Reply To: Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games

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I must admit, this is a very interesting thread, though it may have drifted away from the initial post… maybe just a little, eh? Anyway, Jason has brought up some very valid points regarding storylines…

“… (by Jason Artman) The major hurdle that would have to be overcome in order for a MMOAG to be successful is the fact that so far, nobody has really been able to translate a good storyline past the single-player experience – and an adventure game has nothing without a story….”
I believe the main reason why single-player games have great storylines is because, for the most part, everything is scripted. This allows the most fantastic happenings to develop. MMOGs are typically about a huge world to explore… where as single-player role-play and adventure games are typically about the story, in my opinion.

“… (by Jason Artman) So how do you take a story, make it massive, and be successful?…”
I’m so glad you asked that question, Jason. I think that is the most critical and most difficult question to answer. I’ll try and take a stab at it.

Given the fact that everybody has to share the MMOG world, drastic world-shaping events cannot drive the story. The game has to be fair for everyone and not everybody can commit to witnessing scheduled server plot events. The story has to remain about the character and not the world surrounding them.

Sure, you can have interesting political situations that change as time goes on and catastrophic wars, but the player is merely an observer of the aftermaths of these events from their character’s point of view. However, I do see the trends of the player-base affecting the world generating new events and side-quests. What I mean by this is…

Imagine that a majority of the player base likes to cause trouble in a certain area of the game world. Perhaps news within the game could reflect where the most player activity is. For example, what if players were smuggling contraband between certain planets, more so than any other available places. “The Gemini Sector is now under galactic military alert due to the recent surge of criminal activity.” All of a sudden, the place is crawling with armed forces and there ain’t no way you’re going to be able to make that big “run” anymore until things cool off. You’re going to have to find an alternate way to make your illegal living.

What if players were killing innocent animals as the most common solution to obtaining resources in a certain region? Side-quests could be generated to help the fauna. Maybe your character might be given a quest to meet with the government and plead for a law to make it illegal to kill the creatures. If enough people (% of the player base) actually complete the “Save the Artic Toucan” quest then the game will understand that the action of killing those creatures is a crime, until the toucan population gets back to where it should be. Then people would have to think of another solution to get the resources or risk being captured by the authorities.

I think a hybrid MMOAG’s story should consist of…

–> A historical background. Giving purpose to the game’s setting.

–> A world story. Events shaped by the trends of the player base. These events give the world ebb and flow keeping things interesting, but never stopping the player from completing tasks and/or quests. It should never become a hindrance.

–> A character story. These could be the episodic stories that Jason mentioned. What ever they are, they should be meaningful to the player and the player’s character. Stories surrounding the character’s profession, interests, and personal life. Personally, I like the idea of episodes because then the story can be broken up into more manageable pieces. An episode might take only an hour and a half to complete, but there might be 30 of them in total. These would be the stories that allow the character to gain different abilities and grow during the game.

–> Optional stories. These would be side-quests that have no impact on the character, but allow the player to feel productive in their escape from the character story.

–> Cooperative stories. These, like the optional stories, are not integral to the character story, but require two or more persons to complete. I’ve always thought it might be neat to have puzzles that require two or more people to work together in order to complete. Maybe someone has to remain and hold the door open while the other retrieves the item… or maybe somebody has to distract the enemy in order for the other to overcome them. Again, they should be short and sweet and geared for a small group.