Saturday, November 26, 2011

Other People Ruin My Immersion

Those of you who follow this blog regularly know I am a Roleplayer. Those of you who don't, well, now you know.

I can't say I've been a part of many RP guilds for very long. I believe my longest stint was a year and a half. Pretty long in Internet Time but not so much in the grand scheme of things. I've done a lot of casual RP'ing to say the least, though those terms tend to be incredibly imprecise. I still don't know what constitutes a Heavy RP'er, for example, and I'm sure I could think up some weight related joke to go along with it, but that's not what this post is about.

 Let's start with a little story. I just finished Arkham City yesterday, having spent the past few days with family and my brother's Xbox. Ra's Al Ghul is in the game, and inspired by the great depiction of him that the developers had created, I wanted to make a character in City of Heroes based on that design. A Vigilante who dispenses lethal justice. And a stalker, that works great! He could have some great moral stories...

That is where I stopped. I thought about all the roleplayers I had met, not only in City of Heroes but in every other game, and immediately scrapped my project.

You see, setting up a storyline that involves other people is far more trouble than it is worth. I will admit, this becomes easier when you have a group of friends you know, but even then you have to take into account the player far more than the character. Every step must be planned in such a way that it would not offend or intrude on another person's character. From my experience, people roleplay to immerse themselves in a fantasy world, yet at the same time demand a high level of control over their character's story.

And because of this, roleplayers find themselves unable to trust anyone else to respect the supposed sanctity of their character's story. I have run into people who outright /ignore any character who brings unwanted conflict to their character. Though City of Heroes should be a fantastic ground for roleplayers to create comic book worthy tales, they are unable to do so when pitted against one another. An NPC group must be the target of the heroing/villainy in order for it to reliably work. I am extremely dissapointed that epic rivalries such as Superman and Lex Luthor, and Batman and the Joker cannot arise in RP because the players of those characters would never be spending most of their time arguing rather than allowing something bad happen to their character.

To bring this around to a relevant point for all you non-roleplayers, this is also the reason why Skyrim would make a terrible MMORPG. It's a fantastic world that you can immerse yourself into very easily, but put another person in there and you find yourself losing that immersion. Change nothing about the game except adding other players, and by simple act of people talking you will be jaunted out, forced to examine the game mechanics rather than the story and world, because that is what everyone will be talking about.

I think I'll make that Stalker anyway. But I'll be playing in the game, not in the world like I want to.


  1. I agree that role-play is difficult to some extent in online games. as you pointed out, a high level of knowledge about others is required and also a very defined common ground. if this is established though, role-play can be taken very far; memories of UO guilds and PvP come to mind. keeping RP in a single-player game is very limited in my opinion - what's the point to only ever role-play for yourself? so, ideally you wanna have others who react and respond to you in kind.
    a good example for successful RP is probably a round of pen&paper among good friends. there your character is well-known to others and your preferences. in online games, you need tools to do this for you (which many current MMOs don't offer).

  2. Mixing the words PvP and RP in my mind only brings up bad memories. I'm glad someone had some good experiences with that. All I know is arguments about how levels should or shouldn't factor into Roleplay.

    You could say I've been getting my RP kick at my D&D group, which works great because of the small group size. In fact, I think it works fantastic because of that sort of thing. I'm sure a guild could work for it, but it would have to be built around friends to begin with. Oddly enough, it is far more difficult for me to find a likeminded group online that it was to find one in the city I lived in.

    I find the only tools you generally need are a character description. That tends to be far and away the simplest way to let your preferences be known (if anyone could agree what all the words mean, that is. Heavy RP, Mature RP, etc.) and yet, most games decline to add it. It is a mystery to me.

  3. I think its generally true others will ruin the role play, but in my experience it just really depends on how it's setup.

    Roleplays that are unsuccessful usually have a few common features: stringent rules, custom world views, culture restrictions, and what I'll call the Serious Meter. Let me explain. Stringent rules would be things like "no vampires or dragonkin!". Culture restrictions would be things where only certain races can be included or where certain races are the sworn enemy of anyone in the group. Then there's the matter of how much "fun" is tolerated; is it acceptable for me to wear my wizard hat in the pool? Can I crack a joke before we face our arch enemy?

    The beauty of online roleplay is that we, the roleplayers, *don't* have to make everything up. We have lots of world and players that can do it for us. And it's terribly hard for the old schoolers to break out of the mindset that they don't have to know everything or plan out how it will go. Free from roleplay is some of the best stuff out there, because it allows your avatar to genuinely interact with other avatars; to genuinely accept or reject them within character. Who needs rules when you can just call that elf who thinks he's a dragon, crazy? I mean, you can just write him off in-char and it's legit and authentic roleplay.

    I don't think other players have ruined the experience for me, though I definitely hear where you're coming from. On the whole, other players do and will break your immersion by simply existing in many cases. There's no help for it.

    On the other hand, while I agree Skyrim would make a poor MMO, I think it has fantastic potential as a multiplayer. If I could invite my guild to a private server where we could claim our own towns and roleplay the entire story, that'd be amazing!

  4. Thinking about this some more, it's quite remarkable how we use the word 'RPG' for offline and online games that aren't actually so much role-playing games....

    I'm sure most of us consider RP a lot more than just 'playing the hero in a fantastic world' - after all, this is applicable to 95% of all video games right down to Mario Brothers. most of us don't roleplay in WoW nor other MMOs and we certainly don't roleplay in Skyrim that much, either. it's an open world, but we don't necessarily assume and invent a role for our character there. still, we call these games RPG. it's a bit of a misnomer, just like the 'massively' is too in MMORPG, in my opinion.

    And I would very much like to see character description back on the table.