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The difference between character stories and stories with character

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islandtrevor72
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The difference between character stories and stories with character

This is gonna be long so strap in or bow out....(its in this section of the forum as its not a suggestion for the devs but a topic of discussion for players)

To me one of the most interesting aspects of MMOs that offer freedom in character concept is the co-operative storytelling aspect. What I mean is when a player is not restricted in how they identify with the character they create the stories in the game become ones of joint ownership. I can do the exact same content as another player yet how we identify with our characters influences how that content perceived. My do-gooder hero will get something different from rescuing civilians than a mercenary hero would from a character perspective.
This kind of player reward is not one of loot or xp but instead one of character investment and immersion. Individual players can take as much or as little from this as they want to....it can be as simple as 'one time my character saved some kids' to 'My character learned about a sweatshop and when I finally got to the boss I was so angry I just unloaded on him' and anything in between.

Games have long had some sort of story as a binding agent from the simple 'Save the princess Mario' to the convoluted 'win the Mortal Kombat tournament to save the realm' but in most cases there was not much of a personal or emotional aspect to those stories(FFVII being one of a select few exceptions but lets not spoil it as I read they are re-releasing it the game). Recently, however, games are telling stories that either provide an emotional impact (like The Last of Us) or personal investment (Like Until Dawn) or offer both (like telltales Walking Dead games). Your mileage might vary on how much those games affect you but for the most part they do touch upon a different part of storytelling that games for the most part did not or at least did not do well.

Usually MMOs provide two types of stories.
One is a 'character story'. These usually focus on a character and often pre-suppose motivations and goals of the character. Most of these types of story are offered as an explanation for characters gaining new powers or items/equipment. It is assumed that the characters goal and motivation is acquisition just by becoming involved in the activity.
The other type of story tends to focus on events as a story element and only give a passing nod to the characters involved. This type left much of the personal investment up to the players themselves. Stopping the dam from being blown up was the major aspect of the story with only a 'Please hurry. You are the only one who can help.' line of text to enforce the goal of the activity and involve the character. This was done because if the game forced a specific motivation in the text it would hinder character concept. It was an easy way to provide freedom for players while still telling stories in the context of the game. Both types were effective and simple....but seldom did it invoke emotion and offered almost nothing as aid for player investment.
But this does not have to be, stories can be included that provide personal investment and emotion without infringing upon player freedom.

In CoH there were a few instances that show this can be done but let me focus on one in particular for now, the 'Oh Wretched Man' mission arc from Seer Marino. In this arc you start by looking into the fate of a NPC's brother, get embroiled in a violent internal conflict, change sides when new information presents itself, save a major NPC and finally aid the original NPC's brother. None of this offered any more or less personal investment than any other arc in CoH. It was a cut scene in the second to last mission of the arc that provided a personal connection to the story and thus made the arc stand out.
As You are rescuing Ghost Widow she says 'Your end is coming soon and its name is (character name)'. Instantly you became a part of the story beyond the simple 'Do this for me please' way most other missions provided. This one line of text did not force motivation or concept on players, it simply gave the character a connection to the world the game is set in.
This is of course one of the most simplistic ways this kind of personal investment can be done. The fact it stands out so much in CoH is because this type of storytelling investment aid is under utilized in MMOs like CoH was and CoT is promising to be.

Simply by adding elements that provide a character connection to the events of the mission you give a bit more for players to incorporate into their game experience. What is so great about this is its really just a more advanced form of the 'Please hurry. You're the only one who can help.' concept I spoke of before. It does not force character motivation or concept (beyond what the game does simply by providing stories) and it is still up to the player just how much they care about the events and NPCs.
This can be expanded on as well in the use of branching missions with choices made by the player influencing future missions, reoccurring NPC who are not the focus of the story but instead elements of it, multiple goals of missions that players can actively choose to pursue and events which offer a ambiguity in outcomes.

I personally think that storytelling in CoT can provide a more immersive experience that invest players in the game and game world without hurting the freedom that the game promises to have.
What do you think?

Gluke
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I agree, and hope that CoT

I agree, and hope that CoT will provide aspects of gameplay of the type we've seen in GTA, the Arkham series and other games, but in a fullblown superhero-universe, utilizing the nature of the background to it's full potential. With that in mind, the UGC is an aspect I'm awaiting the most. When it comes to branching routes, I see a great deal of potential, which I've just outlined in a thread of my own: http://cityoftitans.com/forum/dialogue-tree-routing-and-qtes-and-ugc

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islandtrevor72
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Was hoping for more

Was hoping for more discussion than an advertisement for your thread but thanks for replying.

Fireheart
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I prefer to play 'stories

I prefer to play 'stories involving the (Player) character', rather than 'stories about the character'. I'll write the stories About my character, Myself, thank you very much.

That said, I must agree that the story of Wretch was one of the best in the game. It, slightly, 'forced' the players actions, in that we were 'trapped' by the circumstances in the story, but our meanings and motivations were not written 'for' us in the script.

I don't mind, too much, stories that say, 'to earn more power, do thusly,' but I do find them limiting. Better would be, 'while completing this mission, you discovered more power.' It might be that the 'Daily McGuffin' that was collected or used in the mission helped trigger this power, but that shouldn't be Explicit in the story.

Meanwhile, I do like having glimpses of Lore in mission stories. Tales that tie into the Lore help make the game-world more real. However, if I want all the details, then I'll go look them up in the Wiki, so I don't need a lot of exposition during the mission.

Being Mentioned in the story text, by name or association, is also a great way to anchor the player character experience into the story.

What about a recurring antagonist? Having to beat the same guy, over and over, only to have him escape in the end, is Extremely Annoying! BUT, it makes a good hook for an Arc of stories. The final victory can be immensely gratifying.

In any case, I HATE it when the story tells me what to do, why to do it, or what I thought when I did it. Leave my meanings and motivations to me.

Be Well!
Fireheart

Gluke
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islandtrevor72 wrote: Was
islandtrevor72 wrote:

Was hoping for more discussion than an advertisement for your thread but thanks for replying.

I was gracious enough to reply, and said all I had to in response at that time, plus the link to another relevant thread. If you got any questions on my post, ask. If you're looking for another argument, you're out of luck.

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islandtrevor72
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Quote: I was gracious enough
Quote:

I was gracious enough to reply, and said all I had to in response at that time, plus the link to another relevant thread.

I said thank you for replying and lamented the lack of discussion. Any misinterpretation of that sentiment is on you man.

Quote:

If you got any questions on my post, ask.

There is nothing to ask about....all you said in relation to my post was 'I agree'. Your talk about gameplay was a complete divergence and the link to your preferred topic was tenuous at best.

Quote:

If you're looking for another argument, you're out of luck.

Wasn't trying to start an argument. Your over reacting.

islandtrevor72
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Quote: I prefer to play
Quote:

I prefer to play 'stories involving the (Player) character', rather than 'stories about the character'. I'll write the stories About my character, Myself, thank you very much..

I pretty much agree with this sentiment. Its why I wrote the thread after all. I would like to add that in this type of game it is impossible for characters to live in a vacuum and be involved in the story. Which is why I like the term 'co-operative storytelling'. It implies a certain level of understanding that some aspects of character and story are usable by either the devs or the players.

Quote:

That said, I must agree that the story of Wretch was one of the best in the game. It, slightly, 'forced' the players actions, in that we were 'trapped' by the circumstances in the story, but our meanings and motivations were not written 'for' us in the script.

I too loved the Wretch arc. My use of it was to illustrate how the use of a simple line of dialogue was able to change the players perception of their characters connection to the story. It had that one easy to pinpoint moment when a change in perception occurred.
If more missions were designed in a way that offer players a greater perception of...or the illusion of, character involvement from the start it would go a long way to immersion.... more so than simple visual stimuli do.....The mind is simply more capable of filling in blanks when it deals with text.

Quote:

I don't mind, too much, stories that say, 'to earn more power, do thusly,' but I do find them limiting. Better would be, 'while completing this mission, you discovered more power.' It might be that the 'Daily McGuffin' that was collected or used in the mission helped trigger this power, but that shouldn't be Explicit in the story.

As I said, those type of activities are usually reserved for an in game explanation of reward acquisition. The cape and aura missions of CoH were of this type and were created to give an in game reason why a character did not have access to this before completing the missions.
It would be tougher to make these kind of expositional activities be as involved as other missions unless it foregoes the assumption that we are participating in order to get the rewards. The problem with doing that is the mission becomes less clear as to its purpose of providing the specific reward.
In this case I think we need to accept a bit less personal freedom for the greater good of transparency in purpose.

Quote:

Meanwhile, I do like having glimpses of Lore in mission stories. Tales that tie into the Lore help make the game-world more real. However, if I want all the details, then I'll go look them up in the Wiki, so I don't need a lot of exposition during the mission..

I want all lore to be accessible in game and not be required to seek wikis. I agree that not all lore has to be presented in missions but I should still be able to learn everything by playing my character. Plaques, an in game library or museum, time square type screens, NPC conversation, in game radio stations, or any other method of presenting information can be use in addition to missions.

Quote:

Being Mentioned in the story text, by name or association, is also a great way to anchor the player character experience into the story..

Like I said, its probably the most simple way to provide immersion and it gives a lot of bang for an almost non-existent buck...but its not the only way.

Quote:

What about a recurring antagonist? Having to beat the same guy, over and over, only to have him escape in the end, is Extremely Annoying! BUT, it makes a good hook for an Arc of stories. The final victory can be immensely gratifying..

I'm sorry, when I said 'reoccurring NPC who are not the focus of the story but instead elements of it' I was including foes in the NPC label. I should have probably made that clearer.
I was trying to emphasize that the players character is the star of the story and that the use of NPCs should be used to support that idea. Sometimes writers just fall in love with one of the supporting characters in a story and overemphasize that character to the detriment of the story. There is a term for this...something like 'sally anne' but I can't remember it right now (can anyone help me on that). I want to make it clear that while NPCs can provide many fantastic elements to a story those elements should never make the players feel like their character is in a supporting role of the story.

Quote:

In any case, I HATE it when the story tells me what to do, why to do it, or what I thought when I did it. Leave my meanings and motivations to me.

Again...its impossible to not have some sort of give and take in this regard. The point is to minimize its effect not abolish it. To completely leave these aspects up to the player makes writing missions inordinately difficult to do.
I know this is not what you meant but its still important to make clear what our expectations are in regards to content.

Fireheart
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You're probably thinking of

You're probably thinking of 'Mary-Sue' and 'Gary-Stu', for those 'Author as Character' moments.

I actually don't mind stepping into a 'supporting character' role, occasionally, but I sure did hate the way Twinshot talked down to us, in the 'Shining Stars' arc. I'd rather sidekick for the Tick - at least he's obviously demented. *grin*

Be Well!
Fireheart

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Quote: You're probably
Quote:

You're probably thinking of 'Mary-Sue' and 'Gary-Stu', for those 'Author as Character' moments.

That's what it is....been trying to remember it since you posted last night.

Quote:

I actually don't mind stepping into a 'supporting character' role, occasionally, but I sure did hate the way Twinshot talked down to us, in the 'Shining Stars' arc.

Joking aside, this is a very good point and it can be done in a way as to enforce a story element. How many times in CoH did you try and lose an NPC ally because they annoyed you....now what if that ally was intended to be annoying and the story eventually required you to defeat this 'foe'.

I was game mastering a table top game years ago and it involved a story where alternate dimension versions of the player characters came to this dimension. I roleplayed each of the NPC duplicates to be an extreme caricature of the player characters and had them continually upstaging the players in obnoxious ways. When the players learned they were not in fact alternate versions of themselves but delusional doppleganger like creatures and it came time for the players to fight the duplicates in the story they were almost foaming at the mouth with their hatred for them and the duplicates defeat was all the more satisfying.

This kind of exchange is VERY difficult to do in a video game...let alone a MMO. But it shows how changing the dynamic of a characters role in the story can lead players to expected emotions or results without force feeding them exposition.
Remember those times in CoH when you had to escort a recently rescued hostage to the mission entrance. What if that hostage was especially difficult to lead, continuously running into rooms and getting stuck on geometry in there. Now what if the next mission in that arc you learn that the 'hostage' was in fact just pretending to be incompetent and all that getting 'stuck' was actually just the NPC being clever and using the hostage situation and your preconceptions of normal civilian (NPC) behavior to rob the place blind. How would your character react to seeing that NPC again....especially considering its a normal NPC who took advantage of a bad situation and not a super villain. Now what if we apply branching storyline mechanics to mission. If you vent your embarrassment or frustration at being tricked and slap the NPC around you could possibly have now created a nemesis for future missions. If you convince the NPC to correct their mistake you could create an ally.
Granted this example is kinda limited in replay value, but it offers a lot of opportunities for the player to invest character motive, emotion and immersion without affecting the characters concept (beyond the normal 'complete this task as a goal').

Sometimes changing the characters role can result in a more immersive experience. But for the most part the character is the star.

Fireheart
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islandtrevor72 wrote: What if
islandtrevor72 wrote:

What if that hostage was especially difficult to lead, continuously running into rooms and getting stuck on geometry in there.

Baby New Year is actually The Devil?? I KNEW IT!!

Be Well!
Fireheart

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I'm all in favor of getting

I'm all in favor of getting more 'character investment' from a story line. Allowing choices along the way as to how to proceed goes a long way in that regard. Occasionally, some moral ambiguity can illicit a greater emotional reaction in the end.

In CoH I built an AE mission arc called The Venturi Program that used up my entire account allotment. You started out believing that you were helping a Hero recover a lost device. Along the way you found yourself teaming up with an apparent Villain, and fighting what appeared to be legit uniformed security guards. Turned out you were helping him build a broad-band mind control device for "the common good." Of course, you ended up fighting the Hero and destroying the device in the end.

The internal motivations the players/characters came up with during the missions were fascinating. Not all of them liked being uncomfortable with their actions, but everyone got extra satisfaction from being able to punch out the guy who had been putting one over on them.

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Fireheart wrote: I actually
Fireheart wrote:

I actually don't mind stepping into a 'supporting character' role, occasionally, but I sure did hate the way Twinshot talked down to us, in the 'Shining Stars' arc. I'd rather sidekick for the Tick - at least he's obviously demented. *grin*

Hear hear! Plus the fact that the Stars were all silly, overblown caricatures. But I think even worse than the way Twinshot talked to us was the fact that the entire meta-arc turned out to be just Manticore lying to us the whole time. I think the whole concept was belittling -- hardly the kind of content I would use to introduce new players to a game that's supposed to make them feel super.

To echo IslandTrevor's point about how satisfying it can be to fight annoying NPCs... I played the Shining Stars arcs only twice: once because I didn't know any better, and once to check that it was really as bad as I thought. (It was.) But I did the corresponding redside tutorial arcs with every new villain I created after Freedom. Not because I thought they were that good, but because it meant I got to kill the Shining Stars characters over and over. Ahhh, it still feels so sweet!!

Spurn all ye kindle.

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I, for one, do not want to

I, for one, do not want to have to sit through any of those "first person POV story missions" CoX had near the end where you just watched as a character that's not you goes and does something while you watch from the 1st person perspective. I'd rather they just have cutscenes that are purely 3rd person and narrate them with text or whatever and leave it at that. I don't want to have to participate in any of that or click on anything, etc. Just show me the stupid cutscene if you have to , but don't make it a quest I have to "do" as some other character.

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islandtrevor72
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Quote: I, for one, do not
Quote:

I, for one, do not want to have to sit through any of those "first person POV story missions" CoX had near the end where you just watched as a character that's not you goes and does something while you watch from the 1st person perspective. I'd rather they just have cutscenes that are purely 3rd person and narrate them with text or whatever and leave it at that. I don't want to have to participate in any of that or click on anything, etc. Just show me the stupid cutscene if you have to , but don't make it a quest I have to "do" as some other character..

I honestly don't remember this in CoH at all.
But I can echo the sentiment. I am not a fan of that type of click to proceed story telling in a game like CoH was and CoT promises to be. Its a jarring change of style and I would prefer it be avoided. I am actually against most kinds of storytelling where I lose control over my character... barring isolated cases where that is the focus of the story itself.
I personally LOVE cut scenes in games but in this type of character focus game they can have an intrusive aspect to the player.
I think cut scenes in CoT should be used for witnessing exposition and leave my characters actions under my control.

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Radiac is referring to the

Radiac is referring to the story arcs in the revamped Dark Astoria. Each story arc for a Contact ended with you playing the NPC Contact in a solo Mission, rather than playing your own character. It was a storytelling vehicle that just didn't work all that well.


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Ahh.....I did not get to

Ahh.....I did not get to explore DA in the last months so missed this completely.
I agree, this kind of divergence in the game is not usually a good idea.

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Radiac wrote: I, for one, do
Radiac wrote:

I, for one, do not want to have to sit through any of those "first person POV story missions" CoX had near the end where you just watched as a character that's not you goes and does something while you watch from the 1st person perspective. I'd rather they just have cutscenes that are purely 3rd person and narrate them with text or whatever and leave it at that. I don't want to have to participate in any of that or click on anything, etc. Just show me the stupid cutscene if you have to , but don't make it a quest I have to "do" as some other character.

Really? I enjoyed those and thought it was more interesting than just having a cut scene.

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Redlynne wrote: Radiac is
Redlynne wrote:

Radiac is referring to the story arcs in the revamped Dark Astoria. Each story arc for a Contact ended with you playing the NPC Contact in a solo Mission, rather than playing your own character. It was a storytelling vehicle that just didn't work all that well.

Eh... I gave them a few "points" for trying something different even if the net result wasn't spectacular.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012