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Just a quick observation (which I admit may not be true). Perhaps, the elements of a strong story, even one that might be slightly linear, will add to other characteristics of an MMO, enabling it to be a more exciting experience. Here are three examples:
One, the paths within the story may allow for players to enact their roleplaying side better. This, in turn, turns the general chat within a game into a possible storytelling scenario.
Two, a story line makes for more compelling combat. If you have any feeling for your opponent or the NPC he/she just killed, the fight has a tenseness about it, that does not exist from killing yet another orc.
Three, the story line helps shape your character (or the world if that's possible), allowing you to eventually create your own story.
I realize the argument against story might be grounded in the basis of wanting to create your own - not have a stroy told to you. But, in the present MMO's, how much of a story are you really creating? You do not change the world, nor do you form bonds (at least I haven't) with NPC's. Your influence on other characters, cities, and even little towns is diminutive. Maybe story, will allow you to have an impact, one in which you feel you are creating or destroying something.
I guess the question is: how many different paths do you want in order for you to feel that you're creating your own story? What if I told you there are 250 different outcomes along this story line. Would that be individualized enough? What if there were 2,500? 25,000?
I mean no offense by any of this. I'm just having a hard time seeing the foundation of an argument like this. If I'm missing something, please feel free to point it out. I am willing to listen.