Let’s talk about roleplaying.
It’s a valid topic of discussion. After all, two out of four letters in the abbreviation ORPG refer to it. It must be important. Yet very few people in ORPGs roleplay. Why is this?
(ignoring the few thousand people who immediately pipe up “cuz rollplaying is gay d00d”. You’re lost to us. Begone.)
The short answer, in my opinion, is that roleplaying in ORPGs, for most, requires an environment that facilitates suspension of disbelief. And all current ORPGs fail miserably at this.
Asheron’s Call is too new to judge, but let’s do it anyway. There is a rich backstory behind AC, but it’s only in the intro movie and the documentation. Wandering Dereth, you see precious little of any story line, much less an immersive one. The noted viking Haakon Slash would feel right at home, though. And AC is a pretty decent environment for PvP. But, as I’ll detail in a minute, without an immersive environment – without an element of roleplaying, PvP will always be a failure, no matter how well it may be technically executed.
Everquest and Ultima Online can both be fairly immersive, if not for the players contained within. Both games have attempted to run GM/Seer-run events within a greater “storyline”. In both games, those attempts are doomed to failure, because of disruptive players that tag along for the promise of “kewl stuff”, or, even worse, as often happens in Ultima Online, simply to kill off those participating. In Everquest, the rare GM-run events are immediately overrun by 50th level powergamers who slay everything possible in sight, looking for the coveted “rare drop”. In response, the GMs spawn 60th level creatures that slay everyone in sight. There has not yet been a single event in Everquest that did not end in the ground being literally covered with corpses.
Needless to say, this doesn’t bode well for the immersive factor when you’re immediately killed, whether by kewldewd PKs or frustrated GMs.
I’m wondering if the answer isn’t just an exclusionary model for ORPGs. As in, very tightly controlled, small worlds that are free from adrenally overdosed 14 year olds whose idea of a good time is to fuck up other people’s day.
I wonder if anyone is already working on that model…