The Daily Grind: Does story matter in MMORPGs?

    
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We’re breaking out the Daily Grind questions offered up by some of our Kickstarter donors today with one by Kharl, who wanted to talk about story. “Does story matter in an MMO,” he wants to know, “and how should it be part of the experience?” Kharl is a big fan of worms, you see, and he brought a whole can of them to this party!

I think story is important, but I don’t necessarily think it needs to be a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all, you-are-the-chosen-one story that actually structures the game. Some of my favorite stories from MMOs were those made up by other players either inside the game or even outside of it on a fan forum. On the other hand, I have true affection for specific stories told in City of Heroes and classic Guild Wars, so I know that storytelling is a thing that MMOs can do and can do well. I just think it tends to work better when it’s not force-fed.

What do you think? Does story matter in MMORPGs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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chosenxeno
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chosenxeno

Loot is all that matters. Now stfu anfd pull or I will leave this group…

FeveredDreamer
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FeveredDreamer

mourasaint FeveredDreamer Hmm, well definitely disagree with those sorts of sweeping characterizations but I definitely hear where you’re coming from.  That being said I *personally* grossly prefer the “one of many” storylines over the grand solo hero storylines.  The latter always feels contrived and silly. We pretty fundamentally disagree on the issues in storytelling, that’s not a problem necessarily but I think that the biggest problem in MMOs is that the story has zero to do with the game.

mourasaint
Guest
mourasaint

FeveredDreamer mourasaint impossible for some kind of basic hero myth not to resonate with you, it’s practically impregnated in our very genes. 

The issue is that they don’t know how to do it in MMOs. Or for whatever reason they simply haven’t managed to thus far. SWTOR’s writing, for all it is lauded, is actually incredibly poor. The player character is basically treated as a hero from the get-go. There is no arc. No sacrifice. I mean, it takes you all of 20 minutes to get your first lightsaber as a Jedi! Compare that with the infinitely better structured/paced KOTOR. 

The secret world also falls into the same pitfalls, in a sense, but it gets away with it because the writing (from the lore, to the dialogue, to the set pieces) is supreme.

FeveredDreamer
Guest
FeveredDreamer

mourasaint FeveredDreamer That’s the trouble with MMOs, we definitely want different things.  Honestly being the savior makes zero sense to me.  Unless the character is painted as being a part of some greater whole, the entire storytelling experience comes off as disjointed and separate from the “real” parts of the game.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it plenty, in SWTOR, ESO, LotRO and other games I have absolutely loved the storytelling, but only in TSW does it seem to really fit into the broader narrative of gameplay.  There should not in my opinion be a problem with making storytelling part of the narrative of an MMO rather than making it a solo focused experience.

mourasaint
Guest
mourasaint

FeveredDreamer Being the savior is essential. I just the story and surrounding gameplay should be structured in such a way that it takes a *tremendous* amount of time and effort to get there.

2sumextent
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2sumextent

boots2 Can’t have one without the other.

BigMikeyOcho
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BigMikeyOcho

Story is important in order to draw people into playing the game in the first place and developing connections with the characters and the world. But in an MMO, we develop connections with each other more than the world. However, would we be playing if we didn’t like the world the game is in? I find I like it best the games that put the story in optional chunks, and leave the overall game world as a place for the players to inhabit. For example, Guild Wars, Star Trek, Secret World. On top of that, the story is mostly instanced, so you get this “Single Player wrapped inside an MMO shell” feeling, the single player game is inside that instance, the MMO on the outside. 

Games that force an overall story, forcing you to play through the story whether you like it or not tend to half-ass it, and make it feel cheap. For exmaple, in ESO I just got to the first small town outside of Daggerfall, where I’m sent to save someone. On arriving to save the guy, all the mobs were already killed by other players, making it trivial. Just walk up, click the dude, and walk away. It took away the interaction in the story, but still forced me through it, to the point I didn’t care what was going on as I wasn’t an integral part of it. “Head into this long forgotten crypt where, oh yeah, about 20 other people will be wandering around”? 
TL;DR, as long as the plotline and the MMO are kept separate, instanced, I find I really enjoy the game overall a lot more. If the “story” gets wrapped up in the MMO itself, like quest-hub jumping, the story takes a backseat to the players own stories, and then becomes just something bothersome to get through.

Cyberlight
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Cyberlight

Estranged Yeah, if I consider something to be worth playing, I like to play it thoroughly. :)

Stormwaltz
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Stormwaltz

It has almost no effect on what players are doing moment to moment in the game. There have been a handful of in-game events, but EVE’s store is Usually no mire than a means to explain new features in-lore. Personally I qualify that as background rather than story.

SwobyJ
Guest
SwobyJ

Does it matter in the genre overall? Sort of. More than MOBAs but less than RPGs.
Does it matter to me? A ton. I can’t play a MMORPG that I can’t attach myself to, in narrative and immersion, etc. TSW is one of my favorite games, let alone MMORPGs, by the way.