At this point, I was getting very excited. Telling compelling stories
in MMOGs is almost like a lost art. Yes, there are stories being told
in the quest dialogues and the actual activities of the game world, but
where are the “Holy ****” moments that occur in
many single player games? Why hasn’t the MMOG industry been
able to capture and manage a captivating storyline?

“It’s almost like a new genre,” Brett
explained. “We want to do true roll-outs of episodic content,
not just expanding or adding content to the game. There’s no
sequential meaning or logical progression to the content, as opposed to
living in a sandbox world where you can really play through story
points and anchor points, get to know another race and help them, work
with your friends to unfold all the aspects of the story. We want to
get you to the point where there’s some sort of clear
‘what’s going to happen next?’ type
moments. Then you get the next delivery of content.”

“Anytime you’re going to be talking about unfolding
a story, and although it’s not a linear experience,
it’s a lot like reading chapters in a book,” Brett
said. “There are ways to deliver successive content to people
that will give them an increasing, unfolding dynamic experience. There
are certainly some technical challenges to that - and some production
challenges as well from a scheduling aspect – but at the same
time it fits right in line with what we’re talking

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Tabula Rasa also
includes a form of dynamic content in their "Ethical Parables."

“I like to look at it in the inverse,” he
continued. “How do you unfold a story to somebody when the
world is absolutely the same as it was earlier? I mean you could unlock
items that were always there, but for security IP / proprietary reasons
to deliver this content episodically. It gives us options to deliver a
very powerful entertainment experience.”

In our last meeting, Brett, Mary Kirchoff, Scott Cuthbertson, and Chaz
Sutherland were all present to briefly discuss with me the sort of
products that 38 Studios could be making with their upcoming IP. With
Brett, we had a bit more time to discuss things, so he went into
greater detail.

“We will have a console presence,” Brett responded.
“And that could mean a lot of things. I mean there are
products like Age of Conan and Marvel Universe Online that have stated
that they are coming out on the console, so it’s not unheard

“It’s definitely an interesting problem,”
Brett continued. “We’re trying to address how much
of this we can do on a console and how effectively we can do it.
It’s similar to the time when 3D shooters used to be PC
games. People – at one point – said that 3D
shooters could never work on a console and they didn’t want
to play them on a console. And then you had Halos and Medal of Honors
and things like that. Same goes for RTSes, as now you have Battle for
Middle Earth and Command and Conquer on established consoles. The
controls may be hard to get used to, but they’re selling like

“So we’re continuing to explore ways in which we
can develop a whole universe of products around the intellectual
property that we’re creating,” Brett said.
“There’s the MMOG, then there’s all the
other stuff we can tie into the MMOG. We’ve got ideas for
cell phones, graphic novels, comic books, web-based products,
console-based products, web 2.0-based ideas; I mean there’s
so much we can do! A lot of this is just logistical; when do you roll
up each piece of artillery? There’s so much that obviously
works, but when do you fit it into the picture?”

Jumping back into the storytelling / game design conversation we were
having earlier, I was concerned about actually integrating such a story
into the game world. In titles like World of Warcraft and Everquest,
you have a definite story and the NPCs are talking about certain
aspects of the world, but you really don’t
“feel” the story as a player. There’s no
consequence to any of your actions (unless you’re grinding
faction) and successfully completing a mission doesn’t save
the world, it merely progresses your static storyline. I asked Brett
how the world that Bob and the team are creating differs from this
static sort of gameplay.

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Lord of the Rings
Online features episodic content, although whether its what Close
describes is hard to determine.

“If Bob were here, he’d tell you about how he
writes a world, the landscape of the world, then puts the characters in
there and sets up conflict and dynamic,” Brett said.
“Those kind of emotional anchors get built into a number of
gameplay events and mechanisms that aren’t unlike those
non-online products that are delivering the same sort of experience. On
top of that, you combine the idea that you can collectively go with
your friends and go interact with that experience.”

“There are events in the world that are as simple as going on
a raid, and at the end of the raid you get some points, maybe a few
artifacts, and a bit of loot,” he continued.
“There’s a clear outcome of what you guys did in
this raid, and 38 Studios will provide the outcome of what your actions
caused in this story. Hopefully you’ll say, ‘Wow,
that just occurred because we did this. What happens next?’
It creates a larger context of not just myopic grinding.”

Myopic grinding may be done away with, but how will players advance
their story? Will it be “unlockable content? Or is this
something that merely asserts itself after a player completes a
mission? In many MMOGs currently, all of your content is simply
“locked” into place, waiting for you to come around
and open it up. With his statements along the lines of “What
happens nex?”, I surmised that there may be a more dynamic
twist on the 38 Studios world.

“Yes, we’ll actually have a bit of both. Players
will unlock the story in parts, but what you do will have an impact on
the story and how the story unfolds.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016