Can Story and Game live together in the same product? The new version of Tales of the Arabian Nights provides over eight pounds of lovely story, and not quite that much gameplay. Is it possible that there is a linear spectrum between Story and Game and that as you move toward one end, the other is reduced? Is it possible that I could have explained that last sentence with a simple graphic? The answer to the second question is, “Yes.”
An essay by the estimable Mr. Greg Costikyan asserts that Story and Game are different kinds of animals and don’t get along when pets in the same house. You can read that essay here. An excerpt:
In other words, there’s a direct, immediate conflict between the demands of story and the demands of a game. Divergence from a story’s path is likely to make for a less satisfying story; restricting a player’s freedom of action is likely to make for a less satisfying game. To the degree that you make a game more like a story – a controlled, predetermined experience with events occurring as the author wishes – you make it a less effective game. To the degree that you make a story more like a game – with alternative paths and outcomes – you make it a less effective story. It’s not merely that games aren’t stories, and vice versa; rather they are, in a sense, opposites.
I read another fine article (Where is the link, you basterd?) about how story works so poorly in MMOs. Mostly because every player’s lizard hindbrain (which accepts no bullshit) knows that Commander Althea Ebonlocke is too stupid to know that when she tells you to kill 8 Skeletal Warriors that they will just respawn again, so what’s the point? Even though she is smokin hot. (I happen to use an undead mob in this example, but don’t give me any shit for that. Your PC is undead too, so shut up.)
In other words, why should I read through the story text she gives me when it’s obvious she’s an idiot that doesn’t even go check to see if the Skeletal Warriors are killed? Cause if she did, she’d know that her little plan to clean up Duskwood is a total and complete failure.
I believe that every player knows on some subliminal level that story doesn’t work when nothing changes. Story is about things happening that matter. MMO quests are about things that happen that don’t change anything. Even as I leave that graveyard, I see the Skeletal Warriors respawning, so my mission already has the stink of futility.
This is why if you want to see how it should be done, you should do the Death Knight quests in WoW. Those change the world and make a difference. Is this how the Star Wars Old Republic MMO is going to work? I don’t know. I can tell you that I’m looking for a good RPG to play on the PC or PS3 so that I can get some story that matters. That’s not an FPS.
I feel I must also mention that my beloved Althea gives out what I think is the stupidest quest in all of the World of Warcraft. It’s part 11 of “The Legend of Stalvan” quest line. She tells you this: “Show Clerk Daltry the Bloodstained Journal Page.” Clerk Daltry is standing RIGHT AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS SHE STANDS BY, not 15 feet away and within full view. Completing this “quest” gives you 230 XP. Quest givers are the laziest entities in all the many universes. However, Althea is still VERY smokin hot.