Is creating "story" just a waste of resources in MMOs?

I’m a bit depressed. I’ve realized that I’m going off TSW.

For a while, about a month and a half, I’ve been utterly enchanted by the game. But today, I realized I’ve pretty much done all the missions in the game. So there are no more interesting missions that are new, no more investigation missions that are new, etc., etc. The “magic” of the game for me has been in these, and now that I’m faced with the prospect of either moving from Elite to NM dungeons or doing more PvP, I find I’m not really all that interested in either.

And now, the sad news re. Funcom (having to lay off employees) makes me think they’re never going to be able to keep fresh missions coming at a rate that’s going to keep me interested in that “thing” TSW does so well.

What’s making this even more depressing is that I was here with SWTOR a few months into the game earlier this year. So long as the class quest was going, the game had some magic, despite the hollowness and lack of virtual world feel. Soon as the class quest for my main finished, boom, interest gone.

I can see myself dipping into SWTOR to finish the class quests for my alts, but with TSW I just can’t bear the thought of doing quests I’ve already done.

Which brings me to two questions, one about TSW, one more general:-

  1. hasn’t there been a contradiction all along in TSW’s gameplay between the aspect that’s old skool “repeat till you beat”, and the aspect that’s “story”? After all, a story is something you proceed through in time, it has momentum, and lives for as long as it has momentum and fresh stuff is coming at you. You might read a book again, but very seldom do you read a book immediately after you’ve just finished it.

  2. Has this detour to superbly presented story just been a mistake, a cul de sac, a waste? Certainly, in an ideal world, it would be fantastic to have everything in an MMO, to have the well-presented, well-written stories with digital puppetry that we’ve seen in both SWTOR and TSW as well as a fully engaging virtual world with tons of non-combat stuff to do (including some sandboxy elements) and some engaging endgame that sustains interest. But it looks like developers have to choose only a subset of these. It looks like there just isn’t enough possible investment, management expertise, time, energy or some damn thing, to do it all.

No, because if they don’t have story I’m not there at all. If they do story, sure, maybe I run out of story content and drift off after a while, but at least they’ve soaked me for box price and maybe a sub month or two.

I dont think your subject and message body really align, but I am pretty drunk so it could be me.

I will say, in response to your subject, that no, creating a story is not a waste of resources in an MMO.

No, I love the story stuff in Star Wars TOR.

Story is like textures. Its another thing that make a game good. You can make a game withouth story (Quake3 Arena), and you can make a game without textures (heeeeer… Mirror Edge challenge levels?), but really all games have both, textures and story, because make the result better.

Could a game be supported 95% by story? A mmorpg no, because a mmorpg must be supported by high replayability, adiction and a social enviroment; but story is very important in a mmorpg.

MMOs shouldn’t have “story”. They should have interesting and believable worlds to explore. Give me cities and ruins and dungeons and cool places and quests to find on my own and give me lots of fun things to do and a character to develop at my own pace. Give me a sense that this world you’ve built has a history and has interesting people to find…don’t make me run through a story. If you want a linear story, play an RPG.

MMOs that get this right (to varying degrees): Vanilla/TBC WoW, LotRO, Eve, Vanguard.

MMOs that get this wrong: SWToR, Rift, Wrath/Cataclysm WoW, Secret World.

Story alone can’t hold an MMO. Good gameplay completely void of story will probably get stale. I think you have to have a good balance, and by good balance, I don’t mean you can’t have one heavily tilted more towards one than another. I think the problem with SWTOR is the story was strong, but the gameplay suffered pretty badly because of it. The way they did their story pretty much means it will be difficult to keep the story going too… and adding content was too slow for an sub game.

There was a column in Edge talking about this. The idea being that the more story you have, the less replayable the game is. The more interacting rules/game systems, the more replayable the game is. His example was chess - zero story content, infinite replayability. The opposite case is Dragon’s Lair - all content, very little gameplay, zero replayability.

I agree there’s a fundamental MMO tension in that the story content runs out long before the expected replayability is over.

Actually it was Clint Hocking, “Replay value, what does it really mean?”

Stories end, and the expectation is that people will play MMOs indefinitely. So there’s a conflict there. If something has to give, I’d prefer it to be the idea that you should play an MMO forever.

I’ll second this. An MMO without the story portion of TSW will never grab me and get me to buy the game plus sub for a while. Assuming that creating more story leads to creating a less good pvp/grind/endgame (and thus fewer people who pay subscription fees for a long while) it comes down to the question of where to balance.

The kicker is that even if the economic balance is fine for the creation of MMOs with more story content and shorter average lengths of subscription the critics will loudly proclaim any such game as a failure.

My point is that given that resources (mainly, money to pay people to make stuff) are limited, then for any given budget, resources put into story are resources not being put into giving the game addictive longevity. And that seems to have been the case with two major MMO “failures” (as game forum yahoos would have it) recently - TSW and SWTOR.

I like the comment above that something has to give - I mean, who said that an MMO has to retain interest after a month or two?

But on the other hand, surely it’s investors that are driving for a game that addicts people long-term - and after all, many people like to be addicted long-term too.

I guess my best thought on this is that addiction through endgame is a rod for developers’ backs, whereas addiction through a big sandbox with a strong feeling of a virtual world is going to let developers work on other things - and that might include story elements.

It’s interesting that the sandbox par excellence at the moment, EVE Online, actually does have some quite engaging solo story bits in it (Epic Arc, COSMOS), they’re just limited by the types of interaction you can have with the game world in your wee spaceship, but they’re quite well written, and properly challenging PvE content. So it is possible to cross sandbox with good story.

And, for my money, the more “replay value” a game has under that definition, the less value it has to me to play the first time. You’d never get me playing chess, for example.

You should be to play an MMO for a long time, and by a long time, I don’t mean a month. i think that is the problem with a lot of current sub games is they think they can slap together end content and no one will notice. Sure the players sucking down redbulls and playing 72 hours straight are not the group to cater to, but we MMO players willing to pay 15 a month play pretty hard. If the game has minimal replay-ability, it’s in the wrong genre. Call it an MP experience and stop trying to milk a turnip by calling it an MMO.

Short answer - yes, its a waste past some initial baseline.

Long answer - not exactly. You need to have a baseline coherent world as a backdrop, without it gamers will not be able to immerse and enjoy your game. Anything above and beyond, especially in decisions of “fun” vs. “story won’t allow it” is of zero benefit.

Think of it as a theater production. You have a play, this is your game. You also have decorations, this is your story. You need some decorations to have a play, but they are nowhere near important as your actual play.

This is why MMOs can never be a substitute for RPGs. It’s more like waiting to go on a ride at Disneyland than entering a story. cRPGs can give you enough story while you mess with the mechanics, sometimes plenty of story; all MMOs can give you is the mechanics plus a chat room. (Although that Serenity Now massacre several years was an awesome event in the global culture.)

Player driven stories is in my opinion, where the future should be headed. Think Eve Online, but with even more power in the hands of the players to shape the world.

So yes, it is a complete waste for developers to put resources into developing a story.

This is what I was ready to post as well after reading through this thread. Yes, MMOs should have stories, but they should be player driven and part of a very dynamic environment.

For me personally, this is the hook that will keep me playing an MMO for years to come. I hopped into Lineage 2 shortly after release not knowing what to expect. I spent the next three years obsessed with the game, not because of story or the hellish grind, but the community and political environment it spawned. Almost every day something new and interesting was happening with the community. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the background story to Lineage 2 is, but I could write novels about guilds, wars, political drama, sieges, obsession with power, you name it.

Every other modern MMO I have tried since has left me wanting. They all seem incredibly story driven, and almost designed for a solo experience. I really don’t see the point in paying for a game plus a monthly fee just to experience something that will hit a stopping point, and never changes if I start a new character.

Screw the story, put financial resources into creating a dynamic player driven world that people can make their own. It can be fascinating to see how each server community develops differently from each other as well.

When I tried The Secret World I played for maybe 30 minutes, and then stopped and basically lost all interest in the game. It looked alright, but I just couldn’t care for a story in a MMO. I wanted to hit mobs, to meet people, to explore a world.

If I want to play a narrative-driven game, there are other genres.

Ooh, you’re missing out. TSW is easily one of the best story-driven games in ANY genre, it really is, and it’s well worth the money. It’s utterly absorbing and beautifully well-made, with a huge number of interesting “characters” to meet, with excellent cutscenes - so long as the story is going on (i.e. so long as the interlinked missions that gradually reveal the story are going on). It’s what happens afterwards (after that content has been exhausted) that’s the problem for me, and hence (given the “failure” of this and SWTOR) I’m wondering if it’s a problem for the genre as a whole (i.e. whether these two experiments into heavily story-driven MMOs have proved that that much weight on story isn’t worth it). And the exploration is linked to the missions too - exploration rewards you with out-of-the-way little side missions, and there are a fair number of them, at least enough to make exploration rewarding first time round (but again, they’re of such high quality that there aren’t really enough, sadly).

Also, there’s tons of grouped content possible - both PUG-ing and dungeons, so you won’t miss out on that aspect either, it’s a pretty social game. But again, the PUG-ing is linked to the missions (i.e. there are a lot of open world missions that people just spontaneously group up for, at least they did on my “dimension” Arcadia), and the dungeons, well, again, they’re very well done, but there just don’t seem to be enough of them.

I avoided MMOs for many years because I was accustomed to tabletop RPGs where I created my own personality, with the personality and history I wanted them to have. I didn’t think a computer game would ever allow me to do that–until City of Heroes came along. What I would ideally like to have in a game is a framework to come up with a character that I feel some attachment to, like I created something, then give me a choice of interesting content to explore. CoH was lacking in the content department. Most games are seriously lacking in the former. I disliked ToR because they gave me the illusion of creating the character I wanted, then proceeded to complete railroad me at every opportunity.

TSW has a really cool setting to explore, but could use some help in the customization area (though some help is on the way here).