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Author Topic: Actual RP in MMORPGs and World of Warcraft (split)  (Read 5397 times)
contracycle
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« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2009, 12:18:04 PM »

Oh I think it could be done, but it would be a very different beast.  What they need to do is take advantage of the large population and let the players make some decisions - to have a kind of politics a bit like Fred's LARP situation.

Imagine this sort of situation.  Instead of writing quests for each group to take, write a quest for one group, but which impinges on everyone else.  Then, "every else" must decide who to send to deal with the problem - the problem being something like a universal XP penalty for everyone until the issue is addressed.  Now add perma-death on these community quests, and the temperature gets a little warmer.

Then you could really have people say, hey remember that time the Green Knight thing happened, and three parties were killed trying to solve it until Brave Bob finally smote the evil?  Iterating such things could indeed produce a kind of history, the sort of thing the events introduction stuff in the modern crop already tries to do.  The kudos to be gained from completing, or even trying and failing, will be real.  The concern over who to send, and whether they will go, will be real.  Make a FRAPS or similar recording of the quest for others to review, and even the dead will live on in glorious memory.  Levelling just to be in the candidate pool will add an element to that activity - if you have levelling at all, which you might not.

So ok, this is all step on up and live the dream, but the points above about the lack of eye contact upthread are valid and the problems insurmountable in my opinion.  But certainly MMO's could be much less flakey than they are at present, and make use of more orthodox story structures and take advantage of their mass populations, which they presently ignore.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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Callan S.
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« Reply #16 on: May 10, 2009, 03:37:39 PM »

My question wasn't so much as to whether it could be done, but why? And to be specific, that doesn't have to be a 'why' that satisfies/makes sense in terms of my needs. As long as it satisfies the speakers needs, that's cool.
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #17 on: May 10, 2009, 10:59:45 PM »

I really need to get my "manifesto" back online.

A lot of the ideas and concerns here are ones I've thought about for if I ever managed to get creative control of a MMORPG project.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #18 on: May 11, 2009, 01:10:21 AM »

I remember this guy who once told me about going to a LARP. He borrowed a foam sword and some funny ears and played a Drow. Proudly, he explained how he had waited in an ambush, motionless, for a very long time just to “kill” some other player. He did not have an in-game reason to kill that player’s persona, other than “I’m Drow, I’m evil”. So there was this troupe of teenagers running around this rather small LARP, killing off other players’ personas for no good reason at all. That was when I decided I probably did not need to try LARP.

This kind of crap, also well known from any MMO PvP server, seriously messes up the benefits of a “death system” like the one Fred describes. In a small LARP with dedicated GMs you can probably work against it. On a small NWN free shard with dedicated GMs, too. But with a mass phenomenon like WoW? Impossible.

On the PvE servers of WoW you can’t just kill random player characters but the idiots are still around. You don’t get to choose whom you play with. Or rather, you don’t get to be alone with the people you have chosen. Plus, the official content makes so little sense in terms of Shared Imagined Space that most of it only gets in the way of actual role-playing, whatever that means.

I imagine that the dedicated “role-players” in WoW play outside the content provided by the quests and instanced dungeons, basically a fully independent chat or TS RPG that happens to take place on a WoW server and happens to use WoW avatars and environments as visualization. Only WoW avatars and environments are very limited visualizations.

Yeah, I guess I still don’t get it. I used to think that “RP” in MMO just means you talk pseudo-medieval and say “Lok’Thar” and “For the Horde!” Not that people would do that a lot on WoW RP servers.

- Frank
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contracycle
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« Reply #19 on: May 11, 2009, 01:33:10 AM »

My question wasn't so much as to whether it could be done, but why? And to be specific, that doesn't have to be a 'why' that satisfies/makes sense in terms of my needs. As long as it satisfies the speakers needs, that's cool.

Because it would be more interesting than simply going through the levelling grind for no good purpose.  The whole thing seems pretty dull to me, all the worst bits of dungeon crawling and none of the good bits.  Having some kind of continuity and progression (of the setting) in real terms would add a lot to the value of the exercise for many people, I think.   Some of them may have decent mechanics that are sufficiently interesting to be engaging, but the reapeat-till-complete quest mode undermines real stakes.

Frankly I'm still surprised they are as popular as they are; you can't really RP and if you want to PvP why not just play one of the many team games out there?  I can only think its just dedication to colour, to the extravagent costumes and semi-naked elves and whatnot.  The only other thing they have going for them is the quest structure itself, the sense of pseudo-progress articulated through mission briefings and the variety of challenges to encounter.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
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Callan S.
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« Reply #20 on: May 11, 2009, 02:15:50 AM »

Hi Frank,

The perma death question arrose from my question as to whether it's just the illusion of risk in mmorpgs? I'm worried there's an idea that it's not that it's an illusion of risk, it's just that perma death can't be implemented for reasons X, Y and Z. And thus, the idea goes, if you take away perma death, that doesn't affect the risk/it's presence, since the perma death had to be taken away? I'm way off in worrying about that?
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #21 on: May 11, 2009, 05:45:50 AM »

Hi Callan, I think the question is what risk. Currently, dying in an MMO is an inconvenience, especially with regard to progress on in-game goals (next level, better piece of equipment, gold, etc.) Sometimes I get pretty upset when I keep dying in some stupid place because mobs are respawning all over the place and I can't kill them off as quickly as necessary and I'm going, "Stupid game, why the fuck is this quest marked yellow?!" (= adequate for my level)

But when talking about RP in terms of, I don't know, "story"? Exploration of Character and Situation? Then character death would indeed probably be best viewed as no risk at all. I guess? (Did I mention I don't really get it?) ;-)

- Frank
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AJ_Flowers
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« Reply #22 on: May 11, 2009, 08:36:56 AM »

...  but AJ confirms it's pretty much exactly what I expected.

It's pretty hard to find the good missions in all the kruft, but that is normal for the internet and was what I expected too.  I still enjoy playing my friends' stuff or stuff that is advertised elsewhere as being a fun story game sort of experience.


What is a major pitfall of Story Before gaming? Railroading. I'm not at all surprised poeple complain about it in City of Heroes, it's been the core game design since Day One. All of these games are different flavors of "kill a goblin, get a reward" and that's all they are designed to be. A mission editor won't change it into something else. (I'm still really glad they released it and I have an itch to create a mission or two to see how far I can take it, but I have no illusions.)

In the home-made missions, a lot of people take it a step further and literally railroad your character in to falling for a trap or doing something stupid between missions.  Or they tell you what you're thinking.  Some people feel really violated by this.

So what if Capes was the inspiration for City of Heroes instead of Champions? Turns out I've put a lot of thought into that.

* Players would play heroes AND villains AND civilians. Each character type would provide unique rewards and interact with the other types in unique, story-reinforcing ways.

* Players would spend resources to create conflicts and earn resources when other players engaged those conflicts.


My villain burns a few points so he can dangle Mary Jane over the edge of 20 story drop. If I drop her and she goes splat! I get nothing in return, so I'll do it when your hero is rushing up to save her. If I drop her and you heroically save her, I get points. You would spend points to catch her, but maybe you earn a different kind of reward at the same time.

By the way, Mary Jane is played by Bob. Bob spends points in this situation for a "terrified scream" which inspires (buffs) your hero so he can punch my villain's head in.

All of this currency/economy is built around creating an exciting, genre-appropriate story with theme.

* Players would cooperatively assemble a scene from a large collection of parts, rather than travelling to a certain place in a huge, pre-defined game world.

"That was a great scene. Can we do one where Captain Awesome finds out who took the Gauntlet of Power?"

Set Piece: wrecked science lab
Characters: Captain Awesome, Firebrand, Penny McCord
Type / Subtype: Dialog / Revalation

etc.

The hard-coded bits would define not just the the set pieces but also which game sub-systems or mini-games would be in play and how the players would resolve the scene.

That sounds like it would be amazing! But, also, a ton of work, so not suitable for everyone. Some people have pointed out on MMO blogs that they actually like the "theme park" setup of an MMO because it doesn't make them have to think.
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evilphd7
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« Reply #23 on: May 20, 2009, 01:55:43 PM »

For the past few years I have been in Second Life and trying to find role-play there. Second Life(SL) is unique among online games in that it is an online world (rather than a game) which allows land owners (who are willing to pay considerable $) to create their own worlds.  While there are several role-play SIMS (a SIM is just a term for a specific piece of virtual realestate) in SL, there is very little actual role-play and I have spent years trying to figure-out why.  SL has taught me that there are several elements role-play games need in order to be fun:

Cooperation: Players have to be willing to cooperate with one another.  By "cooperate" I mean react to one another in a realistic manner (in-character only) and accept the consequences of defeat.  For example, in a "real" world, one can't get away with throwing Mud at the King becuase, there would be others around to enforce rules.  So everyone has to agree that "Jimmy" is the king and that there are certain ways one must behave toward the king.  This is surprisingly difficult in an online environment because more often than not, there is no way to realistically resolve combat and zero enforcement of rules.  This causes most RP to devolve into "every man for himself RP" where players only cooperate until the goals of their characters come into conflict.

Supervision:  Someone needs to be in control of the RP and by "in control" I don't mean railroading (which is actually worse, in my opinion, than having no rule enforcement).  I'm talking about some devine, all-powerful force to enforce the rules and consequences.  In an ideal world filled with reasonable, honest people who aren't only motivated by winning at any cost, supervision would be unnecessary; unfortunately there is this extreme need to "win" and I find that a majority of players you encounter have no compunction about cheating or bending rules to achieve that.

The GM must not also have a character: In SL Sim owners universally create their own characters who have "God-like" powers (basically, script-immunity).  They figure they've paid the money to create and maintain the sim and they have done most of the work... why shouldn't they control everything?  What they don't seem to understand is that gaming is only fun for your players when the world is about them.  The end result is that players eventually realize that the GM character cannot be damaged, toppled or removed so ... why bother playing a game you can't "win"?

Motivation: In order for a game to be fun, players need to feel that they have an impact on the world around them.  This is one of my chief beefs with MMORPGs.  I've killed Grendel, you've killed Grendel and yet he keeps popping up to be killed time and time again.  Killing Grendel is meaningless. In fact, most accomplishments only have meaning in terms of accumulating items and experience from your defeated foes.  In SL, unilke most MMORPG's, this basic motivation is gone.  Players can have anything their Avatars can find (Unlike a game like NeverWinter Nights where a GM can control what players have and police their inventory).  This sort of goes back to everyone playing by the rules.

So ...that was sort of long and rambling, but any thoughts on this others wish to contribute would be helpful.  Ultimately, I'm trying to decide if finding RP online is even worth the bother.  I'm not sure if the problem is that online environments simply can't have the basic elements required for RP, if my standards for RP are too high or if the average gamer is a personality so unpleasant that I'd rather not bother interacting with them.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #24 on: May 20, 2009, 04:49:58 PM »

Supervision:  Someone needs to be in control of the RP and by "in control" I don't mean railroading (which is actually worse, in my opinion, than having no rule enforcement).  I'm talking about some devine, all-powerful force to enforce the rules and consequences.  In an ideal world filled with reasonable, honest people who aren't only motivated by winning at any cost, supervision would be unnecessary; unfortunately there is this extreme need to "win" and I find that a majority of players you encounter have no compunction about cheating or bending rules to achieve that.
What I often see is that these 'rules' are usually a string of ambiguous words and non explicit context that requires sympathy toward them, for some sort of sembalence of following their intent to occur. But the people who write these rules typically don't see any ambiguity in their rules, so they see no need for other peoples sympathy, so they demand aherance to the 'clear cut' rules. Which in practical terms is demanding sympathy. People who were sympathetic but get no recognition of that, are incensed. Some people just leave, others remain but just don't give a shit about these 'rules' anymore because its impossible to do so, unless you want to sympathise with someones ideas who doesn't recognise you as being sympathetic (not the best of relationships). These people play to win at any cost, typically because they know from experience any sympathy towards the ambiguous rules isn't recognised and certainly not met with any sympathy back.

Probably one of the best objective tests for whether rules are ambiguous is if you programmed them into a computer program - if the program can follow them as you intended, they aren't ambiguous. Otherwise your writing rules that demand sympathy towards their intent, but without any recognition that the other person cared. That's just not functional.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #25 on: May 21, 2009, 03:46:28 AM »

Hello,

"evilphd7," welcome to the Forge!

I am probably going to split your post and replies to it into a thread of its own, so be prepared for that when and if it happens.

We've discussed the issues underlying your conclusions for many years here at the Forge. A lot of the hassles you've encountered concerns what I call Creative Agenda, which is somewhat simply, "why we play," and one controversial point made long ago is that there are several, and they are not compatible (not even a little). The common on-line circumstance (and tabletop ideal) of "anyone and everyone come and play, for whatever reason you want," is as I see it, plain madness and stupidity. It's not even remotely possible if one's goal is anything but Brownian motion. A lot of the issues you've described are resolved by playing with people who, all together including you, share such an agenda, which is another way of saying, agree for this game and at this time that they want to have fun in a particular way.

Or on a related note, that all social-leisure activities, role-playing included, occur successfully only in the presence of a working social contract. By that term, I mean all the unspoken as well as spoken human interactions.

This is where Callan and I disagree profoundly. I think humans can communicate and play together without a manual for every imaginable exchange. However, to do so, the social situation cannot be come-one, come-all, do-as-you-please.

Your point about supervision, which is a good name for it, arose in a discussion about authority and leadership some time ago. I classified it as a distinct kind of leadership, distinct from other kinds of leadership. I think you'd be interested in that and in the overall framework I constructed to talk about it: You've Landed on Gaming Group "Park Place", Pay $15 Rent.

Best, Ron
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AJ_Flowers
Member

Posts: 30


« Reply #26 on: May 21, 2009, 09:00:49 AM »

Ultimately, I'm trying to decide if finding RP online is even worth the bother.  I'm not sure if the problem is that online environments simply can't have the basic elements required for RP, if my standards for RP are too high or if the average gamer is a personality so unpleasant that I'd rather not bother interacting with them.

My guess is you're looking for love in all the wrong places.  What counts as "RP" is such a broad category that I don't think I've managed to nail it totally down myself but it seems like you're looking for a particular sort of RP that mimics the kind of experience you have at a traditional gaming table... and you're looking for it in Second Life. However, SL does not have a strong division between the player's avatar, and the player, which lends it toward a style of RP that is a little more like a Live Action RP or a LARP than a tabletop RP where there is a somewhat stronger division between character and player (at least in my experience). SL is commonly referred to as a social environment first, so a lot of people are "roleplaying" on Second Life, but not in the way you're imagining it where there is a DM, a social contract, and some kind of overall governing force. Rather, SL is more designed for people who want to be "in character," all day, all the time.

I find that I enjoy roleplay better when there's a stronger division between player and character, which is why I never got in to LARPing (or, at least the roleplaying side of LARPing; I'm all for hitting people with foam-covered sticks if the time arises, but to me the RP aspect always felt like I was in some kind of play but nobody bothered telling me my lines).  You seem like you're looking for the same sort of thing, on-line.

I do the majority of my on-line roleplaying in MUSHes and MUCKs, and while I have some problems with the format at times it does tend to have more of the stronger rules set and directoral hand that you're looking for.  There are also a lot of RPs going on in forums, on journalling/blogging software such as LiveJournal, and games played by e-mail.  I have both played, and run games through e-mail with moderate success, and these tend to run a lot like traditional tabletops, only at a very slow pace.  Sometimes a little too slow, but other than that they can be pretty good, with the occasional player collaborating on instant messenger or another type of software to make a larger plot post.  Also, I'm in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign that's being run using an on-line utility, and that works fairly well, if a little bit slower than tabletop D&D.  I've also heard of players running successful traditional campaigns over utilities like Skype.

So to say "I think it's not possible to find good RP on-line" you probably need to specify your definition of "roleplay" and broaden your defintion of "on-line." Because it's definitely out there, and quite good when you can find it. A livesaver for people who can't always find a local gaming group easily or who move frequently but still want to play with their same group of friends.

The end result is that players eventually realize that the GM character cannot be damaged, toppled or removed so ... why bother playing a game you can't "win"?

Now this is probably really diverting from my original thread, but I find this assessment interesting because it's something I see in other on-line RP as well. Do you have to defeat the GM's main character to "win" the game?  Many people see RP games as something that cannot be won per se, while others take a more gamist stance, something covered in more depth elsewhere on the Forge in many places.  Here's my counter: so, the GM has a powerful character or two? So what?  Unless the GM has set the game up with the express purpose of it being about "beat my guy" what does it specifically matter?

Now I've dealt with horrible on-line twinks, where it seems like you don't even want to play with them, because it's all about setting up some situation for their character to look awesome while you play an audience role and sit back and gawk, over and over again.  Since there's nothing for you to do in this "game" but look at the GM's awesome guy beating scenarios the GM set up for his own guy to beat, that's no fun at all. And I think that's what you're getting at: but phrasing it as "I have to beat the GM's best character to win at the RPG" seems off to me.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #27 on: May 21, 2009, 03:02:50 PM »

Hello Ron,

This is where Callan and I disagree profoundly. I think humans can communicate and play together without a manual for every imaginable exchange. However, to do so, the social situation cannot be come-one, come-all, do-as-you-please.
I'm not sure you do disagree with me? I meant it when I wrote
Quote
What I often see is that these 'rules' are usually a string of ambiguous words and non explicit context that requires sympathy toward them, for some sort of semblance of following their intent to occur.
I meant it when I said a semblance of their intent can occur. This works out when the sympathy goes both ways. It might end up having a high time spent on sympathy relative to time spent on play, but it works out. Though it is a sembalance of the intent, not an exact rendition of it like you'd get following a maths equation.

What I'm refering to is when something like "If you've been in the presence of the wolf king in the last 24 hours, you get X" is treated the same as "base attack bonus (3) + d20 (rolled a 12) = attack roll (result: 15)". One of them requires sympathy from all parties involved as to what the hell that text 'means'. But if it's treated as being as clear cut as 3+12=15, and yet the other guy is stating that he gets X when hell no, it's 'clear cut' that he doesn't! Or he says he doesn't get X when it's 'clear cut' that he does (whichever way around)! That's like saying he got an 18 total! He must be being a cheat, or deliberately being a jerk, or a number of other social derogatives that come all too easily to posters on various forums, it seems, when describing their fellow men. When the wolf king rule gets treated as being as clear cut as the attack roll, then the idea of working it out together, with all parties having some sympathy toward each others position, gets chucked out the window. Then the social sanctions that you'd find for saying you got an 18 (when it was 15 total) or stealing from the bank in monopoly, get pulled out and applied. As I said before, a game can work by calling for sympathy to whatever extent it does - and for a game that does require some sympathy to work, the social sanctions destroy sympathy real fast.

I'm probably being pedantic with the second paragraph when the first probably clears things up. But I dunno, where are we on that?
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #28 on: May 22, 2009, 02:00:45 AM »

Hi “evilphd7”,

I can relate to your frustration, which I have experienced myself in some “random” games in various media. What you are perceiving, I think correctly, is a lack of common ground and a lack of interest in the other players. In order for RP to work out in the online environment, first a shared understanding must be established of how the participants should contribute to the game, and also, the participants need to actually be interested in what others have to contribute.

However, in my personal experience, the idea that such shared understanding and interest is best established through rigid enforcement by someone who is “in charge” does not work out. You can’t force people to “play right” if they don’t want to. Or even if you can force them: You don’t want to play with them if they have to be forced.

As Ron said, “anyone and everyone come and play, for whatever reason you want” is madness. The people I know who actually role-play in an MMO environment do so with a small, distinct group of people, and withdraw from the other participants or ignore them. Which consequentially means that it’s not actually MMO-RP, it’s just RP that incidentally happens around MMO.

- Frank
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E
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« Reply #29 on: May 22, 2009, 03:24:37 AM »

Quote
What you are perceiving, I think correctly, is a lack of common ground and a lack of interest in the other players.

I agree, I was also turn off by the "lack of interest in the other players", from my mmo few roleplaying experiences, it felt like each player was playing alone in the same scenario (I often feel the same thing in some LARP). As a player, it is frustrating to have nearly no tool to make and share your contributions and to make them meaningful or interesting to other players. Often in those kind of game, in the name of "immersion", a player point of view is ideally limited to his or her character point of view.

This kind of fragment the game play in small temporary player cells who don't often communicate with each other. What I try to say by this last sentence is that if you roleplay with a other player, what you roleplayed become a contribution to the game only if the other player share it with other players, and if those other players share it with others. Often, what is not directly linked to "winning" the scenario is not shared from players to players. 
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