Roleplaying in an MMO can be a challenge at the best of times. There’s always that one guy who comes across people roleplaying and suddenly has to be as annoying as possible. Sometimes the things that damage rp the most are things that are built into the game itself. So we asked our writers what single thing it is that ruins roleplaying the most for them in MMOs. Here are our answers.
Daniel Chambliss – Instances
Oddly enough, one thing that is really ruining the RP experience in MMO’s is the one thing that made them easier: instances. You can no longer expect to run into people in dungeons, and oftentimes people spend their time brooding inside their guild halls or private residences. For the longest time the exception to this rule was World of Warcraft as it lacked private residences and even guild halls, despite the demand for them. People were forced to spend time in places like Goldshire, though honestly some people are WAY too into the Goldshire RP. In the old days people were forced to talk to each other as a result of lacking features in the game. Today, it’s becoming more of a solo endeavor.
Karl de Mare – Chat Windows
The game mechanic that is most harmful to rping experience is also the one most crucial to the rping experience, the chat-window. While all MMOs today let you customize what channels to be seen and how far away players must be for the text to be seen, and a multitude of other ways to handle this. And even if you are playing on an rp server, if you are playing a more theme park like MMO, you still have the need to use the chat to get groups for stuff, this applies even if you are a guild, since guild forums cannot exclusively be used, and by using them, the rp illusion would break even more. Despite the function of the chat window and really the whole chat experience MMOs are built on, it takes away the rping experience, real life doesn’t have any chat windows or a way for someone in the same city to hear me in.
This problem could of course be “fixed” with a fully integrated voice system, which would depend on how far away you are from a player. This is something we can see appearing more with games like DayZ and H1Z1, which both games have this system and are really using it. But leaving chat windows behind would make great demands on MMOs content and how we play that content.
Ryan Ocello – Chat Discussions
Without question, nothing is more focus-breaking and enjoyment-killing to a budding RP gamer in the process of immersion than Barrens Chat.
And I don’t mean specifically just the original Barrens Chat. The phenomena is not specific to WoW; Azeroth just had unintentionally perfect geography to distill and crystallize the problem, and so is worthy to be the namer. Alliance players started out a bit spread out, but three of the four horde races in WoW at launch (including, appropriately, Troll) all began close enough together that the initial grinding all takes place in the same area, and at high levels you still need to pass through the region that is central to the continent and leads to the most important city. This unavoidable place was infested with new, young players, half-hearted alts, and bored misanthropes who just decided to stay and never leave.
Most players just closed Barrens chat or tuned it out, but if you paid attention you heard some of the most vile and mind-numbing discussions from any corner of the internet. Worse than Youtube comments. Some clueless cries for help from noobs, some inane discussion, and a lot of it was racist or homophobic hate. Or worse. Paying attention to Barrens chat would decrease your intellect and crush your faith in humanity: It was where internet trolling had its adolescence.
Every game has their own Barrens Chat, though some are worse than others. Discussions take place that destroy immersion and every word can turn into abuse. They are usually not. One could argue that the chat window is a UI element and not a gameplay mechanic, but to a role-player it is. There is no way to immerse yourself in a story you are creating when you rely on other players if you don’t talk with them, and that chat window is where you get to weave your tale, for the RP experience the chat is the most important mechanic in the game.
Shannon Doyle – Zone Events
Are aliens suddenly invading the part of the city you happen to be in right as you sit down for a cup of tea? Maybe a rift from the plane of death has opened just over your shoulder while you’re enjoying a picnic. Either way you look at it these events are a huge disruption to your roleplaying experience. They really only leave you with two options, stop what you’re doing and go fight or ignore them. Going somewhere else is also an option but that’s the same as ignoring them. While these events can be an amazing source of things to roleplay about all too often people just sit there and pretend they aren’t happening. And it is ignoring them that is the biggest immersion breaker of them all. How am I supposed to believe I’m on a romantic date with you when a horde of firebeasts are rampaging right behind you? Okay, maybe it isn’t the event itself but the reactions, or lack thereof, of players to said event.Related: Column, Event (In Game), FAQ, MMO, MMORPG, Roleplaying