GW2 Tower of Nightmares and Story in MMOs

I saw a lot of negative reactions around the blogosphere to the GW2 Tower of Nightmares update. Surprisingly, the main criticism seems to be that people aren’t interested in the new story. It isn’t engaging enough.

This is puzzling to me for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t even realize there was a story in the new GW2 update, and second, I didn’t realize people judged new MMO content on the new storylines brought into the world.

I was kidding there. Of course there is a story in the new update, it’s just that I couldn’t tell you what it is. There’s a big bad tower that just appeared in Kessex Hills. That’s pretty much the gist of it from my understanding. I don’t know whose tower it is or why it showed up, but it clearly brought a lot of new krait and bark people because I had to fight a bunch of them. (I still can’t remember what the bark people are called.) My point is that finding out the story behind the Tower of Nightmares in no way factored into my decision to log in. I logged in to see if there was anything new to do. Like maybe a new class or new weapons or an extra 10 levels or something like that.

From what I can tell, there is nothing to do but collect achievements, and that is not particularly fun for me. Once you’ve played all the classes and seen all the zones, there’s really nothing left to do in GW2 except collect achievements. (Of course, that’s true for just about any MMO.)

Back to the subject at hand, I can’t recall ever wanting to play an MMO because the story and lore sounded cool. You might think I’d be psyched to play TESO because of the rich lore and history of the The Elder Scrolls Universe. And surely I must be psyched about WildStar because of the science fiction angle that is so rarely used in MMOs. Nope. I just want to play a fresh new MMO with new mechanics and new landscapes and new monsters and most of all, new challenges.

That makes me sound like a 14-year-old twitch gamer. Maybe I should rephrase this. I wouldn’t say I don’t care about the story of an MMO, it’s just that I’ve gotten so jaded about it that I don’t expect much. I usually do read quest text, but not always, and rarely does it stick in my mind. Five minutes after I’m finished with a quest I couldn’t tell you what it was about. I guess you could say that I appreciate it when it’s good, but it’s somewhat rare that quest text is good enough to really pour over. (The Secret World is the undisputed king of immersive quest stories, followed possibly by SW:TOR.)

I think I prefer quests that are more self-contained short stories than quests that are a part of some big over-arching epic storyline. Usually the short ones are side quests, like killing rabbits that are plaguing a farmer’s garden. Maybe it’s because I have a lot less playing time now. You can log in and digest a short little story about rabbits in a garden much easier than trying to remember where you are in a long chain of events. That’s a problem I have with the main storyline in FFXIV actually. I know I’m supposed to kill a titan soon and there are all these steps I need to go through first, but I don’t remember why I’m doing them, or even why I need to kill this titan. That information just doesn’t stick in my head after I’m done playing.

Incidentally, Rift did a wonderful job of reminding you where you were in the epic story by putting it right on the loading screens. That was brilliant. And I believe each zone had its own story. Each time you went back to an old zone you were reminded of your awesomeness in defeating the local bad guy.

I guess my point is that the story in an MMO just serves to set the stage. It really doesn’t matter to me why a tower appeared out of nowhere. It’s a lot more important that the tower bring new gameplay experiences.

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