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Online Role-Playing in Multi-Player Games

/ Nov 29th, 2012 1 Comment

World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft

Where anything is possible.

World of Warcraft has a lot of features to it that make it one of the most popular games of all times. If you want to experience every class’s abilities and spells, you can grind your war to power. If you like co-op challenges, you can join guilds and run raids that coordinate dozens of people to military-esque perfection. There are features available for those who like story, adventure, PvP, crafting, trading, item hording and so much more. But what if someone told you that the most fun and exciting thing you could take part in was not one of WoW’s main features, but instead was imaginary?

Imagine that there is a guild, so intent on “imagining” the game that they put their perspective in the seat of their characters. This guild consists of Orcs, and if a band of Orcs really did congregate, they wouldn’t just automatically start cooperating with Trolls or Undead. Orcs might warily ally themselves with this “Horde”, but only if they could not unite their own race first (after all, they want to dominate the world, not just the Alliance of Humans, Elves and Dwarves). Of course, when Orcs gets together, they have to set up a initiation, challenge and rank structure that allows the strongest to rise their way to the top, while the weakest get brushed to the side.

So once this guild gets organize, and begins to set goals, what do you think their first goal would be? Do they go slay a raid boss for hundredth time? Do they go PvP in the battle grounds until their hearts-content? That may be what players do, but that is not what Orcs do. Orcs invade, pillage, dominate, and defeat their opponents, going to whatever lengths to ensure that they conquer the world!

Sounds like fun, right? It’s like there’s a whole new game within the game. This guild in WoW is real, named Shadow Clan, and they’ve attempted exactly what other players have thought was “impossible”.  In the early days of WoW, Shadow Clan not only crossed over into Alliance territory to kill enemy players, but they took it a step further and attempted to take over an Alliance town! The guild organized a raid with a hundred members to an alliance keep guarded by non-player guards and Lords, and populated with players who travel through there to complete quests. After rolling over many alliance players, these Orcs stormed the keep just to get brutally torn apart by the non-player guards which had seemingly infinite health and cut through the Orcs like a hot knife in butter. Yet still the Orcs moved on, many running past the seemingly invincible guards, and making their way to the throne room. There, many others guards fiercely defended their liege, but the Orcs continued on, and finally killed the Lord, before all were brutally torn apart by the ravenous guards.

For killing the “boss” of the raid, the Orcs did not get a single item. In fact, there wasn’t a single thing to show for their efforts, because as soon as they died, the town went back to normal, and became the same bustling hub of player questing. In the end, there doesn’t really seem to be any clear reason why these players chose to expend all their energy on this seemingly impossible task, other than “its what Orcs would do.”

This mentality is the foundation of what is online role-playing. People often think that role- playing games are about the swords, the magic, and the adventure, but anyone who’s played that ancient board game Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) can attest that the game can be so much more. When you play the game through the lens of a fantastical character, you are no longer restricted by the limits of the game-world; rather, you can explore the world as far as your imagination can drive you.

This creative drive has lead players to play games in ways which game developers never could have anticipated. In multiplayer RPG games such as Neverwinter Nights, EverQuest, and of course WoW, players are participating in role-play that seeks to exceed the bounds that were naturally created by the game engine. These players seek to develop a new depth to their adventures that were never before possible even in single-player. They create story-lines and conflict that were never written by the game developers. They use the chat window for more than casual chit-chat, but instead they engage in exchanges that fully capture the expressions and comments of their character.

Role-play in these game engines range in many varieties depending on the groups of people involved, and the server they play on. Some groups focus on increasing the range of intrigue and storied conflicts, by creating objectives thought up while playing the “role” of their character. Much like the Shadow Clan on WoW, they will pre-occupy themselves with PvP, social-in-fighting, racial tension, and seemingly pointless raids, simply to pursue what their characters would do. Many DnD based games such as Neverwinter Nights, allows players to create custom-made servers where they can create their own quests. These games allow a “Game Master” to log on and create content on the spot for players, infinitely expanding the possibilities of adventures and quests. Still, some groups focus on a more social aspect of role-play, and encourage players to simply embrace an imaginary life far departed from their own. This form of social role-play has led to rather bizarre results however, leading to tales of how characters who have married in a game such as WoW, have then moved on to meet and marry in real life too.

Role-play in video games can lead to some pretty amazing results. You can experience epic story lines the like you’ve only read about in movies, and engage in heated conflicts that test your mental agility much more than the game engine ever could.  Some people use role-play as an “escape” from real life to create a feigned social-life, however I would not personally suggest this atypical form of role-play. Regardless of how you role-play, the reason is clearly to embrace a world that is filled with infinite explorative possibilities.

What’s more, is that game developers are taking notes. Single player games such as Skyrim, Dragon Age and the Elder Scroll series seek to leave the world as open-ended as possible. These games let you broadly interact with the environment, and explore the infinite cause-and-effect possibilities with other characters. Games such as WoW and Minecraft, try to open the world in another way, by allowing players infinite possibilities of exploration over the landscape. Still, no game has yet to combine all these elements into single, full interactive, multiplayer RPG.  Perhaps that’s the next step for game developers, yet even then, there will likely be players who are role-playing, just to take their story to a new limitless level.

Danny Berkman

Danny Berkman

Associate Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Danny Berkman is an avid gamer specializing in RPGs, 4X games, and MOBA.
Danny Berkman

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  • Jams

    Ah man. All that talk of Shadow Clan brings back good memories, when there were people that did more than just grind. That was way back before the battlegrounds were finished!

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