Would you play a story only MMO? — The MMO Gamer

Would you play a story only MMO?


Story is often not the central element of MMOs.  Sure, there is usually some story there if you take the time to read it, but most of the time it is not important enough for us to worry about why it is we are running around doing the quests we have been tasked with completing.  I would be bold enough to venture a guess that the majority of MMO players simply skim the quest text box, looking mainly for the task summary and rewards given.

With the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic, BioWare took storytelling in MMOs to a new level.  The majority of quests and NPC interactions take place in small cut-scenes with voice acting that, for the most part, is quite well done.  For some side quests I do still find myself hitting the space bar to skip the voice-acted interaction, particularly in the parts where the person I am speaking with uses some sort of alien language, but the class quest scenes and major story-line arcs for each planet have me enthralled.

Later this year BioWare is set to release Mass Effect 3, and potentially change the way you play video games.  Yes, it is a single-player RPG, but what makes it relevant to this article is the three game modes available to choose from in the game.  Currently being called Story Mode, Action Mode, and RPG Mode, Mass Effect 3 will allow players to customize their gameplay experience to their liking.

Action Mode is “for those who want to emphasise action and combat and minimize story management,” and will set automatic replies in conversation and a normal difficulty.

Story Mode, as you can probably guess, is “for those who want to emphasize story immersion and minimize combat pressure.” Story mode will set manually-selectable replies in conversation and a minimal combat difficulty.

RPG Mode is a balance of both Action and Story, presenting the game as it would normally be played.

Tin foil hat time:  Imagine the ability, if you so choose, to minimize combat and primarily participate in an interactive narrative in which you make the choices, maybe even solve some puzzles, and simply experience a story in an MMO.  Instead of killing 20 rakghouls you might have to figure out what is causing the plague that creates them through investigation and deduction.  It could be a separate game experience, or simply allow players to witness a storyline without the hours of grinding out quest.

Yeh the first one is cool, but the 200th one? Not so much.


Of course, here is where the theory begins to fall apart, because an MMO wants that monthly subscription, and if they let you just blow through the best story elements, there’s nothing to keep you there month after month.  But, that’s how current MMOs are set up.  What if one was designed from the ground up to be an interactive story, much like the “choose your adventure” books many of us loved as kids, and your monthly subscription kept new content coming out on a consistent basis (a guy can dream).  At that point would it even still be considered an MMO, and what would the developers need to do in order to maintain that MMO status?

Personally I envision an MMO version of LA Noire, where my friends and I work together to solve crimes and take down the big-bads in town.  Take out the parts where you’re chasing down a bad guy or shooting at people every three minutes, and concentrate on the characters, their interactions, and outcomes from those interactions.  And no, I don’t want to pick up every item in the room for no reason and rotate it around either.  Imagine the amount of story that could be written and voice acted for the costs that were incurred implementing the face-capture technique.  Sure, that was pretty cool, but at the end of the day it didn’t help that game overcome the aspects that were lacking.

I actually do enjoy experiencing combat in MMOs, gaining new abilities and finding new ways to defeat my enemies.  Questing overall can be tedious and repetitive, but combat itself isn’t a bad thing.  It’s the going out and shooting rat after rat, wolf after wolf, and cultist after cultist that destroys the enjoyment in MMO combat, and I can see why some people simply do not enjoy playing their way through an MMO.  How many new players could be drawn into the MMO genre if they did not have to grind it out, but could instead take part in a story?

Undoubtedly there are tons of people who are going to play Story Mode in Mass Effect 3, and there are plenty of people who would love to just experience the stories in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  For now this mode is more suited for single-player RPG’s, but would you be interested in playing an interactive story MMO, and if so, what features would need to be present to keep you interested for the long term?





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