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The staff of gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Traditional Story = Poison for MMOs

Posted by Stradden Friday March 5 2010 at 6:53AM
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Story, for me and many other gamers like me, it’s been the holy grail of video games as many of us have searched for games that really and truly encapsulate the interactive storytelling ideal that we keep being promised.

Having played a fairly wide variety of games in my time, I can honestly say that in the games industry overall, there’s actually been a huge and noticeable improvement. Games like Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2 and Heavy Rain, as examples, all do a great job of telling an interesting story that players interact with on a meaningful level.

The problem is, and to be honest this just occurred to me this morning, the storytelling ideal that developers across the video game industry have been shooting for, especially in RPGs, just doesn’t hold water in MMOs, even if they’re done well.

You see, the focus for story in games has always been to put the player in the role of protagonist. The story is about them, and its events unfold as though they are the single most important thing in the universe. This is a great technique for single player games, and even to a lesser extent for small scale multiplayer games like Left 4 Dead. Unfortunately, it’s poison for MMORPGs.

Let me try to explain:

By trying to make every single person in an MMORPG feel like the game’s hero, which has been the predominant mode of thinking in recent years, developers are ensuring that almost every player has the exact same story experience from level one to the cap and while that works really well in single player games the idea that “I’m a hero, just like everyone else who’s doing exactly the same thing as me” strips away the feeling that I’m a part of a large virtual world, and replaces it with the feeling that I’m playing those same single player games along side a bunch of other people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that story should be stripped out of our MMORPGs. What I am saying, however, is that the approach to the story needs to be dramatically changed to reflect the uniqueness of the genre. Where single player games are about the story of the individual, MMORPGs should be about the story of the world, or the universe. Where single player games make players into the protagonists of the world’s story, MMORPGs should concentrate on allowing players to become the protagonists of their own stories within the larger story of the game’s world.

Now, it’s all fine and good for me to sit here and philosophise, knowing that I’m not going to be the one who has to come up with a cost and time effective way to develop stories this way, but in the end, it’s going to have to be done or else MMORPGs are going to pale in comparison to large scale single player or small group multiplayer games, and people are going to begin to wonder what it is they’re paying a monthly fee for. Heck, it’s already happening. I just hope that someone steps up and changes the way that stories are approached in MMOs.


Codenak writes:

Not everyone can be THE hero in an MMO, however, everyone is and should be a story in that world. Maybe if we the players were allowed to have more varied careers and things to do outside of heroic actions that just add to the immersiveness of a world we would have more fun. Yes I'm lobbying for MMO's to become alternate reality simulators.

Fri Mar 05 2010 7:35AM Report
Unprodigy writes:

Yep. This is absolutely dead on.

What I love about Fallen Earth's story is that the stuff that happens in the introduction may well have not happened to you. It might not have happened at all, or maybe it was someone else. You just have the memory of doing it, like all the hundreds of other clones popping out of the LifeNet bunkers around the Plateau.

And after that? Well, then the story is all just about doing what you personally need to do to survive. Most of it's doing odd jobs to earn some chips and a good reputation. There's a little bit of DNA hunting and other work to keep LifeNet operating properly, but not much that has more impact than making sure you can keep cloning without coming out wrong. Even when you do something big, like overthrowing a tyrant or disarming some ancient nukes, it's the sort of thing that's supposed to be a group effort, and it's cleverly designed to feel like you haven't solved the problem once and for all. You made a difference and things will get better, but the bad guys aren't going to stop making trouble the moment their leader gets capped. And besides, if the baddies have cloning tech of their own...

Basically, it builds a story and gives you a taste of heroism, but accepts that the reality of the post-apocalypse is too ugly for any true heroism. Mostly it's just survival, whatever it takes, whatever the threat.

Fri Mar 05 2010 7:38AM Report
Lord.Bachus writes:


There needs to be different steps possible in main stories.. For excamp[le every step has 3 possible endings depending on player choices.. this leads the players in other directions based on their choices... tough paths of characters will cross and make them do the same quests from time to time... the outcome of the story could be the same but the characters could end up in for excample 5 different positions in the end of each stories... based on the choices should be given faction points and the people end up with one of 5 different factions in the end..


The tortage part of AoC shows some prommising things.. the quests for all 4 main classes are different... and all add to the finall goal... if you played all 4 main choices to level 20 you know what i mean...


Fri Mar 05 2010 9:06AM Report
karmaeso writes:

 With this in mind, May I ask you Jon what you think of SWTOR? It hinges on the very ideas you now say aren't effective in the genre. I'm just curious of your opinion.


Fri Mar 05 2010 9:15AM Report
Stradden writes:


I'm reserving judgement until I actually see it in action. Another of this industry's biggest problems has been people pre-judging things before a) they've seen them and b) they've had a chance to actually think about it. It's easy to offer snap judgements and criticisms. it's harder to try to offer honest feedback and analysis.


Fri Mar 05 2010 9:46AM Report
Nifa writes:

 I think that the idea of everyone being -the- hero is a bit...outdated.  Sure, everyone is the hero of his or her -own- story, but not everything is that 'black and white,' either.  While a person can always be a protagonist, their actions, when viewed by outsiders, may not always look heroic.  Many MMOs do not always take this into account.  

What if I don't -want- to help Zigglesnort save the princess by killing ten rats and collecting 20 snake fangs?  What if I actually helped kidnap the princess because five years ago, she was more like the White Witch from Narnia?  These are the kinds of complexities that current MMO storytelling doesn't take into account for the player character when the reality is that more of ten than not, a player character and a story is far more complex than that.

My $.02 anyway.

Fri Mar 05 2010 10:01AM Report
SnarlingWolf writes:

That's why you come to the dark side with the majority of modern gamers, and not follow story/lore in an MMO (or most games) at all.


Besides Asheron's Call, I can't tell you the lore of any of the dozens of other MMOs I've played. After playing a couple MMOs you realize that, well, they're all MMOs. They all have similarities, you always start out weak and pathetic and work your way to strong and amazing. Everyone else in the world is always in distress and needs your help. There's always at least one very powerful bad guy at any point in time and you have to bring him down.


It's always the same story/lore anyways and it's always boring and uninteresting. I don't even read/follow/learn the lore or story of any MMO anymore. I get in and learn the skills, learn the classes, learn how to make the character I play useful and good at what he does, and then I go have fun. Since every modern MMO let's me skip quest text anyways that is exactly what I do, skip every quest text ever.


What they need to do is make an MMO without a story and see if the result is any different, I would wager it would do just as well but now they wouldn't need any writers.

Fri Mar 05 2010 10:12AM Report
Jaedor writes:

Interesting blog post. I recently did the WoW Wrathgate chain on yet another alt and had the experience of surprise at being called a hero. It was a moment of figuratively looking around and saying, "Who? Me?"

There was a definitely a sense of being engaged in a battle of epic proportions, but the experience of my own part it in was less than heroic or epic. I felt like a cog in a wheel - useful, needful and integral - but not the hero of the story or the savior of the land, etc.

After contemplating it a bit, I came to the conclusion that my experience is rather more one of witness than hero, and I'm okay with that. But it is jarring to have the NPCs call me a hero when I have no actual experience of it.

Fri Mar 05 2010 10:29AM Report
JYCowboy writes:

I guess, in a way, stories can be developer crutches when the game world is so underdevloped.  Cut more and more of the things that make MMORPGs unique and you have to fill it with something for the "Cash Trees" to do.  Kinda a slider from MMORPGs to MMOG's.  Think in terms of the artical on this site of "Seven Underrated Systems":

If you cut these features you have to do something to flesh out your game as a developer.  I would say, developers learned you can almost drop these 7 systems to save cost and still call it a MMORPG.  I am not saying having a story is bad.  Any content favorable to the game is good but realing soully on it is myopic.

Fri Mar 05 2010 10:37AM Report
maxtlion writes:

When Asheron's Call was in it's early dats, there were unique events that shaped the world - and by unique, I mean that if you missed it, then unlucky, it wasn't happening again. Releasing the Hopeslayer, Shadow raids destroying towns etc. If you were there - even if you died a horrible death - then you had something different to tell people about than the guys and girls who were farming Hoary Mattekars religiously for that damn robe!

The majority of games now produce repeatable content. Don't get me wrong, taking down Onyxia in WoW was fun, but really, the 5th time my guild did it, you have to ask where these huge beasties are coming from and why they keep waiting in the same place for the next bunch of looters/wipebots.

Unique events make a world special and make it the focus, not the player. Sandbox games probably offer better scope for this than the theme-park designs. There is talk of Mortal Online having unique beasties that don't respawn and GM controlled events occuring in the world, presumably involving some big critter, which if it happens will be an immense plus to any game - and imagine the fun of pilotting one of these event bosses!

Fri Mar 05 2010 10:38AM Report
Lickitung writes:

Here's an idea, and I'll throw it out there that hopefully some game developer sees it, says "Holy ****, that's a great idea!" and builds on it or something like that.  Just give me at least a lil cred for it :3

Okay, remember back in Fable, small choices developed you into hero or villainous visage, but you were still your own personal 'hero'?

That could still be applied to normal MMO play with, what I feel would be, slight ingenuity and a bit more than normal workload.  What we would do is take a story developement similar to FFXI (a large portion of that story line had character NPC's being badass and doing thier own thing, helping save the world and you were along for the ride) and throw in Fable's mechanic.  To modify this, we take WoW's manner of handling NPCs and apply it to ALL NPCs, not just an opposing faction.

This will allow the sicko buttheads who play MMO's their fun in that they can slaughter NPC's, but with Fable's mechanic, if they do this, they're seen as villainous or need to make ammends.  It will also flag them to be attacked by the local guard.  Enter our next twist: An adult MMO named "Sociolotron" has guard NPCs that attack players if they 'break laws' of decency or or attack NPCs in lawful districts.  If you are defeated or surrender to a guard, you go to jail and serve a sentence and are eventually released.  This could last as long as several days, depending on the infraction and the jail is it's own entensive dungeon in which you can harvest for crafting, fight NPCs and level, just like the normal world.  However, fighting a guard will flag you for PvP in our game and allow other players to target you to collect a bounty or exact 'justice'.  Actions like these outside of the normal quests would gain you notority among either the lawful or nonlawful elements in our game.

Of course, this opens the way for abuse... entire guilds of buttheads could go on a quest giver killing spree.  Actions of a guild member would also reflect on the guild as a whole.  If one or a few are being hostile to NPCs, 'people' will frown and complain to the crown and the guild loses prestige.  Maybe shops would charge more for thier services or even outright refuse service while a guild is in bad standing!  If a certain percentage of the guild is being hostile, the local authorities would spawn a special task force and invade the rogue guild in an effort to drive them from the kingdom!  This could be another impotance of building a good guild house.  Imagine the battles to defend your keep/base from invading forces of the kingdom or other guilds seeking fame!

Staying lawful will allow you to gain the trust of superior NPCs and continue in the traditional story flows, whereas nonlawfuls would gain the eye of the underground societies or even spies looking for recruits for an opposing faction.  Applying this kind of ethic to opposing factions would allow different races from different factions to co-exist amongst each other!  Imagine in WoW, being an Undead or Orc in the Alliance, or a Draenei playing for the Horde!

Game progression would continue in that we could still have our story, but our main hero would NOT be the player... or could it? Fame/Honor/Glory/Whatever is checked with a particular NPC, someone in high standing and wants to meet everyone that works to gain honor for the kingdom/nation.  If you're high enough, once a month, we would award the best players on the server to allow them a chance to be the hero.. or at least be among the heroes of our story.  Being a high enough level, gaining a certain amount of honor in the course of the month or another achievment would allow a specific event to unlock for the player.  An event that has special, unique rewards as well as a small, story important mission or even an important mission (get to or trigger an instanced mission) during a large scale PvP faction opposing battleground event would be something to TRULY strive for because then, not everyone is participating in the same story in the same sense.  You could even have like in City of Heroes/Villains, the impenetrable fence line where on one side you have the PvP warring masses while the lucky few are carrying on thier own thing.  Think of the fun to be one of the chosen few and perhaps take a break from your special mission, have a seat and watch the masses go at it!  These missions could unlock side plots or even be the REAL plot of the MMO while the other players are just above-average people!  Even the large scale PvP would allow one of the few game to allow guilds and raid parties to really flex thier muscle.

Ultimately... perhaps a player will be THE hero?  Maybe we could step it one further by once a year, THE best player will do the ultimate test and be named the true hero of the realm.

All of this has been done in other games too.  Not all at once, but it HAS been done.

Most of the quests (dailies, anyone?) we get in normal MMO's are more than enough fodder to keep our 'above-average' players occupied and questing.  A bit of extra work to create more personal stories and save those to the side would be needed. 

Games are out that already track 'Honor'.  Using Honor as a simple value trigger for sides should not be difficult.

Full-scale battles are already done in MMOs.  Age of Conan does guild fort raids (don't they?) and Squenix is beta testing a game that does 50 on 50 PvP battles for the US market, it's already been out overseas for awhile now.


Fri Mar 05 2010 12:39PM Report
Redtah writes:

The way LOTRO does the story is better then usually but still. But really the gentleman above me has it correct the way to make people feel they are important is unique events. things that only happen once in the lifetime of a server . Developers should also not pigeon hole people into one outcome for the event, if there were even 2 possible outcomes and it just depended which faction or renegade group of players put forth the effort to make it happen, well you can bet most people involved would never forget that.

Fri Mar 05 2010 12:41PM Report
swyftty2 writes:

I tent to agree.  although I like story.  that's why there are RPGs and MMOs .  an MMORPG all in one is uncommon and non existent really. 

this almost goes deeper into the root of division between the two. A good story based RPG should be instanced and  must be sotry based for the instance to make since.

A good MMO should never be instance and you in general follow 2 or 3 plot lines and choose random quest v.s. grinding and combo's there of more less.

my own preference is a really nice Multiplayer RPG.

Fri Mar 05 2010 12:45PM Report
Khalathwyr writes:

This is what a very large portion of us mean when we say we want to tell our own stories with a set of detailed tools created by the devs for us to use. This is why that same large portion of us aren't interested in games like SWTOR and WERE interested in games like SWG(pre NGE). I don't doubt that Bioware won't make a solid game with SWTOR. They just aren't making the type MMO that I want to play while paying a subscription.

Fri Mar 05 2010 12:59PM Report
Xondar123 writes:

"Where single player games are about the story of the individual, MMORPGs should be about the story of the world, or the universe. Where single player games make players into the protagonists of the world’s story, MMORPGs should concentrate on allowing players to become the protagonists of their own stories within the larger story of the game’s world."

Yes, but how does this work in a themepark style game? I think that while this does make sense, it can only be accomplished on a large scale and with any amount of success in a sandbox game.

Fri Mar 05 2010 1:50PM Report
Yamota writes:

Agree 100%!

Finally someone who speaks up about how MMORPGs should revolve around the world and not one single player.

Fri Mar 05 2010 1:53PM Report
dhayes68 writes:

Yep. This was definitely a problem I had with AoC. I was the hero who was foretold in the stars.  Ok, aside from being embarrassingly disney-ish, that kind of story is just stupid in an MMO.

MMO's should have story, but it should only be there to provide context and a framework for pve/pvp.

MMO's presumably wanting to create a community of long time subscribers needs to focus (imo) on creating a game where the players playing with each other is what creates the story.

Fri Mar 05 2010 2:17PM Report
dhayes68 writes:

Yep. This was definitely one of the bigger problems I had with AoC. I was the hero who was foretold in the stars.  Ok, aside from being embarrassingly disney-ish, that kind of story is just stupid in an MMO.

Also AoC, CO and STO suffer from what I consider to be a failing in having the single tutorial experience that basically sockets every player into the game in the same way.  Its just counter to the experience I'm expecting to have in an MMO.

MMO's should have story, but it should only be there to provide context and a framework for pve/pvp.

MMO's presumably wanting to create a community of long time subscribers needs to focus (imo) on creating a game where the players playing with each other is what creates the story.

Fri Mar 05 2010 2:20PM Report
dhayes68 writes:

Also, in agreement with this post, as much as I love Bioware's games, when people trumpet their storytelling as a reason to look forward to SW:TOR it doesn't make me hopeful the game is for me.

Fri Mar 05 2010 2:24PM Report
Alberel writes:

I think the iddue isn't story but simply the fact that all anyone does in modern MMOs is kill things. Everyone is the hero by default because that's all the game allows them to be. I think this is partly why people want a return to the sandbox approach, allowing us to be and do anything, not having to fight.

A world, and its story, will feel a lot more real in an MMO if the players actually feel like part of a world community, rather than an endless army of soldiers.

Fri Mar 05 2010 3:04PM Report
Jaded_Raever writes:

A Bump.. thats what im gonna need in the meantime while we wait for a mmo without a braindamaged story

Fri Mar 05 2010 3:18PM Report
maplestone writes:

The medium is the message.

An MMO is a different kind of story-telling medium than what you use with a passive or isolated audience.   I still haven't seen someone do the sort of emergent story arc style I would use if I were designing an MMO.

Fri Mar 05 2010 4:12PM Report
ihaveurnose writes:

My opinion on this for the most part is very simple...I could care less about the story, I care about the gameplay. Honestly me and all of my friends just click through quest dialogue as quickly as possible. Because ya know..we want to "play" the game? If I want to read a story and feel like a hero then i'll find a good book to read and just pretend that I'm the main character.


But even with single player console games, i'll find myself skipping through dialogue just so I can continue playing the game. We pay (or don't pay) for these games to play them, not to read them :)

And also even with the single player console games you still get to say “I’m a hero, just like everyone else who’s doing exactly the same thing as me” .. the only stories that you can truly be a hero in(by yourself) are the one's you make up yourself. If you enjoy PvP (which is unlikely for most people that care about the story) then you can become a hero many times over.


To anyone that plays any game for the story..i hope you get one to your liking soon :) after all most games are about entertainment, regardless of which aspect entertains you the most.

Fri Mar 05 2010 4:15PM Report
wootin writes:

An MMO is by definition not a single-player game. So how can being "the hero" be possible at all?

We can take lessons from other group games like baseball. Everyone participates in the contest as a group, but each individual also gets their chance to be a hero.

I think the old Planetside game did a great job of this. As a nameless soldier, you fought with your side to win objectives. As the same nameless soldier, you got your solo chance to do something important if you put yourself in the right place at the right time  - spotting and intercepting an enemy AMS or ANT at a critical time, catching a hacker that had slipped into the control room to flip the base, etc.  I am still proud of single-handedly killing 3 enemies trying to take an LLU (a "flag" that can turn your base to the enemy's side if they bring it to their base). The fourth (cloaker) did escape with the LLU as he was stealthed up, waited for me to reload, and grabbed it and ran while I was reloading. He made it out the door with my bullets flying around his ears, but I called the alert in broadcase and he didn't make it 30 meters  :D

So it can be done in an MMO - that model worked all right for everyone. Too bad PS is dead now :(  But I'm looking forward to games like The Secret World to see what it does. All three major factions are fighting for the same cause, but in competition with each other at the same time. it's not a sandbox, it's sorta story driven, and it's definitely a questy game, so I am very interested in how they'll do.


Fri Mar 05 2010 4:23PM Report
Tarsidous writes:

Two words.... EVE Online

Nuff said


*waits for the sh**storm* 

Fri Mar 05 2010 4:43PM Report
zymurgeist writes:

The only story that works long term in a MMO is context. Players advance the story. you can create additional context but in the end it's up to the players to flesh out the story. This is what lies at the bottom of the sandbox/theme park debate. People focus on what is or what isn't which features are and which aren't but that's what it's really about.

Fri Mar 05 2010 4:56PM Report
Tanon writes:

 A Fable-type story advancement would work well-'Quest Cards' would be dropped off constantly at a central area where any 'hero' is allowed to take a card. Perhaps have antagonists trying to take over the world, and each hero can choose whether to fight them or join them. That way, you can both advance your own story as well as influence the world.

Fri Mar 05 2010 6:02PM Report
sacredfool writes:

I *think* the developers have already realised that. Not all, but what I see from recent games support my suspicion we will soon be starved of being callwd the PENULTIMATE SAVIOURS OF THE UNIVERSE AND BEYOND in new MMOs. 

Fri Mar 05 2010 7:01PM Report
hogscraper writes:

One of the things I loved about Dark Age was the epic quests. A couple different classes might have run similar paths, but in the end you had to have a group of friends to help YOU be the hero in order to get your epic gear set. The one I remember doing last was the paladin quest line. You could do most of it yourself, but the final battle or two depending on you having made some friends. Too many times to count I helped strangers make that trek to Lyonesse to help them beat down some grapes.

Fri Mar 05 2010 8:30PM Report
trancejeremy writes:

LOTRO does a really good job of involving the players in the story. Too bad the rest of the game involves killing millions of boars.

Fri Mar 05 2010 11:51PM Report
tupodawg999 writes:

Strongly agree. The solo "chosen one" (again) story line is *meant* to make the game more immersive but for me at least it has the opposite effect.

The easiest solution would be to make the story faction based and collective where your character attaches themselves to a faction and their actions add prestige to their faction and ideally the level of prestige of each faction has state or flag based effects on the game.

For example two game factions with their terriotory separated by a fortified bridge. Players on both sides gain prestige for their side through quests etc and the ownership of the bridge can shift depending on the balance.

Sat Mar 06 2010 12:26AM Report
Coldrain_13 writes:

Yes! And I feel Bioware is trying to break this stigma which is madness. A player in a mmorpg is a piece of the puzzle, part of the collective whole. And making everyone the hero is just not the focus devs should be focusing on. If you're in an army you should be a piece of the army, the army shouldn't be a piece of u. Or something like that.


Few games have nailed this somewhat, one I can think of atm is Icarus and FE. Tho bits of the story surround you. :(

Sat Mar 06 2010 7:33AM Report
boriken48 writes:

But what we can do everybody want to be a Jedi and no one want to be fighter merchants or crafts, and want to do the whole thing alone like the movies.

Sat Mar 06 2010 1:54PM Report
jonrd463 writes:

Boriken said: "But what we can do everybody want to be a Jedi and no one want to be fighter merchants or crafts, and want to do the whole thing alone like the movies."


It's simple. Take the same attitude as Starvault has with Mortal Online. I'm not very impressed with the game itself, but I do like how they're taking a stand with their "If you don't like _______ then this game is probably not for you."

IMHO, the primary reason why games lack the features hardcore RPGers look for is the desire to be homogenous and be all things for all people. I want to see a game where if you don't read the quest text, you're in a world of hurt. I want a game that, by it's very design, weeds out the elements that have brought MMOs down. Don't cater to the short attention span "pew pew pew!" types. Unapologetically let them know in boldface, underlined, and italicized clarity that if you don't like those things that have traditionally been the hallmarks of RPGs, this game is probably not for you.

Sadly, such a game wouldn't have blockbuster subscription rates, so it's not something we're likely to see by a AAA developer.

Sat Mar 06 2010 3:05PM Report
Kyoufu writes:

Wow my whole explanation just got deleted. Sad. O well basically if any developer is ever looking for ideas as to how to properly apply story to an MMORPG read steven Erikson's books. Concentrate on the idaeas of convergence and the higher paradigms of existence.

Well i started saying no permanence, no consequences is a big problem with storytelling in mmorpgs. Perma-death is not really comercially viable in most developers' opinions, which makes it difficult. Combine that with the idea that "every character is a hero" and it makes it difficult to see how mmorpgs should be progressing..


When i was a comp sci major me and many friends had discussions about the potential of some of the ideas in those books as they applied to an MMORPG world, where as players would live in a very dynamic world and try to attain power, possibly eventually becoming dieties in a "higher plane of existence". Once this occured, these players would be "gods", giving them certain abilities to bestow on their followers based on their playstyle and the type of deity they become. The physical interaction between deities and followers would be extremely limited in-game with seperate worlds. The deity could return but would be extremely vulnerable (as well as powerful) were he to do so.

New players would be randomly assigned to deitiest based on alignment/race etc type choices, and there would be a limited number of spots for deities. Dynamic quests with constantly changing variables would be required so no walkthroughs can exist (not that hard). These deities could further attain a higher level of existence, giving them some type of powers/control over certain lower gods.. and on and on (turtles all the way down) as necessary.

This idea allows player actions like wars, tournaments, regular PK, their actions in the game to affect the world as a whole, and specifically their deity, who in turn can more greatly affect his followers. The idea of hundreds of followers of a player "god" fighting another religion, and convergence occuring... and always GMs and MODs have their place as the highest of gods, allowing them to keep the environment while still punishing and moderating.


Anyway there are certainly ways for these problems to be overcome, and hopefully one day someone will figure it out... and have the money to actually implement the solutions.

Sat Mar 06 2010 5:41PM Report
Kyoufu writes:

Further note, the idea of following a deity is a combination of RL religion and MMORPG guilds. So changing would not be simple, but it would be possible potentially with certain restrictions.

Sat Mar 06 2010 5:43PM Report
Teala writes:

Point on!  See you get it.   Back in the day's of old(well it seems like a lifetime ago) when games like Asheron's Call and the like were players could make a character that could stand out and be recognized.   I can still remember that names of players that were known game wide or at least server wide by all those that played on the server or the game.   That is not the case any longer in these games.   Players can no longer stand out of the crowd and be looked at as heroes or heroines based on their in game exploits or game playing.

Gone are the days of role playing.   We had some incredible Rp'ers back in the day that helped drive the worlds we played in.   No place was more defined by the players and their actions than in the game Asheron's Call on the Darktide server.   The players(especially certain ones) helped make that server fun and helped drive it forward and make it more than the sum of the whole by what they did to be pro-active in taking a game and making it more.   In today's games that is not possible.   Because today's games basic mechanics are just not conducive to this type of game play.  

Take WoW, most hunters are skilled and geared like every other hunter, there is nothing that makes one hunter really unique from another.,  In Asheron's Call their were players that did stand out and were unique.   In fact some were so unique that the developers even named certain game characteristics after them.   It is sad that such things are not possible any more.   :(

Some games though even though tightly constraining and linear in game play, like Planetside, still allowed some freedom for players to make the game more than what it was.   In a case like that it is the very personalities of the players that magnified their in game persona's that made them unique and help put them in a league all their own.  Once again they made the game more than the whole based on their own actions in the game and the game slowly became more than what it was and it sucked others into it because of these few other unique players and their ability to take their characters to a level few would ever achieve.

Sat Mar 06 2010 7:44PM Report
Cursedsei writes:

Just to be nit-picky, but when it comes to DA: Origins and ME: 2, only one needed to be listed since both are made by Bioware, and them making a game with a strong story is par for the course.

Which is exactly why I'm worried about The Old Republic. They are masters of storytelling, for sure, but that doesn't translate well at all into a MMO environment. Which, if I remember, is why the game is instanced, and why you'll be given NPC allies to help you. (once again, going off what I remember about the game)


I'll give WoW this much, when it comes to incorporating players into the storyline, for the most part it works out rather well. It requires a large group of them, along with help of a major lore figure, to take down a greater evil. Illidan with Maeiv, Kil'jaeden and Anveena (aka the sunwell itself), and even Yogg'saron and the 4 great Keepers.

That way, when you look back upon it, it was "The 4 Keepers, and a group of determined adventurers, had beaten back Yogg" and such.

Sun Mar 07 2010 1:13AM Report
Scot writes:

You can be heroes, just not The Hero. The concern that you can't be The Hero is a very solo centric one, it is what we play solo games for. Being one of the heroes is fine for me.

Sun Mar 07 2010 3:32AM Report
inle writes:

"MMORPGs should be about the story of the world, or the universe. Where single player games make players into the protagonists of the world’s story, MMORPGs should concentrate on allowing players to become the protagonists of their own stories within the larger story of the game’s world."

a good example of this

can you say SWG  I know you can :P

Swg pulled this off well before the NGE hit

in swg you played your self in the star ware universe and not one of the "iconic" characters or roles

and the game was pretty damn good

but then they forced you into the "Iconic roles" with the NGE witch damn near killed the game


Sun Mar 07 2010 1:20PM Report
Mariner-80 writes:

Guild Wars blended story with an MMO setting quite well, as does LotRO, in my opinion. I strongly suspect that SWTOR and Guild Wars 2 will also merge MMO with great stories quite well.

Even WoW sort of has a story (or perhaps, more accurately, a series of "mini-stories"). The problem with WoW is just that the stories are not very good.

In any case, I do not believe "MMO" and "good story-telling" are mutually exclusive concepts.

Mon Mar 08 2010 12:47PM Report
Rhygar writes:

I have been saying this for several years now.  To some extent this is couple with the "grind" problem.  The player is expected to do everything manually - watching the bar fill up.  This is primarily due to the themepark MMOs that need use up your time so that they can write expansions.  Sandbox MMOs are trying to get past this but are still stuck with the cliche that my character has to mine ore with a pick etc.  Instead MMOs need to make player characters part of the RPG background of a MMO.  If you go to an NPC merchant it should be the offline character of a player.  When he comes on he can change settings, restock, do deals etc.  This will go very handily with multiple characters per server.  A crafter should be able to buy a workshop and craft while you are offline - when you come back you just change some settings, do chat to your major customers and do other crafting profession related things - why must you watch the bar fill up?!  Why can't you hire other new players that work for in that shop - that receive "training" in that craft and give you some of their offline time to create items for you to sell at a profit?

The only thing you don't mention is that in a RPG story the story actually ends. Due to the almost fanatical hate that MMO players have been duped into holding against Permadeath there is no way to end a character's story.  Until we do that the dream of dynamic-story driven content influenced by players will not happen.  The moment characters die the world changes irrevocably, a timeline is created and we can start working on a dynamic world.

Couple the above non-persistent characters with my comment on workshops and offline production suddenly you have a never ending churn of apprentices arriving, apprentice becoming masters and then eventually dying.

Now let us hear the screams of anguish from the PD haters...

Tue Mar 09 2010 7:28AM Report
Roadshow writes:

A living evolving story in which the player was but a bit-player was how  Earth & Beyond worked. With a 4-weekly update cycle, there were new events, changes in sector factions and a story in which you felt a part.

When the game closed, the devs released files containing the game's back-story and plans for how the story would have gone in future, it was a massive project.

I've played dozens of games since E&B closed and not one has been a patch on it. I have yet to see the intuitive nature of it's farming and crafting, it's ambitious updates and evolving storyline, repeated elsewhere.

There have been good games since then, but none as good. Instead of reinventing the genre with every release, companies would do well to learn from what has worked before.

Tue Mar 09 2010 11:04AM Report
Jairoe03 writes:

I'm very surprised no one mentions EVE Online in regards to this. Their newsletter practically puts the players in the spotlight in terms of tracking current events like a news media center. I believe this is a great direction to follow in terms of including the players as a part of the world they play in.

Whether its sandbox or theme park, I think there should be mechanics placed into the games here that allow players to push the world around and make an impact rather than follow loose, meaningless storylines. 

Wed Mar 10 2010 8:04PM Report
Hyanmen writes:


The story in games I've been playing have centered around the main characters in the world, and not me. I'm a side-kick that gets to see the story unfold, but I'm necessarily not the main hero. And I think that's fine.

Fri Mar 12 2010 3:32AM Report
uttaus writes:

Asheron's Call had it right back in the early days. Unique events and a changing world. Even when  wasn't part of a unique event I got to hear stories of it from guild mates and in general chat. When the Shadow War came to a head whole towns were destroyed and ruins of crashed Shadow Towers litter the land.

In MMOs today it is an unchanging land with, developers cries of we have to have every piece of content available for every player.

You know  hearing about a huge change in the world and the seeing the after math is something that shows me the world changes even if I don't witness it, and knowing the world changes keeps me coming back as player.

I wish developers would see that angle.



Sun Mar 14 2010 10:55PM Report writes:
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