Improving Roleplaying: Measuring and Rewarding Roleplay

This is the sixth (and last) in a series about improving roleplaying in MMOs.

But in this last installment, I’m going to cut to the quick and ask how we can legitimise RP as a playing style. In order to do that, we need to find ways to measure and reward it in games.

Previous posts were:

People have been roleplaying for fun or for ritual since forever. Depending on how you define the term, roleplay can include anything from putting on funny voices to tell a childrens’ story, improvisational theatre, playing out sex fantasies, or acting out elaborate ancient rituals in full costume (some people would put modern religious rites into this category too).

But as an actual gaming system, roleplaying is bounded by rules and rewards. The standard tabletop session ends with the GM assigning points to people based on various criteria including their roleplaying and how well they completed their character goals for the session. (In D&D this was traditionally done by giving xp for monsters killed and treasure looted, since that was pretty much always the characters’ goal.) The players could then spend their points on improving their character.

MUDs and MMOs simply mechanised the process. You still get xp for killing mobs and completing quests. But somehow, the optional extra xp for good roleplaying disappeared.

This isn’t because good RP is subjective any more than good writing or good acting is. Sure, there’s a subjective side to personal preferences but you could imagine some rough rules. Give people a few ways to define their character. See how well the role was played, given the circumstances of the scene. Judge the use of language. How well did the person play with others and accept their RP. There are ways in which you could make a start on the problem.

But computers are not (currently) good at evaluating style. G Christopher Williams writes in Pop Matters about why you can’t have a Project Runway type of computer game. He’s also musing about whether style has its own internal rules, which could be coded into a game.

And the biggest problem of all – before we measure anything, we need to define what it is.

Automatic Measures – Activity, Language

In the text-based days, we knew what we meant by roleplaying. It was all to do with playing out scenes with other people by typing in sentences of text. You wrote your character’s action, then waited for other people to respond. The action might include something they said, or something they did, but you’d input one pose at a time.

We experimented with automated measures. Activity was the most obvious one – measure how many hours a week a character has spent in a scene with other people where all of them were active. Of course it could be subverted by macros, so you weight that metric down accordingly. You could also add a factor if they have interacted IC with a lot of different people, as opposed to always the same one or two. Giving a bonus for attending large scenes adds an incentive to do it.

You can also reward people for writing backgrounds, writing chronicles of their play, or some other form of non-direct RP.

Measuring language is a more difficult prospect. This would involve weighting scores towards longer and more involved sentences. So the people who wrote more would basically get some recognition. There’s no guarantee that this meant better roleplaying, but the person who never posed more than “X nods and smiles,” would be encouraged to write a little more.

You could imagine a smart parser that was able to do a more thorough review. But it’s a lot of work and a lot of computing power, and even if it was possible, you end up having to argue with a player as to whether or not their character would really have said or done something or not. The point at which you say, “Sorry, we don’t think your character would have done that,” is the point at which you’ve failed, even if you were right. Because it has to be their decision on how to play their role.

MMOs add more possibilities for people to act out roles, and they won’t be purely text based. People use emotes, whispers, and all sorts of props and external details to get into role and interact with other players.

But if you had, for example, some roleplaying instances, you could measure activity within them. Even if it was just time logged in. What might a RP instance involve? It might be no more than an environment which could be manhandled by players. Imagine a town hall where you could rearrange the chairs, a theatre with optional backdrops and sets, anything that is designed purely for roleplaying purposes.

And even that would still exclude RP that happens in other places. The act of introducing measurements already limits how people will choose to play.

Human Measures – Voting, Parsing the Logs

The other way to measure any social gaming metric is to use social measures. Let people vote on each other’s RP. Give everyone a handful of votes which they can cast every week. Make it easy for them to nominate anyone with whom they have interacted. Then every week, tot up the scores and assign some kind of weighted average points. Maybe even reward people for using their votes to vote for someone they hadn’t nominated in the last month to encourage them to mix.

This is subject to all the usual voting issues. People can form into cliques. People can organise tit-for-tat voting. But ultimately, as long as they are voting for people with whom they enjoyed RP then the system has some value.

The other big issue with this type of system is that it rewards certain types of character more than others. The socialite who flits from bar to bar has a great excuse to get into lots of scenes. The reclusive, hunchbacked, xenophobic wizard (whilst probably being a really cool character) probably doesn’t.

Another method is for expert judges to scour the logs and watch the scenes and give out bonuses when they observe good RP. Again in text games, we occasionally used to do this. It was considered rude for staff to sit invisibly in a scene without telling anyone, but we encouraged players to send us the logs of any scenes they’d really enjoyed. Partly so that we could put them up on the website to encourage new players and demonstrate how the game could work, but also so that we could reward people.

However, what is practical in a small private game isn’t always smart in a massive MMO. It’s a huge amount of time and effort to judge scenes. Even beyond that, judges can be biased.

So using voting is viable, if you limit the effect of cliques and cartels. Using activity monitors is viable, as long as you are careful not to reward time spent in game too massively. Using GMs to judge selected scenes is viable, if you can find a way to be fair to all the playerbase while doing it.

What sorts of rewards do roleplayers want?

Although xp was the traditional award for roleplaying, it was never the only reward given out in tabletop games. GMs used player RP as a stepping stone to introducing new storylines, new NPCs, and maybe even giving out loot.

Roleplaying in games became synonymous with planning your character’s next moves. I always felt that this was a trap. The strategy of ‘what is our optimal best move to do next’ wasn’t always the same as ‘what would my character do next’. So we have to be careful of rewarding strategy when we actually wanted to reward RP.

But opening up new storylines for the character is one of the ways I used to try to reward good roleplaying. If someone wrote me a great background about their long lost friend who had become a vampire hunter and I was impressed with their RP, there was a good chance that the long lost friend would show up in the game.

Really, the best rewards for RP are props, plot hooks, and new storylines that open up avenues for further roleplaying and empower the player to go ahead and drive it. If you let a character find an ancient book which is being hunted by powerful secret societies, she has a strong hook by which to involve other characters in her story.

Proactive RPers will happily suggest plot hooks which involve their character playing a key or starring role in some storyline. If they are also good RPers and good social players, then one option is to let them have their plot hooks. They can take the responsibility to go run with the plot.

RP as a pure style is probably best removed from xp altogether. Because it was never about making your character more powerful by sitting in bars and talking about the weather. Or rather, those things may make your character more influential, which is a form of social power rather than a shiny new skill or weapon. But players love xp and use it as the only form of measurable advancement in game. So it is a dilemma.

If you give out the rewards that they want and will use, then those rewards won’t be valued as highly as the unimmersive xp point. I suspect that until we have good social systems that measure influence and gossip as well as how many monsters you have killed, we’ll never get to the bottom of this problem. It is an issue that remains to be solved, not only for RP, but for any social activity in game.

Perhaps having a good social network has to be its own reward. There certainly are side-benefits for whatever type of game you are playing.

Should we even try to measure and reward some styles of play?

This is the big question. As soon as you introduce game metrics, people will jump in and figure out how to game the system.

But it would be cool to find ways to reward people for interacting in character, for taking decisions because it’s what their character would have done and not just because it leads to the optimum quest reward, for writing clever backgrounds, for involving others in their RP, for entertaining each other and telling smart stories. Because as long as we don’t reward it, it can never be a mainstream playing style.

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28 thoughts on “Improving Roleplaying: Measuring and Rewarding Roleplay

  1. Very intriguing article!

    Let me share a few thoughts…

    Quite simply, I believe that role-playing is defined as being “in character”. John Doe from Springfield comes home from his job and logs on to a fantasy virtual world and plays his character Bronzebeard the dwarf.

    Given the nature of where dwarves life in this particular fantasy world XYZ it gives the player many clues as to how dwarves are named, what they like to eat and what kind of home they life to live in — just for starters. All of these things are provided to the player by the devs so all that remains is for the player to do his/her part and “role-play” the character.

    RP is what everyone should naturally be doing when they play their avatars in a MMO or virtual world yet somehow many players are confused and just plain ignorant of what RP really is and it’s almost non-existent.

    So what happened?

    There are a few answers.

    The devs became far too focused on making a game instead of making a world.

    The devs are ultimately responsible. You get the players you deserve.

    One of the problems is that MMO devs have very low expectations from their players. Not one ounce of investment into a virtual world is ever required from a player these days. Instead players are coddled and spoon fed false “heroism” in the guise of “quests”.

    When players do not contribute anything more then simply logging on and killing monsters you end up with a meaningless, empty virtual world.

    The fact that many players do not RP is a abject failure by the devs to create a compelling world that lends itself to role-playing. Role-playing has to be an integral part of the design of a MMO; it has to be as fundamental to a MMO as leveling up for it to be effective.

    Look no further then WoW to see a game that is devoid of any type of design that rewards role-players. Good game design starts off by creating desired behaviors and then seeks to promote those behaviors via a reward system. That is an indisputable fact.

    The problem is that if RP is not seen as something of value by the devs. It’s only given token lip service as a remnant of days gone by. When I look at the upper echelon of people at Blizzard I see zero people that exude a passion for role-playing. Garbage in, garbage out.

    It is easy to say that role-playing should be a reward unto itself but the fact is that without some tangible use and need for RP within a MMO it is completely pointless exercise.

    The current MMO paradigm has been cheapened, perverted and dumbed down by a cavalier element at Blizzard. It’s almost like we’ve forgotten why we started playing MMOs. I’ve had the pleasure to read a few historical books on EverQuest in the past 2 weeks and I’ve been reminded about the passion of the people that worked at SOE and how much they cared about Norrath.

    The fact that RP is almost dead in modern day successful MMOs is a travesty and that’s all due to the success of WoW. Of course I have very high praise for Blizzard in matters of art, presentation production values and polish but how they have shortchanged role-players in a MMORPG is an unforgivable travesty which they should be utterly ashamed of.

    The MMO world has lost it’s way and the only way to get things back on track is to incorporate RP into the game and reward RPers.

    • I don’t think they’ve failed exactly, but I think they are transitioning to something far far more RP friendly. I expect to hear many more complaints from hardcore gamers that things are getting too easy as design shifts from game-centric to immersion-centric.

      But I know what you mean. I remember reading old scifi short stories describing virtual worlds where people logged in to ‘become’ a knight in shining armour who went to jousts and swore loyalty to a ‘king’, or lords of the manor, or some other in game identity that they could play out online.

      But it never happened. At least not yet. I think key to it is the idea that people might do different things in game. But in WoW at the moment, what actually happens is we’re all funnelled into doing the same thing. So the only role that matters is what you do in raids/groups. We need games to let us create our own roles.

      But I have hope. It’s called Beatles: Rock Band. I don’t own it and I’m not even especially a fan of the Beatles, but those guys get it. Those guys get that what really makes a game dynamite these days is the immersion. Now that is the future.

  2. Wolfshead nails it, our contemporary modern MMO designs/systems are extremly discouraging to roleplaying.

    Some MMOs are inherently better for roleplaying, but the MASSIVE aspect destroys it usually. Ultima Online is great for roleplaying, but also only on small private servers. I was roleplaying a staunch worshipper of the goddess Tymora. One day the goddess appeared to me and a few friends while we were turning deer into ribs, basically two were hunting and I was cooking the harvested meat.

    This just cannot happen in a MMO for the masses. I do not know any MMO today where GMs participate in such a way.

    You were raising a valid question, how to reward roleplaying?
    The AUTOMATIC/SCRIPTED monitoring of certain activities will be abused by the gamers, if players can exploit something, they will.
    Leave it to Game Masters? Guild Masters? Special Roleplaying Observers?

    Roleplaying needs to be reward enough, the reward in itself. The player who dragged me out of the Prancing Pony to play a tune with me, and then dragged me back in as I did not have a lute or any other music instrument to buy one, back out and play some awful tunes with LOTRO’s music system probably did more to my enjoyment of the game than any reward of coin or an item.

    The problem is more that modern MMOs tell you: DO THIS, DO THAT, PROGRESS THIS TITLE/ACHIEVEMENT TRACK.
    Everything gets tied to a very primitive carrot, with more and more effort and time needed to achieve diminishing returns in plain item/XP/title rewards.

    Nobody has time to roleplay if he has to “work” on his progress by doing his daily nonsense quest or doing a dungeon again in several difficult and silly ways described in his achievement tab.

    To put it bluntly, MMOs are becoming more and more games with primitive incentives and even grindier than the grindy MMOs of old in a way.
    The success of WoW was not really a boon for players who want their game to be more than that. I think it put the whole MMORPG industry on a totally wrong track, dictated by the minds of achievers and raiders.

    But they probably realize themselves that something got lost in their guided bustour worlds. Maybe they take a new motto and pick up the old slogan from Origin Systems: We create worlds. Not we create games.

  3. I think it’s a mistake to see our current MMOs as “failures”.

    Look, suppose there’s a hypothetical game developer whose cv from the 1970s goes
    Space Invaders > Galaxian > Doom > Quake > Counterstrike > MMO

    At what point has he failed?

    Should he have gotten players to shout out “I can’t hold them, Jim, there’s thousands of them” in Space Invaders? Perhaps the game switch itself off unless you shout out some pseudo-military babble from time to time?

    It is not the responsibility of every game designer to make deeply in character roleplay a part of their games. In fact I can think of games I’d really rather not roleplay in at all – Hangman for instance.

    It is the responsibility of upcoming designers who want to be successful to make popular games.

    And there’s a huge gap in the market right now for the kind of rp we all love – but that’s an opportunity not a responsibility.

    I think Spinks is on the right track with thinking about computerised measurement of style. Over the long term computers continue to astound us. Twenty years ago we’d never have imagined computers that you do aerobics with or karaoke.

    Dr Richard Bartle recently came at this problem from the opposite angle. He feels that game design theory as an academic discipline needs a core underlying maths/logic structure.

    http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2009/QBlog040909B.html

    If we can solve the mathematics of style we can computerise it.

    I predict that at some point in the next ten years someone will introduce a MMO that people just roleplay in because it’s the natural way to play. No more of this attempting to shoehorn improv drama into WOW or EQ2 while the rest of the server laughs.

    I think SWTOR will be a starting point but not a solution. The game may involve using voice as an input instead of keyboard and mouse.

    But I don’t know for sure because when it comes I think it will astonish us.

    • He’s wrong though, because there’s no mathematical model for being inspired and adding elements of another game into your own. There is no formal theory in that, but a very subjective intent of a designer, and the only thing to do is ask him if he was inspired by frogger when he made it.

      As for mathematics of style, that’s a joke. Take two master prose stylists, lets say Faulkner and Hemingway. the two are like night and day. how would you express that in a mathematical relationship? Some things just aren’t reducible to any kind of standard model, and require subjective interpretation. Computers will always fail at that imo.

  4. A tiny, miniscule thing they could do in most MMORPGs that would make me happy is give me a spot to write my character’s bio! C’mon, it was originally the most basic thing in any RPG game and now we never see it any more!

      • It is in LOTRO but most people don’t know about it and never read it. (It’s not like CoH where it’s very front and centre — in fact you get an opportunity to write a brief bio in character generation before you even get into the tutorial.)

        Never realised EVE had it though.

  5. EVE Online has another way of rewarding RP: fame. Namely, if you and your RP group do interesting things, you might be able to be featured on one of the in-universe news type articles that appear on the login screen.

    Not that their system doesn’t have some of the problems mentioned above — favoritism being a charge frequently levelled against the news “reporters” (although probably less so now when news and fiction are the only RP “rewards” than in the earlier stage in the game’s history when there were tangible rewards to RP events and such).

  6. As an old-school tabletop RPG player, my personal definition of role-playing is “in character” similar to Wolfshead. But even back then, before anyone cared about computer RPGs, “in character” was just one type of role-playing.

    There were min/maxers and loot-whores long before the acronym “MMO” was invented. Many people (and I have to include myself, guilty as charged) think (or believe) that because their little group role-played [insert tabletop RPG here] in character, that *everyone* did. Try going to an RPGA convention and playing in groups of strangers and you’ll see otherwise. Try sitting in or GMing a group of people you’re not familiar with and you’ll see otherwise. In character role-playing was perhaps somewhat more encouraged simply by the fact the game is taking place via face to face conversations, which is extremely dynamic, but even then the players have to make the choice to be in character.

    Then there’s the type of role-playing where you’re “playing the role” of a pre-written character. Pick a Final Fantasy for example. You’re playing the role of Cloud or Tidus, etc. Just how “in character” did anyone ever get with a character that was never their own to begin with? What about games like say, Halo, where there are no RPG elements whatsoever but you’re “playing the role” (as the description states) of Master Chief through his story?

    Tabletop games never had extra devices implemented for role-playing, neither do MMOs. The best an MMO could do is give a metric ton of animations and emotes and give players a chance to script their own little in-game stories. But just like a tabletop RPG, that story will only matter to that small group, not to the massively-multiplayer masses on the server.

    @Stabs: I highly doubt anyone will introduce an MMO in the next ten years that people will want to role-play (the “in character” type) naturally. The masses like XP. The masses like combat. The masses do not like heavy RP. At best, I’ll give it the next 20 years, since many social trends have 30 year cycles. But it won’t be the old-school role-players at the helm anymore. It’ll be the new kids who are tired of the “old way” (which would be our current “new way”) of doing things.

    • “I highly doubt anyone will introduce an MMO in the next ten years that people will want to role-play (the “in character” type) naturally.”

      How about Rock Band? (I know it’s not an MMO but a game where people are naturally encouraged to pretend to be rock stars?)

      I think the time may be sooner than we think.

  7. “The masses like XP. The masses like combat. The masses do not like heavy RP.”

    In the 70s tabletop RPG was about xp and combat. In the 80s the masses moved it towards heavy RP because they felt that was more fun.

  8. The 80′s is when I played, and that’s exactly when I got the impressions I noted above. I wouldn’t say “the masses” moved to heavy RP in the 80′s (or any other era) just because “some” did. There’s always some fringe niche of people who do something outside the norm. Those would be your MMO heavy RPers, in fact.

    Role-playing has never meant the same thing to different people, even back in the tabletop days. Once videogame RPGs (or CRPGs, whichever you prefer) arrived the element of in character acting was removed until multi-player (text and graphical) came along. Even then, the game mechanics themselves are all combat-related. All the in character role-playing comes from your imagination; that cannot be reduced to an algorithm.

    Also consider for MMOs at the end of the day we’re talking videogames. They’ve been around for 30 years now and what do we mostly do? Kill stuff. Or at least resolve through violence. Space Invaders and all those early arcade games were about killing. Mario Brothers you still killed enemies by jumping on them and destroying them with the deadly power of plumber butt-crack. Even today casual games like Bejeweled has bomb gems that explode to destroy surrounding gems. Peggle has us shooting a bouncing ball to blow up tiles. Shooters, well, ’nuff said there. RPGs, be they tabletop, single- multi- or massively-multi-player, are about killing things to get XP. It’s unfortunate, and probably says a lot about the state of human nature but it is the state we live in, like it or not.

    Rock Band? At best — and this is stretching nearly to the breaking limit — it’s similar to my Halo example where you’re playing the role of something you have no control over. Maybe it’s supposed to be a virtual cover band (or are they called “tribute bands” these days?) I don’t know, but that’s certainly not how I’ve ever played them or watched them being played. Look at the latest one: the Beatles. You’re not playing as the Beatles. You’re not playing as a cover/tribute band of the Beatles. You’re just playing along on the rhythm game while you watch digital Beatles perform on psychedelic backgrounds.

    • Scott, I agree that RPGs have always included a broad range of playing styles. But still, back in D&D when we were giving out xp bonuses for good roleplaying, we knew fine well what we were giving those bonuses for and it wasn’t min/maxing.

      80s for me meant Vampire. And one of the reasons those WW games got so popular (and drew in so many more girls) was the more character driven style. Obv for a lot of people that played out as trenchcoats, katanas, and superheroes with fangs but people were more encouraged to RP than in the previous D&D type of game. Also indie games these days use game mechanics that try to encourage RP just by using them, it’s all quite interesting I think.

      Roleplaying is part of a RPG, it’s not the only part. And there’s room for the rest also, but it isn’t really what I’ve been talking about here. Ideally the minmax and strategy side would all somehow feed into the immersion in the end. eg. I want to play a combat monster, I can tweak the stats to help me /perform/ the role more effectively, while still /playing/ the role via emotes.

  9. Heh, I guess this is the point where the discussion breaks down in semantics again.

    You see, I think, and I suspect Spinks thinks, that it’s ok to rp with some rough edges. Shouting “woo hoo! natural 20!” isn’t a sign someone isn’t a roleplayer.

    Acting in character as well as powergaming and metagaming all all that other cheesiness is part of an overall package that I see as “roleplay”. Because the gaming is part of the -play in the word.

    What you will never see is a game where people sit at their PC dressed as Stormtroopers speaking entirely in character with no immersion breakers.

    There are fundamental issues like “afk, bio” and “I can’t get my mike to work” that will always occur and break immersion.

    What is possible is for people to be completely immersed to the extent where some of the behaviour is not like their regular behaviour.

    If someone plays Beatles Rock Band alone in his/her bedroom then after a song spins around to the shelves of books and says “thank you! thank you!” out loud that game has got them pretty immersed.

    I think if you set reasonable standards you can get a pretty viable prospect for what could be done in gaming.

    But if you want a game that has ten million players acting like improv drama actors in a Mike Leigh film, well that’s too much to ask.

  10. It will always break down into semantics precisely because role-playing (and myriad other topics) means something different to everyone.

    I’ve written before that my first MMO was old-school SWG shortly after it launched. That was also the first female character in an RPG I’d ever played. Coming from a tabletop (and moderate-to-heavy RP) background, I played everything in character. I didn’t know any better. Consequently, everyone thought I was a female player as well, and it was several months before A) anyone besides my actual friend who was also playing discovered I was not, and B) I learned that level of RP was rather discouraged, especially from guys, and especially from guys with female characters. But the nature of SWG encouraged role-playing in character to whatever degree the players were willing to give it. You’d be surprised how many players who, in any other game wouldn’t go there, but in SWG jumped right into in-character discussions and stories. But at the time, SWG wasn’t a heavy meta-gaming game. It didn’t really matter if you had ABC gear or XYZ skill level. You could play and develop the character any way you wanted to and it all worked out in the end. That is much less the case these days, and to me, the second I start meta-gaming, most sense of role-playing is thrown out the window as now I’m no longer role-playing a “unique snowflake” of an individual but crafting yet another clone of the optimized class build.

    If someone plays Beatles Rock Band alone in his/her bedroom then after a song spins around to the shelves of books and says “thank you! thank you!” out loud that game has got them pretty immersed.

    Immersed? Or just proud that they pulled off that 1000 Note Streak achievement? Or got a better score — or 100%! — than they did last time? Semantics again, but that doesn’t qualify as role-playing of any sort *to me*

  11. Spinks, if you reward it, you will kill it. It’s hard to say more than that. RP is not going to survive being socially or electronically sifted through for value and rewarded. I think your other solutions are much better, even though I have raised difficulties earlier.

    Just give us more tools and better background stories. Make live events more common.

  12. One of the biggest problems is that the caliber of the players is very low. I talked about this somewhat in my first post here. Players really don’t know what is required of them except that they must “level” i.e. progress.

    No where does it every say (even worse on so-called “RP” servers) what is expected of a player in a MMO like WoW. There is no contract or instruction manual. There are no penalties for not following the rules because there are no rules.

    Imagine any other kind of group, club or social group without some semblance of rules and organization. It would be disastrous and would result in anarchy and chaos. Yet somehow 11.5 million people log on each day without a clue of what they as players must give back to the virtual world.

    Why does leveling always have to be the ultimate objective in a MMO?

    Why can’t I just RP a farm hand, marry a pretty girl and settle down to a simple, pastoral life of tending the crops?

    Well the answer is that companies like Blizzard don’t want you to do this. They want you to ride their amusement park ride on rails and experience their “story”. The only way to do this is via leveling: the more you level, the more narratives/quests/loot/geography becomes unlocked for the player.

    Until we break this formula into a million pieces and scatter it to the wind, only then will we be free of slavery of the achievement mindset.

    • Well, how long would you be interested in doing that? You’d log in, do the chores, maybe roleplay after “work,” rinse, and repeat. Harvest moon does it, but it’s a game you play in small chunks of time.

      People talk a lot about doing what you said, but when I look at the games that do, all that happens is players wind up full loot pvping each other.

  13. Why can’t I just RP a farm hand, marry a pretty girl and settle down to a simple, pastoral life of tending the crops?

    Again using old SWG as a reference, I recall a great many players saying it felt more like playing Uncle Ben than playing Luke, Han or anyone else who was out having adventures.

    It sounds more like you’re after a role-playing-encouraged Virtual World, minus the Game part.

    Me? I want both. I want an awesome GAME with awesome gameplay, awesome character control, awesome (read: diverse and meaningful) character advancement, AND an awesome Virtual World where I can do more mundane things like building a farm up from a single field to perhaps getting multiple fields and starting a business. Building a boat so I can take the farmer’s daughter on a quiet RP date. But the GAME part needs to be there too, or I’ll quickly lose interest with nothing of any meaning to actually do in this Virtual World. It’s why I don’t touch things like Second Life. They are Virtual Worlds with no Game attached.

    • I think that is the issue, we cannot do much in our virtual worlds besides 1. talking and 2. fighting.

      Some might argue 3. crafting, but it is mostly related to creating tools for no.2, fighting.

      You mentioned it, building a boat. Stuff like that. I repeat myself, but Ultima Online allowed people to chop wood, mine ore, skin animals, take their meat, cook it on a fire. Even housing had more options that EQ2 and LOTRO have together combined.

      The lure of progression and power, combat and fancier graphics won in the end, as EQ became the template of most MMOs today, not UO.

      Going back to the roots and taking some aspects of Ultima Online when it comes to interacting with the world around your avatar could be a real enrichment to the virtual world.

      Right now MMOs are time-consuming entertainment. The amusement park is paid for time spent ingame, so it does a lot of things to make sure you are kept busy playing and paying.
      The whole story and things you can do in MMOs could be experienced in a fraction of the time, but then what? Game over?

      Exactly. Because the player himself can do next to nothing to make the world more interesting. Especially with such a limited set of activities that evolve around fighting mobs or players or just talking. Talk can be awesome and entertaining, but I still say we need to be able to interact more with the virtual world to make them better.

      SWTOR seems to take the story approach to entice gamers. I think this will work wonderfully till players hit the “endgame”, which is usually grinding or raiding or a mix of both nowadays.

      Games need to offer more things for players to do and explore, and not put them even more on rails by giving them a list of achievements to do in lack of any better ideas or things players could do.

      The best thing is actually dumping the whole game in this case and playing another one!

      • That never really works. Players don’t really care about it, and we see that in the games that they choose to play. If the desire to change and alter a virtual world was so great, we wouldn’t be seeing sandboxes being niche city. Every pundit keeps thinking UO-style world creation is the way to go, but there’s no demand.

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