A big part of it is some fairly simple steps go a long way. Some things like making sure the bad guy, instead of just waiting for you to come kill him in the final level, gets out into the game and mixes it up with NPCs and even mixes it up with player prior to the finale, to where the player gets to know them personally and gets to know why they might dislike them, or why they're working against them, or why is that guy worthy of being your opponent, or why is that guy appropriate to be your opponent. The same thing would be true of love interests or comic relief or almost any of the other kinds of emotional strings that you might want to pull. I think that most people creating games are far more worried about the next physical puzzle, the next treasure to loot, the next creature to kill, ... than they are about doing something more sophisticated, more difficult, but also more worthwhile, which is to take much more care in your story crafting.
TE: As a designer and storyteller, you started in RPGs and then moved to MMOGs. Why do you feel that that is the best place for you to tell stories?
RG: Oh, I think MMOGs are actually a particularly challenging place to tell stories. I would not describe it as the best, or definitely not the easiest place to tell tales.
As a game designer, of course there are a wide variety of reasons why you might want to play in different genres or play in different models like MMOGs. For me, the compelling reason to be in MMOGs vs. solo-player games comes from what I believe is a fundamental human need to share experiences.
People don't even do extraordinarily passive things like going to the movies by themselves, generally. The vast majority of people don't go to the movies unless they have a friend that they can take with them ... even though in a movie theater, people just end up staring at the screen, so to speak, and [don't interact] with the friend they brought with them, until the end of the movie. But still, that compulsion to be with your friends and share those experiences with other members of the human race is incredibly strong. And so, in spite of the difficulties of telling stories in a massively multiplayer setting, I think the importance of being in the massively multiplayer setting outweighs the additional challenge of trying to tell stories there.
TE: Do you think you'll ever go back to working on single-player games?
TG: I would still very much enjoy doing single-player RPGs. By all means, that would be highly desirable, but it is also not necessary for me. If for some reason, after I spend a few years playing in the MMOG space, I could easily see my self jumping back into single-player or picking up whatever the next trend is and trying a crack at it in whatever the next new genre is.
Dana "Lepidus" Massey is the Senior Editor for WarCry.com and former Co-Lead Game Designer for Wish.