Posted on July 26, 2012 AT 08:01pm
At their core, video games are about escapism, living from moment to moment in another world that is more fantastic than our own. What makes MMOs special is that it isn’t just another story or world to inhabit, but also the stories of every one of the players around us, working both with us, and against us. The experiences you have with those players within the game is what creates memories that last, memories of giant events like the when the gates of Ahn’Qiraj opened on your server after members on both the Horde and Alliance worked together for a common goal. On the other hand were the small interactions between players that made the world come alive in Star Wars Galaxies; a game where players could train each other, open shops and bars for their friends, or even build entire cities to inhabit. These were good memories that defined your character in game.
Then there are bad memories such as getting your ass handed to you by that blasted warlock who walked his enslaved demon into Goldshire just seconds before it was set free and started killing everyone!
But I digress; this article was supposed to be about The Secret World and yet here I am getting distracted by old wounds and waxing lyrical. For those who don’t know, The Secret World is an MMO set in a modern-day setting with a twist, every myth and legend from our history is true. You play as one of the three factions (the Templar, the Illuminati, and the Dragons) and attempt to make a name for yourself while also putting a stop to the apocalypse. While the investigative style of questing and the classless combat is different and interesting, it’s not enough to hold my interest for long when it is only a new spin on an old concept.
Then they introduced Chronicle.
What is the Chronicle you ask? Well according to The Secret World Wiki, Chronicle “is a record – a chronicle!—of your character’s journey through the secret world, and includes a character profile together with a collection of leaderboards covering both PvE and PvP.” Now, ignore everything after the first thirteen words of that quote and you will see why this is an interesting feature to add to an MMO.
The ability to create your own stories, the ability to keep track of your decisions as a character and make them your own is a powerful thing. Tabletop RPGs have been doing this since the invention of pen and paper. This allows the players to give their characters a history, a record of the events that shaped them and that drive their decisions in game.
I know folks who have carried around their D&D characters for years; a friend of mine has been playing a female gnome rogue for the last five years, developing her character background and personality to the point where she is essentially a real person.
Now imagine having a system that logs the quests you complete in the game world and modifies a journal entry according to what happened. The simplest version of this is having the names of the people in your group that you completed the quest with next to the quest name in your log.
The Raven- Completed by You, Carly, and James.
It doesn’t look like much does it? Well that’s because it isn’t. Still those people you worked together with are now in your log, you worked with them and now you will always be able to look back and see those names and know that they have helped you in the past. That’s still not all that impressive, however, add a little bit of a description to the quest log and things become a bit more interesting.
The Raven- You, Carly, and James followed the ravens back to their source and bound the malevolent spirit once again within its prison. If you never see another one of those birds again it will be too soon.
I’ll admit that last bit is more of a personal opinion, bloody birds. It’s still a little boring but at least it has some character to it now. This wouldn’t take much to put into the game either, just have this under a quests completed section and you would be done.
But why stop there when you can do so much more with this system that could allow players to interact in a way they haven’t before. If you and another person work together on a few quests in a row, have the quest log take note of that in a small fashion; have it notice if you and a friend met up to take on a tougher quest; and if you’re group split up and went on their separate ways after the quest, have it mention that in the log. Just for the hell of it, let’s take a look at what could happen if you gave players the ability to choose from a series of reasons why you grouped up with people and when in a quest line.
The Raven- You, Carly, and James followed the ravens back to their source and bound the malevolent spirit once again within its prison. It was good to have your fellow Templar Carly at your back again while fighting the zombie hordes and Revenants pervading the town of Kingsmouth. The Dragon member James’ help was unexpected though much appreciated during the sealing of the Raven spirit, his motives for aiding a rival faction of the Secret World is known only to him as he disappeared shortly afterwards. If you never see another one of those birds again it will be too soon.
Now that looks a bit better, it has information about why you worked together, who the members are, if have you worked with them before, and where in the quest line they arrived. Just those few things have made this one quest into part of your story. Now, if you look back you will always remember that one member of the Dragon faction who helped you out and then disappeared; who knows, you may see him again someday. Little nuances like that could create a more lasting connection between the players in The Secret World and help to create memories of your adventure. I’ve just tossed down a few off the top of my head and I’m sure there are many more people could come up with that could make a lasting impression on players that wouldn’t be all that difficult to implement.
The main point of gaming is escapism, living from moment to moment in another world that is more fantastic than our own. Some of the most successful games in the industry though are the ones that create an experience that goes beyond the moment and creates memories. I feel that this system will help to make those memories for those who inhabit The Secret World. While I don’t think this will make a huge deal to everyone who plays the game, I doubt the developers of Bastion thought that by having the narrator notice your actions and respond to them would reinvent the way we look at narrative in gaming. The point is, why not do something different and see where are feet take us, this may be nothing interesting in the long run but at the same time we will have gone where we haven’t before.
And that’s the sort of thing that makes memories.
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