A straightforward plot
When I create stories on my own, even in MMO roleplay, I tend to make the plots a bit complicated with twists and mystery. For that style of play, it makes sense to do that because we are talking about plots that might take weeks to complete. However, in the Foundry missions, if the quest goes beyond 30 minutes, it seems to drag.
Using our previous missions as examples, we can identify the plot quickly. In the Book of the Dead, we cast an enchantment that activates the book, possessing our friend, whom we end up having to kill. Eventually, we find the daughter of the person who originally found the Book, and it's our job to find her father's bones and burn them. In Valerie's Dream, we enter Valerie's nightmare about how her mother died and the change it caused in her father. We are given a series of flashbacks that represent a fear that is trapping Valerie in her dream-like state.
Simple, clear objectives
It seemed to me that the fun paused when it wasn't clear which direction I should go or what I was supposed to do next. This happened only once during Valeries dream, but I can see how easily it could recur and how frustrating it would be to the player. During part of the quest, I was steered to an open area and had to find an object, but it wasn't clear exactly what I was looking for or why I had to find it. It turns out that I had to talk to Valerie's mother.
There are certain times that you want to have options or choices in quest lines, but whenever possible, objectives should be clear. If the objective is to find something, then options are good. If the objective is to talk to someone, then it should be made obvious, unless it's an objective asking you to find someone who knows about the something.
The atmosphere of the quest should reflect the story being told and obviously the mood of the particular scene. I really enjoyed having to light the candles in The Book of the Dead. It seems like a silly thing to have the player do, but I think it was intentional to help set the mood of the quest. It also enhanced the feeling of isolation. In Valerie's Dream, the brightly lit, lavish house of Valerie's father gave the impression of wealth and importance, which was later contrasted by the flashback sequence of the family's humble beginnings.
But I also noticed that it wasn't just the actual objects in the environment that helped tell the story; the lighting also played a big role, too. Even though there was no real way to suck the player into the portal at the end of The Book of the Dead, the creator was able to capture that feeling by adjusting the position and the color of the lighting in the room.
Don't forget the sound
Most people turn off the sounds or at least the background music when playing an MMO, but in the Foundry quests, a story can be told just through the music and sounds that are playing. For instance, in both Valerie's Dream and The Book of the Dead, we could tell that we were about to run into a big bad when the music suddenly changed. The creators also did subtle things like adding triggered crying in the background of dialogue scene that mentioned someone being upset off screen.
Bearing these ideas in mind, I have come up with three possible plots that are simple in concept but should be fun to make and play. I will have you vote on which one you like the most at the end, and we will use that to create our Foundry questline.
1. A Tangled Web
You are mercenary looking for work. On one of your jobs, you respond to a small town of farmers in need of your help, but when you arrive, everyone in the town is dead save for one woman who seems to know more than she should. Ultimately, you become the sacrifice to an ancient spider-god, who has promised the woman that her people will be restored if she finds someone to take their place.
2. Village of the Dead
As an explorer of wilds, you like to help out local villages in return for money, food, or lodging. During your latest trip, you stumble across a villager who needs to save a relic from grave robbers. But when you return, everyone in the village is a zombie and you have to find out what caused the outbreak before it spreads.
3. Sleepless Dreams
Your friend the budding sorcerer suddenly falls over during one of your visits to his house. When you discover the books that he has been reading, you suspect that he might be trapped in his dreams. With a simple spell, you are able to enter his dreams and conquer each of his personality blocks in order to wake him.
Let me know which is your favorite, and we will start making it this weekend. Voting ends on Friday.
Larry Everett loves MMOs, but sometimes when he gets stuck in one particular MMO, he loses sight of everything else he's missing. Direct his game time in Choose My Adventure on Wednesdays and on The Stream Team.