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Static vs. dynamic story

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#1 BladeLakem

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 10:49 PM

One of the ways you can categorize story in Uru is by static vs. dynamic.

Static story is passive. It' is made up of set pieces - places, history, cultural artifacts (the D'ni language, etc). One does not so much interact with these things as one explores them and learns them. From a development perspective, these are more traditional projects. History isn't that different from a traditional narrative. Art is made in the traditional way, etc. Static story will probably need an FCAL to be considered 'canon'.

Dynamic story is story in motion, and resembles role-playing. This is interactive and largely improvisational. These are the things you do In Cavern - conversations you have, etc. This have a certain level of canon to them because they actually happened. But only the things that actually happen. The rest is hearsay. The fact that I said something fits into that canon. Whether it is true or not is another issue.


#2 Zardoz

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Posted 25 August 2008 - 10:44 AM

I would not use "story" to describe either of those, but then I'm on the side of narrowing the meaning of that term, not widening it. Nevertheless, here are some thoughts.

I would characterize the contrast in a slightly different way: Persistent v. ephemeral. The static elements of "story" are usually manifested by in-game, "hard-wired" objects: a journal or a physical object. (I would also include any hard-wired appearances by the Yeesha hologram, etc.) These persist over time and do not change. They can be "discovered" by anyone entering the game for the first time. Mystery can surround their meaning and importance, but everyone has the opportunity to participate in debates and discussions because potentially everyone can experience these elements. That, of course, is their strength in terms of contributing to a rich, in-game experience, but they are "passive" in that they cannot be changed or affected by players.

The dynamic elements of "story" are, as you note, the events that transpire in real time, and are not repeatable. They can come from improvisation or from a broadly outlined or tightly scripted plan. They are experienced by those who are present during the appropriate time period and in the appropriate place, and others may "experience" them second-hand if they are logged or otherwise recounted. But they are ephemeral in that the second-hand experience will always be historic, and so the set of players able to experience them directly will always be small. That is their weakness in terms of contributing to a rich, in-game experience, but the opportunity to be among those who actually get to experience them is their strength.

Here's my take on both (in case you can't already tell). Persistent elements offer the best chance to build a shared culture and an active community for a game like Uru. Because they create a common reality, they offer every player the same opportunity to discover "story" and ponder deeper meanings. They allow people more flexibility to create shared, in-game experiences, because these elements "wait" for the player to come to them. They allow the developer the opportunity to create and control short- or long-term mysteries. They also provide new players the opportunity to make many or all of the same discoveries as old-timers.

In contrast, ephemeral elements are personally gratifying but do little to build a shared experience or information set. They differentiate explorers by the amount of time spent on-line, or by time zones (if they are run out of a single time zone, as the Cyan-based experiences were), and so potentially create "classes" within the community. The Uru community also seems to have a poor tradition of telling stories (as I would use the term), and so there is no record of important, ephemeral events that could be accessed by new players, other than chat logs. And by offering the opportunity to "affect" the story, it encourages excessive behavior (take any appearance by any DRC member in any public place as an example).

Now, that doesn't mean that dynamic story elements have no place in Uru. The above is my personal opinion; others would make a strong case in reverse. But I have never seen an argument for dynamic elements that adequately addressed their inherent limitation: Only a select few can experience them, and the entertainment value of such experiences drops significantly if they are second-hand (and may be vastly over-rated when they are first-hand and are mob scenes such as Yeesha's final appearance in Kveer). As such, while they certainly can and should play a role in an on-line game like Uru, I believe that the persistent elements must be even stronger, as they provide a better avenue for building a solid community.

#3 BladeLakem

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Posted 28 August 2008 - 09:03 PM

I'm strongly on the other side of the fence on this one. I think that the dynamic story is what gives Uru its unique flavor. It has not done a lot to address the issue of universal gameplay in Uru, no. However, I think that has more to do with the delivery method and how it was handled instead of the concept itself.

The primary gameplay in Uru is passive - delivered content. It's also centralized - content comes from Cyan and trickles down. In that model, then there is always a deficit. However, if Uru is set up to support content in both top down and bottom up modes, then you can make it work. It starts with the understanding among the player base that they are going to be acting, instead of just observing and reacting. And it has to be followed up with active feedback from the people running the game/event in order to start the cycle.

Now, it does break down when the loop is broken, which is what happened in Uru, IMHO.

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