Here is mine, I spent most of the morning working on something so I forgot to upload it, wrote it yesterday.
Instead of trying to come up with some modular way stories can be built within a mmorpg I will first tell you all of the only story which I ever cared about in a mmorpg, and how I think we can facilitate more like it.
It was nearly 5 years ago, and I was playing a game called Darkfall (Large scale open world pvp city sieging/clan war mmorpg), I was liking it well enough but as I’m sure most of you know open pvp often leads to griefing of new players and I was no different, but I wanted to like it, so I looked into the looking for clan chat window and asked around and eventually ran into a man by the name of Kind Zaraki. The initiation was pretty simple “Get to us and your in” I then essentially pulled off a 2 hour reenactment of frodos part of the lord of the rings, eventually getting to their hamlet in the southern part of the world. What followed was 2 years of the best interaction I’ve ever had online, and it was solely due to one mans goal, King Zaraki was going to take over the world. There was the desert wars when we took the island to the southwest where we ended up taking the position where the siege stones were in a cavalry charge (A frigging cavalry charge!), we then lived in that city for several months and farmed the mobs nearby, but it wasn’t permanent we moved on to the jungle island to the northeast, and finally the “Winter” campaign in the icy north was the final war I took place in, we hired an entire clan of pirates to help us, they brought in a man-o-war (largest ship in the game) and a few smaller ships to bombard the enemy city.
I tell this story to almost everyone who asks about my experience with mmorpgs, because it was the only time I felt engaged by a story, and it was because it was being made in real time, and it had everything good stories had, intrigue, betrayal, last stands (it was the other guys last stand but that’s neither here nor there ), and eventually we won, we did take over the world, I unfortunately had to leave the game and when I came back I heard stories of the end of our guild (the name was The Empire) was people running in naked with spears, in other words, barbarians defeated The Empire, how much more roman can you get?
In any case, this leads into my proposal, and that is pretty simple, players make their own stories. They will do this anyways, the only difference is now we have the capabilities and resources to not only allow this, but to let it thrive in a way we have never before. I believe that in order to allow player stories to flourish you need a few things, I’ll outline these below and then talk about how to incorporate them into a cohesive game.
⦁ There must be some way for players to alter history, and their future. What I mean by this is that there are large overarching themes, and “World objects”. By world objects I mean things that one person through sheer force of will can change, and everyone can see those changes. It may not be easy, and in point of fact it is necessary that these objects be incredibly difficult to change, and they alter the way the world functions or its makeup. In Darkfall these were the cities, when they changed hands everyone knew it, and there were avenues of travel and mob grinding that were no longer open to you.
⦁ There must be some way to convey this history, and change. In that other players can see the changes to the world in real time or at least hear about it, and the past is documented to some degree. I think that this is where Darkfall failed, it only had in game chat and forums. People soon forgot that the entire world was once controlled by one group, and that group by one man.
⦁ Finally there must be real danger, what I mean by this is there must be a threat which may actually change the world, and not for the better. In Darkfall to some degree, We (The Empire) were that danger, we were literally trying to take over the world, and I have no illusions that, for all intents and purposes, we were the bad guys.
Now, how to use these in a real game. For now I’m going to assume some things for my test case, it is a fantasy MMORPG, featuring the ability to chop down trees, build houses, grow crops, and wage clan v clan war. The primary theme/World Objective of this game is Entropy, in one of the demos spatial has put out they mentioned this, and I think it would make for a great game mechanic. In this world the players must eat, it’s not much and it’s pretty simple to go out, kill a couple goblins, and buy some food, but they must do this once every so often while playing or they will eventually die (quite a long timer on this so it doesn’t hinder game play much). But, this game world is finite, the resources do not respawn, trees grow, plants grow, and gold that is dropped on the ground eventually “degrades” making it mine-able again in gold mines, same with all other metals, so what at the beginning of the world was a lush resource rich world, as time goes on finding rare metals becomes harder and harder, and burning crops becomes a common war practice. To fight this you allow the end of the world, somewhere in the world is a ring with 100 circles along it’s edge, with one in the middle. In order for this world to end 101 of the highest level wizards must come together and stand in those circles for 1 hour. Once this condition has been met a beam of light will fire into the sky that is visible from the entire game world marking the end. During this time the wizards health are linked, as such you have to essentially do enough damage to kill all of them to kill one, and if you kill one they all die. This creates the “danger” that I spoke of earlier, this is something that some people would welcome, and some people would fight to the death to prevent.
Basically this is a really simple way to fight entropy, but it does offer something interesting to story telling, in this world gold doesn’t ever disappear, just there are more people who want it, it was always finite. Same with food, it is reproducible, but technically if you burned all the crops and destroyed all the seeds there would be no way to create more, such famines would follow great wars. All of this creates a world in which those with riches lead, those without follow, and between those two comes the interactions which create “real” and engaging stories. The mechanic with which to end the world is the balancing piece, this is a way for a determined group, (with quite a few guards) to reset the world, take the gold out of the hands of players, and make the world new again, and if necessary to combat growing famines.
Finally the last piece to this puzzle is the scribes. You know that Lore section of every mmo site? you know the one almost no one ever reads? What if that was made entirely of the actions that the players have made once entering this world. Basically my thought was to have the lore section be curated by staff (probably just have it a duty of the gms) with real game history, the reason for this is when players look back at the past, and see that there really were rebellions, and betrayals, wars, and on multiple occasions groups of dissenters tried to destroy the world. They would know that these things were at least theoretically possible, and with a large enough player base, eventually someone is going to turn the theoretically possible, to the already happened.