Let's talk about pre-launch hype info for a MMORPG, RPG, or really any type of game. When a game is still some ways from launching, developers tend to start getting into the news cycles by releasing tidbits about lore.
Whether it's a backstory about one of the races, a profile on how a certain enemy came to be, the history of a dungeon, or even a novel about the game world as a whole, there always seems to be some emphasis on lore.
Personally, I really don't respond to it. Do you?
Yeah, I returned to WoW. I’ve put in a few hours casually over the last 4 days and have to say I’m starting to really, really enjoy the leveling experience in Warlords of Draenor. In fact, so much so that I am regretting having not played from the beginning. Technically it would have never worked given I was busy getting married, etc., but there is definitely a twinge of “Ugh I missed out on this in its heyday.”
This post is simply going to serve as a place to dump a few quick thoughts on my experience thus far, and maybe even get a little bit of your feedback and help on some questions.
I decided to roll up a Hunter. I plan to convert him to a melee spec Hunter when Legion launches. I’m enjoying how Hunters have changed since I played one as my Main from Vanilla through WotLK. Any advice on a particular pet?
I love the emphasis on lore and story. Right from the get-go we meet Khadgar and Durotan and really big players. So much early RTS lore being thrown at me. However, I’m sorta confused. So uh.. where’d Khadgar come from? Wasn’t he in Outland in Shattrath? And why does he have Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian?! Isn’t that Medivh’s staff?
The Garrison system is fantastic. I think adding a place to call “home” is definitely a much needed change of pace from everyone roaming around a capital city. The feigned sense of social contact in WoW was off-putting. We were never there to chat. At best it made for inspecting people and suffering from gear envy. Having a practical and useful place that generates items, income, and something to do — a reason to log in that isn’t the same kind of daily quest — is welcome.[su_lightbox type=”image” src=”https://www.keenandgraev.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/frostfire-ridge.jpg” class=”pointer”][/su_lightbox]
The zones themselves seem much grander than typical WoW expansions. MoP was so bland and the lore and atmosphere stank in comparison. I really feel a sense of “Warcraft” here.
Quests in Frostfire Ridge were quite good. I like the emphasis on cinematic and leading me around via story. On the main map there is a Story Progress indicator which is nice to see how far I should be progressing through a zone. Thus far, the story has taken me to all of the outposts and I feel like I finished everything I wanted to do in Frostfire Ridge by the time the story took me to the next zone.
[Spoiler ahead] When Ga’arn told his brother the tribe needed their Warchief and Durotan’s eyes widened… then Ga’arn sacrificed himself and yelled “LOK’TAR!!” I had the best nerdy goosebumps and was on the verge of getting emotional. Whew… starting to feel it again… okay, moving on.
Questing itself is definitely not bad. Yeah, it’s the same old stuff but man when you go to other games and do their quests and you come back to WoW it’s like a warm chocolate chip cookie giving you a hug. As far as themeparks go, WoW is king and no one else should even try.
One of my absolute favorite additions are the treasures and rare mobs/items around the map. I LOVE the exploration element that exists even when I cheat with this UI mod that shows me where everything is located. Personally, seeing these rares on the map is even more push for me to go out of my comfort zone. I also like how they can require a little effort and acrobatics.
REALLY cool feature I just discovered is random gear upgrades. I got a quest reward that I swear went from a green to an epic. I now have like 5 epics that are way better than the quest reward was going to be. Such a neat dynamic element to a very stale questing model.
I’m just now entering the second zone: Gorgrond. Setting up my outposts was yet another “cool, that’s neat,” moment. Those moments will keep me engaged and wanting to continue logging in to level.
Yesterday’s post about being given the freedom to do what we want in our MMORPGs sparked a good conversation. One of our readers asked:
“If “any story is too much”, as I now believe, then what of quests?” – Amiya
Quests are often the vehicle for story. In today’s modern MMOs we rarely, if ever, see dialogue or story outside of them. If you google “what is a quest” you’ll see a very simple definition from Google: “a long or arduous search for something.” Quests used to be long adventures where the player would have to truly seek out and, unless they used a guide, figure out riddles, locations, or go on an adventure and see the world to accomplish them.
The Journeyman’s Boots quest is a great example. Players were sent across the world and back in search of a shadowed rapier and a ring of the ancients. The shadowed rapier came from shadowed men and the only clue you had was, “Many lands do they walk. Invisible are they, but for the items they wield. Seek them out and return to me a shadowed rapier. Return it with haste before ‘poof’ goes the rapier!! No time to camp have you.'” For the ring your clue was, “Seek the plains, seek the island in tears and search the dunes for there is one who is last. His clan was blown from the sands.'”
Shadowmen were fairly common across zones, but the Ancient Cyclops could only be found as a rare spawn in one of a few locations. The main location I camped him was on the Island of Tears where his spawn ranged from 24 hours to weeks at a time since he was a rare spawn shared across multiple zones. ‘Arduous’ is an understatement. When finally all of the pieces of the quest were obtained, and the money gathered, turning in the quest yielded a pair of boots that, when clicked, would grant a speed boost almost as good as Spirit of the Wolf — awesome!
This long, long QUEST — in every sense of the word — created a story. The fact that I remember this quest fifteen years later, and I could tell you easily 2-3 hours of stories about how I helped others complete it, is a testament to the powerful stories and adventures a true quest can tell without having to lead you anywhere.
Quests can be simpler. Much simpler. In my adventure hunting orcs as a young player I could collect belts from orcs and turn them in for a reward. This was a repeatable quest that allowed you to collect as many belts as you please. These belts yielded amazing faction (reputation) and decent rewards for low level players. The faction was huge for everyone, and since players wanted to kill the orcs anyway it was a great asset to the economy and interaction between higher and lower level players. While little story is being told from a lore perspective, the world is having life breathed into it through player interaction.
The moral of the story here is that quests can and should exist. They should be long, arduous, epic adventures where players end up creating memories they later share around the virtual campfire. Quests should be rewarding and momentous occasions, and truly rewarding without having to be something players must follow in order to ‘play the game’ or ‘consume’ content. Simpler quests, when woven into the game’s economy or assisting in giving a purpose for going out and slaying monsters, can be just as affective.
Don’t tell me to kill 10 orcs. Build me a world where I will want to.
That’s the overall theme for this morning’s blog entry. I started thinking about this yesterday while reading the great replies I received in my discussion of ‘How much story is too much?‘ One reply in particular resonated with me.
Early EQ had perfect story pieces and lore scattered about without hitting you over the head with it in text boxes and shiny quest markers. You knew that the elves in the Faydark were at war with the orcs in their own backyard and those orcs were bold enough to venture into elven territory just by what was going on in the zone. – Gringar
That got me thinking about why I went out and killed monsters in EverQuest, and the type of ‘hunting’ I like(d) to do in MMORPGs. Orcs in Faydark are a great example. As Gringar pointed out, it felt like the orcs were at war with the elves as there was the general feel of conflict. Since monsters, particular orcs in the Crushbone area, could be quite difficult for newer players, they were always ‘training’ or running them back to the guards for protection. This created a general overall sense of there being orcs in the zone to kill, but it wasn’t my personal reason.
I killed orcs because they were a great source of experience. Killing orcs was incredibly efficient. They spawned in camps regularly, dropped decent loot, and had a great modifier if you managed to kill them inside of Crushbone. Finding a group to kill orcs was usually reliable, and as a result I always felt like I could see the progress I made while playing when I killed orcs.
No one had to tell me to go kill orcs. I didn’t receive a quest (though later I did find a question to turn in their belts for increased experience) and no one had to tell me the story about why the orcs hate the elves (to this day I still do not know). All I knew was there were orcs, they were a good challenge and yielded lots of experience.
It’s really that simple. I killed orcs because I wanted to. I had the choice of killing any number of things. I could have gone to several other zones and killed other kinds of monsters but these were located close to a city and provided the experience I was looking for while leveling up from levels 5-12.
Opportunity and means are huge in MMORPGs. We so often rely on quest dialog to say, “go kill me some orcs and bring back 10 of their axes.” When completed we move on. What if we wanted to keep killing orcs? What if the process of hunting orcs was something more enjoyable — a process increased over multiple days or even weeks if we so choose. What if people could form groups to continually hunt orcs? That kind of free thinking puts us right back in 1999 — and it worked.
So I return to my original statement. Build me a world where I will want to go kill orcs and spiders and skeletons. Don’t build me a world where I have to be told every second of every day what to do and where or how to do it. Let me explore and find a graveyard with skeletons, start killing them, and realize the experience is amazing and their bone chips can be traded to other players. Let me have the freedom to come back tomorrow and pick up where I left off. Give me the opportunity to do so by setting me free instead of pigeonholing me into following an arrow to the quest objective.
How much story is too much? The topic is once again brought to my mind, this time in a blog post about “The Right Amount of Story” from Steve Danuser aka Moorgard aka #Loregard. Moorgard, who has shown over the years to share my view of what it means to be a virtual world, shares a pearl of wisdom that I wish more people would understand: “As much as creating the tale itself, the role of a narrative lead is to pare the story down to its minimalist core. Part of being a memorable storyteller is being a judicious editor.”
My take on the subject is quite similar, albeit slightly more extreme. If you have to tell me the story at all, you’ve already said too much. Stories should be felt, seen, and experienced — not read. I can think back to games like EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, and Ultima Online — games I played for years — and I can’t even begin to tell you what the story is about.
In EverQuest I was just an insignificant speck of a player gaining strength and adventuring through a world ultimately trying to beat back gods who were running amok simply because it was fun to do so. In Dark Age of Camelot I was one out of thousands of players defending my realm against the other realms; I lived to conquer. In Ultima Online I was living in a world with loose rules while trying to gain a leg up in the economy. Even in Star Wars Galaxies, a game with very rich backstory and lore, had such a loose story that I can only remember the story I made for myself as a billionaire chef and entertainer.
Players must be given the tools to create their own story while remaining an insignificant part of a bigger world. That’s key. In every MMO that I remember playing for a long time it was always me being truly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I think just about every MMO I played for 3 months or less had me as the main hero following some prefabricated destiny.
Games needing a story to drive the player forward or give the player purpose are destined to be 3 monthers or less because the player will never have been empowered to continue on their own. MMORPGS built around a story all share one thing in common: The End.