The Forge Forums

General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Patrice on January 03, 2009, 09:47:59 AM



Title: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 03, 2009, 09:47:59 AM
I've read Dan's original post upon MMORPGs and P&PRPGs and have set my mind upon posting there in order to give account, and open discussion upon what was a major field of reflexion these last years for me. My premises, however, are so foreign to the discussion going on in the previously mentioned thread that I thought better to swing an entirely new upon genuine actual play basis.

Here is my discussion basis: I'd like to bring the matter into actual experience of play discussion, not about pure theory or high level only, and to see the discussion derivate from experiential seeds. For this reason, I'll be using quite a few elements of my survey or experience of both fields of gaming. Of course, theoritical discussion will, hopefully, sprout from this but I'll try to connect it to actual play.

I've been playing MMO and CORPGs for something like 3,000 hours in my life so far, mostly upon what they call "Roleplaying servers". I'll bring in here what are the issues RP-ers face in these games in order to figure out the connection, if any, with P&PRPGs. The thing is, in most sellers (WoW, AoC and now WAR), the designers do NOT provide any basis to distinguish what they call "Roleplaying servers" from other types of servers. The only frame they provide to inform the player (I'd rather say "user", but this question will come later on) is a series of rules barring you from certain choices in character's name or from blatantly Out Of Character open chat, that would obviously break or infringe the other players' immersion feeling.

Now, they sound to think that roleplaying is subsumed into "immersion feeling". There's no mention of being in-character or OOC, which are entirely players' designs. So the equation roleplaying=using chat lines, emotes and in-game movements to impersonate the character I'm playing instead of metagaming is very deeply imbedded in the practices and beliefs of MMORPGs roleplayers. Their definition, being almost similar to saying "Roleplaying is to avoid metagaming" is very different from the designers assumption, which is "Roleplaying is a deeper level or need of immersion in the game content". In some way, it converges, but the statements lead to quite different results.

The designers actually leave the players the job of defining the roleplaying, and event its rules or common shared principles and don't involve into what happens. Which means that they leave the definition of the social contract to the players. Being entirely without rules nor game mechanisms, since the game is only concerned with bare resolution mechanisms, the roleplay actuelly taking place upon the MMORPGs' RP servers varies hugely. I would almost say that each community created its own RPG within the MMO limitations. Some of them being very developped and many of them being slanted towards Narrativism. No wonder it is, there's no way to supercede the game's Gaming mechanism and the computer already provides its own Simulation. There's just one field left to conquer for would-be MMORPGs roleplayers, Narrativism. Some of these games had their limited share of glory. I have many examples of RP sagas happening within MMORPGs or, I would rather say, despite the MMORPG they would take place in. Houses of Tea ran by geishas connecting every night at the same hour to impersonate their geisha-looking human or elven character, Masses taking place every sunday morning in one of the big cities, lots of taverns and pirate crews, and I myself did found a Troll empire a few years ago. It creates a SIS alright. But this SIS doesn't adequate with the game's content. Why?

Because the game doesn't provide a shared system, but a content designed by the industry that the players receive as their own and are free to explore. The sole factor that the player doesn't have his word to say upon the content makes him an... User. It's in the shady ground of user-generated content that RP happens in MMORPGs and it is very directly, clearly and obviously stated this way by the designers. There's one consequence to that, it's that whatever you do, whoever you are and however it is shared, you'll never change the game content. What you can change is only free-flowing user content based upon the social contract the roleplayers of your server or game have designed and its span is encompassed within this limit. If ten or twenty people know and acknowledge you're the Mayor, you're the Mayor, end of the story. Yet, in the game content, you're not and you'll never be. End of the story again. There's still another limit, and a big one, it's that however your own privately user-generated SIS is large, there's always other users your character actually meet who don't share it. They're not part of it. This derivates in huge flaming and bitter RPers everywhere since they feel that, simply because they choose to RP, everybody must share it according to their views. It's of course very much biaised.

RP in MMORPG thus creates a gap between users and designers and a gap between users and users. It happens, often upon Narrativist ground, but happens against the game for all the previously mentioned reasons. There are, imho, the differences between P&PRPGs and MMORPGs.

So here are the issues I'd like to discuss with you folks:

1. What is saying "Roleplaying means to avoid metagaming"?
2. What means, in the designers' mind, "RP is a deeper level of immersion"?
3. Are these two statements wholly and totally opposite from the very beginning?
4. Does the fact that the games' mechanisms might nit be overidden and that the game, though picture, sound and movement provide its own Simulation in such way that there's no other coherent way to simulate confines RPing within MMORPGs into Narrativism?
5. Does giving a game content that the players can't change in any way turn them into users? If this is the case, isn't it also the case for quite a few industry content-based P&PRPGs? If that is so, do they still deserve to be called RPGs?
6. What happens when you have a SIS that other players don't want to share?
7. All these points being taken into account, am I right  state that if actual RP did develop in MMORPGs, it is against the game logics and its non-sharing community?

Sorry for this lon, very long issue and the huge number of questions, assumptions and statements but that's a matter I've been giving some thought as I said and I really can't sum it that easy.

Your turn!


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 03, 2009, 02:52:21 PM
Hi Patrice,

In terms of the mayor example, what about in a pen and paper RPG, where in the text there's a corrupt mayor? Say gameplay happens and your group describes themselves overthrowing the evil mayor and one of them becoming mayor instead.

I'll propose the idea that your not mayor here, either. The text in the RPG has not changed. Some corrupt npc is the mayor.

What you do have is that everyone in your group will not just agree your mayor, but will put X amount of mental effort into treating you as mayor. Even where that's contrary to book texts.

Let's see - I'm trying to think of how one might test whether my proposal is true? Hmm, can't really think of one. I can think of a method of proving if everyone agrees something is 'there', and act as if it were 'there', that doesn't make it true. For example, I could mime a pane of glass in the middle of the room - then everyone else mimes its existance and does not walk through where its been mimed. And hey, imagine this - someone gets so used to it, they were just walking through reading a book, and without even thinking about it automatically navigated around where the pane 'is' so as not to walk through it. It was actually embeded in the guys reflexive habits. I can imagine someone building it into their routine (quite easily). But no pane of glass exists, even though everyone is acting like it does. Heh, actually there was an old Mr Hulot movie where they broke a hotels glass pane door (with a metal handle)...and then latter the doorman is just holding the metal handle and moving it as if opening a door, when letting people in...hehe.

So I'm proposing that your in an identical position with a RPG game book as you are with a mmorpg. It's just that the amount of mental effort it takes to ignore a closed book is far, far less than it is talking over a mmorpgs gaming world, particularly if an NPC mayor is digitally depicted to walk past the player avatar that is 'the mayor'.

This basically ties into your fifth question
"5. Does giving a game content that the players can't change in any way turn them into users? If this is the case, isn't it also the case for quite a few industry content-based P&PRPGs? If that is so, do they still deserve to be called RPGs?"

On question 6
"6. What happens when you have a SIS that other players don't want to share?"
This is an interesting question from how you've phrased it.

Do you mean, what happens if you gave them the choice to share and they decline? Well if you gave them the choice, you'd put in any effort it takes to facilitate the option you offered.

Or do you mean what happens when they just don't want to share it, but that option isn't provided for by anyone?


On a side note, it's odd, I've thought of and refered to roleplayers as 'users' for years.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: gsoylent on January 03, 2009, 03:46:22 PM
I don't really understand questions 1 - 4 but I can have the stab at the rest.


5. I don't think the question as to what deserves to be called an RPG is of any use. One could argue that killing critters and going up levels has always been the key feature of table top roleplaying games and if that is the case MMOs just do it better.

You are correct in pointing out that in one of the key limiting factors of the MMO is that the world is immutable. But earlier in your post you also explain what the solution is for this; you don't focus your roleplaying on changing the physical world around you, what you do is change to people, or more specifically to their perceptions. And if enough people buy into your roleplaying initiative, it is validated and legitimised by the community.  And that can be extraordinarily rewarding, especially when, like a ripple, your roleplaying initiative spreads beyond your circle of friends to people you have never met or heard of taking on a life of its own.

As an aside, I've been roleplaying in Anarchy Online (one of the older though far from the most popular MMO) for seven year now. Anarchy Online I think is quite unique in that the developers do take notice of the roleplaying community and interact with us at many levels. They will on occasion make changes to the game world, even significant ones like changing the faction that runs a specific town or introduce new items in to the game, based on player roleplaying storylines.

6. That's easy, you gloss over it. When I meet someone who doesn't roleplay or whose roleplaying is totally incompatible, you just shrug and move on. You can get all sorts of jarring moments in table top too. Real life issue often mean player character will appear and disappear from the party all the time. Or a tired GM might make a gross error and then rewind the whole scene. So what?

7. It depends how you define "actual RP". If what you mean is treating the one's "toon" as a character rather than a game token I would say it does happen all time in MMOs, though I will agree it takes a special kind of stubborn to make it really come to life because the medium does not make it easy.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 03, 2009, 06:08:11 PM
Thanks for your answers!

I've actually started this post to take a different, experiential-based aim at the "what relates P&PRPGs and MMORPGs?" question and I think we're slowly getting at it here with a different swing. To get back to the Mayor example (the Mayor was actually a friend of my MMO character, a troll tribe leader then it's another live example by the way), I think you maybe confuse setting and RPG, Callan. Most, though not all, P&PRPGs do, true, provide a setting telling you how is the Mayor and sometimes even how he does behave, look like and al. I think that it comes from a major flaw in the way P&PRPGs settings are designed (you may see further reflections upon this in my thread Setting design reconsidered in the First Thoughts forum). A P&PRPG isn't a setting, nor always equates with a setting. I daresay settings went second in history after the system design. Why? Because the system provided a basis for the SIS and the backbone of the Social Contract, which a setting can't provide by itself.

To get back to MMORPG I don't see that they provide any answer for both SIS and Social Contract issues, and as such, aren't RPGs in the way P&PRPGs define what a roleplaying game is. They, on the other hand, provide a setting and a frame of rules for instant resolution of Challenges. The confusion, or should I say mingling because there's no defect or biais involved, is fostered by the P&PRGPs industry. Here we come at the user-player distinction that I've set. I think this dichotomy is somewhat clumsy and I would be eager if you adress it, but it's handy at the moment. Right, if we play, say, in Dragonlance, FR or Runequest, there's no way a player can change the setting except if this change is acknowledged within his group or players. Okay, we find pretty much the same thing in MMORPGs but since the Social Contract and the SIS aren't part of the game, you're quite playing at a different game when you TWIST a MMORPG in order to RP in it, still defining RP as we would for a P&PRPG.

Sure, much of the P&PRPG major industry goes the same way... Players wait for the new extension, or setting bit, and adventure within, never really changing the content themselves. What can we say? That the industry changed bunches of players wandering into "the realm of their imagination" into users of an externaly-generated content? Or that a P&PRPG allows full user-generated content contrary to MMORPGs? This all stands upon the distinction, maybe illusionary, I've set between users and players. I'm craving for your opinions there. I'm maybe just adressing an industry model.

Since neither SIS nor Social Contract are provided by the game itself, I state that MMORPGs aren't RPG in the way P&PRPGs define what roleplaying is. That doesn't mean at all, Soylent, that actual Social Contracts and SIS don't happen. They do, and they sometimes brilliantly do, especially in AO. But the so-called RP players play another game entirely set within the MMORPG. This is itself is a proof that a MMORPG isn't a RPG as P&PRPGs are. I take your point, though, Soylent, upon what should deserve to be called a RPG or not, I went way too far into that and yes, killing critters might be playing a RPG. I'm not adressing the players' RPG experience in MMOs, which I know might be deep and far-stretched, not its conditions, which involve a lot of effort and painstaking, but rewarding hours but I adress the fact that it always happen despite the game itself, regardless of the designers' efforts, and I know those to have been genuine sometimes.

On question 6, Callan, I must confess I've seen and met both. Obviously, the game doesn't imply the SIS option, except if you thwart the definition by saying that you share something with its designers, which is a nonsense because you don't actually play with them.  The SIS is thus provided by the users themselves. At this point, I've met both open behaviours in the "let's come and play with us, the basis are simple and the experience is so cool, stop levelling mindlessly and enjoy some social adventure" mode and closed behaviours in the "forget about them, pretend they don't exist and go build our shell, it's the only way man" mode. This of course leads to different SIS because the nature of the sharing differs.

So, with your help, I think the main statement-question to adress is in the "To get back to MMORPG I don't see that they provide any answer for both SIS and Social Contract issues, and as such, aren't RPGs in the way P&PRPGs define what a roleplaying game is" sentence. It's maybe easier to kick start the discussion from that (maybe adressing the user-player distinction too, false or true) than the previously given questions. I would maybe edit my first post if I could, but it's always useful to see from where it sprouted anyway.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: gsoylent on January 04, 2009, 03:33:54 AM

In practical terms I do accept your claim that I am twisting the MMO to roleplay in the fashion I like to roleplay. I had figure out a meaningful and rewarding way to roleplay inside a MMO on my own, through trial and error and a lot of offline thinking. I think many eager rolepayers burn out long before they get there. I am one of the lucky or just stubborn ones.

However for the sake of argument, let's consider this.

D&D provides specific rules for killing critters, awarding XP and how to improve the character as one levels. In its purest form, gaining XP from killing critters is automatic in D&D, it's not something the GM needs to validate. And when I hit 2000 XP I know I get to level even without the GM telling me so. The same applies to MMOs.

D&D does not provide specific rules for how to become mayor of a town. Nor do MMOs. In D&D if you the player wants to become mayor of a town, you need to get the GM's approval. In an MMO if you want to become the mayor of a town, you need to get the approval your peers or ideally of the game's devs.

(( As an aside, in AO, there is one town in which players can become ministers. The mayor himself is a GM character elected by the player base, however the ministers are just players who applied for the post.))

D&D does not provide specific rules to draw graffiti on a wall. Sure you can say your character is going to draw a graffiti but it does not actually happen until the GM approves it or perhaps makes you do some sort of art roll.

In a MMO you cannot physically draw graffiti on a wall. What you can do, for instance, is take screenshot of the game, photoshop the graffiti on to it and post the doctored picture on a forum the roleplaying community regularly references. As with the D&D example the graffiti has not really happened until the community approves this. ( I chose this example because it something we actually did so it is an Actual Play. We once "egged" a police-themed guild's headquarters over some traffic violation tickets.)

I guess my point is in both table top and MMOs, there is stuff which is directly supported by the rules and stuff that isn't. The stuff that isn't, is resolved by a consensus process, the GM in table top, the community or the dev in a MMO. The difference being that most table top systems have a rule that explicitly says the GM can adjudicate stuff not covered by the rules whereas MMO manuals do not, it just something that develops organically and therefore is technically outside the game as designed.

However here is a thought. Say I am running D&D and I use a GM technique never mentioned in any D&D book, does that count as twisting the game too?





Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 04, 2009, 08:07:50 AM
The reference to D&D is sure cool, it almost got me tangled up. When I was wondering why, I realized that the game mechanics of MMOs, being so close to D&D mechanics for most sellers (life gauge, levelling, etc) makes one confused about their similarity. Yet, the main core aspect or pen and paper RPGs stands about Shared Imaginative System and Social Contract, not in the game mechanics and I think I've proven that MMOs as such don't provide this. I'm eager to be challenged upon this assumption, though. Makes me think that, it's obvious but nevertheless useful to remind, it's not because you have stats, hit points, levels and an experience system that you have a RPG. I eventually decided to challenge the "killing critters is roleplaying" idea. It's not in itself, or everything and nothing is. It might be, yet, but it's not in itself.

I think we might have got into a false debate at some point here, Soylent, because I do agree with most of your remarks indeed. What I state is not that one can't create a SIS within a MMO nor have a Social Contract inside its limitations (ever tried to create a leader-less guild?), what I state is that the MMO in itself does not lay upon a Social Contract nor defines it in any way (except for the basis web etiquette "no sex, no offense, respect your neighbour please". Whether the end-user agreement passed between the user and the game owner is a Social Contract or not is still to be discussed, but I say if it is, it's a very, very, unequal and biased one, quite opposite to the kind of contracts we find in democratic systems) and does not involve a Shared Imaginative or Imagination System. I totally agree with you when you say that one can actually roleplay brilliantly in a MMO, I do (well, I mumble-chat and emote some roleplay at least, dunno for the brilliant part).

Now, we have players, but I would rather say users who, from and by themselves design a Shared Imagination (it's more a shared imagination than a shared imaginative system imho) and define a Social Contract (what is in-character, what is out of character, how and when do we allow it, what does it take to become the Mayor, who decides it, how, etc). How they do it is totally out of the MMO field itself, it's their own game they design, often designing it upon MUD or message boards roleplaying games unwritten traditions. Their roleplaying game within the game is an user-generated content, not a derivate from the MMO, or not only. I remember myself saying a few years ago to my late guildies "okay guys, burn this game, we don't play this, it's just our playground" (whether this is too extreme, absolutely stupid or biased is another question entirely).

So, back to the basis I think I've got a few assumptions here about P&PRPG being defined by a SIS, a Social Contract and allowing full user-generated content. Could anyone back, challenge or extend this?


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Caldis on January 04, 2009, 08:28:52 AM
I've seen some of these things in MMO's but IME they weren't expressions of a creative agenda, they were exploration for it's own sake zilchplay if you are looking for a term.

I'd like to hear some more about one of your experiences that you felt was narrativist.  From what I'm seeing from your limited examples so far all I'm seeing is exploration of setting and color, tea parties, masses, even troll empires.  You've created elements that you've added to the game, things that dont come from the designers but still just elements of the world.   They dont really provide a focus for what the players are doing in the game, there doesnt seem to be an agenda to it.



Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 04, 2009, 09:06:09 AM
It's another game actually. My whole point is about that idea. Let's take an example I know well, the Troll Empire (can't help the caps for the glorious Empire of Zul, sorry). We didn't create anything added to the game itself because no user could actually see the Troll Empire nor walk in it, nor interact in no way with it within the game. The Troll Empire existed only within the space of the story we were weaving together. For the roleplayers community within the users community at large, we were an Empire and since this community, basing itself upon its own mostly unwritten Social Contract, acknowledged it as such, it was the case. That's what we pretended, if I may say so. That was our shared imagination and narration, using medias such as the guild chat channel, some extra user-generated chat channels and half a dozen out-of-game message boards. It is zilchplay, I totally agree with this statement, exploration for its own sake, we didn't have any creative agenda nor did the MMO itself have. We extended it, but not in the way you assume we did, we invented a new game within the game, not an extension of the game itself. And since the MMO itself provided its own repetitive unending Simulation, we had to find a way to make it fun and worthy, we had to create Premises for our characters and to adress those Premises during the course of our play. What was our play? Chat lines, threads and social interactions using the MMO game engine, quests, zones, equipment and even instanced play and NPCs. When we would log in, that was the focus of our play. Yet what we had for agenda was close to basic GM-less zilchplay. What will happen next? Who will shoot it? Basing upon what? Does that deny this kind of roleplay the quality of being a narrativist game in itself? I genuinely ask the question, in order to find out the answer because I'm not proficient enough with the Narrativist model myself to provide the answer. Couldn't that be considered as a basic, very basic rather frameless Narrativist game? What's missing in it? Let me know.

It's, sorry to come back to this, another game within the MMO game, feeding on its materials. If this other parasite game is itself denied the P&PRPG basic qualification, then I must conclude that MMORPGs are in no possible way and extend RPGs as P&PRPGs would call them but only zilchplay exploration-allowing media platforms. The Narrativist game qualification is thus critical to the P&PRPG and MMORPG whole relation issue. And to the future of D&D4 and P&PRPG major industry at large (very very lousy joke this last sentence, sorry guys. Or is it?).


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Rafu on January 04, 2009, 02:46:36 PM
I think it is indeed a matter of SIS (Shared Imagined Space).


When roleplaying around a table, one SIS is built, involving all of the players. If not, something's not working.
Even in a system like D&D's, with separate rules for such actions as killing monsters and "leveling up", there still is one rule covering both becoming mayor and graffiti: ask the DM. Once the DM declares you the mayor, or once the DM acknowledges your graffiti, the SIS is permanently changed according to your action. This is, in fact, what "system" is and what "system" is for.

In fact, if you're - say - playing D&D in a Forgotten Realms setting, and a new supplement comes out from Wizards detailing how the kingdom of Cormyr was suddenly overthrown and conquered by the Red Wizards of Thay, such a change is not guaranteed to immediately apply to your own D&D campaign... Despite being a suggestion from the Almighty Makers of the Metaplot, it still has to go through the game system: your DM decides whether, and when, the fall of Cormyr happens in your campaign. Only by DM validation (= system) this suggestion actually happens in the SIS -- meaning that FR metaplot from Wizards carries no more weight than player input in actual play.


A MMORPG does not, by itself, provide a system to shape and interact with a SIS. In fact, no instance of a Shared Imagined Space is at all required to enjoy a MMORPG as a computer game. What the makers of the game do provide is, instead, a Virtual Space, which is made up of the visual and auditive representations the software conveys: a simulated "world" which you can interact with (in a finite number of ways) with no act of "imagining" being actually required.

What "roleplaying" users appear to be doing, in such instances as the "mayor" case, is:

1) wishing for avenues of interaction with the simulated Virtual World which exceed the finite capabilities of the gaming software (simply by not being part of the factory-provided game content); thus

2) "patching" that by initiating a pretend-game between themselves, through whatever means they have at their disposal (mostly social means, including the in-game text chat as well as community tools not being part of the game software itself, such as forums).

As soon as 2 happens, an Imagined Space is created, Shared by a number of players, in which player A actually is "the mayor".

However, as the sheer number of players connected to given a MMORPG server prevents them from all individually communicating with everybody else, unlike a gaming table, there cannot be one SIS involving all of the users. At most, a number of Imagined Spaces can be simultaneously in place, each being Shared by a subset of users, probably with some amount of overlap.
(A phenomenon resembling what would happen in a LARP involving a massive number of players, as commonly seen in Northern Europe. Main reason the "Big Model" can't, as it currently stands, fully apply to LARPing, btw).

Long post, more on this later.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 04, 2009, 03:54:48 PM
Very helpful clarification, Rafu. Terminology-wise first about Shared Imagined Space, thanks a lot, and very clarifying for the remainder. I think you pretty much wind in the same ideas I've been bringing in except that you do it better, in a much more understandable way.

I'll lay back upon the post to give other people opportunity to answer here because I feel we're reached issues important enough and I'd like you to expand your views, Soylent to answer to that and Callan, Caldis and all other would-be posters to contribute if they wish so. I keep reading and will post further later too, maybe writting shorter posts, sorry 'bout the indigest lengthy previous ones.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 04, 2009, 04:32:32 PM
Rafu has the right of it; System is more than the rules. One nitpick: System != DM Validation. It's actually group validation, though the default assumption is that if the DM says it, it's true, hence the group validates what the DM validates.

This is less true in the larger context of a roleplaying community on an MMO, or even in a message board /chat room based community. There may be stated "DM"s in such a community, but not every aspect of play will be vetted by those DMs, simply because they won't likely be present for everything.

In the case of the mayor example.. Well, it depends on which game you're talking about. Different games had different levels of mechanical interaction with the SIS that declared a person as mayor. In Star Wars Galaxies, it was mechanically enforceable.. In-game resources would give a mayor in-game powers over the city they were mayor of. In Ultima Online (pre-Trammel) mayors of player-created towns were endorsed by the players who lived there. If someone chose not to acknowledge their authority, it could be enforced with violence. Signs on houses could be created that would mark the boundaries of the Empire of Zul, hence making it visible and tangible.

I have to assume you're talking about World of Warcraft, or maybe Everquest 2. I haven't played the latter, but the former definitely holds true for your statements.

Anyhow.. I've not chimed in prior to this because I'm having difficulty determining your goal with this thread. Are you advocating a position? Are you hoping to encourage a change in the mechanical aspects of modern MMORPGs? I would very much like to understand your goals, because I have a lot of interest in this topic.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 04, 2009, 04:59:36 PM
Well, I'd like to question the relation between P&PRPGs and MMORPGs at large but i'd like to do it from an experiential perspective, and to see the questions emerge from actual play debates instead of throwing too much theory in from the start. Starting from my own experience, I've come to question the nature of what is called "roleplaying" in a MMORPG and, discarding the label altogether when it is just stamped out of habit upon the whole game, I focused upon the so-called roleplaying servers and users.

From there, yes, I have questions. My first question is: Is actual roleplaying such as it is defined in a P&PRPG possible in a MMORPG? What defines it? What sets it apart of what we call roleplaying in P&PRPGs? What conditions might see it emerge if we find that such conditions aren't met?

I state that roleplaying gaming happening within a MMORPG is a different game using the MMO resources, but living in it as a parasite does. And I now wonder if such a game is bare zilchplay exploration or does shape the embryo of an user-generated Narrativist game of its own. That's where we are.

Of course the main underlining question is "What is the difference between MMORPGs and P&PRPGs?" but since another thread *coughs* deals with it, I couldn't post it like this. I'm just taking a different aim at it to see if it leads us somewhere.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 04, 2009, 09:29:19 PM
Okay, this term zilchplay.. I don' think it means what you think it means.

I did a search, and this is a quote from someone who claims to have coined the term (Walt Freitag) from an earlier discussion here on the Forge*:

Quote
Zilchplay is the absence of interesting contribution on a player's part, with "interesting" given a very specific meaning of "relevant, but not predictable." If a player's contribution is limited to choices that just about everyone would make the same way given the same situation, or to actions that are part of the player's own well-established routine, that player's play is Zilchplay.

From my (moderately copious) experience roleplaying in MMOs, this isn't even applicable. Maybe it is for you, I dunno.

Next, you say:
Quote
Is actual roleplaying such as it is defined in a P&PRPG possible in a MMORPG? What defines it? What sets it apart of what we call roleplaying in P&PRPGs? What conditions might see it emerge if we find that such conditions aren't met?

 To answer this question, I think we first need to know what you consider the definition of roleplaying from P&PRPGs... Because there isn't any single definition of roleplaying for P&PRPGs that I know of.

I'm not going to try to define it. I suggest you don't bother either, or else this discussion may devolve into nitpicking that definition. What I will do is make a statement in answer to that question, based on my understanding of what roleplaying is.

Roleplaying can and does frequently happen in any number of games without any support from the rules. You can roleplay in Monopoly. I've heard of very successful, very fun instances of such. All the rules of any game do is provide a basis of common understanding for the players to play the game. The rules are simply one contributor to system. This holds true for MMOs as well. In almost all games, to include the most bleeding edge P&PRPG, some roleplaying will happen with no support from the rules. So simply this: MMORPGs as a group are no worse than any other game at facilitating roleplaying. Some facilitate it well. Others facilitate it no more than providing a channel for communication, and getting out of the way.

Like I suspect you do, I feel that MMORPG and CRPG are by and large misnomers. These names suggest that the game is about roleplaying, which they are not as we understand the term. Unfortunately, we're just going to have to accept that this term is used. The nature of the games DO allow roleplaying, and some very satisfying roleplaying has come from these games. I had a deep, in character discussion about the nature of virtue in UO. I've felt the anguish of failure to save a friend who needed me. I've given trust, and had it returned when I stepped outside of the guard zones to hunt with a relative stranger, and I've risked death and loss by safeguarding their items by committing a technical crime when they fell in battle. In City of Heroes, we explored the concepts of romance between those who work together, and saw the results of what happen when jealousy rears it's head in a team. We talked about the price of duty. I personally, with one character, explored my own insecurity and bitterness about friends who've left me behind, but still yearning to extend that trust again.

Gah. My tendency to ramble has reared its head once more. I think I may have made my point already.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 04, 2009, 11:26:25 PM
I state that roleplaying gaming happening within a MMORPG is a different game using the MMO resources, but living in it as a parasite does.
That's an interesting observation - a parasite relationship? Kind of fits, it feels like. Again I'd say that happens in table top roleplay as well"Oh, we just follow the rules that are the most fun/we let the host organisms rules whither and die, for our benefit alone". However, rather than just a parasite, I'd say many table top groups exult in taking over the host entirely. Perhaps that's what your finding is missing in mmorpgs - the inability to start controlling the mmorpgs imaginative space, so the players never get out of a parasitic stage and into a host controlling stage (where they not only act like they are the mayor, but the damn programmers had better start making NPC's that respond that way, as a quick example)?

Quote
And I now wonder if such a game is bare zilchplay exploration or does shape the embryo of an user-generated Narrativist game of its own. That's where we are.
There's an unfortunately similarity between narration and narratavism that some people think describing game events/narrating is narratavism, as the forge defines it. I'm just checking, do you just have narration in mind, when you talk about narratavism?


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 05, 2009, 12:02:23 AM
I think Callan is right; there seems to be some conflation of narrative, that is, telling a story, and narrativism which is defined as somehow answering a question about human interactions, values, beliefs and mores. Narrativist play is possible in any roleplaying; I think my examples earlier where I mentioned roleplay centering around love, duty, virtue, trust, sacrifice and loyalty. But that isn't necessarily what roleplay in MMORPGs has to be about. I think the majority of roleplay would fall under the category of Right to Dream, which is defined as a commitment to the imagined events of play, by way of in-game causes and thematic elements.

From my experience, most of our MMO roleplay was this way, focused on being in-character, playing the character consistently, and incorporation of each other's contributions into the ongoing narrative. Occasionally, quite by accident, we would stray into the big human questions and answer them through our play, but by and large, it was about living this other life for a time.

The parasite observation is interesting. The general definition of parasitism involves a relationship where only one party benefits. Before unpacking this concept, I would have thought that such games as D&D would be identical for the purposes of this analog, but that's not really true.

In D&D, it's more of a symbiotic relationship between strict rules interactions and roleplay. You could play what amounts to a miniatures wargame with none of what we call roleplaying by using the rules by themselves. You can also roleplay without ever dipping into the mechanics of the game. But both contribute to the other, each making the other a little bit more fun. The mechanics offer justification for roleplayed narrations (I pick the lock because the rules say I do) and the chance of failure, hence tension. The roleplay offers color, flavor and personality to the pure mechanics of the game.

In most modern MMORPGs, that's not true. Roleplay may benefit from the mechanical contributions of the game (the appearance of avatars, relative positioning, emotes, surroundings and settings) but the roleplayed interactions don't have any effect on the mechanical aspects at all. The only place this could be true is in the games' social interaction systems, specifically guilds, though roleplaying may be replaced with real-world social interactions. Roleplaying could place someone in a guild officer position, giving that person certain powers over their guildmates, or it could take them out of that position. Roleplaying could also (in some games) garner wealth for some characters, if for instance one character is the "mayor" and demands taxes from the other players who share that SIS. But by and large, this does nothing to the mechanical aspects of the game.

Now, of course this is simply the way it is, not the way it has to be. As with many of the newer games, roleplayed actions can have a greater effect on the mechanical portion of the game if the designers wish them to, and design the game so that they can. Star Wars Galaxies allowing players to form cities and elect mayors is one such step. The mayor may then collect taxes, determine zoning for his city, supply services to his citizens, denote security personnel who can enforce the laws determined through roleplay, and a few other details. Again, because this is a mechanical system, it doesn't require roleplaying, but it does require some things that may resemble roleplaying. A roleplayer and a non-roleplayer can claim to be the mayors of their respective cities, and the game will back up their right to do so.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 05, 2009, 08:06:29 AM
Wolfen, you may have found difficult to get what the thread was about until my late clarification because of the method I'm using. I'm using speculative logics here. Just a word upon that: I'm not beginning with a statement nor an assumption but with some kind of open-ended question. I'm genuinely wondering from the start, in order to see where it leads. It's just a research method as valid as another. I have no idea of where it leads, and shall not, but I expect it to move on and carry a greater meaning as we delve in the question. The matter evolves from question to question, eventually leading to the core underlying questions. I have sometimes coined it as the Columbo method when I'm using it and already know where it leads, it's like pretending being stupid but it's not what I'm doing here hopefully.

Now to the topic! Okay I've got into another terminology mistake. It's not Zilchplay then, thanks for clarifying. Zilchplay would be barely giving color to in-game events and there's much, much more than this involved. Yet, it's free-form exploration since there's no roleplay rule set nor real system (I've checked the forge-coined meaning of Exploration, guys, you won't catch me on this one).

I totally agree, Wolfen, upon the whole idea of not getting into the definition of what roleplay is, it's not the topic here. I'd rather get back to its prerequisites, imho: A Shared Imagined Space and a Social Contract. I state that there's no RPG if you don't have both. At least the way we understand the RPG in P&PRPGs. I'm not, at the moment, equating rules and system (I would but I even don't need here) with SIS nor Social Contract and I take in your Monopoly example.

When I look at your actual play examples, Wolfen, I see that they tremendously back my discoveries so far: Your report of actual play, an actual play you consider important enough and worthy to be remembered is a report of your characters adressing their Premises (I've checked this one too, hehe). On the other hand, what I read when I read Callan saying "this game is unable to control the host", I read a synonym sentence to "this game doesn't rely upon a SIS", or at least, "the SIS is disconnected from the game system and content". Thus my parasite definition. Of course, the host is out of the parasite reach and bounds. Yes, we have new experiences, mostly being community managers taking the consequences of social play into account. Isn't it in itself, Wolfen, a proof that there is no SIS altogether in the game itself? Should there be a SIS, there would be no need for community managers (please, no getting into the community managers are like game masters, they're not). The community managers are not players, they're thwarting the game to take the Sharing fact into account. I think what you might want to stress upon is the taking into account of the social aspect of the game, but it's a wider question than just roleplaying. Another thing, Callan, is you maybe want to talk about the unlimited ability to generate user-generated content you find in P&PRPGs (see Rafu's remarks upon that, with the Forgotten Realms example). I'm not sure about that underlining your ideas, let us know.

So, the users have designed their own private SIS within a system that doesn't provide any but a Virtual space. In order to "roleplay", they have to give themselves a motive to do it and get fun from it. I state that the game (please challenge this) provides its own Simulation (though not Shared) and Gaming mechanics and thus that the only field left to conquer within for would-be roleplayers is Narrativism. No wonder all the examples we have is examples of characters adressing their Premises.

So I think (if you accept the whole lot of assumptions allowing it) that the question is now pending about the presence or the lack of a Creative Agenda in the parasite game. I'm confident in your ability to hunt down my contradictions but I'd be happy, though, if someone more qualified than me would give us his or her views upon this.

So: Does the roleplaying game happening within the MMO confines have a Creative Agenda?


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 05, 2009, 08:55:20 AM
I don't think I realized this was a question.

When I talked about right to dream and addressing premise, what I was talking about was Simulationism and Narrativism without the loaded words. I don't think there's much if any Gamist roleplay in MMORPGs, as the pure game portion of the game satisfies that need. There may be some, what with political maneuvering and all, but mostly people roleplay because they want something more than Step on Up.

So, yes, absolutely there is Creative Agenda in MMORPG roleplay.

Also, I mostly concede your point that Community Managers aren't players (at least when in the role of CM) but I find myself wondering; What about cases where they're not circumventing the mechanical portion of the game? In UO, back before some silly threatened lawsuit, they had a volunteer program where selected volunteers would be responsible for creating stories within the fiction. To help with this, these volunteers (called Seers) would be given the power to create and control things within the game. They could create a troll, and step into its role, or put another type of volunteer (called a troubadour) into it. They could create monsters, and treasure. This was a feature of the game early on. It was something created by the game designers and put into place, so I would call it part of the system, not "thwarting" the game, as you said.

Also, when you say that there's no SIS, I assume you mean game-spanning SIS? Because there is without a doubt an SIS within the roleplaying communities, some of which can be moderately large, though obviously not game-spanning.

(note: this system was trashcanned because a volunteer in the program complained and said that he should be allowed to play for free, or get paid, to do the volunteer work he was doing. When he mentioned legal recourse, they preemptively pulled the program)


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 05, 2009, 11:43:37 AM
I state that the game (please challenge this) provides its own Simulation (though not Shared) and Gaming mechanics and thus that the only field left to conquer within for would-be roleplayers is Narrativism. No wonder all the examples we have is examples of characters adressing their Premises.
Hmm, okay, you might have a point about where the mechanics of the game make you end up at. Once in WOW when in a group about to do a dungeon, I said my character was being pressured by a bad guy to do the dungeon, but if he fell during it (ha, no one ever dies in a mmorpg), he wouldn't be strong enough to get back to town and see his girl, and she'd ditch him. It made the dungeon alot more scary and evocative (almost dying was scary - it wasn't a matter of 'oh, almost died and would need to get armour repair').

However, it was 'story before', as I'd decided all of this before the game play event (or even booting up my computer), for the practical reason of fitting it into the mmorpg's mechanical framework. I can't remember if the term 'narrativism' only covers 'story now', or if it covers 'story before' as well.

Also at the end the dwarf healer said he would help me back to town (we'd TPK'ed/wiped at some point, of course). I was kind of bugged by this, because you know, I'd fell - the terms were, I was boned! All the trepidation I'd felt inside would be a lie if afterward we could just ignore the rule and skip merrily back to my characters GF. And it bugged me I had to respond in character to work around that, too. Or maybe he understood that (unlikely, though) but was just talking in character...I wouldn't know, couldn't see his face to tell/get a hint.

Overall I think you have a point on where the mmorpg mechanics head you toward, that may be possible to prove.

Quote
So: Does the roleplaying game happening within the MMO confines have a Creative Agenda?
Do you mean the whole mmo? Nay, of course not - just because a mmorpg likes to call itself a single game, doesn't mean it is. It's the same as a convention hall, where many, many seperate games are being run under the one roof. Does gen con have a creative agenda? As in a single, overall creative agenda? Nah. Also, replace creative agenda with SIS and you can say the same thing.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 05, 2009, 12:00:26 PM
In D&D, it's more of a symbiotic relationship between strict rules interactions and roleplay. You could play what amounts to a miniatures wargame with none of what we call roleplaying by using the rules by themselves. You can also roleplay without ever dipping into the mechanics of the game.
I would actually call the latter a parasitic relationship, and the parasite has killed the host - those rules are no longer alive/being implemented.

I will note though, I think the game system itself can also be parasitic, not just players. For example, that wargaming example? When do enemies appear? At what strength? Upon what ground? In what position? In what light? Oh the players decide, and decide, and decide - the game foists this labour onto the players - they do the games work for it. It's being parasitic. Though many gamers actually love deciding over and over...instead of a parasite, its more like a baby to them. Which is a good analogy - there was a TV program awhile back which showed how a baby in the womb is essentially a parasite, stripping resources from it's mother...and even so, don't we love babies? Of course! So I can understand some people taking parasite RPG's into their loving arms, even as it latches its fangs into their necks. Well, that's what it feels like to me with games where to play at all you have to do X amount of this crap - ugh!

Indeed, I would say both group and game can BOTH be parasitic, and its a question of which one will be the biggest parasite on the other. While the newer indie RPG's may be more symbiotic. Ie, the rules, ALL of them, pay off when used, so it pays off to keep using all of them. And by using all of them, the game is kept alive, instead of sucked dry of its blood until the group stands around its husk, declaring they haven't rolled dice all night!


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 06, 2009, 10:17:16 AM
I think we should, for clarity's sake, establish firm distinctions here, because we're actually talking about two different issues and I'm a bit concerned about us mixing things.

1. The MMORPG itself. There is no Shared Imagined Space here, but a Virtual space provided by its content designers. There is no Social Contract either, apart from the very basic end-user agreement you have to sign in order to play. So, there's no roleplaying gaming as roleplaying would be defined in P&PRPGs.

2. The roleplaying actually happening within the roleplayer communities (whether tagged as such or or) of MMORPGs. Its tendency is to shape a Shared Imagined Space, but this space cannot be shared with the users at large nor with the game designers whose job is to define the content. The sharing thus happens in a limited social community among other users. This is why I defined it as a parasite game, because it develops in spite of its host, the MMORPG. There is a Social Contract embryo, but it's mostly an unwritten customary common law. So it seems that we have the seeds an an actual RPG as P&PRPGs would define it. I state that, since the MMORPG itself provides the Gaming, both Challenge and Step On Up and replaces the Simulation with its Virtual space, the only kind of RPG that could develop and last upon this ground would be Narrativist, and actual play examples provided so far do back my statement.

A few questions are however pending:

A. The parasite-host relationship is adressed by Callan stating that this is also the case in P&PRPGs. After much thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that no, it's not the case in P&PRPGs. Why? Because a P&PRPG is designed to be allowing you to build your own SIS, you could say it's a SIS-building kit. The fact that every game table would develop its own SIS within the game is the main purpose of the game! There's no actual taking over the host here because you've never been a parasite in the first place. Will you challenge that?

B. In a P&PRPG, as Rafu clarified it, the game content is yours only, it is not designed externally, though many sources, from the industry or not, could help you to design it. A P&PRPG allows you to generate limitless user-generated content. This isn't the case in MMORPGs, despite the genuine efforts of the community managers Wolfen told us about. You can't change the world, you can't change the game. OK, you could design Nerverwinter Nights 2 mods and cast them online. And soon you'll be able to design D&D4 adventures and throw them upon the D&D Insider. Is that the same thing? Let's put it another way: Does the ability/inability to generate freely user content in a game has a relation to the game genuinely being or not being a RPG (still as P&PRPGs would handle the definition)?

C. What's the Creative Agenda of the parasite game in a MMORPG? Is it as I state it, a Narrativist game?

D. Are we not too optimistic with the whole SIS issue? Is a SIS that isn't shared by everyone still a SIS? It seems to me that we didn't really answer this. The same question goes for the Social Contract, it's an unwritten customary whatnot. Is that enough to define this game as a game?


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 06, 2009, 10:19:13 AM
Soory 'bout the bold letters abuse, didn't think that would look like this, gives quite an authoritarian image I didn't wish nor felt at all, just thought bold would be cool to highlight things.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 06, 2009, 12:18:29 PM
First: Simulation != (does not equal) Simulationism. They're actually not even that close. It's a goofy, counterintuitive term. Blame Ron, most people do.
Second: Narrative != Narrativism.

No game system can replace any creative agenda. The game portions of an MMO can satisfy the Gamist CA, but it doesn't do so by default. The simulated visual environment does not satisfy a Simulationist CA. Most, nearly all, MMO roleplay I've seen and heard of falls squarely into Sim play. It occasionally strays into Narrativist play, but it's rarely intentional.

I honestly think we'd be better off avoiding these terms. It would be better to talk about the play in terms of goals in plain language.

One final nitpick... I promise! I'm just a nitpicky person. It's not a reflection on you. Most Social Contract is informal and unwritten. That's why it can sometimes be problematic, because different expectations of what is agreed upon can clash, if a new person joins an existing group. That's why a lot of established roleplay communities will set up websites with their rules, because it's a much larger group without personal communication between all members, and people can join or leave at any time without much notice to the group.

A. I mostly agree with you that P&P play isn't parasitic. Hence the reason I made my symbiosis comment. However, I don't necessarily believe that your typical P&PRPG is any more an SIS-building kit than an MMO is. Some are, but that's a newer phenomena. Your traditional RPG gives you a framework to solve certain types of conflicts within the fiction, but they do not actually contribute to the SIS in any meaningful way moreso than an MMO.

B. I contest that it is impossible for a game-spanning SIS. I think it is possible, it simply hasn't been done. Now, buying into the fiction is optional for everyone. No one has to buy into it, no matter what. But if the SIS is bought into by the developers, and they actively promote roleplay, building systems to support it into the code of the game, then it has the potential to span the majority of users. Even those who don't buy into the imaginative portion will have to acknowledge the parts enforced by the mechanical game.

B.2. Even in a P&P game, creation isn't limitless. You have limitations imposed by the mechanical portions of the game. Sure, you can ignore those, but there's only so far you can go before you're not really playing that game anymore. I think that's a fairly important observation to make.

C. From your description and my experience, it's largely Right-to-Dream (Sim) and occasionally strays into addressing Premise (Nar). In roleplaying communities with war scenarios, politics, etc. it can even address Step-on-Up, (Gam) but usually this is handled by competition with the game itself (PvE). PvP has frequently been part of the roleplaying communities I've associated with, though.

D. SIS is a slightly modified concept within the context of MMOs, but I think it still exists. Think of it as a similar deal to a Living Campaign moderated by the RPGA. some aspects of the campaign affect all member groups, but each group has its own SIS.

Anyhow.. I appreciate your tolerance in my rambling. I work a night-shift where very little happens, so I get bored. This topic is one near and dear to my heart because I have pie-in-the-sky hopes of changing the paradigm one day.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 06, 2009, 09:02:46 PM
A. The parasite-host relationship is adressed by Callan stating that this is also the case in P&PRPGs. After much thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that no, it's not the case in P&PRPGs. Why? Because a P&PRPG is designed to be allowing you to build your own SIS, you could say it's a SIS-building kit. The fact that every game table would develop its own SIS within the game is the main purpose of the game! There's no actual taking over the host here because you've never been a parasite in the first place. Will you challenge that?
Kind of. Remember I suggested the game can be parasitic on the users, too. For example, are you unable to form an SIS unless an RPG allows you?


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 15, 2009, 04:23:24 AM
Sorry for this long delay in answering guys, lot of work lately and been on a long week-end. Now, free as a bird, I'm taking a look at your replies and here's mine:

Don't worry, Wolfen, I was actually using Simulationism and Narrativism in their "Forge" meaning here, we can use Right to Dream and Story Now if you prefer but I still feel we should use those expressions because, if commonly agreed, they can help to take the discussion somewhat further and avoid us getting stuck in issues that have already been solved long ago. It's just that I don't want the topic, which has a tremenderous power to do so, to wander astray into "What exactly do you call roleplaying?" "I don't play this way" and this kind of unproductive issues.

I can't agree when you say that the game doesn't by default satisfy the Gamist Creative Agenda. It does. I mean, if not, people would just stop playing because 95% people don't play MMORPGs for roleplaying. I won't question their deepest motives for playing here, but in any case it's a game they play. And they play as they would any other game. Come on, haven't you ever heard, or said "Woot I'm first on the healing ranking" or "OMFG, 12K crit, Screen, Screen!" and "21 kills to nil, we're heroes guys" or "Doooooooooooooown"? Don't be ashamed, I did too and that was hella fun.

I was also wondering today about Simulationism and I think you might have a point here. Okay there's a Virtual space, but people roleplaying in it do Simulate. What's a Troll Empire if it's not Simulation? It is indeed. So there's maybe more than just the Story Now Creative Agenda involved but if you play long enough, you'll realize that the Right to Dream, just by itself, can't span long enough. I mean, it has no replay value, no storyline as such and sooner or later, becomes boring. Okay, it's maybe just the same with P&P Simulationist RPGs... My stressing upon the actual roleplaying taking place within MMORPGs as being Narrativist is maybe just an expression of my hope because the Simulationist solution dooms it at length because of the user's inability to change the content. As I stated it before, a content isn't a SIS. This is the whole difference that forbids Right to Dream play at length.

It does in the games we play (I've been playing AO, Everquest, GW and WoW mostly, yes). You say it yourself when you express your hope for another step of development in MMORPGs, it is the same as saying that what we have now isn't satisfying the basis we are talking about. If it's possible, and I wonder how, it's imho another kind or genre of game entirely. I'm open to discuss that, but we'll have to get well beyond the scope of what we call now MMORPGs.

The other issue we have with Simulationism in roleplaying games within MMORPGs is that they eventually end in adding color to the game content, they don't change the SIS as we said earlier. I state that it it still a difference with P&PRGPs because they provide the possiblity to design things yourself and, last but not least, they lay upon the SIS stuck at the game table. Rafu said it when he gave his Forgotten Realms example: Your party has the choice to let the Thay wizards event in the game or not. Your party can discard it if it wants (though not in Living Campaigns, Right).

So, as far as I am concerned, the SIS question isn't solved, nor the Creative Agenda one and it is of huge importance to our topic. If discussing as you do is rambling, I'm very eager to have you rambling around again and again. Changing the paradigm is very, very interesting but we have to solve the preliminary issues first if we want this to happen.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 15, 2009, 03:53:26 PM
In terms of that I would (again) question whether RPG's 'allow' you to design things yourself. For example, if you were writing climbing rules for a brand new RPG, you'd acknowledge you were making up those rules purely by your own merit. The game your writing isn't providing you with the possiblity to design things yourself. If I wrote half an RPG then handed it to you, does it 'allow' you to write the other half? Or is it just half an RPG, and allows you nothing in particular? Most traditional RPG's 'allow' by simply being half an RPG. By which I'd say they don't allow at all. They are just an RPG half written up (or some mere fraction). So your traditional RPG 'allows' you to design stuff as much as a mmorpg does - ie, not at all.

I guess I note this question, because part of this discussion hinges on the 'fact' that traditional RPG's allow you to design things or are an SIS building kit. I think everyone would do well to question that assertion even though it seems off topic, since most of the discussion rests upon the idea as a foundation. If that foundation is flawed, anywhere you get with the discussion, crumbles. Anyway, I tried to keep this post short.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 16, 2009, 01:02:22 AM
Yup!

I thought the question kind of sorted by Rafu's demonstration. The RPG isn't a SIS in itself, it is the backbone of your game table SIS, which is unique. If you don't want the Wizards of Thay to be in control of, say, Saerloon, as the published book says (just an example, the book doesn't say such a thing), they just don't in your game table campaign. I expanded that with "your P&PRPG is a SIS building kit" because most (all?) standard good old P&PRPGs I've read/played include a section named "Design your own (adventure, world, situation, etc)". MMOs don't. They don't explain you how to become a Game Designer. P&PRPG do whether you call that Story Design, Quest, The GM's corner or whatever.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 16, 2009, 12:58:31 PM
How does the traditional RPGs explaination of how to be a games designer relate to the allowance (the granting of the ability) to design things?

Rafu's point, I would say, doesn't acknowledge any game designer position at all - he asserts your just following the rule that it's up to the GM.
Quote
Even in a system like D&D's, with separate rules for such actions as killing monsters and "leveling up", there still is one rule covering both becoming mayor and graffiti: ask the DM.

I don't think his assertion supports or works in parralel with yours, as he doesn't use the idea that it involves being a game designer.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 17, 2009, 03:16:00 AM
Sure Callan, I was pointing at two different things here: One is the GM, but we could maybe say the players at large, having a choice upon what released content will be used, changed or altogether discarded. Let's take it the other way round: The released content in itself doesn't generate a SIS.

I'm wondering if you're playing with words or aiming at a more serious issue with the second point when you say that P&PRPGs' explanations about designing player-generated content doesn't relate with the ability to design things. I'm getting serious here because you're adressing the whole game design issue. In most (all?) P&PRPGs, you have at least one chapter about "design your own adventure" and long paragraphs about the GM creating Situations or Settings. Do you think this chapter is useless?

I daresay this chapter is fundamental in actually playing P&PRPGs. It doesn't matter if the content you create is lame, it is still the way the GM can design new things for the players and follow whatever unexpected direction their characters are heading for. It isn't a secondary issue, it's part of the SIS building. Let's go for the mainstream example, yes, WoTC and other firms do generate a content. Still, you have over a 120 pages about how to do it yourself in D&D4. You had this in D&D3, 2 and even in the very first releases. That doesn't make you a game designer ripe with boundless creativity and system thinking, but this ability to design a content is key for the GMing.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 17, 2009, 04:42:23 PM
Hi Patrice,

As I understand it, your assertion was that "Design your own adventure" chapters allows you (grants you the ability) to design stuff. In the spirit of scientific investigation, I prompt you to provide the evidence for the assertion! :)

I don't currently see any link in a "Design your own adventure" chapter and the allowance/granting of the ability to design stuff. To further highlight the question, if there were a chapter that says "Hands, how to have them and have them attached to your nerves" I don't see a link between that chapter existing in the book and you having hands on the ends of your arms. Your hands were pre-existing. The same appears to go for the ability to invent and design stuff. I see the ability to invent and design as pre-existing in you and as attached to you as your hands are. I can't currently see any evidence that count toward the idea that an RPG with this chapter 'allows' you to design your own stuff and prior to that, you could not?

To tie it directly to the thread, as much as a mmorpg doesn't allow you to change things, I can't see how a "Design your own adventure" chapter in an RPG 'allows' or 'grants' the ability to design things. And to tie it indirectly, as said this is a note about an (assumed be strong) foundation the conversation is resting upon.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 19, 2009, 06:30:26 PM
Okay okay.

I won't get into the whole underlying game design stuff, although I seriously question the idea that designing could be some kind of innate ability. It's a craft as any other, and craft might be learned and pushed further through experience, it's not a feat nor a knack imho, even though having the knack might help at some point.

What I stated was barely that a SIS doesn't adequate an external content. This is enough to put a distinction forward enabling us to jump to another step in our debate, or at least, leave space for its progression.

Our questions were:

A. The parasite-host relationship is adressed by Callan stating that this is also the case in P&PRPGs. After much thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion that no, it's not the case in P&PRPGs. Why? Because a P&PRPG is designed to be allowing you to build your own SIS, you could say it's a SIS-building kit. The fact that every game table would develop its own SIS within the game is the main purpose of the game! There's no actual taking over the host here because you've never been a parasite in the first place. Will you challenge that?

So the three late posts were about A.

B. In a P&PRPG, as Rafu clarified it, the game content is yours only, it is not designed externally, though many sources, from the industry or not, could help you to design it. A P&PRPG allows you to generate limitless user-generated content. This isn't the case in MMORPGs, despite the genuine efforts of the community managers Wolfen told us about. You can't change the world, you can't change the game. OK, you could design Nerverwinter Nights 2 mods and cast them online. And soon you'll be able to design D&D4 adventures and throw them upon the D&D Insider. Is that the same thing? Let's put it another way: Does the ability/inability to generate freely user content in a game has a relation to the game genuinely being or not being a RPG (still as P&PRPGs would handle the definition)?


B has a different twist: Does the ability/inability to generate freely user content in a game has a relation to the game genuinely being or not being a RPG (still as P&PRPGs would handle the definition)?

C. What's the Creative Agenda of the parasite game in a MMORPG? Is it as I state it, a Narrativist game?

Leftover.

D. Are we not too optimistic with the whole SIS issue? Is a SIS that isn't shared by everyone still a SIS? It seems to me that we didn't really answer this. The same question goes for the Social Contract, it's an unwritten customary whatnot. Is that enough to define this game as a game?*


Leftover.

Guys, if you feel we're getting bogged down in here And I'm afraid we could let's try to think to a different aim at the topic. As it stands, it's maybe a bit too passional at the moment to get anywhere.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 19, 2009, 09:39:07 PM
I want to try to express something about the SIS that has been provoked by this conversation. I've begun and discarded several attempts to address this before.

SIS exists solely within the minds of the players who create it. This, I think, can be considered incontrovertible, unable to be separated from the basic concept. It is created from a consensual and ongoing vote by all of its contributing members.

Mechanics and Color, constituted by the "game system" are the game author's vote. This opens the idea that the author (or game developers) are part of the SIS. They get a vote, they contribute. But the one thing that actually keeps them from being part of the SIS is that they are not taking from the SIS.

Now, the game system is just a vote. This is true in both MMORPGs and TTRPGs. You may think this isn't true in MMOs, because the game code only allows certain things... But it is true.. Because in the SIS, you do not have to accept what happens within the game. Consider the following examples:

City of Heroes: At the end of a long day of fighting crime, Errant was talking to Psionique, sitting on the edge of a rooftop. At this point, there is only a burgeoning friendship. Errant is alien to this world, and Psionique, while fearless in battle, has lead a sheltered life, so there are many things about the world that are unfamiliar to both of them. Eventually, their friendship will grow into a romance, but we're not there yet. After a moment of silence as they think their private thoughts, Psionique asks Errant about his homeworld. In response, Errant stands, and runs off the edge of the building, falling to the ground far below.

What happened? I hit the wrong damned button. I was still new to the game, and occasionally would forget to hit enter before trying to type. Do we somehow have to find a way to work this into the fiction? Absolutely not. Sometimes we might, but we don't have to accept the game's vote. I teleport my way back to the rooftop, and we continue the conversation as though it didn't happen.

Star Wars Galaxies: In the game, there was a cloning system. When you died, you were reborn at a cloning center. Supposedly, your old body died, but you continued with the new one. Let's think about the actual SW universe. Was cloning an every day occurrence, with individuals being reborn as clones? No. It was a way to create armies. The clones weren't rebirths with all your experiences. They were separate people who just happened to be identical to you, genetically. So we had the choice to either embrace this departure from SW Canon, or ignore it. In my own group, we ignored it. When someone 'died', they were simply knocked unconscious and taken to a medical facility where they recovered from their severe wounds in bacta tanks.

So I contend that MMOs are no less SIS-building kits than your average traditional TTRPG. The primary difference is the assumption. Most, though not all, TTRPGs assume you'll form an SIS (though they don't use the term; their authors may not even be familiar with the term, nor do they need to be). I believe that once upon a time, MMORPGs assumed the same thing, though I don't believe that's the case anymore. It is *possible* to enjoy both types of game with or without an SIS. I personally find it hard to enjoy MMORPGs without one. When playing solo, I frequently form an "IIS" (individual imaginative space), and I'll chat with NPCs, or type in in-character comments while I'm out in the hinterlands, all alone.

Re: Narrativism. I again say that no, by default, MMO roleplay is NOT narrativist. Narrativist play involves addressing human premises, answering questions with meaning. While this sometimes happens, most play falls squarely into Simulationist agendas.

How "shared" does an SIS have to be? I think of an MMO kind of like a "Living" Campaign, like "Living Eberron" or "Living Greyhawk". Each individual play group has it's own individual SIS, but there is content that is shared by all, via the mechanics and color of the D&D game, and more specifically the rules of the "Living" Campaigns. Nothing is shared universally by all players in the "Living" Campaign, but there is enough shared that players from two distinct groups can play together. A similar thing may occur in MMOs.. You may be playing your Troll Empire, and I may be playing my Defias Conspiracy, but we both accept that we're playing in the universe of... whatever WoW's setting is called, I forget. I accept that you're Horde, and as such there is animosity and distrust between our races. I may never acknowledge the existence of the Troll Empire, and you may never acknowledge that there's a Defias Conspiracy to take over the throne in Stormreach, but we could meet and roleplay together.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Caldis on January 19, 2009, 09:47:55 PM
I think what you need is some examples of actual play that relate to what you are saying.  So far all I see is a few mentions of ideas created in a game but no sign of how players interacted with each other using these ideas in a relevant manner.  

Lets go back to the Troll Empire.  You created this thing as an idea for players to grasp onto in the game but how did they do it? If you managed to have people take the information, accept it as real and base their play on it while interacting with each other then you do have a shared imagined space in action for those people.  Actually you dont even need anything as overt as your troll empire added by the players, they can be using what the electronic game gives them and adding simple things like their own personalities and goals to be creating a SIS.

Did this idea lead to the creation of situation?  What type of situations and how did they resolve these situations?   Did they lead to entirely new situations or the same ones reskinned as something new?  Answer these questions and you'll get an idea of what creative agenda may have been operating.

I'll give you an example from my own experience.

I played Mighty Bruillembar a Tauren hunter in WOW.  A friend of mine played Grailoch an Orc Shaman.  We would often join together and explore the world.  We preferred doing quests and would totally clean out an area of quest before we moved on.  We werent in a rush to level up and we definitely didnt chase after the best equipment and gear.  We created emotes for our characters and hotkeyed them so we would often shout out trade mark sayings, Bruillembar talked in 3rd person quite a lot.  Our play was simulationist and we did have a SIS operating between us.  The scenery provide by the game took the place of minis and descriptions, the quests handed out and the programing of the monsters acted as a gm but the two of us were still imagining and roleplaying.

At times we did try out some things like the battle grounds or grouping to do dungeons, in those instances our CA shifted to gamism.  We were doing our best to win and help our teams compete, survive, and get the big rewards.  It was dependant on our skill.  

I never saw any narrativism happening in game, but it is possible.  It would have to be built by the players whereas our play was more riding on the back of the developers.




Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 20, 2009, 05:17:00 AM
Well it's just the same point all along, we're talking about two different things in here, and we mix them: There's the MMO itself in which there's no SIS as such, but a virtual space and there's the RPG taking place within (remember the parasite thing?) in which a SIS seems to take place. When playing a MMO one has the choice to build somewhat of a SIS within while doing his quests and levelling thing, but one has also the choice not to, as you point it, Wolfen. I think we all agree upon the fact that, playing RP style within a MMO, one Shares an Imagined Space. The minis and descriptions example is such a good one! Thanks for that, Caldis.

I'm nevertheless a little bit annoyed about the whole SIS idea. If the game's Virtual space provides descriptions, well... Are you sure we can have a SIS? What would be Exploration without descriptions? I dunno if I really get a grasp at the core question, but I'm definitly annoyed to say there's a SIS, even in the parasite game. You provide, Wolfen, in your examples, clear evidence of a Social Contract and my actual play experience backs it, but that doesn't quite solve the SIS question as far as I am concerned. Now when you say one can play a P&PRPG without a SIS... I'm abashed because, Exploring a SIS is the defining thing of a P&PRPG. I must very strongly say that, hell no, one can't play a P&PRPG without a SIS. If there's no SIS, what you have, at best, is a boardgame ("It is *possible* to enjoy both types of game with or without an SIS").

Now there's something I must add. Must. I LOVE your actual play examples. Talking to the NPCs all alone, explore the world together, low-levelling, decide through Social Contract what we'll be doing and define what actually happened. That's all examples I've met, and done myself in my playing MMOs (well *cough* before transforming in some stupid Roxxorz and taking a lot of fun from that btw) and I liked that a lot. That were good times.

Now, concerning CAs, what happened in all my actual play examples is that: We build something with a bunch of fellows, something highly connected to the game background (the Setting) involving Character generation, guild creation and the like. Troll Empire, right, but also Pirates bunch, Twilight Brotherhood, Scarlet Crusade, etc (if only to take WoW examples). We enjoy impersonating fierce jungle trolls with the proper intonations and emotes, meeting points back in the jungle, night patrols, bonfires, etc. Or maybe we gather upon a ship and we sail all day talking like pirates and duelling each other with punches, drinking a lot and spanking the girls. We do it for, say, 6 months and then some day, someone says "aren't you bored to do the same things again and again?". From that, one half of the guild goes straight to PVE and they still empty Naxx on 25 raids as I talk. The other half wonders "Where do we go from there?". One half quits the game altogether. Remains 1/4. This quarter decides to build stories (I remember one of my officers saying "what we lack is stories, involving stories for each of us"). And... slightly changes the Social Contract and the CA into Narrativist patterns. Out of boredom of Sim gaming I would say. They still play nowadays although I have no idea of what their stories might be.

I'm maybe biased because I feel, I must confess, that Sim is a dead-end in itself (of course it's noooooot the issue please, an answer like "you're wrong, idiot" will totally satisfy me here :)).


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Caldis on January 20, 2009, 07:20:29 AM
I'm maybe biased because I feel, I must confess, that Sim is a dead-end in itself (of course it's noooooot the issue please, an answer like "you're wrong, idiot" will totally satisfy me here :)).

If you've read Ron's essay on Sim that is his big question about it.  Why keep doing the same thing over and over and yes in MMO's that is a problem and most of them do lose people over time.  They do manage to change it up a bit by adding new areas you can move on to with new quests and other skills to develop like crafting in the end though the game does become monotonous IME.

The game is providing support for this SIm style of play, giving things like skills and levels to work with.  It doesnt do any of the heavy lifting for narrativism and several facets of the game actively work against addressing premise (you cant really change the environment). 

As for Shared imagined space I think you are misunderstanding the term, I prefer to just use exploration which means virtually the same thing according to the glossary.  We imagine fictional events and establish them by communicating them with each other.  I have my character run off to attack a wild boar using the game as a tool, you see this action and follow along.  We communicate across a visual medium, maybe we have a voicechat program and talk as well or else we type out messages that add to what is happening. 


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 21, 2009, 12:41:25 AM
Last time I'm gonna say it, I promise...

Stories DO NOT equal narrativism.

A growing, evolving, changing and deepening character is a big, big hallmark of sustained simulationist play. I don't mean going up in levels. I mean deepening personality and exploration of what it is to be this person in this situation. I'm a bigtime sim player. I could tell you stories spanning years of play, with deep romances, epic battles, betrayals, reconciliations.. All of the stuff you love about your favorite books. And almost all of it falls squarely into the Simulationist agenda. We may sometimes have drifted into Narrativist play, like when we explored questions like "What is the price of Virtue?" or "How far does trust extend?" in Ultima Online. We didn't think of it as a deep thing, and it wasn't purposeful. We just played our characters, and the questions arose and were in turned answered as a result of our play.

In short, "you're wrong", but you're not an idiot. ::grin::

Quote
...decide through Social Contract what we'll be doing and define what actually happened.

"What Actually Happened" is the SIS. The "deciding through Social Contract" part is what makes it shared. We, collectively (largely implicitly) decide what "actually" happens within the fiction. What "actually" happened was that we had our rooftop conversation without any jumping in CoH. What "actually" happened was that you were unconscious and badly injured, not dead, in SWG. So long as a group of players accept a given version of the fiction, that is a Shared Imaginative Space.

Finally: TTRPGs without an SIS; You can play D&D using all of the mechanics, and imagine absolutely nothing. To argue that D&D is no longer a roleplaying game at that point may be valid, but in that case, neither is an MMORPG a roleplaying game if played without an SIS.. And if you play ANYTHING with an SIS, it instantaneously transmogrifies itself into a RPG. That starts leading toward the thorny, downward-spiraling discussion of what exactly defines an RPG, though. For my purposes, D&D is an RPG, no matter how it's played, and it can be played, and enjoyed by a certain set of people, without an Imagined Space of any sort, shared or otherwise.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 21, 2009, 09:23:19 AM
Well, since the very thread now seems to be hanging upon definitions I'll have to sort this one way or another. Then *coughs* sorry for being such a nerd here but I'm a bit tired of arguing over and over about established things sooooo here are the definitions in the Big Model:

[Social Contract [Exploration]]. Exploration means "shared imaginings." The sharing has to be explicit and agreed upon, usually through the spoken word although any form of communication counts. The imaginings have to be the subject that is shared, which is why me reading aloud to my wife does not constitute Exploration. We are independently imagining based on the spoken word, but neither she nor I is telling the other what we imagine from that point. Exploration means that such communication is occurring.


Upon Story Now:

Story Now requires that at least one engaging issue or problematic feature of human existence be addressed in the process of role-playing. "Address" means:
   Establishing the issue's Explorative expressions in the game-world, "fixing" them into imaginary place.
   Developing the issue as a source of continued conflict, perhaps changing any number of things about it, such as which side is being taken by a given character, or providing more depth to why the antagonistic side of the issue exists at all.
   Resolving the issue through the decisions of the players of the protagonists, as well as various features and constraints of the circumstances.


And

Jesse: Now we come to a point of personal confusion. Pastiche. I still don't get it, in any medium. If the Situation involves "...class conflict, people being trapped by their social position, repressed romance..." and the GM lets the players resolve it anyway they like, then how is that not Narrativist?

Ron: It is Narrativist. What you're describing is not pastiche, or more clearly, it typically does not produce pastiche. The key is the "resolve it any way they like" part.

I'll try to keep it short then. There are two issues: the MMO and the RP game happening within. In the MMO itself, there's no Exploration. If Exploration is involved, it's in the RP game happening within that it is involved. Then, and it's the second issue, the Exploration happening within the MMO is doomed from the start because it's Sim that will never change the MMO itself, its universe, that's why, if it goes on, it does despite the MMO. When this RP game goes on despite the MMO its only option is to become Narrativist. Why? Because the Exploration happening then MUST happen the way the players like, anyway the players like, basing upon their own issues instead of the game content's one.

That's my whole sort of demonstration about MMOs and P&PRPGs. I don't want this thread to turn in a game of throwing "you confuse the terms" at each other's face, so that's why I brought the definitions in. Maybe this is the root of what I think is a misunderstanding because if you simply read, just read what Exploration is about, you can't possibly say that a MMO is Exploration in itself nor that it does involve it. Actually, it's almost the contrary of what Exploration is about. And yes, Caldis, using Exploration does well better than using SIS, even though the reasoning stands for the SIS as well, if only upon slightly different grounds.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 21, 2009, 12:28:51 PM
I'm not sure where you're going with the whole point of RP not changing the MMO. RP in TT gaming doesn't change the rules of the game, either. It doesn't have to. There's absolutely nothing doomed about it, because that is the case in all games. You can imagine anything you want in any game, and it has no effect on the text of the game you're playing. I don't think RP necessarily happens despite the MMO, because a lot of times the in-game events inform and affect the roleplay. Sometimes, the RP happens because of the MMO. It would be true to say the reverse though.. The MMO goes on despite the RP.

Also, the transition from Sim to Nar isn't by any means inevitable. I'd actually say it's rare; The exception rather than the norm. The important part about Nar is the issue. Often, there is no issue, and people don't want to explore an issue. They want to explore a situation, which, done in earnest, can entertain far longer than simply playing a game.

But you're right. Exploration in the roleplaying sense does not happen in MMOs without RP. You can explore the game world, but that's an entirely different sort of exploration.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 21, 2009, 01:04:23 PM
I'll try to keep it short then. There are two issues: the MMO and the RP game happening within. In the MMO itself, there's no Exploration. If Exploration is involved, it's in the RP game happening within that it is involved. Then, and it's the second issue, the Exploration happening within the MMO is doomed from the start because it's Sim that will never change the MMO itself, its universe, that's why, if it goes on, it does despite the MMO. When this RP game goes on despite the MMO its only option is to become Narrativist. Why? Because the Exploration happening then MUST happen the way the players like, anyway the players like, basing upon their own issues instead of the game content's one.
I think that's an interesting hypothesis.

What I'd say, somewhat in support of it, is that although the only real option for explorative play to become narrativist, the players have to actually realise it instead of staying fixated on the games mechanics. And will they realise it? And will they realise it all at the same time?

I'd refer you to RPG.nets computer games forum, where post after post about wow (and there are many) fixate heavily on DPS (damage per second), armour points, is mutilate/whatever power nerfed and 'theory craft', on and on. Indeed, I think theory crafting probably is simulationist exploration (particularly the 'theory craft', given that most bosses have a youtube tutorial in about a week, it isn't needed), but at a stark, almost entirely pure numbers level. But it's basically the only exploration they can find in the game, so they seem to latch onto it fiercely, even though it's not much more than spreadsheet manipulation. Worse, actually fixating on exploring these numbers does pay off in little boosts (but which are frankly not needed to achieve goals - they just speed it up, which isn't important to the long term mmorpg player 'because playing for long periods is fun!'), so this number fixation has a system reward*.

BUT at the same time its as bland as hell, while a bit of soap opera style play is far more thrilling and oomphy, right here, right now!

ALSO I'd say the desire for narrativism is very natural in humans. I don't know about Lances statement that sim to nar is rare, but the desire for nar is quite common in people.

But they'd have to realise this. And they need other people to have realised it at around the same time (I wonder how many realised it alone, had no one to play with, so slipped back into spreadsheetdom?).

And not all narrativist play is compatable with all nar play - some of it clashes. But I'll grant, people probably identify kindred intent and work something out between them, for the overall narrish good.

I think your hypothesis is interesting - I think there is a strong potentiality for narrativism to pop up (probably much like it did in early TT games, like champions or what have you). But I don't think play heads towards narratavism - it just develops a strong potential for it to suddenly crop up**. But at the same time, the spreadsheet exploration catches many in its net. How does that sound?


* And I have to wonder if any of them self reflect on what they came to the game originally for...for the rich and amazing game world? Then why are you fucking around with numbers these days? Why didn't they go play in spreadsheet world? Why, because they're not actually interested in numbers, they just fixate on numbers because their will has been subverted somehow. Seriously, if you had given them all a choice between a richly detailed world and spreadsheet world, they'd all have chosen the rich one. Given that that would have been their will, and now they are playing spreadsheets, one can only think their will has been subverted (in a similar way to a problem gambler).

** But it has a most unfortunate reward loop - they don't get a reward for doing it, rather it's because normal play is so boring, breaking away from it is a pleasure. It's like normally being being hit with a stick, but if you do X activity the stick stops. Sure, it feels good to stop being hit, but it relies on you having to put up with suck to begin with. And if you actually like the stick beating (ooh, yes mistress!), why stop?


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 21, 2009, 01:26:47 PM
Hi Lance,

I'm not sure where you're going with the whole point of RP not changing the MMO. RP in TT gaming doesn't change the rules of the game, either. It doesn't have to. There's absolutely nothing doomed about it, because that is the case in all games. You can imagine anything you want in any game, and it has no effect on the text of the game you're playing.
I think your overlooking that the landscape in a mmorpg literally IS a rule. That tree over there IS a rule (try running through it). That bush IS a rule (try seeing through it). That hill IS a rule. That house...etc, etc. They are all as much rules as rolling to hit is a rule in TT. In TT, the tree isn't a rule, typically, but more of an assertion that appeals to group sympathy.

In table top roleplay, you can go and chop that tree down and you are not ignoring any rules in doing so (typically). In a mmorpg, if you say you have chopped down a tree, your just plain ignoring the rule that is that tree. Your imagined event is parasitic to the game, because you ignore the games rules except where they favour you. And thus in the imagined space, the games rules effect on that imagined space, starts to die off. I sympathise with your roof and clone example - I'd do the same thing, I'd think. But that'd be be parasitic as well - by ignoring the rules of the game, their effective presence in the imagined space starts to die off. If I ignore the roof or clone thing, I benefit, while the rules presence in the SIS suffers/dies off, making my play parasitic.

Quote
The MMO goes on despite the RP
And that would be the mmorpg being parasitic on the player - whatever the player likes to imagine, the mmorpg just takes his subscription and goes on regardless, taking a benefit from someone imagining things (the subscription money they paid in order to imagine) but ignoring the content of that imagination and leaving it to wilt and die off.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 21, 2009, 09:19:32 PM
Callan,

I'm reading you, and everything you're saying seems like you're agreeing with me. Then you make the parasitic point, which sounds like you're disagreeing with me.

I'm not sure I see the value in the parasitic thing. Can you unpack this for me? Because I don't really see what bearing it has on.. well, anything. The impact of the rules on the imagined space is always just the developer's vote, and like any vote, it can be over-ridden. (This is true even of a GM's vote in a trad game, though their vote is often upheld by the Social Contract, which usually states that the GM is the final authority)


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 21, 2009, 11:45:28 PM
I'm saying Patrice's point is supported when you vote via system use itself, rather than voting on whether you use system at all. Take universalis - if someone spends some coins to say your cloned when you die, then your cloned when you die (or you spend coins against that being the case or however universalis works). You don't spend coins on clone death and then after that also decide as a group whether you use system at all to determine if your cloned on death. The only voting that happens is through system use.

I think Patrice is saying that in a mmorpg, if you only vote via system use, basically the only thing you can change is what phat armour and sword your guy carries (and explains why WOW users had orgasms once the patch came in that allowed them to change their characters hair style - something that seems relatively banal). In terms of exploration/change only via system use, it's so restricting it's likely to prompt people to look to other types of fun (like nar) or quit altogether.

Why vote only by system? The same reason you do in universalis - because that is the game. Making up a second voting system to decide whether you use the first system...that probably gets into Patrice's parasite idea, as the second voting system 'feeds' on the first system. But I'm probably over posting now...


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: gsoylent on January 22, 2009, 04:51:10 PM
Hi Lance,

In table top roleplay, you can go and chop that tree down and you are not ignoring any rules in doing so (typically). In a mmorpg, if you say you have chopped down a tree, your just plain ignoring the rule that is that tree.

Actually, in most table top games,  the player can't just cut the tree down. Normally the player announces his intention to cut down the tree but it doesn't really happen, doesn't become part of the SIS, until the GM approves it. Depending the GM might just wave it past, might request a skill roll or may even explain why cutting down the tree is not possible ("You can't just cut down a tree in broad day light in the middle of city street, you're going to get yourself arrested.").

What I am getting at is that in both MMO and tabel top roleplaying, you are  often reliant on a consensus building process to insert things into the SIS. Obviously table top is more flexible about such things. But that is just a feature of the medium rather than a principle. 


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: gsoylent on January 22, 2009, 04:52:24 PM
Ah crud, quotes got all messed up.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 22, 2009, 08:11:01 PM
Not to mention you were quoting myself, rather than Lance! :)

What do you mean when you say it's a feature of the medium? It's a feature of the medium, whether the rules ask you to form a consensus or not?


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 22, 2009, 08:41:09 PM
It's a feature of the medium of TTRPGs that what is possible via the game mechanics is more flexible, because it doesn't require the developers to write rules for every single thing the players may want to do. They simply put in a rule that allows the GM to make the call (yes, you can cut down the tree), or allows the GM to make new rules based on the existing rules (ask the character to make a "woodcutting" check, when previously there was no skill or trait for woodcutting)

it's a feature of the medium of video games that everything that the player wants to do mechanically must be anticipated by the developers, and code must be written to support it. If this doesn't happen, it cannot occur mechanically.

I'm not overlooking the landscape at all. The landscape, the "physics", the hidden mechanics of effectiveness the fictional content in the setting (color), all of that falls into the system's vote. You can't exactly vote via the system... You can vote to allow the system's contributions into the SIS. When Errant defeats a Clockwork Prince, we vote to allow that action to become "what actually happened".

I don't think you're making this mistake, but I think it bears stating plainly: When I say vote, I don't mean a literal vote. No one has to say "I approve this thing." Most times, the vote is silent acceptance. Only when you vote against a thing does it actually become verbalized.

Also, just to pick a nit, not to start a new line of discussion...

Quote
The only voting that happens is through system use.

In the nicest way possible, I call bullshit. I've never played the game, but I really, really doubt that the same unspoken voting that goes on in any other game is absent from Universalis. I will accept that silence is consent can be considered part of the rules. But what about the frown of disapproval that doesn't warrant a coin, but which may make you alter your narration a bit? What about the suggestions that pop up when you're making a contribution? What about the assumption of genre conventions that may very well override the system? "No, you cannot have a laser. We agreed that this is sword and sorcery before we even started." How about the enthusiastic agreements that encourage you to keep going in a particular vein? I doubt that just because Universalis has a mechanically formalized voting mechanic that these things go away.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: gsoylent on January 23, 2009, 10:51:54 AM
I meant it's a feature of the MMO as medium that less flexible with visual things than tabletop. There are other things specific to the medium for instance MMO rolepalying forces you to do things in real time while in table top you routinely skip ahead several hours or even days at a time, jump fro location to location in a blink. I am sure LRP and Pbem as mediums have their own advantage and restriction. However focusing on this things in the context of this discussion I think is a distraction.

My point is in both MMOs and (most) table top games there are a range of ways things get into the SIS. There are things like combat for which the access to the SIS is strictly controlled by the rules, And there are things like a player character's thoughts and feelings which are entirely controlled by the players. For most other things, including cutting down a tree, the authority to write this to the SIS is consensual. In table top it's likely to be the GM who says "Yes you can cut the tree down."or "No you can't" or even "Roll on your lumberjack skill". In an MMO it's the community, your peers who say "Yes, you can do that." or "No you can't".


Cutting a tree might be one of those things that are awkward in an MMO (however  in an earlier post I how it was possible to 'egg' a police station in game). But likewise there are things you can do in an MMO that would be awkward in table top game.

Take for instance something like a formal debate. Say in a generic fantasy setting you wanted to have a public debate as to whether bringing the dead back to life with magic is ethical.It's not sort of thing that comes natural in table top. In an MMO however you can easily find a  moderator for the event, a couple speakers interested in championing one or the other side, and maybe 30-40 people to come along just to listen and ask questions, some who you might know, some who you have never met and some who might have just passing through and got curious.

What you have characters thinking about issues in-character. I don't know where that fits in the Big Model but it is damn satisfying and a lot of my roleplaying in AO has moved away from conventional stories to exploring issues and challenging perceptions.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 24, 2009, 03:41:01 PM
Hi Lance,

This is what I see from my perspective - there is no evidence of this 'feature' being in TTRPGs. It doesn't matter if one author writes in that you form a consensus for doing X, because that author doesn't speak for all other authors. And there is no central authority, like sports often have, that determine if this 'feature' is in all TTRPGs.

From my perspective, your arguing against Patrices idea only based on your own preference to vote on whether the system is used at any given point. I know it appears to you as being a fact, but I currently see no evidence to support it as a fact of play and currently defaults to merely being your preference.

I think Patrices idea is fairly strong, as it rests on the backbone of people, initially, only using the system to change the imagined space. In a mmorpg that's pretty restricted, so eventually they break out of just using the system and set up a 'parasite' system on top of the standard system (here they 'vote in' whether to accept the systems results into their shared imagined space). BUT given that the world is very, very persistant, this puts players off imagining they are mayor or that a forrest was burned down, because the mmorpg keeps ignoring them and portraying something else. So where to imaginatively go to that the game can't continually counter? Morality!

That's as I understand Patrice's idea - I might have it wrong.

In terms of your nitpick, I think it's entirely possible to have a money talks/bullshit walks system, yet players might take on other peoples suggestion simply because that suggestion is cool or nifty. Your frown of dissaproval is bullshit that can walk, if you don't have the system currency to block me. But although your frown can walk, a nifty suggestion from you might hook and inspire my imagination, drawing me to use the system in a way that follows your idea (or even sexier, I might have a second idea, that draws upon your idea/is a hybrid of your thinking and my thinking, together). To me, that is beutiful imagining - where I have system control to ignore things, yet its wonderful ideas cropping up that make me drift in whole new directions I would not have otherwise (I have the freedom to do as I normally would, and yet I may not! That is the wonder!). It is the shock and awe of the cool and nifty that changes my system use, and NOT frowns of dissaproval/threatened social ostracism, or bending to genre conventions which when examined, aren't genre conventions but simply how player X at the table wants things done "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" style. Rather than actually spending some coins/system resources to establish that honestly directly.

I'm ranting a bit, but I get so tired of quietly designing money talks systems, because all the vocal forum space is filled up with dissaproving frown design. So I vocalise ("I am money talks, here me roar...), slightly out of place, but vocalising for a money talks system in a dissaproving frown forum is always going to be out of place. And I know your going to say I make too much of the dissaproving frown example - But I've watched actual play accounts for over a decade - I do not make too much of it. [/my nitpick]


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Lance D. Allen on January 24, 2009, 06:10:44 PM
I'm reading "Well, that's your opinion."

Nice discussing with you. It's been productive for me, at any rate.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 24, 2009, 07:13:53 PM
I was thinking I didn't describe enough the tone I mean "Your front of dissaproval is...' - I meant it in the same sassy way as you, and meant as nicely as your own use of the BS word. It might not come out that way so I'll take it on the chin if you want to say that was badly expressed. My error :(


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 24, 2009, 07:25:57 PM
Gah, frown, not front...ah jeez...


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 25, 2009, 06:36:19 AM
But you're right. Exploration in the roleplaying sense does not happen in MMOs without RP. You can explore the game world, but that's an entirely different sort of exploration.

I'll take this agreement we sound to have stuck to give it a last try, Lance. I'm a bit concerned about the thread turning into a bare argument and I think this is because we both seem to think that what we're saying is obvious and blatant. From that, it's not easy to discuss because it's not so obvious for the readers which aren't ourselves, including me for you and you for me. Every time I read your answers I'm thinking "Gosh! Does he pretend not to understand or what? What is he beating the bush around?" and I'm pretty sure you feel something closely related to this from what I read of your answers. I want to put forward strongly that I have no private interest in the issue of this thread, I don't care being confirmed or wronged, I'm just trying to push it further to see where it gets us.

This being said, I'll get back to the very basis of my theory here. Let's say you play a MMORPG. Let's say WoW to stick to one for clarity's sake. You have never heard anything about RP. For you, as it is the case for about 95% players (insider figures), the game is called RPG because you play a fictional character and not yourself as you are. You begin to play this game: It's about smashing mobs, doing quests, stuffing your character, getting it in a guild and finally flaming a few message boards. Whenever needed you use chat lines to "discuss" with the others. You're talking about the last soccer match, your would-be girlfriend's boobs, tactics for raiding Naxx and the despisable nerf of the Rogue character class. Sometimes you need the chat lines to offer something, it goes like "T7 Healadin LFG Naxx 10" or "\\\WTS [mighty Icebane Frostlance] 2K///".

I say, in this game, the MMO itself as it is designed, there's no RPG. There's no RPG from MMO standards and no RPG from tabletop standards either. It's maybe a RPG for secret hardcore boardgamers from Pluto but I've never heard about them. I swear. There is a Virtual space, there is a Character, end of the story. There's no Sharing, no Exploration, nothing but Gaming as you would play Gamist a poker game. These are common features with MMORPGs and tabletop RPGs: There are Characters and it's about a Game. The similarity ends here.

Now, you have RP servers in WoW. 5% of the players aren't satisfied with what's described above as "the game", they want to play it differently. They want to feel immersion (Sim), they want to weave their own stories (I'm NOT saying Nar yet). So they wondered and they told themselves "what do we have?". They told, we have chat lines and we have emotes and we have a whole Setting with a background. We even have a Character creation system allowing us to derivate our Characters from the Setting. They wanted to Explore this universe. But. Wait. Explore? Yes, they meant explore, not Explore as we do in the Big Model because doing so, as you agreed with, is impossible in MMORPGs because the "Shared" (is it?) Space isn't Imagined. So they had to set something to Explore anyway. And they did, they created fictional things to happen (The Mayor), they created a RPG WITHIN the MMORPG frame and the Community Managers had to take them into account and to create servers for them. That's why I'm talking about a parasit game because the Exploration and SIS happens as a layer of fiction set upon the MMO. It's two different things we're talking about here. Two games.

Now, this population, the RP-ers, the kind of guys who like to talk to NPCs that can't answer them or to use chat lines all night long, looking at the sea instead of playing the f****** game  has grown firmer and steadier and the new MMOs take them into account from the start (AoC, WAR). There's no question about this experience being great or lame in this thread. At a personal level, I loved that when I had enough time to play these games as I know we all did here.

I'm waiting for your answer here before moving on to the Sim-Nar thing.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Caldis on January 25, 2009, 08:53:22 AM

I believe you are both wrong and that "Role Play" as it happens in MMO's is not necessary for there to be exploration and thus roleplaying .   All that is required is for multiple people to be working together in the game, using imaginary characters to resolve imaginary situations.  A group of players on a non rp server attacking a dungeon is still exploration even if they arent getting into character and speaking in funny voices.

When you discuss "Role play" of the role play servers and what goes on there you are talking about certain techniques and ephemera but it is not inherently anymore role play than that of the non-rp servers.   


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 25, 2009, 09:35:16 AM
*Sigh*

[Social Contract [Exploration]]. Exploration means "shared imaginings." The sharing has to be explicit and agreed upon, usually through the spoken word although any form of communication counts. The imaginings have to be the subject that is shared, which is why me reading aloud to my wife does not constitute Exploration. We are independently imagining based on the spoken word, but neither she nor I is telling the other what we imagine from that point. Exploration means that such communication is occurring.


It is exploration. They explore the world, the dungeon,etc. It's not Exploration. Moreover, they don't resolve imaginary Situations, they resolve Virtual situations, their Shared imagination has nothing to do with their game experience.

I don't quite get where you want to go when you say:

Quote
When you discuss "Role play" of the role play servers and what goes on there you are talking about certain techniques and ephemera but it is not inherently anymore role play than that of the non-rp servers.

What is your point? Saying that there's no possible RP in MMOs whatsoever? What backs this assumption?


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 25, 2009, 02:33:07 PM
Well from a strict reading of the forge glossary
Quote
Exploration
The imagination of fictional events, established through communicating among one another. Exploration includes five Components: Character, Setting, Situation, System, and Color. See also Shared Imagined Space (a near or total synonym).
It just means to imagine the same thing, together, as I'd read it. The act of imagintion, as I understand it, includes simply holding an image or impression - it doesn't have to evolve or change. To imagine does not inherantly mean to add to the imagined scene (for example, just because I ask you to imagine a vase that has been freshly pushed from a balcony, does not mean you have to imagine it falling - you can simply imagine it in freeze frame. If you imagined it falling, you went beyond what I asked you to imagine, of your own choice, rather than that IS what is involved in imagining. Just because you choose to imagine it falling, does not mean imagining forward is part of imagining). What you might imagine past that point, isn't a required part of this definition. Where did you get your definition from, Patrice? Can you give a link? There may be an inconsistancy between the two?

Under the forge glossary definition, I think Caldis has a point in terms of Exploration, with imagining that does not imagine 'forward' so to speak (though I'd suspect what he refers to imagines forward in gamist terms, imagining possible circumstances that could make them lose - but that's probably confusing things).


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 25, 2009, 03:01:11 PM
But, but...

I mean.

In a MMO you don't have to actually imagine anything. It's my whole point. It's not the game of your imagination, it's on the screen you know. Everything: Character, Setting, Situation, System and Color. And it's not established through communication among one another, it's just... It's just plainly here whether you communicate or not. And there's no fiction either actually because no one involves into imagining things that aren't here on the screen. Except in the RPG taking place within because.... (blah blah blah you know what I'm thinking already). I say, the MMO Rp-ers have had to build a fiction upon the MMO space which isn't fictional in itself. It's like it is, albeit Virtual. Even if we would debate and eventually discard the non-fictional thing, what we have isn't imagined and isn't established through communication. I'm sorry to stick to this, but hey, there's no SIS. Not a bit. No Exploration whatsoever.

My answer to this stands well before the fact of imagining forward or not. I say, there's no imagining at all involved. The definition I've found here in Ron's essay upon Narrativism isn't different from yours actually, it says just the same thing in other words (I don't know how to paste links, sorry man, but you'll find it at the very beginning of the essay upon Nar :/).


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Caldis on January 25, 2009, 09:48:35 PM

What I'm saying is they are all imaginary characters and not real things or real situations.  The computer program is acting as a medium of communication, it's different than sitting face to face and talking but there isnt really much different functionally.   The players may not be putting much of their own imagination into it but again that is no different that a pen & paper player who focuses on the numbers on their character sheet. 

I'm not saying there is no role playing in MMO's I'm saying it's all role playing.  On the RP servers on the PVP servers on every server no matter how much effort the player puts into imagining the world socially they are involved in a role playing game and they are sharing imaginary space, exploring whichever term you wish to use.  The player talking in character, the griefer out ganking lowbies, they are both role playing.  They probably have different creative agendas but they are both still role playing.  Which expands the topic somewhat, or at least makes the type of play you've been discussing here only a subset of all mmo role playing. 


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 26, 2009, 03:57:29 AM
Let me think about it, Caldis.

What you're saying is that using a computer, the computer providing information, you providing input and the computer providing feedback is the same as communicating among each other. Am I right? The other end of "each other" here being the software.

What you're saying next is that watching the screen is the same as imagining. Am I correct?

From that you conclude that MMORPG play is Exploration in any case.

Tell me if that's what you're saying.




Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 26, 2009, 04:53:34 AM
It's worth remembering that the '3D' mmorpg world you 'see' is actually a 2D image on the flat screen of your monitor - your brain renders it into a three dimensional space in your head. Your brain imagines that for you, automatically. Further what you see are illuminated pixels. Small points of light. They are not characters, they are not trees, they are small points of coloured light. Your brain is imagining these clusters of light are something, as Caldis says, they are not. To quote part of that Exploration definition "We are independently imagining based on the spoken word". The mmorpg is 'reading aloud' to us, but through graphics rather than spoken words. "The sharing has to be explicit and agreed upon, usually through the spoken word although any form of communication counts."

But it's static. I suspect the definitions for upper case 'E' Exploration used so far do not actually include the thing that makes them different from static imagining.

Quote
The imaginings have to be the subject that is shared, which is why me reading aloud to my wife does not constitute Exploration. We are independently imagining based on the spoken word, but neither she nor I is telling the other what we imagine from that point. Exploration means that such communication is occurring.
I don't see how this matters in any way, myself. If someones reading from a book to you, your both imagining the same thing. Why would you need to communicate when it's exactly the same thing in both your heads? It's pointless.

Well, if you were inventing new imaginative material from whole cloth, that would be a reason. I think maybe the definition states the communication as important, and perhaps doesn't get to what might actually be the vital thing (though after the invention of new material, it being communicated would obviously be important). Otherwise the definition of Exploration seems to be static imagining with unneeded communication.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 26, 2009, 07:20:42 AM
It's vital, critical to Exploration.

If you don't share, tell each other one way or another what you yourself imagine, it's not imo. It's like reading a book, yes, or watching a movie together.

It's very, very interesting actually how this MMORPG issue brings forth issues pertaining to Exploration at large, we take too much the definitions for granted because, from what I'm reading, they're not understood. If we carry on this way we might end up saying almost anything whatsoever and it's not a firm ground to keep on discussing the topic.

I suddenly realize that the whole debate hangs about the definition of Exploration (or SIS for what it matters). I'd like as OP here everyone wishing to keep contributing to this thread to give us a clear grasp of what they understand of the Exploration or SIS definition. I'm not looking for something copied and pasted from the Provisional Glossary or whatever Big Model article, I'd like to hear what you think that means in your own understanding at a personal level.

I dearly hope that this will help us to sort the whole issue here. I'll throw mine in of course. This is sort of my last hope for the thread.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Caldis on January 26, 2009, 09:09:51 AM

A slight distinction Patrice.  You interacting with the computer isnt exploration, you interacting with the computer, someone seeing the results of your actions and then deciding to act based on that is.  That's sharing imagined space.  What shows up on screen is the equivalent of a gm giving description, which is important but it's not until there is action and events taking place that exploration really begins.

Each person is choosing the actions of an imaginary character, when they run into another character controlled by another person then together they engage in exploration, they decide what to do where to go, what actions to take.
Whether they decide to go kill that thing over there just to gain xp or sit around and chat in character they are roleplaying together.     

On your own there is no sharing, you are still imagining but it's not shared.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Daniel B on January 28, 2009, 11:51:50 PM
I've been silent but watching this thread, because I never felt I could add something not already added ... but,

Patrice and Caldis, even if you're playing an MMORPG and on your own, is it not still "sharing"? If I build my own computer game and explore it myself, I would agree, but the land of Azeroth from WoW, Urza from MTG, or Narnia from .. well you know .. they're all fictional places that are being shared with me by someone else. If I show you a picture of a fantastical event, play a song or recite a poem I wrote, I'm sharing what's in my imagination with you. With online games, the idea of "exploration" is even there too, because I'm not presented with the whole concept linearly, I can instead wander through it at my leisure.

Granted, this may ALL be a huge aside because even though it's all technically "sharing" and "exploration", it doesn't really help us as designers of TT RPGs, but I think it's a valid point to make.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Caldis on January 29, 2009, 11:45:53 AM

There is some validity to your point however the sharing is all happening in only one direction.  The actions of the player have no impact on the designer.  So play in an MMO that only deals with what has been programmed into the game is like a table top player only playing with the rulebooks of a system and no other players.   

Can we discuss this aspect of play?  Sure, but it is entirely different than what the theory looks at and so using the terms (like exploration) may not be all that useful. 


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 29, 2009, 01:26:50 PM
In table top games you don't have an impact on the designer/the actual author of the game, either.


Patrice: The word 'Exploration' doesn't really mean anything to me at a personal level. It's a word that acts as shorthand for a longer description someone made up.

If I looked hard enough into what it meant to me personally, I would start inventing my own version of what it refers to, rather than trying to understand what the author personally meant. Which is a kind of creative denial (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17334.msg188019#msg188019).


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: John Adams on January 30, 2009, 11:59:17 AM
I think there is more agreement here than not, the disagreement seems to be mostly wrestling with abstracts and jargon. So I'm probably saying the same things you all have, just in my own way. Maybe a slightly different angle on the issue will help.


Point: You can play TTRPGs via chat client. ***
Point: Every MMO I have played includes a chat client.

Therefore, you can run a tabletop-style RPG in an MMO. Not kinda-sorta, no question of "is there an SIS", but a complete, no-holds-barred-break-out-the-Big-Model RPG. Use any System you like. There is absolutely no reason why you couldn't run a 2-year Traveler campaign using World of Warcraft as your communication platform. In fact, the 3D emotes and avatars should really contribute a feeling of "being together" you wouldn't get from just a chat client. Add in a voice server and all you're missing is the argument over where to buy pizza.

Now, the real question y'all are asking is, at a very high level, "how do certain kinds of technology facilitate or fail to facilitate TTRPGs?" More specifically, given a specific feature set such as today's World of Warcraft, which tools/features should we incorporate into our System and how should we go about doing it? Then there's the flip side of that coin: given our desire to play TTRPGs online, what kind of tools and features do we want that don't exist yet?

This is the essence of your "parasite" discussion. Yes, you really are playing some kind of free-form TTRPG using mainly the chat client and 3D emotes of your avatars. Your frustration arises from having (and paying for!) all this other stuff around you which looks great but is essentially useless for your purposes.

I think the root of this problem goes waaaaaay back to the dawn of single player "RPGs" and especially MUDs. Programmers made a fatal mistake: they proceeded under the assumption that the Developer's role was to be the GM rather than the Game Designer. This is doomed to fail because the GM is a full participant in play and must have 2-way, real-time interaction with the players. Enter Neverwinter Nights which had the right idea but couldn't deliver (IMHO) regarding the real-time demands on the GM. (Also consider the possibility that having a GM may not be desirable in this medium.)


So you have two branches to this topic:

1) What can Developers/Designers/Publishers do to help future games support our online TTRPG experience?

2) How do we design a good and proper System which is well suited to the medium of today's MMOs? What works and what doesn't?

The first branch is Game Design in the sense used by software engineers and publishers, but the second is absolutely Forge Big Model Theory and its application.


DISCLAIMER:

*** I'm a long-time avid TTRPG fan. I've logged a couple thousand hours in MMOs but have never in fact played a TTRPG via chat.

** I must admit I skimmed through some of this thread. If I'm way off topic, please pardon the interruption by a Johnny-come-lately.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Patrice on January 30, 2009, 04:17:47 PM
I thank you four very much for contributing to keep the topic forward, trying to solve the issues it has raised lately. I want to try to take your all points in and give it a different aim, fed by what you brought in these. Despite my initial claim, we've been way too far, or so it seems, into sterile theory. I wasn't least to play this game of words and I gladly accept your idea to shake it off and to move on because that would lead us nowhere, except maybe questioning our understanding of the Big Model notions, which is not the matter of this thread. That wouldn't be a creative denial to question our understanding, Callan, but that would lead us deeper astray instead of solving anything. In short, you're right, let's move on.

I love the branches John Adams has set, they are very practical issues and would relate to actual play experience. They capture the purpose of our debate since our questioning has to lead somewhere.

I first want to answer Dan and Callan about Caldis' statement:

Quote
There is some validity to your point however the sharing is all happening in only one direction.  The actions of the player have no impact on the designer.  So play in an MMO that only deals with what has been programmed into the game is like a table top player only playing with the rulebooks of a system and no other players.   

Can we discuss this aspect of play?  Sure, but it is entirely different than what the theory looks at and so using the terms (like exploration) may not be all that useful.

John says pretty much the same when he goes like this:

Quote
Programmers made a fatal mistake: they proceeded under the assumption that the Developer's role was to be the GM rather than the Game Designer. This is doomed to fail because the GM is a full participant in play and must have 2-way, real-time interaction with the players.

This leads us to understand the sharing thing. The players of a TTRPG share with their GM, not the players of a MMO because they have none. They haven't dropped the GM like a few TTRPGs in which the players all tell, share, about what is the environment becoming, their environment doesn't change. It's a very different thing, Callan. Of course you mostly never have an impact upon a TTRPG's author, nor do you upon a MMO designer but in a TTRPG you share with the environment through your GM. In a MMO you don't. Hence John's remark that :

Quote
This is the essence of your "parasite" discussion. Yes, you really are playing some kind of free-form TTRPG using mainly the chat client and 3D emotes of your avatars. Your frustration arises from having (and paying for!) all this other stuff around you which looks great but is essentially useless for your purposes.

Now, I'll gleefully take into account whatever assumptions saying that the soft is behaving like a GM, but that wouldn't content me without a few suggestions about how to make it happen for good, because this isn't the case in the MMOs I've played.

I'll be back and sound in a few days, guys, I have a lot of work to do at the moment with pretty much tight deadlines and can't give the thread the attention I would, but surely we can carry on upon this different basis and try to answer John's questions?

Thanks again for the forget-the-theory part.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on January 30, 2009, 05:11:31 PM
Hi John,

Really strong evidential points there, as far as I can see, and a really useful contrast with the traveler in wow chat client example. Nice work, indeed!!

I'm not sure about your question #2. Are you asking about building a system that suits the MMO medium? Or only using elements of the MMO medium that suit the system you want to design?

And I'm not sure about your statement of GM role in computer RPG's? As far as I know, all players can roughly only have the power of characters, and it's an RPG. There doesn't have to be a player who can make mountains or dragons blink into existance, or who can design and implement whole continents. You could have just a pair of players, both with roughly the power of a single character, yet roleplaying along with each other.

I'll phrase your statement another way and you tell me what you think - when the games designers started trying to be GM as well, they ended up removing all roleplay from whatever they put in, precisely because of that lack of communication you mentioned. It doesn't matter how many mountains or streams or dragon hordes they wrote in, because if only two players are playing and they are bickering about who is going to kill the most orcs (Gimli and Legolas style), THAT is the only roleplay that is occuring. Because that bickering is A: They have communication between them and just as important B: That bickering has the ability to actually change*. They might bicker and become friends, or bicker and move onto another subject, or even go blood opera and fight each other (or scar opera, and merely duel each other).

ALL of the rest of the game world is static, because the game designers tried to play GM, but they will never be in communication with our bickering pair. And so they will never change or add to that game world after, perhaps, being inspired by that bickering. That communication line was severed, so the only RP that's going on is in that tiny space between the characters. Only in that space do A and B exist.

And in traditional MMORPGs, the only communication going on is between players and the only change going on is getting new gear (and the brief change of a dungeon full of dead NPCs - but that resets so probably on the gear change is a change). That or you go parasitic and start saying your the mayor. That gear change IS Exploration, though a strangled and tiny one. Oh, and 'spec' (for those not in the know, where you spend character points on your characters abilities - which can be reset for a fee), that's an area of communication and is part of the Exploration as well.



Heya Patrice,

I wonder if you don't see it as Exploration in the same way as you wouldn't see bugs as food? But in some countries insects are part of the common diet. Here, gear changing and respecing and the talking about it all (I can pull multiple threads of talk about this from RPG.net, per week) is a communicated environement and it's an environment that changes based on that communication. It's Exploration, even though to a table top roleplayer its Exploration as much as bugs are food. Were spoilt!

Oh, cross post!
Quote
but in a TTRPG you share with the environment through your GM. In a MMO you don't.
This is exactly what I was just getting at. There is a changing environment the players are in communication with each other about - changing gear and changing specs is that environment. That's probably environment to you about as much as bugs are edible. But bugs are food - and this is an environment that they are communicating about and it is an environment that is changing because of that communication.

Anyway, there seems to be an incredibly strong parallel here that indicates the exact same thing is happening in either case (Exploration). I think I've shown evidence of that paralel, but I'm not sure.

* On a side note, I think the Exploration definitions at the forge are probably supposed to have B in them, but only focus ALOT on A for some reason? I'll grant someone can't be inspired by your ideas if they can't hear you, but hearing you is hardly the most important thing even so.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: John Adams on February 02, 2009, 06:56:07 AM
I'm not sure about your question #2. Are you asking about building a system that suits the MMO medium? Or only using elements of the MMO medium that suit the system you want to design?

For clarity, when I'm talking about bits and bytes, I'll say software explicitly, as in "the software design". When I say System, I mean it in the Big Model sense, as applicable to table-top style role-playing using whatever medium.

So in this case what I'm getting at is that when your MMO role-playing experience is frustrating or feels too limited, one of the following is likely the problem.

1) Your System relies on features of the software to do things they were not designed to do
2) Part of your System does what it needs to do without reference to the software, and crossing the boundary between software and pure imagination creates a jarring sensation as you play. In particular, you might wish that the software handled this part of the System too.
3) Any kind of System problem that could arise at the table-top or any medium. This is even more likely because the System is probably loosely defined, frequently changing and largely implicit or (mis)understood.

The challenge seems to be to ...

A) Work out a System which avoids (1) and (3) while minimizing (2), working within existing MMO limitations
B) Identify software features which could address (2). Some might be feasible modifications to existing MMOs, others might require a complete re-thinking of the current MMO software model.


Quote
There doesn't have to be a player who can make mountains or dragons blink into existance ...

I'll phrase your statement another way and you tell me what you think - when the games designers started trying to be GM as well, they ended up removing all roleplay from whatever they put in, precisely because of that lack of communication you mentioned.

Yes! Let me break that down a little further. There are some tasks traditionally left to the GM which software can handle very, very well. Managing complex rules for instance. Providing almost anything which would fall under Setting is another. But software designers didn't stop there, they went as far as they could to imitate a Story Before GM style, and to a large extent, that works: as long as you are content to follow the trail of bread crumbs and take the quests as the "GM" hands them out you're fine.

My own play from a few years ago bears a striking resemblance to a lot of MMO play, and I'm afraid neither was very satisfying for me, and for the same reasons.

AP illustration. A few years ago I was running Story Before in a detailed hand-made Setting and as usual I was getting burned out. Coming up with new ideas week after week and doing all of the heavy lifting myself was a chore. I was reading the Forge frequently, and suddenly it dawned on me that there were 5 other highly creative people sitting at my table doing nothing. The story wasn't about the PCs, they just sort of floated through it most of the time, and the player's creative input was limited to providing color and making ultimately trivial decisions. If there was a meaningful fork in the road for them to choose it was because I put it there.

So I resolved to shake things up and get them creatively involved every session. The elaborate backstory slipped into the background and the game became a story about the PCs. All it took was focusing closely on the PCs place in and reaction to the events going on around them and making that central. Who cares how the war turns out overall, what effect does this battle have now, on your PC?

I feel the same tension trying to role-play in MMOs. Players have almost no creative freedom within the software, all of the creative energy comes from the software designers. And guess what? They're burnt out and they know they can never keep up with the customer's demand for new content.

What's needed is major design shift that places the creative engine in the players' collective hands. More on that later.


I want to throw down the gauntlet here. When I play MMOs, I don't want a table-top experience! I want something different. I want our shared imagining to explode out of my LCD monitor and sizzle our of my speakers; I want to see it, hear it, and feel it! I want to BE THERE to the greatest extent the technology allows. But I want the active creative input and sharing that is the hallmark of the best table-top experience. That's my goal.


Quote
* On a side note, I think the Exploration definitions at the forge are probably supposed to have B in them, but only focus ALOT on A for some reason? I'll grant someone can't be inspired by your ideas if they can't hear you, but hearing you is hardly the most important thing even so.

I think in Big Model terms, (A) is Exploration and (B) is System, the mechanism for change in the SIS. It's all about changing Situation A into Situation B.




Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: John Adams on February 02, 2009, 08:41:28 AM
And I need to address Patrice's point in more detail.

The players of a TTRPG share with their GM, not the players of a MMO because they have none. They haven't dropped the GM like a few TTRPGs in which the players all tell, share, about what is the environment becoming, their environment doesn't change. It's a very different thing, Callan. Of course you mostly never have an impact upon a TTRPG's author, nor do you upon a MMO designer but in a TTRPG you share with the environment through your GM. In a MMO you don't.

Now, I'll gleefully take into account whatever assumptions saying that the soft is behaving like a GM, but that wouldn't content me without a few suggestions about how to make it happen for good, because this isn't the case in the MMOs I've played.

This is exactly what I'm driving at. Like many of the indie games of the last few years, I think the best model for an MMO is a GM-full model where the players share the creative responsibility. There are other possibilities, but I don't think they fit the medium as well as GM-full play.

I mentioned that MMOs have reproduced a railroaded GM-Story Before model pretty well. If that's what you want you're probably pretty happy with the status quo. Given the popularity of MMOs there must be a lot of people who fit that description. I'm not one of them. The major drawback is what I'll call the Content Problem: players consume the new game content much faster than the software developers can produce it.

Neverwinter Nights puts the adventure creation back in a human's hands and suggests a live GM run the players through her creation (NWN leans toward the Story Before angle, but there are other options). That's exactly what I did with my play group; we all bought the game, several of us created modules and we took turns running the group through it. The results were dismal, but very instructive.

First, voice has it all over typing and at least one of my friends simply cannot get into the game via a chat window. The pool of players who are comfortable (or more comfortable) with voice communication is surely larger than those who work well in typed chat.

Second, the interface problem: NWN tries to use a traditional GM role, but that flies in the face of the technology. In traditional TTRPG (at least the way we usually played) the GM is the "black box", the player's only interface to the SIS, but in NWN the players had direct control over their PCs in the world without routing it through the GM. The result is that as soon as everyone logs in the PCs scatter like cockroaches and the GM is badly outnumbered. Two PCs going in completely different directions want to talk to two different NPCs at the same time. Your choices are to script the conversations and give up the Live GM feel entirely or to make one player wait while you handle the conversations one at a time. The latter is a jarring example of problem (2) from my last post: what we could do with the software was directly at odds with the System we were using.

These problems might be overcome with clever software programming and choices of System, but the GM-full model seems less problematic from the start. I think it would play to the medium's strengths and entirely avoid the problems I just mentioned.

Patrice, we need to break apart what you mean by "environment". The real background stuff must come from the software, else we should be playing via some other medium. If you can't really see that amazing castle on your monitor and walk around in it, what's the point? And is it such a big deal that as we create our play experience we must choose this castle or that one, rather than creating it whole-cloth? I don't think so. I think that's where the software developers will really earn their monthly subscription fee: creating the basic software content we use in all of our play. I'm talking about models, bitmaps, skins, sound effects, animations ... all highly reusable stuff. Our job as players is to combine it in fun and creative ways which satisfy our Creative Agenda. They give us the stuff, we figure out what it's for and what it all means.

I don't think that means the software should get out of the System, quite the opposite. I think it needs to provide System and constraints far beyond the combat-system only approach they have taken so far.

We just started a Sorcerer campaign. The traditional part of character creation boils down to "assign 10 points to these 3 abilities." But chargen goes much, much further and if you follow the rules you can't help but create 3 dimensional dramatic characters who are ready to drive meaningful play immediately. By defining your Kicker, Descriptors and Price you've already decided what this PCs story will be about and what questions it will pose; play is all about answering those questions and creating the story you outlined in chargen.

Now why can't software provide the same kind of framework?


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Adam Dray on February 03, 2009, 02:00:10 PM
I've run a small-scale MMO for 12 years. It's text-based, not graphical. It's designed for "role-play" (socio-political situations, mostly) more than combat. It's still basically an MMO. It hosts 500+ characters played by about 250 different real people.

So.

Is actual RP there impossible? No, absolutely not. It happens every day. It's happening right now.

Does the cold, humanless virtual interface somehow change the nature of the game? Of course not. The "rules" enforced by server code are just one more input, like the color text in the rule books you use for a tabletop game. You might ignore it. You might ask a staff member to undo it.

You can play a D&D game where you never do anything "in character." You push your character around like a pawn, kill stuff, level up, and so on, and your halfling rogue looks no different than some other player's halfling rogue. There's no "role-playing," as such. But you're kicking ass and taking names. Everyone knows that your halfling rogue build is awesome, and Joe's build is a bit scattered.

But, really, it's still role-playing. There's a social contract among players at the table that you're gonna show up to play some D&D a certain way. There's a shared imagined space where all the action happens. There's exploration. There's conflict and resolution. This is a role-playing game.

On an MMO, it's no different. There's a social contract that you're there to play World of Warcraft or whatever and play a certain way. There's a shared imagined space where all the action happens, and it is made stronger, in many ways, by reinforcement from the game server. There's exploration, and I don't just mean walking around; I mean there's exploration of character, setting, situation, system, and color. There's conflict, usually treated as incontrovertibly resolved by the server code. This is a role-playing game. Your tauren paladin build is rocking and everyone wants you to raid with them.

Now, take that D&D game. You add some "role-play" between the dice rolling. Your halfling rogue doesn't want to break into this one dungeon because he was raised by kobolds and feels sympathy for their plight. This influences your later decisions during the game. This is a new filter through which you make decisions. This is role-playing.

You can do the same thing in WoW. Your tauren decides not to kill natural animals because they are just hunting for food. You refuse certain kinds of quests. This is a new filter through which you make decisions. This is role-playing.

Show me an example of play you think is impossible on an MMO server.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Daniel B on February 04, 2009, 02:33:09 AM
Just my two cents. Please excuse unnecessary literary flair .. I think it'll help make my point better.

Oddly enough, I'm going to take an (apparently, but not actually) opposite position from the one I took earlier. I argued that what goes on, on a MMORPG, is *technically* roleplaying and the people participating in them are the same who participate in table top RPGs, and therefore we could apply some lessons from such games to our table top games. Now, while I still hold that belief, I understand where you're coming from, Patrice, and I agree with that too.

It's important to bear in mind: the fictional worlds we build in our minds and the virtual worlds are polar opposites. A few words will instantly generate a rich, lush environment in our heads full of colour and chock full of content. This content is flexible and animated, and it all has depth: if you imagine a sledgehammer, you imagine it is heavy and could crush stone and melt in lava. For computers, the opposite is true. Nothing at all exists unless the computer is given explicit instructions to make it so. Even then, these constructions are hollow things, facsimiles, lacking colour, personality, and behaviour until granted by the programmer. Change comes very slowly, requiring the use of arcane and tricky languages. Consequently, trying to roleplay in this environment is inevitably going to be a different experience than trying to roleplay around the table.

Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?

Well, it's true that you are not going to get the same table-top RPG experience in an online game because some or most of the content is on a computer, out of the reach of your imagination. However, as others have pointed out, if you're willing to make the necessary concessions (just as you would suspend disbelief while watching a movie), then it works well enough.

Dan


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: FredGarber on February 04, 2009, 10:28:52 AM
Overall, I'm chiming in on the "possible" side of this discussion: RP is only possible with MMOs if someone else, even part time, is taking the role of audience.  "Actual RP" requires feedback, and if I refuse to accept a certain quest for "pure" RP reasons (*), then someone needs to think "ooh, he refused to do that for RP."  If I'm the only one who knows why I refused the quest, it's not Actual RP for me (**)

However, I'm going to chime in with an opposite stance from Dan now:

When I RP at a tabletop game, I have to NOT use the fictional world I use in my mind.  The fictional world in my mind has all these little details that the fictional worlds in my fellow players' heads might not. 
For example:
GM: You kill the orcs, Fred.
Me: Ooh.  I take the little yellow scarves that these orcs have to symbolize clan
Janet: Everybody knows orcs denote clans by their stripes and spots.  They're goblinoid.
Heather: I was kind of thinking of a tribal scarring thing, actually.  What scarves are you talking about?

See, all of us have our own fictionalized image of the orcs our PCs killed, but now there's a conflict over what bits enters the SIS.  In fact, a virtual world, by specifying a lot of Color, System, and Setting facilitates my roleplay, by allowing me to better synch with my fellow players.

-Fred


(*) What constitutes a "pure" RP reason is a whole 'nother thread, and I don't want to get into it.  Suffice to say, I'm treating it like a choice made in an MMO that has a low or no impact on the computerized mechanics.
(**) I'm willing to concede that if I know I did it, then I'm RPing in a single person adventure, but that's pushing my RP definition.  I also don't want to get into RPing a character who has "mysterious reasons" for doing things.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: Callan S. on February 04, 2009, 02:55:39 PM
John, I think its worth noting that if the game designer hard codes in a forest or city, while that removes the ability to roleplay/Explore in terms of that forrest/city and that seems an actual mistake in the examples we gave, it can actually be a feature rather than a bug. Ie, roleplay/Exploration is NOT supposed to happen in terms of whether the forrest or city exists - get yer roleplay/Exploration happening over at X, instead! Quit trying to roleplay whether the forest exists - that's not what this particular roleplay game is about.

I'm thinking yourself and Adam are at opposites and yet thinking the same thing - you both think roleplaying should be able to happen anywhere in a particular RP games presentation.

I think roleplay through a MMORPG might indeed be an impossible thing, if roleplay/Exploration has to happen in every single piece of the games presentation. I think Exploration is facilitated by having things which you do not Explore - they provide a wall to kick off into what is supposed to be Explored.

I'll qualify and say I see the value of any particular RPG (MMO or TT) is that it restricts your imagination. Creative restriction - the restrictions require you to think in new and imaginative ways to get at stuff, and bam, there you go, new and imaginative ways are created! Alot of people see RPG's as allowing them to have an imagination, rather than restricting it. That's why shallowthought's quote from me is "Hands: How to have them and have them attached to your nerves". It's something I said to illustrate that a book that tells you how to have hands is stupid, and the idea of a book tell you how to have an imagination is...can I just say it? Stupid? (for anyone who's had a hand severed, I'm sure it's still stupid - the book can't help them, either. And if you've had your imagination severed, OMFG!).

My point probably only makes sense from a 'restriction' viewpoint, and that'd be another thread to provide evidence for, I guess.


Title: Re: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?
Post by: John Adams on February 05, 2009, 08:39:00 AM
Callan, you and I are on the same page. I wrote:

Quote
The real background stuff must come from the software, else we should be playing via some other medium. If you can't really see that amazing castle on your monitor and walk around in it, what's the point? ... that's where the software developers will really earn their monthly subscription fee: creating the basic software content we use in all of our play. I'm talking about models, bitmaps, skins, sound effects, animations ... all highly reusable stuff. Our job as players is to combine it in fun and creative ways which satisfy our Creative Agenda. They give us the stuff, we figure out what it's for and what it all means.

The friction with current MMOs is they don't help you with that last part. They tell you what it all means and what you're supposed to be doing right now, "here's the quest, now get to it!" That's all well and good if you find the quest entertaining and don't mind being railroaded through the developer's story. It has all the hallmarks of a Story Before campaign with all of the ups and downs associated with it.

* The story isn't your character's story. It CAN'T be, unless (like The Bard's Tale) you also hard-code the player's character.

* You're not the protagonist. I generally get the feeling I'm just watching the story unfold, running from A to B so I can see the next scene. Sometimes literal cut-scenes tell the story, and making me wade through hours of meaningless combat in between does not make me more involved.

* The "GM" carries the whole creative load. This leads to burnout, as one person does a large amount of work to realize a small payoff in game. With MMOs this is magnified many times over, developers spend months creating and testing new quests that only take players a few hours to finish.

* On the other hand, MMOs make a perfect "black box" if that's what you're after. The GM vanishes behind a wall of programming and you can interface with the world directly.


So my assertion is that the Quest or Story Before model is a poor fit for online play. This has nothing to do with who gets to design the Big Black Castle of Ultimate Darkness (TM). It has everything to do with why I as a player would want to go there and what happens once I arrive. I think the players should be actively engaged in answering those questions and those creative activities should be a large part of actual online play. This implies a few things:

* Every character who is not a mook or "furniture" should be controlled by a real person in real time. Good guys, bad guys, important secondary characters ... all played by real people.

* This does not imply free-for-all PvP, there can be plenty of structure to restrict the players' interactions. As you pointed out, sometime restrictions spark creativity rather than stifle it.

* The game can provide tons of Setting but the backstory, if any, must remain firmly in the background. What's important is my character and his relationship to your character and the Situation that creates. The key will be designing software and System to support this kind of play.

* The player search and matching software will be critical so you can find a group of about 50-200 players who have similar goals and RP styles, people you would want in your TT game.