[MUD-Dev] RP, MMORPGs, and their Evolution

Brian Lindahl lindahlb at hotmail.com
Thu May 22 18:26:16 CEST 2003

From: "Talanithus HTML" <talanithus at mindspring.com>

> NOTE: This is a letter I posted on another MMORPG forum, that I
> thought directly applied to UO as well. I attempted to clean it up
> to remove any refernces to the original thread it was crafted for,
> but I might have missed something. It's late, I'm tired. *grins*

First of all, I'll say this is slightly off the topic, but I feel it
needs to be said here. In the following content, MMORPG refers to
such MMORPG-style games with 1000+ concurrent users at peak.

I'd really have to say that, despite the fact that MMORPG has
role-playing in its title. I have yet to see a MMORPG that actually
has roleplaying as its dominant driving force. This is, I'd have to
say, due to the lack of depth of the theme that current MMORPGs are
displaying. The history of the worlds in most current MMORPGs tend
to follow a circular path, as opposed to transgressing a linear path
over a period of time. While some MMORPGs due have linear
progression of a plot line, it is feeble at best (AC2, DragonRealms,
GS3). For example, AC2, just releases new quests and does very
little plotline running from an in-game perspective. GS3, run by
Simutronics, does a better job in utilizing a linear plotline better
than AC2, but it still falls short of encouraging any sort of true
roleplaying. It has significantly more plotlines being run from
within the game (as opposed to add-ins in AC2), however, the sheer
dominance of hack and slash fails to reach a powerful level of
immersion. DragonRealms does a MUCH better job by providing an
environment which does not revolve around hack and slash, however it
lacks strong plotlines run within the game. This are merely
observations that I've made myself, or that others have stated on
message boards. I am not aware of any other MMORPGs that have a more
powerful theme, better run plotlines and/or less emphasis on hack
and slash. Feel free to chime in if I left any out.

I think one of the major reasons why MMORPGs are lacking in this
department, is that the game development is done with very little
integration of history, the future plotline, and flexibility. Most
games' depth is developed in a style akin to the method of changing
the skin color of a monster to create a new beast to kill. It is
very much clone-like and bland. I believe that just as many
resources (time, money, manpower) should be allocated to developing
the environement (story, history, world, cultures, communities,
feature characters, common characters, personality archetypes) as to
developing the gameplay. As long as this environment is strongly
integrated into the gameplay (i.e. just as strong personality
archetypes found in common NPCs as those found in figurehead NPCs),
the result will be that of a higher quality MMORPG that truely
deserves the title that the gaming market was so quick to attribute.

Back to the topic:

> But how many of you remember the wonder you felt in pen and paper
> games as the Dungeon Master revealed a new type of monster? Or
> item? Or a spooky city/castle/dungeons/whatever? This is the
> category that holds the greatest potential in the MMORPG genre,
> though it is yet untapped.

I think this is overtapped, personally. MMORPGs are constantly
adding new content as you describe. However, the content has no
connection to the world it is added to. The game designers say 'hey,
this would be a cool item, put this into the world.' The item has no
connection to the world. While it may be cool to acquire the next
best item, or beat the next toughest monster, these actions in
reality have no impact on the future of the gaming environment. If
the game designers spent more time developing the environment in the
beginning, and creating a chart of events to come, with some form of
continuity, this new content that is added will have a strong
connection within the gaming environment and will result in a more
powerful and true roleplaying experience by creating a deeper level
of immersion. This new content with a strong connection of the
gaming environment makes it much easier for the players to turn into
a roleplaying scenario than something that is just the 'next' thing
to do.

Brian Lindahl
Development Director
The Cathyle Project
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