Some of the greatest heroes in video games have been silent, letting their actions speak for them. Those days are mostly gone now, as a player's character can now chime in on a conversation. Guild Wars 2's Living World stepped away from the cut scene conversations, and placed them in game, but our characters stopped talking due to technical limitations. That's changing with the expansion, as Heart of Thorns will give us our voices back!
I loved that the Living Story put conversations in game, instead of cutting to those awkward looking cut scenes. They played out great, and kept things in the world so you could really see the scope of what was being talked about. But I was bummed that my character never chimed in like he use to. Imagine my surprise when my character actually spoke during the beta event story mission. It wasn’t just a single line either.
Now why would it be so important for a player character to speak up during the story? Simply to focus in on them. While the Living Story was great, it felt more like the story of Bram, Rox, and the rest of the gang. I felt like I was just along for the ride. This was a problem at the end of the personal story as well, when that Trahearne became the center of attention in my personal story. I still haven’t gotten over it.
It also seems that when our characters stop talking, the story takes a more linear path. But when our characters get the chance to speak, the story can branch off into different directions. This seems to be the case in most games I play. Silent characters just go with the flow, always adventuring to where they're told. Those that speak up, start to question things, and the player then gets to make choices about how to proceed with the adventure. With this connection, it seems obvious that the best choice for an RPG would be to give our characters a voice, allowing us to actually take the role of our character.
One of the main reasons a lot of people play games in the first place is to be awesome. In the virtual world, it’s a bit easier to be an amazing warrior than it is in real life. That’s why it’s a nice little escape from just being a normal boring human. When you pull the focus off a player’s character, they just feel like another face in the crowd, no longer feel important or special. Sure we get to slay some cool monsters, but it’s not for our cause, it’s only because the game told us to. We need a voice, we need a choice.
That’s why it was a big deal when my character spoke up. Sure, one of the issues at hand dealt with finding Braham’s mother, but I got to make a decision about how to proceed, and I gave a little speech. I felt like the leader of the group, no longer being dragged around. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like that in Guild Wars 2.
Going back to the decision in the story mission, it actually wasn’t complete. We had two options, but only one could be selected. I feel that the main storyline is going to focus a lot on how a player feels about the Sylvari, knowing now that they are connected to Mordremoth. It’s going to be interesting to see how we get to make these choices, and how they will affect the storyline. It would be amazing to see HoT branch off more than the personal story, given that the developers have now had the chance to try this idea in an MMO. But that’s a discussion for another day.
We’ve only played the very first story mission during the beta, but I think it’s safe to say this is the direction the developers are taking in terms of the story, how our characters fit into it, and ultimately change it. It may be difficult for some to get excited over their character saying a couple of sentences, but to me it opens up the game, making it a better experience. We all want to be an important figure, the center of attention. It only makes sense that the story focuses on us, as we venture through its world and interacting with its people. But it really only works if we can speak up.