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…