I Call Tauren Pooh

CVG quotes SW:TOR writing director Daniel Erickson of Bioware (the story is also copiedcarried by the Escapist) …

“In the early days when they first announced that there were MMOs […] I knew in my head what that meant […] It was just giant Role Playing Games. And then MMO showed up, and it wasn’t that. It was the ruleset to an RPG: […] but that was all. Someone had left out the module. There was no story, there was no point.

I call tauren-poop on that. I think this guy misses the point.

Modules, in early PnP games were great. Some were awesome examples of a story and mission design. Sometimes it was handy to not have to make your own mission for the weekly session. But the real fun was the collaboration between DM and players to weave their own tapestry.

After years of running a campaign, our group had imagined the details of a whole continent, socio-political history and economic system. There were cities of thousands (and some sections of some cities were lovingly mapped in great detail), and lonely trading outposts. There were kingdoms, some ruled by players, carved from once wild-lands. Orcs had actually become something of an endangered species due to the earlier proclivitiy of players to slaughter them en masse. We had imagined and told each other a story. We didn’t need somebody else’s modules.

For me, early MMORPG were just a computerized version of this. There was a shared space, a rule-set, and some wandering mobs to set the back-drop. The real point was the shared telling of a story: the competition between guilds, players and player-run vendors. I dreamed (and I don’t think i was alone) of future enhancements that would allow us to contest and hold territory, to shape the landscape and to more fully own the story ourselves.

I blame it on the console players. 😉 A deluge of Link-wannabe’s descended on MMOdom and demanded to be led by the nose through pre-scripted hurdles. The promise of simulated free-form play was replaced with the structured grind of canned missions that you played in-the-company-of others.

I don’t believe that a studio of a few hundred people designing quests and dialogue trees can possibly provide a sufficient quantity of quality entertainment. It takes a player only minutes to consume content that might take the game studio hours to produce. And the average player, by some studies, plays as much as 20 hours a week. That implies a lot of effort to keep that player entertained with pre-crafted content.

And this is why we have boring, storyless grind … because no studio has can afford sufficient resources to lead us by the nose for years on end … certainly not at the price of $15.00 / month.

What I want are systems that allow me and my fellow players to jointly craft the world, subject to a common rule-set and world-history. Sure, throw in some great modules to occupy down-days and amuse the console players.

The quote, and reaction to it, has raised eyebrows and spawned discussion at other sites around the blogosphere.

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