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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Where Have All the Roleplayers Gone?

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Associate Editor - News Manager

Joined: 6/28/10
Posts: 16308

OP  4/28/13 4:30:52 PM#1

It's funny that the games we adore are called MMO-RPGs since it seems that much of the roleplay part of our games has disappeared. In our latest Social Hub column, we wonder where the roleplayers have gone and offer a few thoughts about how to recapture the magic. Read on and then leave your thoughts in the comments.

Many gamers that found their way to MMORPGs, came from MUDs, tabletop, or the D&D tradition. There were rulesets and lore and lots of people took the time to really conceptualize their characters. Of course, games had their more casual players back then too, but even they could often muster a “hail” now and then. There were RP servers and naming conditions. You wouldn’t see IPWNURFACE99x running around your server. Guilds were generally plentiful and if you wanted it, RP in many forms could be found if you looked. Today, it’s scarce to find an RP flag or sometimes even official RP servers. Things have become more splintered as the genre has both expanded and changed.

Read more of Christina Gonzalez's The Social Hub: Where Have All the Roleplayers Gone?

Associate Editor:
Follow me on Twitter: @MMORPGMom


Novice Member

Joined: 6/20/08
Posts: 94

4/29/13 10:21:44 AM#2

Thanks Christina, a good read - I'm lookiung forward to part two.


In fact, LOTRO just might be the last time RP support was so blatantly built into a AAA game, with a flag, discoverable places you can use that serve little other function outside of festival events, buildings to enter, taverns, housing, a slew of emotes, the music system, and even naming guides at character creation.


The Secret World does a good job of catering to roleplayers. As well as the wealth of costume options, the addition of The Albion Theatre last year has led to some fantastic, open-RP for the community. Add in two official RP servers (though no naming policy or other restrictions), numerous RP-focused radio stations such as Radio Free Gaia and you have a great environment for roleplayers.


I admit, the cabal (well, three cabals under one aegis) I am a member of tends to roleplay within the group - at least for the purposes of the main, character-driven storylines we have; primarily as a lot of the storylines are gritty and adult - no, not THAT kind of adult - and we can't guarantee that we wouldn't be involving a character being played by a minor if we opened up our RP. That said, general roleplaying we do in the open world - The Horned God, at the RFG parties, etc.


I have to say personally, TSW offers me one of the best RP environments and experiences since the days of early SWG and MxO, both of which had very strong roleplaying communities (many of whom are also playing TSW). I hope Funcom continue to deliver to we roleplaying few!


edit: editor paragraph display fail


Novice Member

Joined: 3/16/07
Posts: 271

4/29/13 10:26:11 AM#3
all these game companies catering to casual gamers now now adays, we need to cater to the hard core gamers to bring back the RP

Hard Core Member

Joined: 11/03/08
Posts: 975

4/29/13 10:34:22 AM#4

I really wish MMO's started properly supporting roleplay, it honestly triples if not Quadruples or more the time i spend in a game before ditching it.


It's much more fun when you're involved with your character and he or she is worth something more then just a Level grind and gear to you.


Advanced Member

Joined: 3/14/05
Posts: 148

4/29/13 10:39:50 AM#5

I figured I'd throw my two cents in since this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I belonged to some great RP groups in both Ultima Online & SWG. I'd say the biggest reason we don't see RP groups in many moderns games is simply because of the character advancement systems.


In a level based game, you are assumed to only fight stuff your own level, give or take about 4 levels. If you try to fight stuff more then 4 levels over you, you'll get slaughtered, on the same note if you try to fight stuff more then 4 levels under you then you won't get any exp in many games. Sure the number is different for different games, but the concept is the same in a level based system.


Of course the reason I bring this up is it's not about the monsters you can fight, but rather the people you can team up with to fight the monsters together. The players you can team up with to fight a monster at x level depends on if that other player is also within that monsters level range. This means unless everyone is progressing at an equal pace you won't often be grouping with the same preson multiple times. This makes grouping quite often based on convience rather then friendship.


Many level based games take this division a step further, not only do you not fight the same creatures, but you and players in a different level range occupy different microworlds within the game. One of these microworlds are for players levels 50-55, another for 55-60, and so forth, if your level range isn't in the range of the 'zone' then you have no reason to be in that zone. This again hinders the repeated contact with the same players that allows strong RP bonds to be developed. It also hinders the chance for RP guild members to interact with each other directly outside of guild chat, since many of the players may be at very different stages of the game.


One can argue that at end game this becomes less of an issue, but by this point players have spent their entire character development not RPing, and few RPer wants to grind to max level just to get to the RP component of the game.


The thing games like Ultima Online and SWG is that you could group a newbie with a group of veteran players. They may not always last as long in combat, or do as much damage of course, but they could still land hits, contribute to the group, and increase their skills, since both these games lacked a traditional level system that restircted what you could fight. The difference between a vererans performance and a newbies performance in these games wasn't so great that the two couldn't group together, and as the newbie advanced further, that gap would continue to lessen. This was a strong characteristic for RP guilds as a new player could still advance the life of their character by grouping up with members of their guild all along the way, rather then having to catch up to the members first.


Of course the other characteristic many games are lacking now a days to foster RP is mutual respect between players. This is probably why a game like Eve which could have been a RPers paridise isn't, isn't one. In a game like Eve many players seem to hide behind the RP tag to grief other players. Things like lag exploits, taking advantage of interface issues to scam, using a bot to automaticly mine resources, that's just "RPing" a villain in some of those players eyes. Ultima Online had similair issues prior to the release of the Trammel facet, while some PKers claim to be RPers, it's hard to feel there was an roleplaying interaction when the person ganking you is using a potion throwing script and using leet speak to hurl insults and call you a 'newb'  the entire time.


RP ultimately requires cooperation to make it work, players need to agree on the extent and scope of the roleplaying interaction, without that it is hard to establish the mutual enjoyment that makes people want to come back for more RP, and feel like their characters and others truely exist within the same fantasy world.


(Edit: Hole Moley, that was way longer then I thought it'd be.

TL:DR version: Levels restricting what monsters you fight, and what ares of the game you can access can also hinder the establishing of a RP group. The lack of mutual respect in modern MMOs often prevents players from staying in character due to out of character frustrations they encounter from player interactions)


Novice Member

Joined: 9/22/07
Posts: 1079

I hated hipsters before hating hipsters was cool.

4/29/13 10:39:58 AM#6
Originally posted by voltt
all these game companies catering to casual gamers now now adays, we need to cater to the hard core gamers to bring back the RP

hardcore =/= rp. rp is its own thing, seperate from how many hours you log or how dedicated to the game you are.


Elite Member

Joined: 5/12/10
Posts: 2676

4/29/13 10:41:46 AM#7

I planned to note that while LotRO has indeed the most utilized rp-focus among present games, you missed TSW which is great too in the rp - but Mulli was faster :)

So I guess I'll just say great pics, Methel-stage is always a nice, cheerful gathering place, and the other pic with the recursive elves... Lol.


Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 7148

4/29/13 10:43:05 AM#8

What's to me is that for years now, every time I pass the Methel Stage I think, awww it's so deserted and forelorn.  No one is there when I pop off the fireworks for Paladin or whomever sent me on that quest.

It's true, LotRO does specifically cater to RP in many ways.  I've found RP communities in older (LotRO, EQ2) and new games (TSW, Tera, Rift).  TSW seems to have a very dedicated RP community and a great immersive environment for it.

What surprised me is that I expected GW2 and Neverwinter to have a more RP element and feel to them, but they don't, at least not in the traditional sense.  I've seen RP in GW2, but the environment feels bustling without players in the background acting out.  Maybe that's the difference - in EQ2 or LotRO if players aren't participating the worlds feel very static.  On the other hand TSW feels both bustling and has an RP atmosphere.


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-Raven Treeavelli

4/29/13 10:53:20 AM#9
MMORPGs just aren't a good medium for RP.  You have very few customization options and you certainly can't RP outside of specific circles.  I remember back in EQ I was playing the race that all looks like a bunch of pirates and I jokingly talked like a pirate in a group I was in and one of the guys flew into an inexplicable rage and began swearing and harassing me.  I wasn't even being serious and received RP hate.

Currently playing:
SWToR, Aion,EQ, Dark Age of Camelot
World of Warcraft, AoC


Novice Member

Joined: 11/05/12
Posts: 9

4/29/13 11:03:35 AM#10
I'll echo the sentiment regarding TSW's RP community. This is one of the best games out right now for RP support, and it shows in the activity of the community there. TSW's game director has said several times when they put out an update, they try to include something for each playstyle: PvE, PvP, and RP. Just the fact that roleplayers are mentioned as a legitimate subsection of the playerbase in TSW to be catered to is reason enough for me to get behind the game.

Novice Member

Joined: 1/17/06
Posts: 357

AC2..Greatest game ever to be closed. They did it dirty.

4/29/13 11:21:25 AM#11
They left when all the games went to gear grind treadmills and themeparks rides through the games areas. With having no areas to claim as your own  or to defend or have a reason to be there they left and went back to dnd or moved on to real life.

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I'm not your friend.

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Advanced Member

Joined: 2/26/09
Posts: 1169

4/29/13 11:41:46 AM#12

For me the reason for the lack of RP is the pace of games these days.

Up until perhaps 3 months into WOW I didn't notice a problem but since then there has been a gradual decline. Games got faster, combat got faster, queing for dungeons got faster,Levelling got faster, travel got faster...everything got faster.

I blame a combination of designers making games not worlds, the market openning up to the casual market and the need for quick fixes, the introduction of consol PvP leets and their desire to only talk if it is something rude about someone else and the move from enjoying the journey to enjoying the endgame type gaming playstyle.

MMO's are gloryfied whackamole timewasters for the most part and probably will continue to be so because gaming is a big industry now rather then a passionate hobby.



Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/27/07
Posts: 589

4/29/13 11:42:46 AM#13
I am glad I read some of these comments. I never knew about TSW rp but now that I think of it I am reminded of old vampires masquerade rp! I do wish rp and rp elements were still part of mmos today. Even non rpers can and do appreciate the accessories and tidbits devs add in so I don't really understand where the enthusiasm was lost.

Originally posted by Arskaaa
"when players learned tacticks in dungeon/raids, its bread".


Novice Member

Joined: 8/04/06
Posts: 64

4/29/13 11:42:48 AM#14

I have to disagree here that the roleplayers have gone away or that modern games have abandoned them. Yes, the MUD communities of old were more tightly regulated and controlled, but that is because they were SMALL by comparison to the overall playerbase today.


Support for RP has been a work in progress since the first major MMO's arrived in the late 90's, with some games setting the standard (EQ, SWG and WoW a few years later) with private chat channels, player housing, various emotes, etc. and some completely mssing the boat (any obvious console port like Defiance is a good example).


LOTRO is not the only game that has provided well for RPers, and even current offerings and games soon to launch offer similar support. TSW has a great RP community and offers decent support (though how Funcom managed to NOT include all the great emotes and character customization of their own Age of Conan continues to boggle the mind), GW2 also does a heck of a lot of things right and offers what is essentially RP flagging (its guild system is great for this) and has private player housing in each major city.


The issue isn't so much a lack of support or that 'the roleplayers' have ridden off into the sunset. It's more than we're vastly outnumbered by an overall playerbase numbering in the tens of millions and extremely spread out now over numerous games offering decent to really quite good RP support.


Spotlight Poster

Joined: 2/10/12
Posts: 1407

4/29/13 11:48:16 AM#15

The roleplayers are either playing old games or are gone.


Novice Member

Joined: 6/20/08
Posts: 1066

4/29/13 11:57:04 AM#16
GW2 Tarnished Coast taverns, human city, and lower lvl zones always had folks RPing when I was playing GW2 consistantly. Month or so ago.

Novice Member

Joined: 8/10/04
Posts: 1532

4/29/13 12:00:21 PM#17

RP went the way of the RPG, this was bound to happen with the MMO stealing development time and dollars away from rpgs.  Kind of sad how all this has gone down too, from the perspective of someone who is actually older than Advanced Dungeons and Dragons lol.

Computer games tried so hard to replicate the feeling of sitting at a table with a dm a few friends and a bunch of dice.  Even being programmed with actual dice throws sometimes visible in the game's UI.  Then in the late 90's early 00's something changed.  TSR went bye bye and D&D became the property of the trading card kids.  Across the board quality took a huge dive and everything started shifting towards action gaming. Each successive release of D&D by the card gamers has dumbed and stripped everything worthwhile out of it (the nonsense they produce today wouldn't have ruffled a single feather in the 80's) and all the computer games have become action adventures with shoddy rpg elements tossed on top to try and convince you you are playing a legit rpg.


Novice Member

Joined: 12/12/12
Posts: 335

4/29/13 12:02:17 PM#18
As long as games cater to communities that permit trolling, the worst kind against RPers, Players join RP servers specifically to bash and troll RPers and to my knowledge get away with it as most companies worry more about dollars that upholding rule sets for RP servers... As long as those actions persist, Rping will continue to die, I personally like I get immersed in the game, I may not RP as it's know today but I am attached to my character and uphold a code of ethics and personality unique to my character regardless to the modern day english I speak in conversations. 

Apprentice Member

Joined: 7/02/07
Posts: 295

4/29/13 12:04:07 PM#19

The article would have probably been better served with a title of 'Where did the roleplaying elements go' because the RP'ers are still there. They are just like every gamer out there and trying to find that one game out of growing ocean of games that fits their needs. They are spread out from one game to another. GW2 has an active roleplaying community as I am a mod on the site for the roleplayers of that game and we get several new folks every single day. TSW, Lord of the Rings and heck, they still have a strong community in EQ2.

But the elements presented by games have dwindled. At the same time you can say some games are changing that like Wildstar which has elements in it. I believe Everquest Next has spoken in regards to roleplaying and Camelot has stated they will have a RP designated server if the deman is high enough which means some voices have been raised in the first place. So yes, rpers are out there. They are scattered and sometimes not as vocal since they feel some developers/games simply ignore what they say *coughs* ToR *coughs* but there is generally a RP community in almost every AAA MMO.


Apprentice Member

Joined: 3/26/12
Posts: 2149

4/29/13 12:06:19 PM#20

There are plenty of roleplayers in role-playing games. The problem is that a certain elitist group refuses to acknowledge them as "roleplayers". 


This is more a character flaw among the elitists rather than the lack of actual roleplayers in games. 

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