Whatever Happened to Mysteries in MMOs?

Many early computer adventure games intermingled plot and mystery, action and puzzle – Myst, Silent Hill, Indiana Jones  and the Fate of Atlantis, Zork, Ultima, The Longest Journey.  Playing these games growing up, friends and I spent long hours taking notes, making maps, figuring out plot connections – all this alongside the combat that could crop up at any time.  Figuring out how to open the mysterious locked chest or opening the secret door, or discovering that the king is possessed was half the battle, and when you did figure it out, it was often as exciting as the most challenging combat in the game.

Even better were the games where nothing was truly spelled out for you – you found clues as you explored, and serendipitously the story or mystery emerged as you put the pieces together.  Myst was the best at this; you were simply dropped into the situation and left to stumble across strange notes, books, sounds and images, and left to put 2 and 2 together.  It was amazing.

So why is the investigation mission completely missing from the modern MMO?

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The Single Player vs. MMO Tradeoff

So in listening to The Instance podcast recently, the hosts touched on a bit of a discussion that’s been at the back on my mind for a while. The question was actually emailed in by an 8-year kid who’s evidently taking a class in video games (how times have changed!). The question was pretty simple—will Skyrim ever be made into a multiplayer game? For those who aren’t familiar with Skyrim, it’s the latest release in the Elder Scrolls series of single-player fantasy roleplaying video games.

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