean, WOW is Alliance vs Horde….EQ2 is Antonia Bayle vs The Overlord…… virtually every western game follows the linear protag, antag system…..because it works.

No one likes ambiguity, disagree? Talk to the hundreds of thousands of subscribers that play the games. I bet you’d throw a book in the trash if it were as neutral as you describe a game should be, who wants to read nothing with no tidy end, or no clear plot? You said yourself, you like nice tidy, happy endings.

Also, as a side note eq2 does offer a rather long and arduous quest called a betrayal quest, where disenchanted citizens join the other side, there has always been the option to do that. Also, in PVP and in care-bear one can become Exiled, it’s a third party that doesn’t follow and specific guideline for good or evil. The very high level characters do this because they can survive on their own without the aid of the large cities, or have faction good in both. But the overwhelming fact is that most players CHOOSE not to because it’s not as fun, but the option has existed since day one…I RARELY hear of a betrayal quest going on.

Locke:

Ugh, of course there's one concurrent story line... there has to be! That doesn't take away the fact that you face many moral dilemmas in these games and you can make varying choices on them and generally some aspect of gameplay will change to reflect your choice. Traditional Eastern RPGs (like Lost Odyssey) don't feature such choices in the slightest. (Or do they?)

Fable wasn't linear, you were given the option of just doing the main story line but you didn't have to do. It took me 2 weeks to beat Fable because I tried to do everything. Oblivion is the same, you have one path to take (i.e. one main story line) but you have multiple ways to go about it. In Eastern RPGs, there was only one path and only one way to do it. (Ahem, original Zelda?)

Literature has no bearing on a game's performance, YES, I agree. BUT in terms of storyline (which is what we're arguing about) RPGs have always followed the traditional literature style of storytelling along with literature's basic themes (i.e. the triumph of good vs. evil, romance, young child becoming a hero, good side beating evil despit evil being vastly more powerful than good) these are themes that exist in all sources of media (movies, games, television, comics) but that originated in literature.

Now my point here is that the story lines evident in our games generally reflect the story lines that we, as a culture, embrace. This change has been reflected in other forms of mainstream media, (literature, movies, shows like 'Heroes' being the examples I used) and therefore these storyline changes will almost inevitably be adapted by the MMO market as well.

Gameplay complexity is a different issue, I was referring more along the lines of storyline, questing, and character history in terms of complexity. The complexity of the user interface, online economy, and character statistics is irrelevant to the complexity of the world story. But my point here is that it has been an increasing trend in MMOs to allow players more and more opportunities to actually make and IMPACT on their gaming world. Therefore, the relationship complexity and the complexity behind the players' individual choices will vastly increase as their ability to change their environment increases. (More power, more resonsibility)

Yes, current games have followed this platform and it has obviously worked. I'm just saying that the market has been glutted with these types of games and that the next shift will be towards more morally ambiguous story lines / worlds.

"No one likes ambiguity, disagree? Talk to the hundreds of thousands of subscribers that play the games. I bet you’d throw a book in the trash if it were as neutral as you describe a game should be, who wants to read nothing with no tidy end, or no clear plot? You said yourself, you like nice tidy, happy endings."

-Oh I love nice, tidy, happy endings. But I love complex, morally ambiguous, realistic stories sooooo much more. Sure, I want my favorite character to get the girl and live happily ever after buttt I want him to have to suffer and work for it, to make the tough decisions necessary in order to insure the best of possible futures. Realism (to a degree) old boy, that's the ticket. And people love moral ambiguity, look at how popular anti-heroes are! Look at how popular these drug movies featuring the gangster as a protagonist are. People realize they're cheering for a bad guy but they cheer for him because he's either LESS bad or MORE cool than the other bad guys. Trust me, my favorite series of books ever is as morally ambiguous as a series can be, I love it and these types of books are becoming more and more popular. It's a cultural shift.

Demosthenes:

“And people love moral ambiguity, look at how popular anti-heroes are! Look at how popular these drug movies featuring the gangster as a protagonist are. People realize they're cheering for a bad guy but they cheer for him because he's either LESS bad or MORE cool than the other bad guys. Trust me, my favorite series of books ever is as morally ambiguous as a series can be, I love it and these types of books are becoming more and more popular. It's a cultural shift.”

This may be true, but it holds little bearing to the MMO. Most people like playing evil classes anyway, but the fact is that one can still play an evil character on these games, or play a good one. Hell, one could even create both on most games. Except warhammer, which is quite stupid on their part to force simply one choice per server. Also, the nature of an online persona never changes the way a human interacts with members in the community unless you are roleplaying proper. I’ve witnessed several people who have good characters grief and harass other players, even on their own side. The limits aren’t on the game-play style, it’s on the level of interaction a player has with other players in the environment. On the flip side, I’ve seen evil character sets generously aid other players and generally be the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Point is, it doesn’t matter about a cultural or social climate, it matters about how the individual decides to play a certain character.

As far as the literature argument is concerned, modern games, like I said in my previous argument, and that you concurrently agreed with, follow the set path of conventional story lines because they work so well. So in addressing your heavy concerns about the need for ambiguity, moral or otherwise, wouldn’t your literature theory stance on the MMO contradict that notion?

“RPGs have always followed the traditional literature style of storytelling along with literature's basic themes (i.e. the triumph of good vs. evil, romance, young child becoming a hero, good side beating evil despit (sic) evil being vastly more powerful than good) these are themes that exist in all sources of media (movies, games, television, comics) but that originated in literature.”

Your argument that games follow cultural trends is a very gray area. I would argue that Modern MMO’s are bringing back older literature references and previous genres like HP Lovecraft, Tolkien, Conan, etc…. Games are starting to revisit more classic literature and employ the elements that work the best for success. Simply because one TV show, or modern media are embracing ambiguous moral themes, doesn’t mean that games employ it. In fact, I would say it’s the opposite. In a word that boasts such lurid moral compass, in a media climate that encourages morally ambiguous behavior, wouldn’t a player wanting to escape reality and enter a different world want the opposite. Wouldn’t a player want to participate in high fantasy where he could be a noble and good warrior, or an evil thief? Wouldn’t the player enjoy escaping the unfortunate ambiance that is modern culture? I think they do, I think that’s the driving force behind why MMO’s are successful. Divorced mom sleeping around? No problem, in EQ2 I’m a noble Paladin fighting for good. 2nd Grade school teacher by day? Nope, I’m a Troll Shaman by night, thirsting for the blood of innocents!!

The reason why the market is flooded is because that’s the market that exists!! The market is flooded with fuel efficient commuter cars, the market is flooded with fall and winter clothing, the market is flooded with smaller, more advanced phones! Just because the market is flooded with something, doesn’t necessarily make it a poor flood. Believe me there are PLENTY of non fantasy based RPGS, they just suck unequivocal sack.

The main point is that one can achieve a vast number of elements that you’ve described in the construct of a traditional story. Again, it’s the community, the absorption, and the interaction that defines the experience, and each person has a vastly different one. It’s like being in combat. My combat experience (Semper) could be vastly different from the guy who is in the truck behind me during a convoy depending on the nature of what happens. It’s a social commentary on life itself. Everyone has a different experience given the same parameters that we all begin with (kind of but let’s not go there).

“Gameplay (sic) complexity is a different issue, I was referring more along the lines of storyline, questing, and character history in terms of complexity. The complexity of the user interface, online economy, and character statistics is irrelevant to the complexity of the world story. But my point here is that it has been an increasing trend in MMOs to allow players more and more opportunities to actually make and (sic) IMPACT on their gaming world. Therefore, the relationship complexity and the complexity behind the players' individual choices will vastly increase as their ability to change their environment increases. (More power, more responsibility)”

Despite the attempts to increase perceived player power, it will always be limited to the variables given in the game. The issue that MMO’s have are preserving balance, while ensuring players with greater obligation feel empowered. The sad reality is that no matter how long you play, or how hard you work for that special item, one rarely receives the recognition commensurate with the achievement. Does the level 30 who completed an extremely hard and arduous quest feel any less accomplished because it’s not on the same scope? Normally, no. To the specific individual, it still is a great feat. Having a player, or a group of players directly impact a global environment is one of the most fundamentally wrong aspects of MMO gaming. Having a community generate a driving force, or an extremely large goal based achievement is a better direction, at least that way…..every single person can contribute to the success of a greater goal. Frequent large scale world events, and well thought, implemented and vertically integrated world changes are the key to success. The perception that the individual player provides the impetus for change is the ultimate task of the game designer. To make one feel empowered while still preserving the balance for ALL players to enjoy, that’s the dilemma.
 

Locke:

Interesting, but since I'm leaving early because I can, I'll give you my thoughts on this tomorrow. Enjoy working while I'm being paid for doing nothing.

Demosthenes:

Please die. 

xbellx777 writes:

lol good debate

Sun Oct 19 2008 11:32PM Report
alakram writes:

You could have made various post in your blog.

Mon Oct 20 2008 4:05AM Report
Soara writes:

Thanks for posting this, becausey I enjoyed it my friend!

Wed Oct 22 2008 2:17AM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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