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Debate: The RPG in MMORPG

Editorials By  on February 18, 2006

Debate: The RPG in MMORPG
Frank and Garrett debate the merits of role-playing in online RPGs

Garrett Fuller: Part of the fun of pencil and paper role-playing is acting out your character’s actions. I can remember endless nights of D&D yelling and screaming as my wemic fighter. So, why is it in today’s MMORPG games there is such a lack of role-playing? I am currently playing Warcraft. I play an orc which I think is great. I try to run around, be angry, kill any players I come across, the usual orc stuff. Yet, I find myself in guild chat talking about my bills, weekends, and work. Trust me it’s not that I want to talk about those subjects, it just seems to happen.

I think MMORPGs are missing a huge amount of RPG content in the element of role playing. I know many games offer RP servers, but even those don’t seem to offer any rewards or reasons to role play your characters. MMORPGs are a great way to get millions of gamers together all enjoying the fun of doing quests, fighting each other, or getting loot. One area that I think that static MMORPG gaming could possibly move forward is in role playing. Give players a reason to role play their characters and it will expand the world, lore and even make it fun for others. Problem is, currently the role playing is not part of RPGs.


Frank Mignone: Frankly, I am glad more people don't role play in the MMORPGs I play. I find it sort of disturbing when I start a conversation with someone I've never met, only to have them start talking to me like an NPC. Then they yell at me for killing their RP experience because I was either confused or applying liberal amounts of dork-repellant and got some in their eyes. Maybe I just don't get it.

I play these games to enjoy my characters game play abilities and meet new people. Because I live in the 21st century, I talk like people in the 21st century talk. I don't want to have to get a degree in Shakespearian Anglo Saxon English or actually have to learn Tolkien's Elfish language if I am playing LOTR. It's one thing to get into your character for an experience; it's another to do so at the exclusion of all others who would not play along.


Garrett Fuller: My point is that MMORPGs have become stagnant. There are certain elements that have become fundamental for any game: character building, economy, PvP. There needs to be new areas where MMORPGs expand for players. I think role-playing could be a great area of expansion. In between my DAOC and Warcraft days I played Fable on Xbox. I thought the role playing aspects of that game were great. You walked into town and people cheered. It was a fun environment, a game environment.

That is missing from most MMORPGs and should become more of the future. Role-playing servers don’t give you bonus honor for being a hero. That is not the answer, why not try integrating more of the game environment for players would help grow player participation in the NPC portion of the game. Give credit for higher level characters helping out lowbies on quests or with factions. Give people more of a chance to interact on a role playing level. You don’t need an Old English degree for that.

There are games out there that have been exploring this prospect. SEED Online is one that comes to mind where NPCs are becoming more advanced. Player interaction in SEED is encouraged and rewarded. Other MMORPGs from the hack n’ slash genre need to look at this as potential for the future. How cool would it be that as Warlord in Warcraft when you stepped into the Battleground players where given a reason to interact with you? This is something MMORPGs are definitely missing.


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Frank Mignone: It seems like what you are upset about is more of the game play mechanics then the way people play their characters with each other. MMORPGs are frankly an awful medium to truly role-play. Why is that? It is because you have zero control over the rules of the world. In WoW, you can't role-play yourself as a wizard similar to Gandalf, wielding a long sword and a magic staff...the game doesn't let you. This fact kills all motivation for me to role-play. Now I am only playing a compromised role allowed by the game in question and not one bound only by my imagination. It's just a really limited medium for role-playing.

Most people come here to play a game with people. People like to communicate in terms they each understand. The seek commonality for companionship. That being said, I have no problem with an RP server. But I can't stand people in a regular server who give me attitude for killing there role-play experience because I just called him ‘Short-buser’ for doing something incredibly stupid and getting us all killed, particularly when there is an RP server alternative. If there is no RP server, well then I am sorry, but I will not adopt a cumbersome means of game play to satisfy someone’s need to escape reality...go meditate or something.

Most of the aspects you've mentions involved how the game and the NPCs react to you. Indeed, this was a very kewl aspect of Fable. But how exactly can you reward someone for playing a game with a certain mindset? Role-playing is a mindset; you are deliberately breaking from reality for a short time to live another life. If you enjoy it, great, but please don't start tinkering with the games so that it's forced one way or the other. Form a guild with like-minded people and have fun, you can ignore the rest of us who want to complain about the bills, or whatever. The point is if you really want to Role-play, MMORPGs are the worse possible medium for it. You would honestly enjoy a game of D&D with some friends, where you and yours set the only rules.


Garrett Fuller: Well Frank in some way you have helped my point along. MMORPGs are the worst place to role play. My question is what are players and game companies doing to change that?

Eventually the formula for MMOs will start to evolve. The next generation of systems that is coming out heralds the next generation of video games for both consoles and PCs. The reason I think this is an important debate is because games are starting to become all about loot and numbers and not about what this genre started out as, role playing. Players and developers alike should look for new reasons to be an elf, dwarf, orc, pirate, smuggler, star pilot, bounty hunter, and jedi, whatever your choice may be.

So it’s time for you, the players, to give us your thoughts. Do you like the currently lack of role-playing in MMORPGs today? Or would you like to see more material that helps you get your character past just a template of stats? Let us know!


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