A New Kind Of Fiction

I don’t play MMORGs (massively multiplayer online role playing gales). There are a lot of reasons why I don’t, but there’s one main one. Story. If I’m going to spend time in a persistent (game) world, for my time to be meaningful, my actions must have the potential of having long term (maybe years long), political ramifications.

If I’m to take part in a battle, I want to know that that battle will shape the political landscape for the future. If I accept a contract to assassinate someone, I want to know that even if I don’t understand how, by my choice of killing or not killing, I’m shaping the future of our shared reality. Narrative is what gives actions meaning, and there is no meaning in most MMORGs at the moment. (I consider Eve Online a good example of this, it’s not fun, but it has many players despite this. I believe this is specifically because it comes closest to providing a level of narrative based meaning).

My freedom should be constrained only by narrative necessity.

With all due respect to those who are trying to create it, computers are no good at this. We would need a narrative engine that could integrate the actions of thousands, model the behaviors of individuals and nations, and at the same time, knew what made a compelling story and what didn’t. I would love to work on such a thing, but I think we’re decades off the technology to create it.

There is only one solution, I think. We need humans. Humans that can plot the broad outline of a story, and fill in the detail on a day by day basis. Humans that can improvise and create a new, and still interesting story when the actions of the players scupper the original plan. Humans that can play the parts of kings and courtiers, monsters and villagers. Humans that can create tales of fall and redemption, betrayal and friendship, sacrifice and reward.

To have a virtual world where players would be prepared to give themselves up for a cause or for each other. Where some people would join, just to watch, and others would become the main characters in a storyline enmeshed with all other characters growing by the day. A place where the smallest actions of a young thief can affect the ruler of the empire.

What I need is you. A team of people who can create interesting storylines for the players under their responsibility, and to work together to create flexible storyline plans that span continents, empires, millions of players and years of time.

What I have at the moment is nothing, but if I find people who believe in and are enthusiastic for the concept, I think the rest will come easily. Since the story is king, the technology isn’t as important as with other MMORGs, and there are off the shelf kits that could get us a long way down the road to the technology we need. What is needed chiefly at this stage is the enthusiasm of talented people. If you are enthusiastic, get other people you know enthused too, and comment here.

Is anyone with me?

I’ve also posted this to my oort-cloud account

UPDATE: Ryzom ring with Adventure Masters is getting close to the kind of thing I mean.

9 thoughts on “A New Kind Of Fiction

  1. I don’t do MMORGs neither, nor I have tried SecondLife. But I have friends who are trying to do this inside SecondLife, at least this is what I understood.

  2. I’ve been a bit disappointed with SecondLife, the little I’ve used it. The performance was horrible. But I’m interested in what your friends are up to, perhaps you could point me at a website?

  3. This is one of the guys
    http://www.slideshare.net/davidorban/the-theory-and-practice-of-democracy-in-virtual-worlds/

    From what I understood, they bought an island in which they are trying to see how much it can be self-regulated, uhm, emergent auto-regulation or something like that. But I never entered in SL, so dunno. I also checked the Multiverse you del.icio.used, really impressive. I tried OpenCroquet but it is very very very alpha, it seems, or anyway I didn’t understand what to do, but it is free software that I think it is quite a requirement if you want to be able to control, fork, evolute, bla bla bla
    What are you up to instead?

  4. Thanks for that link, I’m very interested in the how technology relates to politics and the idea of an over-society. I’ve also often wished that we could get sensible real figures for where and when the “invisible hand” is or is not the best way to organise things. Perhaps virtual worlds can provide us with useful sandboxes to help guide our real world policies.

    I’ve been checking out croquet as well, and it’s interesting to see that SL is moving to open source too.

    This particular post is more focussed on the intersection between games and story telling though. For me, the most satisfying games are games that include elements of storytelling, but at the same time, this tends to force a linearity from technical constraints. “Interactive Storytelling” by Andrew Glassner is quite a good exploration of this topic, and ultimately an argument for the futility of trying to merge them. Until I read it, I hadn’t properly appreciated the difficulties, but I still think it may be possible to overcome them.

    This call for “authors” to manage the mutiple storylines in a game has generated a little interest, but not enough for me to seriously persue it. I’ll keep the idea around, and maybe even do a little more research on it, but for it to be workable, I’d need quite a decent sized pool of creatives interested, so I won’t do much more until I find such a group.

  5. Actually Kyb,sorry to bow out here. I am a bit confuddlsed by what this was. I am not sure I am able to offer anything!. Could you describe more about what is meant by interactive storytelling?

  6. Finally a person whose sees that a game isnt a game without a story,i agree with you 100% its so sad that we have all this technology and yet we lack in a great solid story for mmorgs.We need something that teaches values in todays youth,values and patriotism for we are after all a government for the people and by and i stress the word by the people.

  7. Just wondering if you’ve given this any more thought, Kybernetikos, and whether you’ve found anyone else interested in participating. I see the lines between ‘enhanced ebooks’ and games blurring more and more over the next two or three years as people demand more story from their games and more interactivity from their fiction.

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