The Daily Grind: What are acceptable barriers to experience the story in an MMO?

More of this story, please.

One of the things that strikes me with a certain degree of bemusement is how often various bits of story in Guild Wars 2 are locked behind things. If you’re not raiding, you’re locked out of the story there; if you weren’t playing when the first season of the Living World story played out, same deal. But then, those are pretty common lockouts, and there are important World of Warcraft stories you simply can’t access if you play now (because they’re not there any more). So perhaps it isn’t surprising.

No sooner do I think about that, though, than I think about what other sorts of lockouts you could design for story content. Some amount of story in MMOs is always locked behind invested time (you have to get up to the right level and so forth) and real-world money (you’ll never see the expansion stories for Final Fantasy XI if you never buy the expansions). But what other sorts of lockouts could you have? Where do you draw the line for what stories should be locked behind and what shouldn’t impede your ability to explore an MMO’s story? Let’s throw that question to you, readers. What are acceptable barriers to experience the story in an MMO? And are there any barriers you would like to see that just don’t show up very often?

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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Rolan Storm

None. All story content should be availiable to me, no exception and no barriers. I should be able to enjoy it alone too. No ‘skip it, I am in hurry’ messages in chat. No chat, in fact, at all. I am reading a book, don’t pester me, children.

Malcolm Swoboda

For me? Easy small group content, usually. If I an LFG it reasonably, I’m okay with it. I’m against hardcore raiding, or trying to get into previous-expansion-raid-story but needing so many players.

Kickstarter Donor

You will never see the story in Final Fantasy XIV if you don’t completed the dungeons. Wish I had appreciated that before I purchased a copy. Now I am no longer a subscriber so guess that worked out well. Needless to say I ignore all emails from that company to buy the latest expansion(s).

Kickstarter Donor

Anything that does not involve forced PVP or Forced Grouping, those are two absolute no no’s for me, if a game pulls either of those as a gate to the story I unsub straightaway no exception, irrespective of how much I may like a game.


Why does there need to be a story? An MMO’s world can have history but why does it need some grand story where you’re the hero or chosen one?

Robert Mann

Acceptable barriers for an MMO with story: Having seen the story that comes first. That can also mean that server specific things are server specific.

Alternatively, being there. If an MMO is designed to feel like a world with actual time passing, and things are continually happening, being there to experience it is an acceptable requirement. Doesn’t mean videos and tales shouldn’t be available, though.

There should always be a way to see the lore for those interested, so long as it doesn’t harm those playing. I’d even say letting people read the lore without playing (should they be interested for box price or a couple bucks, or free if it fits) would be good.

The worst possible options are flat out high priced paywalls (cash shop style, not xpac style which is fine with me,) followed by locking it forever in things like raids that most people won’t see until they can solo it.

**Personally, unless they hire some actual good writers and let them have some say, I could care less. Most MMO stories are poorly written. If it weren’t for good people to play with…**

Bhagpuss Bhagpuss

I’d rather ask why MMORPGs need a story in the first place.


Realm lockouts. Such as Camelot Unchained, where the lore/story of each Realm is locked behind the Realm itself. Unless you’re playing 3 accounts and all 3 Realms, you’ll never experience the full breath of the game’s story.

A Dad Supreme

If a game has a F2P component, I don’t think the story portion should ever be a barrier regarding experience.

I think it’s wrong for a game to exclude the story or lore portion from even non-paying players; I’d rather a F2P game withhold things they usually give out freely like PvP areas and special events.

I think most players try a game for is more for overall flow of story and less for “pew pew” value anyways so story should never be locked behind any kind of paywall, where PvP which isn’t something that keeps MMOs running usually, should be.


I think that as long as you present your game for what it is, and stick with your story telling mechanic, i really can’t fault the game.

Some games work well by telling their story throughout the leveling process and questing, where end game activities are loosely tied to the story but not mandatory.

Some games have scarce story, and rely on the players to move it forward, such as EVE. This may work for some people, and not for some other, but ultimately is a design that’s perfectly valid.

Games that stick to end game being the conclusion to their story – i’m not a fan of that, but if this was their model from the get-go, we can’t really fault them for it. It’s when a game changes from “story for everyone” to “story through raiding” that players start getting annoyed.

Devs – be upfront with your community how the story will be told, and players will accept it.