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The Storytelling Toolbox

Victor Barreiro Jr. Posted:
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As a writer, I enjoy reading the lore of games and novels because they allow me to learn more about another world and how that world plays out. If a world has a different political system or an underlying aspect that makes it significantly different from the world we live in, reading about it and having it demonstrated as part of the well-spun tale I’m reading is a wonderful way to expand my own imagination.

As a gamer, however, there are times when lore is a hindrance to enjoyment. Lore can be a hindrance or added burden if I want to just complete something and rest or grow stronger without worrying about an important plot wrinkle.

To put in more relatable terms, there’s not much incentive to reading lore-filled story conversations in a dungeon when it’s 3:00 am and I’m more interested in completing a raid and earning that spiffy new suit of armor than learning the twisted backstory of the thing I just killed..

It was a fun diversion, therefore, to watch the recent Everquest Next Round Table response video about how the development team would work the now long-standing lore or ideas from EQ1 and EQ2 into the world of EQ Next.

Lore at your leisure

The Round Table poll that set up the video asked interested parties about their preferred ways of consuming Norrathian lore. This included out-of-game lore goodies, in-game cutscenes, in-game lore that could be collected and read and reread at a later time, and quest text or game narrations.

According to the video, which is right below this paragraph and linked here, it seems people want all these options available, allowing for the consumption of lore at one’s leisure. To address that, Senior Brand Manager Omeed Dariani and Lead Content Designer Steve Danuser discussed how lore could be implemented in various ways to please a greater number of people over time.

The base ideas are simple, though implementation of multiple systems may not be as easy to do. Quest text, cutscenes, and dialog will still be available, but will not be the only way to get the lore goodies. There are also situations that you can come across, influence, and ultimately learn more about the game world from, if you choose to be observant.

Because of the AI they have in place, which you may remember as the Storybricks system, it becomes possible to allow for AI-based events to transpire that you can join in or ignore as you will and can follow up on.

The example they used was an orc attack on a village. You can choose to watch, ignore, or help the village out, and then learn more about the world by either talking to people at the village after the incursion happens, or by following the orcs back to their lair or hideout, thus exploring the world further and gaining inferences about how the orcs live as a result… though you may have to kill them to get out of their lair.

Literary Aspirations

Perhaps the most fun bit they mentioned in the video is the rise of something I found rather fun in EQ2: fiction. They mentioned that you can not only read lore entries; you can also enter libraries and read books about the world or a given location.

While I expect some well-meaning soul to transcribe these and throw them into a Wiki someday, if user-made books can enter the gamespace again for EQNext, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a metagame springing up through the acquisition of mysterious player-made tomes. It’s happened in EQ2, so I can assume it’s possible here if the tech is in place.

As of this writing, the Everquest Next site also has five free downloadable ebooks available to flesh out the world, but from a different standpoint. Much like World of Warcraft or the Guild Wars game series, these tie into the game world. Unlike those two examples, however, there’s a blurring between whether these ebooks are canonical or not, as I don’t think Everquest Next’s story is completely set in stone.

The video explains that they’ve given a number of outside authors a basic outline and game history upon which they can create stories of their own for the world. As such, it’s easier to think these are flavorful bits of story that complement the world, but could just as easily be an alternate telling of the “official” tale created by the developers and their team.

Game Lore and the Garden of Forking Paths

This inability to be sure of what EQNext’s story will truly be aside from the base outline makes me giddy because it is metafictional in a sense.

Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story called The Garden of Forking Paths, where the story took its time explaining a book that constantly retold an event with varying decisions made or situations changed resulting in different endings for that one event – the garden of forking paths.

While the actual story used that device to lead to a climax between a spy and an innocent victim, the payoff simply means that Everquest Next and Everquest Next Landmark and all of their servers can share the same base world and outline of events, but because of how the AI and people interact with the world, the overall story unfolds in different ways for each server, and in the case of Landmark, the world can become completely different if one decides to build something alien into the landscape.

That’s something worth looking out for, and it’ll be fun to see how this plays out when the game reveals more of the world to us, when the authors of the books reveal to us their visions of Norrath, and when we get to build our own Garden of Forking Paths once the two games are released.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate column, as well as the ArcheAge and Everquest Next columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.



Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and The Secret World columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.