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Uplink Analysis: Game Lore

Written by David "Scooter" Bass on August 31, 2012

WildStar Uplink is a weekly conversation we hold with our fans about MMO design, philosophy, and news. The main goal of these conversations is to gauge how important certain issues are to the WildStar community. More than just a simple conversation, we ask questions about topics that are important, and we share your responses with the development team directly. Want to participate? Follow @Team_WildStar on Twitter for the weekly question, participate using #WSuplink, and keep an eye on the community team (CRB_Atreid, CRB_Aether, and CRB_Scooter) to interact with us throughout the discussions.

This week's discussion was about how you enjoy consuming game lore:

Do you enjoy learning about a game's lore before you can play, or do you prefer to discover everything on your own?

The responses were mostly balanced, with the majority of people wanting to know just enough to understand the context of what you are doing on Nexus:

jleithart: I must say that I love the discovery of lore, but without having an initial taste of the lore, I wouldn't want to discover more. Bases for explored lore should be available to everyone before the game so that people want to explore for answers to questions
hbriand: I like to learn just enough to get me hooked, so I can discover the rest on my own :-)
ScholtenAndreas: In my opinion game's lore is important for players to get the interest for the game, too.
lethality_mmo: It takes time and context to care about lore and characters once you're exposed to them. So I think a pre-req of some sort helps!
zaprobo: IMO as we know nothing about the setting we should be given "common knowledge" before but have everything ingame
Ragar: I like having a good foundation for lore going in (locations, factions, etc.), but I'd rather discover the rest.
Hawkinsa1: I prefer to learn the basic bits of lore before hand and having it expanded in game via quest, lore items, events.
grieger: I love learning the lore ahead of time. Especially if it leads to cool "in-jokes", etc later when you dig into the game's details. The key is not to give everything away at the start. Explorers like me like discovering. Power leveled won't care either way. :)
ReleeSquirrel: Kind of a mix, for me. I usually end up reading game wikis to find out about interesting characters and events, but not usually until after I've been in the game for a while. Before that, I just want the general story.

So what constitutes knowing "the basics"? Where's the line drawn? Most of you agreed that you should know enough to make educated decisions at character creation:

lo_fang: I like knowing about where my character comes from, though not always about where they end up going
bbrown2k: give us enough to make a informed decision at char select but leave the rest for in-game :)
Bkmiller428: There should be enough information beforehand to create reasonable character profiles: common history/culture. For example, who discovered Nexus? Who are the legendary and cultural heroes for Humans, Granok, and Alurin? Who are their political leaders?

Finally, a number of you wanted certain elements to be kept secret, or at least have the option of discovering the secrets of Nexus on your own:

cirby: There should be "public" lore and "secret" lore - and some of the secret stuff should only show up later, and sporadically
zaprobo: I'd love rumours! Who killed the Eldan? Where are the Eldan are hiding? Lies, with nuggets of truth!
Hiraghm: Learning the game's lore is a big part of playing the game for me. Otherwise it becomes a grind, IMO.
Gazimoff: I also like "Show, don't tell". If I can discover something about the world through play, brilliant!
nohelixws: Lore should always be accessible in-game. This doesn't preclude lore on website etc, but I shouldn't have to go there if I play.
Spiritunicorn: I love finding lore throughout the world. Let us hack computers, search hidden caves, talk to strange robots, etc..
Kheldarn: My first real MMO was City of Heroes. Knew nothing going in. I LOVED learning the lore by reading stuff as I played!

We brought your thoughts over to Cory Herndon, Senior Narrative Designer, and asked him to share his thoughts about sharing lore both outside and inside of WildStar:

It looks like the community and the Narrative Design Team are going to get along just fine! We work hard to strike a balance between big reveals and playing it close to the vest. It's an especially tricky task in an MMO as opposed to a single-player game - the former is often an epic world story containing many smaller narratives that theoretically never end, while the latter is usually a fairly linear story that plays out over X number of hours.

We're MMO players too, and know lore may appear online in other places--fan sites and wikis, for example--but we still aim to ensure the players who want big surprises and epic stories can experience them the way we intended just by playing the game. At character creation, you'll get informative summaries about each major faction, class, and player race to inform your decisions. Once you begin your adventure proper, there are all kinds of secrets to discover, like the Galactic Archives providing detailed history and facts about the WildStar universe. (We'll have a lot more to say and show about the Galactic Archives soon.)

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! Now, how about some...

Specific Answers!

@jleithart - I bet you'll be able to get a whole lot of background on our website in addition to the info given to you at character creation - from then on out, it's really up to you how much or how little lore you want to learn.

@hbriand - If you really want to get the thrill of discovery, you should just avoid marketing content (which is brilliant and written by brilliant people, love ya, marketing!), load up the game and play. You'll get just enough to be tantalized at the start, and the game itself will fill in the rest as you go.

@ScholtenAndreas - Writing for an all-new IP, we know it's really important for the lore to hook players! That's why we're doling out tidbits here and there like the recent Dorian Walker lore brief. I think the cinematic trailer from last year also did a great job of teasing just enough lore to get you intrigued.

@lethality_mmo - We do want you to care about our story and characters, especially our iconic NPCs, which is why you'll be encountering them throughout the game - and probably see many of them in the starting areas, where you'll be able to interact with them. (Wish I could be more specific, but not just yet.)

@zaprobo (part 1) - That "common knowledge" will be contained within the basic faction, race, and class descriptions, and possibly in other formats (an opening cinematic, perhaps?). As you go through the game, you'll get knowledge from a wide variety of sources you might not expect: ancient recordings, Protostar advertising, Galactic Archive entries, and incidental dialogue.

@Ragar - You will be discovering quite a bit - every zone has a major narrative arc going on that will unfold as you delve into the area. But if you don't get a strong enough lore foundation at character creation, you will have ready access to information on the WildStar site and other online resources.

@Hawkinsa1 - Interesting you mention lore items. One of the ways we're filling you in on the history of Nexus and the Eldan is through datacubes, devices left behind by the Eldan that record some of their own thoughts and experiences. These will be hidden (sometimes in plain sight) throughout the game.

@grieger - Excellent points all! I hope you'll take advantage of the many resources available to familiarize yourself with the lore as much as you want to. Players on the explorer path will find many of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the world - and may be the only ones who can get to a lot of those places. Scientists, on the other hand, will be the path for true lore fanatics. In addition to the buffs and bonuses you get from scanning particular items, you'll be able to unlock scientist-only lore in the Galactic Archives.

@ReleeSquirrel - I think you and I play games in a very similar fashion - I delve into wikis, but only after I'm already hooked by the immediate story, setting, and characters. That is certainly something that should be possible with WildStar.

@lo_fang - As long as you avoid other sources you should get exactly what you're looking for in character creation - the faction and player-race origins tell you where you're from, but it's up to you to decide where you're going.

@bbrown2k - I think we've done a good job of giving you enough information to make an informed decision, but I'll be really interested in seeing what the players think.

@Bkmiller428 - Great questions! In order:

  • To find who discovered Nexus, check out the just-posted lore about Dorian Walker (spoiler: Dorian Walker discovered Nexus).

  • Many of the legendary heroes of the humans, Granok, Aurin, and other races will be on the planet with you, and you will meet and interact with many of them - while others will be detailed in the Galactic Archives.

  • Finally, I'm honestly not sure whether we've revealed the names of the current political leaders of either faction, and the person who could tell me is at PAX. I will say that you will almost certainly know that information by the time you reach level 10, if not before.

@cirby - I like the way you think! With the Galactic Archives, we're generally only including information that would be readily available to denizens of the WildStar universe (though maybe not all of it to all of them - the Granok might not know the names of past Aurin queens, for example). Objects like datacubes will include more fragmented information that might be open to interpretation, or set up a big reveal later. And exclusive - though not necessarily "secret" - lore will be available to players on the scientist path. All that said, we are definitely keeping some important lore secrets to ourselves for now, and possibly past release. How we dole such things out is TBD.

@zaprobo (part 2) - I'd love to give you rumors, but even if I lied to you, I'd have to kill you afterward. I will say this: No one said the Eldan had been killed. We said they disappeared.

@Hiraghm - I recommend you play a scientist. You'll get more lore that way than by playing anything else! You'll also want to track down every last datacube, and read all the Galactic Archives.

@Gazimoff - We agree with the "show, don't tell" philosophy, though we do want to include the "tell" part as a back-up in case you miss the "show." That's a big part of our tight character limits on quest dialogue - if we can impart information without using text to do it and still make things clear to the player, that's always preferable. Nexus will be packed with such discoveries for you to make.

@nohelixws - The Galactic Archives will always be just a click away while you're playing. Anything found offline will be supplemental - never required. (For that matter, the Archives don't necessarily contain "required" information either, but you were asking about accessibility).

@Spiritunicorn - I can't go into detail about hacking computers, searching hidden caves, or talking to strange robots in specific terms. But I can say I think you are going to enjoy WildStar a lot.

@Kheldarn - I played CoH the same way, and had a blast! I think you'll be pleased with the way information is given to you in WildStar. We've worked hard to make sure lore is integrated into the gameplay in a way that rewards attentive players, but doesn't get in the way of the action for folks who aren't that into story.

Got any final thoughts on how game lore should be shared? Let us know on Twitter at @Team_WildStar and keep an eye on the #WSuplink hashtag for a heads up when we begin a new topic on Monday. Thanks to everyone who participated in this week's discussion, and have a great weekend!

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