24 August, 2019
To end the week, I wanted to think a bit about a contrary opinion. I’ve spent all week talking about RP from a development point of view and how to facilitate and support it in the game, particularly in ways that don’t disturb other parts of the game. But are there reasons not to have RP in the game?
I’m not sure where this post will go, but let’s consider this a bit as I write.
My initial reaction is that there isn’t really a reason to try to remove RP from your game. Now, I’m willing to accept that this is because I’m an RPer and I like to have my playstyle in games. But part of being a good developer is divorcing yourself from your own preferences to look at things on a different light.
What are some of the negative aspects of the game that is associated with RP? Elitism, drama, conflict… but those aren’t really unique to RP are they? In fact, elitism is more commonly associated with raiding than with RPing, and games haven’t been quick to eliminate raiding from their games despite the problem. In fact, all these things are associated with raiding as well: drama over someone being picked over someone else for a raid slot. Conflict between teams trying to outdo each other. A lot of these “problems” show up in other areas as well. You might argue that the heavy sexualization of RP can be seen as a negative thing, but I think that this is hardly unique to RP… it’s just more visible in RP. After all, most raiders I know of have stories about how some guy and girl in their group started showing more interest in each other in personal communication rather than in the mechanics of the raid. This is the internet, and people are sexual in many different areas.
Further, I think it’s hard to really remove RP from MMOs, or to use the full acronym, MMORPGs. RP is right in there… but that’s a holdover from single-player RPGs (and the original MUD) that mimicked the mechanics of tabletop RPGs in computer form. RP has not been a particular focus, but I think the nature of MMOs: the gameplay, the history, the settings… all these combine to form a situation that is perfect for RP. And people with imaginations will come in and RP even without explicit invitation or catering to. All designing a game for RPers does is encourage more people to do so.
In the end, I’m kind of stuck trying to figure out any reason not to include RP in MMOs beyond just personal preference of the developers. A developer may not see much value in RP and thus work to remove it. But I think that diminishes the game, chases away potential players who would otherwise play, enjoy, and even pay for your game. The only thing RPers really do is add a reason for someone who might be unhappy with other elements of your game to stick around and try something different. Get involved in an RP group when grinding, leveling, raiding, or any of the other usual MMO activities start to grow stale for them. Here’s a community of people who create more content for the game by their participation. And most of the negative things happen in other areas of the game because at the end of the day, it’s still people playing.
I’d love to hear other thoughts, particularly reasons beyond, “Because I don’t like it.” :P