Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Does that mean we should avoid using the written word in MMOs? Absolutely
not. The beauty of MMOs is that they are so massive in scope that they aren't about
playing all the time. Though few people want to sit on a football field and build a
campfire around which to tell stories, most MMO players want to be able to take
their characters into social situations where the focus shifts from play to other forms
of interaction. This is an excellent place to make more traditional forms of story-
telling available to people outside of play mode through topics they can buy, scrolls
they can read, and non-player characters (NPCs) they can interact with. Warhammer
Online: Age of Reckoning has a feature called the Tome of Knowledge, which allows
players to unlock pieces of game lore that can be read at the player's leisure for a
deeper look into the story of the game.
1.4 Unique Challenges of MMO Writing
So what makes writing for MMOs different from writing for other games? There
are several special considerations that the writer must consider, four of which we will
examine here:
1. Since the world is intended to be persistent for years to come, the story of the
world does not end.
2. The game's story can't focus on a single character, because every player is his
or her own protagonist.
3. Unlike most storytelling mediums, the writer has little control over pacing.
4. The stories you tell are going to be far less memorable and entertaining than
the ones that evolve through the interactions of your player base.
Please don't look upon the preceding points as problems that need to be solved,
necessarily; rather, they are properties of the medium itself and are intrinsically tied
to the very things that make MMOs popular in the first place. The clever writer will
see them as opportunities rather than roadblocks.
The Never-Ending Story
As of this writing, every commercial MMO released to the public has been marketed
with the intent of continuing indefinitely (not all of them have, of course, but the
intent was there). To support this business model, most MMOs are designed to
tell stories that never end—a fact which separates this medium from pretty much
every other type of narrative computer or console game. Sure, a lot of story-driven
titles leave room for a sequel, but most of the time they set out to give the player
a satisfying ending that provides some sense of closure to the events that just took
place.
The ongoing nature of MMOs, however, means that, in many cases, their stories
are told in a format similar to the old movie serials of the 1930s. The hero is put
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