My character for the Time Trial Challenge in Champions Online has a backstory. It’s based very loosely on the ideas of the anime Karas, a preview of which can be seen here. My character is a techno-organic angel bound to a young shrine maiden who is manifest to keep the balance in the world. While man has free will, and evil is a part of that, her job is to tip the scales back to good.
The problem is that so far as the game goes, none of this matters.
Yes, we can write a bio and roleplay. We can design a custom nemesis to oppose us. Although he/she is limited to one of three archetypes, and a single powerset, as well as having to choose from pre-made goons.
But none of this matters in the game. We still fight the same enemies, over and over again. Whether our characters are evil or good, it doesn’t matter.
It reminds me a lot of those franchises which try and sell you a business writing personalized children’s books. It’s basically a single story with handy fill-in-the-blanks to give the illusion of the story being written for him. But it’s not: the template doesn’t know the personality of the child, whether or not he is brave or cowardly, what his hopes and dreams are, or even his likes.
You can’t have player-driven stories in a world someone else makes. The freedom a sandbox game gives in the end isn’t freedom at all, because you cannot make your own world, just try and fit into a premade one. EVE is the greatest example of this. All you can really do with the mechanics is fight and scam, so what do the stories revolve around? Who fought and ripped off who. Notice you never see any trader or hauler stories?
The real revolution will be to give players the ability to make meaningful stories centered around their character and its concept. Not just shoehorning it into someone elses.