So, SuicidalZebra on twitter posted a series of tweets that I thought were very interesting. I lay them out here for you.
While I’ve really enjoyed the texture of Dominion Lore, up until level 20 so far I have struggled to really connect to the characters I interact with. I think Dominion is the more interesting of the two factions, but I also struggled with really feeling any real sadness as I was playing too. A bit of me thinks that I am desensitized to suffering in MMOs, which is entirely possible.
On the exile side, things sound like they are a bit different, with the Elderroot plotline being held up as an example of a lower level quest line that pulls you in emotionally. SuicidalZebra’s example of the Warcraft questing in Darrowshire is a great example of what he was talking about as far as MMOs in general (and WoW in particular). And so far I have to agree, Dominion (taking the Crimson Isle -> Deradune route) hasn’t pulled me in on that level.
Now, this post isn’t about proving SuicidalZebra right or wrong, after all the feelings that the game has (or hasn’t) provoked are entirely his own.
So, for me the question comes back to ‘What is lore?’ and ‘What makes it good?’
On twitter I did a very short summary of ‘Story, Texture, History, Culture, History’. This translates into ‘a ball of made up stuff that gives the created world depth + narrative’. I’m being a little facetious with that wording. What you’re looking for with MMOs are a variety of strong stories, some of which I agree should have a strong element of pathos. The dialogue for any given NPC should also tell you something, not just about the NPC, but about the culture they were raised in, and the tensions that exist for them socially now. The art design should also communicate more than just ‘here is a dominion house’. It should say ‘here is a house that comes from a technologically advanced civilisation, with a taste for red & gold, displays of opulence, power’. The way an NPC talks should betray societal values – something Chuaspeak does especially well.
So, what Wildstar does well for me is showing me how the sub-factions of the Dominion interact with each other. The treatment of the lower classes, the machinations of the church, the mechari, the luminai, the cassian nobility. Wildstar shows me the fruits of their culture, with it’s deadly politics and it’s fine art, museums, and the way it interacts with Protostar, the ‘coporate’ part of the game. Additionally, listening to the Datacubes gives me insight, piece by tiny piece, into the factions that made up the Eldar. The game also, in Deradune, plays out how the Chua and Drakken interact with the empire – but there are no heroes to cheer for yet. The characters you interact with are largely unlikeable, which creates an issue when you’re trying to build up pathos through a story line.
Mondo Zax, Agent Lex, the various Huntresses, the Bloodshaman, and even Artemis Zin are supreme examples of what the Dominion wants them to be. Governor Aluviel, met in Hycrest, is a bit of a jerkface. The sadness, if there is any, has to be prompted by the ordinary people you help out, and the game certainly doesn’t paint the Draken as ordinary people. Only the humans, with their farms, get preyed upon by the menacing exiles, murderous criminals, and er, um, mankey denizens of the plant. Only they are under threat and therefore need protection.
So, to put it bluntly, the detail in the lore is fabulous. ClassicQuestDialog, an addon, helps. But I have yet to come across a dominion quest that tugs at my heart strings. It is likely that I just haven’t gotten there yet, and this is the price to pay for going down the ‘heartless’ dominion route as opposed to the fuzzy exile route.
The next question is – does an MMO need quests with pathos at a lower level?