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Toolmaker

How to bring back role-playing in MMO's

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I was reading this tread: http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=334675 in the lounge, and I think Zorak made a very good point. He said that in UO players were basicly allowed to do anything in the beginning, because most of it was social-engineering. He also said that most MMO's todays are fully geared at the little kids that hate dying and want to spend 100% of their killing monsters. I think he's right. Almost none of the 'modern' MMO's out there is really geared toward ROLE-PLAYING, but at hack 'n slash. So, how could game designers make a game more attractive to role-players, instead of to the average 12 year old that doesn't want to invest effort in building a character? From my point of view, things like adding houses, banks, lockers will help partially. Also, making death have more impact on players could affect this. More than just losing experience points. Losing items/money the player is carrying. This way, players are more carefull with their characters and guilds have a goal again, instead of being private group-chats. And of course, adding more quests than in the average MMO. And perhaps player quests. Players go to a job agency and post a quest for items or other things. Others pick up these quests and deliver the final goods off at the job agency, receive their pay and the player who posted the quest picks up the goods at the job agency. Toolmaker

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Hay Toolmaker, I remember early UO as well. I only have time to discuss one aspect, but I think its an important one! The interface...

It made such a difference to the dynamic of the game in so many ways that encouraged Role Playing..

Firstly im sure the psychological effect of seeing your character actually gives more immersion than a first person perspective. I never actively Role Played but I would often find myself expressing my own emotions through the character because I could see him!
Text above character heads, instead of a chat bar. Conversation flows, and the people having that conversation are players AND the Avatars. Chat bars remove character ownership of the conversation. Global chat is a crime.

And that highlights my next point, if developers really want to create a role playing experience, any medium the player uses for communication/combat/other actions, needs to follow the rules of Role Playing. This is far more difficult to achieve if your players are in first person, because everything becomes literal.
In third person, there is always room for the player to re-interpret, the game is not presenting a 'fact', but suggesting it, open to interpretation.

Ok I skewed a little bit, but here are some down-to-earth thoughts...

Firstly I don't think that punishment for death is ever justified, if its a fantasy universe and the player is there for fun and relaxation. simply dieing is enough punishment. Death penalties which leverage systems and rules beyond the scope of the actual Character, are obtrusive and damaging. Ultima Onlines, loose all your loot was fine. In a host of games make you loose experience, that implies all you should care about is experience in the first place!

I'm not a subscriber at the moment, but.. I love my houses in UO, each one has a different style and purpose. Me and my avatar worked long and hard getting our sh*t together to decorate those houses. Houses are great.

I think the best way to encourage Role-Playing (or just more human interaction) is to give the player ownership of the experience. If a MMORPG is trying to be a Role-playing world it shouldn't presume what the player intends to do with that world. That just results in hundreds of little clones running around using the interface in the only way they can.

[Edited by - DogCity on August 5, 2005 11:04:43 AM]

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How about adding a lot quests where you do not need to kill anything at all, especially for newbies. Having the first few hours of gameplay all about roleplaying should put off those 12-year olds.

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I actually never considered the idea that if you see your character in 3rd person you might be more inclined to roleplay...thought-provoking comment.

Im wondering if an easier system of emotes...or using emotes in conjunction with speaking with NPCs might encourage more roleplaying?

Say you use the shake hands emote when you meet someone...or you use the laugh during some dialog to convey meaning.

This topic comes up a lot and there never seems to be a definitive answer unfortunately.

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My brains pretty broke right now so I can't offer much insight.

However, if you want to have a serious discussion then I'd suggest dropping the '12 year old' notion. 12 year olds make up a vast minority of the MMORPG player base. What you see in the current MMORPG is largely due to that is what people want.

Not saying people don't want 'roleplaying' but there hasn't been a pure roleplaying solution implemented yet that is widely consumable. There is a reason why MMORPGs are the way they are, and UO changed. It's just evolution. Making a small (population wise) hardcore roleplaying MMO wouldn't be that hard , compared to actually designing one that would appeal to a mass market.

But I suppose that is the point of this thread, as there are already plenty of SMALL hardcore roleplaying MMOs.

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Something like a large-scale version of NWN online, where DMs can create quests on the fly and engage the players in realtime conversation.

Also somebody please figure out a way to make mmorpgs without chatwindows that scroll at the speed of light due to the number of "FOR SALE: 1 USELESS ITEM" messages.

The problem with a larger playerbase is that it becomes more difficult to enforce roleplaying rules (ie keep ooc chat to minimum)

my 2c

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I think there are a couple things that need to be done in order to make role playing easier to do in MMORPGs, though I still think that you should have the option not to role play. Like have a normal server and a role playing server. These options really work for both seeing as they help immerse the player.

1) Make community paramount. This is the one thing that I think is important above all things. If you don't have any feeling of comradory towards people of your faction etc, then you really can't get immersed in the game. Or, at least that is how I feel. Its one of the major reasons I left World of Warcraft.

2) Make trading more of a listing system. If you have something you want to sell, put it on the "flier". If someone is looking for items they can look at the "flier" and then whisper you about it. That would remove all those stupid for sale or looking to buy channel posts.

3) On role playing servers, actually enforce role playing. I know way too many people on WoW that decided that they would play on a role playing server because it had a lower population and then not role play.

4) If it is a PvP game then allow things that players do to affect the entire world. Give the players the freedom to change the world they play in.

--Ter'Lenth

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Firstly, I'd just like to say that I think death should actually matter. In most current games it's a minor annoyance at most, and that isn't really condusive to actually caring about a character. Now that I've got that out of the way...



To be able to roleplay effectively, players need to be able to describe the actions of the character properly, or in the case of a CRPG, the character should be able to appropriately display the actions. Unfortunately I think this mostly calls for additional animations.

Consider the simple example of walking into a crowded bar. This only involves a few actions:
-Open the door
-Enter the room

Most current games will provide only the required animations for such a scene; the door can be opened, and the character can walk (and perhaps also optionally run, and if you're lucky sneak). Now to me, roleplaying is an attempt at playing out the role of a character in a novel, and the actions I've described produce the following scene:

The door opened, and a man walked into the room.

Now, consider the following, perhaps more appealing scene:

The door banged open, and a man casually swaggered into the room.

Now, the second isn't that much of an improvement, but I think it illustrates my point; it's more descriptive of the character and the characters actions, allowing a deeper story to more easily be told. It would of course require additional animation, as there is now a requirement for players to be able to open doors suddenly/with a bang, and an additional walking animation (a casual swagger) is now required.

Basically, I think there need to be more general actions available to players so that they can really tell a story with thier characters -- be able to threaten someone with a bow drawn back rather than simply firing, be able to lean across the table or against the wall, be able to crouch to the ground and examine a trail, etc.

It's difficult to roleplay properly if you are unable to describe your actions, and in what is supposed to be a graphical medium it's not good enough to expect players to use text for this.

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I'm in the "death should be inconvenient" camp, personally. If death is too costly people will be afraid to take risks, thus less likely to go after the big bosses and engage in PvP. Instead, people will grind weak mobs until their minds go numb, lose interest in the game, then start a WoW account. Besides, there's also the technical and support issues to deal with. What if you die because the server lagged out? What if you were sabotaged Leeroy Jinkins-style? How about scammers who fool you into doing something that causes you to die so that they can loot your corpse? An mmorpg is a game. It's entertainment. I don't see a need to make it too real. If reality was so much fun then we wouldn't need games after all.

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Quote:
Original post by Kazgoroth
Firstly, I'd just like to say that I think death should actually matter. In most current games it's a minor annoyance at most, and that isn't really condusive to actually caring about a character. Now that I've got that out of the way...


I'm not entirely sure I agree with the idea that making death more important will make roleplay better. Ask yourself: Why do players die? Is it because they don't roleplay well enough? Or is it because they don't powergame well enough?

Sometimes, thinking too hard about character survival is completely detrimental to roleplay. How do you play a brash, foolhardy warrior properly if you're constantly worried about your character dying? How can you play the noble paladin who sacrifices himself by standing at the back of the party and fight off the hordes of orcs while the rest of the group flee to safety? Why risk death by fighting the trolls with normal weapons just because your character wouldn't know they can only be killed by fire?

If you punish death too hard, then powergaming takes over. A lot of well roleplayed, colourful characters will just fall by the wayside, suffering heavy penalties for repeated death, whereas those who min max to get the ultimate damage dealing combos, and make use of external information and game exploits to avoid putting themselves at risk will prosper.

The death system is something that can make a very large difference to the way players respond to the world. Personally, I'd like to see a system where actual death is incredibly rare. Perhaps even left as a player option.

On defeat you might be given two options:

1. 'Step into the light' - your character dies, permanently. Start a new character.
2. 'Return to your body' - you are still alive, but incapacitated. Fellow party members might carry you back to a suitable location to recover, or - if there aren't any party members left alive and conscious - perhaps something more interesting happens. Maybe the orcs that defeated you take you back to their cave and lock you in a cell, and you have to figure out how to break out from there, with the limited hitpoints you wake up with. Turn player failure into an opportunity to develop the character and make more interesting storylines, rather than an annoyance that must be avoided whenever possible.

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