Ask Mo: The trouble with roleplaying in MMORPGs

Long ago on Massively-that-was, a reader named Avaera sent in a long list of fabulous questions worth addressing. I’m tackling another in today’s edition of Ask Mo:

Would you welcome a large scale roleplaying-enforced MMORPG? One where you simply have to interact with other players in-character? One of the things that I miss most from the transition from playing MUDs to playing MMOs is the lack of memorable characters who chose to take on unique roles in our virtual societies. Most big-budget MMORPGs have great tools for player communication and cooperation, but the “role” part of RPG usually equates to the job or skills that you as the player will bring to a combat encounter. I’d love to see what a game is like in which you have to play as your character in all aspects. Just to be clear, I don’t mean using “thees” and “thous” or sitting in a pub and emoting but rather gradually crafting a virtual persona through your gameplay decisions and interactions with other characters (both enemy and ally alike). Is there a big-budget MMORPG out there already that has been designed from the ground up for mandatory in-character play, and I’ve just never heard of it?

I can think of only one, and that’s a damn shame. And it’s not even out yet.

To find the very best multiplayer roleplaying games, you’d probably have to wander back to MUDs and graphical MUDs and proto MMOs, and while you’re wandering, you’ll be mocked the whole way by fellow gamers because haha roleplaying is for dorks, duh. And that’s absurd, right? How did it come to this? How did a genre inspired by pen-and-paper RPGs come to not just omit the idea of roleplaying but actively spit on it?

Roleplay servers — official ones, mind you — were once quite common. I spent some time on an alt roleplay server in Dark Age of Camelot, but not with my guild. My guild, then already several years old, was a roleplaying guild for all intents and purposes, the sort that actually held roleplayed recruiting ceremonies and storytelling events and tied everything together with fan fic. But even so, my RP guild went to a non-RP server. Why? Too many members were intimidated by the idea of DAOC’s roleplay servers, which at least at the time demanded that players make a passing attempt at staying in-character, in-world. No thees or thous were required, but get reported once too often for talking about football and you’d be squelched or — I assume, anyway — booted entirely.

Can you imagine a AAA studio hosting a server like that in 2015? Can you imagine a modern studio paying GMs to monitor open chat for roleplay griefers in an age when they can/will barely stop stalkers and racists and exploiters? Not gonna happen. Not anymore.

Modern roleplay servers — when they exist at all — are never RP-enforced or RP-encouraged. At best, they’re code for “mature” gamers. Jocks and script kiddies usually know to stay away, and more serious players learn to congregate there; even if they have no specific interest in roleplaying, they’d rather be around roleplayers than be stuck with the average mouthy gamer trashing-talking in /general.

In our current environment, where MMORPGs have become diluted and their greater audience is even less interested in multiplayer roleplay than it was 10 or 15 years ago, it makes a depressing sort of sense that studios are ignoring not only player-driven roleplay but mechanics for built-in, character-driven roleplay as Avaera describes as well. The closest we’re likely to ever get is skill-by-use, aging mechanics, reputation systems, and SWTOR-esque alignments-via-quest-choices, and they’re likely to be systems tacked on to a game with more mass appeal, not placed at the core of an MMO. That’s especially true as developers churn out cheap and disposable themeparks that include few roles beyond Psychopathic Adventurer in them to begin with. Almost no one is making virtual worlds where playing anything but that would make sense in the first place. You don’t have to work hard to roleplay at being a blacksmith or a bard in a real virtual world; you just are one.

But I’m not sure we can blame game developers alone for giving roleplaying the shaft. I used to roleplay heavily and took my in-character roles seriously, more seriously than I took the rest of each MMO I played for sure. I dedicated buckets of time to backstories and cultivating character relationships and plots. I spent way too many hours writing stories to fill in the gaps between in-game scenes, and I stayed up far too many nights in a cantina playing out dramatic episodes that just evolved organically. It was the sort of activity I felt I could do only if I did it really well and obsessively.

And it took a lot of time. Way too much time.

MMO players trend slightly older than the typical gamer stereotype; Massively OP’s own demographic stats reinforce that broadly known metric. The bulk of modern MMO players are in very different life stages than they were in the early days of EverQuest or even World of Warcraft. Most of you are not 16-year-old kids. Some of you have 16-year-old kids, though. Just like raiding and grinding and leveling tracks that took months, roleplaying has lost even more ground with MMORPG players because it sucks up time the genre’s core audience has in ever smaller quantities.

That’s not criticism; it’s reality. And it’s at least part of why we’ve seen the genre shift with us as we grow up: Devs are trying to pander to those of us who are short on time but rich in disposable income while they simultaneously cater to the youngins who grew up plugged into a tablet and are just now laying their hands on their first MMOs. Neither group will put up with retro timesinks, and that’s what roleplaying has become. The way the modern gamer thinks, if the devs aren’t going to reward them for roleplaying, they’re sure as hell not going to bother with it. And devs see that no one is bothering with it, so they don’t support or reward it, and the cycle continues on and on.

The frustrating bit is that while raiding and grinding and leveling tracks — and even time-consuming PvP sieges and crafting characters — are all making comebacks in their own way, roleplaying really isn’t. We’ve never given devs a reason to beg us to stay, to focus on us as a constituency they must even acknowledge, let alone pamper. Studios can always count on roleplayers to show up and pay to sit inside a video game and talk. We are the primary targets of cash shops; we fund F2P and B2P games by buying cosmetic gear and emotes, and we quite literally subsidize the gameplay of manic PvE and PvP players who’d otherwise grow hysterical over P2W. Sure, we’ll whine about chat bubbles and sitting in chairs occasionally — and ohmygod Runekeepers are the worst, right?! — but for the most part, we lap up the lore and don’t make much trouble. They already have us.

And we keep coming back even when we don’t really have time to roleplay as we once did. We just like to be around it, to remember those roleplay-enforced servers of yore, and to imagine 40 or 50 years from now when we’re all going to retire and fill our endless hours joyfully roleplaying droid engineers and bowyers and poets once again.

In the meantime, there’s Ever, Jane.

Are video games doomed? What do MMORPGs look like from space? Did free-to-play ruin everything? Will people ever stop talking about Star Wars Galaxies? Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce and mascot Mo every month as they answer your letters to the editor right here in Ask Mo.
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148 Comments on "Ask Mo: The trouble with roleplaying in MMORPGs"

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watregames
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watregames

DavidVraniak 

Exactly, David. :)

DavidVraniak
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DavidVraniak

RobertBlack3  FYI, MMORPG = Massive Multiplayer Online ROLE PLAYING GAME. It’s folks like you who want to just ignore the whole ROLE PLAY part of MMORPG that makes me cringe.

Aryiure
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Aryiure

BillyDavisKillen RobertBlack3

Excellent response, Billy. :)  I think you hit the nail on the head. My young adult son and teen daughter are now reading along.  It is turning into quite a discussion at our house. 

I think this is why I don’t play MMO’s anymore. I honestly became tired of the racist/homophobic/misogynistic attitude of many of the players, not all, because I have plenty of non-role play friends.

I do find role players to be more mature, more educated in many instances, more apt to think before they speak/do and much more organized in their thoughts. I do play pen and paper games still, with police officers, teachers, engineers, a minister, college students, and computer IT techs. :)  And they are excellent role players…none of it erotic…although I don’t know what they do on Skype. lol

BillyDavisKillen
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BillyDavisKillen

RobertBlack3 No you didn’t. Not in college at least. You’re kinda hard to respond to, I have to admit. The shit you’re saying is well, so random and incoherent it almost seems like you’re ranting out of butthurt instead of trying to make a valid complaint against something. The amount of “ERP” compared to the amount of “I lick goobers!” in general chat by people that don’t RP is so small that it practically doesn’t exist. Therefore I know if you play MMORPGs you’re not actually upset about ERP because it generally only happens in town in /say where I catch a fragment or two now and then running to an auction hall. Also, as I mentioned earlier, the General Chat is way worse in every aspect, it’s more flooded with “I love bacon!” bullshit, it’s more flooded with racism and vulgarity than any place I’ve ever seen ERP going on. So NO, you are not concerned with ERP tainting your gameplay experience lol. I have no idea what it’s like on the regular servers but I really can’t contemplate why someone who is into role playing (even ERP) would be on a NON rp server. Because I’m assuming you do in fact play on non rp servers since you can’t stand RP. 

Also as a non Rper how do you know what ERP people do on Skype or with their personal time? None of what you said rings a bell with me and I’ve been frequenting sites like this along with official and non official game forums for waaaaaay over a decade and have never heard of what you mentioned. Seriously, how the hell do you know that? (or did you make it up?)

If you don’t want to role play then stay the hell off the RP servers. It’s that simple. You sound like one of those retards that joined an RP server and named your toon MissouHunter WTFDeerPawner and got pissed off when people called you out for your name. Let me guess, you think fuktards such as yourself are supposed to be allowed to join RP servers and make stupid names and hinder the RP taking place there because it’s some kind of constitutional right?

Aryiure
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Aryiure

RobertBlack3

Not sure who you are responding to, Robert, but you make no sense at all. :)  You seem very obsessed with sex though.

Hun, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to to do. If things are going on that are against the rules, then report it. If you don’t want to write fan fiction, then please, do not. I don’t write fan fiction either.  And yeah, cut scenes are boring.

And so glad you are proud of your own game play. We all should be. A game is what you make of it, right? 

No one here is telling anyone else how to play their game. It is a discussion. 

Oddly enough I do agree with you on one thing. I believe games for serious games should be niche games rather than carved out from a MMO that is made by a company to make money and appeal the masses. Not only is that better for the role players, but they get the tools they need to attract their niche audience and the rules that they can enforce so that “no one tells them how to play their game.”

Then we are all happy. Who am I? I make my own games so that I don’t have to play with you.

RobertBlack3
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RobertBlack3

Ok, you must be the only student athlete in the world then. Lmfao. Dude none of your points were valid, or even came close to responding to what I said. I played sports in high school and college too, that doesn’t make anyone better than anyone else. And nice job proving my point about how RPers are gay af bud. I didn’t say anything about RPers hindering raids, I said I’m tired of seeing ERP in town, it’s fucking disgusting to do that in a public area where children can potentially see. And yes I was going to buy a copy of the game with colored boxes running around doing quests but all the RPers bought them out, created non canon lore to it then fapped to it with their friends on Skype. I’ve been playing RPGs like final fantasy, dragons quest, chrono series, elder scrolls etc for a long time, does that mean i have to write fan fiction for it? No. “But robert it’s a role playing game, you have to at least draw the characters naked and fap to it Q.Q” no sir, I don’t. I don’t have to role play at all to enjoy playing a MMO,hell I don’t even have to watch the cut scenes (which I don’t.) I love having a persistent character that I can be proud of having put so much work into without having to create a story outside the storyline with other like minded people. I don’t talk about anything in the game storyline or lore related, and neither do the majority of MMO players, they want to play a fun game with friends that they may have known for 10-15 years, who the fuck are you to tell them any different?

Aryiure
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Aryiure

BillyDavisKillen RobertBlack3

Not sure if we are the only reasons these games exist….but I think Gary Gygax and his fellow DnD creators has a huge impact on the modern MMO’s through the history of role playing, MUDs and the like, etc.  Gary, whom I met while working on a game where he was a consultant, was the nicest guy and a ROLE PLAYER, one of the founders of modern role play and the modern dice-roll games that inspired WoW and other such games. 

So indirectly, role players were crucial to the development of multiplayer/mmo video games. Kind of cool to think about that, huh? :)

Aryiure
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Aryiure

RobertBlack3

Robert, Robert, Robert…First of all, I am not really into erotic role playing. That is a totally different type of role play, trust me. :) I understand how confusing it must be to some people to understand that role playing and “role playing” is not the same thing, but trust me…as a woman, I have had my share of “whispered propositions” in MMO’s, and none of them from other role players. All of them were from the tough, trash talking guys like you.  Erotic role play belongs in niche games made for that..I absolutely agree with you.  I see nothing wrong with consenting adults doing what they wish, but you are right…my kids play MMO’s and I would prefer to know if such things are in the game.

However, creativity comes in all places. I happen to be a writer, and a game developer, and an environmental artist. Stories were oral long before they were in books or in games. They were told from person to person. You know this already because I bet you watch movies and plays.  Role players create stories through their role play, sort of like improvising on a stage.  Some like gritting realistic stories, some like romance, some like adventure tales. 

I honestly don’t get why role playing makes you so angry. It is sad. I am sorry that you feel so negative toward something that really shouldn’t affect you at all. I don’t even get why you are posting here other than to try to hurt others. I find that a lot more disruptive than a bunch of people talking about the kind of game they like. ;) I don’t go to your threads and bother you.

BillyDavisKillen
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BillyDavisKillen

RobertBlack3 Firstly, we’re the only reason these games exist. If you’re not into at least some light RP I have no idea why you’d be an idiot and play a massively multiplayer online ROLE PLAYING GAME. I’m assuming a game of colored boxes running around doing quest would be ok with you because creating a virtual character, clothing that character, doing combat in a particular style or class, etc are all basic role playing. I doubt a simpleton like you ever thought about that but you know people are stupid and that’s why we have warning labels on packages of toilet paper. Secondly, you’re full of shit. The amount of role players that take it to the extreme that you mentioned 99.9% of the time have no interest in ever leaving town so they are most definitely not hindering groups or raids. Thirdly, I was a 3 score athlete and all county and all district linebacker and power forward in high school and walked on to a 2 year college for basketball. So you calling these people (and me) nerds is kind of hilarious because you’re not high enough on the “non nerd” totem pole to be considered fit enough to slob my jock knob lol. Better luck next time chump. My recommendation for you in your future interactions is simply reading and learning, not speaking.

RobertBlack3
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RobertBlack3

Y’all are the worst kind of people to deal with in MMOs. I agree though, there should be dedicated RP servers, because the “average mouthy trash talker” wants to play the game as designed, without having to endure erotic role playing in /say as we run to the auction house/market board to pick up food and supplies for our next dungeon. I’m the guy that calls you weirdos, nerds, and a choice few expletives when I’m trying to complete a quest and, in between the quest givers text, I see 2 nearly naked male characters “role playing”. You people need to remember that first and foremost, these are games, all kinds of people play them, and what you’re doing can, and is, disruptive to the majority of players. If you want to be creative, write a book. Nobody is going to stop you. Hell, code a game together. If there are so many people out there that want to RP and the current stock of MMOs aren’t catering to you, then there’s a niche that needs filled and you dorks can make a killing.

Aryiure
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Aryiure

BillyDavisKillen

Haha! That reminds me of how I used to report bad names all the time in SWG. :)  Usually, nothing happened, but every once in a while a GM would agree and change the big Wookie, or whatever, to some frilly girly name. It was so funny. 

You must remember that even though the role players are big spenders and more loyal, the sheer number of non-roleplayers just overwhelm the smaller role player numbers. So if they can close a role play server and add another one for PvP/for the masses, then they get those numbers that they can show to the stock holders.  In the long term, it was a bad idea. But in the short term, it looks good.

I know when SWG first launched, the first server filled was the “unofficial” role play server. It was very popular and even though a few jerks tried to run everything, the role players overwhelmingly outnumbered them so we basically controlled the server.  A server though, has maybe 1000 players at a time. 

Today’s games are often much larger, servers handling a huge number of players. Not sure that a server like the one on SWG could even happen anymore.

BillyDavisKillen
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BillyDavisKillen

Aryiure BillyDavisKillen I absolutely agree that RP’ers are the most loyal. Ever notice when an MMO starts shrinking down, be it Dark Age of Camelot to Star Wars the Old Republic that the regular rule set servers always shrink down faster than the RP servers? I’ve seen it in several MMOs in the past time and time again. Also I think it’s noteworthy that most of the “fan frill”, such as websites about certain aspects of the game (from skill tree calculators to housing fluff, etc) are usually done by role players as well. There are so many advantages both tangible and intangible that come along with having at least one hardcore, enforced RP server that in my honest opinion and experience the server easily pays for itself. I have no idea why they make such a big deal about naming either. How long can it take to approve or disapprove a name? There’s too much semantics goes on with the CSRs when it comes to that stuff. Someone names their toon TurboDawg and comes up with some garbage about Turbo being a latin root word and dawg not actually being in the dictionary and some dipstick CSR lets them off the hook. Common sense would use a total of 5 seconds to review and force a name change on that player character!

Aryiure
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Aryiure

BillyDavisKillen
 “If a developer would focus on the immersion, the RP, and make the game about an open, realistic world, which is what the original MMOs were to those of who started with the original big names (EQ, AC, etc) they’d make a killing. NO they might not sell 14 million copies opening day but they’d have a loyal, steady player base just like DAoC and EQ did back in their prime.”

I have been having discussions with the Unity developers some time now about role playing and multiplayer/mmo games. Most of them have no idea why anyone wants to play games “with other people” let alone role play. But some have been very supportive of our efforts and have given us advice. One old timer even suggested that role player communities, while small, are the best and most loyal group of players an Indie developer could have. They stick around for a long time, they are more mature than the average player, and they are willing to pay to play the game…oh, and they are an easier community to police. 

Didn’t change their minds about the riskiness of the task but that is okay. It made me feel good. :)

FacelessSavior
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FacelessSavior

Well frigging said!

Aryiure
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Aryiure

BillyDavisKillen

I agree. I would rather pay for a good niche game with role play, than play a free game without. I don’t think I am the only one. However, I talked to a game developer today who told me if the game is not f2p, it will never succeed.

BillyDavisKillen
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BillyDavisKillen

I’d like to make one point about MMORPGs and roleplaying. Since developers got rid of the dedicated and enforced RP servers not a single freaking MMO has survived without a shift to Free to Play. NOT ONE. We are now 10 to 15 years further into the genre than we were when games like Ultima Online, EQ, AC and Dark Age of Camelot (my all time favorite) came out. Many of these games were even already in the 15 dollars a month range back then. How is it in this day and age when pay to play gaming services (everything from subscriptions to Xbox Live type services) that none of these games can stay subscription based? Because the games are crap. They’re pandering to a LARGER player base yes, but that larger base is more made up of battle.net converted cheap asses that not only aren’t willing to sink the money but also the enthusiasm and time into their MMO of choice. The fan made websites, etc are no longer present in the quantities they used to be and it’s because MMORPGs are shallow now days. Immersion is an after thought. They’re raid grinds where everyone wants to end up in the same gear as everyone else because it’s a penis measuring contest instead of a fun hobby. If a developer would focus on the immersion, the RP, and make the game about an open, realistic world, which is what the original MMOs were to those of who started with the original big names (EQ, AC, etc) they’d make a killing. NO they might not sell 14 million copies opening day but they’d have a loyal, steady player base just like DAoC and EQ did back in their prime. BUT better yet we’re at a time period in the genre when a developer can make loads of cash with cosmetic shops. Not only would you have subscriptions but you could bring in a lot of development money by selling vanity pets, housing commodities, etc. Big money makers (apparently big enough to save a subscription based game from closing down) that was not present when the old school MMOs were successful. But if a developer is going to do this they’re going to have to make it RP enforced. You can have an OOC channel but /say and other channels are going to have to be clean, and in particular they’re going to have to get rid of the piss poor naming that is present on every server RP encouraged or not in MMOs now days. The game is going to have to be centered around adventure, a LOOOOONG leveling process that feels like character building, and it’s going to have to immerse the player in the world. If some of the other games today had done this, LotRO for example (no actual RP enforcement on US servers), SWtOR (and minus the political statements for basement dwellers) they’d be raking in the cash.

alwayssmooth217
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alwayssmooth217

Sounds like someone’s been bullied lol. What a nerd. Are you so weak that mere words can hurt you?

alwayssmooth217
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alwayssmooth217

Or you can go outside, roleplay a normal person, get a job and make friends

alwayssmooth217
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alwayssmooth217

It’s because everyone hates role players

watregames
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watregames

A link to this article was sent to my by a friend and colleague.  I only wish I had found it months ago.

Reading the comments makes me realize how much I miss the roleplay community.  

As many have said here, the AAA large game companies are probably not going to go out of their way to support a small niche group of players, especially a group that will require more moderation to enforce rules.  Without enforcing rules, the server would fail to be a roleplay server, as we all know from past experiences.  Big companies are slaves to shareholders who only want to see big numbers at a low overhead.

Your best bet is to reach out to Indie game developers who are more willing to take a chance with a niche game. I have worked for 15+ years with indie developers and my first job was as a writer for a massive world MMO being created for roleplayers by a team of roleplayers. I eventually was promoted to Lead Writer and led a team of about 7 writers who created awesome lore for the game.  The game had a publisher and a great design doc, but unfortunately, roleplayers want everything, and even designers/developers fail to realize the dreaded “feature creep” until it is too late. Eventually, funding ran out and the game and company went defunct. It was a sad day when I had to say goodbye to a community of over 100k gamers that had stayed with us for 10 years.

A year or so ago, several of us picked up the lore and decided to try again. The indie scene is different now. There are engines with beautiful real time graphics available at an indie cost, communities of developers who help each other, and place like Steam where you can promote and sell your game. Had our first game had those advantages, it would have survived.

We are one year into development. I have a blog where I write about our progress and we have a new website, a forums, etc. But the role play community is small and hard to find. It isn’t hard to market a game..but it is hard to market to a niche, especially one so diverse. Our forums are quiet and my blog has a very small but loyal following.

I am very active in developer communities and niche games are not popular for the most part. These are folks who want to succeed and success is always measured in numbers, not in quality it seems.  The numbers can be elusive in a niche market so I suggest that people get out and support games like ours or other roleplay centric games.  I believe that if developers know there is a market, even a small one, they may turn that way. 

Like you, after my wonderful experiences on SWG, I spent years looking for a game where I could continue my stories through role play. I am not a combat oriented person and finding another game where one could actually “be” something other than a fighter or something that didn’t simply support the fighters was difficult.  I also was tired of the harassment by non-role players, the name calling, the immersion breaking griefers, and the lack of deep meaningful lore. I want a game that is dynamic and where I, as a player, can make a difference, one that changes as my character grows, and one where I can create my own little place in the world. I don’t mind combat in a game, even PvP, but I want consequences to behaviors, and I want a player’s actions to affect their place in the world. I don’t want to have to fight for my own house or land, I want to know that if I have the in-game money, I can build a house or buy one. I want to farm, or own a tavern, or be a politician. I want my friends who are so inclined to be able to be soldiers or hunters or adventurers. I want language learning to be more realistic, and healing to take longer than a second. I want travel to take time and chat to have distance limitations. I want a world that is large enough but not so large that with a small population, I can’t find anyone else.  I want a community, one built by players who respect each other and patiently teach others how to role play. Am I asking too much?

Today’s indie scene is amazing. Compared to 15 years ago, games now are focused on things like AI, machine learning, behavior trees, ecological systems, all of which are already being added to our game. Other things like deep character customization, player housing that will be available to everyone, emotes, different chat types, realistic language learning are also not as difficult to implement.  

It is amazing to me that so many indie games just follow the same old formula, in spite of all the tools available. 

I would love to get people like you involved in our game, to make it better and to tell us what we are doing wrong and what we are doing right. Where are all of you? :)  

I didn’t come here to recruit or advertise, just to let you know that we are out there, but sometimes it feels like the roleplaying indie developers and the role play community are like two ships that pass in the night. The input from this article lifts me up, since much of what you ask for is already in our game or on our roadmap.  But some of it makes me realize how much more we have to do to attract folks like you.

Thank you, Bree, for writing this article. It gives me hope that all the work I do, as well as my programmers and artists, will not be in vain. We don’t plan to get rich, we just want to create a place to role play and to help others tell their stories.

Morreion
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Morreion

Craywulf 
Good old SWG.

cottondavid11
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cottondavid11

blast tyrant The only thing we need nowadays is a AAA or even AA supported version of persistent worlds ala NWN for good rp to happen

cottondavid11
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cottondavid11

For any dev reading this; Give me the gold standard of an rp environment and you will easily get double the cost of your average sub mmo each month from me!

cottondavid11
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cottondavid11

I’m probably not going to make any friends with this post but honestly I don’t care because I think it has to be said.

1. Its about time that mmos start releasing what I like to call “boutique” mmorpgs, meaning where are the luxury cars of the mmo world? The higher end, more expensive but higher quality services? Yes I get that EQ1 tried this in its time but that was a long time ago and nowadays the much of the crowd that would truly enjoy an immersive rp environment I am willing to bet would also be willing to pay more per month for a rp enforced server. Honestly I don’t want to play with everyone anymore. I WANT to play on a server that replicates the experience of the best NWN persistent worlds, I want GM events like the old EQ, player controlled NPCs and active roles in an everchanging world. I think Shards Online can definitely achieve this and I think that the NWN style of smaller persistent worlds is the way to go. For a higher quality experience, meaning better AI, better world design and people who like to rp the way I like to, I’d be willing to pay 40 dollars a month instead of paying for the different mmos I pay for per month just to find good roleplaying experiences. We have luxury cars, high end computers, first class airplane seats and high end grocery stores so why can’t I get a high end mmo that caters to roleplayers (or at least has servers that cater to them exclusively) for a better overall play experience. For years we have suffered under the “everybody must be able to participate” regime. I don’t NEED to be on a server with 10000 other roleplayers. I would be happy to be on a server with 200 people who want to be there, who want to enjoy the world and who know that lore is king. I’m a traditional lore loving hardcore heavy rp snob and proud to be one and I would love to be around those that feel the same, not to mention honestly, you get what you pay for and by “wanting everyone to play!” we are right now getting crap in a bucket because cheap givings leads to cheap results.

Sorry but its just how I feel, the state of rp right now (which is dying because of the fact that its treated like such a casual afterthought) is a bit too unrestricted and when you treat something that doesn’t matter at the end of the day it just doesn’t matter.

NomadMorlock
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NomadMorlock

This could create a resurgence in RP, but I don’t know that it will be as comfortable as typing for many. I’ve yet to experience it.

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

Nreff That’s why SWG was great – it automatically emoted based on keywords in your text.   The avatars seemed so alive.

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

schlag sweetleaf awesome reference

melissamcdon
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melissamcdon

NomadMorlock I believe it’s because people feel obliged to do a “voice” or “act” when using voice or headset, and this is intimidating, and some people frankly aren’t very good at it, and it chills their enthusiasm.  It’s being “on live” in a way that typing text is not.   RP is easier in text for most people for that reason I think. 
This is why SOEmote and its voice changers are important, not only does it capture and map your facial expressions, your voice can match your character.  so you can have Big Mighty Voice if you are an ogre, or squeaky voice as a Ratonga, or a raspy one as a lizard man, etc. etc., this would really help people RP and ‘enjoy’ voice more in my humble opinion.   You’d become your character that much more easily.

ZenDadaist
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ZenDadaist

Incoming Cool Story Bro!

 After some years exploring all sorts of different RP environments, I eventually came to the conclusion that RPing with 1-4 other people doing things as a group worked out the best for me overall. It’s just too rare to run into a whole ‘community’ or a larger group where things are open enough for you to drop in and join in. Back in the day when RP servers actually had open RP in communcal places it was different. 

The tools at the players’ disposal are a huge factor, but so is the setting itself. I really loved RPing in the settings of Eve Onlien and Anarchy Online, for example. There was so much depth to the background and story already fleshed out. Aside from a very tiny number of important NPCs, no one was ‘THE HERO’ and everyone was just someone trying to get what they can in their time as a podpilot/on rubi ka. Open PvP helped with that too – Minmatar corps declaring war on pro-slavery Amarr corps before Faction Warfare was a thing, for example. I was one of Team In-Rust-We-Trust with a side line in the Gallente Fed stuff :p

Eve had no player tools at all, just people in chat rooms describing locations and actions (unless it was ship-based like conga lines or mass battles). Regular Chronicle stories were published adding more and more background to every aspect of the universe, giving canonical inspiraiton for people’s characters and stories. Anarchy Online had player cities and apartments with furniture, a very flexible emoting system and masses upon masses of story detailing the whole galaxy and it’s interactions as flavour text on items in the game. I had a huge blast RPing in and alongside some of the big name RP orgs of the day in AO too, like the NLF and the ~SoS~.

Player interference was the only real problem I found back then to be honest. Smartarses that come in to try and disrupt what you’re doing. I never ever found it to be policed properly either. Stupid names, teabagging and yelling – the universal constant over all the games I saw RP in, even on dedicated RP servers such as those that used to be found on Rift EU servers was that GMs never really cared. 
Unsurprisingly, over time interest dwindled. RP communities became insular in a vicious circle of trying to avoid harassment versus limiting exposure to new people. Tastes in what people wanted out of their MMO experience changed too. Long term players that’d log in daily and continue on their character’s lives alongside playing the game – that all seemed to tail off and with it the RP environment. Now it’s only a few hardcores that RP with a more or less fixed group and this seems to be universal pretty much everywhere I’ve seen.

The only game I’ve RPed in the last couple of years is TSW, because that fits the ‘small group doing stuff ICly dynamic’ very well. I’ve played the entirety of the game’s content (well not i11 yet) ICly at least once on my Dragon with between 1 and 4 others. I’ve done bits ICly on my Lumie and my Templar too, again with 1-4 others. It just seemed to work out best that way.

The Iron Dagger
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The Iron Dagger

(continued, blame my fat thumbs on mobile)
Pony remained the eternal roleplay hub. Open-world roleplay in general was nonexistent, much less starter zone roleplay.
As for world chat, that is simple enough. Roleplayers avoided it. In fact, as I recall, they generally avoided any kind of global communication – even custom RP channels (which I found and tuned into) were full of nothing but crickets.
The third reason is probably not something you face, but which ultimately killed my own roleplaying career there: timezones. I was, and still am, on the other side of the world from the vast majority of roleplayers. Nuff said.

The Iron Dagger
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The Iron Dagger

I played on both servers myself, and I can think of 3 reasons for your experience. I’ll speak in the past tense since I retired from LoTRO a long time ago and am therefore not 100% qualified to make factual statements regarding the situation there today.
Nobody roleplayed in starter zones. It was something often promoted by the odd roleplayer or two, and I myself did it (the memories of walks in the Midgewater Marsh, admiring the ruins and helping out struggling newbies!), but the Prancing P

Cyberlight
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Cyberlight

I greatly respect roleplayers and the skillset they have, chief of which seems to be their imagination. I have a pet theory that the reason I dislike roleplaying is because I suck at creative writing, but greatly enjoy non-fiction.

Nate Woodard
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Nate Woodard

I have to agree with the general consensus.  RP is a very niche community.  It’s also not easy to get into, especially in “starting zones” of any particular game.  I’ve been looking for an RP home since Saturday.  I’ve scoured the internet from page to page, probably hundreds in all honesty in search of the best communities for RP.  LOTRO and Landroval or Laurelin are probably the number one thing to have come up in every type of page I could find, but when you log into the game and you explore the starting areas and you listen to world chat it would be quite easy for anybody to doubt the existence of RP on either server.  

Every once in a while a message will pop up for guilds recruiting and even on the declared RP servers, guilds list RP as an after thought not their main focus.  To be honest, with the game as glitch riddled as it is, I’m not sure I can stay for the actual grind of LOTRO.  I’m looking for RP and I’m going to continue to look for RP, but I’m not sure any of the current selection of MMOs have exactly what it takes to make RP a primary focus.  Perhaps the next small indie studio decides to kickstart an all RP mmo.  While there’s a small chance they’d sell to at least a moderately wide audience, the chances are they would sell to a very small audience and quite possibly close down as soon as they opened up.

PurpleCopper
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PurpleCopper

Roleplaying as a bigoted serial killer is the best thing ever.

FacelessSavior
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FacelessSavior

Yus yus yus!

breetoplay
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breetoplay

Eliot_Lefebvre If by differently you mean insufficiently and with intentional disregard for a specific type of player.
But this tweet? “If you stopped roleplaying when it started requiring imagination, you weren’t really roleplaying in the first place.”
Yeah, I’m out, not even going to go that low.

Werewolf Finds Dragon
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Werewolf Finds Dragon

This is why I’m more into co-op experiences.

Most people don’t have anything of worth to offer in a roleplay — a distinct lack of both imagination and talent is always present. Champions Online went out of its way to prove that to me, after numerous others (including FF XI and WoW) did their part. The only person you can trust to be a decent roleplayer is a friend whose qualitative values you know.

I am an introvert, so I am more qualitative than quantitative. Having a giant group of people all trying to act — badly — isn’t my forte. I’d rather a small gathering in an inn talking about what they’ve done. It tends to be less of a testosterone power fantasy, then, too. You’ll get more character building, and less obnoxious boasting. The kind of person who interrupts everyone to boast constantly isn’t the sort of person who’d stick around with a small, tight-knit team of adventurers for very long.

I think the roleplay server idea doesn’t exist any more because people have accepted that they just aren’t any good at it. They’d rather be playing the game. As a contrary point, I would like to posit that we need roleplaying locations. Again, I’d point at Champions Online for showing us how to deal with an excess of obnoxious, rowdy people thinking that their poorly spelled rants or day-to-day job banter make for good roleplaying. CO had roleplay locations.

I’d love to see more MMOs do this. Just places you can go, hidden away from the world, which are instanced to the group or a roleplaying guild. So that when you head into this place, it’s only you and yours there. That way, you can be assured to enjoy some quiet roleplaying.

Honestly, my solution to everything is instancing. That’s probably because it is.

That’s because the problem is people. The problem is always people. Take the people away and you won’t have a problem. If someone wants to roleplay with you, they can just join your roleplay guild/party.

Eliot_Lefebvre
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Eliot_Lefebvre

breetoplay There are a lot of tables that are designed to only have one leg.comment image
The point is that there are lots of ways to design something, and the lack of one particular feature doesn’t mean the whole thing is broken or doesn’t work.  It just means it’s designed differently.

breetoplay
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breetoplay

Eliot_Lefebvre jefreahard My grandfather died when my father was a child, but I’d like to believe that if he bought a table without a leg, he’d take that table back to the asshole who sold it to him and demand the rest of the damn table.
I’m with Jef — I respect people who can roleplay in the middle of a shitty themepark just as I respect people who can roleplay in a MUD without graphics or on a forum (seriously, most riveting RP I ever saw wasn’t me; it was some dudes on a forum going back in forth in front of an audience). The point is we shouldn’t have to play in spite of the game because the game has been cheap and lazy and refuses to dole out proper tools.

schlag sweetleaf
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schlag sweetleaf

There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see,

NomadMorlock
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NomadMorlock

I don’t think I’ve ever played a game with a better environment for RP than Star Wars Galaxies. I think having only one character per server, developing a reputation with your crafts (whatever they were) among many other things all came together in a special way.
When I think back to when I stopped RP’ing and how it happened a little at a time I found something surprising.
It seems that when I started using voice chat (ventrilo for me) with friends and guild members, the amount of time I spent typing for communication in game and my RP’ing began to decline. I found that I never RP’ed with people who I was voice chatting with. It became mostly people outside of my guild or circle of friends.
For all the benefits of voice communication for coordinating large scale group activities and even just chatting with friends, something for me was lost.

Archebius
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Archebius

Eliot_Lefebvre Mostly, I think that the more canvases you give your RP community to work with, the more creative things you’re going to see them do.

Deadborder
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Deadborder

I am a veteran role-player who has RPed in numerous MMOs across over a decade. I’ve also RPed online via other means, and been playing tabletop RPGs for over twenty years. I also accept the realities of the situation.

Even on designated Role-play servers, the actual role-players are a minority. And those that actively role-play are probably a minority within that. I have character backstories and ideas, I have personalities and think about how my characters would respond to in-game situations and the like, but I don’t actively RP any more.

Companies don’t cater to the role-players for exactly that reason. They’re going to provide some tools – emotes, text bubbles, character description boxes if you’re lucky – but beyond that is an investment of time, money and resources that aren’t profitable and are unlikely to be used by any other then a tiny fragment of the population. Likewise, “enforcing” RP rules on a server is an investment of time and resources (especially people) that is anything but cost-viable. Likewise, “enforcing” RP rules is ultimately subjective. What the players think is acceptable might not match to official company guidelines.

Speaking of, being honest, RP communities also become a bane to open RP. Instead they become cliquish, insular, entitled and excruciatingly prone to drama, especially when IC and OOC boundaries get crossed. There are several key rules that also become wedged into nearly any RP community that end up becoming ultimately self-destructive. “All RP is good RP” and “Nobody is allowed to criticize” often take root with negative results; you’re not allowed to call someone on their “bad” RP (“My character is a Vampire Sith Lord Catgirl” when you’re playing WoW) and instead you get people encouraging it because, hey, its promoting RP, right?

In the end, RP is a nice side-bar, but it’s never going to be a focus for a MMO.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

dirtyklingon I’ve personally encountered a better playerbase every single time I’ve rolled on an RP server. That being said, there is still spammers, harassers, and griefers. Instead of someone camping you on a pvp server you get the child jumping and dancing naked on a table disrupting RPing. You also run into the filthy ERPers. So yeah..every server has its scum but I personally have found better people on RP servers. Personal experience

Loyheta
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Loyheta

CrowingOne Just because it is niche doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve its place. Thats like saying pvp servers shouldn’t exist because world pvp isn’t popular.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

I do enjoy RP servers. However without enforcement it just becomes a target for griefers.

thbeatnik
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thbeatnik

Budukahn Eliot_Lefebvre Archebius Polyanna I’d suggest as well that the act of creation involved in writing a bio gets folks into a roleplay frame of mind. As you think about who you are and where you came from, you become the kernel of a roleplayer, whether you intended to roleplay or not. From that small point, the natural identification one feels with one’s character makes it easy to fall into light roleplay without even realising it.

The hardcore roleplayers will find ways to roleplay in even the most barren game system. For me, the most admirable games are those that find a way to subtly bring even more players into the roleplay fold.

Archebius
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Archebius

Eliot_Lefebvre Yeah, and that’s why I don’t think you should have your entire life story typed out. But again, I think having a light bio for your character helps facilitate interaction. 
I agree that it should never replace real interaction, and I’d hope that RPers could use both.

GGL
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GGL

Craywulf blast tyrant

Techbot Alpha
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Techbot Alpha

jefreahard I’ve been like that, but City of Heroes was my home.
WoW? Too many people who apparently didn’t get the memo about RP being a mutual thing, and too much GoT and ‘gritty’ RP to be taken seriously. Also, Goldshire. Enough said.
SWToR, well…better. Much quieter than WoW, but there was some not bad RP around, when I bumped into it. The things that utterly killed it for me was how many emotes had sounds tied to them….which is weird when you have entirely different characters using the exact same voice because they are the same class…. and the lack of chat bubbles. I mean, seriously, no chat bubbles? What? 
That and not being able to sit in chairs. And then having an emote that you could only unlock from the shop…that didn’t let you sit in a chair, but *summoned* a chair. Uh….megawut?
I live in the eternal yet slightly tarnished hope that, some day, we’ll have a properly RP friendly MMORPG come around again. ‘Til then, I have to make do with what I can get. And PnP stuff with old friends from CoH.

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