Sunday, August 2

Good read

Wolfhead Online has a rather good read up regarding the state of Role-playing in MMO's.
Geek's survey showed that most people will engage in what's euphemistically called "Light Roleplay", which can mean anything from doing the occasional emote to being In Character.
I'm not knocking Light RP, it's the level of RP I engage in in MMO's as well. I went a bit further with Kettle and Coilla in Vanguard maybe but I've never been hardocre about it.

The article's called Who Killed Role-Playing in MMO's and while I don't agree with the ultimate conclusion drawn, there's a lot of good points in it.
I have some thoughts on the subject myself, mostly regarding the Role-Playing I'm encountering, by the bucketload, in Second Life. But for once I'm not going to throw down a Wall of Text here, I'd like to think what you think?

I'm not seeking new insights on the effect the lack of RP in MMO's is having on the genre, though if you ahve any (new ones that is) I would be interested. No, today I'm more interested in causes. Whodunnit? Was it the butler with the candlestick in the library? Or was it lazy developpers as the article's author claims, rather than intelligent market researches realizing that tapping the 95% of the populace who never sat around a table with tea & cookies and a bunch of Character Sheets with pencils, D6 and D20 dice would be Good for Business?


  1. Interesting article. Not sure I can talk about causes as much as I can talk about need, if the needs aren't being met that in itself is one cause.

    As the auther suggests we are increasingly becoming passive consumers of our fantasy rather than actively involved in visualising it, for reaching the potential of RP within an MMO world it needs to go that one step further and allow the tools to turn those visualisations into something shared, I could be wrong but developers are probably thinking about RP players in pretty much the same way as they think about PvP players, provide the environment along with some lore and let them create their own content, while PvP players get the motivation of better gear, increasing their skills and bragging rights that any titles might hold RP players get 'fluff' and at best a poorly managed RP server that really never becomes their own.

    I can only comment on the AoC RP server as that's my only direct experience, if other RP servers are as badly managed as that then I pity the RP community. For full immersion RP then a properly 'policed' RP server is the only way to go but the problems with that seem to be twofold, companies can't be bothered to invest in the GM support needed and I don't really think that RP should be seperate from other playstyles, it should be there for all to dip their toes in should the mood take them, an idealist thought I know :)

    Catering to RP beyond the fluff of social clothing, housing etc needs something more dynamic, if players are to fully create their own stories and involve others they need to be given tools to do so, that wouldn't be a simple task, developers time is best spent pandering to the majority to keep the money coming in, will there be someone brave enough to risk creating dynamic content for RP players to utilise? is there enough money in it ?

    Dynamic tools in a sandbox environment, being able to create small scale quests and control NPC's, it's not that far fetched but no one is doing it to the extent that would allow people to be really creative and interactive. If RP players are allowed to create their own content I'm sure the longevity of play would justify the time/cost.

    Arguably the majority of player created content would be absolute pants but I'm sure there would be apsrks of inspiration amongst it, even the none RP community would probably still enjpy and utilise such tools for their own PvE and PvE play. The more I think about it the more I see benefits for the whole community, player created content can be seen as a cop out but dev's already expect it from some sections of the community.

    I'll shut up now :)

  2. There is a bug with blogspot+firefox. I can't copy and paste or use cursor keys on first comment. So this is a filler for my real comment.

  3. Great article! The author does come across as a disgruntled, misunderstood and unappreciated developer, but he has some great points. I actually with his conclusion.

    bankrupt developers who have perverted MMOs into a frenzied pursuit of numbers and statistics at the expense of everything else.

    That summed it up pretty good.

    AOC is once a great example how it went wrong. It is the most RP unfriendly game I have played. This is not due to its players, but the total lack of anything to give your character personality.

    Of course players are at large to blaim for the lack of RP in games. Game developers, and more importantly their investors, put their efforts where the money is. So it is no surprise it is all about the number crunchers. But I think a great game will work because it will be a great game. The risks involved are just too big.

    I don't think player created content is the answer at all. It does nothing to boost RP except a little bit for the maker of the content while making it. it will impossible for the developer to make the user creation tools as powerful as the tools they make themselves, so you will actually be stuck in a subset of the already limited RP friendly tools.

    I think there are easier ways to improve RP. Vanguard did a decent job with the clear individual races and detailed lore. But they lost all that later because race is now utterly meaningless, and the Isle of Dawn means most players don't even know (nor care) about their ancestry.

    But if 'kill-on-site' would be truely used, than race does make a difference. And it should really mean half the content is locked for you. It should not be hard at all for NPC to really react to names of players. If you have a number in your name you are ushered of to NPC 2. Even for NPCs to react to random chatter you type would not be so hard. Selecting from 3 pre-cooked lines is very opposite of what I would like to see.

    The problem is that most players just want the numbers grind. If they have to think, or worse, get locked out of content because of something they did, they will be up in arms.

    I think a small unpresuming developer should try to make something and see who bites. I think many players would love it. But it probably needs to grow like Eve has grown. And probably the first attempts might fail as well.

  4. The bug occurs when you visit blogspot the first time. I.e. it doesn't recognize you yet for some reason. I always click Post Overview and then FF's "back button" so it knows it's me.

  5. What do you need to RP? Is it tools to generate content approaching that what the devs come up with, using the Quest treadmill even?
    Is it a rich and complete lore which you can memorize?

    Or maybe all you need is the incentive and someone to do it with to improve.
    If you ask me what killed RPG in MMO's is achievement points, everything is rewarded in MMO's these days. From lagging/stumbling onto specific coordinates to killing x amounts of some critter or other. Everything is rewarded, except Role-Playing. And even those who would RP on their own are getting so accustomed to it they subliminally feel less inclined to RP. We're all Pavlov's bitch in the end.

    Still, both tools and a common ground in lore go a long way. Take Second Life for instance. THere's RP by the bucket load. There's Star Wars RP, Cyberpunk, Gorean RP, Steampunk,e.t.c.
    Not all that surprisingly a lot of it is mature, even adult oriented but that's what you get when you set people free to release their creativity. Creativity- and libido- glands being so close together and all.

    Take the Gorean RP Sims. There's a huge network of populated Sims that all abide by the Gorean principles as written by John Norman (in a nutshell, Bondage / Slavery not that disimilar from the Conan lore, jus tmore emphasize on the secual aspects). There's a rudimentary combat and capture system (actually 2) in place but by and large everything is done by the 'honor system', including being captured and sold into slavery. If you're enslaved you might not see your home Sim for a long long time. The Star Wars stuff is more conventional (from an MMO player's perspective) and a bit complex as people have Sims running in just about every era of the SW timeline, and there's a lot of those.

    Anyway, Barttle was onto something when he said segregating Achievement&Explorer players from builders/socializers between more and more gamey MMO's and more and more tooly SL's may not have been the best of idea's for either.

  6. Your Gorean Sim example would be great if they could integrate that into a MMO. Secondlife, Sims, Bloodlines, etc, are not much of a game. They are places to walk around and roleplay. Which is great on its own rights, but you are really left to your own devices.

    The problem comes in when adding actual gameplay. As soon as that is added, the shift moves from RP to beating the game. Although I know there are enough players to sustain an MMO that is not about beating the game, it will be hard.

    As example being sold into slavery and doing stuff that slaves do is only fun to RP if you know the slave driver. If it means you are stuck grinding the wheel for a week looking at an NPC with a limited vocabulary wear thin rather quickly. So make the slavedriver a player as well! How long is that going to be fun for that player? Slavedriver is a bit of a dead end job. And having to deal with random whiny people that are forced to grind is not really my idea of fun.

  7. The "beating the game" concept is a good point. It's part of the effort / reward game systems that are so prevalent and really have nothing to do with good RP yet seem to subvert our minds even as we complain about the fact that the effort side of things is slowly being wittled down to nothingeness.

    Sims 2 was a game without 'win conditions' which is what made it a place to be and walk around in rather than a gamey game. Sims 3 is more gamey but in both games you have to set your own goals if any. Vampire Bloodlines is see more as an interactive story than either a game or a place to walk around in. Single player RPG's which are that way, an interactive story is nothing wrong with for me. I can usually find enough leeway to make the character not exactly my own, but my version of it.
    Within SL a Sim is an area roughly equivalent to a Vanguard zone, only all the content is made by (a group of) users. Most people tend to respect things like RP rules more when that kind of investment is shown. Something you don't see in MMO's where the rules are arbitrary, not enforced and there for the benefit of people with the same 'rights' as you and the same level of overt investment.

    Most SL RP-ers will have a list of do's and don't's in their profile to cover situations like being chained to a Conan-movie slave-mill,which incidentally I saw in one Sim.
    It's really interesting that even though there's several combat systems involved, that is not the focus of it all. Maybe if there'd been one unified system it would have. Not sure, maybe these people really have managed to avoid being chained to the carrot dispenser tread-mill :-)

  8. A very good related topic at Escapist Magazine.