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MrHyde 04-23-2012 08:52 AM

Lore – What it is, Where it’s been, Where it could be
Hey all – Hyde here.

I write to you now because I feel that what we want with our lore, what we’ve gotten, and what it could be have meaningful gaps which should be addressed. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but given that we have had polls on different lore distribution formats and that these have since been put on hiatus due to their limitations, we need a serious discussion about what is missing from the game atm and what might be done about it.

Note that this is NOT a QQ thread asking “where’s our lore gone?” Rather, this is an in-depth analysis of story, lore, and interactive fiction methods. If reading scares you I suggest you go elsewhere :)
For ease of navigation I have broken my piece into segments. They are as follows:

Lore – What it is
So what are our solutions?
Community Comments


MrHyde 04-23-2012 08:54 AM

Lore – What it is:
Lore – What it is:

One of the most common misconceptions about lore is that it can be boiled down to stuff “out there.” On the one hand, this is understandable. This kind of presentation is largely what we’ve gotten in the past: character bios in the client, the Journal of Justice, etc. On the other hand, this definition misses the point completely. In each of these cases, story happens outside of the gameplay experience. When we say we “want more lore,” we are (usually) referring to some kind of supplementary material. From a design perspective, however, lore is so much more.

If I had to give it a definition, I would say that lore is a means of creating persistent engagement with a game/media source. It can be used either to further a narrative or to further the sense of a persistent world. When we see the map of Runeterra every time we choose a game mode, this is lore. When a character’s art direction says something about a character (like Jax wielding a lamppost), this is lore. And yes, when we have bios in the character interface, this is also lore. Each one is an opportunity to advance either world persistence or various narratives, whether company- or community-inspired (here’s looking at you, RPers).

Defining lore in this manner allows us to think in three useful ways. First, we can think of lore as being generated in the art, the character models, the jokes, the taunts, etc., and not just in the bios or the judgments. This is key: lore/narrative can be part of the gameplay itself; it doesn’t have to be external. Second, it allows us to ask pertinent questions that help the devs, like “What is it about a particular character / plot development / world element that grabs us?” Third (and most importantly) it allows us to ask what needs to be added to increase our own emotional investment in the game.

MrHyde 04-23-2012 08:57 AM


Right now, League achieves engagement through gameplay. And there’s nothing wrong with this. For all that some of us like to complain about this mechanic or that set of balance changes, Riot does an excellent job creating a space where competition takes over your world. I don’t know about the rest of you, but the emotional highs and lows this game creates for me can be pretty intense. But at the end of the day, we are narrative creatures. We crave stories. Even if you’re someone who only deals with the gameplay (i.e. you’ve never looked at a lore page ever, read a game novel, or played an RPG), I would argue your experience is fundamentally tied to some kind of storytelling. Things along the lines of “Do you remember that time when I totally pwned some noobs?” or “Did you see that juke?!”—or on a more public scale, things like the League of Legends Top 5 plays. The gameplay experience itself creates storied events. This phenomenon is compounded when you take these events to a competitive level. You remember that time when Moscow5 took an AP Shaco mid (y’know, if you watched it…. ) or when your favorite team won at x tournament.

The problem with this kind of engagement is that it largely ignores all the world-building Riot has already done. If player interaction is all we were really interested in, there wouldn’t really need to be a Noxus or a Demacia. Heck, on some level we wouldn’t even need champions with distinct personalities. We could all play chess… or something. I think we tend to want something more, and we can improve on how already existing world elements can be included in the game experience.

A second problem is that this kind of player immersion doesn’t always stick on a personal level. Sure you might remember an awesome play you pulled off for a while, but in my own experience these stories tend to be overwritten by newer play experiences. After 1000 games, stories tend to blur. Contrast this with your favorite book or favorite movie (or heck, even your 10th favorite). I’ll bet you anything you can tell me more about the events in those experiences than you could your 10th best League game.

TL;DR? Narratives provide long term engagement (through memory & emotion) while normal gameplay does not.

Now, note that I did say “normal” gameplay. There is one big exception to this, which I like to call the pro-sports effect. Basically, when you make the play really skillful or for high stakes, these games become more likely to create generate their own stories. Everyone remembers when their favorite team won the Super Bowl or the World Series or whatever. This is part of the reason Riot has been pushing the professional scene. And more power to them! I think e-sports is a wonderful thing, and I hope more companies push the boundaries of where we can go with this. However, we are left with our 3rd problem with this model – exclusivity. Basically, players run the risk of becoming passive consumers of high-level play by a small percentage of the population. This is not a terrible thing; many industries (movies, sports, etc) are based off of passive consumption, but it’s a shame when you consider the interactive game medium we start out with. There should be a way we can encourage player involvement, either in the tournament scene or elsewhere.

MrHyde 04-23-2012 09:00 AM

So what are our solutions?
So what are our solutions?

Potentially, there are many. I don’t have the time to go into all of them here, although I would love to hear others’ suggestions in the comments below. One solution I find particularly elegant, however, is resorting to interactive fiction.

What I mean by this is allowing narrative decisions to be made by the player base at large through their gameplay. WoW did this well with the creation of the Alliance and the Horde. Player actions changed in game content in a way that felt meaningful. I think Riot has this opportunity with league as well. Let’s reflect for a moment:

1) League of Legends is built on the premise that gladiatorial combat is used to solve political disputes.

2) We have opposing factions already in place – Noxus and Demacia.

3) Previous attempts at including narrative were dissatisfying (yes, I know some people liked the Journal, etc. but they were the written equivalent of cut scenes. They take you out of the game experience. PS: if you want a really good discussion of alternate forms of narrative presentation in games, go here. The guys at Extra Credit rock).

What if Riot introduced a new “Story Mode” where character selection would be limited by faction? Riot could set up a conflict over territory, ideology, what have you through other story medium. Players would then be able to choose Demacia or Noxus (or whatever) when they queue, and then they would only have access to those champions (and whatever mercenary/neutral groups are appropriate) in character select. Over a given period of time (a season or even shorter, depending on what the lore team decides), these players would battle to resolve the conflict. Riot could record the number of victories on each side and then show the overall Demacian or Noxian victory narratively in some other medium—whatever they decide on using. This would allow players of all skill levels to become engaged, provide a narrative element which has been lacking so far, and utilize the unique setting that Riot has already painstakingly created.

For a concrete example, let’s take the introduction of the Crystal Scar. Basically, there was a huge war between Noxus/Demacia that the Summoners stepped in and prevented. How much cooler would it have been if players could have taken part in that conflict? What would it have been like if Demacia or Noxus won through your efforts?

What do you think?

MrHyde 04-23-2012 09:00 AM

Community Comments
Community Comments


Slashinghardest 04-23-2012 09:37 AM

It would be cool if they sold lore segments. For a certqin amount of rp you could buy a little rpg or rts game where you play through a characters backstory. Of course it would only be able to be done for characters with especially actiony lore but I would like tp buy a rpg game where I get to play through my favourite champions story. Maybe even add a new icon you unlock for buying the lore segment or finishing it.

MrHyde 04-25-2012 04:02 PM


Originally Posted by Slashinghardest (Hozzászólás 23526070)
It would be cool if they sold lore segments. For a certqin amount of rp you could buy a little rpg or rts game where you play through a characters backstory. Of course it would only be able to be done for characters with especially actiony lore but I would like tp buy a rpg game where I get to play through my favourite champions story. Maybe even add a new icon you unlock for buying the lore segment or finishing it.

While I am not opposed to that idea in principle (because, lets face it, if there are more people like you then this = $ for Riot which means more awesome for us down the line), it faces the same fundamental problems that the Journal of Justice and Character Judgements faced. Story is delivered outside the gaming experience. This is certainly okay for some narrative elements, but I want to brainstorm how we might join story and gameplay to the point where League is more that just a competitive game with some world tacked on. I think we have that potential here without sacrificing what Riot has already built in the pro-gaming scene.

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