The Daily Grind: How much of a historical or lore purist are you in MMOs?

    
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VG247 put up an interestung piece this week discussing in part the Assassin’s Creed franchise, which I realize is not an MMO, but the gist was that Ubisoft Montreal has been pulling away from “historical accuracy” to simply tell a better story.

“We’ve always used the excuse, ‘History is written that way, so that’s the way it should happen. […] While we have found many other explanations for many other things through the power of the Animus, a game is not a movie – the minute you push up on a thumbstick you’ve made a decision to move left or right. We shouldn’t hide behind the excuse that that’s the way history happened – you’re making decisions every second you’re playing a game.”

Granted, Marc-Alexis Côté is talking there about creating player agency, but I thought it would make an interesting topic, and it’s one that comes up a lot in MMOs and multiplayer games, whether we’re talking actual history or sacred lore – about female soldiers in period pieces or playable dwarven gals in Lord of the Rings.

I already know I’m not much of a lore purist; I’m reminded of that every time I see a lightsaber battle in Mos Eisley during a time when no Jedi existed. But while I roll my eyes at the glowsticks, I’m still staunchly over in the “if it’s fun, let’s do it, and who cares what the lore says” camp when it comes to gaming. How about you? How much of a historical or lore purist are you in MMOs?

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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koolthulu
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koolthulu

Unless a game/movie/tv show/etc is making a claim of historical accuracy, I don’t care about how close it is to history. Want to put female cyborgs on the front lines of WWII? Why not? Want aliens building pyramids in ancient Egypt? Go ahead. Want cavemen using dinosaur powered cameras and foot powered cars? Knock yourself out. As long as it’s not claiming to be historically accurate, why should anyone get upset with what the creators want to do? If you don’t like the idea, move on to something else. It’s not like someone is holding a gun to your head to play/watch/read it.

As far as internal world lore goes, I’m a bit more strict. But I also understand that, especially in a long running series, sometimes you have to throw out some old lore to advance the story or make an interesting game.

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draugris

If i have good knowledge of the lore, i would say that i am pretty strict. In LotRO i am pretty puristic, that´s why i do not like that they turn the game more towards the movies than the books. In WoW, i do not care, in Age of Conan i cared but i know too little about the lore unfortunately.

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Wakkander

My defense of the lore depends entirely on how much I care about the world in which it is from.

LOTR: Moderate Purist: I understand the limitations of the setting for an mmo and the rationale behind adding some things to it, yet reject some unneeded changes, like female dwarves. Female dwarves simply are indistinguishable from their male counterparts, if they want to add it as an option with otherwise identical customizations, I’m cool with it. But beardless, less ‘robust’ frames, and more obviously feminine, no. You want that? Go play another setting. There is no mechanical reason for it.

WoW: None: Yeah, do whatever, checked out of caring about this setting awhile ago. Pandas are cool, stop complaining.

D&D: Heavy Purist: I’ll fight you, test me and I’ll prove it.

Veldara
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Veldara

I play online games primarily because of my friends and not because of lore. In fact, I would ignore story altogether and just enjoy the game for its mechanics and gameplay loops. Now, if we’re talking about a single-player game, then sure I would actually sorta care. Still, I’m a gameplay first user and I have always been.

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Ceremony

Lore is everything. It is the reason you are there. I absolutely CANNOT STAND when games get lazy, shrug off past decisions, or leave plot holes. Even worse is when games suddenly have baseball hats or other “modern” clothing skins in games that are medieval/fantasy based.

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Adri

I like lore but it shouldn’t strangle the game. There are games out there like LotRO which have to be more accurate than other games. Still, those games have some wiggle room. The game world itself has to be consistent that’s most important to me.

About AC: One thing I’ve always thought about Ubisoft “They may make a lot of mistakes but at least they use Wikipedia”. It’s nice to have a historically accurate game so those younger generations (wow I’m old …) can learn things they may hate in school while having fun.

John Artemus
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John Artemus

It depends. I remember seeing a developer video back when SWTOR was in development talking about why they put their space combat on rails. This was back before the game launched. They said if you looked at the movies, space combat was always the result of characters trying to get somewhere, and then having to avoid the enemy along the way. Such as in Empire Strikes Back.

While that might be true, I thought that reasoning really didn’t work for a video game. The object of a video game is to have fun, first and foremost. A movie or book’s lore comes second. Adhere to it as much as you can, but you have to make a good video game first.

However, if the game is set in an original IP and not based on anything, then I’m actually more of a stickler for lore. I know that sounds weird, but let me give you an example.

In WoW, Blizzard is constantly retconning their own lore to fit whatever story is being told in the new expansion. It is often mindless and clumsy, and the fanbase doesn’t even care about it anymore. That triggers me. If you’re going to take the time to do some great world building for your game and story, you need to stick to the lore you’ve established. Don’t just thoughtlessly retcon it for some flavor of the month thing.

It sort of makes me think of Chronicles of Narnia. I can’t remember which book, but it was the one where one of the kids uttered a magic phrase and it made Aslan appear. The kid (I think it was Lucy) said she was shocked to see him, and Aslan said, “You think I’m not going to follow my own rules?”

That’s what I’m talking about right there. Follow your own rules.

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Eamil

I remember seeing a developer video back when SWTOR was in development talking about why they put their space combat on rails. This was back before the game launched. They said if you looked at the movies, space combat was always the result of characters trying to get somewhere, and then having to avoid the enemy along the way. Such as in Empire Strikes Back.

To be honest, this sounds less like a genuine appeal to lore and more like a bullshit justification for a design meant to tick off a box rather than fulfill player expectations, especially considering none of the space missions actually involve “fighting or avoiding enemies while trying to get somewhere.”

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Archebius

I was playing the Battlefield V beta over the weekend, and the default races and genders for the different classes are set. For the Germans, that means historically accurate white guys for every class. For the British, that means an Asian lady, a black guy, so on and so forth.

I’m sure this is because of the flak that Call of Duty received for its own meddling with historical fact, but it still feels… really weird to me. If you want to have more diversity, contrary to historical fact, then why aren’t the bad guys also diverse? We’re okay pretending that the Allies were brimming with acceptance and diversity, but a woman in the German army – where historically, a massive number of women filled non-combat roles, up to and including SS guards for prison camps – is just too much of a stretch?

I’m sure that customization will be fully unlocked for both sides in the full release, but in the meantime, this earmarking of diversity for the “good guys” feels like it both undersells the actual contributions and tribulations of minority soldiers, and fails at its aim of creating more diversity.

In short – go nuts. You want to create the most realistic middle ages simulator ever? Go for it. You want to have women riding mastodons into the Battle of Waterloo? Sounds like fun. But figure out what your message is and stick with it.

Alex Js.
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Alex Js.

Never cared for it, especially in games like WoW where there’s a huge amount of silly items or pop culture references and where story writers just go like “ok, what other artificial conflict can we come up with for next expansion?” (and I’m always amused by people who do care about WoW’s lore or discuss it seriously).

it’s one that comes up a lot in MMOs and multiplayer games, whether we’re talking actual history or sacred lore – about female soldiers in period pieces

If you’re talking about the whole “Battlefield 5 trailer showing a female British soldier on front lines” controversy – personally I don’t care about such historical inaccuracies as long as the game is still fun to play, however I do think other people’s complaints about that were perfectly understandable and valid, and EA (or any other company) can easily avoid this controversy by simply NOT basing the game on well-documented historical events and instead just use some futuristic setting where everything is possible.

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Ceremony

WoW’s lore was everything in Vanilla, TBC, Wrath…. it really fell off the rails after that though. For the first few years I would read all of the flavor text on items and my first character’s bank is STILL filled with items I never vendored or Disenchanted because they were special or had flavor text that resonated with me. I loved how the herb “Khadgar’s Whiskers” was named after Khadgar…. The story felt solid and meaningful. All of that fell apart though, and it’s a bumout.

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Eamil

That, or be clear on what your product is. If you’re going for an “alt history” angle, be as clear as possible about that rather than just throwing it in and hoping the people interested in the historical aspect of the series won’t care. Like, the Battlefield 5 kerfuffle wasn’t just about female soldiers, it was about British soldiers with katanas and soldiers with prosthetic arms (which is a rarity in today’s armed forces, in terms of frontline combat), and if they’d decided to go all-in on an alt history angle they could’ve just gone crazy with it and made Steampunk WWII or something.

I’m not into the Battlefield series at all so it’s not something I personally care about, but I can understand it because I’m that much of a nitpicky purist about other games. By and large, I appreciate games that try to stay internally consistent, which is why I mentally bailed on WoW when their writers blatantly just went “screw it.” Mostly that was with WoD, but demons invading in spaceships when “having to be summoned into the world from outside and not being able to make the journey themselves” was a big plot point for multiple games didn’t help.

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Nate Woodard

I love the lore in most of the MMOs I play. I’m a RPer at heart, so a lot of the time when I make a character, I try to give them a lore appropriate name and make a small back story for said character. They are usually simple back stories as to where said character comes from, their motivations and goals and why they have certain items upon their person.

There is certainly some ridiculous lore in games out there. Some of it is a turn off or lore that I simply can’t get into no matter how hard I try. GW2 definitely falls into this category for me. If I’m playing GW2 I abandon my preconceptions about said lore and try to play the game for what it is. Eventually, I get bored with the game and move on to another, but that’s just how I play GW2 and really most MMOs these days.

Games like WoW where lore is all over the place tend not to bother me too much as I focus on the character ignoring it most of the time. I wish I could do it with GW2, but it’s a lot harder with that game as I have a history with the original GW and really enjoyed the lore there.

Games like SWTOR have easily forgiveable ridiculousness and in keeping with the way I play MMOs I am not put off by it.