The Daily Grind: What’s the best MMO for actual roleplaying?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a cantina rat.

I would spend the first part of my daily gametime emptying my crafter’s harvesters, flipping my factories, and stocking my vendors, but then I’d log into my smuggler and flit off to one cantina or another to roleplay, to hang out with (or join!) the entertainers, to banter with the patrons, to threaten enemies, to plan adventures, to fall in love, to start wars, and sometimes even to end them. Sometimes it was dramatic — I let a character be permanently murdered once, just for the powerful effect it had on our story — but most times, it was just witty and fun.

Nowadays, I seldom have time to invest that much of myself into a role, and besides, that world is long gone. But where would I go if I wanted to recapture that experience? What’s the best living MMORPG for actual roleplaying, right now, in 2015?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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176 Comments on "The Daily Grind: What’s the best MMO for actual roleplaying?"

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strangeangel2
Guest
strangeangel2

Finaly Fantasy 14 Balmung server is amaaazing, and also Black Desert online Orwen Calpheon 2. For all of you who are wondering where all the Rpers went. I actually think BDO is the best experienced community who enjoys full open world RP that I have ever seen. And I have been rping for a very long time. :3

KylePolinovsky
Guest
KylePolinovsky

Lord of the Rings online is one of the better vehicles for Role play I’ve seen. But as of late it’s community is hurting on the dedicated servers (Landroval and Laurelin). So are there any other games with bigger communities for roleplay that are good for it? (Plenty of emotes, good sized cap on characters per emote, plenty of cosmetics, good character customization?)

RodHoboboHardwick
Guest
RodHoboboHardwick

KevWhiting MUDS were all imagination, I’ve not come anywhere near the experience of immersion since ’98. MMO’s present you with an over-breathing cartoon mannequin that stares into the middle distance. RP is simply impossible with such a dumb avatar. A program for webcam facial expression and gesture recognition that is expressed by the avatar is a long overdue and necessary for MMO RP as well as lockable eye contact with your interlocutor.

Rathnos
Guest
Rathnos

Soulcairn Well… those are not MMOs now are they? So the only role playing you can do is to orchestrate a small group of friends yourself… and they don’t cater particularly well to the goal of actually roleplaying… so I’d say you missed the whole point of the question.

CurtisHobbiggisson
Guest
CurtisHobbiggisson

mysecretid ArtemisiaWS

Like I said before. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MUD

CurtisHobbiggisson
Guest
CurtisHobbiggisson

mysecretid There is no ‘New School’ about what you describe. Go google MUDs and learn about the progenitors to literally all online games.

Soulcairn
Guest
Soulcairn

Minecraft? Spacestation13? Starbound….? anyooone…? reaaaaaally..? you peeps never heard of it…?
or some of those indie sandbox survival games…? do no one think of this or i miss something…….

Brochim
Guest
Brochim

Totally get the measuring stick lol I can’t count the times I’ve been called in to settle a god mod dispute where person a’s character was trained by blah blah and has there 1 hko person b was in whatever accident and is invincible . Usually the time to tell them to stfu and settle it with dice like a true rper

Brochim
Guest
Brochim

I have always recommend second life to any one interested in a more immersive role play environment. The platform itself is based on player creativity. The foundation of any good role play. Players can make virtually anything they can imagine clothes shapes skins vehicles weapons or anything else you would possibly want in a rp environment. styles vary all the way from voice to short one line comments with meter combat all the way to paragraph heavy short novel posting. The games graphics have improved dramatically over the years and now with tech like google cardboard coming out were on the verge of breaking role play as the occultist rift client can put out true stereoscopic side by side 3d rendering. Once leap motion comes more into play combining all of this will lead to a mind blowing revolution of our online role playing experience

KevWhiting
Guest
KevWhiting

I think the undercurrent of what’s being discussed here is the levels of immersion you’re looking for as a gamer. I started doing textual RP a looooong time ago, and I’ve learned that there are levels of depth that people use when roleplaying. I consider myself more of a deeper roleplayer, more of the actor sense, where I totally immerse myself in the persona that I’ve taken on in the game. Whether I’m attacking the NPC baddies or actually confronting someone else in the game, I have devoted myself to thinking and acting in the mind of the one in question. I consider this like a ‘complete immersion roleplay’ that involves using deep, elaborate descriptions that totally flesh out characters and paint a picture as to what is happening on a very thorough level. I’m also into using private messages as a sort of background, the ‘behind the shield’ aspect of the game where I can ask ‘did my spell work?’ or ‘can I scan that object?’ without breaking the actual flow.

It’s hard to find people who can play on that level, however, because most people are just looking to have that immediate satisfaction of fun, right now. I consider this a more casual sense of roleplay, where of course, I’m a Night Elf in the Alliance or whatever, but I’m not so concerned with the feelings or thoughts of the other players, so much as having a simple, continuous flow of actions and antics while beating up the baddies. These players don’t do paragraphs of text or talk about their inner feelings. They’re also more concerned with the mechanics of the game, generally, than the role being taken.

I’ve done both. Both sides are valid (although it’s hard to keep up with rapid-fire one-liners from casuals) but I definitely enjoy the episodic situational interaction of the deeper story game. It’s why we watch movies or read books – only now, -I’m- the central actor, or at least one of the lead players. Playing the game is fun and I’m always interested in that, but I could have just as much fun in a persona for hours.

I play Champions Online. I like its depth of character customization, but the game is really, really small as far as its in-game real estate. I would play Dungeons and Dragons Online, but…I’ve played tabletop D&D for years, and that tops the imagination of any game (which puts it right there in front of you and is limited by the scope of the game’s design).
World of Warcraft has gone from a great idea to a money-engine. That game is retarded, I’m sorry. Take it or leave it, my opinion.

We need a game with size and scope for deeper roleplayers.

OGTHOMAS
Guest
OGTHOMAS

http://underlight.com
TRUE ROLEPLAYING SANDBOX GAME WITH ITS OWN STORYLINE AND COMBAT!!

Video by the character Harkyn very fun character!

Rathnos
Guest
Rathnos

Observer98 Zaeja Yeah… I disagree with the RP-lite use here. Being in character is just as much role playing as the putting on a play style. I have played both and always on in character dialogue and behavior makes me feel like that character is who I am whenever I am in game, where the putting on the play version makes me feel like it is a character I act like sometimes. Now that is just how I have felt playing the different styles and a world where everyone is in character… the little dramas people put on seem less out of place and add to the experience for sure. I think either experience without the other is less than it could be if both were employed, but if given the choice I am more immersed in a world of in character behavior dialogue than a world where people get together to roleplay out a few scenes before returning to chuck norris jokes in trade chat.

Alrikk
Guest
Alrikk

I can proudly say that I started roleplaying for the first time when I picked up my copy of World of Warcraft, Wrath of the Litch King. At first, I didn’t even know what roleplay was and only focused on the great story behind WoW and the massive potential that it had. It wasn’t until the lore grasped at my imagination that I found myself yearning for more. The PvE and PvP was not satisfying enough for me, I had to have more, and that was when I turned to RP to spice things up a bit.

I love the fact that WoW has dedicated servers to whatever you are looking for and after transferring a character over to one of the roleplay servers, I finally found what I was looking for. I found an outlet to let my imagination flourish, a place to create a story with others and be a part of a great community… it was fantastic. As an aspiring writer, I could not ask for anything better than what I got from the World of Warcraft roleplay community.

But alas, I found myself growing bored after dedicating a couple of years into WoW, whether it was the dying community or lack of better content. There is such an immense amount of MMORPGs out there nowadays that I am overwhelmed and have no idea on where to seek a new home. I have heard great things about Black Desert, Skyforge, Wildstar, Blade & Soul, Tera, FFXIV, SWTOR, ESO, and that doesn’t even hold a candle to what other MMOs are out there. It is both incredible and ridiculous how many communities there are to check out, and perhaps I will have to just try them all. In the end, I hope I can find a great game that a multi-paragraph roleplayer such as myself can explore.

jzullin
Guest
jzullin

FVerret  But where in Ultima is there still rp to be had? What shards are still alive and rping?

Mavere3
Guest
Mavere3

Kageokami, oTQ That sounds like some mary sue shit.

TeamWizdev
Guest
TeamWizdev

The most compelling form of RP is when the very design of the game demands that you assume one in order to play, and I don’t mean having GMs or admins enforcing you to speak in character.  

Case in point: space station 13.  It’s a round-based online game wherein you assume a crew member on a space station that will inevitably be plagued by handful of player-controlled antagonists who may or may not appear to be part of your crew.  Thankfully, everyone has limited access to the station based on their jobs, and as such the station bureaucracy is both your greatest enemy and your greatest ally.  Admins need not demand that you play your role, mutual distrust of your fellow player practically forces you adhere to the station’s protocols so as to help weed out maligned agents, lest you be arrested by the station’s security or demoted to station assistant.  Even in a mostly unmoderated environment, interesting stories manage to play out between people who would otherwise balk at the idea of logging in to WoW or TERA to try and supplement the boring lore with pretend-time shenanigans that have no in-game consequence.

And that’s why RP sucks in the modern MMORPG, because it is layered upon a system that has its own set of rules and consequences, but the RP itself is of absolutely no consequence.  Much like a game with over-long cutscenes and little gameplay, then the game you are playing becomes a completely dispensable tool.  You may as well just get a pen and paper client and find some friends.

Werfollow
Guest
Werfollow

I’m… Not quite surprised to find the lack of mention of TERA on this list, but here goes.
This is my first post here, don’t stone me :c

I feel like some of the most amazing, captivating moments of RP I’ve EVER had, had been on TERA and LoTRO. The latter being my casual RP home, so there’s that. Sadly during these days, not much is happening for me at either of those.
I digress.
TERA has never had many…. RP ‘tools’ as I see people label around here. Recently it received a walk emote, and despite the NA version having a dedicated RP server, the population has fallen off significantly in that aspect, most leaving for FFXIV and GW2(I think?). 

Most RPers that remain in TERA now are… Well, those who either post ‘witty’ one liners as in ”X chuckles and then smiles. X nods.” or simply reverse the words in their next post. ”X smiles and chuckles.” and so on, and so forth. I’ve never been much of a RP snob, but when the scenario has as much depth as Kim Kardashian’s personality then we’re going to have a problem.
Regardless, I owe it to many people for making my 2-year stay at TERA the best thing ever. The sheer amount of romance I had in one storyline was overwhelming, and some of the folk, despite me having left the game, continue RPing with me over skype in that universe – and the only regret I have is that the population dwindled so much, for we would be RPing in game if it weren’t so… Empty. 

That and some casual RPers RP in /me with smileys.
No amount of alcohol makes me hammered enough for that.
Ooooooh nope.

Still, then again I am from Europe, so playing on a NA server shouldn’t surprise me. People tell me ‘oh it’s better during the day (night for me), trust me!’ And I gotta hand it to them – they were right… For a while. Then FF became popular and most of the mature players and well-respected ones bounced out of the game, so welp.

mysecretid
Guest
mysecretid

Observer98 

Again, the distinction here insinuates that, unless one is doing “stage play” roleplaying, one is not doing “real” or “true” roleplay.

What you call IC roleplay is somehow “lite” (i.e. only casual, not fully engaged or aware) and shallow (not in-depth) and indifferent to the game lore available.

It makes a lot of judgemental assumptions about what each type of roleplay is or does that aren’t necessarily or objectively true.

Sorry, but we’re going to have to disagree on this one.

Be well,

Observer98
Guest
Observer98

Zaeja 
I’ve always distinguished between RP and being IC (in-character).  IC is RP-lite in the sense it doesn’t use out-of-character dialogue or references.  RP is more in-depth character and lore-wise.

Observer98
Guest
Observer98

I’ll give the nod to classic WoW, which allowed you to sit in chairs, lay down, a wealth of emotes, and had tons of clothing costumes to wear.

WOW may have been the beginning of the end for the old school classic MMO playerbase, but it did have lots of RP tools.

Techbot Alpha
Guest
Techbot Alpha

I haven’t found anything good since City of Heroes, I’ll be honest. The sheer weight of emotes, locations and customisation was second to none. And the way missions, taskforces (dungeons) and the player-made, Mission Architect system worked meant you could actually mix gameplay and roleplay. I tried that in WoW once….eesh. Not even close :(

IamTaemys
Guest
IamTaemys

I really haven’t found a good one since SWG. I think, though, that it’s as much about the communities (players) as the game. MMO’s have gotten so big since “the old days”, and it seems like the RP portion of that community is a very small sliver of current MMO populations. There’s no in-game mechanic needed to RP; only people.

FVerret
Guest
FVerret

Ultima Online. There is something about the text and emotes appearing just above the characters’ heads that make it perfect for role-playing.

maspien
Guest
maspien

alexjwillis maspien I all ready RP in it.  Found some nice people. Who knows we may bump into each other.  Or may know one another all ready.

mysecretid
Guest
mysecretid

ArtemisiaWS 
Of course, you’re absolutely entitled to disagree, but to be clear: I’m older than dirt, and I’ve been playing online games for a very long time.
My point being only that our experiences differ; neither of us can cite hard proof of what we claim, but I stand by my experience of what I’ve seen, and I stand by my chronology of events as I know them.
And I’m fairly certain you do the same.
Be well,

ArtemisiaWS
Guest
ArtemisiaWS

mysecretid Zaeja I as well disagree that one version is older than the other. What you call new school I’ve been doing for about 15 years, and a lot of people for longer. It’s just it’s not limited to mmos, but it exists over a number of systems. i remember back in time play by mail was a very spread thing, and then there’s via chat, via forum, larp, etc. I might think it’s a new thing in online games, but while it is for me a lot of people have been roleplaying that way in them ever since they came out. 

So really, two very different things but coexistent in time I’d say. If anything I would have thought the one you call older would have been more recent since it’s more strictly tied to mmos.

ArtemisiaWS
Guest
ArtemisiaWS

Cyroselle Yeah ok no sitting I think I’ve never seen in a mmo, that’s weird o.o but again I’m not expert in fps at all.

Nate Woodard
Guest
Nate Woodard

ThunderJackson I tried getting into in ESO, seemed like a good place for it.  There was a lot of action too.  The whole Mega Server thing definitely screwed it up.  I don’t want to sub to it again, but I would definitely be down for giving it another try.

Nate Woodard
Guest
Nate Woodard

alexjwillis Nate Woodard Yea I played EVE for a few years after SWG closed up shop.  Worm Holes and gate camping in NulSec were by far the highlight of my EVE career.  Sadly, I just wanted something else.

Nate Woodard
Guest
Nate Woodard

Drakani Nate Woodard I have the game, but it never clicked with me.  Part of it was the server I joined most likely.  I have found as of the last few years that I tend to click more with RPers than non-RPers even keeping RP out of the equation.  I really wish there was a game solely dedicated to RP.  However, the devs would have to be a constant presence in order to keep things running smoothly. 

The biggest problem, with any game really is the timing(I am limited to evenings and I would consider myself a casual or moderate RPer).  The other part about it is the whole interview/joining phase.  It’s understandable that people want to interview a potential newcomer to their group in an effort to not break the RP, but some of those people are so posh minded that I don’t even want to join their RP group.

The other thing is, I’m an RPer by dialogue, not by typing out descriptive emotion.  I think something like that is best suited for forums, not in-game.  It’s part of the reason I tend to get left out.  My aunt is a creative writing teacher and she says that’s one of my biggest problems though.  I write good dialogue, but I’m very poor at describing the environment or character emotion.  That being said, she says I have good ideas.  Heh.

Noble_Einherjar
Guest
Noble_Einherjar

I started my RP career way back in Ultima Online, back when I still called it “playing pretend” instead of “RPing.” Of the many MMOs I’ve played since, some have definitely offered better RP environments than others. When talking with friends about EQ2, I would often call it “the role-players MMO” because of the extreme customization options of player and guild housing, and the incredible freedom you had regarding how your character looked. No MMO has yet to implement a better (or more convenient) vanity system than EQ2 (Age of Conan came close, while FFXIV’s is laughably bad).
I’ve been part of many amazing RP communities in a lot of MMOs, often despite the MMO itself more often than not. EQ2 has many systems in place that cater to role-players, where some other MMOs can seem downright hostile to them.

ddocentral
Guest
ddocentral

Dungeons and Dragons Online, which of course is based on the original role playing game.

camelotcrusade
Guest
camelotcrusade

I cut my RP teeth playing D&D around a tabletop (and still run games, here and there).  When I add RP to my MMOs I like to take time after an instance or a key part of the story and react to it “in character” with others who want to do the same.  Over time you can end up with character quirks distinct from our own (just like in D&D) which is just another thing to have fun with.  

For me, that kind of storytelling is more comfortable when I don’t have random people doing random things around me, and when I don’t have to explain my actions or emotes to those who haven’t seen the history.  As such, I quite like the houses in EQ2 and the ships/strongholds in SWTOR… basically private instances for an RP metagame.   I liked how private zones showed up the GW2 story, too, but wish I could access them whenever I wanted.

Brochim
Guest
Brochim

SWTOR definitely has a solid RP community and staying on the Star Wars theme SWGemu are making excellent progress. I’ve heard talk they are close ti implementing Jump to Light speed and there servers are always well populated.

My top pick for RP has to be Secondlife. The game is centrically focused around player creativity and as such gives us many tools to enhance our roleplaying experience. Players make there own worlds to roleplay in so you are not just limited to one setting . I’ve been in many different kinds of roleplay from sci-fi to fantasy, Zombie post apoch, even the wild west and anything else your brain could invent.
graphically the game has seen major improvements over the last few years with better rendering and a more robust meshing system making the game look less like a bunch of building blocks with some pictures slapped on them and with the addition of a VR headset witch can be done cheap enough if you look at something like google cardboard can create a visually stunning environment you can literally walk around the space ship your captin of or walk through the halls of your roman villa

In some places the roleplay has been text heavy focused with players writing long posts describing there actions in and out of combat. Others the style has been more casual with shorter posts and combat using scripted meter systems for a more real-time experience

Many roleplay sims will let your charicter live there. weather paying a few  bucks a month to rent an area. or running say a bar or some other local service that supports the community. And so  you become an actual part of the places roleplay

There are custom animations . I’ve seen entire wrestling events RP’d out through scripted meters that allow players to choose what animations they use for each move .

The Star Wars and star trek roleplay community have been active on secondlife for years  with tones uniforms, weapons , ships, lighsabers swag available for pimping out your avatar and we all hate it when we see 6 other characters wearing the exact same thing as us within draw distance
The same goes for customising your character for any other RP setting the selection of content in unmatched anywhere and while

I could literally fill a page for few talking about the game and it’s potential  in short Secondlife offers a true sandbox environment Allowing players to create there own Rp worlds, the content within them And set the rules of world the create. Where roleplay is only limited to the imagination, in Secondlife what you can create is also only limited to the imagination

mysecretid
Guest
mysecretid

Zaeja 
Speaking only for myself, I don’t like the terms “hard” or “soft” roleplay because “soft” in these sorts of comparisons implies that the option is weaker, or less serious, or of less value. The comparison implies a value judgement or assessment. So, I won’t be employing those terms, myself.

As for which came first, all I can say is that I’ve been playing online games for quite a while, and in my experience at least, the type of roleplay I described as New School definitely seems a more recent arrival, at least in terms of its widespread popularity.

Be well,

Cheers,

Cyroselle
Guest
Cyroselle

Part of it is defiance has a rather awkward UI for RP. No really emote system to speak of, no chat bubbles so you can’t tell if someone’s saying something locally or if they’re on the other side of the zone, you can’t free camera to look at your own character to help with scenario setup, can’t /sit or lay down, eat, drink, etc. It’s really missing a lot of the seemingly simple quality of life features most MMOs enjoy at default.

Cyroselle
Guest
Cyroselle

Actually that’s a great point! Even IRL drama and prattle can make your character more believable in TSW! Choosing a contemporary setting is a real strength for the franchise.

Zaeja
Guest
Zaeja

@mysecretid This, exactly!
Although I don’t think one is older or better than the other, just vastly different. I’ve heard it called it hard and soft roleplaying in the past.
Hard roleplaying being where you play out an almost scripted drama like an actor in a play, needing no mechanics other than your imagination.
Soft roleplaying being more implicit, where you take on a persona in the world, and your character informs the choices you make in gameplay.
Personally, I wish soft, or old-school, or whatever you call it wasn’t so rare in these massive supposed-RPGs. :(

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

ArtemisiaWS There can be more to roleplaying than just standing around chatting, but developers have not seen or made the effort to create mechanics that foster advancement of roleplaying.

ArtemisiaWS
Guest
ArtemisiaWS

Golden_Girl because it’s not really a good rp game

BriarGrey
Guest
BriarGrey

TSW.  What’s great too is that it’s more modern setting lends for better immersion even for non-RPers because it’s not OOG to hear a lot of RL stuff.  And there are really dedicated awesome RPers out there all the time, and I love that.

Drakani
Guest
Drakani

I’m really enjoing RPing in TSW with the modern setting. In WoW you had to handwave a lot of things, such as death, how you can communicate ICly to your fellow guild members/friends, etc. In TSW the story and modern technology all support RP with minimal discord caused by game mechanics. Also, it’s fun having completely believable IC Twitter accounts. :)

Drakani
Guest
Drakani

Nate Woodard I heartily recommend TSW for RP. The real-world setting allows you to take full advantage of all sorts of neat things like IC Twitter accounts. Also having cell phones and text messaging technology easily explains being able to talk to friends and cabal mates a world away. I like that the gameplay and RP mesh well. Even death is easily explained.

Zennie
Guest
Zennie

alexjwillis you don’t have to RP in EVE , you (via your char) live that life.

twinspirited
Guest
twinspirited

Every time I see that character, the nostalgia. Her name was Saioka Bitterkiss, pirate queen, entrepreneur extraordinaire, sky lover, Bellatrix, and guild mistress.  Crackshot with a blaster, heart breaker, cantina hound and closet dramatic actress.  Baroness of the swamp citadel of Greenmurk, Sometimes sardonic, sometimes affable, always hiding a heart of gold.  Clear skies, my queen, and hopefully she will live on in another galaxy far far away.

Budukahn
Guest
Budukahn

From my perspective in Europe, it sadly does feel that only Warcrafts Argent Dawn server really feels like a living, breathing RP thing.  It’s the only place I know that actually feels like it has enough of a roleplaying population to feel like an RP server, rather than a generic server that happens to have a bunch of RP’ers on it.  

It’s actually a pain being an RP’er in Europe.  Our servers just don’t seem to take off so well, at least the English ones.  I hear the French and Germans do all right.  But time zones being time zones, playing on US servers just doesn’t seem feasible for many games.   I’ve never had any success getting Euro time end-game activities done making it an awkward decision between playing NA for the RP or EU if I actually want to play the game.

alexjwillis
Guest
alexjwillis

blast tyrant alexjwillis Nate Woodard
This is our community hub: https://midnightreveries.com/  
Sign up there and send me a message (user name Del Vikus). 

I’ll be happy to chat with you about EVE and EVE RP. We have lots of people new to the game who are just signing up for the first time, so you won’t be alone in learning the ropes.

mysecretid
Guest
mysecretid

Which version of roleplaying?

The Old School version — let’s reflect the game world we inhabit in how we look, what we say, and what we do, while playing?

or

The New School Version — let’s stage what amounts to an improvisational play within the game, where we all exchange in-character dialogue with each other for a set amount of time?

There are definitely two distinct styles of RP out there in MMORPGs, in my experience.

kailindart
Guest
kailindart

TheDonDude CoH RP community was so freaking strong.  So much you could do with power customization, costume customization, emotes, Bases, Mission Architect.  *Sigh*

blast tyrant
Guest
blast tyrant

alexjwillis Nate Woodard Hey Alex, not really on topic but I’m super interested in trying EVE out but I’m also…intimidated, I guess.  I don’t know anyone who plays.  Could you point me in the right direction?

wpDiscuz