I’ve been thinking about story presentation in MMORPGs this week and it has me thinking of my most recent gaming session in SWTOR. We were playing our Imperial leveling trio last night and happened to wrap up chapter 1 on two of our characters – lots of running around and chatting to NPCs. That isn’t the noteworthy part though, the important thing is that during one 3 hour session we laughed out loud several times, had discussions on light-side/dark-side quandaries and were positively surprised by a funny plot-twist in our Sith Sorceror’s story (no spoilers). I can’t think of any MMO that has really been this engaging story-wise to play before or since SWTOR.
Looking at the recent MMO releases and those coming this year I’m not seeing any games that are likely to really beat SWTOR for this style of cooperative PVE gaming. Elder Scrolls, at least based on the beta impressions, could be awkward for group questing as there are lots of issues with solo-only quest phases and a lack of challenge when grouped up as well. Neverwinter does ok although there are still some bugs with quest dialogues behaving erratically when grouped.
Note that in this post I’m talking about experiencing actual leveling group content as a group, not chain dungeon-grinding to level alt characters as is common in many games. I’m also talking about games with a strong narrative storyline – I’ve played Guild Wars 2 a fair amount but I find their attempt at ‘quest-less’ storytelling frustrating, I recommend this blog post by Aywren over at Sygnus.org as a critique of Guild Wars 2’s storytelling that I agree with strongly. It goes against the standard for MMOs now I guess to expect group play to be properly supported but I do hope that among the many other MMOs in development at least some support a more social experience outside of end-game. Am I missing any other games, bar the Secret World (which we will try some day)?