114: World of Warcraft Killed My Inner Actor

World of Warcraft Killed My Inner Actor

"My friends and I ended that reminiscing conversation on a bittersweet note: 'I miss roleplaying.' But no one felt compelled to bring some back into our online lives. We moved on to talk of instances, the latest gear we'd gotten, character progression and real life.

"I'm just me when I do these things, and so are my friends. We're not roleplaying, we're just roll playing."

Nova Barlow recalls how World of Warcraft Killed my Inner Actor.

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I wish this didn't ignore the existence of the relatively small but relevant mush/mux/mu* scene.

The conlusion of this article is *very* wrong imo.

It is exactly that kind of attitude(the one shown at the end of the article) which makes sure that roleplayers will never have a real online roleplaying game. The solution to this problem is kinda simple - dont play the games that dont support the roleplayers. By just saying 'we wont ever have roleplay in online games, so adjust your expectations' we clearly show the publishers that there isnt really an interested in RP anyway.

As a former seed player I know for a fact that roleplaying in an online game *can* work. The roleplay in that game was amazing - it was amazing becuase the game was *based* on roleplaying and not your average mindless MMO gameplay.
There are other games currently in development with a strong focus on RP as well - addillion comes to mind.

There is hope for roleplayers and online games - adjusting your expectations to what an online game is, is not the way to go imo.

RP isn't a server tag; it's not a ruleset; it's a concept and a mindset. I would submit that WoW is the absolute LAST place for anyone interested in RP, due to the intense focus on the end game, but even so, RP is possible. While I agree that time-sink end game content means that more time is spent in real-speak for the convienience of strategy, no one is ramming end game content -- or any content, quests or the like -- down your throat. I play Vanguard (yes, I know!) and belong to an RP friendly guild. We take the time to RP, even if we have the desire or feel pressure to be doing "content related" things.

I think that anyone who claims that you can't RP in MMOs isn't able to divide the mechanics of the game (the quests, the marketplace, the progression necessary to reach the end-game content) from the spirit of the game (the RP in MMORPG). Some choose to focus on one or the other, but by getting oneself off of the level treadmill and accepting some downtime, you can have the best of both worlds...although it'll take longer.

I was a little put off by the conclusion to this article. I've never played WoW, but if it's anything like the countless MMOs before it, what did the author honestly expect?

I'm still having a blast with the Neverwinter Nights (the first one, from Bioware) role-playing servers. If you want good role-playing in a MMO-like environment, that's the best game I can suggest. The server worlds are designed from the ground up by role-playing enthusiasts, to the point where "roll players" are turned off by them.

Arguably, role-players are not playing a game; there are no losers in role-playing; there is no set condition for victory. Role-players engage in an interactive, collaborative story; that is all it really is. It's hardly the criteria that will sell millions of subscriptions... which is why WoW and all the others before it will never truly appeal to role-players.

WoW is not a niche role-playing product; NWN is.

Obviously I missed the memo that said that EQ-style MMORPGs were the only viable ones.

Just because the vast majority of these games have chosen a near-identical template of grouping, levelling and raiding, doesn't mean that other games can't provide a satisfying environment for roleplaying. The problem with WoW and its like is that any roleplaying is done in spite of the game. There are few ways to customise your character. Progression at max level is defined by gear so, as the article mentions, everyone ends up looking the same. Even basic clothing is level-dependant.

What online roleplaying needs is a MMORPG that incorporates highly-customisable characters (maybe even content generation tools) and player-run organisations. Imagine the spawn of Neverwinter Nights and Second Life. Actually design something with roleplaying in mind. The MMO market is huge now, surely there's enough room for a real roleplaying game there.

The conclusion of this article was so ridiculous I'm surprised it was published. Of course there are still good roleplaying games on the Internet - just because the author hasn't played any of them doesn't mean they don't exist. The best roleplay, by far, is on MU*s. Roleplaying via text is like writing a collaborative novel and can be incredibly immersive. The quality of most MU* roleplayers is pretty incredible, perhaps because to have the most fun you need to be able to write well. I had some really amazing experiences in World of Darkness MUSHes.

I think it's a lot harder to roleplay in a graphical environment - in fact, I've never had any desire to roleplay in EQ or WoW, both of which I've played extensively. I think it's mainly because what your imagination comes up with while reading and writing the story in a MUSH is a million times better than any game graphic. Plus game graphics are still pretty clunky looking and unrealistic. The only graphical MMORPG I've found that has some really good roleplay is EVE Online. It may be partially because you never see avatars, just spaceships. EVE also has an older and smarter population than WoW (the nature of EVE attracts a lot of intelligent adults whereas WoW attracts pretty much everyone over age 5) and those qualities generally make for high quality roleplay. Plus there's only one server and it has 40,000 players so there are plenty of different groups to choose to play with.

Anyway, I didn't intend to write all that but my point is there's plenty of roleplay on the Internet and it's very silly to say roleplay is dead. You just have to look for it.

I don't see why it's impossible to make endgame mechanics inseparable from roleplay, even in a really huge MMOG. Here's one I cooked up today.

Let's say the level cap is 10. At level 10, you become a raid boss. You can choose to accept raids from any group in the opposing faction, and even challenge some groups. They have to hunt you down and murder you, and then they are rewarded with the carrot. If they lose, you get the reward instead. You have to set up your (instanced) location with traps and such. You can keep your own hideout, and position its entrance anywhere you want in the game world, and it becomes visible to any group coming to get you. Hell, even set up traps all over the countryside which are invisible to people not raiding your dungeon. Heckle them along the way or wait for them to come to you.

Levels 1-6 or so are based around going and fighting bosses. You can stop at level 6 if you want, or keep going - maybe even let you keep a copy of the character for raiding and another one for being raided. Levels 7-9 are about gaining the power to prepare to be a boss, and once you get it at level 10, people come and kill the shit out of you.

Toss in some other variations on that. Let people across factions maintain RP groups. One person gets to be a designated villain. You can have raids that are barely more than an imbalanced duel, or giant-size ones that require multiple play sessions over the course of a month. Maybe give the bosses a DM kit.

It ain't much, compared to proper writing, but it'd be a great start.

As the recruitment director for an RP corp on Eve Online, all I can say is that this article may be true about WoW, but it is tragically incorrect if you try to apply it to all MMOs. The roleplaying scene in Eve is fairly large, vibrant, and competes on equal footing with even the best of the "non-roleplaying" corps and alliances. Eve has the advantage of a rich and constantly-expanded background, and an environment where players can have significant impact upon the game world itself, which I think is what may be lacking in something like WoW where the content is static. The nature of Eve allows complex interactions between the various roleplaying corporations and with the game world at large, and the free-for-all nature also tends to reduce the need for elaborately constructed and artificial scenarios to roleplay in. The drama in Eve is real -- when the Amarr Curatores Veritatis Alliance crushed the Minmatar Ushra'Khan presence in the Providence region, it wasn't play-acting, it was a real, tooth-and-nails fight that changed the face of the game in a major way.

Perhaps it would have been better if the author of the article had said roleplaying was dead in the static, grinding MMOs that have become the norm these days, but then someone could have said roleplaying was nonexistent in the MUDs of the early-to-mid 90s as well; they would have been neglecting standouts like Armageddon and Harshlands, however, as well as the variety of other MOOs, MUSHes, and other online games that encouraged (or, in the case of many, enforced) a strong and diverse roleplaying community. I suspect that Eve is not the only MMO out there with a strong roleplaying community as well.

Miss Chimera,

You should honestly be ashamed of yourself, I say half seriously and half tongue-in-cheek. If Kaylor couldn't kill RP for you, WoW definitely shouldn't have been able to! As to the article itself... my point of view is this;

Players (roleplayers or otherwise) ALLOW games to kill their enjoyment in favor of pursuing end game content. The idea of blaming game mechanics (optional ones, at that!) for killing your RP spirit is just ridiculous. In WoW, in UO, Everquest or ANY other MMO, nearly 80% of the content is optional. Quests, NPC interaction at all, Instances, Raids, Epics (my highest level WoW character is only level 40), etc. All optional.

"'I miss roleplaying.' But no one felt compelled to bring some back into our online lives. We moved on to talk of instances, the latest gear we'd gotten, character progression and real life."

This is not the game's fault. The players opted to 'move on to talk of instances...'. WoW doesn't force endgame.

I've said it repeatedly, already so I'll wrap up. I hate when people blame games for things like this. The game is a tool, and I know that you know this. I wish more people understood it to a higher level. So much is possible, almost regardless of the world in which you play. So what if things only affect a small percentage of the population? That small population are the ones who care enough to be involved, to be affected! I wouldn't be half as interested in RP'ing online if not for those who dedicated their time and efforts to RP and quests not made of game content... that only affected a small corner of Sosaria. Nor would I be half as disappointed in the view presented here.


This is not the game's fault.

Actually, I'd have to disagree with you there. Although really, I believe it's more of a half and half situation. Half-WoW's fault, half trying to play WoW as something it's not.

Systems aren't just the environment that you're playing in, they're guidelines for how you play the game. WoW, like almost every other MMO, focuses on the endgame because that's where the players are going to be spending the majority of their time playing. Everything is shaped to improve that experience, whereas comparatively little is offered to improve the roleplaying experience. Everyone goes on the same quests, performing the same random mix of good and evil deeds. The emote system is stock standard for an MMO. Finally, and this is my biggest complaint, character appearance is almost purely dependent on gear.

Here's an important thing to remember. Yes, all of those things that you mentioned are optional. But given your list, you might as well throw the game subscription in with that. If you aren't going to use the game as an actual game, wouldn't it be better to go find roleplaying somewhere else? Somewhere free, and with robust roleplaying tools?

My point is that WoW does force endgame. WoW doesn't prevent you from avoiding it, but by not truly supporting the other gameplay areas, the result is the same.

My point is also that roleplaying in WoW may be fun, but it's far from an ideal arena for it.

Finally, I'm confused by what you mean by 'understood it to a higher level'? What are you trying to say there?


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