Lore and delivery are two different things that together may change your overall game experience, but does not effect the quality of each other…
When we think of MMORPG lore, or the lack of that lore within a game, it is sometimes too easy to let the poor execution speak for the quality of it. Delivery can influence the experience but a large amount of that is determined by the player as well. Usually in response to my queries, I get a movie as an example. Case in point, I think “A Boy and His Dog” was a poor movie but a great story that later heavily influenced the world of the Fallout games. The movie as a whole was poor, even if it was based on a good story. MMORPGs are interactive games where our enjoyment is contingent on our participation. The work we put in, so to speak, goes along way toward our overall experience. To me, the movie analogy is continuing to overgeneralize, mix up lore and delivery, and let delivery speak too much for the quality of the lore itself.
Information is not delivered to you, in a MMORPG, the way it is in a movie. Many people play differently, don’t read quests, or just sit around and fish all day. Players have to use their own resources, to different extents, to dig for the story. Delivery is an important tool because it can improve or lessen that experience. Whether the lore is there, and a good story or not is, well, a different story.
I posted a question looking for free-to-play MMORPG based fiction over on MMORPG.com and got a number of different responses. The majority of the responses pointed to the games either not having any lore to speak of, or it was all poor quality. I never did find out if there were any books based off those games, whether written in the developer’s native language or otherwise. There were quite a few amusing replies from players saying how, in general, translating a game to a book would be dumb because it wouldn’t be very exciting to read “I cast fireball and waited 3 seconds, mob X bit me and hurt 2% of my health…”. and other variations of that. Some didn’t even know that there were World of Warcraft, Warhammer, or EVE books floating around in bookstores.
When we argue that bad translation is the only thing an English speaking audience has to judge the lore on, then for all intent and purpose, we may say the lore is bad. I’d still argue from the standpoint of how much imagination or work you put into it. Yes, I’d agree to other fellow players in the know, that “Game ‘X’s’ lore is very poor”, but it helps to look at it from the angle of lore and delivery so we don’t start overgeneralizing in all games.
The quality of delivering the lore may be poor, but the lore may still be there, and it may be good. It may take you more time and work to dig for it, depending on the MMORPG you play, but it may also increase your enjoyment of the game or help you review the game to see if it's something you’d like, and you can always post suggestions in the forums for improving how it is delivered to players in-game.
And on another note: My new blog is at http://www.justonemoar.com