The Endless Wars: The Descent

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It's Evolution, Baby

I spend a lot of time thinking about storytelling in games. Probably too much. Even when considering other aspects of a game's design, I'm always thinking about how they serve not just the storytelling, but the underpinnings of a user's sense of immersion, which is critical for telling a solid story.
While trying to explain this to the Trophy Khaleesi the other day, I accidentally defined it well when I explained that one of the best things about games that present choices is that the user shares in the story's authorship.
By this, I mean that when I choose to just let Morrigan walk away or not through the Eluvian, I feel like I've helped write the story.
*By the way, if you choose NOT to let her just walk through the Eluvian ... just WOW*
And, yes, this ties directly into the concept of player agency.
The idea of the player taking on at least part of the authorship of the story is something that lured me away, rather quickly from being a JRPG nut. I guess it also helped that, starting with Final Fantasy X, my favorite JRPG series stopped being fun. Or maybe I grew up. But that's another post.
Either way, it's great seeing developers like BioWare, CD Projekt Red, Inxile, Bethesda, and Obsidian continue to iterate and expand on this concept.
For me, though, the holy grail is getting this right in the MMO space. BioWare took a decent stab at it with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I've played that game more than any other ever. I had a really great time for a long time in that game, up until about a year after they shifted their focus from more content to making new hats that can be bought through microtransactions. And, as happens when a game goes F2P, the community became toxic. I'm probably letting my sub finally lapse, by the way.
Elder Scrolls Online has done some very interesting stuff in this area. While the choices here aren't so obvious or seemingly grand as in SWTOR, they are there and provide some interesting results. Additionally, the developer, Zenimax Online Studios, are working toward making the game world even more immersive, as seen below.
Where it seems like all modern MMOs go wrong is trying to be everything to everybody. They have to squeeze as much return on investment as possible from their product, and in the modern gaming scene, that's just not possible. The locusts swarm to one title, feed on it, abuse the developers, and then in a succession of groups, swarm to the next one.
I'd love to see an MMO that provided annual full expansions that were packed with story-based content. In between, they could drop little bits of end-game content. Yeah, they would have to be an ENORMOUS studio, but surely someone like Blizzard or EA could fund that, right?
I loved what SWTOR started out as, which is a HUGE single-player RPG that you could play with friends, if you wanted. Now, all the new content is forced-grouping, so there's inevitably some asshole screaming into group chat when people don't skip the story scenes.
All of this reminds me that I need to go back and look more at Secret World and Guild Wars 2, as well. I'm told repeatedly that they both do really interesting things with story.
I just really want one game that I log into play most of the time, without hearing that nagging voice in the back of my head that's insisting that this game actually kinda sucks.
I want a Dragon Age MMO that focuses on story, gets annual expansions, gets new endgame content every two months, and is subscription-based. Okay, fine, it can have some element of PvP, but I don't want that to be much of a focus.
Ya know, I really wanna try true roleplaying in an MMO some time. It's always struck me as something interesting, and I've never tried it.
What about you? How much of an emphasis do you put on storytelling in games? In MMOs? What's your perfect MMO? How much do you value choice in games?

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