Champions Online and Story Telling

I had a stranger come up to me in Champions Online and whisper: "Your costume is very well designed and really thoughtful! Well done!"

I was like all: ^___________^

And then I thought: well, considering it took you literally 2 days to make it, it dang well better be.

We, that is, my brother and I, hit level 25 and went to make our nemesis.

I quite like the idea; except the story line and character is all rather shallow. I keep feeling like I'm searching for something in the wrong medium. Super Heroes are all basically Crimes Fighters in Spandex. He might come from a different planet, he might have been bitten by a radioactive baboon that granted him telekinesis, but essentially, he's just a Crime Fighter on the side of Good.

Super Heroes are black and white, but I believe in greys.

It's almost ridiculous to be saying I want realism in a game about cartoon heroes, isn't it.

So I play this game but it leaves me with a bad after taste; I've always felt heroes should be swirling vortexes of insecurity. Really, every hero is deceiving himself. Why does he fight? What does he hide? Who is he really fighting for?

I know this borders onto Roleplaying, but I think it's more than that. The whole universe of Champions Online is black and white. That's the good guy, that's the bad guy. There is no room for you to be the middle ground.

This is especially true for the nemesis. You create your ultimate enemy, his appearance, his skills, his minions; but it left out the most important part: You can't create his personality. You have no control over how his mind operates, how he interacts with your character, WHY is he your nemesis, that kind of thing.

It's good enough if you don't have a story and your hero is basically happy enough with swooping in to beat up bad guys and then flying away.

Your nemesis is Evil and that's that. He steals things because He Can, he kidnaps people because They Are Fools, he uses a doomsday device because he Wants Power and Glory.

It's cookie cutter and boring as shit.

Storytelling in games is similar to storytelling everywhere else; the same reason people laugh at books and films with a shallow plotline is the same reason why I am finding CO wearying. You might be able to get away with a bad film or a stupid book, people can tolerate one or two hours of bland writing.

But MMOs especially need a much higher standard if they want people to retain interest. MMOs can't survive on a client lifespan of 2 hours. I'll play CO for now because of the novelty and I don't have anything else but I certainly don't envision myself playing this game for more than a month.

This is kind of the same with WoW right now. My character is being corralled by the actions of NPCs that I don't agree with, and for no logical reason I can determine. The main problem is that it affects me, my character, intrinsically. An event in WoW should be passive in that regard; it affects the world, the NPCs but how it affects the player character and the player's reactions should be entirely up to them.

I think Cataclysm will be a good one - the world erupting into chaos is a good example of passive storytelling; the player has to decide what he wants to do. Will he band together with his friends? Will he see the need to fight the alliance for resources?

I have been very spoilt by Dragon Age in this regard and now, poor writing in games is intolerable. Of course I know WoW and CO are MMOs and that's a much younger genre than CRPG. But that's exactly my point. MMOs are a fascinating new media for storytelling and we're on the right on cusp of something amazing.

I'm just waiting for it, but I don't think I'll find it any time soon.