Old Gods, Dual Death Knights, and Big Hopes

And last but not least – some excellent posts from the weekend on a wide range of topics – from Old God omnipresence to a new, bold hope for us WoW players…

  • Garrosh Hellscream knows. He knows about Mankrik’s wife, he knows why elevators kill you, and he knows why there are no ducks in Azeroth. It’s all the Old Gods’ fault“Yeah, well, the magic controlling those elevator platforms was corrupted…so for all intents and purposes, all elevators are minions of the Old Gods. Specifically, one of the Old Gods – I believe his name is Goin’down’ethar. How much you want to bet that when we finally discover where he’s hidden, there won’t be any stairs?”
  • Saxsy writes a really interesting column on roleplaying Death Knights beyond the usual dark-and-solitary cliches“What I was thinking of today is how my own RP with Traxy has evolved to reflect the duality of her personality. The way she is changing, and the way she is not “death knighty” is reflective of her former personality, the one she had when she was alive, emerging.”
  • Syl looks at the upcoming MMO Wildstar, and wonders if it could be the genuine successor to WoW“Still, my overall impression of Wildstar remains; few innovations aside, it looks the way WoW should be looking today and feels like the next evolutionary step for players who are still attached to Blizzard’s franchise and overall concept.”
  • And Hunter shares some hard-earned lessons from his time as a guild officer and leader – which didn’t exactly go flawlessly“If you try to reason with the drama, if you try to calm it, or leave the situation unresolved, it will come back to haunt you. These people sew dissension in the ranks, they always do. They always leave after much effort is made for their benefit and take others with them.”

Enjoyed today’s posts? Please let other people know about them too!

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Could an MMORPG ever really become a roleplaying game?

What does an MMO need to really be able to call itself an RPG?

There has never been a true computer-run roleplaying game. Games like Skyrim come close, but the ability to immerse yourself in a role, play the character you want to play with no artificial restrictions and inhabit a truly dynamic world is still the realm of human-led gaming – whether online (even within an MMO “RPG”) or over a table or Google+.

I’ve been roleplaying for 28 years now, and have seen computer gaming get increasingly close to the holy grail over that time – but it’s never quite made it. So, I found the Rampant Coyote’s article on games design and what it would take for a computer game to truly become a roleplaying experience really interesting –

“Whether it’s trying on an idealized persona, experimenting with a role, or acting as an interactive author of your character’s story, role-playing for its own sake can be an extra layer of fun on top of the hacking and slashing and looting and coming up with bad puns to make your friends groan.

It is also something that is extremely difficult to translate into computer games. It’s often very difficult to maintain in tabletop games or even LARPS, as well. But once you have the computer acting as both medium and (in multiplayer games) an intermediary between players, it gets even harder to keep that aspect of RPGs going. After all, the game world itself is completely immune to all but the most coarse of interactions – very little more beyond “destroy,” “loot,” and “trade” – so aside from some canned dialog or story options, there’s really no way to express the subtleties of character. You can’t wink at a barmaid to try and catch her attention, or bribe some of the street urchins to tip you with information when they catch site of your rival, sneer at the mayor as he welcomes you to the town, or treat your horse to an extra bit of oats and an apple and a good brushing to reward it for its courage and the hard run it made to bring you back to the town in safety. These are things that might not make much impact in a human-moderated world either, but might at least gain some acknowledgement from the other humans around the table. They’d at least make a mark on their collective history of the game world to register what kind of person your character is.

Computerized game worlds don’t do that. Yet. And probably at no time in the near future. Computers aren’t any good at that.”

It’s interesting to look at Coyote’s list and spot the things that may be more or less difficult to achieve. Games with memory are actually developing nicely – Skyrim has a crude version of this already. On the other hand, true freedom of action pretty much requires natural language processing and something worryingly close to true AI.

Games like Guild Wars 2 and Pathfinder are chipping away at parts of the monolith. It’s still a hell of a long way away – but it’s getting closer. One day, perhaps we really will see a massively multiplayer world which genuinely is an immersive roleplaying experience.

Do you think we’ll ever see a true MMORPG?

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Podcast reviews, RP love and hate, and That Certain Tree

Two great posts from bloggers who joined us via the Newbie Blogger Initiative today, plus an overview of SWTOR podcasts you might want to check out…

  • Blogging veteran Shintar of Going Commando writes a really detailed review post on the top four SWTOR podcasts currently out there“One thing I’ve found remarkable about all the SWTOR podcasts I’ve listened to so far is that none of them have been badly made, even if some of them didn’t personally appeal to me because of the hosts or the content. “
  • Brazokie shares some of the aspects of MMO roleplaying that she finds can make or break an RP experience“Back when I was a kid, playing “imagination games” around the house and backyard, there was the crucial moment all girls would raise their hands and demand to be the princess. “
  • And How To Pour Sand Back In The Box writes a post in praise of the older, slower style of MMO gameplay, and memories of one particular Everquest tree” This particular tree is nothing special to most, but to me it is a tree located precisely outside the window of the Crushbone Keep throne room. Often, I would climb up it from the outside to see who was camping the room and if they wanted any help. Eventually, however, I started climbing up it and looking in just to have a conversation.”

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Do MMORPGs stop you writing your own character’s story?

With the flap over Mass Effect 3’s ending, and SWTOR seeking to define itself by its narrative, the focus is firmly back on story in gaming at the moment.

Today two different bloggers are musing on the role of story in MMOs, and whether it’s possible to have a unique story in a world where almost everyone will be experiencing some version of the same narrative.

First up, Zoso of Killed in a Smiling Accident discusses the Schrodinger’s Cat nature of NPCs in SWTOR, where it’s possible to have both killed and saved multiple sympathetic, voiced characters, multiple times

“In a single player game this might crop up again later; perhaps you’d bump in the Captain on another planet and he’d be grateful that you spared him, while down the other leg of the trousers of time another player would meet the First Officer who’d taken over after his Captain had been demoted in a mysterious lightsabre-based industrial accident. In the shared universe of a MMOG both things happened, Schrödinger’s Captain is both alive and dead depending on who you talk to. Chat with someone who’s done the flashpoint a few times and it’s even more confusing:

“Oh, you’ve done the Black Talon, did you spare the Captain or kill him?”

“The first time, we spared him. Second time, we killed him. Third time I wanted to spare him, but got outvoted. Fourth and fifth times we were after the loot from the Republic group that spawns in if you spare him, then sixth through ninth was speed runs for social points so we killed him.”

As always, Zoso delivers a sequence of interesting, thought-provoking points, from the way Mass Effect 3 puts the lie to the claim that “no-one plays games for story” to the extent to which SWTOR fails to engage or feel personal for many people precisely because of this multiple universe situation.

Meanwhile, Pewter of Decoding Dragons has been musing on Guild Wars 2’s customisation, in a series of small musings on elements of MMORPG personalisation

“Even in Warcraft, which is starting to look relatively uncustomisable, there are hundreds of thousands of artefacts from the lives of individual characters out there. Fan fiction, fan art, twitter accounts, blog posts, moments shared on vent about the time when that warlock did that thing that one time. The personal story in Guild Wars 2 is unique to each individual character, but the players will create their own artefacts and ways to share the immense diversity of experience that ArenaNet has enabled. Just look at the discussions about FemShep – there are thousands of FemSheps out there, and yet I see so many discussions about ‘my FemShep’. The possessive.

Pewter covers a whole gamut of topics here, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this post spawn a number of responses and more in-depth explorations. I found the quote above particularly interesting – the way that we bond with a game character, even the same game character that thousands of other people have bonded with, is one thing that separates games from any other medium. We may enjoy watching Chuck, but he’s still the same Chuck other people are watching. By contrast, Shepard is “my” Shepard.

And finally, roleplaying in MMOs is one of the most immersive ways to create a unique experience in a non-unique world. [Edit – Jana and Saxxy of I Like Pancakes wrote this guide. Apologies for the misattribution.] has written a fantastic, comprehensive and lengthy guide to getting started with (MMORPG) roleplaying. If you want to know how such things work in a world without a DM or if you fancy trying something new in your MMOs, I higly recommend it –

“After considering the character physically, it’s time to consider the character mentally. Creating a bit of a backstory is important because it guides you as to how to act in RP. I like to create a “defining moment”: a story about the character’s past that resonates with the character and defines what drives them. For Jana, that moment is her failed relationship with Jeremiah. She sought and continues to seek some form of reconciliation, allowing her to love without being driven to hurt or be hurt. For Saxsy, that moment is her leaving Auberdine to travel to Eldre’thalas. She is driven by justifying her decision to become a mage, defending it against her family, and maintaining a joyous attitude in the face of it all. ”

Do you find yourself disconcerted by the thousands of other players running around with similar stories to “yours”?

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Thursday Randomness: RP, Star Trek and starting a guild

It seems to have been guide week this week, and it’s not over yet, with The Grumpy Elf taking on the pedagogue’s role today. Plus, Green Armadillo continues to find STO interesting, and Azeroth Observer’s been trying something tricky, starting over in WoW…

  • Reliq at Azeroth Observer took the brave step – particularly late in an expansion – of starting a new guild in WoW, and writes up his experiences and what he’s learned“There’s one thing I’ve found from doing this, and it is I think an insight into how strangers interact: you can have an awesome idea, and others may see value in it, but they will not generally commit to that idea without seeing that others have already.”
  • The Grumpy Elf comes over all helpful with a lengthy guide to starting roleplaying in MMORPGs“Just because these things are listed over a persons head in the game it is not a license to assume you know them. If someone does not tell you information you do not know it.”
  • And Green Armadillo provides a detailed, interesting and personal account of his ongoing voyages in Star Trek Online, now up to the high levels“How much these upgrades matter is open to debate. It’s possible to run the duty officer system at the basic 100 slots, but you will have to ditch low quality officers, and may not have the slots to keep a full contingent – i.e. there will likely missions you cannot do for lack of versatility.”

I can’t believe I’ve not used a “to boldly go” gag in an STO post yet.

What are you playing at the moment?

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AAARGH! My eyes! A Field Trip to Goldshire Inn

Warning: Adult Content. No, really.

OK, I’m a pretty unshockable guy, I’m broad-minded, and generally I’m pretty hard to startle with Teh Adult Content.

But it has to be said, whilst it’s absolutely fascinating stuff, some of the screenshots – yes, screenshots – in Navimie’s latest post on The Daily Frostwolf made me turn into Giles from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. “Oh – good Lord. I say.” takes off glasses, polishes them, replaces them “Good Lord.”

What has she been doing? She’s been on a field trip, to the infamous Erotic RP hangout that is Goldshire Inn on one of the major WoW RP servers. It’s rather like “Gorillas in the Mist”, but with less gorillas, and more…

Cat-form druids.

Doing things

“This druid kept sitting, standing, sitting, standing. Over and over. OHHHHHH. I see. Oh my gosh, I think they’re having… sex. My goodness, even standing looking from here it looks blushworthy. I go into the next room. There is another couple on the bed, but it looks like they’re just talking. And there are dead bodies all over the floor!

“What happened here?” I asked.

bq. “Horde often come here and try to ruin the fun,” said Roshii. “So they get slaughtered.”

Uh-huh. OK. I wonder if Horde have their own brothel on their own side… I doubt it, if this is an RP pick-up server. Humans and night elves are probably more sexy. Maybe in Silvermoon it’s different, in the low level inn on that side. Full of sexy blood elves… hmmm. Roshii was asked to dance, and so he obliged the person with a dance.

And I went into the other room. Oh my goodness. Now that really made me giggle and blush. I had to leave. I felt like a voyeur. Oh dear, I was BEING a voyeur, that was my whole purpose here.”

I mentioned that this post probably isn’t for the easily-offended, right?

But seriously, folks – this is fascinating stuff, and a really interesting insight into a side of WoW that a lot of us don’t have much experience in. I had no idea that ERPers were likely to be such accomplished PvPers too, for example. It’s eye-opening – if sometimes rather uncomfortably so.

I mean, some of the uses people have found for perfectly innocent emotes…

What have you gotten up to in Goldshi – actually, you know what, don’t answer that. :)

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How will you build your character in SWTOR?

In my (admittedly brief) time playing SWTOR so far, one thing I’ve noticed is that the game’s dialog choices, rather like Skyrim’s endless options, really push you toward developing a very definite idea of who your character is. For an old-school roleplayer like myself, that was one of the elements of the game I liked the most – the fact that I ended up with an idea of my character as a person.

Vrykerion of the Land of Odd has been having a similar experience, and today writes a lengthy but very interesting piece exploring the choices his characters have made, and offering some tips for developing your character as a person in SWTOR’s far, far away galaxy –

“ My consular was originally designed to look like Morpheus from the Matrix. Which seemed like a good idea for a Jedi that sought truth and wisdom in ancient relics. However, as soon as those first cut scenes took off, he completely changed gears. The waves of compliments quickly formed in this egotistical Jedi that only cared for his own success. The things the NPCs say to you and how you respond to them, as well as the actually plotline surrounding your character can give you a lot of ideas for fleshing out the details.

My Sith inquisitor’s concept is partially trying to fit the race I wanted with the story I was given, and viola! A twisted and dark incarnation of the Count of Monte Cristo forms in my mind. I would recommend playing to level 4-5 and see if anything strikes you. It takes a short enough time that deleting and re-rolling won’t feel like much of a waste, and you’ll be able to develop a character with an informed decision on where they will be starting out.”

Have you played SWTOR’s beta, and if so, did you find your character forming in your mind as a person, not just a “toon”?

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