Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
 
Star Wars: The Old Republic will be a storytelling MMORPG

As I've mentioned several times before, I see a future for better storytelling in MMORPGs. Just like movies went from being watched for the fascination of moving pictures to being watched for the stories they tell, I think MMORPGs could become more of a medium to carry a story. So it was with great delight that I read the FAQ for Bioware's announced Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR):
How does Star Wars: The Old Republic differ from other MMO titles?

Star Wars: The Old Republic will be similar to other MMOs but with several key innovations. Traditionally MMOs are built on three pillars; Exploration, Combat, and Progression. We at BioWare and LucasArts believe there is a fourth pillar: Story. Our mission is to create the best story-driven games in the world. We believe that the compelling, interactive storylines in Star Wars: The Old Republic are a significant innovation to MMOs and will offer an entertainment experience unlike any other.
Melmoth thinks this will be impossible. But I think that while introducing better storytelling into MMORPGs is not an easy task, Bioware certainly is the best placed to try it. Their single-player RPGs have excellent story lines. And of course the Star Wars universe is a very strong license for storytelling. So I'm sure hoping they will pull it off.
Comments:
Once upon a time .. in a galaxy far far away. There were 10 rats that needed to be killed.
500XP and new light saber crystal for reward!
 
I believe that this *might* be good news. But I do fear that it will destroy this MMO.

I absolutely *love* stories in RPGs - they are enough to keep me addicted for as long as they last. But stories tend to end. Actually they tend to end much too soon - or feel like they were streched - which is *very* bad.

On the other hand I would congratulate Bioware, if they managed to skip the "standard-quests" of todays MMOs and instead integrated their storyline that naturally leads you through the plot and actualy made you want to read the quests. Today I sometimes have to force me to read them.

Then again I fear that they will introduce the main story line that (usually) safes the world and then also integrate 1mio side-quests that no good role player could ever complete.
I mean, how can you expect me to search the cat in cave, if actually the world might soon be destroyed without my help. This really annoys me with almost all single player RPGs out there.

Then I *hate* the AoC approach that makes me the single hero - and all other players as well. It's not like I could ignore the other players - or their background.

There are so many ways to make all of us 'special' that it is absolutely unnecessary to design a MMO like a single player game.

Finally I still do not see how they want to solve the Jedi problem. It is definately unsolvable with traditional methods. Everybody should be able to play a Jedi - but only a few can be allowed to play one - otherwise he world would not be credible.
Without an innovative and maybe extreme ansatz this issue alone has the potential to kill Star Wars: The Old Republic
 
I'm looking forward to this. Wonder how they'll try and get away from kill quests.

I will of course fall into horrible nerd rage if they fail and deliver kill quests after all. It's what us nerds do.
 
Storytelling + Exepensive IP smells to me like the next theme park MMO, trying to be a 10 million WoW-killer. A potentially doomed situation.
 
I think this sounds cool, but there are many pitfalls that must be avoided for it to work. The most obvious is of course to avoid the "kill ten rats" kind of quests that mikejl mentioned. I'm actually a bit doubtful if this will be successful but I guess time will tell.

The only real way I can see this happening is something you mentioned before Tobold, personal instances like in AoC. If the storytelling is similar to the Tortage area of AoC then I guess it might work.
 
Worst idea ever.

Stories do not belong in MMOGs. MMOGs are about the players making their own stories. Give players an interesting world with things to do (this includes things besides combat). MMOGs aren't about the story, it's about the community.
 
Maybe you should have made the title of this post a question rather than a statement, as it is still in early development.

You could have then matched my own post ;)

http://construed.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/star-wars-the-old-republic-a-story-driven-mmo/
 
I like the current MMO model. But I'm willing to consider that there's something better out there.

As far as a story-driven MMO - I am skeptical. It just doesn't seem to fit the genre, as others have mentioned. But I'm also intrigued enough to buy it and play the free month, if nothing else as a vote with my wallet saying that MMO players are at least interested in trying something new.
 
Finally I still do not see how they want to solve the Jedi problem. It is definately unsolvable with traditional methods. Everybody should be able to play a Jedi - but only a few can be allowed to play one - otherwise he world would not be credible.


No, that's the point of them placing the game at The Old Republic times. Both the Jedi and the Sith are thriving. Seeing lots of them running around will actually be a correct representation. So they've already gotten around SWG's biggest stumbling block.
 
I, too, am skeptical. To me, MMORPGs are about creating an environment for *players* to create their own stories in. Creating a single player experience in an MMORPG is trying to marry two very different experiences: like trying to do fine dining in a McDonald's restaurant. You can have the silverware and the candlelight, but a fast food restaurant's aim is to sell as many meals to as many people as possible.
 
"Finally I still do not see how they want to solve the Jedi problem. It is definately unsolvable with traditional methods. Everybody should be able to play a Jedi - but only a few can be allowed to play one - otherwise he world would not be credible."

Not exactly true. If the game was set in the OT time I'd agree completely. However, it's not set in that time, but in one where the existence of tons of Jedi and Sith is acceptable.

If it was Galaxies, on the other hand, I'd agree with you. No way should there be as many Jedi walking around at that particular part of the timeline as there were
 
Just for the record I'm not necessarily saying it's impossible, more that it appears impossible at first glance; much like the possibility of lifting a T-65 starfighter out of a swamp by using the force would seem to a young Jedi.

It doesn't mean that it isn't possible if you have a powerful enough entity trying to achieve it.

Are Bioware the Yoda of MMO developers? We'll find out in time, but may the force be with them, I really want this one to be a success.
 
Yeah, I think it is possible that *all* players are Jedi in SWTOR, with not a single playable hairdresser in sight. I don't think anyone will miss the hairdressers.
 
I'm willing to wait and see here. On the one hand, I think one of the bigger failings of SWG at launch was the lack of connection to the original IP -- the whole "run around, kill monsters, craft items, tame creatures" schtick just didn't seem connected with the Star Wars experience most non-MMO players wanted. A story-driven game will hook in people who pick this up because of the acronym KOTOR, not MMO. (See Tobold's previous post about Achievements.)This is a good thing.

On the other hand I do worry that they'll go the single-player route: your story is yours, unaffected by (and ineffective on) other people's stories. While I'll probably still play if I kill Lu Kass even after killing him an hour ago... and a day before that... it will make me groan a little inside.
 
If all of them are Jedi, you get the melee ones with a sword, the (evil) ranged ones who throw lightning rays, the tanking ones with a "light shield" and the healing ones with the power of the good force.

This *may* be in line with the timeline. But it is not in line with what I have seen in the movies or would exspect.

Actually I'd say this is silly.
While I am too much in love with all modern MMO(experiments) to not buy a new and shiny one, the game would have to be extremely good to keep me playing in spite of the 100% Jedis running around.
It just doesn't fit (for me).
 
While I deeply appreciate strong storytelling, I don't think that MMOs are the proper venue. If the story is too strong, I'm going to resent Bioware not making the game into an offline RPG. I refuse to pay a subscription to play content that should be in an offline game.

I don't think that a good story will hurt this MMO, I do think that it will be largely extraneous, and a drain on dev time and money that could have been spent on other games. That's my biggest concern.
 
"If all of them are Jedi, you get the melee ones with a sword, the (evil) ranged ones who throw lightning rays, the tanking ones with a "light shield" and the healing ones with the power of the good force.

This *may* be in line with the timeline. But it is not in line with what I have seen in the movies or would exspect.

Actually I'd say this is silly.
While I am too much in love with all modern MMO(experiments) to not buy a new and shiny one, the game would have to be extremely good to keep me playing in spite of the 100% Jedis running around.
It just doesn't fit (for me)."

Actually if you play the KOTOR games this is kind of what you get with the Guardian, Sentinel, and bah can't remember the other one. One type is good with the light saber. another good with force enhancmeents (buffs) and healing.
 
As others have pointed out: Strong storytelling equals linear gameplay which in turn equals low degree of replayability. And we don't want that in a game...

We want structure/rules in a game (to facilitate a fair playground), but not a forced experience.

So, the only way I can see stronger storytelling happen in an MMORPG is if they implement it as a CONSEQUENCE of your actions, not a driving force. In other words: Let me make my own story, and make the game somehow give me FEEDBACK on my choices.
I could dream up a thousand ways to do this - through fluff, gameplay, content and so on... but it's not really necessary :)
 
I just started playing LOTRO recently, it has a storyline along with typical mmo quests and it works fine. As for the too many Jedi/Sith discussion, I for one will play another class (bounty hunter smuggler) over jedi any day, just like i prefer a dwarf over an elf (elves/jedi are so damn smug).
 
Really looking forward to seeing what Bioware does.

The MMORPG metanarrative would be a great platform to produce new types of "New Media" interactive stories. I examine this at: http://primetimeforchange.com/2008/10/electric-farm-entertainment-and-mmos.html.

Some really cool possibilities to add "Story" to the MMO.
 
There's a bit of commentary over here:
Gamasutra

If it really is the equivalent of several single player Bioware games... I'm going to be very annoyed that they just didn't sell them that way instead of going the MMO subscription route.
 
At one point in Star Wars: Galaxies they had it just about right. There were one or two Jedi per server, they (and they alone) were subject to permadeath and while more powerful than other characters that made them uniquely vulnerable. They were a genuinely thrilling perk for lucky hardcore players. They were rare and hunted with the bounty hunter class getting specific missions to kill player jedi from their quest givers. Moreover, no one knew the mechanism to unlock them at the time so they were only unlocked as a result of being both hardcore and randomly lucky. Unfortunately the company sucumbed to player pressure to give everyone a Jedi/force sensitive which was part of the decline of the game.
 
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