Our Deepest Secrets, Laid Bare

People occasionally wonder what kind of stuff I’m working on. This about sums it up:

“The aim is to create a cathartic immersive interactive world with a meta, or arch, narrative facilitated through designed dramatic play.”

What the hell does that mean? It comes from an article titled “Dramatic Play” by Stephen Dinehart, in which the author was kind enough to refer to several companies interested in expanding the definition of narrative gameplay, including the studio where I work. While it’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the academic study of game design, I found this a very interesting article. Because at the risk of sounding self-serving, I think the industry is on the brink of finally finding ways for games to truly become a medium for delivering a rich story experience.

Certain entrenched paradigms and assumptions need to be broken or discarded, because early generations of MMOGs proved that they don’t translate well to a fun gaming experience (example: HUGE BLOCKS OF TEXT DON’T WORK). But if we make this leap, games can grow as a legitimate art form and more consistently deliver the same emotional journey as movies, books, or plays–but in their own unique way.

There… I said it. I want to make Art. With a capital A. Yes, I am that pretentious.

However, I will take the quote above and rephrase it a little more plainly:

The goal is to immerse players in a great story which they don’t just read, watch, or see acted out, but that they actually play through and impact in a meaningful way.

That’s really all there is to it.

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Steve Danuser, also known as Moorgard, is a a writer, editor, and game designer.

3 thoughts on “Our Deepest Secrets, Laid Bare”

  1. Well maby for the general public but I at least the first time threw read all the quest text because ive allways been a fan of lore in games and quest text is about 90 % of the lore, but if youve found a better way then reading tons of text to express all the lore of the world more power to you,….. And Id give almost anything to get to peek at the book R.A wrote about the lore of your world your building.

  2. I like your modification to the original quote. It’s very important for players to have some meaningful impact on the story — failure to allow that and players become mere spectators and essentially your “actors”.

    We can now see in WoW that the storyline is everything; it is the common thread via quests that gives the MMO its purpose. The problem is that the player is left out of the equation. Due to instancing and the Groundhog Day MMO formula the player has little impact at all.

    Clearly Blizzard with WoW wanted to deliver a Zelda/God of War rich narrative to their players. I think they missed the boat entirely because they forgot about the stories and histories that the player creates for himself. I’ve written about this at length as has Bartle in his recent presentation to the IGDC.

    I liken MMO’s to a golf course. A good golf course doesn’t need a story or a flashy Hollywood treatment a la Peter Jackson. The golfers who play on the course create their own stories and memories. “Hey remember that hole in one you got last year?” That’s the entire point.

    I do agree that large blocks of text are a horrible way to dispense lore to the players. The lore should be oozing from your virtual world from the ground, from the trees, from the sky, from every barrel and item that your artists carefully place. I just hope that lore is not forced on players but is there for the inquisitive player to discover. Lore should be its own reward and not as fodder for the next quest.

    I understand your need to see MMOs as a serious art form and I do agree that we need to take them to the next level of artistry and craftsmanship. Just tread very carefully and never forget that MMOs are about the player *not* you the designer or you the author.

    Good narrative and storyline should not be felt. Just as good acting and good music in a film should never be felt lest the suspension of disbelief be broken. Narrative should provide context and a backdrop and nothing more.

    From the interivews I’ve read with R.A. he seems to very aware of these issues and of his unique place as an author attempting to create a virtual world from scratch. I’m very eager to see how how things pan out :)

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