Putting The Rule In Roleplaying
“Greetings whelps. I am Optamus The Cleric, divine healer. I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the ending, what was, what is and what shall be… the almighty. I shall heal you all and forever you shall be grateful.”
Optamus sits down and begin to reads his bible.
Ah. Those were the days. I’ve never roleplayed in real life but about 8 years ago I decided to give it a shot and roleplay a Cleric in Everquest. I was stunned at not only how fun it was but also how well received I was. People absolutely adored it. As you can probably guess from above, I had a human Cleric called Optamus – a complicated character who was a religious zealot, incredibly arrogant, self-absorbed and narcissistic. And he was funny.
I discovered that roleplaying was like walking a tight-rope. I couldn’t just charge into a group and start insulting people because I would get immediately kicked (that only ever happened to me once), I had to slowly build and introduce my character. Fortunately in Everquest groups used to last for hours so that was never a problem. I also had to stick entirely to Norrath references and let other people enjoy making fun of me. I knew a few players who tried to roleplay ‘evil’ characters by just being, well, plain nasty. The extent of my insults were stuff like ‘whelp’ or, my favourite, ‘one-legged kobold’. I also used to invite people to tease me by coming out with statements like “I’m so beautiful I was once memorised for hours by my own reflection” and screaming like a whimp when a mob got aggro on me. It was tough, but it was fun and I’d say that 99% of all players I met soon caught on to my character and played along, highly enjoying it (I used to get private tells from group members commenting on how much fun they were having – I never roleplayed in /tell chat so I used to have a good conversation about it with them).
But now, in the modern MMO, things have changed. When was the last time you saw something truly roleplaying in any game? I’ve never seen anyone roleplay in WoW or EQ2 and, even when I played on a very active AoC RP server, I still only encountered about two roleplayers. Today it’s all about progression and being the best at the game. A friend of mine used the expression ‘ruleplaying’ and that’s exactly what’s happened to MMOs.
When was the last time you picked a piece a gear because of the way it looked or how it might enhance your RP persona? Players today don’t play a ‘role’ in their MMO, they play a ‘rule’. They want to be the best, the highest DPS, the best tank, the best healer. Raiding is all about metrics and performance, not about actual being a character embarking on a huge challenge to slay a mythical beast. It’s about getting through the content as fast as you can and scoring #1 on the DPS calculator at the end of the raid.
I know that many MMOs have special RP servers but they don’t seem much better than normal servers (or at least the ones I’ve tried). It’s not just about following a naming convention for your character, it’s about actually having a character and not being obsessed by metrics but rather about fulfilling a role. I’d easily bet that even the top raiders on RP servers still use DPS calculators and upgrade their gear to what’s better rather than what might suit their character. And don’t you think it’s kinda sad that games from the genre ‘Massively Multiplayer Roleplaying Game” have to have special servers just for the roleplaying portion?