My Theory (Destiny)

by EffortlessFury @, Friday, December 01, 2023, 15:55 (178 days ago) @ Robot Chickens

The complexity is the liability of a long history. It’s almost as if telling a continuous story for 10 years on 2 engines may be a bad decision.

The irony is, that there was more / better story in 9 years of Halo as traditional game releases, than 10 years of Destiny as live service.

I've got a whole diatribe I've been thinking about for a while now.

If you want to tell a long form story, the world of that story needs to change. Actions end up feeling meaningless if the world is static.

Traditional games like Halo never let you go back to places unless there was a narrative reason for it and when that happened, the environment changed to reflect the story. Halo CE is perfect at delivering this sense of narrative impact and environmental story-telling. RPGs often include different environment states depending on where you are in the story.

Always-on mmos? You can only change the state of the environment with a great amount of work. If you do, it's likely that old content is unplayable and you've cut off a portion of your fan-base who can't play the stuff the paid for. Everybody loved sunsetting right? Unfortunately, that is the only way for those environments to experience change when they come back. Thus, the narrative feels like you're resetting the stage every few months and none of the threats are real. Every emergency feels contrived. In Halo, the threat of the Covenant wiping out all life was a real potential option. The threat of the Red Legion? Nah, yet they still stalk the European Dead Zone.

Now let's also consider that the game-clock of Destiny's experienced timeline is tied to our own world's passage of time. This is a narrative shackle that robs story-tellers of the ability to jump forward to allow for significant context changes. Imagine if we wrapped up Destiny 1 having defeated the Taken King and put things right in the system for several years. How much more disruptive would the Red War have felt if that plot-line of the Cabal fleeing the Hive took a while to come to fruition as they stormed our system? As it stands, everything is on fire all the time and the pacing just feels off.

With the pairing of this time-line shackle and the inability to easily change the world easily, it is incredibly difficult to tell a story that has any stakes or costs.

Destiny could have been a 10-year story if every installment changed or had a realistic impact on previous game-spaces. Lately, they've been getting a little more clever in how they reference the past which is a good thing. They are still doing it with one arm tied behind their back though.

Another example case along this line of thought is Genshin Impact. Genshin is a single player game, for all intents and purposes, so it doesn't have the problem Destiny and other MMOs have; I bring it up, however, as it is a regularly evolving game and does involve some form of these kinds of changes. They add new sections to the map, quests in these areas can permanently add or remove content in the world. Some quests do even more than that (change a bunch of in-game item text and dialogue to reflect a change in history). The game does have co-op, however, and any of those world changes would be reflected when people visit your instance.

So, like a classically styled single player game, the world can evolve and change as the narrative progresses without being hindered by other players' progress, while still being a "live service" that adds new content and story on a regular basis.

But as for the dream of having games that are shared spaces but that also evolve and change, you run into the idea of whether game content should be transient. This wouldn't be an issue if time you spend away is the same as time spent not participating in whatever conflict is on-going, and when you return you are brought up to speed. A cool concept, but at the same time, that means a bunch of content is inaccessible forever, and there's an argument that this isn't worth the experience it provides.

Genshin does dabble with this issue as well. It has events every patch that come and go, and do not (as of now) rerun. They have story, characters are involved and can have development, you might learn new information about the world that foreshadows what is to come. If you weren't playing at the time, you don't get to experience that content. That means everyone does these events together and experiences them as fixed points in time, but that also means a bunch of novel content is lost to time.

There's no good solution to emulating a shared experience that involves the passage of time without being willing to accept that the content, like the passing of time itself, must be transient.

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