[Quote of the Day] The problem with player driven narratives

Who wants to hear the story of me following a trail of mithril ores until I got to a cypress tree, slaughtering drakes and wolves and polar bears along the way, until I found an orichalcum ore, yay, then I saw a rich mithril vein and had to figure out how to get to it, and it was guarded by a veteran something or order, and hey, there’s a cave there I never saw, so I went down it and saw stuff, and oooh, a chest, and oh darn, wasn’t I meant to be completing this zone, except by now the vista I was wandering to is somewhere southeast of here instead of northwest so I guess it’s time to head back in that direc…eep, a DE just exploded on me, ok, fightfightfight, and now this escort DE wants me to go that way (looks longingly at the vista)… oh screw it, the vista is always going to be there, trots off after the mass of people following the NPCs…

Jeromai (Why I Game)

Btw if you think this doesn’t happen in ‘pure’ sandbox games, consider that for a lot of sandbox players, this might be more interesting than their stories.

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16 thoughts on “[Quote of the Day] The problem with player driven narratives

  1. To paraphrase The Funboy Three, it ain’t what you say it’s the way that you say it. In an MMO blog context, cf Wilhelm at TAGN and his EVE stories in which he mostly jumps a lot of gates and listens to his FC describe what he’s having for lunch, then has to log out and go do some real life thing while the action, if action there is, happens without him or Prinnie at That Was An Accident with her endless stories of how she got yet another outfit for yet another goblin. I don’t play EVE or WoW but I read every post and chortle.

    • True enough. The trick with MMOs in particular is how to make games/worlds/events meaningful to players. Different players do this in different ways and some gamers seem to be better at finding meaning for themselves in their favourite games (roleplaying is one example of this, or finding it easy to be immersed), but some games do seem to promote ‘being meaningful’ more than others, for whatever reason.

      ie. For me, this usually means guilds and doing things with friends/other people, or preferring games with strong story/ lore emphasis. Other people might find more meaning in dominating via PvP/making gold. I could lay out a GW2 player narrative that is a lot more fun and interesting than this one, even though the game mechanics are identical.

      This is turning into a mini blog post :) But I think this is a player-centric view of Bartle’s player types. The explorer/social/killer/achiever are pursuing activities that give their personal games more meaning which may or may not be more fun (that’s why some of the most meaningful games are not always seen as fun even by their players). And that’s why a good MMO should try to provide opportunities for all of those roles.

      But I guess my point is that one thing with player driven narratives is that they are often really really dull unless you are the player in question, or there is something particularly meaningful in it for you. Or the storyteller is really good. Maybe games need to teach us how to frame our personal narratives in a more entertaining way :)

  2. this all down to the individual, suspension of disbelief, the extent you are prepared to be immersed, most people cannot make there own adventure and want to be spoon fed, GW2 is perfect for me i love seeing what might be over that hill

  3. I’m having trouble understanding your comment “Btw if you think this doesn’t happen in ‘pure’ sandbox games, consider that for a lot of sandbox players, this might be more interesting than their stories”

    What do you consider to be a ‘pure’ sandbox game anyway and how would the described experience be inconsistent with such an environment?

    I think Minecraft would probably be the best example I could conjure of a ‘pure’ sandbox game and many Minecraft stories play out very much like this one.

    • A sandbox MMO is one where a lot of the content is provided by directly dealing with other players and player-run events, so a pure sandbox MMO would probably be more like EVE or A Tale in the Desert. Second Life would probably be another non-PvP example. And it’s very characteristic of those games that you spend a lot of time sitting around waiting or doing not very much (or grinding) inbetween bouts of exciting PvP or co-op. So you could spend entire evenings sitting around a Milegate in DaoC, for example, waiting to see if any enemies try to come through.

  4. Each pilot sat in their hardiest of vessel, patiently listening to the scouts describe the uncharted system, “Archon, Raven Navy Issue, Abaddon, Abaddon, Nightmare, Abaddon…” The fleet of battleships and capital class carriers were unaware that we were busily locating them, their assets, and the rest of the solar system they seemingly occupied.

    “Break break! I’ve found them. They’re all at this Customs Office.” Foolishly our targets were gathering at large celestial object, one that we could warp to without using scan probes and revealing our presence. Our hidden scouts gain visual and move into position.

    “Fleet jump the hole, jump the hole, jump the hole.” My ship resonates with the evanescent wormhole, translating me, my crew, and the organized bag of matter fashioned into turrets, tracking computers, and navigation systems into the destination system. “Hold your cloak, hold your cloak.”

    After a few seconds waiting for the remainder of the fleet shortcut space-time, we’re instructed to warp to our scout. Synchronously thrusters blaze into action, and the fleet warps in unison, pouncing on the unsuspecting opposition.

    Our motley arrangement of cruisers tackles as many of the battleships as possible, preventing their warp drives from activating. We force them to fight, with the hope that they bring in their carriers as support. We have our own on standby.

    Alas, they choose not to escalate, and after exploding their ships, we also destroy their escape pods, throwing each pilot’s consciousness into a new clone in a station somewhere.

    We leave their system and begin the coordinated collapse of the wormhole that connected us to their home. Using several large ships, we move large quantities of mass through the wormhole, unstablizing it, and eventually collapsing it. We locate the new wormhole, send scouts through, and collapse again if the new system is empty.

    After 20 minutes we open the wormhole to the same exact system that the battleship fleet was in. The chances of this are remarkibly low, and it appears that our unfortunate foes have not learned to keep watch for new, incoming wormholes. Our scouts quickly discover that they are slowly collapsing a different wormhole in rather expensive ships.

    With the scout in position, we jump through the tear in space-time and warp to our targets. They only have a handful of pilots available since we podded many of the others, and once again we slaughter them, pods and all.

    We’ve created a very interesting situation: many of this corporation’s pilots are stranded in known space, unable to get back into their home system. We know they have carriers, and we are interested in acquiring some new ones. Our ‘diplomat’ opens communication with the corporation CEO and offers to not invade the system, destroying all their starbases, and pillaging whatever ships and loot survive the assault in return for one of their carriers, specifically an Archon.

    Yes, this is a ransom.

    It takes about an hour to establish trust and get one of their Archon pilots online who we did not pod out of the system, but we eventually return home with a mildly used capital ship.

    Or I could tell you that I pressed of bunch of buttons. Wording is everything ;)

    • Actually, one of the key differences in my mind for why Eve narratives “work” is that they are not necessarily the same for everybody. Your little war with so-and-so is unique to your group, and thus others not in the know might be interested in hearing about it.

      In GW2, I could tell you about how I came across and fought a ferocious battle with the Claw of Jormag, but urm, so did nearly everybody else high enough level to get there. Ditto the DEs and the endless gathering, everyone’s -had- that experience. Only the jumping puzzles and secrets may be unique, but it’s hard to talk about for fear of spoilers, and we’re left with WvW as the generator of relatively unique skirmish/siege stories.

      • I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. A story is a narrative of an extraordinary situation. If nothing is extraordinary (because everyone experiences it), then there are no stories.

      • Well, yes and no. I’ve read some really cool WoW player blogs and the extraordinary experience can come as much from the player and the people they are with as from the game.

        While a lot goes on behind the scenes in a sandbox game to make things happen ™, reading an account of random battle in star system X is not actually inherently more interesting than reading a fun account of 2 manning an old raid boss and joining a new guild. (re: Onyxia, I still remember the first time my old 40 man guild took her down in Vanilla and we were literally down to the last 100 health and all wiped when one of the paladins came back in from a death run and got the last hit — I ask myself whether that counts as an extraordinary experience and it was for me and my guild, but maybe you had to be there ;) ).

  5. Pingback: [GW2] Stories That Should Be Told | Kill Ten Rats

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