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Blogged Out: 'The Altar Of BioWare'

In his latest 'Blogged Out' column, veteran UK writer Jim Rossignol takes a look at the world of developer blogging, with an elegy for Shiny’s Sacrifice, ruminations on Bioware’s forthcoming MMO, and a side comment on Keita Takahashi's artistic bac
Welcome to 'Blogged Out', the news report that looks at the world of developer blogging and the conversations being had with the community at large. This week: what we learn (or fail to learn) from video games. Make A Sacrifice Firstly, I want you to read Kieron Gillen’s piece on Shiny’s Sacrifice. I recently wrote a piece on Planet Moon’s Giants: Citizen Kabuto, with similar sentiment. “Compared to this poetry of annihilation, a world where a G36 is the height of violence wrought is a little depressing. Seeing glass explode when they could use the same technology to rend mountainsides asunder… put simply, I haven’t seen anything on the X360 which is even a fraction as impressive. Sacrifice reminds me exactly how good, how imaginative, how brilliant it’s possible for a video game to be and it’s clear that no-one’s going to spend serious money on making a game like it ever again.” Games don’t need to be as strange as Sacrifice to make a difference, but they should at least be as funny. MMO Problem There’s some excitement surrounding this interview with the BioWare head honchos, where they discuss their intentions for their forthcoming MMO. Over on Damion Schubert’s blog (he’s apparently lead combat designer on the project) he throws open the floor to commentators for discussion of this comment: “We want to bring a level of storytelling that’s equal to the single-player box games that BioWare has done. I think we can do that. One of the big challenges will be making our storytelling work in an environment that has multiple players.” The comments that follow are interesting, outlining the possibilities for either randomization, smart instancing, or simply a bulk of really intricate ‘hard-wired’ quests. I suspect it will mean the latter of these, but I’m not sure that it’s a good thing. One of the comments by ‘Swerve’ pretty much captures my view on these matters: “While I have faith in BioWare’s ability to make a quality game, I have to say that I don’t think “storytelling” is really the best thing to base an MMORPG on... I don’t think most players look for quality storytelling in an MMORPG. You could argue that it “hasn’t been done right” before, but still, there are so many other things that should take priority over story/lore that contribute more directly to fun factor. A player’s “personal story” is something I think happens naturally in any MMO you spend a lot of time in, regardless of how much story/lore is built into the game itself.” Meanwhile ‘Brian’ comments: “What I wish it meant: LARP style conflicts, with groups of players pitted against each other in both zero-sum and non-zero-sum contests, vying for control of various parts and levels of the world. Fantasy Eve would be cool.” Given the over-whelming number of fantasy MMOs I’m personally inclined to say that a ‘fantasy Eve’ would not be cool, but I do agree that MMO designers need to think long and hard about how they set up their world for players to inhabit. If you are an MMO designer and you haven’t learned big lessons from the way CCP designed Eve then I think there is something very wrong. Impressive World Of Warcraft might be, but I the pure-content angle is inefficient and ultimately unimaginative. I don’t believe MMOs need stories, they need tools, resources and reasons for conflict. If they have those things, then stories emerge on their own. What Did You Learn Today? Finally I enjoyed Functional Autonomy’s Things I’ve Learned From Games post, in which he observes “Background is also important; a lot of people look incredulous when I describe Katamari Damacy, yet it makes perfect sense to them when they learn Keita Takahashi was a sculptor before being a game designer.” And it really does. If only it didn’t have those annoying text pop-ups every two seconds – you don’t get that in sculpting. [Jim Rossignol is a freelance journalist based in the UK – his game journalism has appeared in PC Gamer UK, Edge and The London Times.]

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