Jon Landau is one of Hollywood's foremost producers. He's produced movies like Titanic and Dick Tracy and was here to speak about the convergence of Movies and Games. Jon was also here to talk about the work their getting ready to do on James Cameron's next project; which from what I've herd is 'Avatar' and if the rumors are to be believed, Avatar will be both an MMOG and a film.
Jon talked about how Cameron's next film (probably Avatar) will be shot completely in 3d and how they've been working with various companies like WETA to develop a new type of performance capturing technology that allows them to capture an actor's performance and map it to a 3D character in a 3D world and let the director manipulate the character in real time.
Jon was also here to talk about how him and James Cameron have joined the board of advisors for Multiverse as well as build new technology to allow the assets for a movie to be contributed for development of game titles easily. He seemed pretty committed to the idea of MMOs allowing for the expansion of the universe created in movies and beyond that.
He kept hinting that this next movie of Cameron's project would somehow bridge the gab between interactive and non-interactive entertainment.
Given how Cameron is always pushing the edge of technology - it wouldn't surprise me if Avatar (if that is his next project) really provided as an engaging a story online as in the theater. Story was what really what Jon was pushing as a necessity in MMOGs, but when I think about it, it doesn't seem like players are really a huge part of the online story. The Matrix Online is the only one that really had attempted to do this in my opinion and it has pretty much fallen flat on it's face. Can a MMOG have a truly interactive story?
Stories are great for a background to a MMO game. I think WoW handles it best in that the entire game really wraps around a story, but you don't have to worry about it if that's not your "thing." For those that are interested in why things are the way they are, there are many ways to gain background knowledge, such as reading the various books that are laying around the world, actually reading the quest documents and the quest stories, etc. It is true that the players aren't really a part of the story in that they do not affect the story, but it is really hard to make that work with a MMO.
Think about what happens if you allow two factions to truly affect the world. Let's just use WoW as an example. If the Horde could take over Alliance cities and Alliance could take over Horde cities, what would it be like for a player to join after a year if the Horde ends up being really good and takes over all the Alliance cities? What would a new player do as an Alliance member? No quests, no stores, no real safe locations... you'd never survive.
Now, it's possible to make it a limited affect on the story and world, but where do you draw a line that lets you have the affect without actually ruining the world? You really don't want a world that is dominated by one faction, unless you want to be that faction, or you have enough people of other factions to rise up and overthrow the dominating faction.
I think that if you allow too much affect on the world, you will end up breaking the game in a MMO. It's okay for games that reset periodically, but for an MMO, I don't think you can really allow that much of an effect without breaking the game in the long run.
I thought the whole point of MMO's is that there is no story. Somewhat cynically, I've always believed that the production companies figured it would be cheaper to turn out a game with no story and let the geeks playing it create their own. Now all that's required of the designers is technical proficiency -- no creativity needed. And now that we have a whole generation of gamers brought up to think that that's OK, I doubt they would be happy being handed a game with a detailed, story-driven world.
That was before MMOs were brought to the masses. We masses don't have enough imagination to think up our own storylines or talk funny. That's why they now make special servers for the "special" people, so they won't infect us with their creative vision. ;)