The problem with lore

by Lewis Dowling

The other day at Blizzcon, Blizzard announced yet another expansion to World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth. They revealed a new Overwatch hero: Moira. They brought new heroes into Heroes of the Storm.

Excellent. But at the same time, I’m a relatively new Blizzard fan. And something has been annoying me. There’s just too much lore for me to learn.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not the amount of lore that’s the problem. I love lore. When I play games like Mass Effect or Skyrim, I’ll stop and read every entry or book and read up on the background. I love when a new short video comes out for my favourite game. I’ll happily read the Team Fortress 2 comics on the tube to work.

But it’s all so scattered.

Where’s the story?

World of Warcraft is the best example of this problem in gaming. I’m a relatively new player, I’ve worked my way through for the last six months, leveling and delving into dungeons. But if you asked me, I couldn’t tell you anything about the characters or the story. I’m ploughing through, killing Murlocs, with no real idea about why I’m doing any of these things. The names and characters all blur into one, and I barely recognise any of the key figures.

Mainly, this is because I’ve often levelled beyond a specific area before finishing a quest. I was loving a particular quest line, where I was under water and trying to save the crewmates on my ship. Yet, I got halfway through and suddenly I’m an uber-god killing bosses in one hit. It was time to move on, it seemed. Another storyline ditched.

But the problem is also because the story isn’t all within the actual game. There are books detailing the background or videos on their YouTube channel, which I’m just unaware of. I just have no idea where to start.

And when I get to the end of a specific expansion, I’m not really seeing the end-game content for that pack. I’m skipping straight on, diving into the next part of the story. A period that’s meant to last me months, I’m through in mere minutes.

Some people have tried to help

There was a brilliant project recently. It was called WoW Lore: TLDR. It was a fan project to distill all the story into a really easy-to-follow website. It covered the main points, and you could drill down into each section.

Sadly, it’s not up to date. And it doesn’t link to everything I’d need to read. But it’s a great effort.

The thing is, why hadn’t Blizzard done it? Why was it left to the fans? Why, if I want to make sure I didn’t miss anything in Fallout, do I have to head to a random wiki to see what’s going on?

Embed your content in the actual game

When I open up Overwatch, I don’t see why there isn’t a menu option for me to read the comics. Why hide them away on the website? I can’t watch the videos about each character. Unless I seek the story outside of the game, I don’t know anything about it. This seems ridiculous to me.

But surely it’s an easy thing to add? Don’t just make the game the place where I go to fight, make it the hub of all your content.

Imagine you logged into World of Warcraft, Deus Ex, or Bioshock and you weren’t just greeted by a button saying: ‘Play’. You got a link to all the story. The comics. The cinematics you probably missed. A recap of the past expansions.

And, more importantly, the Amazon link to the books. I’d gladly buy the ebooks to all the World of Warcraft books, if I had any idea where to find them or what order I should read them in. I’d gladly listen to the audio dramas as I’m doing my daily quests.

And I’d stop feeling like such a newbie.

This could be a new business model

Games these days are struggling to make money in the traditional way. It’s all about loot boxes, downloadable content, or buying packs of cards. That’s fine.

Keep the free stuff. But if there’s a book I can buy on Amazon, publishers could link to that and take a cut of the profits.

You can keep the cosmetic loot boxes. I’m fine with that. But it gets around this problem of pay-to-win, where it feels like it’s not about my skill as a gamer, but how rich I am. Not only does it help regular players find the bits they’ve missed, but it helps draw in new players - who may be intimidated or lost.

There’s a problem with lore, these days.

But it’s not an unfixable one.