Posts Tagged ‘lore’

Inspiration and Incentives in MMORPGs

Let’s face it, the day-to-day grind of any MMORPG is pretty dull. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing quests or crafting, the hint’s in the name, it’s a grind. What interests us in MMOs, however, is the bigger picture. Rewards, status, social occasions, large scale events, they are all inspiration and incentives for us. We don’t necessary enjoy the act of the build-up but we certainly enjoy the achievement.

I guess it boils down to the old adage “no gain without pain”. I doubt anyone really enjoys the act of putting foot in front of another to trudge up a snowy mountain but I’d bet they very much enjoy the feeling when they get to the top. However, in order to accomplish these goals, we need to put in the effort. It’s not about being lazy, no, we just need to be inspired and incentivized in order to be motivated. Most MMOs do this through itemisation, titles, and opportunities (such as accessing new areas, dungeons, raids etc) although some use more abstract incentives as part of their bigger picture.

Lord British assassinated

Lord British assassinated

Back in 1998, I was incentivised to play Everquest all because of a single article I read in a magazine about Ultima Online. It was a story about how Lord British had been killed by a player even though he was deemed to be immortal and the act impossible. The way the article was written made it sound like the most exciting thing ever and I remember imagining rampaging anarchy across a virtual world after its leader had been slain. I desperately wanted to be part of an online fantasy world like that.

Again, a couple of years later, whilst actively playing EQ, I was inspired to push my character forward and hit level 50 after reading about the acts of one particular guild – The Imperial Guard. I remember being told a story about how some player had died in the depths of a dungeon and couldn’t retrieve his corpse so he called forth The Imperial Guard to lay waste to the entire zone and reunite him with his body. Awesome stuff.

I hadn’t really felt inspired by tales like this in a few years until I started playing EVE Online and I read about The Great War. For those of you are unfamilar with EVE, this is an infamous period in which two of the largest corporations and their allies faced each other in an epic struggle to control the entire galaxy.

The balance between pain and gain has undeniably shifted in the last five years and we very rarely hear stories like these any more which I think is a shame. Part of the attraction of MMOs to me, other than the socialising , is the “big picture” and being part of something grand and epic. I mean, isn’t that we all want?

If you’ve got any inspiring stories about MMORPGs, please let me know, I’d love to read them.


Spinks posted an interesting article about guessing the next Old God in World of Warcraft (apparently they’re all named after gods in the H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos – had no idea). This got me thinking about how deities are used in MMORPGs and what I’d like to see done with them.

My first exposure to gods in MMOs was with the deities in Everquest. They were pretty hard to ignore and appeared everywhere in the lore and were mentioned a lot in game. In fact, choosing a deity to worship was also part of your character creation process, something I have never seen in any other MMORPG since. Although whatever god you picked had very little impact on your gaming experience, I really enjoyed the idea of using another attribute to define the character of my avatar.

Everquest 2 expanded upon Everquest’s god system when it introduced worshipable deities with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion. The mechanic works by allowing you to pick a god to worship by simply finding the appropriate quest giver and completing a level 20 quest. For your efforts, you receive a shrine you can place in your home and use to sacrifice items to in return for favour which you can use to purchase spell abilities. From there on, you can complete a series of quests, one every ten levels, to unlock access to more abilities and more items. It’s a very cool and engaging system.

Age of Conan has no deity system whatsoever and it was a huge disappointment to me. The whole Conan world is so massively ingrained with the idea of worshiping gods, everyone from Crom to Set, and I was really hoping it play a large role in the game. Although you can pick classes like Tempest of Set or Priest of Mitra, it didn’t seem to have much impact on anything you did or what could do. Perhaps a deity system would’ve added some much needed depth to the game.

World of Warcraft doesn’t seem to really focus on gods much at all. I know there are a few kicking around and obviously they exist and you can raid against some of them but that’s pretty much all I know about it. Kinda strange now that I think about it considering I’ve been playing the game for over eight months and I’ve done a fair bit of reading about the backstory. Is it just me or are gods in WoW not so prominiently featured in the story?

Overall, I think gods can add a huge amount of depth to a MMO either through game mechanics or simply by helping to define your character. Although the concept of allowing your character to worship a deity may seem a little superficial or redundant, it’s actually a part of the whole ‘RPG’ experience of MMORPGs that appeals to me. I enjoy anything that I can use to help distinguish and set apart my character from other players.

Ultimately I’d love a fully fledged deity mechanic in a fantasy based MMO, in which your choice of actions effects who you can worship and your choice of deity actually has an impact of how you are perceived in game.

The Draenei

The Draenei are my favourite race in World of Warcraft and, not surprisingly, my Warrior is one and I’ve also just rolled a couple of Draenei alts – a Priest and a Paladin. I was toying with the idea of making Blood Elves (they are probably my second favourite race) but I decided to keep all of my characters on the Alliance side so I can stay in contact with people I know.

I like the Draenei race for a variety of reasons, not least because they actually look cool and unique and are very well rendered in the game. Along with the Blood Elves I think they are the best looking player models and don’t suffer from hideous ‘gangly limb’ syndrome like the Night Elves or Trolls and don’t have any severely debilitating posture problems like the Humans and Orcs. Request to Blizzard: you added barber shops, now add chiropractors.

I don’t like small races (being tall in real life has made me unable to play anything that might be considered a midget) so the Draenei immediately appealed to me. They also look unlike any race I’ve seen before in other MMOs – score one for Blizzard being original. Probably the best thing about the Draenei though is their lore and background. Blizzard did an amazing job of giving them an interesting history and creating a truly deep, original, and involving storyline which ties in nicely with everything else that’s going on.

I won’t recite the whole history of the race – you can read about that on WoWWiki here – but I’ll summarise it briefly: they are aliens! Awesome! They were originally from a planet called Krypton Argus which was overtaken by what would be become the  Burning Legion and, after doing a ton of interstellar running around for thousands of years,  they eventually settled down on a nice looking fun planet. They called it Draenor. Alas, the Burning Legion eventually found them and all heck broke loose. Long story short, they tried to escape again in their spaceship, the Exodar, but those pesky Blood Elves sabotaged it and they crashed on Kalimdor, Azeroth. Whew.

Typical Blizzard style is there actually a ton more stuff to it than that but this gives you a brief round-up of their history and a flavour of their race. I have to take my hat off to Blizzard for managing to successfully create and blend in a sci-fi-esque race with the standard fantasy universe of Warcraft. It’s also great to see Blizzard try something a little different and branch out into new territory. Hats off to them for the Draenei.