Friday, September 12, 2008
How many of you are lore fans?
The closest I ever got to living the lore of a MMORPG was questing in The Shire as a hobbit in Lord of the Rings Online. Most other games I simply ignore the lore. In many cases it is far too generic, with no great story telling. But a reader sent me a question about how many percent of players do follow the lore, and I frankly don't know. I know it's more than 3, apologies for a snarky remark earlier, but I don't know how many more.
One problem with lore is that MMORPGs play on persistent worlds. Persistent not only in the sense that the world is still around when you log off; but also in the sense that monsters respawn, and five minutes after you rescueing the damsel in distress she'll be in captivity again and waiting for the next hero to free her. Many quest texts aren't exactly great fantasy literature. And even the best told story quest lines suffer from often being set up in a way that you are doing parts of them in between a dozen other quests, and by the time you get to the next part of the quest chain you don't remember the previous part any more. There are very few examples of engaging quest lines, like the book quests in LotRO or the destiny quest until level 20 in AoC. World of Warcraft gets something close to a destiny quest in the next expansion for starting Death Knights, but more often than not a quest line in WoW just means not being at the same step of the quest when you want to share it with others.
I think, but have no numbers whatsoever to support that, that a majority of players just click through quest texts without reading it. There is anecdotal evidence to that effect, like Blizzard having had to introduce a fast quest text option after a fast quest text mod turned out to be one of the most popular addons in the early game; or people in general chat asking for quest help which is contained in the quest text they didn't read. But I'm not sure if people ignore the lore because they don't like lore in general, or whether they, like me, just don't appreciate the current level of quality. I'm certain that MMORPGs could tell stories better, because I've seen better examples. There is a lot more that could be done with (optional) cut scenes and voice overs and using instances to simulate something changing in the world.
It somewhat reminds me of the early days of cinema, where movies were just "moving pictures", with not much story being told. People watched because the medium was new and interesting by itself. But soon they got used to the novelty, and demanded more, and then films started to tell stories. I still hope that story telling in MMORPGs one day raises to a level where I'll feel engaged with the lore.
So how about you? Do you enjoy the lore in its current state or do you just click through it? What are your examples for good and bad storytelling?