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Posted: Dec 30th 2011 9:22PM (Unverified) said

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MMOs are one of the most hampered and crippled mediums for RP, if you take things as presented, and that's a real shame. The epiphany that increased my immersive enjoyment of the game a thousandfold (in WoW) was taking the gameworld as background noise and context to the stories and interactions between live people. Euphemism and common sense can bridge in the realities of the MMO you're playing into these stories, but ultimately the only organic RP experience you're going to get in an MMO is that which you find between players, which unfortunately plays right into the hands of one of the most unfortunate but necessary circular truths of this kind of RP (and something I've stated about LARPing the the past) :

The problem with and reality of MMO RP (and LARPs) is that the product are the customers, who obviously aren't mandated to be the product, seeing as they are customers.

As a result of this, my recommendation to most MMO RPers is to enjoy the hardcoded product for its hardcodedness, and take RP as it comes, and if it doesn't come, there are many factors that could be in play, and few of them (albeit, those few are pretty important) are things you yourself can control. People that "pay to RP" are in trouble, people that "Pay to play a game where RP may exist if you line up with the community" are, by and large, much happier, I find.

Posted: Dec 30th 2011 9:42PM Deliverator said

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Great points Eliot.
I think what I'd do as a solution would be to have a developer created story, but make it one that the players have to seek out or go to rather than stand in their way. Let them find out through whispers in the Inn, or evidence found in inanimate objects (that don't grant quests) and don't penalize them from finding out from other players, ie they shouldn't be turned away from the Royal even just because they don't have the quest yet.

The best fiction is just a degree or two away from reality - even in a fantasy setting. If they need to kill a bunch of stuff to gain skill, then have the mobs drop a material they need to get their armor made or something. There are way too many infestation excuses in MMOs. The initial progression of the game should just mirror what say, a farm boy would have to do to get off the farm. If they don't want to get off the farm, then let them farm. They'll get bored and try to figure out what's going on - don't point them there, but have rewards ready when they get close.

Also, and this is huuuuge, make damn good and sure that objects in the game act like their real world counterparts. Chairs should be sit-downable. Doors should open and close, fires should be able to be lit and put out - interactivity is what differentiates a movie from a game and I think it's the combination of all of the little bits of interactivity that give a game the feeling of being a world. Characters shouldn't have to say *Eliot sits down*

Back to the story part - before devs try to even think about some fantastical adventure in their world, they need to set up the world. Most lands have some sort of government, put that in. Food needs to get from one place to another - put that in. When devs start with just a story or theme, the worlds tend to just feel like paths surrounded by valleys - like the world happened because of elements of the story instead of the story taking place based on elements in the world.

Finally, if your population isn't mature enough to handle FFA PvP, then at least leave on non-damaging combat animations, sounds and special effects all the time. The reason social items are so fun is that your character does something that others can actually see. One trend I've seen in games lately that I really like is my character laughing when I type LOL in chat - I'd put in a ton more of that, but limit the combat animations to responding when you're in RP chat so as not to interfere during a battle.

Just a couple ideas, not a holistic system.

Posted: Dec 31st 2011 9:35AM BigAndShiny said

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@Deliverator

But maybe players who cant play for 400 hours a month dont want to start as a farmboy and spend 6 months until they can become a low-level hero? Maybe they dont want to walk for 3 hours to get to the armor maker? Some people who dont work/go to school/have families can do that, but the rest of us just don't!
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Posted: Dec 31st 2011 12:50PM Deliverator said

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@BigAndShiny
sounds like you need a different hobby. MMOs are time consuming.
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Posted: Dec 31st 2011 11:51AM (Unverified) said

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Reading this article, Jef's, and your previous one, makes me think of my first MMO, Shadowbane. There was a background lore, and several RP guilds on the server, and basically no story (a attempts at GM run events, but they generally ended badly).

And yet we had all the elements of a good story - bad guys, rogues, alliances, doubtful allies, tensions, personal vendettas, etc. None of it, of course, paced and refined out like a "well told story." Some of it came from RPers, a lot from others just playing to crush! I'm not trying to make it sound ideal (SB had a lot of design and implementation issues), but the general environment plus the lore created a good dynamic to rp if you wished.

What might be really cool if you took a game like GW2, removed the cliche Destroy-the-World baddies, but turned the focus to making even more dynamic the, ahem, dynamic events (which are really only semi-dynamic, just complex branching scripted events). Thus, instead of everyone having to pretend around the fact everyone else did the same world saving storyline, its a world of ebb and flow.

I think throw in some sort of virtue system with the above (akin to maybe Ultima's virtues, but reworked a bit to cover more ground) - that not just a dialog option between the red or blue path of points, but your actions in the various events also effect - you can have an environment for deep RPers, lite-RPers (more like me), and even those who care less, but might be happy that their actions speak for them.

Hmmm, I hope that all made sense...

Posted: Dec 31st 2011 12:14PM (Unverified) said

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@(Unverified) (me)

I forgot to add in one of my points which tied parts of the post together - its a matter of what kind of story are you looking for. If you feel the story must be well polished and designed - ie the drama comes at the right moment, tensions are built up at the right pace, etc - the of course you have to go with something strongly driven from outside the players (writer, GM), and the more the players become actors reading a script.

On the other end, you can stories that are more "realistic" - twists and turns happen due to freeform player decisions, which rarely (or randomly) happen at a point where a good writer/storyteller would put them. And, to be brief, there's a whole range between those two points. Maybe there's a sweetspot between them, but I think that spot can vary a lot from player to player - which means no group of MMO devs are ever going to find a universal one. Tho, these days, games tend to settle far closer to the highly scripted.
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Posted: Dec 31st 2011 12:23PM Ergonomic Cat said

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Obligatory "SW:TOR?"

TOR has a ton of story - it really does. It's hard to get in to it without spoilers, but suffice to say that even my wife, who hardly listens to the stories, knows who the major antagonist is in her class story.

Also, The Secret World looks poised to answer a number of these issues (especially the environmental aspects), if Ragnar and crew do it right.

Posted: Jan 6th 2012 4:50PM (Unverified) said

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@Ergonomic Cat
SW:TOR tells the story to you. You don't roleplay. Picking between a few options isn't the same as being able to freely roleplay. Being told a story isn't nearly the same as being free to create one. The previous article already explained why developer-created story has it's merits. This is a continuation about player-driven story and its importance.
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Posted: Jan 6th 2012 4:55PM Ergonomic Cat said

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Sure. But TOR is far ahead at least. I'd wager you could ask 10 random players in TOR "what's your character like?" and at least 8 would have some kind of answer. "He just wants money, but won't hurt kids" or "she pi ks all the good choices, except she hates twi'leks" or the like. Not huge, but people at least think of TOR chars as a personality, rather than "my character is a subtlety rogue."

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