Period Blogs for Backstory
There can be a great deal of confusion about the backstory for a world. Plonking a world down whole and expecting a backstory to fill itself in later, is an approach too often taken.
With gameworlds this is often a form of suicide, as players quickly scrape off the surface capabilities, to find no substance or justification behind them - no plot to reel them in.
Social environments are more forgiving, but there too, a backstory, provides a reason for the place's existence, makes it more than a random collection of builds in a virtual environment. Following such a story as a guiding hand, often feeds creatuve juices too, allowing you as the world architect, to sculpt it to the grander scheme.
A simple backstory could be something like:
In ages old, the deities did make war upon the sky. During that war, many pieces of the air itself were ripped asunder, and flung far and wide. One such shard, spinning throughout the void, did make contact with a rocky moon, barely a shell of a world.
There, it connected hard, and savage. Air and rock fought with one another, and great peaks rose up around the impact site, forced out of the ground by the sheer power of the first wind the rock had ever known.
The shard flowed back upon itself, and settled into the new found crater. The great peaks thrust upwards at the edges, held the air in as it collapsed upon itself, forming a breathable bubble.
Ages passed, and the war of the gods raged on, transforming the heavens beyond recognition. The great powers never noticed this little bubble, nor the life that was growing within it.
A single teardrop of life just a few miles wide, on an otherwise dead world. Yet, it thrived. When our ancestors found this place, so many millennia ago, they found a garden of Eden, untouched by any mortal or immortal hand. Slowly, aided by the low gravity of a shattered rock, they shaped it into the paradise we know today. Glistening spires, clinging to the rockface, amongst the lush vegetation, envy of the stars.
This backstory is obviously crude and brief, but would suffice to explain why a given world is so small, and would give those who build the objects in that world, as well as the model makers, a guideline for the type of content desired
Together, the backstory and models come together to create a single unified experience.
This was one extreme of an example of backstory, the other occurs when backstory takes the form of a set of novels, explaining and exploring the world in untold depth. This has occurred is situations such as Dragonlance, which had originally a quartet of books, intended as backstory for a quartet of SSL computer games.
Yet, they took on a life of their own, and the novels of dragonlance grew far and fast, spawning new SSL titles, and improving upon the old. More backstory equates to a far better picture of the world, and any new VR rendition, now has the power of close to a hundred bound volumes to draw on, with a clear expectation for the world type.
Backstory can take the form of novels, that the world is based on. They can take the form of a creation tale made for that purpose, or historical evidence of settlements of that type existing over millenia. They can even be a simple timeline, although that is not recommended alone.
With most worlds that do have a plot, this is as far as they go; leveraging existing information to create a back-plot, a reason for the existence of their world.
Occasionally you find a library in-world, which is used to house relevant materials culled from the web - text files and web pages which help explain what the world is about, common social etiquette, or rules.
These really help in setting the atmosphere. They are places where you might find an ancient terminal, or venerable old tome, laying out the backstory again, in finer detail. Perhaps a handful of short stories if you are very lucky, written by different authors, building on the premise of the world.
That still leaves volumes of space to fill.
If your desire is for greater levels of emotional investment, and immersion from your guests, or perhaps paying customers, then more backstory is the way to go. Stories, memes, tales to spark the mind. Poetry or prose, adding extra volumes to the in-world libraries, perhaps making books available throughout, each with a titbit of story or advice in them, all helps.
This is where the task starts to seem overwhelming. Its not. For you see, not all the backstory has to be in place when the world starts. All you really need, is just enough for the vision to start to be seen. A couple of pages of notes, and a backstory to give the clientele.
Everything else, can be added over time. One of the best ways to do this, is blogs.
What are blogs, fundamentally, if not diary entries written in a form intended for public viewing?
Create a period blog, set it maybe a hundred years before the world, or 20, or 2000. A great hero, or war leader setting down their memoirs. Think of it as a section of entries explaining daily life, for that individual, from that individual's perspective.
Perhaps your backstory timeline includes a great war in the past, or early colonisation. Take a character from that, make one up, and have them reiterate the events that happened to them on a day by day basis. Contribute to it every once in a while, and make the entries available from a book or other object in-world.
It does not matter if some of your clients bemoan the extra reading. They do noty have to read it; others will, and will influencethe ones who do not, in their understanding of the world, and its depths. If you work subtle clues into some of the stories, they serve to deepen the world still further - keep them subtle so the works are still wonderful to read, after the plot that spawned that chapter is long since gone.
If you can, format the pages such that the do not look like web pages, and so that they can be accessed from within the world. A good example, is a book that when clicked, opens, and allows you to read it; drawing more text from the blog postings, with every page turn.
A backstory, accessed in world, by turning book pages
By not having to leave the world to read the blog, you are reinforcing that the blog is actually the tale of a person in your world in bygone years.
Just by adding to it a little at a time, over months, or years, one day you will look back at the volumes of text you have created, and see their influence in others' eyes - in the way they view your world, and the way they interact. Also in the way they have stuck around.