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story telling vs facilitating storytelling

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What does everybody think of the claim that is made in Adrew Rollings brilliant book "game architecture and design" that the future of games does not lie in telling a particular story but rather in creating a community that facilitates story telling. I found it an interesting claim and it would explain the huge succes of World of Warcraft, the sims, City of Heroes, Second life etc. These games do not present a unique story but rather only provide a setting with some basic rules which combined with human social dynamics allow for unlimited stories.

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I think it is the foundation for any successful game. The more the player makes imaginative and created investments in the game, the more the game "becomes theirs" and the more satisfied and involved the player becomes. It is the electronically facilitated version of "let's pretend".
However, I do think these types of games will appeal mostly to age groups that have significant leisure time.
If the old folks can dredge up that far back, "lets pretend" was for weekends and summer not the short periods between school letting out and supper. That time was mainly taken up with sports of one type or another. I do have a great amount of sympathy for todays kids, they think "outside" is where you drive the car.

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I think that creating strong role-playing communities is one of the future facets of games that will continue to be explored. From what I figure that's been a feature of games since the MUD days, and it's now becoming a bit more mainstream. However the medium of games is a lot bigger than just the future of MMO games. I don't think the story-based game genre will die any time soon. Actually, I'm hoping that more dedicated game writers will emerge that can help create more interactive stories that play to the strength of the game medium (i.e. not just fourth-rate film scripts slightly adapted to become games).

I suppose I'm just a bit wary of claims like "the future of games is X", where X is some narrowly defined niche. I'm just hoping that the future of games involves a bit more variety and innovation than that.

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Actually MMOG's do create plenty of storylines in and of themselves, without a governing plotline behind them. Considering MUDs and MMORPGs side by side, as I have much experience with both, I have seen people become physically and emotionally distressed, angered and in general upset as a result of IC actions on behalf of a person they've never met.

True, plenty of people also throw their controller across the room when they die for the umpteenth time, but this is different. Once a player plays these games (specifically referring to RPGs) for a long time, they do become attached to their character and their social connections (the chatroom part). So a stab in the back from an in-game character becomes the exact same as a physical slap in the face from one of their best friends.

The storyline may not be structured, it may not involve fighting off hordes of evil, savage beasties, but it is all the more human as it is a direct by-product of human interaction. No other genre captures this sort of humanity, in a single-player RPG, you may follow the storyline, but you may as well go watch a movie or read a book, you don't actually feel a connection to the character, just the same frustration at losing that you would face in a driving sim, sports game or whatever else.

My two cents, something to chew on,

Vopisk

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I think that facilitated storytelling has two areas where it will become very big in the future: online "community" games (MMOs, if we must be buzzword-compliant) and sandbox games. There's even a good chance of the lines between these two genres blurring very heavily in the next decade or so. I've done some raving about it in my journal if anyone is interested in reading more on the subject.

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I love games that allow the player to interpret elements. I started gaming on the NES when I was 4 or 5. I remember playing Mario which didn't really have strong story telling elements. There was a red guy, a princess somewhere, dragons in every dungeon level, and a cast of wacky looking minions.

Anyways, the point is, I think these types of games helped me develop my imagination. I was *the* kid who played with wooden swords outside. I had elaborate plots and my cousin and I would go on crusades around the block. I remember playing as Cecil the paladin when I was in 2nd grade (I'm guessing) and using my swing set as my airship...

I guess this is just to add to Cybergrape's reply... I think games that lets the player use his imagination is a lot better. I never see kids playing with wooden swords anymore.

note: I grew up in a french community, so when I was young I didn't always understand the plot of a game. But I could tell a lot from the 32x32 pixels characters and the music.

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Quote:
No other genre captures this sort of humanity, in a single-player RPG, you may follow the storyline, but you may as well go watch a movie or read a book, you don't actually feel a connection to the character, just the same frustration at losing that you would face in a driving sim, sports game or whatever else.

I disagree. I have often felt a connection to a character in a single-player game. The only MMO I have played is Guild Wars, but in that I never actually found myself getting very attached to my character, because he didn't have much of a personality. I think that the most important thing for getting a player attached to a character is to force them to make frequent, often important decisions, through which they will develop a personality for their character which they will then think of when making future decisions. Frequent dialogue also allows you to develop your charcter's tone and personality.

On the original topic: I don't expect games to abandon story, although I do expect them to give the player more freedom. I expect that games will have fewer linear levels and more side quests and other extras but will still guide the player toward their destiny and certain climactic moments of a prewritten story.

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I think the future of games really lies in this area. Also from a software engineering perspective its interesting; You would need to design a game with a much longer lifespan than traditional games. It has a different business model behind it (service oriented). Issues such as maintainability, flexibility and extensibility would be very important as the game is continuously being developed and evolved.

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Yes, and you would have to be very careful that new extensions are compatible with all former ones as well as taking into account player added content as well. They get touchy about that kind of thing.

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I'd have to agree that most of the MMORPGs mentioned in the thread don't really incorporate much story. That is not to say that it isn't possible. One of the interesting concepts for that genre is the possibility for truly dynamic words. I beleive this is the true potential for MMORPGs. Currently the world is pretty static and all the focus goes to the individual character and how they level up. If the players really were given the power to shape the game world then the story lines that could emerge would be limited only by the imagination of the participants. Well I won't rant about it here. Let me know what you think or if you want to know more.

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Quote:
Original post by ironore
I'd have to agree that most of the MMORPGs mentioned in the thread don't really incorporate much story.


that is true, but I've heard stories about people in ultima online being kings of countries and people in world of warcraft running shops where people can store stuff. Both these cases are examples where people create their own stories (although that may not be as fancy as saving a pretty princess from a dragon) but it gives them the possiblity to be unique and run a virtual life.

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Well that is true. I used to facillitate my own stories when I played UO but it was always like swimming upstream, fighting the system if you know what I mean. Still it did present a challenge. I'm just saying it would be nice to design a game for a change that planned for freely developing stories in a dynamic world, not with pre-programmed content and static gameplay. That could be truly unique.

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Quote:
Original post by ironore
Well that is true. I used to facillitate my own stories when I played UO but it was always like swimming upstream, fighting the system if you know what I mean. Still it did present a challenge. I'm just saying it would be nice to design a game for a change that planned for freely developing stories in a dynamic world, not with pre-programmed content and static gameplay. That could be truly unique.


;D

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