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Weaving the Threads: Storytelling in City Of Heroes
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Weaving the Threads: Storytelling in City Of Heroes

September 24, 2004 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2

Taking Missions Further: Creating Story Arcs

After City Of Heroes' missions, the next step of story complexity is the Story Arc. This is a series of missions and errands which all tie together to form a more complex whole. A Story Arc might focus on an evil plot perpetrated by one villain group, or it can be used to illustrate a conflict between several groups. Story Arcs often focus on an epic threat to the city, and they can be used to draw the players toward new areas, such as the city's Trial Zones.

The final type of zone that the players in City of Heroes are introduced to is the Trial Zone. In addition to having the thickest concentration of enemies, these zones also provide monumental tasks for players to overcome. The more difficult the trial, the greater the reward is for defeating it. Players are sent to trials as part of the story development. Infernal and Minx, in the example, end up following a lead about Outcasts and Trolls doing battle in the Hollows, a zone that is being implemented in our current free expansion.

This zone utilizes another storytelling technique that we have adopted: using a specific zone to tell a story. The first contact in the zone is Lieutenant Wincott, a police detective who is trying to keep the Trolls from taking over the Hollows completely. The players begin their journey through the story of the Hollows with him.

Minx and Infernal gazed down the street over the police barricade. Glimpses of roving bands of Trolls could be seen in the distance.
Lieutenant David Wincott spoke quietly but firmly, almost managing to keep the weariness out of his voice. "We have managed to hold them back, but we haven't made any progress in taking back Eastgate. I don't have the manpower to hold out here indefinitely. I'm glad you're here."
"We will aid you as much as we can, Lieutenant Wincott. On this you have my word." Infernal's terse words had the weight of an oath.
"What's our first move, L.T.? I'm anxious to see if that thick green hide can stand up to these." Minx brandished her claws with a flourish.
"I'm sorry to say that might have to wait, Miss Minx. The first thing I need you to do is help me deal with an even more immediate problem. The Outcasts have moved into one of the nearby neighborhoods to hassle their rivals, and my men are getting caught in the crossfire. Will you help?"
A firm nod and a strong hand on the Lieutenant's shoulder was Infernal's only reply.
"Not a problem at all," exclaimed the exuberant Minx, vaulting over one of the barriers, "There's no reason we can't deal with both threats. Two heroes, no waiting."
"One last thing…" As Infernal moved to follow, something in the Lieutenant's tone stopped both heroes in their tracks. "The Trolls, I think they have my son. If you see him…if you find him, bring him back to me."
Wincott's shoulders slumped ever so slightly, and his exhaustion was suddenly apparent.
Infernal and Minx exchanged a glance. The young heroine started to speak, then stopped herself and pointed at her new teammate.
K'varr D'shall, binder of demons, hero of Paragon City, spoke with clarity and conviction. "We will do this thing, Lieutenant Wincott, even unto our dying breath."

The heroes' journey through the Hollows has begun. Solving the trouble with the Outcasts will lead them deeper into the zone. After that, their path leads underground, to even greater dangers. As the players are led to explore the new areas, more pieces of the story are unfolded before them. These tasks will bring them into contact with other heroes and continually provide opportunities to form new alliances and friendships.

Lieutenant Wincott

The Hollows gives players the satisfaction of working their way through a gauntlet of challenges and potentially performing a great task given to them the very first time they speak to Lieutenant Wincott. Successfully solving Wincott's mystery wraps many threads together, and provides a richly rewarding experience for the players.

Conclusion: Toward a Living MMO World

We at Cryptic are constantly searching for new ways to add to the fabric of our story. Telling a story over the course of an entire zone is the latest technique that is part of our process for creating an online world. We will continue adding new ways of bringing the story to the players and when we do, we will make certain that it adds to the whole.

The initial Contacts and tasks are only the beginning of the story that characters will find in Paragon City. As they increase in level, the stories they started with will connect to other villain groups and zones. The players will finish off many of the stories by completing Task Force Story Arcs. These are very challenging Story Arcs that require groups of heroes to complete. Many of them will bring them into direct conflict with the arch-villains who are in charge of the organizations they have been fighting all along. This gives the players many accolades to achieve along their path to the top, with an obvious hierarchy sometimes absent in games which just create larger monsters, divorced from any kind of organization.

In the future, we will also be weaving in many more events... Some of these events will be small and only affect a few, but others might have far reaching effects on a zone or even an entire villain group. These sorts of permanent alterations to the tapestry will enrich the living feeling of the world - the Rikti alien invasion which ended the Beta Test is a startling example of a worldwide event with significant consequences.

From the beginning, starting with one thread, each player will weave his or her own part of the huge tapestry of story that lies within the City of Heroes.

Infernal and Minx stepped out of the building and onto the streets of the Hollows. The area clearly showed damage from the event known as the Hollowing. The buildings were dirty and cracked and the street fell away to open dirt in the distance.
"Those Outcasts are tough cookies, Infernal. I could barely stay on my feet, and that guy Frostfire was brutal! We could have used a hand in there."
The axe wielding tanker simply pointed over Minx's shoulder as a golden metal figure landed behind her and approached.
Purple circuitry glowed as the female figure spoke in a gentle but hollow voice. "Are you in need of assistance with the trouble in this zone?"
"I guess that all depends on who you are and what you can do." Minx snapped back, her hackles rising slightly at being caught by surprise.
"I am designated Luminary. My creator, Positron and my…teacher, Bastion suggested that I lend my aid to others who might need it. I can utilize light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation to injure my foes and heal my allies. Who might you be?" It might have been Minx's imagination, but she was sure her heightened senses detected a different inflection, almost a challenge in that last question.
Infernal might have noticed too, because he stepped forward to make introductions. "I am K'varr D'shall, known as Infernal. And this is Minx. We are on a quest to restore the village of Eastgate and reunite a brave man with his son."
"That is a commendable goal, Infernal. This one would be honored to assist, if that is acceptable to all involved." Luminary's gentle tone was back.
Minx cocked her head at Luminary for a moment and the shrugged. "I guess between the two of you, I better be the informal one. Besides, I have to admit, healing sounds pretty good. Welcome to the team, Lume'." Minx's tone was mostly playful.
"Thank you, Minx. I am glad to assist."
A nod from Infernal got the heroes moving farther into the Hollows. Minx leapt to a fire escape as Luminary hovered into the air. Infernal strode down the middle of the damaged street, filled with a sense of purpose. He knew not what danger they would face, but he felt confident that he and his companions were up to the task.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 2

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