We’ve been playing a lot of EverQuest lately, and I keep coming back to the fact that I’m not being given or guided by any form of story. Everything I do feels like I’m creating my own deep story of experiences, but not one NPC has tried to tell me a story or give me direction. I haven’t felt bored. I haven’t needed direction. I’m just going out and adventuring with the goal of leveling up so that I can go out and accomplish more.
One of our readers recently made the comment that a ton of writing can be saved by simply saying “EverQuest did it better.” That’s true, but it’s not just EverQuest. Plenty of games have done the same: The Realm, UO, SWG, and even DAoC to a lesser degree. Even though I can rattle off a list of games I’ve loved that were ‘open’ and not based on story, I could have never played any of those and still feel this way.
I don’t need a story. In fact, I don’t want one. I don’t want to be told how I’m some grand hero, all the while having to go out and discover or prove my identity. I like knowing that every time I log in I’m creating the story. I like it when a game is so open, and the scope is so broad, that I have choices and a world rather than a path ahead of me.
Tonight, Graev and I killed some Orcs then made a 20 minute trek to Kaladim. We were overburdened by Crushbone Belts we had gathered over the last week, so running was slow. The run wasn’t dangerous, but we took our time and killed stuff on the way. We found the belt vendor, turned them in, gained a level, and logged out. On paper that sounds horribly boring, but it wasn’t like we were trying to progress — we just logged in and PLAYED the game. Our time was defined by what we wanted to do, and where we wanted to go.
I want that same control over my experience in every game, and I’m pretty sure I can’t have that when the game is trying to tell me a story. If that’s the case, I don’t want a story in my MMORPG.