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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

Why "Story" and "Lore" Fail in MMORPGs, and How They Can Succeed

Posted by Meleagar Friday June 11 2010 at 7:58AM
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The way current online games are set up, one has hard decisions to make about what they do with their online time. Most players only have a very limited amount of time to invest in any online game, and currently virtually all MMOGs are set up so that one must be online and hammering at the keyboard in order for their character to advance.  These games are also set up so that there is a natural, intrinsic, structured progress towards an end-game set of goals for all characters.  If one is not progressing towards that goal, they fall behind in all aspects of the game - even the social aspects; in such games, society is structured around the ability to efficiently advance one's character, or contribute to groups or guilds dedicated to such advancment.

This structure explicitly promotes a conformity-based playstyle dedicated to maximizing one's efficient advancement of one's character.  In such a scenario, lore, story, and role-playing are inefficient excursions from the directed structure of the game. In essence, they represent a "waste of time" because they do not advance one towards the explicit goal structure of the game.  Sure, one can argue that people don't have to play that way, but such playstyles are often unsatisfying due to lack of character progression and because such playstyles don't "fit in" with the explicit structure of the game.

Conversely, since quest, story and lore developers recognize this constraint, they are under pressure to organize the story aspects of the game in a way that is congruent with, and supportive of, the level-progression and class conformity nature of the game structure, as well as the time-constraints of most players.  They can't put in a requirement to read and understand too much lore and story because it frustrates players who only have a set amount of time to "level up" their character.

One of the best aspects of my proposed 24/7 character advancement system is that it completely changes the nature of the relationship of quest, lore and story to game mechanics and structure.  Players no longer have to make that "hard decision" between efficient progression of their character and doing anything else in the game, including immersing themselves in story, quest and lore systems, and even taking the time to role-play effectively. Without having to consider the ever-ticking online character-progression clock and worry about frustrating or delaying the player, the developers can generate as much lore and story they want, fully fleshing out interactive conversations with NPCs to promote immersion and characterization.

Quests based on choices the character makes can involve them in story and lore that has nothing whatsoever to do with level-based character advancement, even though certain benefits can certainly be awarded.  The player would be free to explore ongoing, specified stories of depth and diversity which simply cannot be attempted in current MMOGs because of the time-constraint and progression-structures imposed by the nature of current games. Developers would be free to be much more artistic, fleshing out their world to an as-yet unheard of degree, confident that players unshackled to the min-max treadmill of online character progression would be free, willing, and enthusiastic about investigating the stories they provide - of actually exploring, discovering, and investigating their world, instead of just trying to find the most efficient means to advance their character.

medmarijuana writes:

i dont think story and lore fail in most MMORPG, it worked quite nicely in AION. Well , I take that back alot of MMO's don't have much of a story or hardly any lore at all.

Sat Jun 26 2010 11:19PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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