[MUD-Dev] RE:

Lee Sheldon linearno at gte.net
Thu Nov 22 23:26:14 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


-----Original Message-----
From: Dave Rickey

> No storied online game has ever reached 1/100th the numbers of the
> non-storied.  No attempt to inject story into the existing games,
> however many resources were committed to it, has ever gotten much
> response beyond "So what?" and "Go away."

I tried to stay out of this.  I really did.  But when the answer is
so blatantly obvious, and so studiously ignored like this, it makes
me want to scream.  No storied online game has ever reached 1/100th
of the numbers of the non-storied because:

  a) There AREN'T any "storied" online games among the major
  commercial offerings.  There are games that flirt with story, then
  shy away like schoolgirls at their first dance, but there aren't
  any "storied" games.

  b) The attempts were made by non-professional storytellers.  If
  you had the level of programming in the major commercial MMOs
  equal to their level of writing customers wouldn't even be able to
  log in.  If the graphics were equal to that level of writing your
  Hero would be a stick figure fighting a squiggle.

  c) The customers say "So what?" and "Go away." because THE STORIES
  ARE SO BAD.  If AC's lack of impact can be traced at least partly
  to story, and I think it can, it isn't because it tried story.
  It's because the story was cliched and uninvolving.  The play of
  AC was unaffected by it.  The players were unaffected.  The market
  was unaffected.

> People don't want the games to tell them stories, they want them
> to be stories.

And since we've never had a single valid professional attempt at a
"storied" game, then this is of course the obvious conclusion.  The
MMO industry (what's left of it) wants it to be true.  The MMO
industry (what's left of it) needs it to be true.  Because the MMO
industry (what's left of it) doesn't know how to deliver anything
else.  Maybe SW:G will will be the first.  Sims Online sure won't.
But one of these days an attempt at a real "storied" game will be
made by a crew with a somewhat less insular vision, shall we say,
and it will leave all the others in the dust.

> They want it so badly, they're willing to forgive the brain-dead
> AI and artifical rules, because even if the story that is their
> play of the game is boring and repetitive, it's *theirs*.

Man, oh man, when you can point to an online game that has 1/100th
the audience of Titantic because so many people want to tell their
own stories, you will have some right to make a statement this
self-serving and misguided.  The numbers don't support the thesis.
The history of our culture does not support the thesis.  The
psychological makeup of human beings does not support the thesis.
But throw that all out the window, and continue to insist that
people want to tell their own stories, and THEREFORE we shouldn't
try to tell them any of our own.  One does not preclude the other!

The truth is so much simpler.  People LOVE to tell their own
stories, AND they love to have stories told to them.  AND. AND. AND.
For the first time in modern entertainment we have an industry with
the theoretical capability to provide both in a single mass media
product.  But it hasn't done it yet.  Apparently this industry
hasn't the imagination to do it.  So it says it can't be done, and
even worse, that the hundreds of millions of people who have
responded to stories told to them over the centuries don't want it
either.  It is to weep.

<SNIP>

> If they don't vote with their wallets, why should I listen to
> them?  They can get a far better story told *to* them by TV, why
> would they pay me for a bad one

They shouldn't.  And they don't.  That's why such a small portion of
the potential market is even aware of MMO's, let alone playing any.

> in a medium that doesn't *tell* stories?

Because it is too arrogant and ignorant to try.

<SNIP>

> It seems far more promising to me to do a better job of equipping
> the players to *live* stories.

Just like it seemed promising to let PvP alone solve the high level
game?  I'll give you an example from the game I'm currently playing,
and therefore most interested in: DAoC.  People on the whine boards
sort of just shrug off the lack of content in DAoC because they
really didn't expect much more.  They'd much rather complain about
class nerfs because they realize that some action might be taken.
They're under no illusions that the content will improve.  And these
are the very same customers who are already attracted to the level
and loot treadmill.  I have yet to meet a single player in DAoC who
is not a refugee from EQ or AC or UO, or is playing multiple games.
Not one. Many are already looking beyond to Shadowbane, another game
that seems aimed at exactly the same niche.  They're all sucking at
the same MMO teat, and at some point the milk will run dry.  It will
take a franchise like Star Wars to attract some larger portion of
the potential market.  If all it does is provide the same levels and
loot structure (I have hopes it won't) as its predecessors, after
the initial rush, it will settle in just like the others.  And even
if it doubles the market, that will be as a grain of sand in the
desert.

Lee

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