[MUD-Dev] Star Wars Galaxies: 1 character per server

shren shren at io.com
Mon Jan 6 16:07:46 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

On Thu, 2 Jan 2003, Amanda Walker wrote:
> On Thursday, January 2, 2003, at 02:55  AM, Marc Fielding wrote:
>> Then we're mostly in agreement. I feel the process won't scale
>> until there are a large enough number of roleplayers to support a
>> commercial MMOG.

> Ah, back to an old tangent.  Why is roleplaying important?  At
> all?
> The most fun I ever had on a text MUD was one with no RPGing, no
> levels, no loot.  It wasn't even a little niche MUD, it was
> LambdaMOO.
> I don't think that roleplaying per se is a necessary aspect of
> immersion, engagement, etc.  I think this is best illustrated by
> the current crop of popular MMOGs.  In years of playing AC, and
> months of playing EQ and AO, I have literally never run into
> in-game roleplaying (beyond the game mechanics).  Not once.  It
> seems pretty clear to me that whatever people are finding engaging
> about MMOGs, it doesn't seem to be the opportunity for roleplay
> per se.

This reminds me of an old gaming group I was in.  We had 5 players,
and were trying to play a high-powered superheroic game.  We had
chronic problems getting along.  It's not that we didn't get along -
we each had a prefered type of player character, and it was the
characters that didn't get along.  We had two people who liked
playing never-kill-anyone guys, and three who to some level or
another were willing to kill the bad guys.  One player liked playing
patriots - another was reading about communism and marxism and was
exploring those ideas by making commie characters.

It was nuts.  It was like the bad guys were mere speedbumps to be
run over so we could get back to kicking each other's ass.

The point is, at one point the storyteller said, "ok, this time
you'll build the group together.  make characters that can work
together and when we start the game, you'll have been working
together for a year."

It, of course, did not work.  You can not make people have
background.  You can not invent it with a few words.  If you don't
give people background, they won't have it.  If they have no
background, there is nothing to roleplay.  Since people have no
background in common within the game world, they rely on thier
real-life background.

Say I'm a new UO player.  I decide that I'm from Trinsic.  I meet
another new UO player.  He also decided he's from Trinsic.  Despite
out common backgrounds, we don't have any Trinsic culture between
us.  No anticdotes, no history, no dramatis personae, nothing.  It's
not that we don't want to roleplay - it's that our characters have
no bridge.  Nothing to talk about.  The first time a dull moment
pops up, we'll get to chatting, and since we have little IC culture
to talk about, we'll start talking about real world stuff.  We'll
find our real-life commonalities - maybe we both got our ass kicked
in the stock market, or are both from Muncie, or both like a given
sports team.  There's something to talk about there.

As it stands though, many MMORPG worlds tend to be both shallow and
undynamic.  Shallow, in that there's little backstory.  Undynamic,
in that the world tends not to change.  Thus there's nothing to talk
about!  There's no soil in which for roleplaying to grow, no story

Say we built a very static dungeon crawl world built in a popular
fantasy world.  The world is undynamic but it's not shallow - it has
some silly series of books it's built on top of it.  New characters
by players who know the world will have a common history because of
the events in the books.  Thus, there's something to talk about.

Alternately, imagine a world with no back story but a high degree of
dynamicism.  Monster populations shift.  All cities are
player-built.  There are lots of different types of player factions
and families, and players start young, age, and eventually die.
Now, we have something else to talk about - the changing state of
the world and the resulting game politics.

The only way around this is for a couple or more players to get
together and build a consensus world view.  That's a lot of work,
though, and the fact that it means *nothing* to most players tends
to demoralize after a while.

The reasons above is why I expect the two following things:
  One: Star Wars will see a bit more roleplaying than the average
  MMORPG, as it's non-shallow.  It won't be enough to impress most
  hardcore roleplayers, however.

  Two: 'True' roleplaying will be generally relagated to small games
  for a long time to come.

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