Lore and Gameplay

Lore should justify gameplay, rather than gameplay justifying lore.

In other words, if my MMO setting does not use magic, but a level designer creates something pretty awesome that requires a hint of magic (floating platforms), you don’t scrap the level because the lore says no magic. You add lore explaining why the new place is special and has floating platforms.

At the same time, consistent lore can help you keep things in check and continue with a good thing. WoW started off as high fantasy, but the definition of high fantasy is seriously stretched when you include space goats and Paris Hilton. Which is not to say such things are outright bad (ok Paris Hilton has pretty much zero redeeming qualities), but we have seen plenty of people annoyed with the direction WoW lore has taken. I get that the Alliance needed an ‘ugly’ race, but there are plenty of high fantasy choices that would have fit better than space goats.

Another good example is the Prophecy of Pendor mod I’m (always) playing. The setting in Mount and Blade is great because it does not use magic, giving combat a very real feel. With that said, PoP adds demonic legions and other fantasy-ish characters. Still no magic in combat, but not just a pure medieval setting. You still use a sword to hack down the bad guy, but in PoP the bad guy might have an unrealistic amount of hit points, along with looking a little inhuman.

It’s a fine line, and every game needs to find it and learn to balance on it rather than falling over, yet when push comes to shove, gameplay should always win, even if it is immersion-breaking.

8 Responses to Lore and Gameplay

  1. I absolutely agree. It’s why one shouldn’t use an IP.

    • Or why one shouldn’t license an IP that belongs to somebody else and, thus, comes with all sorts of things you can’t really mess with. EverQuest, for example, is an IP, but since SOE owns it, it can be whatever they say it is.

      But now I am trying to imagine a game with no IP, no lore, whatsoever. I think I played a MUD like that back in ’91… though if I recall right, one of the creators ruined that by making an NPC with references to a backstory in its description.

      Such promise so quickly destroyed.

      • SynCaine says:

        Or!

        You pull a Mythic, and even though the IP you have says everyone should be fighting everyone, you twist the lore to fit your horrible design and make it 1v1.

  2. Remastered says:

    Lore is key to a high end game experience for me. Without lore, I have nothing. Lore must be consistent. Fooling around with lore is a slap in the face and immersion breaking. I play for lore. You know this.

  3. Azuriel says:

    “At the same time, consistent lore can help you keep things in check and continue with a good thing. WoW started off as high fantasy, but the definition of high fantasy is seriously stretched when you include space goats and Paris Hilton. Which is not to say such things are outright bad (ok Paris Hilton has pretty much zero redeeming qualities), but we have seen plenty of people annoyed with the direction WoW lore has taken. I get that the Alliance needed an ‘ugly’ race, but there are plenty of high fantasy choices that would have fit better than space goats.”

    High Fantasy? Even assuming you never played the Warcraft series before – WoW’s distinctive art style is basically cut-n-paste from Warcraft 3 – how did you solve the dissonance from dwarven steam tanks, Gnomish mechnostriders, Goblin explosion technology, let alone goofy cities like Gadgetzan and so on (all in the vanilla game)? Are draenei really that much of a “high fantasy” stretch when the IP already prominently included flying gyrocopters (in WC3), The Burning Legion, portal technology, the lore of advanced-tech Titan creations and of Sargeras’s interstellar crusade against them?

    For that matter, is Paris Hilton really that much of a “high fantasy” stretch when you have the Legend of Zelda questline in Un’Goro Crater that culiminated in you killing “Blazerunner” and getting “Linken’s Boomerang” as a quest reward?

    I get that draenei were retconned a bit to fit their present state, and I would 100% agree with the thought Blizzard has done shit-all with the race since TBC; it is an open question of whether they technically did anything at all with the race even in TBC, considering how far Blood Elves came (siphoning N’aru to redemption to Sunwell reignition). That said… are you really pointing to the draenei or Paris Hilton as the line that was crossed?

    • SynCaine says:

      All good points. The way I viewed it is that Warcraft lore was what it was from WC3, and WoW was basically just more of that until BC. The Zelda quest is also just one quest, while space goats are, well, kinda there all the time.

      Not to mention the biggest lore-breaker was the whole “oh the Horde and Alliance now like each other” bit.

  4. John Andrew says:

    I sort of agree, but you lost me with your last statement even if it is immersion-breaking. In my opinion the Lore must come first and must be treated with reverence. It’s not that I’m all that much into history and story, it’s more about the laws of physics and magic and even sociology to some extent.

    If there have never been floating platforms and suddenly the developers would like to introduce them, then that might be acceptable. But they should tread carefully so as to avoid reminding the players that this is not a real world and that our capricious developer overlords can change the rules on a whim.

    Immersion to a point is important. At the end of the day (as Nils has recently and repeatedly pointed out) we are all in a Skinner box. As such, it is critical to our enjoyment that we are able to pretend that we are not simply pushing levers for rewards. Anything that reminds us of how meaningless our activities are brings us that much closer to giving up and moving on.

  5. Saxondragon says:

    I believe the trick is to create a design where your actions are not meaningless, and have direct implications into the MMO game world.

    I think what you are ultimately referring to John, is “Suspension of Disbelief” and ultimately what we call the “Unanswered question”.

    Kindest regards,

    Saxondragon

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