Does an MMO need a good story? And what IS a good story, anyway?

And what exactly IS a “good story” in an MMORPG context, anyway? Is it narrative forced down your throat, brilliant stories of emergent behaviour, or something else?

Wilhelm Arcturus is attempting to answer these questions in his latest, fascinating post. Taking as a jumping-off point the claim almost every game makes to offer more “freedom”, he asks himself why he plays the games he does and gives up on the games he does, even when he feels that he wants to play them

” I went on several structure shoots in EVE Online last month. Structure shoots are, objectively, not fun. I stopped writing about them in general unless they represent significant milestones in a war. Unless, of course, something fun happens, like we decide to moon the bad guys in the home system, get caught with our pants down, and have to run for home as fast as we can. That, too, is objectively not fun. But it is funny and makes the story worth telling to my mind.

Likewise, overcoming the petty trials that used to face us in WoW… basically being able to relive the past… seems more interesting to write about than, say, 99% of my battles in World of Tanks. I think I have mentioned two battles in posts total. And it is certainly more interesting (to me) than my solo quests or instant adventures in Rift.

As this blog will attest, I have a lot of stories that focus on the past and times when things were more difficult. There is a series posts about TorilMUD, the direct predecessor to EQ. I will go on ad nauseum about EverQuest of old and the Fippy Darkpaw server and trying to relive the past, while telling tales from the old days.

Basically, it seems to me that when we face constraints, when we face difficulties, when things go wrong, when we face failure and hardship, those are the times that also generate the memories and the stories, those are the bonding experiences that become the touch points, the guide posts that create the continuity of the story of a given game.

An oyster that is not irritated does not produce a pearl.”

This is a really interesting addition to the ongoing discussion about inconvenience and hardship in MMOs, and how much is enough. Indeed, overall, I found Wilhelm’s post fascinating – and all the more so because he doesn’t come to a clear, simple answer. There aren’t any clear, simple answers here – or someone would have made the Perfect MMO already.

If you want a lot of questions and ideas, rather than a single “IT’S LIKE THIS, OK?” point, I highly recommend this post!

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