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The MMO Experiance

Discussion of both current and future MMOs and their trends.

Author: bsmith239

Is a story that important to an mmog?

Posted by bsmith239 Thursday April 17 2008 at 5:24PM
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    My question is simple, is a constant story important to an mmo? It seems easy to gravitate towards saying "yes a story is needed to grab a players attention from level one and keep them on the right direction until they reach the level cap" and a lot of mmos have developed this approach. The problem I see with this is it gives the player a false sense of FINISHING the game. A person thinks, "whelp the story is over guess thats it" and religates him/herself to raiding, pvping and then quitting the game for lack of "content". Or they start pushing the devs for more "end game content" which is really a myth in mmos anyways. I was playing the free trail of EVE the other day and I had an epiphany of sorts and this is what came pouring out of my mind

   First off,  what if an MMO had no real involved story but your own UNTIL you reached cap? Think of the whole leveling up system is your "training" for the epic battles to come your way once you max out. Hell the game would be designed around its endgame content from the get go. For example you could spend 3 months leveling to 50 on your toon only to have a whole story driven campaign waiting for you t  that could take you another 3 months to complete. This campaign could include questing, raiding and pvping and would tie those three things together. A player could choose how they wanted to help in the struggle at level cap. Now, you might say this is just sort of putting a mask over the problem of  'end game content', and once people flew through the end game campaign there would be nothing to do but raid and PvP. But a company could continually pump out end game content if they did not worry about adding new content for lower level players. Of coarse this would mean that the leveling from 1 to whatever would have to be extremely polished from the beginning which in turn would mean that a company would need to actually finish the game prior to launch but its totally doable. If company's didn't realease games that where unfinished at the lower level stand point they could put all effort  into expanding game systems and adding "elder game" (which is a better term) content after release. Now I am not saying that there would be no direction at the beginning of this fictional mmo. What I mean is that the NPCs and other players around you would be pushing you to excel at your training so you can succeed in your battles ahead at cap. It would really give the since that you are leveling (training) for a reason and give you something to look forward to.


Another look at it, which is more like EVE, is there could be no story at all except the one you make for yourself. Yeah there would be quests in the world but its up to the player to do them and if you dont want to and just want to farm and craft all day you could do that all the way to max level.  If someone wants to get into politics let them do that too. These games are supposed to be ROLE PLAYING GAMES. They are supposed to allow you play the role you want to in a virtual world. But it seems to me that these days you are playing the role the game developers want you to in there games. But that is a discussion for another time.



Nightbringe1 writes:

Two points:

1. A game should not have ONE story, it should have many differant stories, all told from differant and sometimes conflicting points of view.

2. You imply that games do not actually begin until you are max level. The game should begin at level 1, the stories should begin at level 1. Some stories will move to completion early, some will grow and stay with you, new ones will appear and disappear as you progress. The game should be a living breathing world at all levels, not just a burn to the end.

Thu Apr 17 2008 6:52PM Report
bsmith239 writes:

You are right. I was thinking about this a second ago. What really is needed are quests that are stories themselves. Not just go kill 10 boars for me please. Finishing a quest line for a certain npc should feel like finishing a short story that your character played through. That NPC could then send you to many other characters for you to have further journeys. This way everyones journey to max level could be different. I was more getting at the fact that most MMORPGs right now have a main story line that you do that holds your hand to cap or have quests that every person has to do to level. Hopefully I will have time to do my blog about putting the Role back into Role Playing Game soon as I will address some of those issues. Thanks for the input Nightbringe1 you are right on. (I encourage everyone that reads to put down there thoughts here as I really would enjoy a good discussion!)

Thu Apr 17 2008 7:41PM Report
bsmith239 writes:

Also I did not mean to imply that games don't begin until max level. I simply wanted to point out that games should not end their either!

Thu Apr 17 2008 7:45PM Report
Sketch5 writes:

I prefer for the game to have very little story, making me free to make up my own. I generally disregard the existing lore and make up my own stories anyway.

Thu Apr 17 2008 11:42PM Report
JB47394 writes:

I certainly don't care one bit about backstory.  I read books for that.  I want a publisher to have a game world that has large scale events that influence the entire game world.  I want those events to proceed according to the publisher's grand design.  I want them to give me a reason to do things in the game world.  I want the world to move along geographically as well.  Once the players have cleared out a nest of monsters, move on.  Forget the hand-crafted content.  Just plunk down procedural stuff, let us clear it, get a little loot and move on to the next one.  All according to that grand design that the publisher is operating with.

We push hard into bad guy land.  Our supply line gets cut.  We reestablish it.  A new fort needs to be built.  Resources need to be scouted.  Attacks come on our newest resource areas.  The nearby nest of bad guys has to be cleared.  A frendly city is discovered.  New equipment and skills get into the game.  Puzzling ruins are found from time to time.  Blah, blah, blah.  Move along.  New content.  Simple content.  Sustainable content.  Every activity that the publishers originate is at a scale that globally affects the game.  None of this nonsense of gamemasters roleplaying individual NPCs.  The return on that investment is far too small.  Just have an army of Orcs attack a frontier town.  Find a new source of a precious mineral.  Things that will inspire a whole mess of people to do something.  Naturally, have multiple of these things overlapping, ramping up, winding down, etc., so that all players aren't all jumping on the same new content all the time.  They're still fooling with the old content.

Note that 'events' are anything that significantly impacts the way the game operates.  In current games, they are patches and expansion packs.  I want a game that constantly introduces new 'zones' because we already tore through the existing ones and we're just mopping up now.  With new zones come the occasional new monster type, but making just a few monsters that are very well done is far more interesting than seeing the same morons in new skins.

That's the story I want.  After playing it for a year, the memories I'll have are of my interactions with other players as inspired by all the goings-on in the game world per the publisher's grand design.  We won't really care that the NPC Lord Biff was killed at the battle of Dungaree, but we'll care that when those three Orcs came running at us during the battle, Bob took one down with a bowshot from halfway across the battlefield, which saved our bacon that day.  Those orcs were forever dead and we moved on past Dungaree to a new fight.

Fri Apr 18 2008 12:31PM Report
Nightbringe1 writes:


If you choose to disreguard existing lore it's inclusion for those interested in it will have no impact on you. Likewis a games that consists of many interwoven stories generally has room for a few more.


Unfortunantly way to many people consider the trip to max level to be a necessary grind before they can enjoy the game instead of viewing the journy itself as an integral part of the game. By no means should reaching max level be the end of gameplay, but neither should it be something that is rushed towards blindly. It is those who do so that run out of content to pursue.

You speak of spending 3 months to level and another 3 months to do end game content, with only more end game content being added thereafter. My personal preferance would be a game that takes 2+ years to reach end game, with the entire journey being an interesting part of the game. That end game should then become a moving targer as additions are made to the game.

Eq1 does this very well. It can take a casual player years to reach max level and they will never max out their AA's. This does not stop them from playiing and enjoying the game (One of the guilds I am in has over 1100 members, very few of which are max level), at the other end of the spectrum, the hardcore raiders have a constant supply of new content that challenges even the best of them. (My main is among the top 5 on the server for his class, I get to experiance all the cool raiding content )

The players in the casual guild NEVER complain about about lack of places to go or things to do, very few of them worry about leveling, they just play the game. It is the players that burn through the new content as fast as possible racing towards the end that registar all the complaints about not enough to do, or they are bored, or they burn out. Truthfully, I'm just as happy running around with a mid level character with cruddy gear. I play my main not so I can wave my e-peen around and say mine is bigger, but simply because I want to see ALL of the content in the game and because I enjoy the challenge of figuring out new content that there are no online guildes for .

Fri Apr 18 2008 12:50PM Report
rsreston writes:

Excellent idea. If a game world has a story, it's presumable it's going to evolve, as a character evolves.But your character stops evolving at a point, when the player realizes (if not before) that he's just another non-NPC inhabitant of that world. He's accomplished nothing different from this peers and, as you pointed, didn't impact a bit in the history of that world, which is weird, as he has achieved the highest level possible and is lauded as one of the greatest heroes of his world. He'll never be part of the legend that was created for that world.

That's why I never understood why every MMOG has to start exactly after a cataclysm, a war or something equally profound. Can't the development teams create such events as time goes by, giving players a sense of history being made before their eyes?

Fri Apr 18 2008 6:17PM Report writes:
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