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The Roleplayer's Redoubt

Is there a really place for roleplaying in MMOs? What do roleplayers bring to the table? How can developers foster stronger roleplaying communities? How do traditional concepts fit into the realities of contemporary online roleplaying?

Author: OddjobXL

Official vs. Unofficial RP Servers - Fight!

Posted by OddjobXL Thursday February 26 2009 at 7:18AM
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Okay, don't fight but help me out here a bit.

For some reason it seems the best roleplaying servers I've encountered have been the unofficial ones; servers named by the players themselves rather than designated by the developer.

The names will ring down through the ages (or for a couple years at least):  Starsider, Virtue, Landroval and Wiccana.  All of these servers are among the most populated in their respective games with SWG's Starsider and CoH's Virtue leading the packs.

My theory is that this works on three levels:

1)  When roleplayers get together and vote on a single server they end up on that server rather than being split up over multiple sites as is often the case with Official RP Servers.  While not every potential roleplayer gets the memo, not all read forums for example, over time there will be a steady drift of population as the word does get out.   Of course, people hostile to roleplaying emigrate, naturally, to new games or other servers while those neutral or friendly to roleplaying add in.

2)  Just as in real life homeowners take better care of property than renters do, when players themselves name an unoffical RP server they've taken ownership of the responsibility to make it work.  They know there will be no developer support so they have to figure out how to keep things interesting, how to get along with nonroleplayers (rather than berate them or report them) and to promote the server to other potential roleplayers around whether on other servers or not yet playing the game at all.

3)  As nonroleplayers will be a big part of the population this creates a natural pool of potential new roleplayers.  You can see this playing out vividly in the history of SWG's Starsider.   The initial wave of colonists were a mix but heavily flavored by the first generation roleplayers who adopted the server.  Over time most of the first generation burned out for assorted reasons, most of which owed to SWG's design, however what they left behind was ultimately what shaped the server's corporate culture.  A tradition of roleplaying, knowledge of event organizing, histories of colorful characters and Player Associations and a whole slew of former nonroleplayers who were now the very leaders of the roleplaying community.  I suspect because many of these nonroleplayers hadn't roleplayed before they had a much higher tolerance for SWG's foibles than the more impatient and critical first generation did.

I wonder how many roleplayers on Landroval, Virtue and Wiccana came to the server as nonroleplayers but encountered something new there.  Something that entertained them when the rest of the game was getting dull or repetitious?  Something that got them to flex creative muscles they didn't know they had...

My experiences on Official Roleplaying Servers are much more limited.   What I've seen, in general, were smaller populations of roleplayers, compared the the general public, but with more insular seige mentalities.  Quick to lash out at nonroleplayers, assume anyone they don't like is a griefer, make hobbies of writing down names that don't conform to canon, and often cultivate more trouble than they've prevented by being on an Official Server.  I've yet to encounter an Official Roleplaying server where the rules were actually enforced, and not resented, by GMs there.   Very often staff have no understanding of, or sympathy for, roleplayers and don't go very far out of their way to enforce "silly" rules or deal with the reams of annoying and, to them, trivial complaints.

So, help me out here, what do you think?  What works better for roleplayers, based on your experiences not mine, Official RP Servers or Unofficial RP Servers?

Sakky writes:

I agree here, unofficial is community owned and run, thus we have  a vested interest in it.

Also, as pointed out in a previous post (I think by you) Rp servers attract more mature non-RPers, seeking to escape the reams of leet kiddies as well. These mature people are potential RPers.

One example, from Age of Conan, Wiccania (I played there too, but never met you there) My guild frequent the inns in the big cities. We had times when someone came into the inn to turn in a quest, then saw us sitting around a table, chatting, and sat down themselves.

We would greet them, and before they knew it, they were RP'ing! Many wound up joining either my guild, or another RP guild.

Of course, for this to happen, RP'ers need not to be secular, and work to involve new people. Which is easier said than done.  For example, most of my characters are not social people, who would have little to no motivation to meet new people. However, I do try to extend a hand and "stretch" my character, doing something slightly out of the norm for the betterment of the community.

In practice, Unofficial works better, but that is not to say an Official could not succeed wven more, if handled right. To this day, I have not seen that happen however.

Thu Feb 26 2009 8:43AM Report
dcostello writes:

   The only problem with your argument is that it's inductive, which logically makes it a weaker argument.  You are looking at a vague or coincidental pattern and you are making a generalized assumption.  I think those games you mentioned (SWG and CoH) were just good games for roleplaying.  I don't think the official or unofficial aspect has anything to do with it...

Thu Feb 26 2009 9:20AM Report
OddjobXL writes:

That is a good point, decostello. We need a control sample of MMOs which appeal to roleplayers that have Official RP servers. Are there any you can think of? How has it worked out for them?

Thu Feb 26 2009 9:27AM Report
dcostello writes:

I'm not big on RP, so I don't know enough to make my own experiment/observations and/or suggestions.  Sorry.

Thu Feb 26 2009 8:54PM Report
OddjobXL writes:

Well, then we're left with the evidence as is.  Very popular Unofficial RP servers for several major games that are as big, or bigger, than any other server they have.

Seems to me that RP is serious business and Unofficial Servers are the best way to go about making that money.

Thu Feb 26 2009 11:54PM Report writes:
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