marke at mac.com
Tue Nov 20 12:44:43 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001
On Sunday, November 18, 2001, at 10:11 AM, Brian McGroarty wrote:
> On Fri, Nov 16, 2001 at 05:31:16PM -0600, Sellers, Mike wrote:
>> Brian McGroarty wrote:
>>> On Wed, Nov 14, 2001 at 12:13:56PM +0100, Hans-Henrik Staerfeldt
>>>> Even if you adapt that idea then i would re-ask Raph's question
>>>> in your wording;
>>>> "Why is it that the average cartoon lets you project your own
>>>> values and morals onto it better?"
>>> The average cartoon has a storyteller with the focus where he or
>>> she places it, and a singular agenda.
>>> Multiplayer games have multiple people with multiple agendas,
>>> and most players' focus is set upon their own self.
>> Yep, this is the canonical excuse for not telling meaningful
>> stories in games. And IMO it's a piss-poor excuse. All it means
>> is that we don't yet know *HOW* to tell stories in a
>> multi-protagonist, self-directed environment.
> Which would make the focus and agenda two parts of an obstacle,
> not an excuse, and good topics for discussion.
> So, what's key to overcoming this obstacle? Guiding players toward
> a specific agenda? Making the game suit an arbitrary agenda?
> Pushing the focus away from the player and toward a built-in story
I think its a combination of several things:
1) First and foremost I think players need a strong sense that
they can change the world (even if in very small ways). There are
zillions of quests that are in the MMORPGs today that can be done
over and over (and over) and never end. Bob wants you to kill Fred
and return his head as proof that you've done the deed. But when
you do Fred is right back where you left him, happy as a clam, and
Bob still wants his head. Talk about giving the players a Sisyphus
2) Players want a sense that their actions have meaning. When
you've killed your twelve thousand one hundred and thirty sixth
Orc Centurion, the game takes on a certain repetitiveness.. There
is a reason that players call these games whack-a-mole. There is
no story because there are no (worthy) villains.
3) NPCs are completely artificial. The NPC interaction in the
current crop of MMORPGs makes Zork look like true AI. I'd love to
see an NPC that asks for your help in killing a monster, and then
joins your party and accompanies you, acting like any player
would.. fighting, casting spells, healing, etc. On the flip side,
the NPC monsters are just as bad. They're so completely
predictable that players use slang phrases like 'agro
management'. Does 'managing' a monster sound just.. wrong to
anyone else? What, other than the simple arithmetic of bigger
stats, is qualitatively different from the biggest dragon and the
smallest drake in your typical MMORPG? In all the fantasy I've
read and table-top games I've played Dragons are supposed to be
super intelligent. You wouldn't know it from any of the current
crop of games.
4) Player-Player conflict (aka PvP, RvR, etc.) is held up by many
as the holy grail, the savior of MMORPGs. The sad reality is that
its so random, so without meaning, that most players avoid it in
the games that feature it. I would like to see an upside here,
rather than just all negatives. Give players the tools to set up
quests - including scripted NPCs - and reward other players (and
give the players that go to the trouble to do so rewards
also). Build positive feedback into structured player-player
interaction. (I say structured because un-structured interaction
is already fairly well served by the chat and trade interfaces of
The game is supposedly taking the place of the DM in the traditional
pen and paper RPG. Unfortunately none are coming even close to
this. The two routes I see are to make the game engines better at
storytelling or to give players the tools to tell stories. To come
around (by the long way) to answering the original question, these
games aren't good at letting players 'project their values and
morals' into the game because even when they do it goes unobserved
by the game. In a table top game the DM would see and reward or
punish every player action. MMORPGs today only 'observe' and react
to 1 thing: who you kill.
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