The Fourth Pillar Debate

So what’s bigger news, that Derek Smart plagiarized from some of his competitors MMO’s – or that six years later, a new MMO can still make that claim with a straight face because nobody has been able to fufill the promise of the mythical fourth pillar?

LotRO has probably come closest to giving players that, admittedly.  But its hard to say really because people mean so many things when they say “story.”  Some people want lots of quests.  Some think that means plenty of solo instances.  Some feel it means the opportunity to be heroic and have an impact on the game world.  Some hope that it means the creation of a dynamic world, with scripted and hosted GM events.  Others say its time for story to be something the players do, with a storytelling system along the lines of SW: Galaxies, or CoX.  Some say it just means having enough space and sandbox to play in and the stories will write themselves – the drama of EVE Online’s null sec wars makes a story of its own in some sense.

All of these things have one common thread though, one element linking them all despite the different forms they take.  For their to be a story, their must be a change of some sort – within the character, the player, or the world – and preferably all three.

MMO’s have their roots in RPG’s of the table top variety.  Maybe its time to draw some strength from those roots.  RPG’s revolve around players and a GM, or in some cases, a troupe of players sharing GM duties and maybe even characters too.  Should MMO’s begin to offer a “GM Package” subscription that gives a basic tool kit to allow for quest creation and npc manipulation? 

Do we need to lower server populations or travel options so that players deepen their interactions with each other? 

Do we need to spend time and money for the better development of AI in MMO’s (face it, the AI in MMO’s is rudimentary compared to other games)?  NPC’s in The Elder Scrolls series open and close their stores, travel to and from their homes and places of business, have dynamic inventories, even steal from each other!  And yet *none* of those things is present in MMO’s, even the latest and greatest ones.

Anyway, bottom line – its not plagiarism if its a long time concept in the genre.  And if Alganon is the one to finally pin the tail on the donkey, more power to them.  Maybe when they are done with that they can start, you know, fulfilling the promises they already made.   Like finishing up the races and classes they promised two years ago…

6 thoughts on “The Fourth Pillar Debate

  1. I just picked up TES: Oblivion last night on Steam. I’m pretty excited to give it a shot. I’ve been looking for another single-player game to occupy my time while waiting on Cataclysm, and I hope this is it.

    As for Alganon, I don’t have much hope for that. Derek Smart is an enjoyable read – along the lines of SynCaine for pure shock value – but I’m not sure that will translate into a successful product after so much negative press.

    1. Drew,

      I would agree about Alganon. I’ve been a member of the forums for a long time now, before even the beta went out, but its nothing like the game they said it was going to be. On the bright side, they have done everything possible to keep it afloat as a work in progress – client is $20, no sub cost, hiring Derek as their new PR director…err, head cheese. I don’t wish any game badly, but I think the ship has sailed for them.

      Oblivion was great. I missed having easy access to making my own spells, and turning is still awkward, but the game was fun and the story decent. As always though, the realm is what shines. I bet when Bethesda gets Elder Scrolls Online up and running (or whatever they want to call it) we will see a massive leap forward in MMO AI.

  2. Ghanur

    || Should MMO’s begin to offer a “GM Package” ||

    Already done 😉

    The Saga of Ryzom offered this functionality some years ago. The game suffered (the usual) too early release crap and some investor games.

    The GM feature is called “Ryzom Ring”

    1. I’d heard the name Ryzom before but never really looked into it. I like the concepts presented, but something about the setting isn’t comfortable to me. Still, I think I’ll download the trial and give it a shot.

      Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Rhys

    YOU ARE A SEER! A being who has been given the gift of foresight!

    Either that, or the STO devs read your blog.

    1. LoL Rhys! Glad to see you are back and catching up on posts. You made my day with all your comments.

      I wouldn’t be suprised too much I guess. I know for sure that devs from two different MMO’s do read my blog, so I guess I wouldn’t be totally shocked. Even if I wasn’t shocked though, I’d be honored for sure, its always neat to know that people in the industry enjoy reading what you have put down.

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