Are games more fun when you know the lore?

There are two different types of tourist.

  • The well prepared tourist has read guides, made lists of things they want to see and do and planned out their holiday in advance. It may be a sketchy plan but it’s there. They may even have learned a few words of the local language and know which of the local delicacies they plan to sample. Perhaps they have watched films about their destination or even been inspired to go there from seeing the place featured in a favourite book, comic or TV show.
  • The accidental tourist travels with the aim of exploring. Maybe they have made some preparation but what they really want is to be surprised with new and exciting experiences to tell all their friends about when they get back.

I always feel like a tourist when I head into a MMORPG for the first time. I like to know about the lore so that I can have the fun of recognising places and people if I see them in game. If someone made a game set in the town where I live, I’d enjoy “walking” around it in the virtual world, even though I could go outside and see it in real life.

For Warhammer, I’ve been reading some of the Black Library books to get a feel for the setting. I really noticed the effect of this when I was reading this month’s newsletter. Every other paragraph, I caught myself stopping to think something like “Wait, I read about that!”, “Ooo, that looks like a rat ogre, that was in my book!”, “That sounds like one of the daemons I read about … and it’s going to be in that dungeon! Wow, cool!”. I don’t know how excited I really am about the Warhammer setting per se but I am very intrigued at seeing how the world I’ve been reading about will be brought to life.

Of course, a graphical setting can be breath-taking whether or not you know the lore behind it. It’s nothing to do with how hardcore a player you are or whether you roleplay in game; an awesome visual is a visceral experience, and a well-written storyline can engage anyone who reads it (this is why even in a game like WoW, you can ask people if they have a favourite quest and most of them will pick the well written ones.)

Do you prefer to research the lore before you play a game that is set in an existing ‘world’?

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warhammer novel released online

Richard Prince has written Shadowspear Legacy, a Warhammer Online novel, and plans to publish a chapter per month in the run-up to the game’s release. While this isn’t a sanctioned Games Workshop piece of writing, it’s very nicely done and gives some access to a wider background piece available free and online.

War is everywhere!

For my first stab at getting to grips with a new setting I picked the official WAR site (European) as my starting point and went to their stories and legends section* (under ‘the Universe’). Read through it on a prolonged tea break at work, and managed to get through it easily in the 15 mins I had.

Am I now an expert? Nope! Definitely not, though some of the names and cities are a little more familiar and I definitely have a sense of the RvR and what’s at stake for each side. So in that way I think it worked. Also, I think it’s inspired me to dig a little deeper, though I have no idea what my next step will be – might wait to hear what Spinks thinks of some of the books 🙂

*NB: the lore is the same as on the US official site, where I found it was signposted a little better, under a ‘Background’ link

Getting to grips with the setting

I’ve not read any Warhammer books, I’ve never played the RPG. So why the hell do I crave the game so much?

Well, I started roleplaying in my teens (a looong time ago), I started online roleplaying in the early 90s with MUSHes, I started MMO-ing with DAoC and progressed through WoW and LotRO. I miss stuff about DAoC and I have a fair amount of trust in Mythic to make a great game. If Imperator was on the cards, I’d probably have tried that too. I kind of like PvP, especially in the Realm vs Realm scenario where you have an in-built sense of loyalty to your side. And, most of all, I have a small group of friends intending to go play WAR, so I’ll be joining them there on the Order side.

I’ve read plenty about the quests, the classes, the city sieges, the tome of knowledge.. but I’ve yet to crack the actual background and setting of the game. So, because we have some time before open beta and any chance to really get a hands-on look at the game, I thought I’d spend some time reading the lore.

I’ll be reading through the links on this page on Warhammer Alliance forums, and this page from the official WAR site. And, of course, I’ll be sharing my views.