Syl yesterday and scuffed about by Nils today. This is a topic worthy of a PhD thesis (probably someone working on one this very minute) and I don't propose to attempt to address it in any depth in a blog post. I just want to focus on one aspect: the difference between Story and Lore and why the former may not matter but the latter inestimably does.
Arguably, Story and Narrative are synonyms, as are Storyteller and Narrator. I'd suggest there are subtle differences but it's probable that using one in the place of another wouldn't cause fatal confusion. Lore, however, is not a synonym of either. A story doesn't have to have a traditional beginning, middle and end but it always has a direction, always goes somewhere. Lore does not go anywhere. It just is. You follow a story. You live the lore.
Lore in MMOs is, of course, a specialized use of the term. In life, lore is a somewhat archaic concept, usually ascribed to things that have acquired thick patina of time. How to charm warts, perhaps, or the portents of weather. When we use it here, that's not usually what we mean.
In post-Tolkeinian fantasy, particularly in its long, episodic or continuous forms, the term Lore has come to mean a conflation of History and Fact. Our world generates both spontaneously, continuously but imaginary worlds don't come into being replete with meaning. When we cross from character creation into a new land, that land hasn't been lying there undiscovered for millennia accreting context. Someone sat down and made it all up.
Not someone. Many someones. There may be a person or a team specifically responsible for creating The Lore. They may have seeded the world with more scrolls, books and inscriptions than will ever be found, let alone read by even the most obsessive fan. They may have given snippets of dialog to every psuedo-living creature able to stumble over the lowest bar of sentience. They may even, if no-one has been able to stop them, have created quests in which The Lore is Handed Down to The Deserving. Still, there's more to it than that.
If this imaginary world is to be somewhere worth spending whole months, years of real, actual, irreplaceable life it has to be at least as compelling as the world it replaces. It has to feel as though you are walking on different soil, breathing different air, being somewhere you otherwise never could be. Every decoration on every wall, every strap on every sandal, every calling bird or barking dog has to work together in harmony to create a true sensation of place.
All that is Lore and lore is the bedrock. It should be there in everything from art design to music to voice. It should be in the shape of a sword, the cut of a coat, the feathers in a hat.
These worlds don't make themselves the way ours made itself, by chance and deep time. They're thrown together in a few short years with compromise and under constraint. When the worldgate opens and the player horde floods in, yes we change that world and make it ours. We should. But there must be a world already there, waiting to be changed.
Don't tell me stories. Make me worlds.
1 hour ago