Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Logic or Lore?

So far, we have the focus. We are going after the Science Fiction Genre focusing on things happening to the world and population, not to the single user.

So, Logic, or Lore? Which is the basis for the game is a very…hard…question. I feel one always ultimately wins out. Most, if not all games, EVE included, always fall back on Lore. This is what gives us the MMO’s of this generation, belief that the story itself pulls in members, and not mechanics or features. Wait you say, feature bloat and constant balancing our everywhere, how can that be? Well, it’s like that now because of this flaw. When you focus on your story and then features, the story will drive the features. Let’s take WoW for example, and then EVE.

Vanilla WoW:

In Vanilla, they brought across the warcraft feel that, instead of being the ‘hero’, you were the grunt/shaman/bear/peon of WC3. Yes, you are important to the whole, but replaceable. Essentially, you felt like on day one as an orc warrior that the barracks just popped you out and you’re itching to get your axe dirty. While a lot of quests did focus on you helping out the locals, there was very little ‘you saved the world/day, or did something that NO ONE else could have done!’ and a lot more ‘Thanks, you helped us out, now when the real troops get here it will be even better!’. Instances were more about exploration and fighting a relentless onslaught then helping save the world. Slowly, they shifted more and more towards being the hero instead of the supporting cast.

Now, the world is ‘saved’ every instance, every time, every day. You, and specifically you, are saving the world from some calamity each place you go. While it feels ‘cool’ to fight alongside Thrall in the Hour of Twilight, it is markedly different then fighting next to him in Undercity after the Wrathgate. Or with Mograine at the fight for light’s hope. The situation was epic, but your part was still the part of a normal player. Now, most every instance you are helping some major lore character in an intimate setting. This causes something I like to call Lore Burn Out. Your epic faction leaders become less epic when you have to keep saving them, just as saving the world gets boring after the umpteenth time.

EVE, Loreless Lore:

EVE took a different approach. Essentially, they sandboxed lore. Instead of mapping out all this crazy stuff, they started with a small set of backgrounds, racial ties, and specific events in history, and let players kind of ‘write’ the lore. Each encounter, war, battle, or even economic espionage and if it’s big enough, it becomes part of the history. Anyone who’s played EVE more than 30 minutes knows what JITA is. Or even Goons. However, the opposite problem of WoW caused the same problem, feature bloat.

The idea of Incarna was so alien to your average player, it’s no wonder the backlash was huge. The entire ‘lore’ of the game focused around that you were expendable, replaceable, and ultimately your single accomplishments were minute while the stars of lore were the mega-corps and alliances. Then, suddenly, they began to focus on You. Ship insides, looks, captains rooms, they wanted to make us all feel special and unique in a game where you were supposed to be just another capsuleer. Thankfully, EVE on the programming and deployment end is a good bit smaller than WoW, and less storyline driven.

This is where people give WoW a bit less leadway than they should. EVE can make sweeping changes and revert a bad program choice a lot faster than WoW. You could probably add all the lines of all the personal, in game, and website spreadsheets for EVE, add in EVE’s database, and you probably wouldn’t even be close to the size that the Monster that is the WoW server databases. This is why we see games like Rift, F2P games, or EVE make fast changes to player needs, and games like WoW (and most likely SWTOR due to content quality) take much longer to adjust.

Striking a balance:

Since I am going with a sci-fi theme for my project, I’ll want to keep rooted in true sci-fi beliefs. Things have to add up and be realistic in the environment that is given. This means I’ll have to figure out the environment before deciding Lore or Logic, and let that dictate things. First, we need a good starting point. People like to feel important. How about, Man goes to the Stars. So, Space will be a backdrop. Now, some intrigue. The fuel used for space travel was extremely limited, and the people managing the supply either miscalculated or outright lied how much they had. That sets up man going to the stars, building up a network, meeting a few other races, and then finding out that this unique fuel allowing space travel has a deadline.

Now to make them feel really important, you are part of a ship designed to go to planets that are as similar to the environment the mineral was found on, and replenish the resource. However, let’s add some tragedy. Whole families are used, because there is no guarantee that a resupply will be found, and then the realization sinks in that none is found at all, space travel ends. This forces our environment to be planet side. Now here is where we can get some interesting ideas as to what ‘kind’ of game.

So, Lore or Logic?:

Easy. In this situation, we’re going to buck the lore trend and go with logic. Yes, you are stuck on a barely inhabitable planet, no way off, and the power source for the big technology used is, well, going to die out soon. Well, there are bound to be some smart people, so you can get pretty crafty.

Project so far:

Sci-fi backdrop of space travel that is suddenly halted by a fuel shortage, forcing last-ditch efforts to find such fuel by sending out massive mining colonies. None of the colonies succeed, travel stops, and they are now forced into a situation that is close to post-apocalyptic (Can you do a post-apocalyptic theme that encompasses the entirety of sentient life? I think I just did….) situation on every colony. The player would be one of those colonists.

I've always enjoyed using this tactic, I consider it the "silent apocalypse". It's much cleaner than a plague. Plagues always feel too convenient, like divine intervention. Doesn’t fit for me in the series of science fiction. There’s a reason zombie movies begin with things like a falling satellite. So, now to figure out one of the most important parts of an MMO in the next post. The rest of the Hook, otherwise known as the starting experience.

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