June 2009

There’s a lot of talk about how videogames are yet to have their Citizen Kane, and how when this game is released, we will be elevated to the same degree of cultural relevance as film and literature. But, recently, I’ve begun wondering if that’s really what videogames need.

Citizen Kane is a feat of cinematographic mastery, but there are many games out there that use visuals, game mechanics, and narrative elements successfully.

Star Trek, on the other hand, while perhaps not as technically impressive, has cultural and future relevance. Each of the serials, from the first one in the 1960’s, explores themes and situations which echoed events of our world which were relevant at the time. The money quote, from Roddenberry himself, is:

[By creating] a new world with new rules, I could make statements about sex, religion, Vietnam, politics, and intercontinental missiles. Indeed, we did make them on Star Trek: we were sending messages and fortunately they all got by the network.


So, following on my previous post on Cartography, and my comments on in-game stories, here’s another idea for a crafting profession.

The Loreweaver is a seeker of knowledge, a scholar of ancient languages and cultures, and is deeply interested in unearthing the history of the world. From a design standpoint, implementing the profession fulfills the following goals:

1. It is aimed at lore enthusiasts, those players who want to know more about the story of the world. One of the products of the profession is exactly that, in-game books dealing with history, mythology, culture and other such subjects.

2. As a crafting profession, it does not require exploring the world, killing monsters, or finding gear for progression.

3. It is a new way of delivering narrative to players.

4. It is an experiment in player-created content, after a fashion.


The discussions on questing and storytelling have been going on for a while, and I haven’t said much on the subject until now because personally I feel divided on the subject.

As a way of establishing a basis for my thoughts, here’s a little information about my playing habits in WoW:

I currently have the maximum number of characters allowed (50) scattered across a good dozen servers. I play mostly alliance characters, on PvE servers, but I have player all the racial and death knight newbie areas, and all races to at least level 20. On my main server, I have 10 alliance characters, 3 80’s, 4 70+, and three lowbies. I have one of each class (including death knight), at least one of each race, and all professions maxed or just about.


Exploring the world is one of the things that draws me to virtual worlds, whether they be MMOs or single player games. I also really like crafting, to the extent that I usually take up all crafting professions in MMOs, even if it requires rolling up a bunch of alts. While juggling possible crafting professions that haven’t been explored or implemented in other games, I came up with the idea of a crafting profession that could appeal to explorers. Hence Cartography.

In my mind, Cartography would work similarly to how the world map works in World of Warcraft. As you explore the world, you gain cartography experience, and you uncover the world map. Once you uncover the entirety of a zone (in a zoned game) or a certain area, you would gain the ability to ‘draw’ a map of the area, using ink and papyrus. You would then be able to draw maps and sell them to others. Maps would be items that non-cartographers would click in order to add them to their own world map. Without these, either players would not have access to the map, and thus would have to rely on their own navigation skills and landmarks strewn around the world, or would have access to very rough maps that show only settlements and major roads. This way, travel between settlements (the ‘known world’) would not be hindered, but travelling off the beaten path would be potentially dangerous.


In the last instalment, I touched briefly on the subject of how a relationship system could affect combination attacks during combat. Relationship systems aren’t a new invention by any means, Breath of Fire had the coloured gems on the character status screen, and Star Ocean: The Second Story had a very in-depth system of inter-character friendships and love. This system was the basis for the ‘Private Action’ system of events, where you could watch short scripted sequences that took place between characters in your party when you entered a town. Some of these private actions included interactive elements, where you got to choose how you would react to the interactions between other characters. When I first saw it in action I thought it was brilliant, and still to this day think this is a great way to flesh out character’s personalities, backstory, and relationships between characters.