In MMO Report #1, Jalexbrown discusses The Old Reublic, its story, and rather or not it's needed.
It's seems like everyone's been talking about the same thing lately. With The Old Republic's release date looming around the corner, the topic of discussion is rather or not its story-based progression is going to wipe every other MMO off the map. And it really does bear the simple question: Is story the element that's been missing from MMOs since their inception?
In the early days of MMOs there was very little in the way of story. Dialog with NPCs, if you paid attention to them, served to establish a certain amount of lore and backstory regarding the world and its people, but players were in charge of defining their own character's motives. A lot of this was due to developer restrictions; nobody knew at the time how to present a compelling story in a multiplayer environment.
So we all know that The Old Republic promises to change all that, and I can vouche that it's absolutely true. The Old Republic does include a compelling story; in fact it has many different compelling stories depending on your class choice. It's an amazing experience in all honesty, and I wasn't the least bit disappointed with the quality of the story presented.
On the other hand I couldn't help but think: "Is this really what we've been missing?" The question has to be asked at some point, really. How much is the story adding to the overall experience? Well, I regretfully say that, awesome as The Old Republic might be, the story doesn't make for a better MMO. What The Old Republic is, however, is a great single-player RPG where you happen to be surrounded by lots of other players. The story's linearity irked me until I stopped thinking about the game as an MMO. Was I immersed in the story? Sure...once I stopped thinking about the game as an MMO.
So is this an MMO for the single-player crowd, or is it a single-player game for the MMO crowd? It's a little bit of both. Unfortunately I think it'll satisfy neither the single-player gamers wanting a single-player game nor the MMO gamers wanting an MMO.
So where does that leave story in the grand scheme of things, then? Is it the future of the MMO genre? I think so, but I think it's only a part of the future of the genre. The notion of stories in gaming will have to evolve in a way that really fits the MMO genre and isn't just a single-player story pidgeon-holed into an MMO before it feels like a true evolution. As it stands now, it just feels like a cross-breeding experiment - a damn good one, but a cross-breeding experiment nonetheless.