[MUD-Dev] RP, MMORPGs, and their Evolution

Michael Chui blizzard36_2002 at yahoo.com
Fri May 23 03:51:47 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

--- Brian Lindahl <lindahlb at hotmail.com> wrote:
> From: "Talanithus HTML" <talanithus at mindspring.com>

>> NOTE: This is a letter I posted on another MMORPG forum, that I
>> thought directly applied to UO as well. I attempted to clean it
>> up to remove any refernces to the original thread it was crafted
>> for, but I might have missed something. It's late, I'm
>> tired. *grins*

> First of all, I'll say this is slightly off the topic, but I feel
> it needs to be said here. In the following content, MMORPG refers
> to such MMORPG-style games with 1000+ concurrent users at peak.

> I'd really have to say that, despite the fact that MMORPG has
> role-playing in its title. I have yet to see a MMORPG that
> actually has roleplaying as its dominant driving force. This is,
> I'd have to say, due to the lack of depth of the theme that
> current MMORPGs are displaying. The history of the worlds in most
> current MMORPGs tend to follow a circular path, as opposed to
> transgressing a linear path over a period of time. While some
> MMORPGs due have linear progression of a plot line, it is feeble
> at best (AC2, DragonRealms, GS3). For example, AC2, just releases
> new quests and does very little plotline running from an in-game
> perspective. GS3, run by Simutronics, does a better job in
> utilizing a linear plotline better than AC2, but it still falls
> short of encouraging any sort of true roleplaying. It has
> significantly more plotlines being run from within the game (as
> opposed to add-ins in AC2), however, the sheer dominance of hack
> and slash fails to reach a powerful level of
> immersion. DragonRealms does a MUCH better job by providing an
> environment which does not revolve around hack and slash, however
> it lacks strong plotlines run within the game. This are merely
> observations that I've made myself, or that others have stated on
> message boards. I am not aware of any other MMORPGs that have a
> more powerful theme, better run plotlines and/or less emphasis on
> hack and slash. Feel free to chime in if I left any out.

Considering my primary source of experience with good MUDs is
Dragonrealms, I feel I have to put in a word here. GS3 was
technically my first MUD. I never got into it, however, having been
utterly lost because I didn't realize I had to type NORTH rather
than GO NORTH. I believe I got lost after that and
quit. Dragonrealms was next up. One of the first times I played, I
stayed up until 6am with a new friend.

My own project came from a dream and a wish, you could say. The two
of us who started out were disgusted with the distinct lack of
roleplay in it. We liked just about everything else. (Disclaimer: As
previously stated, my actual experience with MUDs isn't very
encompassing.) The combat system was great, the experience/skills
system was fascinating. And while I got the gist of a great history
and storyline underlying everything... this didn't manifest in the
actual gameplay. At the VERY most, people responded actively to
invasions. That about topped it.

You said DR was less hack-n-slash than GS3, and not being a veteran
of GS3, I can't refute that. However, I think the main reason for
this difference is in the design of the skills system. GS3 was more
along the lines of D&D: to advance, you must kill. In DR, it was
conceivably possible to advance without ever fighting, because the
required skill could be taught. (It would go really slowly though.)
Furthermore, the fighting skills were easily gotten. The difficulty
always lay in other skills. Thus, everyone spent their time
socializing and doing repetitive tasks over and over. Anyone that
didn't write a script with an infinite loop probably quit or had
calloused fingers. Want to learn foraging? Find a teacher, sit down,
and forage until you drop. Want to learn perception? Find a teacher,
sit down, search until you drop, and announce that people may
practice stealing on you.

Roleplaying? A very uncommon practice.

> I think one of the major reasons why MMORPGs are lacking in this
> department, is that the game development is done with very little
> integration of history, the future plotline, and flexibility. Most
> games' depth is developed in a style akin to the method of
> changing the skin color of a monster to create a new beast to
> kill. It is very much clone-like and bland. I believe that just as
> many resources (time, money, manpower) should be allocated to
> developing the environement (story, history, world, cultures,
> communities, feature characters, common characters, personality
> archetypes) as to developing the gameplay. As long as this
> environment is strongly integrated into the gameplay (i.e. just as
> strong personality archetypes found in common NPCs as those found
> in figurehead NPCs), the result will be that of a higher quality
> MMORPG that truely deserves the title that the gaming market was
> so quick to attribute.

Yes, definitely. While background and environment are absolutely
100% necessary, not to mention essential to roleplaying, they're as
useless as polygons in a box if the gameplay isn't with it.

My current strategy is this: Design the background and history NOW,
before a single player even knows my world exists. Enrich the
culture as deeply as possible. Make it so that when that first
player steps in, he or she will KNOW that this is another world. A
real world. A living, breathing world in which they can walk through
and be a different person.

With this design in hand, I plan for something different: greet the
player with a demonstration of how to roleplay their character. A
normal elf, this demonstration would say, talks like this, walks
like this, and acts like this. It's their choice to depart from the
norm, but as long as this isn't too foreign or too difficult, I'd
wager most players would follow it.

I largely believe that immersion is the key to encouraging roleplay.
That requires sufficient realism, but also sufficient fun. So this
is where I've focused my design efforts, with the every-now-and-then
distraction of what other necessities I ought to include.

And... it's 4am. I think it'd be best to be quiet now.
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