19 August, 2019
As I said yesterday, I think that RP could be a good focus for a game. In FFXIV, RPers form a significant portion of the playerbase. It became all the more apparent when they added the RP tag for people to use. But some of the more populated servers are the ones that have been dubbed the RP servers even if unofficially.
So let’s take a look at the good and the bad of RP in MMOs from a developer’s point of view.
I wrote about this last year, where there are some definite reasons to support RPers. In summary: they create content for the game for other players, they’re superfans dedicated to the game, and they bring more people to the game.
I think that first thing is perhaps very significant, because that content keeps people interested. When I wanted to read up about Seeker of the Sun RP, I found some great discussions about what it’s like to be a tribal Seeker in the game according to available lore. People are out there putting together information for other people, stuff to read, analyze, and discuss. And this is what shows interest to other people.
And as I said yesterday, I think they might be a good candidate for proper free-to-play business models given how often they seem to buy the optional items in FFXIV.
It’s not all great, admittedly. As I’ve said before, RP is niche and it has a reputation. Some people just kind of assume certain things about RP, which sadly aren’t necessarily true. And a lot of RP-focused games sometimes cater to that; this is the internet, and if sexual activity can find a way in it will. And given the prudishness of U.S. culture, that will have people forming bad opinions.
The other problem is that RP isn’t very well established. With so many different types of RP, opinions about RP, and even just elistism I talked about before, it’s easy to see why people don’t always get along despite the shared interest. My RP might be too hard-core for someone else to enjoy, and simultaneously too casual for someone else to appreciate. The people who can appreciate RP might be a small slice of the already niche.
Ultimately, I think it’s these fears that keep RP as an underserved niche of larger games. Developers afraid to deal with the community, afraid of assumptions and stereotypes, or just worried about having to cater to a group that others look at with disdain. While nerds may be cool, D&D nerds are still seen as socially awkward people. Tabletop RPGs aren’t as cool as video games as a whole are.
But what if you made a game and nobody came? There are plenty of tabletop RPGs that have great ideas but never find their audience. An that’s the problem with RP, is that you really need other people to make it work. Without the other people, there’s nothing fun to do. Running a small group in a game like FFXIV is difficult to do because not everyone’s going to be on. But an MMO needs more people. And a big empty world isn’t necessarily the place full of promise RPers expect.
So, what do you think? Is there more upsides that downsides? Or do these problems loom too large?