This is a trend in MMOs that I’ve been seeing a lot of, lately. It’s unrealistic for every piece of an MMO’s story to be told with a cinematic, so many developers have opted to choose very specific and important scenes. Mists of Pandaria is filled with small, important cinematic cut-scenes and it has shown with the general playerbase’s understanding of the story. It goes to show that players don’t necessarily need to be force-fed story in order to get the gist of what’s going on. The cut-scenes and story quests distributed throughout the 5.1 daily quests were perfect examples of this concept. You absolutely did not need to read the quest text to understand what was happening, although you missed a lot if you chose not to. The general story, however, was quite accessible and understandable. Case and point? Show me one endgame player who doesn’t know who Garrosh Hellscream is. I’d be shocked if you found one. These cinematic cut-scenes provide a good outline of lore for the uninformed player. This is a solid method of storytelling, but what if you want to involve the player with the storytelling process as more than just the blind participator? What if you want to give them choice?
Unless you’re someone like me, who enjoys reading tiny boxes of text that explain why my avatar needs to go steal ten pieces of candy from various babies, you probably just right-click the quest-giver and immediately hit “accept.” Most people don’t realize or care just how much story is packed into those little experience and gold generators. I remember a particular instance from World of Warcraft, back when Ice Crown Citadel had just been announced. Wow Power leveling I was just a young, inexperienced DPS, but one of my friends was a hardcore raider in another guild. We were talking about the upcoming raid one day when he asked, “So, I keep hearing about this Arthas guy. Who is he? Is he one of those paladins that we fight the Lich King with?”
I stared at him quite blankly. How could you level all throughout Northrend and not figure out who Arthas is? I mean, even if you didn’t play Warcraft III (in fact, I still haven’t played it), how could you not have at least learned who he was? I knew he never read the quest text, but seriously! Of course, I explained to him that Arthas was, in fact, the Lich King. Then he snapped his fingers and said, “Oh, yeah! I remember him from that awesome cut-scene.” Of course, he was referring to the Wrathgate cinematic from Dragonblight. That was the first real in-game cinematic that Blizzard had created for World of Warcraft and it did an amazing job of providing brief, informative, and lore-rich context to much of what was happening in Northrend.