Sunday, March 10, 2013

Big in-game events

I was playing the ending arc of Chapter 2 of my smuggler's story line when a casual line by an enemy got me to thinking.  The line was to the effect that the Republic and Empire were officially at war. There was more, but the thing that focused my attention was the fact that Bioware never really showed the war starting. You can easily miss the fact about the war as you level because it was so quiet. It is easy to continue on up to Corellia not realizing this. (In fact, Voss's planetary storyline is such that it could easily be a cold war situation.)

For a game company that made story its Fourth Pillar, not seeing the events that started the war unfold is strange. That's a major story event, and big events should be shown to a player. If they happen in passing or in the background then they become minor and unimportant. I don't know how they would have included the start of the war, but having each class see or be a part of the start would have ratched up the tension in the game and added to the flavor.

This isn't to pick just on Bioware. Blizzard really messed this up with the beginning of Cataclysm. There was an event in two of the cities of each of the factions. An elemental invasion were if you slew enough elementals you could open a portal to four bosses for some quick loot. The problem was that fairly quickly only one of the faction cities gathered enough folks to kill the elementals. Since two of the four bosses were tied to each city if you wanted a drop from the other two bosses you were out of luck. Yep, it was pretty boring and uninspired as far as world events go. (The Mists of Pandaria non-event was even worse. There was none, just a showcase of a scenario that didn't make sense to anyone that hadn't read the book. Talk about disconnects.)

Now, when Cataclysm started you basically woke up in a set spot and moved on. Unless you played through specific low level areas (Darkshore, for example) you never even felt the impact of events. Heck, the Worgen starting zone literally has the Cataclysm happen off screen. As it was, it was a 'Huh? What happened? :shrug:' and move on moment. Instead of having us fear Deathwing or making a connection to us where he mattered, Deathwing became this empty threat that would torch a zone once in awhile. Instead of being this dangerous, intelligent if crazy opponent, he became this ineffectual blowhard that we put down while we advanced Thrall's life crisis. :sigh:

I think if Blizzard had let us be involved with the Cataclysm happening then it would have allowed us to make an emotional connection to the events. Ask anyone that played WoW if they remember the zombie invasion pre-Wrath, or the pre-BC event where a massive demon attacked the major cities. Those big events got us fired up and ready to go when the expansions launched. When we got to the final fight we could look back and have closure. So, my thinking is, if we could have tried to stop Deathwing at the start and *failed* then it would have A) let us see the start of the Cataclysm and B) allow us to get emotionally invested in stopping Deathwing. When we finally beat him in Dragon Soul it would have made for a much better sense of closure.

TL;DR: If a game company is going to have a big, world changing event, they need to let the players be a part of it. We need to see it unfold and be in it, even if on a periphery. Big events that happen in the background or off-stage are non-events.

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