You’ve trying to create an MMO that actually tells stories. Other people have struggled with this. If you’re playing Guild Wars in a group, and a cutscene pops up, you often find everyone pressing the skip button.
Garriott: First of all, we don’t pause for long cutscenes so we don’t have that particular issue, for better or worse. But generally, I think storytelling is unattempted by most games. When we talk about role-playing games, I think there’s two kinds. I personally use the word “RPG” when I’m talking about a game like Diablo. Diablo is a statistics-based game. One of the things which Blizzard does phenomenally well is what I call the slot-machine mechanic. You face just enough challenge to get just enough reward to feel just powerful enough to go and face a slightly bigger challenge. They do that masterfully.
If you go back to every game I’ve ever developed, I don’t think mine have ever come close to the skill for RPG-balance that the Blizzard guys manage. That being said, I think I’m one of the only people who really, truly attempts to create story content that is not only worthy of reading or participating in, but challenges you to think about the story as it’s unfolding and participate in a meaningful moment of that story where what you do actually matters...
Lots of great games have nothing to do with literature. Tetris clearly has nothing to do with literature. It’s a physical game mechanic. By no means are games required to ever go beyond that. Great games - in fact, most games - fit in to the game mechanic.
But that’s not what your interests are?
Garriott: My personal interest is to do games which have more of a literary backbone. If you look at any piece of classical literature ever written then you hit Joseph Campbell-Hero’s Journey type of issues. The hero starts with a big goal that is well beyond their capabilities - and they have some substantial personality flaws which mean they’re not even an appropriate person to consider tackling the problem.
Instead, along the journey, they discover things about themselves - and they change themselves. In fact, the whole story is really about the hero; them saving the world is almost secondary to the character change... and that’s what I try to do inside my games. And even though I don’t do a particularly great job of it compared to true literature, by at least trying it, I think I make a game which feels more relevant to you and feels like something you really want to be a part of.