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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What's the Story?






This isn't really a criticism of EQII per se, just more of a comment on the ideal game I would like play.

I realize an MMO is not a single player RPG. It's different in many aspects. And you can't have a Final Fantasy type story where you work towards defeating one villainous enemy and then the credits roll. But I feel that MMO's should definitely still have a story line. And it should be a story that advances somehow as the game goes on.

Now, I know there are some players who are steeped in EQ lore (and I'm sure the devs are too). So they might like the obscure and cryptic hints to some overarching story in EQII. But what about the rest of us? Most players I've informally interviewed (and myself) think the story is something like this:

1. Qeynos and Freeport are "kind of" at war.
2. There are factions in the DoF struggling for control of the city.
3. There's something going on with Drakotas/Dragons.
4. The world was shattered and there is some rebuilding going on.

That is by no means a valid or compelling story. Well, it could be if it was more clearly defined and if it actually advanced. I read a lot more of the NPC dialogue then I used to, so it's not like I'm completely oblivious.

How has the story advanced since launch? Well, new lands have been discovered and some griffon towers have been built. That speaks to number 4 on my story list. Also, if you do the prismatic and certain other quests, you get some filler on issue 3.

So what would I like? I want a more clearly defined story arc that advances somehow with each Live Update or two. How could it be more clearly defined? Every single quest you do should refer somehow to the "main story." Even if some are side-stories, they should all tie back in to the main event somehow. Drive that story into your players as much as you can and dialogue with NPC's is the only way to do really do it. You can't rely on players to read every book from every book quest or pick up on obscure hints. Another option is to add in
some of ideas I had for "pushing" lore a very long time ago.

I've complained about EQII being made too easy but this is one area where I feel it's way too difficult for new or casual players: understanding of the lore and story of the game. The genre is fantasy, not mystery.

Then, that story line should be consistently advanced with events like the Griffon Towers event. For example, sure the Plague event was cool, or at least interesting. But can any normal player tie that event into the main story of EQII, if it even had anything to do with it?

I am singling out EQII here, but this is a problem endemic to many MMO's. I really feel that a compelling and dynamic storyline could have a huge impact on player retention and subscription.

I started a thread on this topic a few days ago so feel free to
check that out. Or please comment here if you have any ideas on this issue.

7 Comments:

Blogger Twodragons said...

I've never been a big lore-reader, and I have to admit I rapid-click through NPC dialogue when it comes to getting/updating/finishing a quest.

I don't think EVERY NPC should be tied in to the "big plot". I enjoy finding a NPC tucked away in some building of some zone that has a problem - just the kind of problem I can take care of. It may not have anything to do with the world plan, but it's a big deal to that lone and down-trodden individual.

Perhaps a Norrath News is needed. A daily or weekly newspaper-like form that can keep everyone updated on recent happenings and old events.

It could be in the form of a mass e-mailing to the registered accounts, a posting on the SOE page, a bulletin board you can read at the mail-box in each city, or something you can purchase for a tiny fee from a newsie.

"Extree! Extree! Read all about it! Flyin' cahpets now 40% fastuh!"

Maybe it can be a link on the login screen, something to quickly scan while you wait to join.

Articles could be valid info (update notes), lore (stories about the lands), personals, etc. Maybe even player submitted stories can get in and have their name published.

I can imagine a little gnome reporter hiding behind a rock, "Naga! Oh the humanity!"

(Journalist Quest line?)

Want to spring a new quest in the personals? "Single, grey, Erudite seeks yellow-scaly Iskar for long talks about body art."

I bet Station Exchange would have a rather lengthy Classifieds section.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So far the only MMO I have played that showed a good beginning to end story was FFXI, unfortuantly the game had a number of downfalls but the one thing you could enjoy was the story, It actually felt as if you were helping stop some gigantic evil. Like I said before the game had numerous down points but other MMO's should take a few notes from how the story in FFXI was presented.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Aggro Me said...

Norrath News is an awesome idea.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

In reply to the news thing, one of my favorite things to do in EQ1 was pick up the newspaper that they sold in Rivervale. It was, for a while, updated every so often with "normal everyday news" from RV.. you know, types of things you would find in a real local newspaper.

So I agree there should be news, but I think it should only be in-game, not on the forums or out of character. Something you buy for a few silver or maybe even buy a subscription to and it is sent to your mailbox when a new issue is released. I'd subscribe :)

4:19 PM  
Blogger Zygwen said...

On the SoE forums there is a whole board devoted to lore.

Lore Forums

The two sticky post give most of the backstory.

The History of Norrath

An eq1 primer

How does this relate to current day? The gods have forsaken us. They divided us to prevent us from uniting and once again invading their planes of existance. We, the citizens of Freeport and Qeynos are pioneers in a new world. We are in the proccess of uncovering the past, rebuilding and rediscovering the world. (lots of potential for expansion)

Eventualy, when most of the world has been explored we might once again meet the gods and who knows maybe attempt to break into the planes once more. However, this is far in the future. Every adventure pack and expansion set is a micro step towards this far future goal.

The big plot is there but they are only taking nibbles at it at a time. Atleast for the time being. I think part of the reason is that the story advanced way to fast in EQ. GoD and OoW pushed the story line very rapidly in a direction that the players didn't like. DoD reverted back to an older story line. Reflecting on their problems with rapidly changing story line in EQ, they decided to take another tack in EQ2.

5:14 PM  
Blogger eniah said...

There IS a Norrath News.
www.norrath-news.de

^^

5:03 PM  
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