Separating Lore From Gameplay

If you have a story to tell and a game to sell, many people often find that they don’t always go hand in hand. Or that anything really goes hand in hand. Yes, your main character guardian is supposed to be super powerful, but that doesn’t always mesh well with how the rest of the game is going to work.

Generally, it’s like a hill. You start off small and weak, a no one in the story. As you climb, you become more powerful. You reach the end of the story and you’re, well, maybe not a god, but you’re a powerful being who learned from mistakes and conquered a great foe.

Sometimes, everything is nerfed for the sake of gameplay. When you play Skyrim, you have your shouts, but almost all of them are on rather long cooldowns. Some abilities, like Dragon Aspect and the racial abilities every species has, have stupidly long cooldowns as they can only be used once an in-game day. Maybe Histskin with its mass healing deserves it, but Voice of the Emperor only calms people down.

Really, the Elder Scrolls games aren’t that great a medium for telling a story, since you get lost in the billions of side quests. There’s so much to do that you forget how important the Nerevarine or the Dragonborn are supposed to be.

On top of that, a lot of material is scattered around the game. You’ve got books everywhere. All over the place. Everything from historic journals to diaries to kids’ fairy tales. But most people won’t read them. At most they’ll just pick them up to get skill points.

Warframe is another game that actually has a story, the problem is the core gameplay doesn’t really give you any way to explore it outside of quests. And even then, the exploration during these quests is mostly limited to people talking at you. Or to each other while you listen in. Beautiful cinematic scenes do help with the most major of plot points, but they don’t appear until you’ve reached Uranus. Up until then, it’s talking heads all the way. And disappointment too, as you realise you’ll never know what that Rogue Chroma was up to in the New Strange.

There’s also a ton of story hidden in the Codex and via Cephalon Fragments scattered on every map, but just like the books in the Elder Scrolls series, few people will sit down to read every single one.

Multiplayer games in general always seem to struggle with telling stories. Really, that’s one of the main reasons that I gave up on Elder Scrolls Online. You’re supposed to be the chosen one, yet there are twenty other chosen ones all hovering around the NPC you need to speak with to do the next quest. The other main reasons were the awkward return to the lockpicking from Oblivion, with an added timer; and the horrible, crushing feeling of loneliness.

This seems to plague so many multiplayer games. Funnily enough, League of Legends managed to cover this quite easily, that the players were Summoners (and are still named as such) and they were summoning these beings to fight for them. That kinda got retconned in a really messy way though, and now all these beings, from Demacian warriors to Voidborn horrors, are roaming around this little world doing goodness knows what.

Or, alternatively, you could not have lore in your game at all. That’s the path that Overwatch has basically taken. You have all your in-game stuff as normal, but almost all lore is created and told outside of the game itself. It’s all stuffed into comics and animated shorts.

The plus side of this is that you don’t need to worry about lore events breaking game events. You can have a bunch of robots invade and maybe main a few characters, but that’s all outside the game and in the past. There’s a game mode where you fight robots, but if you lose, you can just try again. Points in the Lore are only really brought up as maps depicting an ‘after’ scene or as skins. You end up playing the aftermath of what happened.

Or multiplayer games could just do what Team Fortress 2 does and have almost no lore at all in their game, instead having pretty much everything story-based only appear in videos and comics.

One thought on “Separating Lore From Gameplay

  • February 10, 2018 at 8:06 am
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    Hello,I read your blogs like every week.Your writing style is witty, keep up the good work!

    Reply

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