Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How about roleplaying?

Ysharros over at Stylish Corpse posted some days ago a thought provoking post about roleplaying in MMO's, mainly from the point of view if the MMO's are rpg's at all. Somehow the post connected to my thoughts about roleplaying in MMO's and spurred some age old ideas from the days I was very strongly into the pen and paper roleplaying.

What could make the MMO's more roleplayable rather than gearing and levelling game? Of course one thing would be that the worlds should be less static, and the actions of the character should have profound effect on the world as whole. I can see that the phasing technology Blizzard used in Wrath of the Lich King can create a game in which the character's actions seem to have an effect on the surrounding world. I could be so bold, even, to say that this tech will be the backbone of their future 'secret' project.

The other thing making roleplaying more prominent would be a system in which your actions as a character would really make the difference in the perception of NPC's and other players. In DarkFall the system ranks your player kills on honor scale from -100 to 100, rating you as free kill on the negative side of the scale, also making it impossible to trade or enter cities of that faction. In WoW the reputation system tries to simulate that, but it's used only for the reputation grind based gear and recipes: a great system stronly abused. I say that because the same system is in use as Honor in battlegrounds: the difference is negligible and has no real effect in the world and your character's interactions with it.

In the original D&D and AD&D there was the Alignment, much discussed and very much explained system of rating the characters view of the world. This system could pretty easily replace that of honor or reputation, as it would impose the moral views on the character, and it could easily be flexible stat. Evil deeds taint the mind, good deeds purify it.

These are just few things that could help the MMORPG's become more RP than G's. Like jedioftheshire so well stated that: "It’s not a Virtual World anymore, it’s just a game. The people that play MMOs are gamers first and RPers second because intuitively we know this. MMOs aren’t designed to be rich RP environments, and they’re successful at what they do, so the trend may be to continue to shy away from RP-friendly design."

Which kind of summarises the problem with MMO's: they are 'just' games, not really roleplaying games from which they have evolved. The best theorycrafter has the edge, not the one best versed in the world.

What would be your ideas to improve the roleplayability of the current MMO's?


Arrens said...

As Greyseer said in today's post (and as I & every other WoW roleplayer would likely agree), in an effort to make WoW & other MMOs more playable for RPers, they really need to aggresively enforce the rules that differentiate RP servers from non-RP servers. Some type of filter to enforce naming conventions might help (to a minor degree). But laying the smack down on RP griefers (and there are many) would do far more to make it a more immersive RP scene than what we have now.

Don't get me wrong, I love the RP crowds I run with and that I've run into. But if you don't know where to look, it's hard to find because so many feel isolated due to these griefers. Get rid of them (or force them to transfer to non-RP servers), and RP will propogate so much that folks won't need to hide the fact that they're RPers.

Azariel said...

A question that can also be put forward is: What defines roleplaying?

From the old D&D, roleplaying meant getting into a character and creating a story around that, as far as I know, D&D also features a lvl kind of game. So back in those days, weren't there those who played the RP just to be able to claim their ownage and using the stories just to belong to the game?

So, what is roleplaying? Is roleplaying crawling into the skin of a character? Or is it crawling into the skin of a fierce knight (class) or can it also be a bit of both?

Personally I play on a normal realm, but still love roleplaying from time to time. But that is just the thing. It is something I like doing, but should not be obligated to do at all times. The reason that many people bash WoW normal servers is that the 'hardcore' guilds are inaccesible to most players who have a life next to WoW. But for the RP realms, one needs to create a full storyline, stick to it, write new chapters etc. The 'hardcore'RP guilds wouldnt accept anything else (I must say that this is speculation as I've only spoken to people from RP realms, but myself never had the time to dive into it).

Hardcore playstyles can be seen on all kinds of realms, be it normal, pvp or RP. So to come up with a secondary question: What would roleplaying be for you? Is it all about knowing the lore, delving deep into the game story? Or is it living a parallel life in a gaming world?

So my Dear Copra, what is that your perfect game (which you speak about on regular intervals) be like? I actually do somewhat know the answer, but would you still call it a roleplay based game?

And just for those who do not know me. I'm not level capped, only did some occasional raiding, and never had a set day of the week to go raiding. But still, I've been enjoying the game for over 2 years now and playing it in my own pace, and own style.

Copra said...

As always, you ask the right -and difficult- questions, Azariel. That's one of the reasons I am proud to call you my friend.

As it happens, your questions cannot be answered in this short form, so I'm going to write separate entries of the questions you posted. I've already made some sketches of the issues, but most probably it will take some time.

But I can answer one thing: the pen and paper roleplaying. It depends on the ruleset you are playing with, but yes, D&D and AD&D have level based system. But the most important difference in MMORPG and p&p rpg is the continuity and story evolving around the character. The world, while persistent to a degree, is in constant interaction with the p&p characters and is changing in the course of several adventures (campaign). The campaign reaches epic proportions when the puny starting lv1 character reaches the level needed to fall -not necessarily kill- the arch enemy after several play sessions.

Definition of roleplaying in this context is to crawl into the skin of the character and experience the sense of wonder of different reality. No, you cannot claim pwnage/ownage in p&p game, because the loot tables are not comparable, nor are the rulings of a human GM: each group has their own definitions and interpretations, which makes changing a group very interesting.

But I'll start writing the rest of the answers. Thanks for handing me the bones to build upon!