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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 3:20PM Ghostspeaker said

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"This one really surprised me, particularly coming from one of Massively's most creative writers and our resident roleplaying expert. Again, maybe it goes back to my sandbox affinity, or maybe I've just had the good fortune of hanging around with lots of talented folk, but you can't really make a statement like that unless you've actually played with "most" players. How many is "most," anyway?"

You don't have to actually play with most players to know this. All you have to do is look at games that have player generated content like CoH or STO. Or read Fanfiction.net. While there aren't exact polled numbers to throw around there is a preponderance of evidence in Eliot's favor in the places I mentioned. It's a considerably larger sample size than the people you happen to play with.

The fact is that, as much as our culture likes to believe the myth that writing and storytelling in general is some kind of instinctual ability, it's a skill like any other. You don't just pop out of the womb an awesome storyteller. You have to practice and work at it to be any good at it. The vast majority of people (gamers and other fandoms included) haven't done this, so while there might be crapton of people with really cool IDEAS for stories out there (coming up with great ideas does seem to be something that anyone can do from time to time), their ability to realize those ideas as actual content is extremely limited.

Sure, there are a few Christopher Paolinis out there, but the sad truth is that most can only dream of someday reaching the storytelling ability required to write your average D&D novel.

Posted: Dec 30th 2011 5:52PM Jef Reahard said

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@Ghostspeaker

I dunno, to me it's pointless to debate that without a) numbers and b) a concrete definition of what is "good" story content. And of course the latter is impossible to arrive at because everyone will have a different opinion.

I can tell you that I've read plenty of fanfic that was as good or better than what's on offer from "pro" MMO storytellers. Even if you were quantifiably correct, and the vast majority of player generated content did suck, the fact that some of it is good is reason enough to make the toolsets available (particularly when they cost virtually nothing to implement since versions of them are already in place for devs to use).

The last thing this genre needs is a closed loop in terms of creative ideas and the ability to express them. There's plenty of that going around already.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 6:02PM Dblade said

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I think Jef would have to explain then why the poster child for player-driven stories, EVE Online, has virtually no roleplaying, and no story related to the actual world of the game. My experience is that sandbox games tend to have little to no player driven stories as stories, and tend to just be metagame or out of character stuff, like how Lord British got assasinated because someone found a bug, or how some person disbanded an EVE alliance by metagaming an alt into the command structure.

Or who ganked who, or who stole from who. More like rival crime gangs feuding than any real story.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 6:16PM Jef Reahard said

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@Dblade

Virtually no roleplaying?

Eh, see, that's the kind of generalizing that I was talking about in the article. How much is "virtually none," and how did you arrive at that set of data?

I've played EVE off and on since 2005 and every time I stay for more than six weeks it's because of interesting roleplay (though admittedly it has been a while). Every time I leave it's because the RP has played out and I get bored looking at the ass-end of a spaceship or a market window for hours on end.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 6:19PM Jef Reahard said

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@Jef Reahard

Also, wtb a Joystiq edit button, as I wasn't finish with my previous comment.

I'm not saying EVE is all about RP and story, clearly there's a huge section of the populace that's just into blowing stuff up and schadenfreude, etc. RP is there though, and like any other MMO, you have to make the effort to find it (or even better, to create it).
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 6:44PM Borick said

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@Ghostspeaker "the sad truth is that most can only dream of someday reaching the storytelling ability required to write your average D&D novel. "

So only the best should tell stories in these games?

I won't argue the obvious value of a skilled and directed narrative framework. I would argue that I perceive an ongoing shift in the genre toward highly engineered 'processed' content over improvements that make it more fun and intuitive to move around and exchange social context with other people in an online world.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 7:18PM Ghostspeaker said

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@Jef Reahard

I've read fanfic that rivals professionally published award-winning literature, but I've read a whole lot more (or at least started to read before surfing past in disgust) that don't even rival the anime-inspired vampire stories my 13 year old stepdaughter writes. It seems like you remember the good stuff but you ignore the sea of drivel that you have to wade through in order to find those gems.

In response to your second and third comments, if you have to look that hard for it it's not common enough to be a significant portion of what players are doing. If RP's as common as you seem to imply you shouldn't be able to throw a rock without running into some. Unfortunately I've yet to play any MMOs that were like that. The closest I've come is the Landroval server on LotRO, which has a truly amazing and, in my experience, unique roleplaying community for an MMO. But that's one server on one MMO, and I've played a LOT of different MMOs.

To be totally honest with you I agree that PGC is enjoyable and should be made available. I just think that arguing it from the position that it produces floods of high quality content for others to consume is silly at best and disingenuous at worst.

I think a better argument would be that the act of creating your own content can be fun if implemented correctly. That's where the true value of it comes from, in my opinion. Players on CoH love making stuff on Mission Architect, and it's kept several people I know coming back to the game even when nothing else in the game really held their attention.

That particular example also shows that you don't have to argue that there are loads of RPers and other player content generators out there. The kinds of tools they need are rare enough in the MMO space that when an MMO provides them the ones who enjoy them tend to be fiercely loyal to the game that supplies it, even when they might not enjoy other parts of the game. A solid core of fiercely loyal players can keep a game going for a good long time. As you're so fond of sandbox games I shouldn't need to provide examples of that particular fact.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 7:34PM Jef Reahard said

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@Ghostspeaker

Not sure where I said there's a flood of high quality content (or roleplay for that matter). My argument is that even a single good player storyteller is worth having the tools for, particularly when all the dev outfits that are held up as narrative badasses produce stuff that is, imo, average at best.

/shrug
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 7:46PM Ghostspeaker said

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@Borick

"So only the best should tell stories in these games?"

Of course not. But not because it's so important that I be able to play the crappy missions/dungeons/whatever that some random internet person threw together one bored evening. What's important is that the person making said crappy content had a good time doing so, and that s/he will come back to do it again and thus keep playing the game and generating revenue for the devs to continue improving other aspects of the game the rest of us can enjoy. The occasional diamond in the rough is a bonus, but not the main source of player generated content's true contribution to the health of an MMO in my opinion.

As for the shift toward "highly engineered processed content", well, I'm not quite sure I understand what you mean by that. But if anything most of the big name upcoming MMOs have significant amounts of "player-drivenness" to them. TSW is shaping up to be extremely non-linear, GW2 is as well though not quite so much, and I don't think I need to explain Archeage to you. SWTOR is pretty much the only one I can think of that comes even close to what you're describing.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 8:17PM Ghostspeaker said

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@Jef Reahard

"Not sure where I said there's a flood of high quality content (or roleplay for that matter)."

You didn't explicitly, but you said you were surprised at Eliot's statement that most players suck at storytelling which implies you think that most players are great storytellers. If that's not what you think then why bring it up at all in your rebuttal? Why rebut something you don't disagree with?

As for one good storyteller being worth the developer time and money required to make the systems necessary for players to create that one good story, well, we'll have to agree to disagree there. It might be worth it to you, and to maybe a few other people, but from a developer perspective more justification is required, and they're really the ones that really need convincing.

I also don't see anyone arguing that MMO devs are "narrative badasses" either. There are a few games that do story extremely well (LotRO, SWTOR, and post-Cataclysm WoW being the main ones IMO) but most are mediocre at best. Unfortunately most PGC doesn't even aspire to mediocrity, so even the lackluster offerings in most MMOs still beat out PGC in terms of quality.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 8:58PM (Unverified) said

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"And thusly Ghostspeaker smote the overly-defensive author and reigned over the article's comment section, and there was peace there and in other comment sections, at least for a short time."

Just kidding, chaps, Jef had some good points in his article.
He sounds like he's looking for a fight half the time though. Probably takes criticisms a bit too hard though.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 9:03PM DarkWalker said

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@Jef Reahard
"""
I can tell you that I've read plenty of fanfic that was as good or better than what's on offer from "pro" MMO storytellers. Even if you were quantifiably correct, and the vast majority of player generated content did suck, the fact that some of it is good is reason enough to make the toolsets available (particularly when they cost virtually nothing to implement since versions of them are already in place for devs to use).
"""

For non-MMO games, I agree; making the creation tools available to the players is often easy (though it's not unheard for the tools to need to be polished before being released to the public), and a single really inspired and talented user can breath new life into an aging game (look at Neverwinter Nights, Morrowind, Oblivion, the new Fallout games, X3, and even some FPS games like Half Life; all of those made available at least some development tools, and as a result got good and plentiful enough user created content to greatly extend their lifes).

For MMOs, though, it's a thorny issue. Unless the publisher let players use the MMO's server software, there is simply no point in granting players access to the original development tools. Allowing players to create content in a MMO is a quite harder proposition, often requiring tools integrated into the game itself, server-side storage of the custom content, perhaps even some kind of moderation. It's a lot more work than just releasing the tools (though I do agree that, often, it's still worth it).

Some publishers seem to be against granting players the capability of modifying the game on principle, though.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 10:13PM Jef Reahard said

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@(Unverified)

I don't mind being criticized at all, in fact I enjoy the debate which is one reason I answer comments for all of my columns and quite a few news posts. I don't quite get it when that translates into being "defensive," though, of course I'm going to argue for what I wrote, lol.

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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 10:22PM Jef Reahard said

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@Ghostspeaker

"You didn't explicitly, but you said you were surprised at Eliot's statement that most players suck at storytelling which implies you think that most players are great storytellers. If that's not what you think then why bring it up at all in your rebuttal? Why rebut something you don't disagree with?"

It doesn't imply that at all. Generalizing by saying "most" players suck at storytelling is a stretch based on my personal experience. Most of the players I have gamed with over the years do not suck at it. Most of your hypothetical random sample may well, I can't say. Either way, it's subjective and ill-defined and therefore useless in a debate, which is why I rebutted it.

At this point, I feel like you and I are splitting hairs, so I'll just agree with you on the agreeing to disagree bit, lol.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 11:24PM Braiks said

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@Dblade You don't seem to have played EvE at all. It has some of the best role-playing and stories you will ever stumble upon in an MMO, example: http://wiki.eveonline.com/en/wiki/Great_War
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Posted: Dec 31st 2011 2:49AM Dblade said

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@Braiks I played EVE for a year and a half. there was no RP at all when they did that war, none of those corps were rp corps. And stuff like that sounds much better written up on a wiki page than actually playing it. EVE's stories are like I said, crime gangs fighting each other, and making a history out of that. They could easily do it in any other RP, and it has nothing to do with the game's lore. When CVA died, I think any real RP did with it.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 4:17PM theBeast said

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I'm a roleplayer. I also adventure into thought exercises about ideal RP conditions.

I'd like to comment and query on an excerpt from the article.

"All the roleplayers I know choose one game over another based almost entirely on the RP-(un)friendliness of the MMO mechanics."

To me these things are extensive emotes, world interaction (sitting in chairs, lighting torches, etc.), and character customization.

What other MMO game mechanics would you say draws RPers to an MMO? ( I realize you listed some factors, but I am specifically asking about mechanics.)

All ideas are welcome. I thank you all very much in advance. =)

Posted: Dec 30th 2011 5:42PM Royalkin said

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@theBeast

There are five major factors that I look for in an MMORPG. First, is the world open, is it living, and am I free to travel to the tiniest corner of that world uninhibited by the terrain or other developer interference (creatures and other enemies notwithstanding)?

Second, are there viable options within the game other than combat, and were those options given the same attention and polish that combat was? Also, how do those options encourage player interdependency (professions) and community?

Third, does the game have a crafting system. If so, how much depth does the crafting system have? Are crafted items superior to looted items? Does the crafting mechanic allow tinkering and experimentation? Also, how do materials fit into the crafting system. Must the player complete dungeons to gather materials, or can they be gathered? Do the materials have variability in quality?

Fourth, the game must be skill based. Therefore, what is the mechanic that allows players to progress in those skills? Time, Experience, both?

Fifth, what is the demeanor of the community? What is its level of maturity? Are veteran players interested in helping newer players?

There are more factors, but these are generally the first things I look at.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 5:53PM Deliverator said

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@theBeast
I've been thinking a lot about this lately with the introduction of the Dungeon Creator in EQ2. I've been building a role-play space rather than populating it with monsters. I'll try to illustrate my train of thought. Hopefully it'll make sense.
1) What if I could create portals to my other RP instances and those of my friends?
2) What if my entire guild had the rights to grant entry/ ban players to/from our little network of instances?
3) What if we were given control over the rules within our little network?

Well, since it would mean we could just toss out the dicks we could turn off all of the anti-griefing safety features. People could scuffle, gift each other, steal from each other and affect each others' characters in a much more substantial way then typing *Xiola knocks Jake to the ground for the insult*

I think allowing players ownership over their own areas and allowing them to self police might answer a lot of peoples' problems with PvP in general. If anti-social players could simply be kicked from popular **instances** by other players the devs have an out. The jerk can grief in his lonely world phase - he doesn't lose anything except for the ability to interact with the player base that can behave itself. We could turn back on collision control for combat strategy reasons instead of having it off because jerks block doorways. People could fight because there was a RP reason to, not because they were forced into it by spawn campers.

I guess in my opinion, the problem with RP is that the worlds aren't interactive enough. Right now they can't be because there is a high enough percentage of players who would abuse the ability to move a box around. I think this could be solved by letting players control entrance to instanced duplicates of the world.
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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 5:58PM Jef Reahard said

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@theBeast

World interaction and emotes are musts for me as well. Another big one is crafting (particularly crafting that is a viable alternative to combat gameplay and not simply a design afterthought). Although that could fall under the economy one that I listed in the OP.
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