And the Credits Roll

The End
The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time was the first video game that I completed, and to a kid my age, I felt pretty smug. I had conquered all nine dungeons, faced (what I thought at the time were) hard bosses and in the end brought to king of evil to his knees. I was so proud, in fact, that I left this screen on the TV for the rest of the day, unwilling to let my achievement fade into staticky oblivion.

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The Illusion of the Small

skyrim-mountains

Tell me, when was the last time you played a game that really drew you into its world? My game experience is probably more limited than yours, but I’ve found that the Elder Scrolls series does an incredible job. Its world has enough complexity to make it feel so real that people never run out of stuff to do, places to explore, and so on, but for most games this is well outside their budget.

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A World Without End

Expanding on last week’s outline of a vision for a “Massively Multiplayer Living Story”, I’d like to focus on the fundamental ingredient — Interactive Narrative.

What is a Living Story? It’s not a sandbox, simulation, or choose-your-own-adventure-book. It isn’t just experiencing a story someone else wrote, no matter how many alternate endings or moral choices there may be. It’s writing your own story into theirs in unexpected ways. It’s a collaboration between author and reader to publish something that is perpetually evolving and interesting. The players backstory, history, and actions become incorporated into the story, which makes each player’s experience unique (even though they share the same world as 1,000,000 other players).  This is what games can accomplish that books and film cannot. This is how to make a truly “endless game” rather than an “endgame”.

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My Vision of a “Living Story”

Inspired by phoenixShadow’s post about the vision of the future of games, I wanted to outline an idea that I would personally love to see realized. It’s a bit crazy, but hear me out. This is an outline for a Massively Multiplayer “Living Story”. What that means, is (1) that there are thousands or millions of players in the same game, (2) that their actions directly influence the story of the game, and that (3) that story doesn’t suck. Impossible? Probably, but would you want to see what it would look like? Let’s jump right in…

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Visions for the Future

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In The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner propose that a good vision is one that’s shaped along the way by everyone who is involved in completing it.  Anyone who reads and comments on this blog or who assists in developing the ODIN Project is helping to shape the vision of what games can be even as we make it a reality.  Because of that, I thought it was fitting to start a discussion on the potential future of video games by posting about my personal vision for them and asking you where you would like to see them going in the future.

As for me, my vision of games is to be something more than mere entertainment.  Not only can a well-written story combined with a well-designed game be a lot of fun, it can inspire us, help us learn, and bring a deeper satisfaction to our lives.  Those kinds of games can have a powerful impact, just as excellent books, movies, and art can.  I envision exceptional games achieving this potential by doing these three “E”s:

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Gods and Men

Iluvatar

“There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar.” The Silmarillion

Religion forms an integral part of worldbuilding stemming all the way from Tolkien. From its beginning, Middle Earth has mythology that lies so much deeper than it would seem from just The Lord of the Rings.

In my experience, however, I’ve noticed that not all gods were created equal. If we go back to Tolkien, we see that Ilúvatar is more powerful than the Ainur, which in turn are divided into the Valar and Maiar. The Valar, though inferior to their creator, are the gods of Middle Earth, though they are strict non-interventionists. With the exception of Melkor who the elves named Morgoth, the Valar let Middle Earth grow on its own.
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