WOO II An Exploration in Design - July 2012 - By Stoneghost: Dalaran

 

WOO II - meta-mythos

The framework for the story describes a world whose occupants are farmers, crafters and merchants - and soldiers - and adventurers. This differs from the current game in that the first group is given a prominent role in game play. There are good reasons for this extension.

Foremost among these is the changing demographics of online gaming. More than 50% of the people who play online today are female. Demographically, women tend to prefer word and puzzle games, and they tend not to prefer combat venues. Providing an essentially non-violent option ... two, if Questing is presented in terms of puzzles and explorations ... offers an incentive to this group of gamers.

Additionally, and regardless of gender, the success of games such as Farmville and sites such as The SIMS, shows that large numbers of people will engage in game play that does not involve weapons, killing and looting. The Crafting Life Path, as well as the increase in passive enhancements and improvements in communications is also intended to attract a new cohort of players.

In the gaming business it is always good to enlarge the audience, and since Massive Multiplayer Online Games possess enough "real estate" to offer entertainment through a variety of venues, it makes sense to expand the venues that seem most attractive to an audience that is now not particularly attentive.

Questing could have been presented as a Life Path, contributing to leveling, and with its own set of internal activities. The primary reason for not including Questing as a Life Paths is to open it up to all the Players.

Time Off

After awhile, unrelenting combat becomes tiresome. The same is true of unrelenting farming and selling. Questing is a qualitatively different kind of activity ... puzzles and stories rather than killings and harvests ... and it will give Players a way to take a break from their regular routine.

Delivering the Story

In some ways, the story IS the game, and while it is true that some players will ignore the story entirely, even they will be affected by it. It makes sense, then, to open the story up to every player.

In the current game large chunks of the story can only be experienced by dungeon raiders, and in some cases only the most accomplished raiders can get to key parts of the explication. This make a kind of sense in situations where the story involves the death of a major monster, but it is a simple-minded mythos that includes only monsters and their deaths.

In WOO II the mythos of the game is embodied in the Questing venue. Any player can quest, and quests are not, in large part, about combat. The result is that any player who is willing to take the time to do the quests can enjoy the story.

And this enhances the other venues. Dungeons and battleground can add depth to the story by providing details relevant to hidden treasures and military campaigns. And Crafters can learn about the game world's economic and environmental situations.

The more people who learn the story, the more cohesive the game should become.

Complexity

The plot line for a planetary mythos can be extremely involved. This leads to problems, particularly with the introduction of new venues. In the current game, for example, Who was Deathwing, and why did he take a bite out of Stormwind?" These kinds of questions do not need to be answered in full, but the general outline needs to be delivered in order to give the players context for their activities.

Some players will not care about the context. They will log on, perform their favorite drill, and log off. But others will want to hear the story, and many of these will not be heavily invested in questing.

The "Lorewalker Tales" in the current game are a wonderful way to deliver this information ... though their audience is severely limited by the need to play the archaeology venue. For those who had no archaeology skills before the Mists of Pandaria appeared, the slog from zero to a point where they can hear the Tales is mindbendingly boring.

The statue in the center of Dalaran that presents the "End of Arthas" scene is a better approach. Anyone who wants to can click and view. But the length of this kind of presentation is necessarily limited.

A game-wide, consistent delivery system is needed ... a broadcast medium, perhaps, or a library of scrolls ... a way for any player who wants to acquire the bare outline of the story to do so within the confines of the game.

Depth

Another aspect of a planetary mythos is the level of detail that might be found at the ends of the story's branches. In theory this is endless ... the "whole" story would fill many volumes. The general decision is usually only to tell the parts of the story that directly relate to game play.

This information is received by some of the players piecemeal. Raiders might get one bit as they complete a particular dungeons. Fighters might get another bit as the background to a particular battlefield venue.

Questors, however, should have access to the entire book. In effect, this is what questing does ... search out the full story.

Questors, too, have access to a unique resource in the Lore talent. At its lowest level, Lore provides a kind of "help" manual, showing the locations of NPCs, flypoints and the like. At its highest levels, though, it becomes a kind of encyclopedia of world history ... desirable for Questors, and an easy way for the game to present this kind of information to those players.