The MOP Up: Guild Wars 2 pulls back the curtain on narrative design


Guild Wars 2 Associate Narrative Director Bobby Stein has an interesting essay up about “shepherding stories” for the MMO with a focus on diverse experiences.

“The narrative design that we pursue is actually the combination of two core technologies: game systems and narrative presentation,” he wrote. “Our writers focus on characterization, plot, and voice-over, while it is the game designers that actually implement the scenes and sequences that provide the sense of weight given to the narrative.”

And this is just the beginning of the rest of the news! Read on for a roundup of other smaller MMO news stories and videos from this past week in this edition of The MOP Up (and if you don’t see a news story that we should have covered, drop us a tip)!

Big Farm Story is promoting itself as an “MMO” of sorts: “Join the adventures of Big Farm Story together with your friends. Make friendships with other farmers from all over the world and help all of your friends on their own farms.”

What does pregnancy and caffeine have in common? They’re both featured in WURM Online’s latest patch!

Twenty-year-old MMO Wuxia Online is coming back in a mobile edition.

Prosperous Universe spoke about how its improved friend referral system works.

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran teased some sort of collaboration with Pokemon Go.

“A recently-introduced crash in the inventory system has been addressed. (For real this time.)” We believe you, Neverwinter patch notes. We believe you.

PUBG: New State is doing well for itself since its recent launch, having clocked over 20 million downloads and hitting the #1 spot on Google and Apple’s stores in 165 countries.

Summoners War: Chronicles is the latest upcoming MMO to swear fealty to blockchain tech. The game wants to “combine the IP power of Summoners War with a protocol economy that shares the performance of gameplay with users through blockchain-based items and goods.”

RuneScape-inspired idle game Melvor Idle got an epic trailer:

The MMO industry pumps out more and more news every year – no site could possibly cover everything. That’s why we gather together all the extras every week in The MOP Up, our a weekly compilation of MMO info we don’t want lost in the cracks of time. Send us your news bits through our tips line!

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I think it’s a generally-unrecognized difficulty behind MMOs – delivering a meaningful narrative to a player, while having literally millions of other people doing the exact same thing.

Her inability to deal with criticism aside, Jessica Price (GW2, ironically) had some very insightful comments on the challenges writers are presented with, being compelled to write entire story/dialogue deliberately around a blank slate protagonist.

Some games treat you as the One True Hero(tm) and sort of hand-wave away the fact that everyone else is ALSO the One True Hero simultaneously. I know it’s a hard thing, but I think that’s a fairly lazy route. It’s a single-player narrative just iterated infinitely, we don’t care that it doesn’t make sense.

Some games (TSW for example) acknowledge that you are just one-of-many but that team of writers there were astonishingly skilled at tiptoeing the 4th wall, even giving NPCs dialogue nodding at your unkillability. I don’t think TSW gets nearly enough credit for this, largely because of the general shipwreck that is Funcom. :|

Of course, a true sandbox game doesn’t even offer a story – like the real world, there IS no overarching dramatic narrative. Stuff just happens, sometimes event A causes event B certainly but to try to dray a human storyline from it is up to you, if you bother.

I deeply, sincerely hope that this is a place where games can start to implement functional AI to dynamically generate content that is a) contextually relevant, b) individually meaningful for each player’s character, c) unique and driven to from the choices and events previously made/experienced by THAT character. We’re a long, long way from that, I know. Pipedream.

FWIW I think like most successful projects, GW2 generally does more things right than wrong narratively, but that’s not to say that they haven’t (subjectively) made some really bad choices – I mean, GW2’s original narrative was the player just carrying water for a bunch of Mary Sues (Destiny’s Edge). I get that it’s a challenge to find a way to have the character involved in colossally-important things happening while not falling into the One True Hero trap, but that (as a single example) was profoundly disappointing.


Yes. I really disliked Destiny’s Chi…Edge in the original game. They were whiny and bickered and I disliked it. Also didn’t like that they were all torn up over someone named Snaff.

That said, as they have gone on and ‘things’ (spoilers) have happened. They have allowed my character to feel more like the hero I am meant to be. Not the one true hero just the one doing their best to get it right. It makes me feel equal to the likes of Eir Stegalkin not a subordinate of.