Game Development Reference
will be about how their grouped wiped while fighting in Lower Guk, or how they
were jumped by PKs in the bottom of Destard and later took revenge. Just as foot-
ball fanatics remember great touchdowns or baseball fans remember a grand slam that
clinches a game, MMO players remember those moments of exhilarating success and
brilliant failure that result from someone in their guild doing something profoundly
smart or extraordinarily dumb. There's a reason that Leeroy Jenkins became an an-
swer on Jeopardy!
Our job, then, is to provide a framework for players to tell their own stories.
Sure, we will continue to provide them with engaging quest text to read and dialogue
to listen to, but we've got to get our writer egos out of the equation. Our stories, no
matter how lovingly crafted, usually aren't going to be as memorable as the stories
that come about through play.
1.5 Telling Stories: More than Words
If you're a writer who has been considering working on an MMO, perhaps you're
feeling a bit uneasy after reading to this point. If so, take heart; you're a storyteller,
and you have a whole toolbox of talents to draw from. That's a good thing, because
it allows you to frame the play (and thereby the story) using both words and the
The trick is to tie the two together as seamlessly as possible. A dungeon called
Sleeper's Tomb in the Scars of Velious expansion of EverQuest is a good example of
tying gameplay together with storytelling.
For the most part, Sleeper's Tomb was a dungeon like any other. There were
nasty mobs to kill and treasures to acquire, though the difficulty was considerable,
and it took a long time to crawl through the place. What set it apart was what you
encountered at the very bottom.
Beyond a final gate in a massive square room lay an enormous prismatic dragon
named Kerafyrm, asleep on a pedestal. Around the perimeter of the room, walk-
ways connected four corners. At each corner stood one of the four warders, huge
dragons in their own right. By their placement in the room, it was clear they had a
relationship to the slumbering beast in the middle.
Assuming you paid attention to the quest you went through to gain the key to
enter Sleeper's Tomb, you know that Kerafyrm was the unlawful offspring of two
dragons that were not supposed to mate. Their union resulted in the birth of an
ultra-powerful prismatic dragon, tranquilized and locked away under the care of four
warders charged with making sure junior stayed asleep.
So why am I holding this up as a good example of MMO storytelling? Because
even if you didn't read any of the lore leading up to the Sleeper's chamber, the things
you see with your own eyes allow you to start piecing together a story. Sleeping
dragon. Four other dragons standing nearby. Yeah, pretty sure they're standing guard.
And when you kill all four of them and Kerafyrm wakes up, the fact that he starts
killing everything in sight is a pretty good indicator that you just did a bad thing.