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Does Story Matter?

Posted by lordaltay1 Thursday May 29 2008 at 12:26AM
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Most Asian single player RPGs are story driven while almost all Asian MMORPGs are completely void of any semblance of plot. I've never been able to fully understand this contradiction. Unlike Western MMORPGs, Asian ones are usually free to play and instead supported through cash item shops. This certainly goes some way in explaining this phenomena. "Lore" is regarded as a luxury that developers can do without. We gamers are expected to accept this compromise -- free game play but no lore.

To get into this matter a bit deeper, lets take a look at two very successful games with vastly different approaches to story. World of Warcraft has mountains of in game text. Each of the thousands of quests is attached to lengthy dialogue and players can go out of their way to read books placed throughout the world. Entire novels have been written set in the Warcraft universe. On the other end of the spectrum we have Maple Story. With something like 50 million users worldwide, there is no doubting Maple Story's success. Yet Maple Story doesn't even give players the pretense of a story.
 
Obviously there are many factors that go into making a good game, but I would really like to see a game like Fly For Fun or Dream of Mirror Online that has the same dynamic back story that we see in single player Asian RPGs. Story might not be a top concern, but why not develop it as time goes by? For example, for the first year or so Maple Story had very few quests but as time went by more and more were added. Couldn't story elements be added the same way? Start with basic stuff then add more as the game develops.

What are your thoughts on back stories in MMORPGs? Are they needless or do they help enrich the experience and immerse the player in the game world? Share your views through the comments below.

HumbleHobo writes: To me it matters. However, I'd hesitate to call quest text 'story'. Even if you do enjoy reading it, you WILL get to the point where you just skip it. Also, even if you do not care at all for the story, it does help to add an overall feel of 'completeness' to an MMO. It's sort of like a glue that fills the minor holes in an otherwise... game full of minor holes. Thu May 29 2008 12:43AM Report
Death1942 writes:

its not about how much text there is its how it is used.  story is a luxury not a must and many games can get on without one (SWG for one) and others really really need one to keep going (LOTRO).  others are a mix.  they take a basic story and slap on some extra stuff.  do you think every single quest in WoW is related to the old stories?

Thu May 29 2008 2:49AM Report
doomrah writes:

it doesn't really matter to me.  to tell you the truth i'm not a fan on reading quests and books in an MMO.  i do like cut-scenes and will sit through those to feel immersed in a storyline, but reading 3-4 paragraphs for a quest to kill 5 scorpions.  no thanks.

Thu May 29 2008 10:55AM Report
JB47394 writes:

Interesting point, Wargoo.  Would you read 3-4 paragraphs for a quest that was so involved it was going to take you a month to complete?

I'm not the least bit interested in backstory.  If there is a living story that directly impacts the way that I play the game, then I want to know what's happening.  If I don't like the story, I'll move on to a different game.

For example, the fact that two races hate each other is backstory.   I don't care.  The fact that a large group of the enemy race is slowly migrating in our direction is living story.  NPCs are moving around, and that's going to impact gameplay.  I care about that.

Thu May 29 2008 3:05PM Report
Hexxeity writes:

That's a very interesting contradiction you've pointed out, lordaltay1.  Now you've got me wondering!

But to answer the question, the story is VERY important to me.  And, HumbleHobo, I always read the text of EVERY quest -- every single one -- unless it's one I've done before.

For me it's part of what separates a game from a grind.  For example, I LOVE almost everything about FFXI and the old days of EQ.  I like the worlds, the character systems, and the overall themes.  But in both cases, you often find yourself grinding mobs for no reason.  I can't explain why, but this sort of thing bores me a lot faster than if someone has given me even the stupidest reason to kill them -- and the promise of a reward.

I guess one problem is that "leveling up," in and of itself, is not rewarding to me.  I do not play games to level up.  I play them to experience the stories and be part of the action, be involved in a team.

JB47394 has a good point, though.  History is not nearly as important to me as the current, ongoing story of the world.  That is something even I often ignore.

I know there are people who think WoW is just as grindy as FFXI, only with more window dressing.  But if that "window dressing" is actually one of the reasons you play, then there is no problem.

(Teamwork is the other big reason I play MMOGs, and that's why I played CoH for so long in spite of an initially weak storyline.  Now I hear the story is getting better ... I might give it another go.  But probably not, as I'm still enjoying WoW.)

Thu May 29 2008 3:52PM Report
liadz writes:

I'm with JB47394. I don't care at all if two goddess created the world and created two races to do endless pvp against each other for all eternety (or at least while the game lives on).

The good part is to be part of it and that's where most of the MMOs fail. A NPC would say to every player that he's the special chosen one savior of the world. Is it just me or you guys also see that as a stupid thing?

What I still want to see in a MMO is a dynamic story, a world in evolution, like the real one. If someone saves the world from that legendary monster, the monster wouldn't simple respawn to someone else save the world again and again. A new menace would have to appear from the very depths of hell/space/whatever and with it a new story to be told. That would be epic. People new to world wouldn't live what have already happened but they would "write" the new story too.

It sure would be a more expensive thing, softhouses would need to hire screenwriters and all but it would add the Role to the Playing Game

Thu May 29 2008 8:38PM Report
lordaltay1 writes:

You've all made great points, I'd have to agree that back story is no where near as important as the "on going" story, but I still think its kinda cool to crawl through a dungeon and be told bit by bit about its past and how other NPCs I heard about elsewhere fared in this particular dungeon.

And obviously quest text regarding a simple task like killing 5 scorpions is not as relevant text in longer quests, the example I can offer is the Onyxia quest line in WoW, it had mutliple steps and had you going all over the place learning about the world lore.

Thu May 29 2008 11:02PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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