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Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 17
03-13-2012, 06:15 AM
Originally Posted by Jermbot View Post
Yes, every MMO I've seen is a game first and a narrative second, if a narrative at all. Even SW:TOR, the most narrative driven game I've played in a long time, is still a game first that rewards gameplay with narration, along with a very normal bag of experience and goodies. You need only take a stroll through the SW:TOR forums to see that the majority of the discussions are about game mechanic changes.

I think this is always going to be the case. Ignoring for the moment MMO's like World of Tanks which has a maniacally long character grind and make their money by selling experience boosts, MMO's have a plurality of their player base at level cap. Most players will reach the level cap, and the end of the games narrative, long before the developer is prepared to raise it. What do you do on a game that is mostly narrative driven when the narrative has run out? According to the SW:TOR forum the answer is 'go to the forums and complain about PVP' 'start farming heroic mode flashpoints' or 'roll an alt and see a different narrative' in essence the same answers that you get in any MMORPG.

I don't really know what else to say about it, it just seems patently obvious, which I've always believed to be a terrible reason to believe something. How do you determine if an MMO is more a narrative than it is a game? What standards would you use to judge that. What would an MMO look like if it were more narrative than game?
The issue may be what you see as story. I mentioned story on the Champs forums and someone brought up complaints over excessive cutscenes there. The following is what I said in reply:

In turns of cutscenes and walls of text, I don't think that's narrative, really, and find that it hinders game designers, both narrativist and ludological/gamist designers who think of those things as narrative.

I studied dramaturgy or script development as an undergrad and my master's is in oral traditional storytelling.

Stopping the action without very deliberate reason stops the story. In turn, costuming, architecture, emotes, etc. can enhance a story and can BE the story in very dramatic ways.

As a theatrical director or a performance storyteller, my focus is not on exposition. Cutscenes, unless well timed, are exposition. Text is exposition.

The movie that just won Best Picture is a silent film.

When telling a fairy tale to kids, my focus is on what happens and how I convey what happens. There are places where exposition is needed to bridge bits of action. There are places where it is necessary to address something in a story, like, say, a fairy tale that has gender inequality in it that needs a break in the action to address or to cover how someone gets from point A to point B when travel would seem implausible.

So I think action vs. story is a false divide. Story, to heavily paraphrase theplaywright David Mamet, is about a series of challenges that your hero doesn't fully succeed at until they build up to a point where your hero either ultimately succeeds or ultimately fails.

In some respects, I think treating story and action as different things ends up hindering a lot of game designers. Because they start pitting the two against eachother or weighing out one versus another. Story is action that has flow and meaning. Stopping the action needs to be limited to things that provide flow or meaning.. And you have to do it if the action would otherwise lack flow or meaning.

But the end goal is action that has flow and meaning if your focus is on story, not breaking action arbitrarily.