Dramatic Storytelling (Discussion)

Each Guild Wars game tells a story. Those stories are interesting and fairly well thought out. Unfortunately, they lack emotional impact. This is due to a number of factors. In some cases, it's mediocre voice-acting. Sometimes it's inappropriate music or just the limitations of the game engine. Prince Rurik's death? Sad, but there was no impact, no feeling. His unwilling resurrection by the Lich King should have been a tragic event, the fight joyless and the ending of his suffering by the player a tear-jerker. Togo's death? I liked Togo (apparently many people didn't), and it didn't hit me like it should have. Shiro's character was never developed. Is he insane? Is he actually a good person at heart, but possessed by Abaddon? Or is he just a psychopath taking advantage of an unusual situation? We don't know; there's no character there. Even super-characters like Abaddon lacked depth. All it would have taken was a cutscene backstory of his imprisonment, his twisted features screaming defiance as the chains Balthazar forged dragged him down, down, to the depths... that would have made him more real and far more impressive. As it is, there's no emotion at his death, there's no real impact in Kormir's transformation, and there SHOULD be.

However, with the Bonus Mission Pack, Arenanet has shown that even WITH the limitations of the engine, they can write powerful scenes with both visual and visceral impact; who didn't cheer (at least on the inside) when Turai Ossa smacked Palawa Joko right off of the bridge in dramatic slow motion? Who didn't feel Saul's anguish, or the confusion and consternation of his companions when the Mursaat, their saviors, turned on the White Mantle's people and spirited Saul away to parts unknown? No, the writers and designers and programmers of Arenanet are perfectly capable of dramatic storytelling. They've learned over time, and now have the ability to make dramatic events carry the emotional impact they deserve. I expect to be crying over the loss of characters in GW2. I expect to be screaming defiance (at least on the inside) as I charge the Dragons' armies. There was more humor in Eye of the North, and I expect a bit of that, as well. All drama all the time isn't realistic, and genuine (that is, unforced) humor can help develop a character just as well.

It will take extra effort, the kind of effort we see in the BMP, but sustained over the entire GW2 development process. It will take improved visual effects (the effects used in Turai's final scene are impressive and add to the impact), better voice synchronization (though dramatic storytelling doesn't need voice-acting; see any Final Fantasy game before X), more appropriate and thematic music, and tender loving care. It may involve implementing complex technical details, like facial expressions and additional scripted movements (though again, these are not strictly needed for good storytelling). It will certainly involve more cutscenes (though not necessarily longer ones). But Guild Wars 2 is an opportunity in so many ways, surely it deserves this level of attention to detail. GW2 could show that MMORPGs can have powerful storylines, too, breaking new ground in the genre. That in itself would make it well worth the effort.

Why this is a good idea

* In many cases it only take a few tweaks to a scene to dramatically increase its impact; a lingering camera shot here, a pause in a character's movement there... Joko's fall is enhanced by using that neat slow-down effect. Saul's loss is made more poignant by nothing more than good virtual camerawork and a few additional scripted motions.
* More character history and motivations make for better and more believable characters; villians you can really hate, heroes you can really rally behind
* Better storytelling draws in the player, increasing their emotional involvement with the game and encouraging them to continue playing.
* It encourages more involvement from the developers, too. People like to create, and the better their creations the more they like to create them. An awesome, gut-wrenching, exhilarating and glorious plot with well-developed, believable characters will serve to involve the entire GW2 team in new ways. Who knows what the benefits will be?
* Helps to enhance GW's Lore which keeps a lot of the players wanting more.

Why it may not work out

* It takes hard work and therefore time to make a game carry emotional impact. There simply may not be time to implement the tweaks and additional content it takes to make the game's storyline riveting unless it was planned in from the beginning.