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[Column] General: Give It a Read!



  • TithenonTithenon Everett, WAPosts: 113Member Uncommon

    In the MMOs that I have played through, thus far (WoW, LotRO, and Champions, though I've beta'd a LOT more than that), I've tried to read through the text for a task at least the first time.  I have come back with subsequent characters and, at least, skimmed it again; however, when you're grinding your way through for Turbine Points, it's something of a nuisance, so skimming is the best they get.


    I really did like the idea of getting up on a commo program with the entire group and reading dramatically through each tasks completion and granting text, and I think that would encourage group play a lot more.  Not a bad idea, at all.  And, the short introduction/Twitter-text is a great idea, but leave the option for the player to read through the extended text if their interest lies there; that's a great idea!!!


    Now, I've come up with some ideas of my own about why players don't read the adventure text, as follows...


    1. Length of the read is the most important problem with adventure background text.  I love to read science fiction and fantasy, but if it's long, I'll give it a skim, a meh, and move on.


    2. Text size and font, don't just leave it as Times New Roman, Tahoma, or Calibri, make it interesting, like Champions.  I sat and read all of the books and cards from the Torg: Role-Playing the Possibility Wars tabletop RPG box-set in '91, taking breaks only for food, drink, and bio, because the text was Shadowrun font, with shadows.  Well, okay, and the game concepts were utterly awesome, too, but the font kept me there; I've read MANY other games, but none of them in a single stint, ever, and I attribute that to font style.


    3. When in a party, the party doesn't allow you to have time to read the text, or you feel rushed because you're not sure they have any interest whatsoever in reading the text, so you hurry and skim through, whether you like what you're reading or not, so you can keep up with your party.


    4. If MMORPGs had ANYTHING to do with the RPG element, whatsoever, and NONE of the games that have come out so far -except for some bare tweaks here and there have- and people were able to be brought to the conclusion that reading is fundamental to playing the game, more reading would be done, the story would be more satisfying to many people all around.  Not the little kiddies (aged 10 to 90 who act like imbeciles in the game), but those who actually desire the role-playing experience.


    5. If tasks (what most MMO gamers commonly, and very mistakenly, call quests) were built around a story-based premise that made sense -LotRO actually halfway does this very well-, rather than "collect 10 bear pelts and return for your next equally pointless section of this quest that you could have done at the same time you were already in that area", or "deliver this package to Paco across the street, as he and I have been fighting for decades and hate one another", or "kill Oscar the harmless Merman because he bothers me", then perhaps more people would pay attention to writing that has heretofore been paid for with empty money.


    There is a great deal to be done, and a very long distance to go, before MMORPGs will actually be RPGs, and I will play and hope until that day.


    If anyone responds to this post, personally, I will not receive it, as despite my settings being correct, I have never received post notifications from here, and this conversation will be buried in no time, so I won't find it again.

  • azmundaiazmundai St Louis, MOPosts: 1,419Member Uncommon

    Honestly what killed it for me was when every noob that wanted me to kill 10 boars felt the need to tell me his life story first.

    Story is great when story is great. When story is just there, all the time ... it's not story anymore, it's facebook.

    LFD tools are great for cramming people into content, but quality > quantity.
    I am, usually on the sandbox .. more "hardcore" side of things, but I also do just want to have fun. So lighten up already :)

  • SovrathSovrath Boston Area, MAPosts: 21,643Member Epic

    I think the issue is many fold.

    One part is that there are people who don't play for quests or text. To them these games should only be about player interaction and therefore quest text is superflous.

    Others actually do enjoy the story and the purpose that quest text gives. However, once you start having glowing objectives on the map where people don't even have to think it undermine's the quest text.

    Part of what I loved about Morrowind is that I would get vague directions (Sout/East of Pelagiad) and would have to make sure I caught every bit of the description.

    Still, another way to convey quest flavor is just how "the scene" is set up. In Lineage 2 there was an old battleground with huge building sized swords stuck in the ground. Anyone who stopped to think would have realized that some battle went on there and apparently the combatants were "giants".

    Still, in Skyrim, I found a crypt where there were two dead bodes and a door that had a bar on it from the outside. I opened that bar, the doors swung open and on the other side there was another dead body... "hmmmm, what does that tell me? That a group of bandits were running from something, barred the door once they got outside and before their last companion could make it through and yet something ended up getting them.

    That sets up my expectations for the next 20 minutes of play.

    Heck, if you walk around skyrim you will see a lot of "story" without one bit of quest dialogue explaining it.

    Goes back to an old theater axiom: show it, don't tell it.

    So, knowing your audience is part of the issue and then working from there.


  • MMODesignerMMODesigner Guest Columnist Foster City, CAPosts: 7Member
    Originally posted by ChakaCan
    Originally posted by Hrimnir
    Ok, so i respect the author and everything, but i'm sick of explaining this to people. Some of us simply DONT CARE. We don't play MMO's for personal storylines.  We play them for explorations, character advancement, seeing cool stuff, killing cool stuff, etc. If i wanted to read a story i have these things called books.  They do a FAR FAR FAR FAR better job of it. At the very least if i was concerned about story in a game, there are literally dozens of single player RPGs which are much better suited to telling story within the framework of a game.

    THIS ^^^   

    I wish gaming companies new how much money they are wasting on something the majority of gamers are tired of - Quests!

    I will agree that alot of players simply don't care about the story; they just want to do whatever is going to get them the next gear upgrade or level. But designers have to design for everyone, and not have the entirety of the game be a gear treadmill. They (should) put care into crafting stories that work with the quest mechanics to make you feel like you are accomplishing something.


    I feel sorry for anyone who has to kill 10 rats or loot 10 rat pelts. That type of quest design should have died a silent death with Everquest, but it persists. City of Heroes never wanted that, so they created minions, which you fought three at a time like a good superhero would.


    Also you have to understand that with story comes inspiration, and with inspiration comes fun mechanics. Look at the raids in World of Warcraft. Arguably some of the most fun mechanics in the game are in the raids, and those mechanics are (usually) thematically tied to the story of the content it's based on. I know when we created the Incarnate Trials in CoH we looked at what characters we were using, what their powers, allies, and enemies were, and how that could be tied into a game mechanic that the player would experience. If there was no story and it was a simple rote grind for gear, then trust me the game would feel artificial and stale, as there would be nothing to inspire the designers to make something cool and fun.

  • ButeoRegalisButeoRegalis Tijeras, NMPosts: 580Member Uncommon

    Most games do not allow you to re-run quests with the same character or go back and re-read text you may have skipped over. This can be a shame if you are in the middle of a quest chain and catch a snippet of text that strikes your fancy and you suddenly want to know more about why your character has been tasked with doing what they are doing.

    That's why the gods gave us wikis. For example, GW's wiki contained all quest texts for you to read at your leisure.



  • Zap-RoboZap-Robo Youngstown, OHPosts: 233Member Uncommon

    This is certainly the approach WildStar will be taking, and it's good to see one of my favourite devs agreeing with the approach! Plus, you can always have more story/information in a Journal entry for those types who enjoy it (for WildStar, that'll be the Galactic Archives).

    Read about WildStar's approach here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

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    ZapRobo (PlanetSide 2) | Zap-Robo (The Secret World)
    @Master Zaprobo (City of Heroes) | Zaphod@Zap-Robo (Star Trek Online)

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member Uncommon

    How many MMOs allow a player to open a journal of the accumulated lore they have encountered?

  • Po_ggPo_gg Twigwarren, WestfarthingPosts: 3,657Member Rare
    Originally posted by Rhonen
    Well... I guess I'm almost part of the .0001%.  I've heard of Twitter but I never use it.  I do not use any form of Social Media and avoid Facebook like the plague. I cut my gaming teeth on MUD's back in the 80's and loved all the descriptions given by the quest givers and even when you walked on certain tiles or entered certain areas.  I guess that is the reason I still read each and every text message a quest may pop up on my screen and I listen to all the NPC's as they talk in the background for clues as to what may be around the next corner.  Once I've done the quest a few times on different characters I may tend to skip some of the more uninteresting quest lines but I still do them anyway. Personally, if you have to condense your thoughts into a 140 character message to get people interested enough to decide to read what is going on in that particular quest then it's your own darn fault for making it shallow, dull and bland. Give me background stories, clues to what may lay in wait for me if I go on a particular journey, give me atmosphere, colorful dialogue and you will hold my interests; otherwise I'll log out and look for something else that gives me what I want in a game. Ratero.

    +0.0001 here, agreed with every part :) (social crap-dia avoider, reading maniac, former MUD and p'n'p player here as well, who plays mainly for the story and rp)

    While I can understand there are lots of "hit Accept, follow the minimap, then check the quest tracker"-type of players (I know many of them), it's still sad to see them skipping the story and the background in a game, especially it the game has a well-written, decent one. The ventrilo read-aloud trick sounds like a nice solution, too bad a lot of players would find even that as a slowing down factor to their precious power leveling...


    I think I posted earlier in an other thread my solution, I used it in AoC a lot (AoC's quest method is slower than text, because you can have a nice conversation with npc's, but to the rushing players there's a 'quick accept' way as well).  After my buddies quickly accepted all the quests in an area, I sent them to take 10, bio break, smoke, etc. :) then I could talk with every npc, get every detail and hints and story pieces. So after we continued, I narrated the gameplay, the area where we going, what is our goal, put in the references from the books (I love Howard's work), etc. They loved it... turned out the "we don't like stories" dudes do like the stories, if they receive them on the go, without any effort :)

    Maybe that could be an answer to your “How can you convey your story to a player who will not read any of the text boxes?" question. Actually in TSW's Polaris it's working nicely, although it's not much detailed, you get only a few instructions and warnings through radio during you play through the mission.

  • darkhalf357xdarkhalf357x Brooklyn, NYPosts: 1,188Member Uncommon

    I tend to read the quest text to get a semblance of context of why I am doing something.  But I will admit most of the quests come off as generic and unimpressive.   I think the commenter earlier nailed it for me.

    What makes video games (MMORPGs included) is 'living' in the world as a part of instead of being told about it.   I would be more interested in reading an old sign that warns me of a cave up ahead or an inscription on an old trinket that presses me to adventure further for more details than to have an NPC spoon-feed me.

    GW2 has a great start, but needs to add a bit more depth to the world.  Its a bit one-dimensional to me.

  • MurlockDanceMurlockDance ParisPosts: 1,223Member

    I tend to be one of those who reads the first time round (or listens in the case of ToR). Some of the storylines are good, but many are just very same-y and you get the gist very quickly.

    I rather like the old way of doing things: each area has lore that the player can learn about and be immersed in, but storylines are what he makes of his time there. There are only a few quests and perhaps some less constraining tasks. Quests should be long, convoluted, epic... that is what quest originally meant. Most of what we do in games these days are not quests but tasks rather.

    Playing MUDs and MMOs since 1994.

  • haplo602haplo602 Posts: 224Member Uncommon

    The problem is not lot of quest text but the justification for it. As was already stated, I don't need 2 pages of personal story crap of an NPC to just go and collect 5 mushrooms for him/her.


    This is connected with the 140 character limit idea. If you cannot convey the story in short and condensed form, no amount of bloat will do that better. The best way is no story text at all. Just the dialogue and then some background from other sources (neighbours of the NPC or similar).

  • RyahlRyahl Houston Metro, TXPosts: 47Member


    I have always felt it odd that in RPG's, NPC's feel compelled to tell you their life's story just to get you to grab a few bear pelts.  It's a TMI (too much information) sort of thing in that a lot of it isn't relevant to the task at hand and some of it just screms of over-intimacy from the NPC (yes, they aren't real, that's not the point).


    In general, I would rather see most mundane quests stop being quests.  Make them in-world dynamic events, make them bulletin board type community tasks, or find a way to tie it to a player economy where the "quest" is created by another player (NPC_001 doesn't need 10 pelts, but leather crafter PC Joe just might).


    With that said, I would then prefer NPC dialog to have a relevant and concise active dialog of the things I'm being asked to do.


    All of the hidden lore (some of which is very nice writing, admittedly) should be gated behind a social interaction minigame (like Diplomacy in Vanguard).  Make it a reward to be earned for the people who want to earn it.


    It seems like this is one of those topics where everyone can have what they want, but in the current system few are really getting what they want.  Those wanting the quest have to read the lore, those wanting the lore lose all the mystery to loose-lipped NPC's who just pop it out to any old passer-bye.


    Ryahl - writer of eye-bleeders
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  • DashiDMVDashiDMV Not Saying, QCPosts: 362Member

    [mod edit[


    Yeah I actually used to have this exact same thought. I figured someone had worked hundreds of hours to write a background and story so I wanted to read it just for that reason alone. The good thing was that it was in City of Heroes so usually got an interesting story to go with it.

    In Star Wars that is my main thing. I think I am becoming more in the minority with that being the amin focus and EA seems to be catering more to the standard quest and raid crowd with terminals replacing npcs but still try to get story when I can. The lore is good for backstory as well.

    I don't begrudge anyone that doesn't care about story but it just seems to be a little bit of an emptier experience in my opinion. It's nice to have a reason to fight guy A or B instead of he just drops the loot of the month.

    Another good article, hope you keep them up until you find work(hopefully making the next Superhero MMO to take over)


  • DamonVileDamonVile Vancouver, BCPosts: 4,818Member

    If they wrote good stories I might be interested but when I walk into a " quest hub " and I see 5 guys have quests....and I've done 300+ thousand quests to get where I am...I just don't care why I have to go kill something. That game is about the slaughter of anything infront of me.

    I don't mind games like that but they are not about reading why someone needs 10 wolf paws. Now if they wanted to explain why so many wolves where walking around with no paws ( kill one and it has no )  that might make for an intersting story.

    The main story line of swtor I thought was a great story and I did follow it. Same with the main class quest for some of the gw2 classes. I read them and follwed what was going on.


  • jtcgsjtcgs New Port Richey, ILPosts: 1,777Member

    Sorry Matt but the biggest reason most people stopped reading most quest text is do to the go kill x amount of y quests...many of them are just rehased quests from previous games.

    I cannot even tell you when the last medival based MMORPG I played did NOT have a quest that was basically just "we are short of food please go kill 10 boar for meat" style quest. It can be written like a Shakespearean sonnet...and its still a go kill 10 boar quest and has no real impact at all on the actual storyline.

    Want people to read all or most quest texts? Make all quests an actual part of the main story...then start to tackle the issue of actually being ABLE to do the quests without reading them because there is no challenge to finding out HOW to do the quest.

    “I hope we shall its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." ~Thomes Jefferson

  • zellmerzellmer Fakesville, WIPosts: 442Member Uncommon

    Depends on the game really.  If it's some mmo that pulls the kill 10-15 mobs/collect 10 rat trails, then who the hell cares what the NPC says.


    There's just far to many quests that mean nothing in games.  Miss the large scale "epic weapon/armor" types of ones that could take months to complete.

  • byron1848byron1848 BirminghamPosts: 10Member Uncommon

    Yes depends on the game. But I love text if the story interests me - and there are two possible reasons for my interest to be aroused..

    1. The game's lore - LOTRO is my alpha example here; if you are into the LOTR universe then you are going to be fascinated by the way in which the writers use this as the basis for a game, and also have the possibility of being moved by a particular story.

    2. Comedy. No-one's mentioned this (I think), but for me a comic pay-off is terrific. The best example of this I know is Runescape some of whose storylines are (to me anyway) hilarious. I think there should be a lot more comedy around in MMO's (indeed in all games) anyway. I'll read anything for a laugh!


  • Matticus75Matticus75 Posts: 396Member Uncommon
    Yeah, I recall some games actually helps with reading comprehension, Got North then bend slightly east when you reach the grave yard, then curve south, then back north and that were you need to go to......makes your read, now we get hand held
  • ScotScot UKPosts: 6,336Member Rare

    "Anything longer than 140 characters and a lot of peoples’ brain starts to wander, and you lose people trying to read your quest text."

    Has it really come to that? We use a lot more than 140 charecters in many posts, do our minds wander? I think it is habit as much as as anything. If the quests get boring you are going to expect them to stay that way. They need to be consistantly good.

    Is that a big ask? If a MMO had great graphics at lower levels then looked crap at mid level, would not questions be asked? Story is everything in a MMO, it needs to be what the game is based around.

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  • residentxresidentx Columbia, MDPosts: 101Member Uncommon

    As a player, I've seen a number of solutions to storytelling. Before I give my reply consider this assumptions about players.


    1. Online to play 

    2. Have limited time.

    3. Reading and Comprehension skills are different for each player


    Personally, I think you have to put in some reading. Your comments about Twitter are right on. But let me talk about Starcraft. I think they have found a way to story tell that is noteworthy. They have a group dedicated to lore and other details. They release novels that satisfy the natural curiosity of the players. We buy these books and read them OFFLINE. When we come into the game, we have that knowledge and can use it in the game without being distracting to or being distracted by others.


    This helps the game designers focus on their task of making a great game. They can make the game without having to fill in the details and so the game can appeal to all. Example, if I'm a starcraft hardcore, I'll read the books and come prepared...I've created an experience/immersion for myself in the game. But for younger or non-hardcore, this allows them to enjoy the game and not be required to know, understand or be burden with this. They can invest in knowledge when their ready on their time.


    Basically, reading should only be used to provide details to solve a problem in the game. Indepth storytelling shouldn't be done in game. Blizzard also used the cutscenes to communicate information which was very useful but hiring special effects people is expensive so many games are moving away from this.


    In COH, I felt the game had a good balance. Personally, I didn't read a lot of the tips/missions/etc. The game was sufficently complex that I just didn't have time or needed it. I did read the paragon wiki offline to fill in details. Also, the reading was just too small and it was frustrating in the game. I hated how the tips weren't archived for me to read later either. I had to STOP playing and read the comments. Since I was there to play, I made the decision to not read the comments anymore in the game. 


    SWTOR archives all messages because they claim to be a "story-driven" MMO. SWTOR went too far in that they have so many cutscenes, that as a player I feel I'm watching TV and not playing a game.


    Hindsight is 20/20, if you could redesign the storytelling for COH, would you do anything different now?

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