So two of my favorite more recent games would be Final Fantasy XIV (despite its many myriad issues) and Stardew Valley, but both have a problem that actively makes them feel less impactful than say older JRPGs or the like even when they go over the same content. IMO that problem is stasis, although it manifests in different ways and the creators of both are trying to deal with it – although current measures may or may not help matters.
For FFXIV, I think the stasis is an inherent problem of being an MMO bound to a main storyline quest – you can't really give every player a new set of quests when you have a main storyline that has to be held to, so even the slightest step back makes you realize everyone else playing the story has done it in the exact same ways, will do it in the exact same ways, and nothing is truly changed and nothing really matters (and stuff like sapping emotion from deaths by bringing dead characters back isn't helpful at all – I'm actually thankful that for now they did hold the line with Haurchefant despite people whining over wanting him back etc, because he's pretty much the only character death writing in the game that doesn't come off as cheap angst OR as "they'll be back sometime").
There, the stasis fixes are framing for the most part – framing the story as told in the past and one you are reading/going over as well as participating in which does work somewhat, but I think it actually works better for non MMO JRPGs, and alternate-universe/timeywimeyball, which works too I guess (e.g. every player is doing their own universe's version of the protagonist's quest) but… I feel like somehow the very nature of the story as MMO and player character/protagonist is self-insert kind of holds back these fixes from doing their best (e.g. non-MMO JRPGs with defined not-the-player protags like Final Fantasy Tactics and Xenogears work very well with the "this story is already done" framing, and there it doesn't seem disingenuous at all)
On the other hand, Stardew Valley's stasis comes from its being "open ended but not really," and can actually make the game seem horrifically dark once you've maxed everything and played to endgame – the game does not end but stays open, people just say and do the same things over and over again, literally no one or nothing changes beyond the endpoint. The limited dialogue trees in general are a huge part of the stasis problem there, as is the nature of the events having to be the same every year and every day and every place. While this is comforting and makes the game relaxing (you never have to worry that you've missed something forever beyond a couple of events that can only happen in Year One) it also makes for a really engrossing gameplay experience that… unfortunately suddenly slams into a solid brick wall at a point.
The fixes I've seen used there are procedural generation for the dungeons (which I actually like, even if a lot of people don't) and of course adding new content and new events and new items with updates to the game as expansions (which are awesome, and I don't object to it, especially since Eric Barone was doing a TON of that by himself for a while in self-imposed crunch, yikes) but my problem there is that I don't feel like it goes far enough – that there needs to be more procedurally generated areas to explore, and dialogue overhauls combined with possibly AI procedural generation applied then too SO people will say different things more often, at least enough to not come across as the prototypical NPC.
So what are your thoughts on combating stasis in all areas of the game to create immersion and what ways would you suggest to avoid both world stasis and NPC stasis?
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