World of Warcraft’s creative director asks players to ‘be patient’ regarding the story

Why do people care so much about the story in World of Warcraft, to the point that they are rioting across social media and freaking out in the comments? That’s something WoW Creative Director Alex Afrasiabi has addressed in a rather timely new interview with him out on Aussie website Science Alert this week; he argues that story is what motivates players to do – and to justify – what they do in MMO worlds.

“If you look at story as a layer that we put atop the game, it’s a motivational factor in the things that you do and your actions in the world and it gives them consequence and weight,” he says. “It puts emotionality behind things. Why am I killing gnolls anyway? Just a bunch of furry dudes that are minding their own business. Without the story, that activity becomes meaningless – and in some ways potentially mean, right? Well, as soon as you find out that the gnolls keep raiding the orphanage and they’re eating children – which they’re not but let’s pretend they are. That suddenly gives you the urge to stop these gnolls at any cost! Story explains your actions as a player and gives you the ability to choose the things you want to do and the method you want to do them in. […] So it’s integral to the gameplay. Integral.”

Afrasiabi also echoes former colleague Chris Metzen in advising players to have patience when it comes to the currently unfolding story.

“A game, especially WoW, it isn’t like a book where you can just devour it and get the satisfaction of learning and understanding the whole of it, right? Unfortunately for us, we have chapters broken up across an expansion of patches. So as much as we would love to tell you what’s going to happen, we’d really rather you find out for yourself. But in order for that to happen, we have to allow the regular expansion process to unfold. What would be great is… just… take note of that. We want to make sure that you feel something, that there’s some emotionality there for you. Sometimes it’s anger. That’s a valid emotion! Sometimes it’s happiness, sometimes it’s sadness and excitement and so on. But the story is continuing to evolve and the answers you seek will be there and hopefully they satisfy you.”

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kgptzac

It’s a dumb idea that a plot in an MMO becomes the “motivation” of me executing genocide on a species of creatures until I get the drop I want. It may work for a boss for one single time, but it’s definitely not the reason anyone killing furry gnolls minding their own business.

Maybe someone should grow a backbone and stand by their unpopular decision and say “we want it to happen this way because we think it’s more interesting”.

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Kherova

Blizzard did a brilliant job. Haven’t seen that much excitement around the story in years. Great PR move! And on top: I’m playing Alliance, so it was always clear to me who the bad people were anyway 😀

hamblepants
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hamblepants

I hope blizzard sorts this out. That said, i think its pretty cool that WoW fans are this motivated by theit faction’s goals, lore, leadership. Hopefully blizz sees the importance of that and doesnt squander a chance to make good gaming based on it or even deepen it.

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rosieposie

Oh, so you mean there will be something we haven’t seen yet that will make my character being complicit to war crimes go away? Cool, nice to know. I don’t really see what could possibly excuse that, but I guess I have to trust in your team’s writing talent. (tries hard not to laugh)

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Sariel

It’d be easier to say “Just be patient and keep playing” when you’re the one receiving $15+ a month from angry people that already paid $50 for the expansion on top of the overpriced character services that Blizzard continues to push.

Ernost
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Ernost

Well, he retired in 2016 so he isn’t “receiving $15+ a month from angry people that already paid $50 for the expansion on top of the overpriced character services that Blizzard continues to push.”

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Utakata

Every time I here our actions have consequences line for a game, I feel my intellect is getting gas lighted. Like I need to accept some moral ambiguity and dubiousness dished out by the developers are really my fault. No, this is the game they’ve made and they are entirely responsible for the contents therein. If they flub the storyline to set the faction narrative to their PvP changes, that’s not my problem. I will continue to play my characters the way I’ve always played them…that is, trying to get by day to day in the miserable world that is made for them. I am not interested having them playing some Jordan Peterson like headgames on morality, because they where made into “heroes” that they never asked to be in the first place…

…so Blizz, please stop taking me there. And own the direction you guys are taking this instead. Thnkx!

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Randy Savage

If I were to make a drinking game out of every time someone mentions “Jordan Peterson” on the internet, I’d rapidly develop cirrhosis of the liver.

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Utakata

Most of the time it is of an inflated flattering nature…which is something you’ll never hear from me or my pigtails. Besides, he works a block down from where I call home. o.O

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Randy Savage

It goes both ways. I see liberals crying and conservatives cheering in equal measure. Not a day goes by on MMO-Champ forums where someone is either bashing him or applauding him. Talking about him at all, even just mentioning his name, gives him far more relevance than is merited.

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Utakata

Since this one is off-topic, I am not going to debate or entertain this individual here. I don’t think its worth it, IMO. However, and bringing this back to topic at hand and my original gripe, I stand by what I say. As I always look dimly on turgid arguments put forward with a narrative of dishonesty and/or not stated in good faith. You are however, free to think whatever you want this matter. :)

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Schmidt.Capela

“A game, especially WoW, it isn’t like a book where you can just devour it and get the satisfaction of learning and understanding the whole of it, right?

Actually, most games allow you to devour them and get all the story, all the content, in short order. The exception are episodic games, which tends to include online games with an ongoing story.

Also, not having the full story to go through upfront isn’t exclusive to episodic games; the episodic approach can be, and is, used with just every conceivable media. Movies (we will only know the end of the Thanos saga in 2019), TV series, book series (and more so serials, which are seeing renewed interest with the ease of publishing online), comics, etc.

The kicker, though, is that when you develop any story in a serial format, you need to include in the story certain assurances about its tone, about what the audience can expect; if you fail to include that, don’t be surprised when part of your audience, who might otherwise enjoy the completed work, leaves when they hit a rough patch in the middle. Or, in other words, if you are doing a serial story, you can’t just take a larger monolithic story and carve it in smaller parts for consumption, unless you don’t care about losing your audience. And this is particularly important in a game when the story somehow impacts the player characters. The BfA story up to now seems to utterly fail in this regard.

But the story is continuing to evolve and the answers you seek will be there and hopefully they satisfy you.

So why not just stop playing (and paying the subscription) until the answers are there and the player can see for himself if the setup was worth it? That is what I often do; I stop following whatever isn’t satisfying me, sometimes for years at a time, and only come back when there’s enough content, enough answers, to make for a satisfying experience.

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Carebear

They just need to move om from pegi 13 to pegi 18 and create some good adult/dark stories… its not like 13 yeards old players dont play pegi 18 games… (eso?). They could also design monsters and places be more scary :)

I am not saying that you cannot write a good pegi 13 story.. but you have much more freedom with pegi 18.

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Hirku

World of Warcraft: The Moon Guards of Goldshire

Pegi 18 rating guaranteed.

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Sorenthaz

View post on imgur.com

At least there’s plenty of meme images to come from this.

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rosieposie

Yeah, I have to cringe how so many people looked at that Saurfang video and went ‘well played, Blizzard, well played, everything’s cool now’.

Uh no, it’s not alright, this doesn’t undo the damage or make anything that happened leading up to the burning of the tree any less stupid.

If anything, this Saurfang cinematic is downright insulting. So this old fart is supposedly the only honorable character in the Horde who gets to burn his pendant in disgust. Meanwhile, our characters are still war criminals railroaded along every retarded choice the writers dump on Sylvanas. We don’t get to say ‘enough is enough, if the Horde’s like this we can’t go along with it’. Leaves you feeling infuriated, honestly. Just piss right off, Blizzard, you sad bunch of wankers.

Dantos
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Dantos

Is he channeling David Cage?