In to the action

What is a video game? I would describe it as a unique medium that is designed for enjoyment through interaction. Interaction is the key point here, as it is one thing which only video games can do on a level unavailable to text and film. Unless it is 'choose your own adventure' you are just along for the ride in a book and the same is true for a movie. The reason why so many people love games is that they are a way to escape reality and to do something that they cannot in real life. The problem is that games today rely so much on the surroundings, setting, and visual aspects of the game that they often neglect the story, and it is a shame. Games have huge potential with interaction in a story or in a world outside the player's own.

In MMOs this problem is particularly prevalent as nobody has yet figured out how to make it that the player can change the world they live in. Often, even if they can, it is temporary such as keep and city captures in WAR. But do we really have to change the world in which we play to achieve a level of interaction with the story? LotRO relied a lot on instance-based storytelling which gives the player a great sense of interaction in the story as they were driving it forward. The problem with this, however, is that when you come out of the instance you are left standing in the real world as if nothing had happened. However, interaction I believe doesn't mean you have to change the world, even though it certainly helps with immersion and authenticity.

Take Baldur's Gate for example; there was little in the game that you would do that changed the landscape or destroyed half a city; something permanent. The interaction was in the complex relationships within your group and NPCs in the world. People responded to you in a different way if you did a certain thing for them, or against them. The problem when transferring this concept to MMOs is the mindset of the player. Very few people read quest text anymore, most of the time they just look at the objective, or just run to the big red blotchy area. Hiding the quest objectives in the quest text would certainly help resolve this. Once again, this presents another problem. With players all of a sudden reading closely the quest text, the writers really have to step it up to make it interesting enough for the players to continue along with this more complicated quest system. Partnered with the fact that there are thousands of quests in MMOs it is going to put a lot of pressure on them.

A way to fix this would be less spammy quests, but longer quests with more objectives, quest chains and such that give a lot more experience. Thus writers can concentrate on making these quests a lot more awesome, and the player can have greater interaction and immersion while not at the expense of his/her leveling speed. Interaction is a key part of gaming so developers should try to capitalize on the fact that they have an expansive, thriving world and draw the player into it.


Anton said...

I like the idea of MMO's putting more focus on fewer quests and giving more rewards. Sometimes in WoW I have taken the time to cherish the reading of the quests, and I go through great lengths to follow an entire quest chain series...Only to get next to nothing of Experience. I have a great time playing, but then I still have that feeling like they're undervaluing my adventure.

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