Playing Star Wars the Old Republic I am often tempted to dive into the lore at random moments. There are lore entries to unlock, a feature that I’ve always loved in MMORPGs; whether it is the lore codex entries that dot the landscape in SWTOR, the ‘lore honey-comb’ icons in The Secret World or the many books in Elder Scrolls Online.
The potential negative with such background story fragments is that they can actually be quite the distraction from actually playing the game. Certainly trying to read all the books in Elder Scrolls was never that practical – there are just so many of them and some are pretty long too. I’d normally start reading every book but abandon any that were not of particular interest.
The lore fragments in TSW I got out of the habit of ever reading as I collected them because you usually find them in a random order and reading entries as you find them makes for confusing reading or even means spoilers for later details. In Secret World we often never got around to reading the lore because there’d always be one fragment we’d missed in that zone, dungeon or mission instance. Yes, finding them via wiki look-up was always an option, but we were generally too focused on progress to repeat instances or go back.
Of the three games the SWTOR codex entries are generally quick to read and directly related to the story at that moment so they’re more immediately digestible. I always will make a direct line for any lore object that I notice, killing enemies if they’re in the way. That said I haven’t as yet made any efforts to specifically hunt them or check what I’ve missed.
The temptation to dive into lore goes beyond just the games themselves and in-game presentations. Spotting a species in the background of SWTOR can have me reaching for Wookieepedia or similar websites to remind me what it is called. It all adds to the attractiveness of the game in my book, I most enjoy rich and diverse worlds to game in – not bland and sparse playgrounds where other players are the only content.
What’s your relationship with in-game lore and out-of-game sources for the same?
Much as I love video game lore, I must admit I’ve never been a big fan of in-game codices. They tend to be over-bloated with unnecessary details, blandly written, and lacking in any truly interesting revelations. They also take you out of the game too much, I find.
There are exceptions. Diablo III’s lore codex was excellent, in large part due to the fact every entry was narrated and could be listened to while you adventure. I also loved TSW’s lore honeycombs. They were brilliantly written and often had great insights into the setting, and the mini-game of collecting them was really fun.
Oh Diablo 3 is a good addition to this list. Yes, for an action game it was a brilliant idea to have it narrating in the background. I only wish other games would learn this lesson – several MMOs have voiced NPC lore-dumps that can be interrupted or drowned-out if someone in your group starting a fight or if a random monster walks by and it is so frustrating to miss out on that. SWTOR does avoid the same problem via cutscene delivery.
I skip most of the books in ESO because considering how long some of them are, they just take you out of the game too much/for too long (and that’s leaving aside that I didn’t immediately notice that you could turn their pages, so some are even longer than I originally thought) and there are just so many of them. I guess I’m more likely to be willing to pause and read when these sorts of books are rare, like they were in Vanilla WoW.
The SWTOR codex entries I read more often, though it does sort of depend on when they pop up and whether the title implies that they are about something that interests me. I’ve also occasionally googled species or planets out of game, but rarely.
Still, I agree that a rich background is a must for me if I’m going to enjoy an MMO long term.
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