I’ve never really cared much for faking it, but it works for people in real life. Why not also in MMO’s? Keen touched on some interesting points in his last blog post about the appreciation of space and usable scope in games. He enjoys big scope. Most players do. The realities of game development however, (I’m not a developer, just a writer and admirer) largely dictate the actual usable space.
What Bioware’s RPG’s get right and some don’t, in my opinion, is implied scope, just like the castle in RIFT’s starter zone, and some of the vistas over Tortage in Age of Conan, but with a mental backdrop as well as a visual one. A backdrop of either persuasion is cake to create compared to a grand palace of usable modeled space.
I’ve suggested this concept a few times in the LotRO forums. There isn’t enough implied scope in LotRO. Does anyone know the politics of the day in LotRO? Or what Dwalin, Galadriel, and the elves of Rivendell are doing with their spare time, aside from sitting around and serving as quest nodes? Would it be bad to hear some news from Rohan or disturbing reports from distant future war fronts? How do people in Middle-Earth get their news? Are they ever afraid for their children? Where are the children, anyway?
A few NPC’s do mention things happening in existing zones, even in the Shire, where one would expect blissful ignorance. This is a good thing, but Turbine could do much more to create a sense of a larger world than physically exists in the game. They’re spamming lots of text anyway. (I actually enjoy it, and LotRO’s text is so well-written that only a few players have predictably complained.)
I feel sure that this is a tenet of Bioware’s design philosophy. In Neverwinter Nights, we heard grim recounting of the terror in the streets of Neverwinter before we stepped out and heard the shouts and cries of a city in turmoil. In Mass Effect 2, we saw video of the collectors before we met them–security video footage that created mysteries, stoked our fears, and expanded the player experience of space and time, while not creating any extra “usable space” beyond what was already in the game, just not reached yet. A better example is Dragon Age, where the NPC’s regale us with detailed stories of their distant homelands–a device that expands the perceived game world as well as characterizes.
It’s good to see RIFT doing something like this. I can’t play the beta with my download limitations, but I hope that the backdrop of the RIFT lore is also expansive in scope, even if it’s “faked” as Keen puts it. What is the most powerful tool of the game developer? Surely the player’s imagination. Like MMOGamerChick, I’ve been slowly boosting my lore circuitry leading up to SWTOR to head off a serious imagination overload.
This isn’t the type of post I’d like to write regularly on my blog, but immersion is something I really believe in, so thanks for sticking with me.