Video: Story vs. lore, Star Wars: The Old Republic vs. The Elder Scrolls Online

In the ultimate battle for your dollar in the MMO industry, two MMOs with rabid fan bases duke it out by serving you a deep and engaging narrative. Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Elder Scrolls Online both want to draw you in with the worlds they have to offer, but each does so in a unique fashion: One gives you interesting characters build up your ego by making you the most power being in the galaxy, while the other tempts you in with a wondrous world to discover.

In Massively OP’s latest video, we’ll examine these two games and ask which is more appropriate for an MMORPG: story or lore. It’s a tough question — there might not be a satisfying answer!

Star Wars: The Old Republic‘s latest update War For Iokath is currently available for any max-level character. The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind releases June 6th, and you can catch our first impression of the expansion released yesterday.

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30 Comments on "Video: Story vs. lore, Star Wars: The Old Republic vs. The Elder Scrolls Online"

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Suikoden

Awesome vid! Way to get Larry on board. Hope to see more of these. :)

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Terren Bruce

I love the overall production value and idea behind this video. I hope you guys make more videos like these. And I found the music endearing. :)

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django857

I also go for lore. Tired of the mmo story feature now. I would love to be just a citizen in a game world. Anarchy Online was like that back in the day. Sure it had the two faction story but it wasn’t really shoved down your throat. I think GW2 killed the whole story thing for me. How that personal story ending needed you to form a party to finish it.

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Terren Bruce

I agree it is a mistake to tie the story to a required group activity. It probably doesn’t matter to you now, but they did make that dungeon into a solo story instance and the ending to Heart of Thorns was also a solo instance. You shouldn’t let a one time mistake turn you off from the concept of story in an MMO.

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Witches

Love this subject!

For an MMO i would go with lore, people usually complain about all the other “Ones” doing the exact same quest as you at exactly the same time, but what kills it for me is actually alts, when my second “One” goes to do that epic thing it feels kinda wrong, this char is not the one my main is, i’d rather be the sidekick or play some other role this time around, except i can’t.

I actually think SWTOR missed the opportunity to be the most unique mmo, instead of having one unified planetary story it could have multiple different objectives for different classes, sure the jedi will want to go save people, but the smuggler could just try to deliver some goods to someone, the tropper could defend military positions, or other military stuff, and this is where lore shines, with lore you just need the setting and from there anything goes, why can’t i be a jedi smuggler? or a force using trooper; do you really need the force to be a jedi? You could just learn the whole philosophy and fighting techniques, even without superpowers.

I would like to bring ME into this discussion, the story of the Quorians is one of my favourites in any game, plus the interaction between the various species in the ME universe is awesome, even though it is a SPG ME lore is very extensive and in depth, but you are limited to the story, once the story ends you don’t have anything interesting to do, personally i’d like to go and see what’s life like in a Quorian flotilla, or search for relics of the Rachni and Protheans, maybe even try and find some Batarians (from a safe distance), study the many animals species, interact with the Geth, and many other things.

The lore gives me a lot of stuff and then i can do the rest with my imagination, the story while very engrossing and fun limits what i can do.

Karma_Mule
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Karma_Mule

I really love ESO’s approach because it gives me more freedom to bring my own imagination in to the game. Because I have several storylines to follow in any order I choose, and can also wander the world with near complete freedom, I can pull together several strands and activities to make my character feel very unique, and I’m following a path that feels more personalized because of the control I have over it.

I still appreciate SWTOR and the story is well done, but it feels more like a fun ride than something I’m pulling together myself. Yes you have light/dark choices, but especially with their recent streamlining of the level-up path, lots of interesting sidelines and details feel pushed to the side. In the end ESO just feels like a far richer and more vibrant world for me.

Great video Larry, thanks!

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Little Bugbear

As a history major I love lore. Lore also helps to make the world feel more alive. Also lore driven games seem to keep developers from making linear quest lines, which allows players to group more.

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Cypher

This one’s too close to home… like watching my wife duke it out with my mistress… I’m just gonna stand here and nonchalantly hold this bottle of oil :-p

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nobleeinherjar

I usually go for lore over story. Lore implies giving me a world to explore and discover. Story implies linearity, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not what I want out of an MMO.
I know this isn’t SWTOR or ESO, but if an MMO is going to do story, I’d prefer they do it like FFXI. That game has some amazing stories to follow. But they’re optional. Sure, you’re gonna wanna do some of them, like follow the storyline that gives you an airship pass. But even then, if I remember correctly, there’s an alternate way to get one that doesn’t require following the plot.

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Reselect Name

Wildstar, best game of all times….

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Vunak

I like the way SWTOR delivers it’s story and lore better. I like ESO as well, but I definitely like the way SWTOR delivers better and Star Wars lore is more interesting to me anyway. I just wish SWTOR wasn’t a typical tab target style combat system.

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Godson69

I enjoy both, but because of the medium, I believe “lore” wins.

I think “story” as described in the video works much better in a single player game than an MMO.

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BalsBigBrother

That was a great video that got me thinking. I have always said that I like a good story in an mmo but taking into account your definitions I think I am kind of using the term story interchangeably with lore for my own definition.

While I do enjoy stories I don’t always like to be tied to them and never be allowed to step off the path they offer. A good mmo imo should have a good story that can be used as a guide to what you can do or offer some direction if you are a little lost for what to do. However I think they do need to have a rich lore for those folks who may want to forge their own path and find their own way without necessarily being tied to a specific story driven path.

Its not a case of them needing either one individually they need both if they want to offer the players a rich rewarding experience.

If I was to pick between the two games shown in the video I would have to side with ESO for offering the most complete experience and balanced game play between the story and lore. Swtor offers a great story but falls down on the lore side of things quite a lot. That doesn’t make it a bad game it is just different.

I am not sure that I could name a single mmo that does story and lore perfectly but TSW (hopefully SW:L too) and Lotro are pretty good but both still suffer a little from level locking some story/lore elements so I would hesitate to call them perfect but for me they are still good examples of what I like.

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Alex Willis

Well, the answer is C) LOTRO, because it does both well.

But between the two options above — I’d have to go with Lore. I tend to prefer sandboxy elements over on-rails storytelling, and lore-heavy settings fit better into that framework. A good example is EVE, which is actually incredibly deep in lore, but where it allows the player to discover and immerse themselves as they choose. There’s TONS going on in the background with respect to Lore — whether it’s militia/faction warfare or Sleeper invasions — that affects the player without driving their every action. I like that opt-in, opt-out approach.

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James Crow

really? No The Secret World here?
people can say alot of things about TSW (and most of them are truth) but one thing is for sure – the game have one of the most great story in the mmo genre

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TheDonDude

I definitely get why folks love TSW’s story, but I just couldn’t get behind the mute player character. I never felt like a part of the story–rather, I felt like I was watching a TV show.

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James Crow

maybe i used to it from Half-Life Game :)
but i know what you talking about, for me it was like im watching x-file,supernatural and even a little twin peaks.

playing from the early days and loved to come back every new story came out but to be honest the game it self was ok – i like the builds and skils because it remind me the things i loved about GW1 and didnt got in GW2.

but other than the story and buildsskills i can’t say this is the best mmo i played.

i played alot of mmo over the years:

From The East Once:
Mu – the first round
dark eden – the first round, was fun and uniqe untill all the hackers game.
monster & Me – still didnt find any game like this one.
Tera – the game was grindy as hell but i liked the combat,the graphic – not the dungeon locks.

To The GraveYard
Tabula Rasa – wow how much i like this sci-fi universe.
CoH – need to say?
HGL – really loved the story and the game, had LifeTime and than the game got the Axe.
GW1 – played untill GW2 came out.

and even the biggest:
WoW – played untill GW1 came out.
Gw2 – still playing from time to time but never liked it like the first.
ESO – really great game but for some reason i can’t get into this game.

but i have to say that in the last years the only game beside TSW i really like was WildStar and we all know or think we know the story about it.
-returned to play month ago and still hope for the never going to happend B2P Expansion :D

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TheDonDude

My nod goes to SWTOR. No other game lets me develop an actual personality for my character (RP notwithstanding).

Polyanna
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Polyanna

Story is central to RPGs. Lore is central to virtual worlds (the “MMO” part of MMO-RPG). The difference is perfectly illustrated by the contrast between the approaches taken and the results achieved by these two games.

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Robert Mann

Story is very themepark. Lore is more universal, it applies to the world design.

Both games have story and lore, with fairly fleshed out IPs. I don’t think either works great for huge stories in the times that are already covered. Those times also, thus, prevent players from making huge impacts. That is… a weakness of big IPs that only LOTRO has come anywhere close to managing well (and it is still widely noted as having both success and flaw there.)

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Fenryr Grey

I’d say that the Lore (as in IP, background story etc.) sells more games than a game with a good story alone. A none IP game needs an outstanding story to be remotely successful. For example: WoW has a great lore, but the story telling is somewhat… meh. and in contrast TSW lore was nothing cohered but the story telling was great in my books. Alternatively we can have a look at warhammer. It’s the lore that is great but i have yet to find a good story in that universe but a lot of games get bought for the warhammer tag alone. Therefore 1 : 0 for lore (from a economic standpoint)

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Robert Mann

TSW had a lot of other problems, so the comparison is probably off base. Now, IP has a lot of impact, certainly (and there’s no arguing that there’s a lot of people who will play simply because of the IP.)

Thing is, most games fail at writing and lore writing. They take a cheap approach to it, put it in almost as an afterthought, and move on. TSW did have good writing… but the other problems are where I think it fell flat. Not to mention that horror themed fantasy is a pretty small overall audience (most of whom are more likely to take the new content that still has some shock value than the repetitive MMO content.) I’m still confused by the expectation of more success there.

Either one can satisfy the needs alone. However, both together will make a stronger narrative pull. Beyond that… well, IP and popularity aren’t really a good metric of how well either does, given the other factors involved. I only mentioned IP because it does have some time conflicts with major stories.

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Fenryr Grey

TSW had a lot of problems that is true. A weak overall narrative (lore), while having punctually very good writing aka story telling, was one of them . That’s what I tried to say yes. MMORPG at it’s core (repeatable content) has some fundamental issue with story in most cases, as you said and I agree with you on that. I’d just expand this statement to every kind of story content and not just the horror genre.

Maybe compare TSW to the outlier in the industry wasn’t that good.

I’d argue that: IP popularity is a metric how good the start is going to be and how persistently it will remain on the market. Prime example of this is SWTOR. People have been sticking to it because of “star wars” despite there being way better games around in MMO terms and in RPG terms. Yet SWTOR is very succesfull compared to TSW, who is a overall a better game incl. better writing, that can be considered a failure.

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Robert Mann

Aye. I specified that with the horror genre because it lends itself even less to repeated stories than most genres. People will get tired of repeated stories either way, but horror just loses that grip very swiftly (although similar scenes can refresh that grip quickly.)

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