Dogs and cats, living together.

42148Can 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.


2 Responses to Dogs and cats, living together.

  1. Kindralas says:

    WoW’s storyline presents a lot of inconsistencies like you speak of, until you realize that they base their story off of level. In other words, the storyline of the game progresses as your level increases, not over actual “time.” This is how you run into Nesingwary in three different locations. There’s no one doing the quests (18 times) in STV, and the quests (5 times) in Nagrand, and the quests (2345235643 times) in Sholazar Basin, because everyone’s operating on a different timeline.

    In a fashion, you should look at WoW’s storyline as “your story,” even though no one ever does. Things start making a bit more sense then.

    Phasing, however, is another story, and is the greatest thing to happen to questing in any game in a long, long time.

    Phasing was originally used to represent what happens when you die, as a sort of test run. You are still running through the exact same zone as everyone else, but you’re in a different phase, which is what drowns out the color, removes all NPC’s, and makes that funky looking sky.

    Phasing is first introduced in that Death Knight starting area. You go out and do things, and then you come back to Acherus, and when you go out, the things you did have affected the world. You’re still in the same starting zone, but a different phase.

    The best examples of it in the game, though, are the Wrathgate line (starting with three quick quest chains in Wintergarde Keep, with the chain starting officially with Into Hostile Territory.)

    Not only does it offer the only in-game cinematic in the game, but you go through a phased invasion of Undercity as well.

    Also, the Knights of the Ebon Blade questlines are impressive simply because you’re more or less building Ebon Hold as you go through them, with other NPC’s arriving and such as you go through the quests.

    All in all, WoW does a better job of it than almost every other MMO out there, but there are limitations, and you have to suspend some amount of disbelief in order to accept the storyline presented.

  2. Jason says:

    Pfeh. I see your Althea and raise you Munne from Guild Wars.

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