30 August, 2019
I’ve spent the month talking about RP in MMOs in various forms. It’s something I’ve grown more interested in over time, reaching a peak because of my involvement in FFXIV RP. Although it’s really a niche interest, I find it interesting as a player but also as a developer.
Let me share a few closing thoughts for the month.
Ultimately I think that while RP is a niche interest, it’s something that can help set a game apart. There have been plenty of smaller games that focused on RP as a selling point. But RP fits well within a larger game like WoW or FFXIV, letting players have the option to do something else besides grind for minor upgrades that will be made pointless in the next patch cycle.
But RP needs at least a bit of support from the devs. Some lore that helps give players a place in the world without making them the singular hero (just like every other players). Some systems to help them find other RPers like the system that let them find people to do dungeons or other adventures. Some possibilities that let them explore interesting parts of the world. I don’t think you need to necessarily have a whole team making RP systems like you do raiding, but having a few developers with an eye toward this community could help.
Of course, players also need to do their part. Leaders stepping up to lead groups, for example. People working to avoid drama, elitism, and other problems that are rife in other communities in MMOs. Giving the emotional safety to others that is needed to tell proper collaborative stories together. These are things that developers can set in motion, but it’s ultimately up to the players to make it happen, just like it takes players to form raid groups and work together to make raids happen.
As I said before, there’s no real reason to discourage RP. RP has been a part of the genre from way back, and the games that influenced MMOs often had RP elements. Any of the negative elements that one could associate with RP happen in other parts of the game as well; good policies that can be applied to all situations, including RP, will help just as much as always. And making sure the rules are enforced is also an important step.
So why haven’t developers done more with RP so far? I think most of it is because the developers just don’t have an interest. RP is seen as a strange thing. Most developers got interested in MMOs from other games that focused on Achiever motivations, so the Socializer motivation is less understood. The major games have such a high focus on Achievers that other motivations are at best secondary. Most serious RPers don’t get into MMO development if they want to develop games, they’ll likely do something with more creative control and less technological requirements like tabletop gaming.
But ultimately I think RP could be good for the MMO genre. We’re already out of favor, and the grind/raid/repeat cycle feels stale to a lot of people. Why not something else?