Method Gamers

Method Gamers
A Roleplayer in Azeroth

Will Hindmarch | 31 Jan 2006 11:03
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In theory, MMORPGs capture the true spirit of table-top RPGs by granting players the freedom to roam a fantasy world and interact with a vast cast of ever-changing characters. This is, in many ways, what D&D promised back in the day (and what it challenged the DM to deliver). World of Warcraft delivers this with a clean focus. Floon Beetle, Lead Production Artist on Lord of the Rings Online supposes interaction between players puts the RP in MMORPG. It's hard to disagree. Yet these games don't really capture the crackling improvisational power of a great table-top RPG session. So, what do they do? I had to find out, which meant I had to play an MMORPG longer than it took me to get sick of killing rats in EverQuest.

Like a lot of people, my first MMORPG (for keeps) was World of Warcraft. Exploring it over the past few weeks has had me questioning my definitions. The game is instant fun. It instantly delivers the simple joy of killing monsters and taking their stuff. It expertly grants the ancient thrill of exploring a fantastic land and meeting its people. And it does all this without tasking a DM with number-wrangling and paper-herding. Nice.

My gut reaction: It's still not an RPG. The immediate interaction between the Storyteller and the player is missing. My secret confession: I don't care, I'm having fun. My sudden epiphany: It's an RPG.

I found it in the interaction of the players in my guild. Like many RPG players, they were gathered together because they each wanted to play the game, to advance their characters and imagine dramatic adventures, but conversations often turned away from the game and to '80s movies or stories from work. Players wandered off when they felt like it to do their own thing. They got together to chat as much as to play.

So, here's the thing: World of Warcraft doesn't deliver what I play RPGs to get, but it delivers what I often get when I play RPGs. It doesn't scratch the same itch as a table-top RPG, but it's close. Now, after I get home from my table-top games, I stay up too late and play online. If you want to group up and chat about Aliens or The Temple of Doom, I'm about to start a new human Paladin alt. I'll call him Myels.

Will Hindmarch is new at this. He is also the developer for Vampire: The Requiem at White Wolf Game Studio.

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