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Author Topic: Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?  (Read 9155 times)
Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #15 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?
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #16 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)
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Callan S.
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« Reply #17 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.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #18 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!
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #19 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?
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Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #20 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.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #21 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.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Callan S.
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« Reply #22 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?
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Patrice
Member

Posts: 133


« Reply #23 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.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #24 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.
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Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #25 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.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #26 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.
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Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #27 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.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #28 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.
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Patrice
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Posts: 133


« Reply #29 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.
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