Is actual RP in MMORPGs another next impossible thing?

Started by Patrice, January 03, 2009, 12:47:59 PM

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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.

Callan S.

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]

Lance D. Allen

I'm reading "Well, that's your opinion."

Nice discussing with you. It's been productive for me, at any rate.
~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls

Callan S.

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 :(

Callan S.


Quote from: Wolfen on January 21, 2009, 03:28:51 PM
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.


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.   



[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:

QuoteWhen 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?

Callan S.

Well from a strict reading of the forge glossary
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).


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 :/).


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. 


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.

Callan S.

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.

QuoteThe 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.


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.


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.