On the latest episode of Guild Chat, Narrative Lead Bobby Stein and Game Designer Crystal Reid joined host Rubi Bayer to discuss storytelling in raids. The second raid wing, Salvation Pass, is now available to play, and recent episodes of Guild Chat revealed the first boss, Slothasor. Most of the Forsaken Thicket plotline is fairly dark, but the Slothasor encounter is a chance for a light break before the story gets heavy again.
The Raids team works together with the Narrative, Design, Art, and Audio teams to seed hints and clues in each release that will pay off in upcoming content. They want to be respectful to players who are focused on completing the content, so they create an overall narrative that gives all the necessary story information without forcing players to hunt for it. However, optional content is there to enrich the experience if players look deeper and explore. Achievements point to some of that content, but much of it is just waiting to be found by raiders at their own pace.
In Spirit Vale, the player’s character occasionally comments on events as they happen in the raid. In Salvation Pass, player characters can interact with each other at times by responding to one another’s dialogue. Repeating the raid or entering with characters of different races will result in different lines. There’s even an option to account for a raid made up entirely of characters of the same race and gender, so that it doesn’t sound like a single character is trying to hold a conversation with multiple copies of themselves.
One goal for character dialogue in raids is to have the player character speak aloud at the same time a player has an emotional response to the experience, in order to enhance that feeling. Variation in dialogue also helps keep the story fresh, since raiders typically run content over and over to master it. If you find and interact with the story bits off the beaten path in Salvation Pass, visiting them again when you return to the raid will yield some different information and help wrap up what you’ve already learned.
A raid has less dialogue than a story instance, and so it’s important that the lines that make it in help advance the story or provide information to the player. This sometimes results in written material being cut; for example, the story of Sabetha and the bandits in Spirit Vale originally revolved around the bandit known as Knuckles, and players were meant to discover his deep dissatisfaction with his work environment and the origin of his nickname, which he got by punching a wall during an argument. Bobby said that it warms his heart to see players analyzing raid story, because it all has meaning.
If you missed this week’s episode, you can check out the recording below!