Original IPs vs. Established IPs
Slashdot pointed me to an interesting article at Ten Ton Hammer all about storytelling and MMOs, specifically whether using an established IP is better or worse than developing your own. They interviewed a number of gaming companies, and came away with a mixed bag of results. Basically, PR is easier with an established IP, but working within an existing storyline is harder.
Interestingly, 38 Studios has the benefit of a known story teller, which is benefiting them as an established IP would.
Some things I felt related to the fact that gameplay still isn't innovative enough - lots of people cited Lord of the Rings as being problematic, and others noted that in several established IPs the most powerful characters were already established. I thought that focus on the 'epic battle where the big baddie is vanquished' missed other options for great storytelling - Gandalf, for example, may or may not have actually destroyed the Balrog (I can't remember if the book actually says unequivocally that the Balrog was destroyed) - the key was that he managed to walk away, and protect the others. Basically it's the escort quest, only without the silly parts of the escort quest that relate to bad AI.
It's interesting, actually, to think about - the one assumption was that storytelling should be excellent, but the good guys should always win. But some of the best stories (Empire Strikes Back, e.g.) involve the good guys getting their tuckus handed to them.