Story presentation and leveling as a group

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.

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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)?

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4 Responses to Story presentation and leveling as a group

  1. Hi there! Thanks so much for referencing my article on your blog! It seems like you and I think about story quite a bit, and it’s always good to meet another MMOer who isn’t just there to blast past quests without reading text!

    I definitely recommend Secret World. Some things about the game may (or may not) feel clunky, but the story isn’t one of them. It’s gritty with a lot of mystery and horror elements, but never did it feel like a cliche zombie story. It’s one of the few games that inspired me to go and research the lore and creatures in the game… because all of it is relevant to actual lore from cultures around our own world! It’s very cool to research and see just how deep it goes and where they pulled certain references from! 🙂

    I will say that there are MAJOR issues with ESO when playing the storyline in a group. For example, during beta, a friend and I played through a story scenario in a temple on the starter island. Then a third friend logged in and brought a brand new player to the game. We grouped with him and went to help him out with the very same temple we already beat. However, the moment we walked in, we were transported to a version where we only saw the peaceful, non-invaded temple after finishing the quest… and he was transported to a version where he actually saw all the monsters and quest objectives before the quest was finished.

    We could only see a floating arrow that indicated our friend’s position. We couldn’t see the enemies or NPCs! We couldn’t help our friend fight or do anything beyond walking to where we knew the next objective was. This blocked us from replaying the content with a friend who could have used our help, and was very frustrating! That makes it a deal breaker for me… if I can’t jump in and return to old content to help new players and other friends. 😦

    • Telwyn says:

      No problem, I enjoyed your article 🙂
      Yes the current problems in beta are troubling as they’re only a month or so out from launch. Group play is an absolute must for me or I won’t stick to a game. Whether it’s close friends or guildmates I always want to be able to take on challenges with people.

      Yes the story is very important to me too. We will get around to trying Secret World, probably once our SWTOR characters hit 50 so we can take a break before starting a second batch.

  2. Trippin Ninja says:

    Swtor is my mainstay but I recently have been trying TSW to check out the story. Definitely a good time but I wish a had a buddy to run around with. Hopefully one of mine will join me soon.

    IMO these are the best choices for good story with good group play. Although maybe you could add Fallen Earth to that list. Group play is more fun than solo in that one and while it’s not for everyone I thought the writing was good with just the right amount of humor without being cheesy. Side note: Age of Conan’s starting area would make the list, too bad the rest of the game didn’t. ;-P

    • Telwyn says:

      SWTOR is infinitely better in a small group (2 or 3) just because of the social mechanism built in to the game – you get social levels so quickly 😉
      TSW is definitely on the list. Not sure about Fallen Earth or AoC as they’re not my thing thematically but thanks for the suggestions all the same!

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