Making Up The Lore
Posted by Blog Posts from "WAAAGH!" - [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 March 2009, 10:42 am
A while back on WAAAGH!, I talked about quest text and how it's trivially easy to skip over it.  I mean, we all have great intentions of reading it, right?  And then what happens?  You start to realize that it's one of about eight template quests that's just getting a new literary paintjob -- yet another reason to go kill ten foozles or collect five whatsits or escort Suicidal D. Lemming from point A to B.  We become conditioned to skipping right over that lightly-colored "flavor" quest to the rewards, click accept, and look for the red splotchies.  Congrats!  Now we're more efficient with our time, and it only cost us the soul of the game!

As I argued before, I don't think the blame should be put on the shoulders of the players for this, the loss of the game's story and lore.  People have good intentions, but we're given no great reason to read the quest story because (a) it usually contains no instructions how to complete the quest that the objectives and red splotchy info doesn't show, (b) we're always accepting multiple quests and usually have a hard time keeping track of what we're doing and why, and (c) MMOs everywhere have fallen into a fallacy that by providing a chunk of exposition up front, an odd job in the middle, and a rushed conclusion at the end qualifies as a "story".  In my opinion, the story should be what's happening as you're doing the quest, something that unfolds as your actions push it forward.  Once in a while we bump into quests like this, multi-stage things (and some PQs) that have scripted events (visual or verbal) that keep the story fresh.  And those are the ones that tend to pull us into the lore of the game.

I've always felt bad talking about this, because I know there are quest writers out there who work incredibly hard in not only coming up with the 1,000,000th reason why you should go out and commit limited genocide against Beastmen, but also have to pour through loads of source lore books to keep the story in line with the Warhammer world.  It's as if someone spent painstaking hours drawing and painting a sheet of paper to wrap a gift, only to see you tear through it without a pause for artistic consideration.

Anyway, pushing past all this, the next stage of this line of thought is -- if we're not getting the lore of the game through the quest text, for the most part, where does it come from?  We have this huge blank gap between our characters and the world in terms of where they fit in -- what's the motivation behind their questing, why should they be killing everything in sight, what's the meaning behind this faction, etc.?  For some folks, they just don't care about this; they kill because it's a game, and they don't need a motivation to go beat something up.  They just do.  But I operate under the theory that there's a third subset of players, ones that don't immerse themselves in the proper lore as given to us through the Tome and quest text, and not ones that ignore it completely to view this as another beat-em-up brawl with no greater meaning.

I think the third subset, of which I belong, are folks who make up the lore as they go along.  We used to be very good at that as children, if you can cast your mind back to those halcyon days of apple juice and nap time.  Kids' imaginations may not be the deepest in the world, but they are the least inhibited -- and kids love to engage the world around them by making up stories.  Just watch a child at play with toys, like cars or dolls or action figures.  Their fun comes more from the imaginary situations that they create using those toys than what the toys can physically do.  They're presented with objects and a large gap of lore, and they just shrug and dive right in, filling in the blank space with their own tale.

Do we do this?  I know I do.  I am by far not the leading expert on Warhammer lore, and while I might be able to hold my own by now in very limited trivia contests, most of the time I wander around just filling in the world with my own story.  When Order takes the dwarf cannon BO in T1, I stand up there and repeatedly click on the cannons to get them to fire, imagining that I'm scaring off a horde that might otherwise sweep up over this place.  When I dive into a crypt, I'm sure it has some significant Warhammer lore attached to it, but I am ignorant, so I let my mind fill in the blanks and transform the place into my own personal haunted house.  I think of Nurglings as Gremlins (never feed them after midnight) and unicorns as the most hated species in the land, and if Professor Green Circle wants me to go kill a bunch of guys, I just assume it's because he heard I was a one-man killing machine and it was either going to be them or him that I wiped from this planet.

Of course, maybe I'm just me and this is a sign of onsetting insanity.

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