Now, I may just be an old fool, but I've been looking at games like World of Warcraft, Rifts, Eve online, and the rest, and have to ask: Where did the story go?
Yes, I hear you all talking about the long and great history behind warcraft's world. You don't have to tell me: I was there playing warcraft BEFORE it had a number after it's name, and loooong before there was a 'World' tacked on.
No, what I'm talking about is the idea of these “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games”, would not know what a character driven storyline was if it bit them squarely on their subscriber base. The player's character never seem to have any real impact on the world, most of the quests are nothing more than “Do X to Y, Z number of times”, and generally provoke about as much emotion as trying to clean out your refrigerator.
What really annoys me is that the major MMOs ARE making enough money to write regular story updates for their modules. Here, follow this math:
If you have one million players, and they each pay $15 a month, for twelve months, you make $180 million a year. Now, take one percent of that and give it to a team of writers.
If you figure a nice salary average of $75,000 a year, you can get 24 people who's only job is to write quests with storylines.
Do you know how much writing 24 people can do in a week? Seriously. I'm fairly certain a quest could be written in a day, a chain of quests in a week. That's like, 100 new quests... A decent world editor system should easily allow computer controlled characters (Also known as NPC) to be removed, added, and moved about as the mood strikes them...
We should NEVER have to do the same daily quest over and over. It's just silly.
“Oh, but changes to the world are hard, what happens when a new player comes in and wants to do the same quest others did last week?” I don't know. Change the random clothing on the NPC and their name? Heck, just have her only show up as the quest npc to people eligible for the quest, and have it be a random filler NPC for anyone else who completed it? Probably a few million ways.
What's more, the ONLY story we tend to get are from quests. When's the last time an innkeeper NPC noticed that you had walked into his Inn for the tenth time this week and started dumping your trash for gold onto his counter. Wouldn't your jaw drop if he looked your character in the eye and said, “Now hold it friend, I'm pretty sure I don't need any more spider gizzards. How about you just buy a beer, sit down for a bit, and spend some of that wealth of yours on the dancing girls? Heck, first beer is on me for getting rid of that crazy fire mage last week who was bothering my wife!”
What I just mentioned is not even HARD to do. It's just the NPC checking a few triggered flags for what the player had already done, and generating a text file based on what had happened in the past.
By the time the player walks over a chair with a new quest on it next to the dancing girls, he has a whole story line based on his previous progress.
Nope. So far, I just get told to get 10 more bloody spider gizzards.
Sadly, this is probably never going to change. Why? Those playing the games are willing to settle for mediocrity. Fact is, there is no incentive for story development so long as they offer 1000+ achievements, new outfits, and repetitive quests that people are willing to do over and over again.
Makes me long for the days of old paper and pencil role playing games. In fact, I think I'll crack a gaming book open right now...
... But what do I know. I'm just a fool...
“I mean, would YOU buy 20 spider gizzards? How do spiders even HAVE gizzards? And why is the innkeeper buying them? Can we eat someplace else?”