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Behind the Curtain: More Plot Please

Craig Withers

So, I've been playing Bioshock pretty much non-stop for the past few days, and it's got me thinking. Not only did it get me thinking that I'm super clever for figuring out the twist about ten minutes into the game, it also got me thinking about story and plot and the importance they play in games. The story in Bioshock is handled masterfully – it's handed out to you in a careful and controlled manner, feeding you it piece by piece with just enough to keep you hooked, but not so much that you're getting hit with an info dump every half an hour.
I'd like to see more story in my MMOs. Certainly, an MMO needs to have a good story set up around it, something to give the world some life, and get you interested from the word go. Or it may not, maybe you just want out-and-out PvP with no RP noobs or lore geeks to bother you, in which case I feel a little sad for you and I ask you kindly to move along and find another column to read.

I tend to be quite slow at levelling up my characters, partly due to my casual playstyle,but mostly due to my voracious appetite for plot and story in my games. A lot of players are happy to race through levels, picking up quests slap dash and focusing on XP and loot above all else. I prefer to take a more measured pace through the game. I'll happily chase down the smallest scrap of XP if there's anything approaching a decent story attached to it. Laying to rest the ghosts of a crusader's family? Count me in. Tracking down the lost King of Stormwind? Try and stop me. Reuniting an Orc Warchief with his lost kindred? Yes please, that'll do nicely.

It's one of the reasons I didn't stay with EVE Online for very long. As I said last week, maybe I lack vision or imagination (admittedly not likely), but I like to have a bit more structure to my games, and EVE was a little too sandbox-y for me. Despite having a rich, well-detailed universe in place (I recommend downloading the PDF compilation) I struggled to find much in the way of story-based missions in the game.

But simply having handfuls of quests or missions or tasks, or whatever it is that your game of choice calls them, sprinkled across the game world isn't enough. This is something of an extension to something I've spoken about before – evolving the games we play. But I'm not really talking about pushing things forward and changing them, I'm talking specifically about having more content in our games that seems like it's had more thought put into it than, "Okay, we've got a new area this patch, let's get some escort quests fired in, and sort out some 'Kill X number of Y mobs please' quests. Job done, let's eat lunch".

That's probably looking at it too simply, as there'll be manpower issues and money and time constraints placed on any new content added into a game, and I don't mean to suggest that developers aren't putting new content out without really thinking about it. Well, maybe I do, a bit.

Anyway, I know that I for one would be willing to wait just that little bit longer, or pay a little bit more for game content that pulled me in deeper with well-crafted storylines that drew me in and pulled me along without me even realising it. Give us cliffhangers and more emotional depth to our NPCs, give us quests that make us choose our next step along the chain, rather than sticking to a strictly linear progression. Have us make tough choices to earn our XP and loot, and not just have us kill some more random mob in the arse-end of some swamp somewhere.

Do you think that MMOs aren't really the place for in-depth storylines, and that there's nothing really wrong with the variety of quests wee have just now? Or do you think that we could learn a lesson from (maybe) the BEST GAME EVAR, and start weaving a little more story into our grinding?

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