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Apr 07, 2009



I was at this talk, and your writeup touches on a lot of issues that came to my mind as well.

I agree with you that the way WoW was built does not support integrated quests. We have to read "fucking books" because there is no easy way to incorporate the narrative in the gameplay. We have to read back story and motivations because the game is not developed with an alternative way to get that information to the player.

In books, you can read the thoughts and backstory of a character. In film, it was necessary to find another method of conveying this information. In video games, it will be another solution, but as you stated, it will have to be supported by the gameplay; it won't be remedied by a plastic band-aid slapped on top, no matter how artfully it is applied.


Tim, I recently read your work from 2006 on the possiblity and implementation of "persistent worlds" and the commentary on it, as well as some other related articles. Of course, this article seems to hinge on some of the same concerns that you seemed to have then.

Since I am no expert about the technicalities of game construction, rather I am interested as a MMO gamer and a philosophy grad student, I will keep my comment short and general.

IMHO, the scaled/macro/overall problem set before game developers has to do with, as Anne calls it, "another solution" which video games must find to incorporate narrative that is supported by gameplay.

This concern might be formulated more clearly as: Video games must program dynamic narratives (or more generally events) in real time in order to achieve a persistent world.

This is a HUGE problem (or set of problems), as you and your commenters have I believe implied. Its scope can be analyzed from philosophical, technical, economic, engineering, design, and phsycological perspectives to name a few. But, said scope can be seen in small part by a very simple hypothetical situation which I believe boils down at least one root of the problem(s):

Jon comes along in the (virtual) world. If Jon does X (specific action dependent on the state of the world), the world changes. Jane comes along after Jon. Jane cannot do X (at least not in the same way Jon did it, perhaps not at all.) Jane may do Y,Z,etc. but not X.

Hopefully this communicates the issue well, I apologize for its philosophical abstractness. How is it possible for game developers to PROGRAM a game with such dynamic properties as in this hypothetical? Jon does quest X and kills Monster X. If this narrative/event doesn't loop, Jane will have to find something else to do. This assumes that game developers will not design custom quests for each potential client.

Anne, How can we find a solution for relating narrative (or more generally events in time) in a dynamic world? Books and films did it as static pieces of art, but we're talking about a dynamic world with multiple PCs and NPCs in constant involvement with eachother. Philosophically it seems an insurmountable goal (in its fullest sense.) I am of course still interested in dealing with it, and approximating it. Many commentators of this site have offered wonderful ideas for approximation. But it seems most helpful to take baby steps in the name of increased approximation rather than talk about dynamic narrative which is, imo, so far out.

Again, I'm not an expert.



One other issue with the dynamic world narrative is that there is a strong belief that people play MMOs for shared experiences. If Jon makes it impossible for Jane to have the same experience, it actually removes one of the key factors that makes MMOs so appealing to begin with.

In my comment, I wasn't actually talking about the dynamic world narrative issue, but rather just the issue that quests are presented to players as chunks of story. The typical player does not read the story, and therefore the quests end up feeling like a series of tasks that have lost the feeling of cohesion.

The next solution that's been attempted is the cut-scene. This takes control away from the player which goes against the very thing that makes games such an interesting expressive form. (Ugh, that sounds pretentious.)

So the question is, here's this interactive form of storytelling, and the author wants to convey some information to the player without taking away their feeling of control. I don't have an answer to this. My research involves the idea of co-authorship in hopes that this will alleviate some of these issues, but there is no easy answer! I never meant to imply there was one. Do you have any thoughts about it?


Thanks for this insightful writeup Tim.

I have to say, however, the Myzrael and GHoS quests -- do we not all remember and love them, at some level? At a time when the other quests from those areas may fade away in memory?

Also, I think its interesting that Kaplan doesn't like the Xmas tree effect when players do seem to like it....

...I don't know, both of these things make me feel there is something missing from our understanding of what makes quests compelling to players. Sometimes I feel people talk about game design based on what they've decided a good design ought to be rather than what people actually do like... although I don't know how many more Myzrael type quests I need.... The hyper-engineered style WOTLK in which my level 213 item is replaced by a level 226 item which is exactly the same but has three more points of spellpower does make me long for at least some of the randomness of Old World game design...


Hey Rex,

Kaplan talked more about why he doesn't like the X-mas tree effect even though players like it.

1. It doesn't allow any designer control over the way the quests are received, so there's no real control over creating some sort of story for the player.

2. Players sometimes have to be forced into doing things that are "fun". Which seems counter-intuitive, and took me a bit to wrap my head around. Basically, players will find the easiest route through a game, and will take that, even if it's not the most enjoyable route. People will farm for a drop over doing a series of quests if they feel it is better reward for their time. Then they will complain about how the game is boring and they're required to farm all the time.

So in this case, I don't think they're talking about how design "should" be, but rather how to create an interesting/fun experience for the player and make it the most optimized path through the world.

As for WotLK, I agree it was over-engineered to some degree. But they did do a good job of guiding players through the new zones. The drops were just boring. :(


It seems the issue at hand, or at least the issue that designers are capable of dealing with is: How do we create a narrative of interactive MMOG experiences for a character that makes them "feel" like they have a lasting effect on the world. This alleviates the highly problamatic holy grail of true persistence in the world (which we all recognize) and brings to mind a formula which might solve our concerns, or at least bring MMOGs to the next level. That is, we ought experiment with, make better the current, and create new methods of having characters believe that they have a lasting effect on the world.

Of course, Blizzard has pioneered a number of these methods in WoW. A few which come to mind are the world events like the gates of AQ (cyclical from day to day, but overall having a permanent effect) and the aforementioned Wrath Gate. On a smaller level quests like freeing the temple of Zul'Aman or reliving the battle of Mount Hyjal had highly semi-dynamic endings (albeit text-dependent.)

I'm not sure of any specific ways to develop or further these methods. I can say I'm a fan of instanced material which can be completely dynamic unto itself. I also think NPC voice overs (such as in EQ2) do more to "force" players into the story in a good way. I can imagine there are plenty of good story-telling devices that are still untapped that don't rely on a text or voice necessarily. I think you might agree Anne. In any case all of these developments must be made with a gamer in mind and it stands, as above, that many gamers like content that is not in this experimental vein.

I'm going to try to think of some more methods anyway, It's quite fun to think about =) Great posts all! This is the first game-oriented site I've found that isn't bombarded with mindless yammering by gamers =)))


For film, there's a maxim "Show, don't tell". It's no good to have a scene where the camera is fixed on a character who gives a long monologue saying what happened to him. Fade into a flashback that shows what happened to him, by all means. But don't film a character standing there and telling the story.

The MMO equivalent of this are things like:
- A book in your inventory that you can read as a novel.
- A mobile who tells you the story in screenfuls of dialogue you have to page through.


A game that could offer true persistence, where the players actually had an effect on the world (not merely believeing that they do), might, MIGHT, be able to offer truly dynamic content, and thus a spontaneous narrative that integrates seemlessly into the game world. A player-generated history, as it were.

It's not certain, though, that such a system would create an interesting narrative in itself. At least on mmorpg.com, there's a number of posters who seem to think it would; from time to time they start a thread about their 'ideal MMO', which often features extreme persistence, no instanced dungeons or quests, a dynamic environment, a closed economy, and often no NPCs and perma-death.

I personally suspect that a game world such as they desire may only exist if populated by dedicated roleplayers. However, it is possible to see where they are coming from.

In many games, most of the 'history' that gets discussed is player-generated* content, rather than developer-created material. A low-level example might be a guild discussing it's founded members, or the first time it defeating a particularly tough raid. Then there's the huge scam pulled off by the SomethingAwful member (don't remember the name) in EVE; in another game, Urban Dead (which has many MUD-like elements), the creator intentionally left most of the backstory blank to let players fill in the details.

The 'story' of Urban Dead arises out of actions by the players - it's history included events like the annual Mall Tour (where zombies besiege every shopping mall in the city), the siege of Caiger Mall, the fall of Fort Creedy (both long-held human bastions), and so on. UD, an indie game, managed this due to its extremely simple game engine - it would be very interesting to see a larger, more technologically advanced project pull this off.

* I distinguish player-generated conted from player-created content as follows: generated content arises from actions 'within' the game world (ie, interactions with the actual game system), created content is made by out-of-game, out-of-character editors.

A simple example might be the distinction between a player typing in their profile description "This person is wearing a red jacket" (that's created content), and a player finding a red jacket in-game, and clicking 'wear', so that now their profile reads "this person is wearing a red jacket" (that's generated content). Player-generated content seems to be inherently more interesting, at least from the perpective of games (the minimum definition of which usually involves some form of preset structure).

By the way, I'm trying to work a game that allows players to generate their own history. It's still in the early stages, so it remains to be seen how succesful this will be - there's very few resources for such aspects of game design, and this site has been a great help.


In some ways, I think game designers may be missing the point when they look in the direction of giving players the ability to permanently change the world, and using that as one of the most desirable ways to make MMOs fun.

In single-player rpgs, I, _and all the people who also bought and finished the game_ did more or less exactly the same thing.

None of us had any 'lasting effect on the world' or had the problem that if he did X then I couldn't possibly do X again because X would be dead/vanquished/eaten by ants. But narrative driven single player games are still great.

So perhaps players don't actually need to know forever and ever that they've done the one unique thing in this particular MMO/world in order to enjoy and love it.

Maybe they just need to feel like and/or be key, integral elements to advancing the storyline, and be entertained in the process. Even if millions of other players have also experienced the same storyline already.

Does it matter to me that everyone who finished Baldur's Gate the way I did saw the same ending? Not in the teeniest, tiniest bit. It's utterly irrelevant.

All I want is to feel engaged and entertained, and have the immersive illusion while I'm playing the game that my actions matter. And in single player games, they do - because they move me along in the storyline. I get to find out what comes next.. and be a part of it.

Guild Wars (while not strictly an MMO) does this amazingly well. They move me along in the storyline as a key player. And their endgame/metagame is PvP, and built from the ground up to be so. It's a beautiful marriage of PvE and PvP.

That other people have experienced the same storyline, and I am not a unique, beautiful snowflake with regards to my effects on the game is irrelevant. In fact, it seems selfish to say that only I should have seen one this storyline. That it should be for me only.

...and that this book should be for me, only. No one else should ever get to read or enjoy it. Or this movie, or this music...

My problem with WoW and storytelling was that it never even let me have an illusion of being a part of a storyline as a key player. While single players (and GW) give that to everyone. I don't want to take the other guy's cake away... I just want to have mine to eat, too. =)

In WoW the closest you got to being a 'key player' in the storyline if you were one of the 'masses' was to... lol... make a lot of bandages for the opening of An Qiraj.

And even if you do get to be a 'key player' in the 'meta' storyline... you do it in a mass of other people - in a raid. Where you're a cog.

For me, that just can't match up to following an entire single-player storyline based around your character (or the illusion thereof, that's good enough), where you are the protagonist.

This being said, I have no gaming industry or academic credentials. Just a really passionate love for online worlds (not just MMOs). And a long time TN lurker... from back when it was still a mailing list. I started with MUDs, and the love I have has just sort of carried on from there.

It's just that I feel that some of the points I stated above don't seem to be mentioned much, if at all, in the context of MMOs. ~_o if it's all old news, my apologies for bringing it up again.


It seems to me, Nugget, that you share some of the same issues that Tim does about what an MMO should be like, particularly what WoW doesn't quite reach. In a nut shell, in regard to WoW you both acknowledge the lack of narrative, the repetitiveness of mundane quests, and the non-immersiveness of lore and story that requires players to read alot (the orignal issue of this thread.)

Considering this, I don't think it follows to say what you have which is basically: people don't need to change the game-world around them (be dynamic as opposed to static) games can be fun as static stories. Now, though that does follow from your acknowledgements, it still seems to be true that todays MMO players really like static (meaning no permanent change or uniqueness) stories and quests such as they are given in GW, WoW, EQ2, and the others, and you have rightly proposed that there is satisfaction for gamers on that level without pushing the "dynamic" envelope. WoW, has not satisfied as well others you say. Others might argue WoW has satisfied better than all others so far. In any event, the point of all this is to illustrate that while there are satisfying methods for creating static narrative and questing, the NEXT level of MMOs seems to be in achieving some kind of dynamic world. A world which involves gamers in ways they haven't been before, in ways they may not even know they want yet.

That, to me, was the interesting part of this discussion. Afterall we can figure out fun ways to tell static stories all day as books and movies and (so far) video games have done for years, but to talk about involving the dynamic in some way (I estimate it will be very small at first) is really cutting-edge. Of course, some ground has been broken already...


I find myself wondering about the necessity of a complete and compelling narrative in a multi-user game. The medium isn't a novel, nor is it a movie. It's defining characteristic is its user interactivity, not necessarily its story. I don't know that I completely buy this but bare with my premise.

In my mind the "next level" of gaming comes in the form of a MORE sandbox type game, rather than some wonderfully blended but ultimately untenable MMO through-line. If we want to see functional goals we need to divorce ourselves from the other mediums and embrace the one we're in.

What I would propose is not a grand plot arch that every individual could take part in, in fact, I'd recommend throwing that idea out, mostly. Instead, give the player(s) situations that call for creativity within the confines of the lore. The mechanics of the game should allow for a myriad of options to a solution that is 'permanent'.

Permanent here could mean the slaying of a bunch of orcs inhabiting a cave. In a very real sense these orcs can be routed from the cave, by killing some of them, maybe disrupting their food supply, or by causing them to engage with another local denizen. So the game world processes this, but to make it persistent, it then generates some result of said actions. So once the orcs have been run out, one of many interesting situations may occur, they may simply leave, they may be replaced by the other denizen, they may become friendly, or perhaps their overlord is angered and decides to send more troops, or perhaps if provoked enough the overlord shows up himself to dispatch the PC.

Hell, you could randomly generate little situations like this that make the situation much more immersive and permanent. I contend that maintaining a coherent storyline through this would be a bit trickier. This approach seems to reward creativity and foster interest in the sheer "naturalness" of the outcomes. The player becomes invested in the game and feels a kind of satisfaction at his/her role.


I was following the discussion with some interest now and i would like to point out
some things that seem to be kind of underestimated here.
WoW is and always has been a medium to offer ALL players a higly standardized
and universalized playing experience: Everyone has the possibility to achieve everything another player
can do as well. The same quests, the same achievements (well not all but most) and even creating exactly the
same gamecharacter.
WoW would hardly have been as succesful as it has been, if not for this "standardization of equal playing experience". The quest-way of developing your character was way better than the old grinding days of asia mmos (killing millions of mobs to level up) but its also very constraining, and well a "511 character dose of story" that needs you to collect another 10 murloc heads has become so repeatedly boring and mundane that
blizzard is very right to adress this monotony if they want to make their games more interesting. But if you try a dynamic- world approach, you will find it not that
easily done because it will mean random or player generated content.. (as pointed out already)
You cannot do this otherwise yet, since we have then the problem of the here posted "Richard paradigm"
of a dynamic world: "Jon comes along in the (virtual) world. If Jon does X (specific action dependent on the state of the world), the world changes. Jane comes along after Jon. Jane cannot do X (at least not in the same way Jon did it, perhaps not at all.) Jane may do Y,Z,etc. but not X."
Even a company like Blizzard will have difficulties creating a dynamic world on a everyday basis (producing the
content for it AND implementing it in the game) - let me explain this further with what i call the "Illidan paradox" (illidan is/was the "endboss" of outland in the burning crusade).
Guilds and their players put endless effort in advancing far enough with their characters to fight their way
through the black temple and then kill Illidan to be the heroes of outland - but a standardized WoW
will only grant them to be heros for one week (since the same illidan respawns after reset) and the main
focus was not to get rid of Illidan for some rp issues, but to let the guilds grab some equipment - here is my
point, all progress in the endgame only consists of advancing your character through gear. That is one of the main flaws of WoW. There is just no other way to create some progress here but through gear. Everything is standardized, the abilities you share with thousands of other players make your character not unique but just another fish in the pond. So, after killing Illidan a hundred times on this shard of WoW, there is still no change in the world (like you have freed Outland of the greatest evil it had), only some people now have fancy gear to show off.
And even that turned out to be a problem, since only a small number of
players put enough effort into the game (hours and hours of gameplay) to achieve the goal of killing Illidan,
with the majority standing at the sidelines. With WotLK Blizzard promoted the "casual" players with
scaling down he difficulty on all levels, making the experience even more standardized then before,
annoying the elite guilds (who took their elite status from the only progress in the game there was, killing
the mean raidbosses and showing off fancy gear) and forcing themselves into a even worse spiral of "we need to deliver more divers content" since everything else in WoW is absolutely static without a new content patch. Looking
at player generated RP areas like in Second Life might help, though how to implement "player quests"
into such a static world will probably be a pain. Other MMORPGs are adressing the standardization
issue with highly customizable appearance and some even with some kind of "world progress" (like
Warhammer trys with their "war effort" of fractions). But what no one allows is to really "have" an
unique character with an unique biography that has an unique set of abilities - Everything is beaten down
to certain characterlevels that allow you to do a static set of quests in an area you can survive with your characterlevel, this circle repeating itself on and on until you reach the endgame level. And then you start doing static content on a repeatedly basis again (be it PvP Scenarios or PvE Raids), cause you need the gear to be competetive. There are no optimal solutions here, cause every solution might as well cause a new set of problems
(like reducing the playerbase when you add too much complexity to the game).
In my humble opinion, gamedevelopment is stuck in its own thinking of "designing a game in a box". What they actually do is designing a social enviroments, and too static enviroments always tend to call for a revolution here and there..


Eve offers true persistence in the PvP space. Time moves forward always and it it has its own history. Not that the history is easy to see or well documented. It does create an interesting narrative, better said is creates "Drama". It is populated by very dedicated players unsure if they would call themselves roleplayer in the classic sense.


What I find missing in the article is a lack of a critical look at how quest centric MMOs popularized by Blizzard's WoW have eroded social interaction. Social interaction used to be one of the cornerstones of the MMO/virtual world experience.

With WoW's focus on completing and even grinding quests the social cohesion previously found in grouping is no longer evident and has been replaced by a transactional playstyle where players simply follow NPCs with yellow exclamation marks hovering over their head.

Another point of contention I have with Blizzard is that it's all about *their* story not *your* story. The player merely plays the role of an actor/hero and goes through pre-defined and pre-scripted activities to complete the quest. I find this very troubling for the future of player autonomy in virtual worlds.

Where does the player's own story and experiences fit in to the equation when everything they do is controlled and managed by the machinations a quest designer lurking behind the scenes?

From the start Blizzard has used their MMO as a vehicle for disseminating their lore and stories. They are not interested in allowing players to make and live out their own stories in virtual worlds nor do they provide the mechanics for that to happen.

For a more detailed look at these issues I invite Tera Nova readers to read the following articles:





I think WoW (and most of the other MMOs) have completely missed the main advantage MMOs offer over other game types. I've never really gotten into any of the current MMOs, but I did play some MUDs a few years back.

Of course, some MUDs are basically static storylines like most current MMOs, but others are completely different. They are player centric. The plot isn't pre-scripted by some game designer. Rather, it's created by the players through their actions.

One MUCK I played on allowed all players access to the programming interface. The world was built by the players. It was an awesome experiance.

While giving such power in a mainstream MMO probably wouldn't work, I think a move towards more player influence on the world would be a good thing.

I've got a project (on the back burner at the moment) to make an MMO that's player focused. The basic idea is to make anything that could be player created, actually player created.

This, of course, implies player crafting at a much higher level than in current games. It seems ridiculus that all the uber-gear comes from "boss" drops. Why can't a player craft the same gear? Where do the "boss" characters get it in the first place?

It also seems stupid that such characters can be killed over and over again. In fact, spawns in general seem silly. They just encourage spawn camping, which then gets out of hand and leads to even more sillyness like instanced dungeons.

What sort of sense does it make that when a group of people enter a particular hole in the ground, they are actually wisked off to a parallel universe (which they have all to themselves), and that the next group to enter the hole goes somewhere else (that happens to be the same)?

Instead, if someone (or some group) kills a monster (or clears out a dungeon), it stays dead. Of course, this creates a problem for the developer. How do you create enough content to meet the needs of all the players to constanly be killing monsters, clearing dungeons, and rescuing lost princesses? How can you get the manpower required?

The answer is that you already have all the manpower you need, the players. By giving the players the power to create game content, you have a supply of content that continues to grow as your player base does.

The idea is to combine the crafting of current MMOs, with simulation-like building systems, Harvest Moon like farming systems, Pokemon like monster training systems, and other sandbox like mechanics to build a world.

People argue that everyone wants to be an adventurer and nobody wants to play farmer, but that's not true. People do play farming games. Perhaps not the current MMO player base, but, "if you build it they will come."


Lots of good discussion here!

My opinion is based on the technical reality of our "persistent" worlds. For now, players will have to suspend disbelief that "after being rescued from the bad dragon Marlene proceeded to go back to the dragon's cave to be captured again by the same dragon (who somehow came back to life) so a new batch of players could rescue her." Do you say that any players that have completed this quest can no longer enter the cave? Do you make it so only one group of players can ever rescue Marlene? Do you instance the quest? Or do you just have Marlene and the dragon respawn a few minutes after someone finishes the quest. All of these solutions have limitations, either on the implementation side or on the unique player/group experience that emerges.

So, really what is needed then is a technique that makes the same content available to each player, but makes each encounter with the content unique. Each time a group goes to save Marlene, the experience is different. In this way, players can develop their own, unique narrative surrounding what they did.

Ok, great. So what? By offloading some of the narrative formation towards the actual interactive nature of the game, less time needs to be spent playing Wall of Text.

MMOGs are an interactive medium. Storytelling in MMOGs should therefor come out of interactivity. Instead of getting a wall of text right at the beginning, give me a short intro to get me started. As I am working on the task, allow me to discover more of the backstory surrounding that task.

For example, if a quest has me going to some ancient ruins, you don't need to tell me anything other than "go to the blah ruins and search for blah." When I'm there, more quests should appear that allow me to interactively discover the backstory of the ruins. So, I get to the ruins and a new exploration/discovery quest automatically appears. This quest sends me around the ruins searching for the history of the place or something of that nature. When I return to the quest hub, new dialog options appear with various citizens. Based on what I discovered, I can talk to different people to learn more. The "learning more" quest should then take me to an instance where I can actually experience those events (for example, see LoTRO's session play in its epic books - these are great examples of interactive story telling).

MMOGs are interactive. Story-telling therefore needs to be interactive as well. It shouldn't be me the human reading the screen to learn the backstory. It should be my *character* that is involved in learning the story. That is what is largely missing from MMOGs these days. Story is directed to the human, while gameplay is directed at the avatar (with the human receiving gameplay as a 2nd order interaction).


During the current discussion, one thing has become obvious, MMOs are not fully using their potential. The companies stay with the easy to implement- way they "know" that works. Quests are one way to keep the playerbase occupied (til the next patch) and to give mindless grinding at least some sense (packing it in "ministories" that also give the player rewards by completing them).

There has been pointed out, that this system has "eroded social interaction" in MMOs. Yes, i would concur to this statement, but i also want to point out, why this point of view might be the result of a great "shift" in the playerbase of MMOs. To bring it to the point, let me talk about the DAU (i think the english Term is "Luser") limitaitons on gamedesign. Let me define what i mean with this harsh statement - i don`t mean some players are just stupid or have no skill, just that with the steady increase of the population of MMOs, the "freak-faktor" has greatly decreased, the casual Player factor greatly increased. The "freaks" were the first innovators, those who populated the MMOs in their first days. In contrast to Wolfshead statement, i don`t think those MMO´s of old have been really that interesting in terms of what to do (i remember the endless grinding & camping for ressources or ep in some games that make WoW look like a paradise today), but the early innovators were just more ready to build on that playing- experience by banding together and looting out all the possibilities of the game. Since those "old" MMOs offered, to some extend, just a virtual world, players had to develop own ideas of what to do in this world. And of course grinding monsters in a group is just more fun than doing it alone.

Those old MMOs were not that successful in gaining new players, because the overall playerbase that was ready to play this style was quite small - to many, the senseless grinding in an abysmal graphical avatar- envrioment was just boring, especially without any interest in developing your own roleplay. Then came the questing as a way of developing some kind of "single player" roleplay aspect into an MMO game. It gave those players who were looking for a more "soloplay" experience some way to enter the game. With the increase of soloplay options, the playerbase of MMOs increased greatly. WoW is just the most successful example, combining the quest way of transporting some kind of story with timeless graphic and a good gameplay. But the increase in the playerbase also meant, that suddenly there were players who were not used to develop their virtual world on their own terms, they only knew the quest way of doing things. Instead of spinning their own stories, the only thing these players do is following the questlines. The casual MMO Player was born. This does not mean he was casual in the time this player played the game, but that he was not a roleplayer that wanted to develop a special social role in the game but the one that was assigned to him by the game itself. Instead of creating own goals in the game, the casual player just waited for the MMO-company to deliver new stuff for his assigned role to follow.

There are still the freaks of course (who banded together in elite guilds or roleplay servers) but the majority of the playerbase became the casual player - and so the design focus of the companies changed from developing the virtual world in general to developing red lines for the quest- conditioned players to follow. In doing so they had to anticipate the worst case scenario of a paying customer, the "i have no idea how this thing works but i payed for my account so i want to have fun" Player. (Yes, those players who will spam chatchannels with questions on how to complete quests they could easily solve if they read the instructions). The quest machine was standardized and streamlined, quest npc got a yellow mark floating on their head, and the players were sent on a highly simplified paper chase. Since these players only know what to do if there are quests showing them the way, they never learned the "roleplay" that is needed to develop an interesting world. That also meant the social interaction was reduced to the "lets solve quests/instances together" instead of "lets roleplay and create a fantasy world that is interesting on its own terms".

That is the situation in WoW today, people are just doing quests and raiding static content, showing off status- symbols the game offers them by completing the static content and waiting for the company to add new content since the old stuff becomes boring very fast. The roleplay has nearly completely died out on most servers, if they are not questing or raiding, people are just "hanging out". They even do absolutly stupid timesink quests Blizzard throws at them to get them moving, like valentine specials. But again, these quests don`t help at all at creating a vibrant social world, its just another empty experience to wait for the next quest that gives a small reward by giving another gimik. To sum it up, Blizzard has "conditioned" a huge amount of players to be just consumers of static content, enforced by limiting all player initated content to nearly zero.


Can someone explain to me why no one's building MMORPGs utilizing large casts of paid human "actors" who are also trained in some game design and are able to create quests and alter the environment? There's obviously enough revenue potentially available to support this.

Without heavy live developer human interaction, players aren't going to get the kinds of interesting and dynamic virtual experiences they desire until technology progresses quite far ahead of where it is now. Best-of-class experiences now seem to me to be kludges.


Phasing has great potential. Quest makers really need to move away from text to more visual means of telling a story. One thing that isn’t even mentioned is the use of quest helper add-ons in WOW which make doing quests in WOW even less dependent on reading.

I am not a huge fan of relying so much on hubs for a starting point. If there is a quest to kill 10 gnolls then I should be able to just kill 10 gnolls without talking to the NPC first.

There is also a definite need to make it so that the player is interacting with the world in more ways. If there is some need for me to kill 10 gnolls then the player should have some connection to that purpose. Maybe it is to keep them from destroying the farmer’s crop. Well why do I care about the farmer’s crop?

Social interaction is also a good consideration. Maybe some player or guild owns that crop and by helping protect it I gain some rep with them and not just some NPC group. The guild/person that owns the field may have to pay NPC guards or real people to defend their field.

It is also important to keep development costs down. Few companies can keep up with Blizzard because of their resources advantage.

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