I’m not a big Star Wars fan but I have to admit that I was intrigued when reading about Bioware’s upcoming Knights of the Old Republic MMO. Not because of anything to do with the IP, really, but because of the approach the developers are taking . Unlike MMOs of the past, Bioware is intending to make story a big part of the play experience.

 

It’s the “fourth pillar” in their philosophy of MMO design, right after progression, combat, and exploration. Truth be told, I’ve always wondered why it wasn’t more of a focus for other games on the market. It seems like the standard “read the quest text” approach to storytelling is the dominant player in the market.

 

Games like LotRO break this standard. When I toyed around with the game, I was enamored with the cutscenes for big quests. Their more active approach to storytelling was nothing short of wonderful. It involved the player and gave them purpose in the game world. One review I read put it this way, In LotRO “you’ll complete quests just to see what happens next”.

 

Now, when Bioware made their statement, there was a little bit of skepticism about whether this could be done to such a degree. My question would simply be “why not?”. Story has been a big part of gaming for years. In MMOs, it’s usually backstory, or lore, but what’s stopping a company from taking it to the next level?

 

Most players want the epic tale. Lore is a big part of most MMOs. Just imagine if, instead of quest text, you were able to actually be part the plot… and not just a single hero in a line of 11 million. Quest text limits you to this. Cut scenes, voice acting, and clever scripted events force you to play a role in what’s going on. And, for those who don’t want the story, their keyboards still feature an escape button.

 

If any company is going to be able to make this work, it’s Bioware. They have a history of putting out quality games. They have a history of creating deep, interesting, story arcs to keep players interested. Even if imparting story is more challenging than it would first seem, it’s far from impossible. And, in truth, it’s only a matter of time.

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