..in which I admit the heinous truth

edited February 2008 in Story Games
I play World of Warcraft.

I don't want this to get off-topic from SG, so it'll be getting back to topics that are salient, don't worry. Yes, this is about WOW, but it's also about RPGs in a more general sense.

In fact for those who have noted my lack of participation of late online, there are several reasons for this phenomenon. But one of them is that I spend a lot of time playing WOW. It's a lot of fun, and I'll even admit, mitigates my other RPG needs to some extent.

But not all, of course. Not by a long-shot.

And this is because WOW is a very specific sort of RPG. It does what it does remarkably well. But it does so by pretty much ignoring everything else.

What does it do well? Well I won't go into too much detail here, as it's not the point of this post, but WOW provides a lot of visceral powergaming thrill. "I got a new trinket that's better than one of my old ones! Wooohooo!" And you feel like you've earned it (though...).

Anyhow, what's been really, really fascinating about immersing in WOW is the social fabric of the game. And I've immersed. I'm a Guild Master of a small guild of 65 characters that I sorta inherited from another player. Well, truth be told, my wife, through one of her characters, is the GM. But in practice I make most of the guild policy. I organize raids. I set up the rink-a-dink website. Etc.

On Doyce's wiki, of course: http://random-average.com/CrusadersOfStormwind/HomePage

How uncreatively cliche is that for a guild name? For those who've played, they'll probably guffaw.

Anyhow, what's been fascinating about interacting with the players of the game is the sorta anonymity. I say "sorta" because there's this strange phenomenon where at some point players reveal to you things about themselves.

Actually this is way more complex. It's pretty rare, I've found, for anyone to ever use their actual name. Happens occasionally, and I use mine simply because I'm rebelling against this phenomenon to some extent. But largely you know a player by the name of their character.

This is where it gets really odd. Part of what's odd about it is that nobody thinks it's odd (maybe I'm just odd). But when you refer to a player, you do it like:

"Hey Dijinn, you up to hit Shadow Labyrinths tonight?"

The player behind Dijinn, I've discovered is named Eric. Not sure if I ever learned his last name or not.

I still think of him as Dijinn, however, for the most part. Because that's how people refer to him. "Hey, can we get Dij to come on this run?"

Now the oddest parts are that this use of character name is despite the fact that the conversations are never '"In character." In fact they are usually at least metagame, and often non-game related entirely. A guildie speaking to me when I'm on as my "primary" character Silrukin (Gnome Mage 70 - Fire Spec - enchanter/engineer - some tier 5 items(BG Gladiator, mainly)), might say:

"Hey Sil, still having trouble with your kids? Can you give me a hand tonight?"

This, by itself, is not so odd. It's just that the character name is also a pseudonym for the player. OK. But there's quite simply no way to know if a person is playing "in character" or not. At least not that I've seen.

I love the fact that servers are divided into three types.

PVP - Player Vs Player - the only difference between this and a "Normal" server below is that alliance and horde can attack each other in contested areas at any time (not just when the other character is PVP). This subtle difference is important, but not what I'm discussing today.

RP - Roleplaying - I have not played hardly at all on a RP server, perhaps interestingly. But from what I've read, there seem to be no mechanical differences between this and a "Normal" server (if there are differences, somebody correct me). The only apparent difference is a social expectation that interactions will be in-character. That's according to the description. In practice, in the small amount of time I've played on these servers, I haven't seen any difference between how people interact here, and how they interact on a "Normal" server.

Normal - Isn't it wonderful to learn that roleplaying, even in a putatively role-playing game (you know, mmoRPG) is abnormal? There are more normal servers than the other two sorts, so maybe "common" would be more accurate. And maybe they mean that it's normal in that there's no social expectation set, and the rules are baseline? Or maybe they mean that the vast majority of players find actually roleplaying in a RPG to be fruity. In any case, the social expectation on a Normal server is that you interact with the player directly.

No roleplaying.

I mean, as an inveterate TTRPG player, every time some player says:

"Sil, how many kids do you have?"

I am very tempted to respond: "152... we gnomes are a prolific race."

I am not Silrukin. He's a character of mine. But most people only know me, and respond to me as Silrukin. Sil for short. I really have no idea how to sign my in-game mail.

Worse is the fact that you can have as many as ten characters on a server. Most people eventually will have at least one "Alt," short for alternate character. That is, for some reason, players identify with the character they've played most often, thinking of these characters as "primary." And all others as Alts. Do Dijinn has a character named dmg (short for damage, I assume, as he's a gnome mage, too, and we do wreak so much damage). One would typically say, "dmg is Dijinn's alt."

Interestingly, as you have no way of knowing which characters belong to which player, they have to inform you of this:

dmg: "Hey, Sil, this is Dijinn's alt here. Can you let me into the guild?"

Interestingly, in the scenario above, as a player I have no easy way to identify whether or not the character in question is, in fact, played by the same player. A clever person could discover that somebody had left a guild, and then using his character, claim that the character in question is an alt of the character that left.

The only way to be sure is to have the player log off the current character, and then log back on as their other character, and verify that the alt is, indeed, the alt.

So what am I on about here? The level of conflation of player and character here is amazing. It's probaby an artifact of evolution that it has ended up this way. But the system makes no effort whatsoever to delineate between player/player interactions, and character/character interactions. In the terms of The Big Model, this is CA incoherency at it's best. An open invitation to have My Guy Syndrome abuses occur.

And these do, in fact, happen a lot. A lot of people seem to make the assumption that if they don't know somebody, it's OK to screw them over, as long as it's in their best interest. After all, it's not a real person getting screwed over, they argue, it's just a character in a game, right? If you get riled up about it, you're taking the game too seriously.



  • edited February 2008
    ...from above.

    For instance, I had a buddy spend all day once getting enough money to purchase a bunch of ore. He needed this ore to be converted into bars, in order to make something with the bars (another engineer). He found a miner to do the smelting, and had his character give their character the ore, promising him gold in return for the work when he returned the finished bars. The miner simply took the ore, and gave him nothing back.

    From a sorta "narrativism" POV, great, a theme about caveat emptor being created. To the highly gamism oriented player (everybody on WOW, just about), this was an affront, very akin to actual real-life theivery. In fact he reported this player to the server GMs. In hope that he'd have his stuff returned to him.

    Think about that for a moment. Imagine that you're playing a TTRPG, and this same interaction happens. How many players would go to the GM and complain that they had been wronged? As a player wronged. From another POV, what player would do this to another player if he knew that the player would actually be affronted? Well, of course it happens in TTRPGs, that's My Guy Syndrome, of course.

    But the point is that, in WOW, there's never an assumption that the events happening are only happening to the characters. Every single point of damage that the character takes, the player takes. It's all slowing him down on his way to his virtual goals. The character is an avatar.

    In WOW, the player and the character are synonymous. There is no SIS on a "normal" server.

    And this, despite the fact that there's no ability to actually identify who you're playing with, other than by their online reputation. Meaning that people are free to actually screw with other players to a great degree. Or at least ignore their feelings. A microcosm of the problems of the internet, I suppose, but this is the model for play that they've built.

    Think about that for a bit, post em if you got em, and we'll see where it goes from there.

  • Mike,

    I don't play WoW but I have been playing EVE online, which is a cool game. You mentioned at the end of your post above how people are free to seriously mess with other players. That led me to dig up this article from an EVE forum about the biggest screw-over I've ever heard of. I was pointed to the article by Seth Ben-Ezra by the way. The interesting thing is that this phenomenon is why I actually want to play the game. I love pitting my wits and skill against other players. Revenge! Revenge for revenge! Yay! Of course, if the other players aren't playing for that reason then it isn't as fun. After all, I want the other player to get up yelling, "By the Hammer of Grabthar, I will have my revenge!" after I pull a fast one on him, not go, "You're a dick! I quit!"

    The nice thing about EVE is that the folks not playing for this reason are in the minority since the game creators and maintainers have explicitly stated that's why they programmed the damn thing. I don't think that's the case with WoW.

  • Oh me and WoW have gone back a long way - since Day One Euro Launch. I've been, gone and come back again. Its a fascinating game from the social perspective - especially the realms of personal and group mechanics.

    Just a couple of things:

    I think the 'Normal' of 'Normal Server' refers to PvP as opposed to RP. There are 'Normal' RP servers and RPPvP servers. The latter are horrific, as all PvP ganking is justified by some strange twisted Tolkien-esque inter-racial justification rather than the usual 'Woot! Free Honour points!'

    I also think the real name/character name thing is far simpler. Its just easier to remember that 'Sunraven' is Sunraven rather than remember that Sunraven is Neil. In a small group its easier but I have been in a 300+ person guild with people from 15 different countries and no less than 12 Daves. WoW character names are much easier to remember! It does touch on a particular bugbear of mine and thats when my very close friends who I RP with every week insist on calling me by my character name when we are playing - GAH! So annoying.

    You are absolutely right though - the character and the person are synonymous. One of the greatest 'crimes' I have seen perpetrated in the game is someone letting their brother play their character in a Molten Core raid. There is a contract there that you are the person you say you are at the other end of the line. Scandals abound at rumours that a 'name' character on a server has been sold to another player - you are not just your character as an avatar. You are also the skills and knowledges that you bring with that avatar. It is very much YOU that gets brought to the party.

    Of course the other great currency in MMOs is time. Non-battleground PvP is simply done to deny your opponents time. Crafting is a time sink. Grinding is a time sink. Levelling is a time sink. Equipment chasing is a time sink. Its all a massive time sink. So when someone takes the time to hunt down 100 Fel Iron ore and have them made into bars and then person buggers off with the ore that's seen as a direct theft of the persons time. Its not property (unless they begin to extend their personal possessions to their game possessions) but it is the time that they have invested to get that property. I've seen some brutal time crime witch-hunts as the only real sanction that you have (because the GMs will rarely do anything in these cases) is to stand in Org/Stormwind or Shatt and /yell until you are hoarse about the criminal!

    I think a lot of WoW players learn to also keep some emotional detachment after a while. Our guild was thick as thieves and ready to take on anything the game could throw at them. Nothing was too much trouble for a fellow guildie. We decided to have a real-life meet. A huge number of them descended on Newcastle, stayed at my house and we drank, chatted and laughed our heads off. Two months later the guild was shattered over a piece of Zul Gurub loot given to an Alt instead of a main. A huge amount of bitter recrimination occured, lots of things were said that are still have fallout now, a year and a half later. It was probably the most painful 'gaming' moment I have had in my life made all the more painful because we had broken down that digital barrier. After that you learn that digital mates can become digital acquaintences and then digital strangers very quickly indeed and well ... you keep a distance.

    I don't know if any of that helps but those are some of my experiences of WoW and identity.

  • Mike, there is also the idea of conflating real currency with in-game currency. Once you can buy characters on eBay (Ultima online) or buy Gold from east-asian scavengers, there is no real difference from in-game thievery and real life thievery.

    And as Neil stated, what you get is measured in time, and we all know "Time is Money".
  • I've been playing on an RP server for the past couple of months, on the recommendation of a friend. I'm not at all interested in the role-playing elements myself, so I can't comment on the motivations or behaviors of the dedicated RPers, but I had some friends who were on it.

    From my perspective, the main difference is a slightly higher level of discourse on the channels (more likely to completely spell words, maybe even use punctuation), and a lack of characters named things like "bootylicious" or "dmg". There are also usually more people hanging around the corners of the cities using the text emotes, RPing, but I don't pay too much attention to them.

    An interaction I had last night confused me, though. I was out questing in Nagrand, and saw an orc who looked like he was doing the same quests as I was. I invited him to a group, but he declined and wandered off. A few seconds later, I got a whisper (person-to-person, nobody else can see it) "Sorry, I don't dig elves". So... what just happened? Does the player have some moral objection to Belfs? Is the character a racial partisan? But then why didn't he just /say it out loud? "Crusk no like pansy elves!" I'm still not sure what happened there.
  • I don't buy that there is much "in-character" in WoW. Characters in WoW don't, in my opinion, bear much resemblance to characters in tabletop rpgs. They're more like vehicles. You, the player, have personality, but the characters just have statistics and accessories to tweak their performance. I think this is how people who don't come from tabletop gaming view them, too.

    When I played WoW, I played on a roleplaying server. I chose it not because I wanted to roleplay, but because that type of server seemed to attract less dumb assholes. Still, watching people try and roleplay with WoW characters was like watching a doctor perform brain surgery with a hammer and chisel: crude, messy and awkward. When I hear people talk about how WoW is rendering tabletop gaming obsolete, I just think back to these sad attempts and shake my head.
  • ...And yet I have at least one friend who really enjoys it, and who also really enjoys tabletop. Getting into WoW RPing hasn't made her give up tabletop by any stretch, so clearly there's something different she's getting out of it, even if that 'different' is just a different time or space to roleplay.
  • I guess that's my point. They're completely different beasts, but I think tabletop gamers have different expectations going in than others, hence Mike's head-scratching at how the divide between character and player is so different.
  • Hmmm, interesting stuff.

    Player/character conflation: Upon giving this some thought, I'm not sure that thinking of this relationship in terms of Player and Character is really the most useful approach.

    I think of it more as Player and the Vehicle Which They are Piloting.

    In this sense, this conflation occurs all the time:

    * I got a flat tire today.

    * I almost hit someone on the way to work.

    * This is Air Canada 815 inbound to YYC.

    It all manages to work within the context.

    My Guy, theft, etc: Hmmm. I think what's interesting with this situation is that there's a very special form of Social Contract at work.

    It's a real contract, called the Terms of Service, and most of the players had no role in drafting it and little ability to change it.

    Within a Social Contract with these attributes, I think the behaviour we're seeing is what we might expect.

  • I suspect this has been a problem since MUDs. I never played any MUDs (well, I tried one for about an hour, discovered it was a graphic-less video game and went back to my MUSHes) but have had this same impression ever since I tried Asheron's Call (and really enjoyed for several months).

    On the one hand, the "my guy" syndrome is that ORPGs are treated as graphical chat rooms. OG's of any type, actually. Play Team Fortress or Call of Duty and you'll see (or hear) insults, compliments, friends greeting each other, and talk about sports, politics, and home life. Some games (EQ IIRC) do have mechanisms to distinguish OOC and IC chat, although it usually means that OOC is used almost exclusively. I've never had a problem with people calling other people by in game names. In fact, I subscribe to it most fully. I think it's a major affront to call someone by any name than their "screen name" unless they've given explicit permission. This is true of any online venue for me. So, that just seems like a personal preference. It was that way in a 150 person guild I was active in for the first couple of years. Some people, who prefer to have a consistent nickname incorporate that name into their character, usually, so even when they weren't playing their main, you could easily tell it was them and call them by the nickname.

    To bring out the Big Model, it seems like it's gamism to a great degree. The interaction is mostly focused on improving your character's standing, either directly or indirectly by screwing someone else. The mechanics only reward and address that play (even to the point where WoW Trouble Ticket submission rules tell you that someone "camping your corpse" or stealing from you in a trade like the Ore -> Bar trade Mike mentions are not things they police). But, like D&D, you rarely do this against your own "party" whether that's a single friend, or all 65 members of your guild, or any other player. Not everyone, not even a majority I'd wager, are about to display the morals of an Assyrian bandit, but the anonymity of the internet turns a lot of people into assholes, and the structure of the game actively supports certain forms of that.
  • edited February 2008
    Yeah, Jeff may have my number. That is, when I mention these things to other WOW players (who probably have limited or no TTRPG experience), they sorta digitally shrug.

    But the fact is that, given that I'm clued in to it, I do notice that it has real effects.

    Neil, your post is pure gold for this thread. Yes, indeed, time is the currency of WOW. As Guy notes, Time is money. In fact people in WOW talk about their play in terms of return in gold per hour. As in, "With my new zapthrottle mote extractor, people say I should be able to get as much as 100 gold or more per hour running around Nagrand, but I can't seem to manage more than 50 or so (need the gogs that spot em.)"

    But what does time get the player? That is, what is it that can be taken? Interestingly we're not supposed to buy and sell on eBay. Everything in WOW is the intellectual property of Blizzard. But people pay that no heed at all. People value the things that they get in play in proportion to the time they spent getting them.

    You could argue that this is because you have to pay X dollars a month to play... but the conversion rates simply don't support this. The rate isn't like getting paid for a full-time job... unless you live in China or somewhere where the cost of living is low enough that, indeed they can and do make full-time jobs out of playing and trading stuff.

    Basically it's a sense of accomplishment and/or prestige. I got this faster than most people did. Or I have this thing that few people have.

    The ore, in this equation, was just currency, too. Nobody rants and raves about having accumulated 100 Fel Iron bars. You don't get the obligatory "Nice!" from linking one of those like you do with a Gyro-stabilized Khorium Destroyer.

    Character power - often measured in things like DPS or, ultimately an arena standing - are the real rewards. They open up new content, and allow you to dominate other players.

    Even socially. It's an odd phenomenon that the same player will get less respect when playing an alt than when playing his level 70 primary. No?

    Basically, yeah, vehicle. Your character is your projection of personal power into the realms of Warcraft.

    Andrew, good point about EVE, too. Meaning it sounds to me from all that I've heard that they have a much more coherent ideal of play. If I might draw a loose parallel, it seems to me that WOW in attempting to appeal to every player creates the same sort of incoherence that RPGs do when they try to appeal to everyone. Only worse in a MMORPG, because the basic social context of play is so weak.

    Neil, you're admitting that the naming thing is only superior for convenience's sake. Oh, I don't have a real problem with a nickname, one can develop an identity around one that works just fine as a social marker. But the psychology of adopting your character's name is interesting.

    And... when you do hear about some in-game event going on in a RPish sense, it makes you wonder, doesn't it? If two characters get married (there are outfits purchaseable for such events)... what does that mean for their players?

    Does the social space exist there? When we're actually all real people being ourselves in a different skin online?

    To put this in a SG context, it seems to me that the point of SGs, to a large extent, is precisely to establish some space between the player and the character in order that the player be able to play author for the character. So you can do some "What would the character do" stuff instead of "What should I do in this situation?" This is where it seems to me that MMORPGs diverge from almost all TTRPG play.


    (Crossposted with last two posts)
  • I could talk about how this works in pure RP chat-rooms, but I'll probably leave it to Christian, who likes to talk about this, heh.
  • Just to add, rather than on MMO marriages, but MMO funerals - if you search on the WoW forums you will eventually find threads about in-game funerals. When a player dies in real life, their online friends sometimes hold a memorial service for them. This is the biggest extension I have ever found of real life to online life. If you want to see the lengths to which people take this extension, read some of the threads from memorial services on pvp servers where the 'other side' has discovered the location of the event and raided it. It gets very very nasty, very quickly and some of the responses are very very emotional.

    And yes, the divergence is absolutely about the difference between character action and personal action. I was in an all-dwarf guild on a RPPVP server once and we did 'dwarf stuff' once per week - we defended the dwarf areas in the game from Horde, like the mine in the South Barrens etc. However in other game times we just levelled like normal. One day a week we 'suspended' our game play for roleplay of sorts. However, the game forces you to go in certain directions. If I wanted to keep the home fires burning in Ironforge, that would be fine but there is no adventure or gameplay to be had there beyond the starting areas. Essentially to play the game you have to hand over some of your character decision making to the game.

    Really interesting thread

  • edited February 2008

    I'm thinking about starting a... LARP? In WOW.

    That is, WOW is real people playing in costumes, then I think maybe it would make sense to, y'know, actually have a GM show up and run something?

    Just a thought.

    I mean how subversive would it be to get people all story-gaming on WOW. :-)

  • What server?
  • lol

    Terrokar. A newer one. You do realize that I'm just in the formulating stages here... :-)

  • Mike,

    The LARP in WoW idea is pretty much how RP servers work (YAY for Moon Guard!). There are two fundamental phenomenons I've seen on an RP server.

    1) Bar RP. Basically someone goes into one of the Taverns in Stormwind or something and shouts out on the General channel that they and some friends are hosting a RP event usually by announcing in character that the Tavern is "open for business" sometimes even claiming to rename the place from whatever is hanging on the sign outside. People interested then show up to chat in character.

    2) Co-opting game content for personal story. I've seen small groups of people who clearly have a running narrative for their own character and their friends. I run into these people from time to time and each time I've see them I can tell their plot has "progressed" based on what quests they did since I last ran into them. There was literally one woman whose plot I followed for several weeks because she was questing and leveling at about the same rate I was and I kept running into her. I wasn't even interacting with her or trying to seek her out. I would just run into her and there she would be chatting in character about her personal storyline and how it was progressing.

    I've noticed both of these phenomenon to be more prevalent on the Alliance side than the Horde side.

    Also, Mike Holmes plays a Gnome -- This from the man who thinks *Polaris* will make him gay. ;)

  • Would it be too meta to actually sit down and play a story game in World of Warcraft? doesn't the chat already have a built in dice roller?
  • The newer versions of WoW have built-in voice chat to other members of your party...
  • edited February 2008
    there's also a small biography textbox, isn't there? I played a few mmos, they usually had that type of thing. No one ever used it. You could keep your character sheet there.
  • Oh, and what faction?
  • Posted By: TulpaWould it be too meta to actually sit down and play a story game in World of Warcraft? doesn't the chat already have a built in dice roller?
    Hey! No recursing!
  • edited February 2008
    I play Guild Wars instead of WoW (for technical and financial reasons), but everything said in this thread applies to GW, too. I'm known by the surname of most of my characters instead of my real name, and I refer to others by their character names when I'm talking about them as people. The reason is simple: I don't know these people as humans - I know their in-game incarnations as the primary 'face' of the person. While I'm perfectly capable of keeping personal details separate between avatar and human, the fact remains that I know these other people as avatars first and as people second.

    I know only one person in GW from real life, an old high-school friend that I freakishly bumped into. In that case, I know her as a person first and an avatar second: it makes a real difference in how I think about her in-game presence.

    The reason for this process is pretty simple - tabletop games are primarily social events with a game happening in the middle of it. In the case of MMOs, you have a social event happening in the middle of a game. To put it in terms of my AGE Model, the gamespace and the playspace of MMOs are entirely integrated - inseparably so, in most cases. You'd have to go out of your way (a LAN party with everyone in the game as well) to separate the two.

    As for gaming inside an MMO - I've considered doing just such a thing in GW. Most of my GW-based friends have rolled their eyes at the idea, mainly because GW is very, very gamist and doesn't lend itself to roleplay at all, and therefore doesn't attract those sorts of players. But the idea is wonderful. Whisper me if you're a GW player and you want my IGN.
  • Heh... LARP in WoW.

    Mike, you should totally get some folks together and have you characters gather in order to LARP or play RPGs. Then you could be players sitting at a computer playing online characters who were playing games. If nothing else it might confuse the hell out of everyone who wanders by and witnesses the event.

  • That would be ... surreal. Fun but surreal

    You might want to check out some of the mods that you can download to help you RP in WoW


    A few are listed in the thread above. Also if you look at some of the bigger mod sites they will have their own RP section.

    I remember one mod which really changed the way the game worked. It allowed someone to make their own quests and allocate a drop from a mob as the quest item (like say, Small Eggs or Light Feathers). This meant that someone could have a character which acted like a pseudo-GM, giving tasks to be done to a group of players.

  • Yeah, this is an interesting topic. I play Eve myself and have been thinking about various story gamey considerations in regards to it.

    One interesting thing is that Eve doesn't have different servers and everybody plays the same game. This clumps all the players toegther - those who don't want to role-play at all play with those who are dead set on role-playing. What happens is that you get a sort of enclave, or sub-culture, of Eve players who are interested in RP and make it happen. Then there's people like me who say that everyone in Eve role-plays, at least to a degree. I mean, you don't really believe you're flying a spaceship or taking over real space in your territorial campaigns, do you?

    The sandbox nature (and the sci-fi setting as well) makes Eve "better" for role-playing than WoW, in my mind. You don't have to work around quite so much around game mechanics, etc. The main problem that exists then is the other players, who may not care at all for any kind of immersion factors. Even when everybody is interested in role-playing, when play is about things that don't exist in game, who's the arbitrator, the GM - ie. who has narrative control? I guess it's kind of similar as in MUSHes, but at least in those you usually have Admins/Judges to go in the case you need arbitration.

    In regards to identity/naming issues, I find it funny that with one of the few friends I've made on Eve who's also translated into RL we still call each other with our Eve nicknames. It's quite weird, but the nicks are just that in real life, nicknames. It's still weird as heck for people who don't know us from Eve, or who don't even know we play a game like that at all.

    Joachim Buchert (RL) / GoGo Yubari (Eve Online)
  • Another thing I thought interesting about EVE relates to Mike (and someone else) referring to their characters in WoW as "vehicles". Well, in EVE that is even more pronounced since your character is essentially a spaceship. Sure you're actually supposed to be the guy piloting the ship but in actuality, you're the ship. It's what everyone sees. You don't level in EVE. You buy a better ship. I think this makes things a little more transparent in EVE. The role-playing then seems to take place in the Forums and such outside the actual game and in the game people tend to... well, game.

  • edited February 2008
    Posted By: jbuchertThe sandbox nature (and the sci-fi setting as well) makes Eve "better" for role-playing than WoW, in my mind.
    Absolutely. One thing I enjoy about EVE is that, unless you talk about decidedly outgame things, virtually anything to talk about in chat is just want your character would chat about. And if we were really lonesome starship captains, chances are we would do just what people do in EVE when they are doing boring stuff: Talk shit over the Internet with other people just as bored as yourself.

    (I play a Miner. Can you tell? ^_^ )

    Do I ever feel like Mira ai'Var, the ex-Fighter turned fulltime-miner? Actually, yeah, a bit. Because the difference between "What I'd do" and "What Mira does" are so small ingame, it's much easier to slip into roleplaying mode without even noticing. Like, when you're on a Mining Op and suddenly people start talking about the various factions and making jokes about how they "do it". In something like WoW, this might break the mood. In EVE, this fits perfectly, because you can bet your ass that this is just what a bunch of bored miners would talk about while looking on the ass end of some space rock being lasered to pieces. (Ok, maybe there would be more sex. But we did have that too.)

    Is it roleplaying in the tabletop sense? No, most certainly not. But in some ways, I like that even more. In "normal roleplaying", I have to spend energy ignoring what happens, blocking out that the guy in front of me is no an elven warlord and that I am not a Changeling Warshifter/Pirate captain. It's not much energy and most of the time it's really easy, but it is noticeable. In something like EVE, the energy needed to ignore for a moment that I'm a 20-something playing a game with a couple of 30- and 40-somethings over a thing called interweb is a bit smaller. IMO. And especially compared to something like WoW.
  • edited February 2008
    I'm also a serious WoW player, participating in endgame raid content (Blanche, 70 blood elf mage, enchanter/jewelcrafter, currently arcane/fire spec, Cenarion Circle RP server, Horde-side). Mike, you've hit a lot of interesting points. Here's my two cents' worth:

    WoW is a different game to different people. The creative agendas are all over the place. Talking to my brother and his GF, who are also deep in endgame content (further than my guild), they barely understand why someone wouldn't want to play like they play. (This is a common human fallacy.) So when I talk about someone leveling an alt by themselves, with no interest in endgame content, especially raid, their response is "why bother?" Yet WoW is clearly designed to support a single-player experience, in addition to everything else it supports. Want to level solo to 70, never grouping, never running a instance (dungeon)? You can. Want to group the whole way and RP? You can. Want to play only through instances? You can. Want to hang out in town and play the auction house for mad cash? You can. Want to craft items for other players but not really quest? You can. WoW supports all of these agendas without forcing you strongly into one vein. Endgame is a bit different, as what you can acquire diminishes from levels and spells to skills and gear, but I think the secret to WoW's success is it supports so many different agendas, it's appealing to the widest possible audience. It has tools for most of these agendas, in ways most conventional tabletop games don't. GURPS may be a "universal system," but it doesn't really support playing the auction house for money or straight roleplay with no mechanical intervention. Sure, you can do the latter with GURPS, but you don't *need* it. The same might be argued of WoW, but WoW is also a venue as well as a game.

    Weirder than just being called by your character name is when you play a female toon and everyone refers to you by your character name. Everyone knows me as Blanche ("Blanche, your sheep target is circle"), even though my guild application had my full name in it and I know of no Matthews in the guild. I suspect that this is an unwritten level of privacy in the social contract of voice chat - you are your character, like an internet handle, unless you allow others to call you by your real name. My avatar holds my reputation, so I would suffer social repercussions if I did something nasty to someone else in game, but alts are often the path to anonymity. Most of the jerks you read about on the forums are just as faceless as someone on an internet forum and capable of the same level of "griefing."

    WoW scratches almost my entire itch for traditional gamist gaming. As such, my interest in most trad tabletop games is very low. I still crave RP, but I almost always want a story game instead of a mainstream one. Identifying and pursuing goals in WoW is pretty straightforward: do the quest, level your toon, get the bettter gear. When I look at the character sheet in a trad game, I'm looking for cues or flags, and a lot of trad games don't have them (or have weak ones) - I know what my L5R character is capable of doing, in the same way that I know what spells my WoW character knows, but I'm often at a loss for an agenda for my L5R character. Also, why would I want to play a game where combat is going to take hours when the computer can do all the calculation for me in real-time?

    I've considered playing WoW as a story game, in an attempt to shed all of the gamist trappings of WoW and embracing all of the wonderful lore the game possesses, but it's only an idea right now. I would use a system that does not have skills, per se, so SotC would be out but PTA might work.

    The final problem is what's already been mentioned: time. Playing WoW "seriously" requires an enormous ongoing investment of time, leaving me less time for tabletop gaming. If WoW ever becomes un-fun, painful, or work, I'm out, but it's not like tabletop gaming is always awesome, by contrast. I'm just struggling right now to find the right balance.
  • Following on from what Matthew has said I will concur that my interest in story games has radically increased since I got into WoW. I simply cannot play vanilla fantasy D&D anymore because it just devolves into a WOW-in-joke fest.

  • edited February 2008
    (I have to start being more brief... below is crossposted with last two posts)

    Neil, I'll have to look into those add-ons. Especially the one that allows you to make your own quests. It's funny, because I had been trying to think of work-arounds to this problem (like having people purchase items from vendors to simulate getting quest items). This mod would really change the dynamics, yes. I suppose that all players will have to have the mod for it to work?


    I'm also thinking that I may have to start up a real character on a RP server. It would probably be bad form to actually try to do something like this on a "Normal" server. At the very least I should find more support for it on a RP server, I'd think.

    Any suggestions for a good RP server?

    Anyhow, this is getting a tad tangential. But I like the conversation it's stimulating.

    Brian... since there actually ARE real people behind those characters, treating them as anything but that (given the expectation in many cases), seems troublesome to me. Put another way, I simply cannot deal with other players in any other way than if I were dealing with them face to face. I'm that way with all internet relationships, actually.

    Yes, I really am this obnoxious in person. Ask Andy or Andrew or anyone who's met me.

    I find the "avatar" relationship to be dysfunctional. Personally. I don't blame you if that's your response, it's just not what I would want. I am not somebody else when I play, I'm still me.

    Andrew - I'm wasn't positing some Shakespearean play-within-a-play. Nothing post-modern, either. Not that it might not be interesting. But I gave up freaking the mundanes quite a while back. It's all too easy.

    No, I'm talking about using the platform to just do... well what I've always imagined such a platform could be used for.

    By the way, I'm pretty sure that I have the solution to one problem. I think you can create your own chat channels (we could, of course, use IRC or something, but that'd be extra work). I think you can create custom channels in WOW. So we'd just create an OOC channel, and then everything you say outside of that channel is in-character.

    I'm even trying to come up with something to explain away whispers and guild chat... how a character can converse with one that is realms away in-game. One way is to just disallow it. But it might be better to say that all "adventurers" subscribe to some magic mentalism messaging service, or have little magical tokens that allow them to communicate to each other. Guilds having their own versions of these (could define what it means to be in a guild).

    The idea, generally, to play in the "world of warcraft" with the mechanisms that exist in the client reinforcing play.

    Joachim, I don't find nicknames at all problematic. As long as they're not really used to remain anonymous. But there are other issues that I find interesting. Like logging on as a different character. That is, mechanically all characters are equal in terms of naming. You probably use the nickname of your buddy's "main" or "primary" character. But he may have more (at least on WOW).

    So when Dij logs on as dmg, what do I call him? Calling him Dij seems really weird. He's not playing Dij, his real name is Eric... He now plays dmg more than he plays Dijinn... His prompt says dmg...

    I've actually stalled at the keyboard more than once.

    Oh, and on a related note, gender. I had a guy in my guild who had three level 70 characters. We all knew him as Shanii, his female Dranei shammy. Later he added Shaele (female warrior) to the guild, who was "mainish"? That is, Shaele was definitely his main before he joined our guild. And then it turns out that he also has this Male dwarf warrior, Kurd.

    Whatthehell pronoun do I use? My wife asks, "Is Shanii coming to the raid?" And I have to answer, "No, she isn't, he's bringing Shaele instead." Or...

    My brain just goes haywire, actually. I get stuck in a Startrekian circle in my head, and can't break out of it.

    I don't know the player's name. But I'm often temtped to call him, "The Player of Shanii." As in "The Player of Shanii isn't playing her in the raid, he's playing Shaele, tonight." (And then he actually shows up to Zul'Gurub late with Shanii).

    Yes, I realize that it might not mess with anyone else's head than mine. Structural heirarchies are how my brain works. But... am I completely off-base here? Don't these obfuscation of identities make things more difficult than they need to be? Rather, aren't we empowered if we know who the player is? Heck, it would at least help me if I had the player's logon or something as a nickname... at least that's independent of the character names, and indicates the player.

    I had to ask the player his gender. Once I found that he had the character Kurd, I started to suspect. Before that, however, the player could well have been female, from behavior. Very few context cues, of course. And there's this big-breasted dranei there making my brain think female. Yeah, I know intellectually that most female characters are played by males in WOW. But with the player-character conflation, I always have to overcome an assumption that people are playing characters of their own gender.

    His reasoning that he gave me for playing females is quite interesting, actually. He found that Kurd, as an imposing dwarf male, was quite feared in battle, and would get attacked first in a BG. With females, however, he finds that he's not as often the first subject of attack. Female characters are seen as less threatening, or aren't taken as seriously. This despite the fact that there are no mechanical differences between males and females.*

    Both this fact, and the phenomenon of people playing cross-gender in a game where "You are your character" as we say above, when in fact there's no mechanical reason to play that gender... some sociologist somewhere is probably having a field day with this. Yes, I play a gnome... but honestly selected it for the Intellect boost, the engineering boost and just because I like to take something that's unusual (I learned about he awesome escape ability later). Oh, and my gnome is bald (as are all of the coolest people), and kicks all ass. Nothing fruity about him.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that...


    *(probably something for a different venue, but...) Actually there is one mechanical difference between males and females, but it's very slubtle. I've noticed it a lot as a gnome, as the effects are way more pronounced. Very simply, they're different sizes. Now, at first you might not think this matters at all, but it does. It means:
    - Your POV is above or below somebody elses. From the same vantage, you can see things that they can't and vice versa. This is most important in terms of LOS. There are often times that my gnome cannot shoot somebody, simply because he can't see over something in front of him. I'm forever standing on top of candelabras and such, just so I can see the whole room.
    - You can get under obstacles that taller people cannot (which is hella useful - there are places in EPL that I can run away from undead by going under houses and such), but
    - You can't jump as high over taller obstacles
  • Mike, I have Alliance alts on Scarlet Crusade and Horde mains on Cenarion Circle. Both are RP servers, although I've only ever seen light roleplay and never been "forced" to RP.

    Avatar nickname is exactly like internet nickname. I'm Blanche in WoW, but I'm a he, so raid chat or Ventrilo might go like, "Blanche will use his Spellsteal on the mob." Non-RP chat is about the player, IMO. Not confusing at all, just dissonant. Contrariwise, I get interesting dialog when talking to someone about Story Games:

    "Hi, I'm So-and-so."
    "Hi, I'm Matthew Gandy."
    "Do you post on Story Games?"
    "Yeah, I post on Story Games."
    "Oh? Who are you on Story Games?"
    "I'm Matthew Gandy."

    Just imagine if Judd played WoW as Paka the female shaman or something. :)

    As for female toons, the general answer I give is that if I'm gonna spend that much time looking at some character's ass (as the POV is most often 3rd person behind the character, ala Tomb Raider or Resident Evil), it had better be an attractive ass. The real answer is more complicated: I like strong, independent women; I like the little bits of RP I get occasionally; and I like the aesthetics of female toons. However, ask my local gaming group, and I'll play men just as often as women - my last two, in fact. Of course, I'm not constantly visualizing my tabletop characters, so it's less of an issue there than it is in WoW, where visuals are dominant.

    I think your friend's explanation about gender and battlegrounds is BS, personally. Much more about class, I suspect, and friction between wanting to play the hottie and wanting to still be considered manly. Sociologists, psychotherapists - this is fertile ground. Yes, most female toons are played by males, but it's still hard to overcome the natural bias. Imagine the difficulty when we can have replaceable bodies and gender, age, and other things become fluid...

    I am glad you feel you can justify your choice of gnome. However, as a longtime Horde player, I will still have to snicker at you. :)
  • I'd say the same about nicknames, what you describe is no different from the way I name people I know from the L5R message boards I used to be on, or from the web game I run, or even from here (where I know some people's names and not others). Names are just names, and there are plenty of people I think of in terms of their nicknames rather than their real names, even when I know the later.
  • edited February 2008
    Posted By: Mike HolmesYes, I really am this obnoxious in person. Ask Andy or Andrew or anyone who's met me.
    You sir, are a liar. It might be mostly the lack of tone and body language online, but knowing you online first, I was rather surprised how friendly and non-confrontational(?) you were. Either way, you're not obnoxious. At least, not to the same degree. ;)

    Back on topic, I've played on Cenarion Circle off and on since launch, one of the biggest RP servers. We've had some major stories going on, basically LARPs how you might be thinking. They always started in the official server forum, because the forums is the best place to ensure that anyone interested will find it, and both sides can read what's going on. There's even faked cross faction communication. Anything from "So and so is sent a letter" to "You might find this scroll, trampled in the mud on the battlefield". Often it's just in-character thoughts and open dialog. But, at least for what I'm discussing, it always leads into or builds upon some on-going storyline.

    Now, often the stories were pretty boring too me. You get the worst of chatroom RP, but since they have an avatar moving around (and possibly in your face) it's not as easy to ignore them (although it's not too tough to not engage with their story). What I mean by bad chatroom RP is that you have people playing humans, or orcs, clearly because that's what they picked, but they aren't "really" a human, they're a half dragon half demon, or the orc is really a deformed human, or they're not a paladin who can smite undead but a bartender (not to be confused with a paladin who is also a bartender, which is reasonable). So, that's one problem.

    And not unrelated, this seems to lead to way too many stories about someone pregnant with a demon baby, or a dragon baby, or a demon-dragon baby, or how some major NPC is their father. Basically over the top, soap opera style, setting jarring events. I don't entirely blame the participants. Stormwind will never collapse. You can't permanently kill anyone. Nothing in the world changes that Blizzard doesn't make a part of some official event or patch. So there's absolutely no ability for player characters to make a change to the world. This seems like a more extreme degree than a LARP (a LARP in Sacramento can pretend New York has been destroyed by demons, or kill any number of PCs or NPCs, but local destruction might be more difficult to work in and maintain).

    But within that, you still get some good stuff, depending on who's involved. Most of my RP time has been spend at guild parties. Someone makes up a reason to have a celebration (a made up holiday, a birthday, whatever) and we go to Darnassus or Westfall and bring food and drink and play around in character and get drunk.

    Here's a story I played in. Sorry Mike, but I'm going to be treating PC names as if they were the players behind it.

    A few years ago, one of the major RP story makers was an undead priest named Creator. He had been instigating stories for sometime, usually stuff around spreading the plague, and was in a large guild. This time, though, they had kidnapped a dwarven girl. An innocent (well done, as someone made a low level dwarf and played out the kidnapping). She was going to be ritually slain in the old throne room in Undercity. Creator seemed to make clear that if he could be killed, then the ritual would fail.

    Several guilds of the Alliance were going to storm the gates and try to stop the ritual. I, however, was part of an eight person team of rogues. We stealthed in the back entrance of Undercity and positioned ourselves in the halls nearby, not sure when or where Creator was going to appear. This was one of the most memorable and tense moments I've ever played in WoW. The best of the game mechanics, coupled with the intensity of multiplayer contests, and a story that drove it all. Players were walking up and down the halls. Some of them actually patrolling, trying to find hidden assassins. I remember one point where a Warlock's pet seemed to notice me, but the Warlock's player didn't notice and moved on. Creator came out, passing right by me and another guy in one of the halls.

    And this is where it flipped from my best experience in WoW to my worst.

    Now, it's important to note something about PvP flags for those following along at home. A PvP flag is like a switch that you have to turn on in order for another player to kill you. On PvP or RP-PvP servers, this flag gets turned on whenever you enter certain areas, basically every adventure area past level 20. You never have to have a PvP flag on in an RP or Normal server unless you are in an enemy city. However, at least on Cenarion Circle, it's common courtesy to turn on your PvP Flag when you are "in character". Some roleplayers play with it turned on all the time. Us rogues were in an enemy city, so our flag was up by game mechanics anyway. Almost every alliance person outside at the gates (there were some spectators), even though they were outside the city limits, had their flags on since they were part of an in-character event, so did most of the Horde members that had assembled to defend Undercity from any attack.

    Creator did not have his PvP Flag up. "okay" we said in party chat. "Maybe he's waiting for the dramatic moment. It would be kind of lame if he could get killed walking to the event." He does a big speech, and lots of emoting and talking, most of which we can't understand since we're not Horde (which reduces any in-game Horde-Alliance interaction to either broken pantomime using in-game gestures or combat). But, apparently the ritual happens. The girl is killed and Creator goes away. We never, not our team of assassins, not the army outside (which didn't manage to break through the defenders' ranks anyway), would have had the chance to do him any harm. Ironically, several months later, he left Cenarion Circle to go play on one of the new RP-PvP servers.

    And this is what some call god-modding. Making yourself invulnerable to attack. This might be like what Creator did, not having your PvP flag up so you can't be attacked (the most obvious), but can cover any character soveriegnty issues, like whether you can give them a bruise or even slap them in the first place (the classic "/e slap" and "/e ducks he blow deftly.") And like online chat, when the main interface is your character, and the story and system is a given to a certain degree, the typical table top option of "don't have them play with you" doesn't carry the same weight since it's trivial to play with someone else (or even solo and kill monsters in the wilderness).

    Now, it could be that this happens in LARPS all the time and I just am not a person for LARPS. However, I'd love to see a story-game system for WoW in hopes of avoiding some of the problems and perhaps an explicit buy-in of keeping stories grounded in the game world.

    Edit, oh yeah, I wanted to link to some archives of the RP that's happened on Cenarion Circle. I couldn't find the storyline that I was a part of, but it might be I just didn't know what to look for. Anyway, you might find it interesting.
  • You guys are both missing my point. Given my example of my friend and his alt, what would you call him? Would you call him by the name of his current character, or by the name of the character that you normally associate with the character? Or his real name (if you happen to know it)?

    Imagine if you, David Donarchie, posted not just as Hituro, but also as Masimune. And Elizabeth. That wouldn't be odd at all?

    As somebody mentioned, the anonymity it provides is problematic. For instance, we have a pretty open door to new people in the guild. What if somebody abuses their guild priviliges, and I have to kick them out of the guild? How do I know that another character isn't that same player?

    Somebody above said that their avatar carries their reputation. So what prevents a player from being a jerk is that that avatar will get a bad rep. But what about their other avatars? Those will only get the associated bad rep if people become aware that the two characters are played by the same player. Leaving the player to scam others yet again. Yeah, then that avatar might get a bad rep... so you make another one. The only disincentive to this is if/when you're damaging the name of a high level character, forcing you to level up a new character should it be important to you somehow to have a high level character to interact. But nothing requires that.

    Matt... I'm against internet nicknames, too. Note my use of my real name here. Again not because a persons identity can't be fixed to their nickname (uh, Madonna). But because it can cause the sort of confusion that you give in your example. Or, worse, because you might not get credited as being the inestimable Matt Gandy, if you're known somewhere as "Blanch." I want people to know that I'm Mike Holmes. I think he's a cool guy. Why, other than a frightened need for anonymity, would I be anybody else?

    Let me put this another way... what would be wrong with allowing any player to check on the identity of the account? This would at least force the player in question to open a second account in order to erase the traces of their identity. Heck, WOW could actually require identification of players (not available to other players) so as to disallow them from hopping accounts to avoid reputation problems.

    Why facilitate the anonymity? I don't mind that the player even hide their real name and personal information. But if the player is the character, then the player's reputation should stick when playing. I mean you can't change identities (easily) in real life. What's the purpose to allowing it in the game? Other than to allow people to remain emotionally distant from each other?

    Now, you might argue that players should take the EVE approach. And realize that all interactions are actually in-game interactions. That would satisfy me quite as well. But the problem is that this is distinctly not what WOW promotes.

    Again, it's incoherence. It means that people will constantly annoy other people playing, because they see the game differently from each other. And that's because the game doesn't actually do anything to try to sort this out. Rather, the opposite, it does all it can to confound the situation.

    This is especially ironic in terms of the RP/Normal server dichotomy. I mean they're trying to create separate communities based on play priorities. But I think that they've completely missed how to do it. 100% completely. Simply labeling a server as RP? Not going to help here.

    Does it function on a day-to-day basis? Sure, just fine. But, sorry, the fact that you don't feel a problem with it doesn't mean that I won't either. Maybe I'm a minority and deserve to be ignored in this.

    But, as always, I'm not here trying to fix WOW. My voice will be lost amongst ten million other voices on this one. Heck, there are so many other problems with WOW, that I could go on all day. As usual, what I'm doing is trying to track down the principles involved so that I can design something better.

    If/when I ever make a MMORPG, it's going to be very different.

    Yes, indeed, Matt, what will happen when the only thing unique to your identity recognizable to another person is the acts your will has caused to have happened? Well I hope that all values in the world do not go out the window, because we decide that we all want to hide behind ever-changing masks. I hope that we still hold each other's wills accountable.

  • Y'know, way back when I first discovered the Internets, I got into MUDs. And after I got over the massive Zorkgasm, my second reaction was a massive RPgasm--"Wow, I can roleplay online! In a structured environment that responds to my actions! And with other players who will do the same in a fun and meaningful manner!"

    Boy, was I wrong.

    My MUDding days were frought with frustration that "nobody" else was really roleplaying, and wishing I was getting the experience out of it that I wanted, and each time I logged in thinking that this time it would happen. . .you know what they say about insanity. Gambling analogies are probably also apt. I did garner some respect from folks as one of the "real roleplayers<" and ran into a couple of likeminded folks that I had some fun with. But Mostly I stood around Rivendell ranting and raving that killing Elrond's minstrel for the phat lootz for the 5th time today wasn't really roleplaying and a crime against literature.

    My brief experience with MMORPGs wasn't much different. I thought that the graphical environment would enhance interaction. I was wrong. The problem was compounded by the vastly higher populations of MMORPGs.

    So I'm pretty interested in these mods and the possibility of setting up a roleplay environment among a small core of dedicated participants. Just logging on and hoping people will support what you're doing (yeah, even on an RP server) sure doesn't work.

  • (My last post crossed with Matt, so here's the reply)

    Yeah it's a problem that, online, nobody can see my brow furrowing in concern, or the constant smiles that break out on my face. Facetiousness does not translate well. The words are the same, but I come off differently. Basically I'm lazy, and can't figure out an easy way to make this apparent in my writing on the internet. But I also believe I shouldn't have to, because people should read the message, not infer emotional content. After all, this is what writing is good for.

    Knowing me now face to face, my words hopefully read differently? Eh maybe not. Execution aside, my intent is never to be any different a person online that I am in person. Put another way, I would never make a point online that I would not be prepared to back up in person. Mr. Skarka and Mr. Edwards are two people I can think of who I've vehemently disagreed with in person. I definitely am a believer in working things out through discussion and debate. So much so my wife confirmed the same once to a psychologist.

    But enough about my favorite subject (me), and back to WOW and SGs...

    I'm glad you brought up your experiences. Very enlightening. I thought that there might be stuff like this going on, but I think it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. This is a common phenomenon, in fact. Somebody above talked about the "endgame content" play that some people felt is core to play. Interestingly I read somehwere that the WOW designers feel that they only expect that 5% of players will ever get to doing anything like that. I'm not one of those 5%, though I've considered it... I'm still having fun organizing raids to take on the old level 60 raid instances like Zul'Gurub and Upper Blackrock Spires. Easy at level 70, and not at all as intense as I understand "real" endgame raiding to be (I feel cheated that all of the non-BC instances are now passe and unprofitable compared to BC... don't get me started).

    But the point is that if you have 5% doing, say, endgame raids, and 5% doing the arena "circuit," and 5% doing roleplaying, you still have 85% of players playing "normal." Meaning doing a lot of solo grinding and leveling up, etc, or any of the other activities mentioned above. A lot of what we discussed in earlier threads as Pseudo-Gamism. Putting in time to get rewards.

    It's as though they're TTRPG players hiding out within the general population. I mean that's exactly what they seem to me to be. I say "hiding" because just like it's next to impossible to find the character of somebody doing pure endgame raiding (whenever they're on, they're in Karazhan, of course, and you can't meet people who are in an instance unless you are invited), I'm guessing that these roleplaying groups are just as "invite only."

    Of course I could just be missing the discussions on the fora with open calls. But, really, this is as it should be. That is, these are both cases of experienced players self-selecting to be with players who they know share the same agenda. So that's all well and good.

    Go figure that I would be goober enough to believe that if I started playing a MMORPG, that I would see some RPG play going on, and be able to join in. What was I thinking? I didn't realize that the main activity on these has nothing at all to do with what we do as TTRPG players. Or at least as the tiny minority known as SG players.

    I think that your mention of the dichotomy of Paladins played as bartenders, and Paladin-bartenders is interesting. I see completely what you're saying here. There is no "bartender" class, so people don't see a way to include those sorts of characters other than simply declaring their character to be something it mechanically is not. Meaning that WOW really is just a venue for play here, and that the system is being ignored in order to do the roleplaying.

    I have a friend, a long time TTRPG player, who had never played. He was watching me one day, and he says, so can you change things? And I responded, "You can change your character, interact with other characters economically, and you can change the environment very temporarily by killing monsters or picking things up, but they come back. You can't make persistent changes to the game environment." Like you say above. That was enough to put my friend off even trying WOW. Yeah, I think this is, perhaps, one of the things that most makes WOW a "game" and not a "RPG." Why should I bother to play out destroying something in-character if only to have that history erased when the thing spawns back 90 seconds later. Compare this to a boffer LARP where players barricade a defensive position with sticks. The environment is theirs to alter (within the limits set by the property owner). If a monster dies, it can remain dead, and the killer claim unique glory.

    Would be cool if you could leave your mark, no? Not sure about feasibility, but it's obviously nothing that Blizzard is interested in. How about EVE? Can you change the environment in that game? Guild Wars? Any MMORPG?

    Getting drunk... I've been having my character hoard drinks and the off-hand fish... and other such goofy paraphrenalia. Lots of fireworks. I've got a feeling that these will help. Just not sure precisely how yet... :-)

    Basically I'd like to use as much functionality as the game will allow. If I do run something.

    Thanks for the annecdote. Powerful. I can imagine the effort involved, etc. Basically Creator decided that he wanted to play by one set of rules, when, in fact, the general contract was to play by another, so as to allow for the in-game resolution system to determine the outcome.

    Er...he railroaded you. Right through his carefully prepared plot. Classic.

    Generally in LARPS there are moderators. If somebody wasn't playing by the same set of rules, generally they'd get kicked out. Most people do not break the rules, therefore. It's as consistent as tabletop RPG for the most part. Where it might break down is at larger sizes that are less moderaterable, where rules may be put in that intend to "automate" moderation. These are more subject to abuse. But I've seen LARPS well over 100 players go pretty darn well.

    That said, often many of these have no resolution system at all, and the play is relegated to verbal information exchange, and, perhaps, the use of special power cards or trading items. So in some ways the system is more limiting from the get go. But, then, if one doesn't expect that combat can be used to resolve situations, then one will not be disappointed by a player not playing along.

    This is not to say that LARPS can't go bad, and sometimes from incoherence. In fact reports from Vampire LARPS about incoherence between players who want to roleplay, and players who are "powergaming" the system abound. It's just that the problems are not based on players ignoring the rules. They're based on players having different viewpoints of what the rules are for.

    Continuing to be fascinating.

  • When I met you IRL you mostly seemed to laugh a lot, and find everything funny.
    Yeah, you also smelled, that was kinda noxious*

  • Yep, people reading me should imagine me laughing more or less all the time while writing. Or at least grinning madly. :-)

  • Posted By: Mike HolmesGenerally in LARPS there are moderators. If somebody wasn't playing by the same set of rules, generally they'd get kicked out. Most people do not break the rules, therefore. It's as consistent as tabletop RPG for the most part. Where it might break down is at larger sizes that are less moderaterable, where rules may be put in that intend to "automate" moderation. These are more subject to abuse. But I've seen LARPS well over 100 players go pretty darn well.
    Oh, awesome! And here's where we find a potential cross over point. Guild leadership. The guild I was involved with was pretty RP heavy. Not in the sense of "You have to RP to be in the guild" since it was a lot of casual friends and online aquantences, but in the sense that you better represent us well. So, that means playing by the RP server rules (don't make dumb character names that don't fit the fiction, never use /say for OOC talk) as well as the rules that developed from the community, like flagging up when you're going into RP situations where conflict is an expected part (like another story example was a supply shipment from one location to another. It wasn't much more than an extended walk, but since there was the potential to be attacked along the way, we flagged up. And there was the purpose of the shipment as story, but also whatever happened along the way contributed to that).

    In other words, you can use guild leadership as moderators. If you want to play by your own rules, the guild can enforce punishment (decreased raid rights, suspension, social stigma, or even ejection) like LARP moderators. But since everyone is in the guild, it's like being coworkers at worst, or friends at best, so you generally don't get people actively trying to ruin your fun. There's still potential problems when you run up against other guilds who might not see the same rules, but I've found that you can learn who's cool and who's not pretty quickly, and there's still a lot of potential for LARP style play within a guild or even smaller social unit.

    I knew some guys who started a party sized unit (5 players) got them to level 20, and then met up to go through dungeons and adventures and roleplay them. So, it's not about grinding through Deadmines, but actually playing out the encounters in character. Classic character heavy role-playing in a D&D-like system.
  • MIke, the heart of the problem is that you are correct: WoW is not a roleplaying game. At least, it's not, in the sense commonly understood by tabletop players and LARPers. It is in the generic sense that you play a role, but that's it. It falls down on many of the subdefinitions. (The definition of "RPG" is a pet peeve of mine, as it is broadly applied and supposed to be commonly understood without being adequately defined.)

    As such, any roleplay of the sort you might associate with tabletop gaming or LARPing must be done above and beyond what WoW provides - and often in spite of it.

    Consider this: in WoW, your character never has to speak. Ever. When you interact with an NPC, they speak to you (sound and/or text). You can talk and emote, but you don't have to, even on an RP server. I'm going a bit broader here, but stick with me: consider the differences among tabletop, LARP, WoW...and Final Fantasy. Sure, you "play a role" - multiple roles, in fact, as you usually control a party of charaters - but all of their dialog, all of it, is predetermined. It doesn't matter what you do - there's either an in-game response or there isn't. No freestyle. It's basically a Choose Your Own Adventure with combat mechanics and spellcasting. WoW is similar, except that your character is a completely blank slate, sans mechanics of class and skills/spells.

    Confession: even though I'm on two RP servers, I tend to avoid roleplay. There are two basic reasons for this. First, I think RPing should be consistent, and given the amount of time I spent in the world of Azeroth, I don't have that level of energy and commitment. Second, most of the RPing I encounter is painfully bad, for the reasons you've stated above.

    WoW is an expectations game. As long as you adjust your expectations to something the game can reasonably deliver, it's fun. Almost everything you're asking for it is poorly equipped to deliver.
  • I'll post some random thoughts here...

    I've played MMOs in various forms through the years. My first one was Ultima Online, and it was... less than pleasant. I'm a pretty social person, and I play rpgs for social reasons. I can go hang out with a buddy and watch him play a videogame and have fun if he's really into it. I spent more hours than I care to admit with one friend, as he played Rainbow Six (which I turned him on to), and I've always enjoyed things like Co-Op play in videogames, which is a sadly missing feature from most.

    I spent years (2 or 3) playing Everquest, a year in WoW, and I'm looking forward to trying out City of Heroes and seeing what it's like. I also spent a bunch of time playing Neverwinter Nights.

    Obviously there's the "game" aspect of all of 'em. Folks play the "game" for different reasons: seeing new lands/critters, getting new phat lewt, competition (PvP play), challenge (Raids, quests, whatever), crafting and/or merchanting. And of course there's the community.

    The community aspect can be a pretty powerful one. I was active in NWN, and one of the things that developed within the community was "PWs" or "Persistent Worlds". Basically a few people figured out how to turn NWN from a game where you might have a few other people log in and play a pre-made "module", and turned it into a full on mini MMO. The one I was involved with was fairly elaborate with several servers being hosted (mainly out of 1 or 2 person's pocket with some donations), a whole class of GMs to run quests and events for folks... all kinds of crazy stuff. It really was the "promise" of an MMO type game that really delivered. At least for that particular PW. Not all of 'em were that way.

    Within that PW, they had various guilds and the one I happened to be a member of became upset with the way things were going, and basically a chunk of us left. A new server was set up, and an entirely new world was crafted. Those of us that were there from the get-go migrated our characters from the one, and moved 'em into the new one. Of course, we did wind up making new characters later, but it was nice to bring along our favorite characters. Much like having a favorite shirt or something.

    At one point we were pretty close outside of our online personas. A couple of get-togethers happened and a good time was had by all. One of 'em I flew out to Tennessee, the other I roadtripped with my wife from California around and out to NM, before turning around and finishing off our vacation with the get-together in Texas.

    These days, everyone seems to have drifted apart mostly. I still keep in contact with the other people, but we don't actually play anything together these days. In another year or two, everyone will likely just sort of drift.

    I've noticed a rather similar tendency in the "full on" MMOs. A guild is created, like-minded people join it, hang out, and over time you'll see friendships start up here and there. Occasionally it's a lasting one, but mostly it starts strong and eventually fades as people move onto other games, or life rears up and takes front and center stage.

    The issue of "identity" within these games is interesting. Usually, people know you by whatever character name they've gotten to know you as, and that's their tendency to think of you and call you. The real-life get-togethers were interesting because while we did eventually learn each other's name, we either knew each other mainly by our forum names, or our character names. So when it came time to talk face to face, there was some awkwardness as people tried to figure out what to call each other. Using real names was just a hard habit to get into, but forum/character names seemed awfully goofy. I'll note here that in my particular case it wasn't a problem, because I've been adopted a couple of times. So my concept of myself isn't tied to my name, unlike it seems to be for most people.

    Having played TTRPGS for the past 20 years, I found the differences in terms of "community" to be quite interesting. I think the single greatest difference between the two is the double layer of identity.

    See, I grew up in foster homes as well as having been adopted. I learned pretty early on that appearances were important, and that there was a big difference between the masks that people where in public, and what you see when the door closes. I also learned pretty quick that those masks change around depending on whom is involved in what situation. We move through life juggling different masks and most people don't tend to think too much about it. It's usually not too much of a problem, until someone from one part of your life gets to see you wearing a different mask. Then, things can get...interesting.

    In TTRPGs, the role of masks isn't really much different than other aspects of real life. People have agendas, they want to present themselves in a favorable light, and so forth. Often you can look past the mask that someone's wearing (whether it's an rpger, or someone else in your "ordinary" life) and get that feeling as to whether there's a core of truth to that mask, or if it's a complete fake.

    In something like an MMO or the various little communities within it (as in guilds within the greater WoW community for example), you've got the first "layer" which is simply "I'm a person running this avatar around in the world). If you can get past that, you run into a whole separate one, which is the online mask. How you choose to represent yourself, if you're going to give anyone a handle on what you're like as a person behind the animated model.

    There's a certain level of trust that is put on the table when you start diving beneath the surface. As a person revealing information about yourself, you're trusting that the other person isn't going to "abuse" that trust in some fashion, that the other person is going to be "honest" about themselves, and so forth. And as the receiver of information, you're trusting that what you're told is mostly true, and so forth.

    (end part 1)
  • (begin part 2)

    How's that all mix in with roleplaying?

    It can get kinda complicated. Most games have a method for being able to have a "private" conversation. Whisper/Tell/message... something that basically one-to-one. When engaged in "roleplaying" with people, shooting a quick "heads up" or asking a question as to the permissibility of an action is easy, and generally expected. It clues the other player in and allows them to understand the separation between "my character" and "me the player" that's otherwise difficult to pull off in an MMO type situation.

    As time has gone on, I've noticed that regardless of a server's claim about whether or not it's an "rp" server, the guilds themselves are stepping up to the plate. They're declaring themselves to be "strict" rp guilds (always in character) or "loose rp" guilds (OOC chatter is tolerated/acceptable), and that makes it a lot easier to find folks to actually get into character with.

    Where things get a bit muddied though is that a lot of people play the MMO not for roleplay reasons, but for social networking. Just like there used to be folks like me that were just as interested in making friends and hanging out with cool people as pretending to be a bad-ass whatever, people are playing an MMO to make friends too. And they're _already_ playing a role, even if they don't adopt an actual in-game "character voice". Because they log in with an account name they make up, they create a look that will probably have little to do with their real one, and they've got a whole other name to go along with that new look.

    In other words, as far as many people are concerned, they're already roleplaying just by logging into the game.

    As for the roleplaying that does occur? It's interesting. You're constrained by the fact that generally you as a player can't alter the world. In fact, the world doesn't generally change much at all. You've still got that one idiot looking for his sheep, the same as he's been for the last 3,000 other times that someone has wandered up to him and talked to him. And even found his stupid sheep for him.

    So players either focus on character/character interaction, or agree upon ways to "justify" certain game things, like spawn areas, fixed quests, and so forth. Metagame rules (like mana regen rate or whatever) may or may not be worked into this framework. And there's times when other folks have already laid out the "ground rules", and will teach the newer folks what the explanations, justifications, and terms are. Just like in a TTRPG.

    I won't bother talking about whether an MMO is a "roleplaying game" or not. I personally think it's an argument along the lines of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. I do think though, that there's a larger number of "roleplayers" and "roleplaying" that goes on in these games, than many people might expect. It's just like real life though, in that the "majority" of people don't get it, so a large portion of the folks that engage in the activity tend to be low-key about it.
  • Hi, I'm Kwasir, level 70 Undead rogue, and I haven't been able to reply because I've been GRINDING reputation. When I'm online, I often refer to my wife with her characters name and vice versa.

    When I started playing WoW, I rolled into a RP-PVP -server, partly because a lot of my friends were playing there and partly because I identified with being a roleplayer, having been active in MUSHes and all. Only to find that WoW as a roleplaying platform doesen't work for me, at all. Not that I've really put my mind into it and tried; it caters my other needs (traditional D&D maxing, anyone?) so well, that roleplaying feels like something added to the server categories by popular request and not really putting though into it.

    Eve was mentioned; I find Eve to be a lot better platform for roleplaying because it's closer to the early text-based mediums (photorealism or the cartoon-style graphics that WoW has look great, but are problematic when you're moving around in an avatar with very limited capabilities when it comes to interacting with world with anything else than daggers) and because of the sandbox-design it has.
  • Hi Mike,

    Not sure how or if I can quote - anyway...
    For instance, I had a buddy spend all day once getting enough money to purchase a bunch of ore. He needed this ore to be converted into bars, in order to make something with the bars (another engineer). He found a miner to do the smelting, and had his character give their character the ore, promising him gold in return for the work when he returned the finished bars. The miner simply took the ore, and gave him nothing back.

    From a sorta "narrativism" POV, great, a theme about caveat emptor being created. To the highly gamism oriented player (everybody on WOW, just about), this was an affront, very akin to actual real-life theivery.
    That isn't any gamism I know. At best I'd call it like the sound of an engine that keeps stalling out...you know that noise? At worst I'd just call it crybabyism. Anyway, a stalling engine because at that point, at that very point, if a bunch of other people came in and went 'Nah, that's how the games coded - that's the challenge! Who to trust? And if you fail at that, how to get payback!'. If other people did, that's a gamist agenda kicking in.

    But they don't. Because the game doesn't set up enough of these 'You get screwed over' moments - if it did, people would come to the realisation that IS the game and then you'd get that social feedback from above. It's like if dodgeball only had a dodgeball thrown at you like once in a four hour game - the rest is sitting and reading and talking with others about what you read. When you get smacked in the side of the face with a dodgeball, your going to go 'WHAT THE HELL!', rather than 'Damn! Well, that's dodgeball for ya!'. I dunno how else to describe it - it's kind of like when you first taste beer and it tastes really bitter and horrid. But that's the idea of beer. But wow is all softdrinks and suger for hours, then BAM bitter and horrid. But if you actually keep having beer, you find in it's bitterness is a taste that's far more rewarding than sacarine.

    Anyway, here's something I tried on a WOW roleplay server. What I did is build up some cash, then headed back to the newbie areas. I had a question to ask - which of two characters they would follow (I used NPC's from the game). I gave both a desire, and reasons for getting it that you'd sympathise with a bit. And I offered gold for people to declare which side they'd go for.

    It'd didn't really work, but in an interesting way. One guy was interested, but wouldn't answer. To make a long story short, in the end rather than answering my question, he turned the tables on me and (after checking I'd answer right and not dodge the question) asked my character a question about...I think it was whether I'd kill murlocs, even if I might need them somehow to survive latter on! Yes, he pitched a curve ball at me! And I took it on - my pally would kill em - yes, it's better risk ones future than let scum survive! I think he even offered me money for the answer (can ya believe it) and I had to accept, because I had expected him to accept if he had answered (system in action!)! So one idea for roleplay is to prompt other people to 'harass' your character with difficult questions! Not sure how to encourage people to harass you, but I'm sure a little thought will figure it out.

    Another time I tried that in goldshire, but just ended up sitting with a group around a little campfire outside, where I played alot of devils advocate. They talked about it with me and I didn't just agitate, I genuinely talked as well. But I kept the fire going, so to speak >:)

    Anyway, there's some grist!
  • I like WoW, and I like to roleplay, and I like to roleplay on WoW. I play on an RP server, and I think it's fun to roleplay there.

    I seem to be in the minority, though, of people commenting here. So I thought I'd speak up.

    (My character is an orphan turned dancing girl turned barrister turned ambassador turned heroine.)
  • edited March 2008
    Platypus (if that is your real name!) thanks for all of that.

    Yes, I do think that this is all about identity. But that's the problem. There's a point at which we expect people to be falsifying their identity, because that's the game. And then there's a point at which we expect people to be relating to us as the actual humans.

    The problem with WOW is that this line is totally blurred. I agree with you, Callan, that the more "Eve-ish" model of interaction works fine... the game could be all about screwing with each other. But as you admit, it's not clear that this is where the line is drawn. Or that you're interacting with somebody on this level. So that's where the problems begin.

    Or, rather, this all could be made a lot more clear. If they wanted to.

    More importantly, perhaps, if this was the "agenda" that all in-game interaction was considered to be character-v-character (if you will), then I would still definitely want a venue for player to player communication. Not everybody would want this, but I sure would. Because I think that, as a community of players, that we are all responsible for each other's enjoyment. Call that Pollyanna if you like. It's how I function. So I think having a venue to apply real world social contract pressure (as difficult as that might be in the context of the intarweb), is a valuable tool.

    Yes, we're always all wearing "masks." But there are social contracts that we can enforce as players, whether or not somebody is hiding some part of their identity. We can't (and shouldn't) try to enforce these for our characters... if your character hates mine, then I shouldn't resent that as a player. But sans there being a clear line between which masks are fair game, and which we consider to be subject to real world social contract, problems will happen. As most people don't think there's a line at all, they consider affronts to their characters to be personal affronts.

    Put another way, if, in RL, you put on a particular persona, and somebody insults you, do you not take it personally? Isn't that mask part of your overall identity? If not, do you have a real identity? The masks may shield partially, but not 100%, the "real" person behind them. WOW is practically instructing players to think of their character as just another mask, yes. As Jukka points out. It makes "actual roleplaying" a minority activity that requires swimming upstream to accomplish.

    The guilds are interesting. Because, indeed, it's not about characters banding together at all. It's about RL players banding together. I put together some "guild philosophy" stuff that smacks of in-character reasoning. But in effect it's all about player behavior and keeping up a good guild reputation. Note that guilds have absolutely no in-game mechanical effects. Guild banks used to be just characters, and aren't actually any more functional now than then. So it's really all about who you know, and who you trust to do right by you. As players.

    Kynn, I know you are in a minority here, but your perspective is very important. Can you expand on how things function in the environment in which you play? Do you alternate "RP" with the mechanics of leveling up and such? Are they integrated somehow? Is your server particularly good, do you think (which is it)? Or is it just typical?

  • It's just a typical RP server, and roleplaying people constantly complain about the lack of roleplay. But it doesn't bother me that much.

    As Blanche er Matthew Gandy pointed out, WoW supports multiple creative agendas simultaneously. It also allows me to shift between them easily as my mood desires.

    I might go raiding Karazhan with my guild one night (like, Tuesdays and Wednesdays). It's not a roleplaying guild, and we don't play through the instance in character, but I keep aspects of my character intact. She's got a personality, a background, a history, and while those are less important in a fight, they still exist for me. I know who she is, what she likes, and so on.

    I might go and try to get something that I know my character would like to have. Mostly she likes looking snazzy and daring, but also she likes cute pets. So I might grind reputation with a particular faction -- by beating up nagas -- in order to get a little pet sporebat. And then I'd need to go out to the auction house and pick up a new outfit to match my new pet. These actions aren't "roleplaying" per se, but they're informed by the character, personality, and role that I'm portraying.

    I might do actual roleplaying. (Gasp!) There are certain spots (Goldshire, for example) that tend to have roleplayers around, and I can identify them either by the fact that they're RPing, or they've got an add-on which allows them to identify to other add-on users (such as me) that they're roleplayers, and gives a description of their characters. I can approach these people, or even random people, and just act as my character would act. Sometimes I meet someone interesting, sometimes I don't.

    I can also roleplay on a channel. Many servers have roleplaying channels set up, and some guilds have their own dedicated channels. For example, the primary RP channel on my server (Alliance-side) is defined, by mutual consent of the players, to be a tavern. People can join and then make an introductory pose to enter the tavern, or can just lurk. This lets me roleplay in-character while I'm off doing something else -- like waiting for the rest of my guild to show up for Kara, or leveling up my fishing, or whatever.

    The other things I do, that aren't roleplaying, can become fodder for roleplaying interactions. "What have you been doing today?" "Oh, I thought I'd go out and relax and go fishing. Ended up spending all day in Moonglade, felt like I musta caught 250 fish!" I actually did catch 250 fish, but to bring that into RP would be highlighting the absurdity -- I can't really carry 250 fish in a backpack, along with a gryphon, a dragon, three elephants, two horses, and three tigers.

    Oh, and finally I can go to roleplaying events. I went to a boat party last month, thrown by a guild with roleplayers in it, on the ship that sails around Feathermoon island. I put together a new outfit, asked a friend if I could be her date, and got myself down to the location. We had a nice evening of casual roleplaying with some people I hadn't seen for a while, and a friendly troll (from the Horde faction) even showed up to flirt and dance with another attendee.

    So, yeah, basically I roleplay by having a character in my head, and when I feel like playing her out, I find ways to do that. And when I don't, I've got plenty of other things to do, all without abandoning my roleplaying character concept.
  • Posted By: Callan S.So one idea for roleplay is to prompt other people to 'harass' your character with difficult questions!
    About 90% of the MMO roleplay that I found interesting (on CoH - I don't RP on WoW) related to simple conversations where one character asked the other character some question that the player didn't already know the answer to. Some times they were 'what if' questions, but just as often it was stuff like "where did you grow up?" or "did your dad teach you that?" or whatever. Improvisational, off the cuff background creation. You could build some very deep, very complex characters working that way.

    ... and some contradictory crap, but ain't that always the case?

    Only half facetious: I think the main reason RP doesn't do well on WoW is because there's no place to right down your character background or anything like that, in the game. :P
  • *just discovered this Massive thread*

    I play on Arent Dawn EU, which is one of the two original EU RP servers. I'm an officer in a guild focussed on roleplaying, and while I recognise a number of things described in the various posts (like being known by the name of your "main" character, as it's used as a sort of internet "handle"), I also want to add some things.

    For one, there is roleplaying in WoW. A lot of it is still textual (none of the people I play with will touch Ventrilo or the built-in voice chat, feeling that it breaks immersion). People use addons to enhance the RP aspect (adding surnames, titles, extra description, etc., visible to others who use those addons).

    The guild I am in (the Silvereye) is almost three years old now, and is (what we call) a themed guild, focussing on Night-Elven roleplay. Only Night-Elves can be members. We're a smallish guild (around 20 players, your 65 people guild seems HUGE to me *grins* ). Guild policy is to talk and act IC (In Character) all the time in your actions and in the /say, /yell and /emote channels. The /guildchat and /party and /raid chat are usually OOC. We've got a website for out-of-game communication, planning, etc. (at www.silvereye.dk ).

    I'm also one of the designers / admins behind an initiative called The Argent Archives, which consists of an in-game guild and a website ( www.argentarchives.org ) meant to foster interaction, roleplaying, storytelling, and more.

    I'll reply some more later on.
Sign In or Register to comment.