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Dev Discussion #49 - Lore Characters



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    To add to my comment, what makes lore interesting in an mmo? It's not the very game itself, but content outside of the game:

    Why do people care about WoW's lore?

    It's not because it's so exciting to read walls of text, it's because some of us played the amazing Warcraft 3 for years where story was relevant, voice acted and with amazing cutscenes which Blizzard was known for.

    If it is not for Warcraft 3, we are aware of certain characters thanks to trailers and custscenes:
    "Who's that cool Orc that shouts 'for the horde?', lets find him in the game"

    If both of the above might not be true, there are those who like reading books, comics etc. (google "red shirt guy", both guys are legends) and then see how it's depicted in game, after getting that external stimulus. Those people are also those who like reading those walls of text in game, but they are the 1%.

    Why do people care about ESO lore?

    Because they played the ES games and they already have some knowledge of the lore, seeking to see how its depicted or extended in this game.

    Any other MMO's where you know the lore? Well FFXIV might be one, but it also has a history of other games and content of which the MMO is an extension of.

    As long as You don't invest in cinematics, voice acting and outside-the-game content, it's irrelevant who is that npc that spawns that wall of text or quest window after I click it in game. There are people on the forums (which is a pure-text medium, note that ;) ) that are vocal about how they like to go deep into lore which want to treat MMO's like another RPG, which MMO's are not. There are also some twitch streamers that make content out of reading those quest texts etc but all those create a cognition bias because other players just ignore threads like this.

    Guild Wars 2 already shown how it can and how it should be done, even if people haven't played GW1, they are engaged because of the full audio-visual experience with addition of voice-acted protagonist as opposed to those annoying cutscenes in FFXIV with text rolling-in.
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    Arya_YesheArya_Yeshe Member
    edited March 2023
    What if lore characters visit patron guilds' halls, other locations and events, which game has wandering lore characters running stuff where they go? Let's say a lore character has a passion for certain events, he could spawn there when the event is about to begin and people would get rattled up.
    PvE means: A handful of coins and a bag of boredom.
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    MybroViajeroMybroViajero Member
    edited March 2023
    PLEASE please , please , please I don't want to be forced to be the hero that saves 1000000 people from a dire future while I get all the things I want, I'm sick of it.

    I can be good, bad or neutral but I would like to have the opportunity to choose it and not have it imposed on me.

    I would find it too interesting and out of the box thinking if my character had his own development where he with his actions and decisions would strengthen his future the way I want him to and not something the game imposes on me.
    I imagine the development of my character with successes or failures but a development where I have the decision to choose the course of my character.
    Something similar to FABLE but that could be improved or have much more versatility since we are talking about a massive open world.
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    AlizenBRAlizenBR Member
    edited March 2023
    I really like game characters (NPC) that have depth of intentions. Not necessarily traitors (and not all of them), but those who have secrets or details that we need to seek greater intimacy or trust from them so that they are revealed to us (a reputation system?). A few bunch of NPC could go along some of our quests in a way we like them and feel part of a initial group. This is good for learnings and initial immersions, but I don't like the ideia of them going all the way with us, like we see in FFXIV. Te liberty to "run free" is very attractive and advised.

    Another positive point is when characters have more than one archetype. Example: the kind and charismatic healer of the temple is also the daughter of an important chief who did something terrible in the past and she is forced to steal something during the night and tries to find someone who will allow her to prove that her father is a good man giving us problems enough to solve and having different outcomes (not all quests or NPC could go this way, but it's nice to have a few like this). In the example, one outcome could be her father being killed at the end or she sacrificing herself to save him or we deciding to not help them and leaving the matter to a local military man or whatever (we aren't the biggest hero and don't need to be anyways).

    Another thing is the progression of these NPC intentions. One of them might have an immediate problem and he returns at a future point in the story with something completely new and striking, however, related to his initial problem. A few NPCs that "comes and goes" in our quests are really interesting as well (for good or for bad).

    I also like the idea that we (our characters) are just part of the world and not the "great heroes" of all that exists. I'm leaving FFXIV for a reason... '-'
    In this way, some places in the world could have secrets that nobody knows (literally, nobody) and we just stump our foot in them by deviating from a road in a specific time of the year and weather. I think not all content need to be attached to a NPC quest in specific, but the balance in this must be advised to not overdo it (and we lose the notion of meaning). I like the notion of "team work" to open places like this, also.

    and PLEASE, PLEASE PLEASE!!! Don't make us passive and muted while talking to a NPC! It would be GREAT if we can choose options in dialogues instead of that boring *nod* to everyone!! Each dialogue option could lead to different outcomes or results (instead of always the same). Again, not all quests could go this way, but it would be awesome if a lot of options could be possible in some of them like we see in the old school RPG Dragon Age.

    These outcomes could affect the way a node sees us (reputation system?) and the "lifespan" and availability of some NPC as well.
    Keep in mind that we don't need to always be the "good boy" in these situations. Some people here said that as well. We could be "vilains" to some important NPCs if we like (and if our reputation with them is in a negative number). As we get someone negativity and hostility, other NPC can approach us (one of his enemies) to "use us" against the initial NPC (or the other way if we have a nice reputation).

    I LOVE this type of narrative, lore and stuff.

    For the "true lore" events, I wish we never become the central pillar of the narrative. I think our "big moment" could affect only some locations, some rulers, some moments, but not all the world's destiny (this is really boring already).

    (I did not played any alpha yet, so do not consider this if we already have options in dialogues with npcs and with different outcomes in game). I just really miss the old and good RPG feeling in MMOs where decisions matter and NPCs have a reason to exist beside just interacting directly with us.
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    SpifSpif Member
    Keep the lore-based cutscenes short. Maybe even put a countdown timer on them so I know if it's going to be a long one so I can ESC out of it (heresy, I know). An option to view it later in game would be nice though.

    Nothing is worse than being lauded as a hero when you've just derped your way through something easy while watching TV and playing.

    IMO some of the best lore based activities are flashback quests or dungeons. You're working towards a specific outcome that has already happened (or that you have to change), and the story of that can be told through your actions that are based on the story. This approach probably has to be instanced, so I don't know how well it will fit in AoC

    ESO did a great job of sprinkling lore throughout the game with just texts relevant to the area/quest. Having a skill line dedicated to finding texts was a good side activity to bring lore to the power-gamer. I kinda remember GW2 lore as being good, but it was so long ago.
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    BergundBergund Member, Phoenix Initiative, Royalty, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    edited March 2023
    The Dünir dwarves of Dünhold gather in The Grand Hall once again, to discuss matters most urgent from that gloriously intrepid studio...

    What do you want to see out of important characters in the lore?

    - important characters refer to us as the "tags" from our chosen Character Creator selections: age, color of hair, skin color, race, accessories, and "tags" for location on the map (for roaming characters), so that the important characters can have dynamically written adlib conversations with players. (possibly using a ChatGPT script writer?)

    - important characters have more purpose or "felt experience" within the server, it feels bad dwarf to have "useless" characters in games that simply stand in one place, statically

    - important characters within the lore represent each of the gods (Archbishops or something), that guide players to become important leading representatives of said gods

    - ALL races are represented as important characters in the lore (less "all elves" and more "more dwarves", for instance)

    - important characters in the lore have a seemingly realistic life, outside of being simple "quest givers" that disappear: where do they live? where do they go when they aren't asking us to hunt "holy animal pelts"?

    - important characters found in a larger node (Town and above) are narratively displaced if the node is sieged (possible graveyard or a neighboring node's citizens tell stories and ask about them)

    How do you like interacting with them and where do you want to see yourself in the story?

    - conversational decisions players make with important characters are remembered and acted upon- even passively experienced in the world

    - a player's achievements within the server are recognized by important characters in the lore, and even citizen NPCs acknowledge players for their feats

    - Titles players achieve for becoming legendary at their crafts or marshal acts (that the players can put in their nameplates) unlock interactions with important characters in the lore, and with citizen NPCs that may have been affected by the acts of the player - positively and/or negatively

    - players have the ability to choose what they will be recognized for- not everyone wants to be seen as a Hero

    - important characters are able to betray long'uns, but only a few dwarves.

    Feeling quite pleased with themselves, the dwarves trot off to entertain their musings with steins of ale...
    The coin is a rite of passage.
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    Important lore characters should have a presence in the world, just as the world changes depending on the actions of the players, so should the NPC be able to adjust and offer quests or storylines depending on where in the servers history we are. NPC need not be static, but should be able to move around, go about their lives just as players do, of course certain 'vital' or central lore characters should be 'confined' to a parameter, but need not be in the tower in the same place, maybe some NPC only appear at night or players must complete certain pre-requisite quests before being able to unlock. To me an immersive players driven world should also be that, some quests are shaped and defined be how players shape the server and some are static that all servers have access too. i'd ike to see quests that are 'found' and explored rather than given by npc's. Playres should still play a central role as protagonists in the world, but NPC can also have an impact.
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    As a lot of other people seem to also feel...I don't want to be the Hero of the story, I should be just another nobody going about my business. Npc's should interact with me as if I am on their level and one of their own.

    MMO's lose all sense of immersion when you're mid cut scene at the end of a raid with a guy jibbering on about how "you are the chosen one, only YOU could save the world" yet there's 20 other players stood next to you....

    Voice acted npc's would be lovely, just as you pass town workers a "Mornin' great day for fishing aint it? Huh huh" would make players absolutely cream themselves. Or guards walking around telling you about how "something is prowling round ere'"

    So to sum it up:

    - Make NPC's more/equally as important to the story as players
    - voice acted NPC's that interact you with as you pass by
    - don't make everyone the hero, You should only be infamous because of your actual deeds as a player, not story.
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    Happymeal2415Happymeal2415 Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I do not want to be hero or champion.
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    AcarithAcarith Member
    edited March 2023
    I know it’s a tall order, but I want my characters to be alive... I’m tired of talking to mannequins who don’t move, have a life, or feel the passage of time. In ESO there’s this traveling researcher named Lady Laurent that can be found set up simultaneously in several locations scattered across the continent. Rather than move between different spots or pack up, they’re there talking to me in each spot as if I just did something when really I completed it for them 7 years ago. Nathan Doan is a comedian who does a good job humorizing the concept.

    Although reminders and reminiscing is nice, like the guards in ESO's Cyrodiil talk about the players exploits all the time.

    It’d be cool if some NPC’s had grand pathing, like a merchant or warband moving across Verra. They would have conditional quests available only when they're in certain locations. Also adding racial and civil dynamics that affect the node and region would be cool. For example say players in an area favor a war loving orc as their quest giver. If he continues to populate the most player interaction in the node, it and or a rival node becomes a Pvp zone with little to no corruption penalty. If they favor an honor loving knight who wants to crack down on crime and bandits, the node becomes a safe haven who’s corruption penalties increase. If they favor a hunter, it lowers game animal population in the node, but increases it in the surrounding area. If they quest for a crafter, the caves and under realms become deeper and the nodes forges gain craft bonuses. Quests for merchants would unlock rarer drops and better drop chances. Their dialogue would adapt to the state and progression of their trade line and current node. If there’s too many hunters there’s a famine that everyone's talking about and they’re seeking out the temple. If the economy is booming there, whispering trade secrets and partying. Maybe even hinting to the player where to send a caravan for a secret bonus. A relationship meter would also be nice so that as players stay in the same node working with the same NPC I get better deals and quests, even unlocking hidden quest lines.

    Personally I want to RP as a warlord and a bandit. Lead my guild to war and grow my node around it. Dealing with the quests that make me rich, give me power, or hurt my enemies.
    A guy who came from ESO.
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    I like the Vanilla WoW lore experience. Feeling that I am just an adventurer is best.

    The whole "hero" experience is a big turn off. Why:
    1. Its a MMO, so it turns out everyone is a hero. This breaks immersion. You cant have everyone being a hero. That makes the whole title ingenuine. The Hero title should be saved for lore npcs. We should see them in big storyline events fighting alongside us. They should have abilities that are obviously much greater than ours (worthy of hero title) and make an impact in the gameplay worthy of the hero title.
    2. Makes it feel very anime asian type of experience. BDO is a prime example of how bad this is. your every attack looks like an ultimate from animes.
    3. We should be able to choose to grind rep with lore characters. These choices should impact the world much like grinding nodes impacts rhe world. So like when enough of the node players do missions for a orc beast master lore hero maybe he becomes like a patreon for our node and gives the ability to summon rhino stampedes during defense/offensive sieges. However to summon these stampedes in sieges players need to do dailys to tame rhinos and when all pens are filled the leader of the node receives the ability to summon a stampede. Just a random example that came to mind.
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    A game I think has a very good approach to "lore characters" is Genshin Impact. Let me explain.
    Every important character is not only appearing in a quest and having some lines, they are a part of the world design. You'll find notes/books mentioning them, people talking about them, they'll appear as background/supporting characters in quests that are not about them, they'll be involved in all sorts of events/organizations, and most importantly they don't just appear during important story beats like some plot device, they're here for the trivial things as well, because they're part of this world. They are an integral component of the story and world building, they have an impact, a place they live in, friends and foes, it is very easy to grow attached to them, and to be invested in them, since you can witness their evolution/progression as the stories/events unfold.

    When it comes to the integration of the player in all of that. I prefer when we're all a random nobody, or at least equally special, and the world will keep spinning even without us. It breaks the immersion, a lot, when there are millions of "The Chosen One" running around. I'd prefer a story based around the world and the events that we take part in, rather than "about" how special the player is.
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    VaknarVaknar Moderator, Member, Staff
    Reixeira wrote: »
    The more the player progresses in the story he might come in contact with these lore characters, though the more the player interacts with them the less agency one might give these important characters and that is dangerous as it strips them from their agency if they require us to do every little thing for them.

    What kind of agency are you hoping to see of important NPCs and lore characters?
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    VaknarVaknar Moderator, Member, Staff
    mrBok wrote: »
    Voice Acting. Please :) at least just Important NPCs. Im fine with story you've told. Just a little guy trying to become somebody important in the world.

    Besides voice acting, how do you hope to interact with major lore characters while in-game?
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    FantmxFantmx Member, Phoenix Initiative, Royalty, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    What do you want to see out of important characters in the lore? How do you like interacting with them and where do you want to see yourself in the story?

    This is a good question. I would like to see the big most important characters using very sparingly. Make them only visible in big plot points. Otherwise we read and hear about them long before we see them.

    I would also like for there to be characters that we are unaware of who they actually are in the lore. They remain hidden until the wish to be seen or we have gained the skill to see them.

    I don't want those main characters to care to know who I am until it actually makes sense. I am not born a hero destined to do great things.

    I want to mostly have the local and regional NPCs know who I am, gradually building up my reputation. Most of my quests and deeds. Over time I meet more and more important individuals.
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    I like to hunt for lore. I want to see lore characters the progress as you do, perhaps as a node changes a hunter will move his camp, ect. Talking to an NPC to hear some dialogue, then coming back and getting fresh new dialogue that you need to piece together with things you've heard in the past. You should be able to figure out what an NPC is doing before they even do it, but ONLY if your paying attention. Abercrombie in Duskwood (WoW) is a classic example, you can sort of figure out he's evil before he makes an abomination, but every quest is framed as if your helping an old hermit. That's what it's all about, little details that make up a big picture. It's infinitely more immersive than getting all the details right away.
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    DygzDygz Member, Braver of Worlds, Kickstarter, Alpha One
    My hope is that there is not a focus on blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aelar as the primary lore heroes.
    As was the case for EQ and WoW.

    Since we have Religions as a key aspect of the game, I hope Bishops and Popes have opportunities to interact with their patron gods. Players should be able to please the gods as well as anger the gods.

    And, of course, we should have interactions with the Ancients.

    While, I'm not a fan of Fippy Darkpaw always respawning the exact same way in the exact same location, I would also like to be able to interact with Goblin lore characters - possibly see some of them advance as the story progresses. And, you know, we shouldn't always have to resolve conflicts with the lesser races by killing their lore characters.
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    I can tell what I don't like, I don't like that in all MMOs the lore characters are just there for years, doing nothing, just like animals at the zoo to be visited
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    what about beeing just an regular passing traveler/mercenary? Where NPC not really observe and just interact with you, if you speak with them and offer some help?
    But how ashes wants to be, there should be something like an NPC that leades to general Directions for Stuff that is demanded in the local Marketplace.
    So the Mainincome of players should be the local Marketplace and other NPC are just there for the story or some events. Sandbox style like Albion but without an sudden end of your quest line.

    Maybe they could reward some kind of repurtation so the NPC in general reakt diffrend to the Player and offer (depending on the NPC reputation) diffrend kind of missions.
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    As far as my place in the story, I would prefer to be an explorer / adventurer who lore characters may get to know after multiple encounters, but I don't want to be "the hero". When people have fantasies of fame or glory, they often look very different and rise to those positions by different means. No handful of questlines or story text can properly convey any of those unique fantasies. In contrast, anyone can be a humble adventurer, crafter, bard, wizard, etc.

    As far as how the story is told in general, I think having a single overarching story can be a bit risky. I think the stories of the game should be like a collection of mini-series. Maybe some are connected to others, maybe some are a little larger or smaller in scale than others, but there's never a definitively "main" storyline to follow. You get to choose what social organizations to interact with, what sort of missions and adventures to go on. This opens the door for different themes, sets of characters, and locations within each of these storylines to take on their own flavor that cater to different people's storytelling preferences. You can't please everyone with one main storyline, it just doesn't work.

    When WoW tries to do a main storyline for example, they end up with a very small minority who really care about the story and lore, and a bunch of people who play the slot machine raid once a week and log out. Their leveling experiences are memorable and fun for most people, because each zone has its own overarching storyline. With roughly half a dozen to experience each expansion, there's bound to be at least one that's really entertaining and memorable for every player. I think the same concept should be applied to Ashes during the leveling process, at end-game, and in post-release content updates.
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    I can tell what I don't like, I don't like that in all MMOs the lore characters are just there for years, doing nothing, just like animals at the zoo to be visited

    Same, gives me wax museum vibes
    PvE means: A handful of coins and a bag of boredom.
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    What do you want to see out of important characters in the lore?
    I want to see these important characters again and again, depending on who I interact with. Am I buddying up with the future master crafter, who will share secrets with me in order to secure more hard to reach plants due to my reputation for finding them, or am I building relationships with the street urchins (either leading them to make life changing decisions or turning them into my own personal spy network). If I am not interacting with one or the other, I should be missing content and not baby walked into it.

    How do you like interacting with them and where do you want to see yourself in the story?
    I am a commoner with no known reputation.... I would like to be treated as such. I would prefer to build up my own reputation (for good or for bad, depending on the group) and unlock content depending on how the NPCs feel about me. (If my crafter friend would like to join me for a fun adventure, sure! That same crafter would not join a stranger....) Also, make the reading of the lore important. My mom was the one who got me into gaming (and we would all play it together) and she would rush us through everything as quickly as possible... skipping all reading. Quests should not be easily accomplished if the reading has been skipped! Treasure hints, hidden quests and objectives, and tricks that will make the task that much easier should be included, and there should be options to misinterpret the quest - turning in a technically completed quest while at the same time lowering the NPC's reputation of you while they look at you weird and accept your technically correctly done task.
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    Arya_Yeshe wrote: »
    it would be nice to be able to be a villain

    You are absolutely correct!

    However, Intrepid seems to be fixated on the concept of good versus evil, and players are only set to be good. The primary flaw is the Corruption system, which was established solely to penalize PKing. I would prefer to retain the Corruption system but make it more versatile, with a variety of possible outcomes, including punishment.

    That is the reason behind my creation of the "Trash talk the Corruption system" thread, because I want the Corruption system to be saved from being bad and today I believe that Intrepid is the biggest enemy the Corruption system is facing!

    Would not the system be overrun with people choosing to be bad? In RL there are many social systems in place where this is prevented (and society collapses when those social rules are not followed, to the misery of everyone involved). Therefore, social rules must be imposed upon the system, that way we don't accidently turn all the players into evil choice making machines because 'it is just a game' and this is what we are training everyone to choose. (Much time is spent on games making choices, choices which translate to RL in one way or another. We do not want to desensitize ourselves to making choices which negatively impact others. That would be VERY bad for society. I know this is 'just a game' but really, why would you make choices opposite to your character in RL, even if it is 'just a game?' That is damaging!
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    maouwmaouw Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    I like that in Verra "the gods walk among us" - but I'd prefer if encounters with the gods are rare and fleeting, such that their immortal divinity always eclipses the existence of the player, and so the gods retain an element of mystery. This way, sightings of the gods become more like heralds/harbingers of great events that open and close the eras of time - and personal interactions aren't mass produced.

    This idea is a bit out there, but you could tie the MSQ to Ashes' core gameplay-loop:
    I imagine main lore to have 3 phases (excluding world events) each with their own cast of NPCs:
    1. Re-establishment: While there are no metropolises, main questline is focused on "Let's build a great city for the next wave of people coming to Verra"
    2. Golden Era: When there are 1 or 2 metropolises, main questline is focused on "Let's establish trade routes / alliances and exploit our natural resources"
    3. Wartime: When there are 4 or more metropolises, greedy and power-hungry NPC's start to stir up trouble and the player must navigate the politics between these NPCs.
    This way, your MSQ is a taster tutorial of the core gameplay loop in Ashes.

    I'm just trying to think outside the box
    I wish I were deep and tragic
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    Ace1234Ace1234 Member
    edited March 2023
    This is an extemeley important topic, as there are entire genres dedicated to exploring various ways of interacting with characters and expressing yourself as a player within the story- so its very important to get right.

    I am going to talk in depth about the prompts and provide video examples of game design case studies on the relevant topics, to support my points. These videos are extemely insightful and worth watching.

    1. How do you like interacting with the characters?

    A) Playstyle/role-play options and expression
    There should be lots of options and variety in how you can interact with lore characters/world. These interactions should require a lot of thought and decision making from the player, due to the complexities of the characters/world and the consequences of actions, due to the many routes players can take and how all the systems interact with each other.

    I should always be thinking about how to handle an interaction with a character, through having options such as
    1. Stealth (should I sneak past this character?)
    2. Persuasion (should I try to convince this character to do what I want?)
    3. combat (Should I fight this character?)
    4. bribery (should I bribe this character to do what I want?)
    5. pacifism (should I not do anything at all to this character?)
    6. Traversal (should I run/climb away from this character?)
    7. Political sabotage (Should I get my allies to deal with this character, or pit my enemies against each other?)
    8. Dynamic blend (should I use a combination of these options as I adapt to what is going on?)
    9. etc.

    I think its extremely important to allow players to role play these various interactions, for both gameplay depth, and role-play/moral expression purposes.

    Here is a video that does case studies on how to make conversational interactions very fun and interesting

    -A big part of designing for player expression, stems from npc interactions that present problems that can be dealt with in various and emergent ways, rather than individual/static solutions.

    The benefits to this type of overall design approach is talked about in this video

    And an example of how this is done in action when designing npc interactions, through a variety of potential gameplay/role-play options is explained in this video, which details a specific side quest that has these properties.

    some other case studies (less relevant to this specific discussion), but relevant to the other interactable role-play options include:

    GMTK stealth series (multiple videos)
    GMTK "making movement a mechanic"
    GMTK "climbing in games"

    -All found on that same youtube channel if you are interested.

    B- Invisible choices
    For the parts of the story that I can impact- I want to be able to develop my character relationships and make other types of choices organically, through the actual gameplay mechanics that are relevant in the moment, rather than the options being laid out in front of me to pick from.

    This has made for some of the most interesting experiences in games for me, because it makes you actually think outside of the box about what options you could possibly take, and what the game might allow you to do or how it might allow you to behave, which can make for some very excellent role-play moments and satisfying emergent experiences.

    This video explains what this means and how to do it well

    I loved how final fantasy 6 does this, to create some very powerful moments where it puts the player in control of deciding on their own what is important to them and how to go about accomplishing those goals, without holding the player's hand.

    A great example of this is when the player is on the "floating continent", and the story has your actual assasin companion named Shadow, stay behind to hold off the enemies while you try to escape the floating continent before it explodes, so you make your way to the one and only aircraft to escape. This was a crazy moment, because you assume the story will unfold regardless of what happens. This is not the case, as you actually have to make the invisible choice of waiting for him until the very last seconds before the continent explodes, for him to come running and leave with you. If you don't, then he dies and you lose him as a group member the rest of the game. This makes for an impactful moment, because once you realize that there are invisibke choices like this, you actually have to play the game with intention and thought, you have to constantly be thinking about what/who you care about, because there are consequences to your actions, and you have to think about how to ensure those goals are met through your invisible choices, since you could easily miss potential options if you aren't careful.

    There are tons of lessons to be learned from final fantasy 6 in regards to worldbuilding/invisble choices. I think it also does this really well when these invisible choices allow you to play an active role in npc character progression through your knowledge of the character and world.

    - An example of this is:
    You have a group member named Gau, who in the story is portrayed as a child who was raised by wild monsters. He has a mechanic where he can leap on to monsters, and if he is on a monster when after the battle ends, then he will disapprear from your party. Well, this is cool for several reasons. The first is that the actual mechanics of leaping/being gone from party are used to establish his character and lore. The second- is that if you think about his character and how he is portrayed, you might realize that if you actually leave him in that area for long enough something might happen. This does end up being the case, because if you actually come back later he actually learns abilities from the monster that he stuck to over that period of time. Games normally stick to a predictable formula, so when you are rewarded for thinking outside the box like this, it is really fun and interesting- so that is just one of many great examples of invisible choices the player can make.

    C) Kowledge-based gameplay
    - I would like for characters to have unique backstories, peronality traits, and routines that can be utilized for gameplay purposes (such as being chased by a corrupted player, but knowing an NPC guard that has experience against corruption and hates it, and that he will be at his post during a certain time. So, you choose to hide out there knowing that he will help fight off the player if the player shows up there while corrupted.) That type of analysis on the character's personality and behaviors should be rewarded.

    If there is a specific quest that revolves around mastering a particular task to get a relevant reward, it would be awesome to see an npc that also has that same reward, and if the player is rewarded for deducing that the npc has experience with that same particular task, just based on that gameplay element of observing them in possesion of that reward. (such as a fishing quest where you recieve a specific rod built to help with the challenge of catching a specific fish in the game, and later you see an npc with that same rod, so you assume he is trying/had tried in the past to catch the same fish- so you bring the fish to him when you catch it to see his reaction, and are rewarded for that kind of deduction and world/character knowledge.)

    -Not only should knowledge of characters in the lore matter, but knowledge of the lore in general should mean something and tie in to gameplay, rather than just being something interesting to know. Its always so cool when games hide "lost logs" of adventurers that you can find, but most games just leave it at that, as a way of understanding the world- rather than rewarding you for that understanding through things like filling those logs with gameplay-impacting info like:
    1. hinting at secret areas you can actually find, such as that adventurer hinting at a magical portal shortcut they found, and the player can figure out how to activate it and use it as an alternative caravan route.
    2. helpful gameplay advice like nuanced behaviors and mechanics of enemies that the adventurer experienced, like how certain enemies from different areas interact with each other
    3. knowledge of lore characters that can actually be leveraged (such as the fishing rod example)
    4. It would be cool if certain "logs" (or other types of character/lore/world information) only make sense when put into context with other logs/info. such as one log having the adventurer hinting at how specific npc mechanics interact with a specific location/prop in the environment to create a portal- but another log referencing an event that they mysteriously vanished to another area but you wouldn't understand that unless you read the log about them opening the portal.

    -A game that executed really well on using this design approach of player interactivity and observation to gain knowledge of the characters and world, is Deus ex mankind divided, as explained in this analysis video.

    -I think using great detective games as a reference for how to make lore/character/world knowledge compelling and fun gameplay would be a great idea. These videos explain the design principles of this type of fun gameplay, which I think would work extremely well if adapted into the setting of Ashes.

    D) NPC characters as a navigational tool
    I think it would be a missed opportunity to have all necessary map and navigational info instantly accessible to players. There is loads of fun gameplay around navigating and exploration. Lore characters can be used as an immersive tool for players, by helping them navigate the world, to encourage exploration and interaction with lore characters.

    This topic is explored in these 2 videos

    E) Customizable story/experience told through emergent gameplay
    To me, gameplay itself can be a story, so I want to interact with characters and the world through gameplay, and for these experiences to tell my personal story.

    -Watching all the complexities of the game interact with each other based on my decisions as a player, is the most engaging and immersive way of presenting stories, from an interactive gameplay perspective.

    I will mention later how curated story can be told through these gameplay systems and how to connect systematic gameplay and character/worldbuilding stories, detailed in the "Telling stories with systems" video.

    - I also want to be able to connect with characters I like, to use them for my benefit and build relationship with them. I would like to express dislike for characters I don't like, and be able to manipulate those characters for my benefit as well. Its always cool when you can recruit character's you like, or when your character can gain powers or cosmetics that show flavor from characters you have interacted with and help show your character's story.

    Overall, interacting with npcs should feel organic, compelling, challenging, and epic in its gameplay and its consequences

    2. Where do you want to see yourself in the story?

    A) Cohesive worldbuilding
    Both large and small scale impact-
    - I want the story to change based on my actions, and for the game to show me my impact on both larger and smaller details in the world, such as lore character progression and affecting the lives of npcs.

    This video talks about designers can create more believable worlds from large to small scale, by using characters and environments to support the narrative.

    It would be awesome to see this kind of worldbuilding in Ashes, especially when paired with the dynamic story arcs, which could be reflected by changes in the state of the world around us at all levels.

    B- Personalized story/consequences
    Understanding the path I chose, and having personalized relationship with characters-

    - I want the game to track my experience and tell a story that also relates to my specific experiences. Things like actually earning a hero status in an organica eay through your actual accomplishments, resulting in being treated differently based on those achievements. Also, things like keeping a track record of decisions/experiences and react to them through things like having characters reference your achievements and habits

    Here is a video example of this in action

    Another game that did this well was metal gear solid, where the game tracks your actions and surprises you with different outcomes while recapping actions you took to lead you to that point. This is a very interesting way of doing character progression, based on tracking how the player interacts with different lore characters and the choices they make along the way.

    C) Moral expression/role-play
    The choices themselves have real meaning that allow for moral expression outside of just gameplay implications-

    - I want a story/interactions with characters that allow me to role-play through choices with moral ambiguity. Make the player's choices themselves part of the story through morality ambiguous choices that allow for role playing, and tell a story in and of themselves about the player themselves, within the overarching narrative of that player's experience.

    D) Immersive/experiential story-telling (Show don't tell)
    For the part of the story that is more curated in design- I want to experience the story by being shown through the gameplay, rather than told through a scene or dialogue, whenever possible
    -I like story moments where my actual expectation of mechanics are subverted for story telling purposes, such as dieing during a fight, but an npc swoops in and saves you from death and its penalties, using game mechanics, and not a cutscene or reading about it later. Or, falling asleep somewhere but you actually wake up somewhere else instead, rather than the expected location. Situations like these where mechanics actually function differently and lore characrers can affect how mechanics work as a part of the story, can lead to really cool stories and be very immersive.

    These videos address how interesting stories are best told through mechanics, systems, and gameplay, basically for the players to experience and interact with the story themselves, rather than observe it as a bystander through things like dialogue and cutscenes.

    E) Interesting narratives
    -as far as the actual narrative itself for the different story arcs- I want the story to be very thought provoking and philisophical, as mentioned earlier, through asking the player to make tough morally ambiguous decisions.

    There are also some other elements in the story that I tend to like as well. I like when there is a sense of mystery, suspense, drama, and unpredictability, and overall "uneasiness" in the narrative, where everything seems okay on the surface but there is a serious threat building up/pulling the strings behind the scenes. I like when characters aren't who you expect them to be as you discover more about them. I love when unexpected relationships form by characters crossing paths, who may have had separate story lines up to that point. I like when there is a "bigger picture" in the narrative, that you the player have to learn more about and become involved in. Some of the stories that stuck with me the most are about thinking you are familiar with characters, who then subvert your expectations (like in Star Wars- Anakin Skywalker's transition to Darth Vader, or Chancellor Palpatine actually being Darth Sideous). These stories also have complexities in what factors are involved and how these could cause the story to branch in different directions- but ultimately come down to very simple but key decisions, made in key moments, by key characters. These types of stories are very interesting to me. I also like when there is a lot of strategic planning and thinking amongst the characters, resulting in meaningful actions that characters take, and a more believable world with reasoning behind everything, some of which the player may not find out about or understand until it is revealed later. I also love when there is a lot of politics and deception in the story as well.

    I haven't put a whole lot of though into what makes great narratives, but there is plenty of inspiration to take from movies/games, in order to ensure that the narratives that stem from different emergent gameplay outcomes and story arcs are always interesting in the story they are telling.

    -Overall I want the story to feel emergent, organic, personal, suprising, and philisophical, and worth being invested into.

    3. What do you want to see out of important characters in the lore?

    A) Complexities in characters/world
    In order to reward world/character knowledge and have interesting lore, there needs to be a lot of information and character depth and world building for the players to learn and engage with.

    -interesting and unique characters with deep personality/traits/behaviors/motivations
    (to allow for more interesting npc interactions and kowledge-based gameplay)

    I talked earlier about how characters should have "breadth" in how they can be interacted with, but I would also like to see characters have depth as well, in how they can be interacted with, to allow for more compelling/inreresting interactions, and character progression.

    I think a game that did this really well is the recent "Triangle Strategy" rpg by square enix.

    There are various story arcs in the game, determined by your actions taken. The interesting part is that these actions were taken by your party as a whole, so a majority had to agree through casting votes on a "scale of conviction", which acts as a means to an end to determine the group's course of action based on each character's personal convictions.
    Each character has their own values and ways of making decisions and dealing with problems, creating some morally ambiguous decisions that need to be made. The fun part about all of this character depth, is that the player has an opportunity before each vote is done, to takle an active role in convincing other party members to take a specific cours of action. This means, that not only do you have to wrestle with the morality of the decision after hearing each character's opinion, but then you have to take your understanding of each character into account when reasoning with them to convinve them why your decision is best. This is very fun and interesting to try to disect a character's thought procress and use that to accomplish your own personal goal as a player. It also provides opportunities to learn more about different characters as you explore and uncover clues about different character's history, that you can use to help sway their opinions.

    This wouldn't be possible without have that character depth, so I think designing characters in this way would make "invisible choices" that much more compelling and interesting through the amount of possibilities for character interactions and outcomes, and how these interactions could have systematic consequences with other parts of the game.

    B- Believable characters/world
    As mentioned earlier, part of telling a good story with a believable world involves a cohesive world/characters at a large and small scale, and I think this extends beyond the lore/cosmetic aspects, and down into the gameplay as well.

    Its important that character's are believable even when gameplay is factored in.

    Characters should actually impact gameplay when involved, their bahaviors should make sense during the gameplayand reflect their character accurately. If their is an escort mission where some strong npcs are helping you, they should actually be strong when fighting and not just stand a watch while you do everything. Obviously this would need to make sense gameplay wise, its just important to make sure there is consistency and believability.

    -Its always cool when characters with conflicting and/or common interest with each other, but can actually act on those through gameplay in emergent ways, and there can be politics/drama between characters, not only in just the lore/story aspects

    - A big part of believability is when the worldbuilding/lore is consistent with the gameplay and it makes sense. It seems obvious but some ganes tend to mess this up. This can provide fun opportunities where lore actually ties into the gameplay and has value for teaching the player about certain mechanics/intaractions, so there is a reason to take the time to explore and learn the lore in the world.

    C) Reactive/dynamic characters/world
    - I would like to see character progression that reacts to player choices and rewards the player's knowledge regarding the state/history of the characters and world

    - I would like for characters and the world to be reactive, yet still have an element of unpredictability in how they progress and behave.

    - I think their should be reactivity in all aspects of the character, not just what they say, in but in how they fight, and their behaviors and routines in the world.

    -it would be especially cool if npcs in the open world were complex in their design, so they could decide to align themselves with different players based on player actions/reputation, based on the state of the server, and/or what their specific motivations and goals are.

    D) Immersive use of characters/world
    Overall I think a "show don't tell" approach is generally the most immersive and engaging method of design whenever applicable, because it rewards players who actually observe the behaviors and interactions of the world around them and the characters within it. Based on that, whenever you have something you want to communicate to the player, I think its best to tie that information to the interactions of in-game characters and environments, to reward player observation.
    This will make information much more enjoyable to acquire and easier to digest, while encouraging more fun gameplay and atmosphere.

    -This could apply to lore characters being used as a tutorial early on, (maybe through showing a strong lore character show off late-game skills in the starting area) to give the player a taste of end-game experiences/give goals to player, which is a nice quality of life feature relevant to skills and gear progression.

    -Half life 2 did a great job at giving the player tutorials and teaching the player through observing the characters and environments around them.

    -some other games that have extemely immersive characters and worlds, and do great at "showing not telling" are metro exodus, and deus ex mankind divided, as talked about in this analysis video, and the one I provided in an earlier section for deus ex.

    E) Relevant and satisfying rewards
    - Its always cool when an npc has something you want, and you can actually recieve it from them in some way. It gives the player direction and intention when they can expect to get something relevant from a specific character, and it rewards exploring and interacting with npcs to progress, rather than grinding to level up and unlock them- such as
    1. an experienced mage npc teaching you their unique ability they use
    2. finding a bandit camp and stealing their unique weapons/gear
    3. being able to hire a unique mercenary from that group you found
    4. etc.

    -just be careful with rewards, as they can end up being counterproducrive if done wrong

    Flexible vs unique rewards:

    Just to quickly touch on this topic of rewards since it is relevant to my point on world/character knowledge being rewarded- It is somewhat of a conundrum because generally you want rewards to feel unique to the content you are doing and to reward players to try different types of gameplay and leave their comfort zone, but you also want rewards to be flexible for the player to be able to progress in their preferred content, because everyone has their preferences.
    1. If you make rewards flexible (like skill points), the content feels the same, and the player will always just choose their preferred reward and never really progress in that other type of content
    2. if you do static rewards for different types of content, yes it feels unique, but then its unfulffilling and the player is never really encouraged to try different content
    Thats why I think its important for rewards to be a blend of both, to have unique rewards for that content- this could be a unique "traversal" ability taught from finding and interacting with a specific hermit npc, to encourage players to explore and progress in their exploration, but also have things like skill points as rewards to give them the freedom to also progress in their preferred content

    Thanks for reading!
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    In my view we are adventurers, explorers, crafters and merchants. The majority of NPCs we interact with are commoners. From time to time we pick up information about more important people (guard captain, politicians, NPC guild master, etc), learn more about the situation and maybe get involved with them (would be great if we had some choice here and not just be railroaded into some plot here). Maybe we get a peek at their office finding some documents or eavesdropping on something (lore, quest, hidden treasure or location, skill, blue prints...). NPCs should have reasonable strength for who they are.

    I neither want to play the role of the world saving hero nor do I wish an NPC or group of NPCs to play it. Something that is hard to earn in game is being the lord of a castle. I really don't want to be made the general of the royal guard just by following to main quest line. Titles like this should be really earned.

    I'd much rather have extended quest lines with interesting NPCs we get to know and grow attached to (be it commoner or not) and seeing how my or maybe also the decisions of other players changed their fate and maybe even opening new quests, events, etc.That would be great!

    But over all I'd prefer if the story stays grounded and the next story does not need to be bigger, it just needs to be different. Ashes will hopefully stay with us for a long time and the story keeps spiralling up even the once interesting and rewarding feeling plots will become dull because now its the norm and going back to more simple tasks after an extended hero phase in the story will be hard and maybe also not well received.
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    ChaosFactorChaosFactor Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    Hello Ladies, Gentlemen, and otherwise of Intrepid!
    I am well aware that I am quite late to the topic, but I cannot help myself from sharing a large amount of input when it comes to any instance of Ashes of Creation content. Lore is something I am deeply involved in, being a DM of almost a decade now, an avid MMORPG player, and being an addict of story creation. There are many different ways to approach lore, and ways that you need to interpret NPCs and the position of the protagonist. For the sake of not wanting to write a literal indigestible novel of information, I want to break down the post in 3 parts. Keeping in mind that the position of the antagonist, is an individual with vague description and vague personalities. Afterall, we cannot understand how the player wants to act in the game, therefore we want to open opportunities to act however they want.

    Self, Allies and Enemies:

    Self -
    The player is ambiguous. There is no true way to put the player in context, due to the fact that we have to adapt based on their race, their gender, their beliefs, their motivations, etc. Therefore the job of the story, is to be adaptable to how any player could decide to act. Primarily I want to speak with Lore being a background of gameplay, due to that being the common experience that MMORPG gamers prefer. Although I would love to have every quest capable of being expanded into a novel, it is not realistic. Most players in general will not read even a fifth of the words of lore written through the world, therefore we have to weigh our options.

    Adaptability is KING. On a surface level, simply listing a players name, or including them in a cinematic, is not in depth, or complicated. However there is simply such a rewarding feeling to see your character plainly, to see your name uttered out of the mouths of your favorite NPCs. I can't even begin to describe the euphoria of seeing my brand new smoking hot transmog on my character as they bow before a king. Even when it comes to voice acting, the power of AI is quite strong now, perhaps it would even be worth the man power to interpret every player's name with the voice of the very actor speaking. On top of this, options chosen to create the characteristics of your toon could be also introduced. If you choose a religion, or choose a background, NPCs can have prepared opinion on each one of those choices. You can still receive quests from a city guard with a criminal background, but instead of asking. "Kind adventurer, please retrieve the intercepted cache of materials from the small path." They can respond with. "Not sure I trust you for this, but we need someone to get this done. Bring back the crate of our belongings from the small path, don't go taking your own cut from it."

    Allies -
    Grandeur and growth are the most important aspects of allies in my opinion. A character that follows along side you, allowing you to see the growth from a lowly adventurer to a master of the magic world, from a third person view. Often a player is tunnel visioned into seeing only progress through their numbers. The bigger the number next to my nameplate, the bigger the numbers that pop over the enemies head. Obviously that's not an insult at the player's intelligence, it's just boiling down the easily observable way to interpret progress. However character development forms memories, it makes you ready to play another character because you just want to experience it all over again. Seeing a friend that walks at your side, being cheerful at your successes, depressed at your falls, if done correctly forces you to see your own character in that position.

    Seeing the big bad isn't the only important power scaling. I find that having an ally to aspire to, overcome, or rely off of, is incredible. I find that most games don't really do this correctly. World of Warcraft has what I believe is the correct interpretation without proper execution. They present the most amazing, beautifully armored, surrounded by hundreds of guards, with badass unique abilities. Seeing King Varian at the forefront of conflicts made you go "Damn I want to be that badass". But, that sort of event, where you see them in a position of power, or seeing them take part in massive events, is thin and far between. There is also the big good represented in what I would qualify as "Anime esq." stories that have the opposite issues. Game like lost ark often present these incredibly powerful characters, capable of breaking reality itself with their powers. But that is all they do. All they are is some crazy badass that runs around blasting holes in reality, but never being seen as a leader, as someone truly important, someone that many people will always look up to.

    Lions don't hunt squirrels. There is always an incredibly satisfying experience through every MMORPG. After you hit level cap, build out the perfect set of armor, and maximize your rotations.. the world seems weak. If you go back to where you began, the creatures are helpless and weak. Where you once struggled, you are now above it all. There would be no reason to start running around fighting ghosts haunting armor, that fall apart like stacked cards. Sure you could feel cool by crushing them all like critters, but that is only entertaining for a few moments.

    Why do enemies not follow this same logic? In most games you get the satisfaction of running too close to the dragon, he runs over, and slaps you into the next life like it's nothing. However, not only is this annoying from a gameplay standpoint, knowing that you just died, lost exp and durability, and have to run back to where you were. You don't truly know how large of a difference there is between you and them, you don't know if you have a chance to escape, or what their aggro range is. Even if that does a good job of presenting power, it is simple and game-y. Imagine if instead, you run up and cast a spell on a target that exceeds you by 10 levels. Rather than just slapping to 0 health, it shrugs it off and takes no damage. Maybe even a humanoid target laughs at you, for even attempting to harm them. If you keep bothering them, they bash your skull in, cc'ing you for 10 seconds straight just to show how much control they have over you. Continue to hit them anyways? Your funeral... literally.

    Anyways, I feel like I rapidly cut off my points in each section.. but I have to. Otherwise I'm going to write far too much, and there wouldn't be a person in the world willing to read that all. I hope some of this was helpful! I know my ideas are often pointlessly large, I look to change entire aspects of the game. But hopefully some of this can matter regardless.

    Thank you to anyone that read this far,
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    maouwmaouw Member, Alpha One, Adventurer
    @Ace1234 I really enjoyed this post!

    Question: many of these examples are from single-player games where the core gameplay is story driven. On the other hand, MMOs are uniquely positioned with the social mechanisms of massive communities that drive emergent gameplay systems like: a virtual economy, political organization, player legacy, role expression etc.
    Is a detailed focus on the isolated single player experience of the game's lore a divergent distraction from these more foundational social gameplay elements? ((e.g. Do players finish a satisfying MSQ and then decide they've finished the game? Did their choices have any meaningful impact on the world?))
    I'm wondering if there's a way to marry the two. Some doubts:
    • Can you tailor the emotional arc of an open-ended quest-line? (e.g. if the massive angry dragon can be either slain, calmed by returning her precious dragon egg, or outwitted trying to give her a fake one)
    • Can NPC design like the nemesis system exist alongside REAL rivalship/alliances/connections with other players? (e.g. do we need NPC nodes that we can befriend/go to war with?)
    Or perhaps it's possible if we:
    • Design open-ended quest-lines that are more about players creating solutions using the game's built-in systems to achieve/subvert quest objectives? (e.g. Impress the king - entertainment/a fine weapon/a healthy donation/exquisite cuisine/etc.)
    • Add bonus/alternative quest paths that can only be accessed by collaboration, to bring in a social aspect to MSQs (e.g. a mage/archer uses fireball/flaming arrows to melt the ice on the side of a wall so the rogue can scale it to use a ballista)
    • discover lore via NPC reactions to node activity. (e.g. Citizen NPCs begin spawning quests for missing people, because the node brought back relics from The Tower of Carphin that are still secretly cursed.)
    • interact actively with lore via NPC controlled systems that players cannot directly influence, but can skew through secondary systems. (e.g. The power balance between the pantheon of gods is always shifting, which affects the benfits from local dominant religion and any religious relics.)
    • borrow from the nemesis system and support player-driven lore, track each player's encounter rates with other strangers/groups - and spawn quests that embellish these interactions (e.g. players who often trade gain a higher chance to receive a cooperative quest from citizens that reinforces their trading relationship, or a player who is murdered from time to time by members of x guild is more likely to receive a bounty quest targetting a member of x guild. Just be careful of polarization.)

    This all begs the question:
    What is the purpose of the MSQ?

    Typically, in most MMO's like GW2 (or even semi-sandbox games like GTA), the MSQ is the main payload for lore but then everyone has to have the same experience of the lore and your questline is stuck on rails.
    But if your lore is primarily experienced in the environment: points of interest, riddles in a cave, procedurally generated conditions, etc. then what does a new player do when overwhelmed with a blank canvas and no direction? I think that's where the MSQ should step in.
    I wish I were deep and tragic
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    DiamahtDiamaht Member, Braver of Worlds, Alpha One
    Late to party on this one, but I don't want to be a chosen one type of character in this game.

    The important npcs can be important people carrying out their own agendas that we do things for and that's all. Our focus and heigharchy should revolve around our player guilds and player cities.

    Rubbing elbows with "important people" could be quests and interactions opened up to guild leaders or city mayors. Important npcs could talk to them about large scale tasks that need doing and they can then organize their guilds/ cities to get it done.
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    Alright so hear me out, lore characters are cool, npc's are cool, but the way quests are designed is player driven storylines. So, players and groups of players should be the focus, with lore characters sort of filling in narrative gaps rather than going off on a monologue when you click on them, then you gain a quest.

    Take that Ghosty guy from the stream. Rather than interacting directly, it would be suuuper cool if he joined you for key moments of the questline and talked as you go. Or pops in to monologue as you fight some mobs in a lighter area. Interacting in a way that adds to the experience rather than dictating the experience.

    Give key details to mayors through some dedicated quests and let them disseminate the information how they see fit, let them write the quest info based on what little they know and post the job on the boards like all the other quests. Imagine the differences in how a gladiator mayor and a guild leader mayor would explain what they need everyone to do at Carphin.
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