Yes, Lore Does Excuse Design Decisions

Over at Massively OP, an article popped up today about using lore to excuse design decisions, and how that’s not OK. Going in, I thought this was going to be about actual game design – combat flow, ui flow, and the like. Basically using lore to justify bad QOL elements. I can certainly get behind that stance. I can’t really think of any examples off the top of my head (most devs use the excuse of “QOL is hard”), but I’m certainly against the concept, and was hoping that the article would explain things.

But no, what the article was actually about was mostly character customization, or the lack thereof, in certain ways. (There was also a bit about no cross-faction teaming in WoW, which I think is also a valid complaint – I have the same complaints about STO. But that wasn’t the thrust of the article.) Really, mostly complaining about gender-class locking, or not being able to make female characters.

To be clear, I don’t actually like those things. Those sorts of things will definitely diminish my desire to play the game. But they are OK. If that’s what the devs want, they can use lore to justify it. If you want to say “no female knights, because lore,” that’s your choice. Or “no male witches”. Whatever, that’s fine. Even if your game is a knight game, or a witch game.

Getting mad about the gender locking, for this particular reason, is silly. Obviously the devs had a certain sort of character in mind. It’s a really ancient way of designing a RPG, especially for a MMO, but it’s still valid. In the very, very early days of PnP RPG’s, the characters were pretty static. The Wizard, The Knight, The Thief, etc. Even the first modules for DnD were designed with this in mind. Obviously, this design went away pretty quick (because both character and story customization are more fun, and are quite viable in pnp format), but, again, it’s still a valid design choice. Those RPG’s that do this (they seem to be mostly Asian, and particularly Korean in my experience) are fine. You (and I) might not like it, but it’s fine, for them.

Of course, the devs also have to face the consequences of their design decisions. If they whine about criticism, they get to come off as babbys. But said criticism should be about the choice made, and how it makes the game worse, not that the choice itself isn’t ok, or the lore isn’t valid. It’s perfectly fine for the Red Team and Blue Team to not be able to team together for lore reasons. Maybe annoying to players, but not necessary.

Of course, using lore as an excuse, when it’s not the real reason, is pretty low. If the game is coded in such a way that allowing, for example, cross-faction team, is nearly impossible without going in and blowing up half your game, then just admit that. I get the feeling sometimes that devs don’t want to admit those sort of things, for whatever reason. As if it’d be admitting a huge mistake, and that’d be dishonorable somehow. I get the feeling that’s the reason in WoW’s case (and probably STO’s case), but for some reason they just fall back on lore (which is extremely silly for STO).