[MUD-Dev] RE:

Freeman Freeman
Thu Nov 29 11:48:39 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


> From: Sellers, Mike 
>> Jeff Freeman wrote:

>> Erm... but they don't HAVE stories, the Sims in particular.

> The game as shipped does not contain a pre-determined story.
> However, the game succeeds precisely because of the ability of
> players to experience stories within it -- check out thesims.com,
> there are literally *thousands* of stories told there within the
> game.

That's my point.

> This is a good example of one new way (by no means the only one)
> of how we need to conceptualize story: even though The Sims does
> not have a packaged storyline, the players walk away having
> experienced a story.  That more than anything is what has made The
> Sims the largest selling PC game *EVER*.

Indeed.  All I'm saying is, a developer prepackaging a story and
trying to "tell" it to the players via his MUD is a *terrible* idea
for MMO's, that ought to be dragged out behind the barn and shot.

Game mechanics that spark story creation via gameplay (ala The Sims)
is the right way for MMO's to go, at least in my own very humble
opinion.

> Well yeah, when you put it that way... telling the players, "stop
> making up stories, that's our jobs!" is pretty stupid.  But like I
> said before, I think we're taking a very narrow view of the story
> experience.

Well, I'm not.  I'm just arguing against the inclusion of one type
of game-narrative (specifically: The prepackaged story one).  I
think it's a terrible idea.  That doesn't mean I think stories in
games are terrible ideas.

And really, the sorts of stories we seem to agree are a good idea
are the sorts of stories that we can't really prevent the players
from creating anyway.  All we can do is to either get in their way
(with our own stupid story that no one cares about), or not.  I
think we ought not.

> I think that's a valuable analogy to consider.  One big thing it's
> missing is being re-tellable.  A strong story can be re-told to
> someone who wasn't there to experience it, but reviewing the
> football season isn't too exciting for most people.  But still I
> think this is something to think about.

I'm unconcerned with retellability, honestly.  The story is not The
Thing.  The gameplay is the Thing.  Gameplay that is a story is the
best thing.  You don't retell these stories, or re-experience them
even: You play more or again, and the story comes out different this
time, which is great.  Case in point, to go back to the analogy, is
that reviewing the football season being a boring thing to do, does
not in the least manner negatively impact the story created by the
game.

> The developer-crafted stories in EQ and AC (at least) pretty well
> suck.  They have little impact on the states or goals in the
> players' heads.  They affect their actual play little if at all.

And when those stories *do* impact actual play, it pisses the
players off to no end.  Because what the developer doing isn't
"really happening".  It's just some made-up crap that's getting in
the way for a while.  "Interest GMs" are the worst idea EVER.

> At the same time, the players' "stories" really don't qualify
> either.  Ever had your eyes glaze over when some enthusiastic D&D
> player just had to tell you about how his dark elf solved the
> puzzle and saved the town by killing the dragon after figuring out
> its weakness for swamp moss and firing the magic arrow of...

Sure, but my eyes don't count.  His do.

> well, you get the idea: a series of events is not a story, and
> recounting those events can be terminally boring.  A series of
> events about someone you care about is also not a story, even if
> that person has otherwise "heroic" attributes.  These things (like
> the NFL season, say) can be engaging while you're experiencing
> them, but lifeless afterward.

I think that's FINE.  We're not in the business of making movies,
after all.  We want people to enjoy the experience primarily, not
the recap.  When they want to relive that experience, they do it by
Playing Again (though they don't get the exact same experience as
the last time, because that would be boring).  That's why they
subscribe, and why they play an open-ended on-going game instead of
buying a one-shot 10-hours-and-you're-done sort of thing.

> The point about having story in MMPs is not just to say, "there,
> we did it!"  The point (for me anyway) is to leverage forms of
> communication that have been shown to be powerful for thousands of
> years (i.e., various forms of story and myth) to make the games
> more engaging and more durable for many more people than play them
> now.

My attitude toward that is different from yours, I think.  I would
seek to create systems which spark interesting events, "honest" in
the sense that they are not the result of direct intervention from
on-high.  No made-up tales that I ask the players to click-through
and be told, but a compelling world that invokes stories simply by
virtue of being visited.
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