Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Story driven: MMOs versus single player

I like conclusion. Finality. That’s not to say a story has to have a definitive ending but if something happens, I take it to have happened forever. That notion extends to films, TV, books, games etc once I’ve watched, read, played it, it’s happened. Defeating the enemy, the death of a character, whatever, once it’s been fused into my grey matter it becomes as permanent as the stain near the cat litter box.

Every single player game I’ve ever played has been resolved. I can talk to others and they can confirm these virtual events, like two mental patients finding something tangible in a world of shadows. Most of the time, when you’ve killed the evil aliens, monster, king and the game gives you the option to carry on playing, it’s sometimes to comply to the OCD completists amongst us, other times it’s included for those with low self esteem, who can be congratulated over and over again by mindless non-player characters, singing their praises for saving them and the virtual world they reside in.

The idea of people/players experiencing narratives together is demonstrated strongest in MMOs. In games such as Battlefield or Quake Wars the story acts simply as a motivation, beyond the base human need for competition and destruction. A game like World of Warcraft or Tabula Rasa rely more heavily on the narrative to move the gaming world forward, that and people’s need to get the best ‘loot’ for ‘bragging rights’ purposes.

What’s jarring to my irrational need for conclusion, is the idea of ‘respawning.’ It’s an essential game mechanic in MMOs that allows all players to attempt to kill the same end of dungeon boss or pick up object a) and take it to place b) but because of this very mechanic there can never be a sense of completion.

I’m all for replayability but only in the full knowledge that I know what happens at the conclusion of that game. I enjoyed playing Myth II over and over but I was always aware of what was going to happen next and how ultimately the villain was going to go down. It seems odd that a game like WoW can bring out new expansion packs with impressive trailers, that have villain x taunting, now it’s my turn, blah, blah, blah, when you and anyone else can retrace your steps and every bastard you wasted so many hours, gathering the right equipment for, mastering your skills etc can still be there smirking a pixalated smile. You can’t talk about a dynamically changing virtual world when so many aspects are so blatantly static.


TWS said...

come back to us. multiplayer style.


Bjam said...

I can still hear the shouts of, 'PWND' like it was yesterday...

Anonymous said...

IF you think MMO's have a problem with that unchanging factor, look up Guild Wars 2, a truly masterful game in development by arenanet, whos prime motive is "putting the rpg back into mmorpg."