Game Development Reference
see the quest through (hint: players won't wait around in MMOs; if you bore them,
they move on to another quest). However, the mistake of hanging the story on a
small action that was easy for the wandering eye of the player to miss still hindered
the storytelling of the quest.
Another tempting trap you can fall into as an MMO writer is that you try so
hard to make your NPC characters interesting that you overshadow player characters.
Sometimes this is done in subtle ways, such as dressing town guards in fancier armor
than the player can ever hope to obtain. Other times it is more blatant, such as
putting nigh-invulnerable NPCs into situations so that you can erase any doubt of
the player attacking them and interfering with your carefully scripted story.
Challenging your players is one thing, but making them feel consistently less
than heroic is another. At the launch of EverQuest II , we decided that one way we
would demonstrate the evil city of Freeport's nature was by having its residents berate
the players on a regular basis. Bad idea. It wouldn't have been so bad if we had things
start out that way and have the city NPCs recognize early on that the players were
heroes in the process of saving Freeport, but we never gave them that opportunity.
Instead, it just made players feel unappreciated. When we later released a revamped
newbie experience, one of the major changes we made was changing the tone and
recognizing the players as heroes.
1.7 Planning is the Key to Consistency
The world of any MMO is a massive place, populated by thousands of NPCs, quests,
places, and stories. Because these games are so monstrous in scope, it takes a whole
team of writers and designers to make them come to life. Yet, like episodes of a
television show written by a staff of people working on different scripts, all aspects of
your game world need to share a single, recognizable voice.
Beyond your own work, players who stay with your game for years should be
able to feel as though the world they've invented within your game is consistent with
the game's overall storyline. Not every player takes role-playing to heart, but you
need to keep a consistent story throughout the multitudes of levels, especially when
expansions or other additions to the world are being considered.
It is vitally important that the game team have a go-to person tasked with main-
taining the vision of the project's overall story. This individual will be consulted
throughout the process of building the world to ensure that all the threads tie to-
gether. Indispensable to this person's job are two crucial documents: the story bible
and the style guide. The story bible includes all the basic information a writer will
need to know about the world to make it come alive in a way that is consistent with
what everyone else on the team will be doing. The style guide ensures a consistent
voice and quality to the writing that helps make it feel like it comes from a single
And though it should go without saying (yet, sadly, it often isn't said at all),
there is no substitute for getting the writing team together into a room regularly