Posts Tagged ‘roleplaying’

Gods In MMORPGs

Spinks posted an interesting article about guessing the next Old God in World of Warcraft (apparently they’re all named after gods in the H.P. Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos – had no idea). This got me thinking about how deities are used in MMORPGs and what I’d like to see done with them.

My first exposure to gods in MMOs was with the deities in Everquest. They were pretty hard to ignore and appeared everywhere in the lore and were mentioned a lot in game. In fact, choosing a deity to worship was also part of your character creation process, something I have never seen in any other MMORPG since. Although whatever god you picked had very little impact on your gaming experience, I really enjoyed the idea of using another attribute to define the character of my avatar.

Everquest 2 expanded upon Everquest’s god system when it introduced worshipable deities with the Echoes of Faydwer expansion. The mechanic works by allowing you to pick a god to worship by simply finding the appropriate quest giver and completing a level 20 quest. For your efforts, you receive a shrine you can place in your home and use to sacrifice items to in return for favour which you can use to purchase spell abilities. From there on, you can complete a series of quests, one every ten levels, to unlock access to more abilities and more items. It’s a very cool and engaging system.

Age of Conan has no deity system whatsoever and it was a huge disappointment to me. The whole Conan world is so massively ingrained with the idea of worshiping gods, everyone from Crom to Set, and I was really hoping it play a large role in the game. Although you can pick classes like Tempest of Set or Priest of Mitra, it didn’t seem to have much impact on anything you did or what could do. Perhaps a deity system would’ve added some much needed depth to the game.

World of Warcraft doesn’t seem to really focus on gods much at all. I know there are a few kicking around and obviously they exist and you can raid against some of them but that’s pretty much all I know about it. Kinda strange now that I think about it considering I’ve been playing the game for over eight months and I’ve done a fair bit of reading about the backstory. Is it just me or are gods in WoW not so prominiently featured in the story?

Overall, I think gods can add a huge amount of depth to a MMO either through game mechanics or simply by helping to define your character. Although the concept of allowing your character to worship a deity may seem a little superficial or redundant, it’s actually a part of the whole ‘RPG’ experience of MMORPGs that appeals to me. I enjoy anything that I can use to help distinguish and set apart my character from other players.

Ultimately I’d love a fully fledged deity mechanic in a fantasy based MMO, in which your choice of actions effects who you can worship and your choice of deity actually has an impact of how you are perceived in game.


Bald, Fat Old Men With Beards

Spinks posted an interesting article about the way male and female characters are portrayed in games. It’s a good read – I’d urge you to check it out – but I won’t repeat it all. Essentially she reckons character models are rendered the way they are so they can maintain recognisable silhouettes. This may very well may be true but my take on it is a lot more basic that than: I think people just plain like seeing perfect males and females. It’s everywhere in our society and online games are no exception.

Want proof? Log into any MMORPG that offers fully customisable avatars (there aren’t actually all that many) and see how many fat old men or women you can spot. I mean, you’d have to be some kind of a freak to actually want to play an obese hairy person, right?

Yup, I have another confession to make – I have a thing for bald, fat old men with beards.

Bruticus, my AoC Conqueror

Bruticus, my Age of Conan Conqueror. Chubby yet deadly.

Grayson, my EQ2 Bruiser

Grayson, my EQ2 Bruiser. Old and cranky but still popular with the ladies.

And you thought my Ogre fetish was bad.

The main reason I pick these styles of character is because I hate the stereotypical portrayal of sexy female rogues or muscular male warriors.  I like being unique and different to everyone else. Plus, they give me great roleplaying back stories for my characters. I’d much rather play the seasoned old lecherous brawler who comes out of retirement to hunt down his treacherous son than the gallant and bland Paladin who is adventureing just to pass time until his next work out session.

All of these are definitely a good reason to have properly customisable body types in MMORPGs. Screw the muscle slider, give me a fat slider any day.


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?