Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tabletop RPGs vs MMORPGs

Ryan Dancey has a timely series of blog entries on how he would redo the entire RPG industry (ditch Role-Playing and stick with Storytelling). The third step caught my attention as it does emphasize the biggest difference between tabletop gaming and MMORPGs (first example is a MMORPG, second a tabletop):
Most of the games that followed UO tried to “learn” from this experience by downplaying the elements of persistence. World of Warcraft is at best “quasi-persistent”. The only in-game effect over which the players have control which has persistence is the creation of certain objects, which can be exchanged between players, or sold for cash, but which cannot be left in the environment for others to find, given to (or used by) NPCs, etc. The trend of development for MMORPGs has been to follow this path, keeping persistence to a minimum, and there is no reason to expect any major changes in that regard. Even in games where more persistence is permitted, such as the creation of buildings, for the most part, that persistence only affects players. In virtually no modern MMORPG that I am aware of, do the players have the ability to permanently change the environment in any meaningful way, outside of rare and special “events” which are usually scripted battles for territory. (Obviously, I carve out an exception for Second Life, because I see it is a toy (like SimCity), not a game; it has no “rules”, and is mostly just a simulation environment.)


The lowest, most basic level is the game group. At that level, the world has essentially total persistence. If a PC decides it is appropriate to dig a hole in the center of town, then there’s a hole in the center of town as long as the group remembers it is there. Another example would be a shared community scenario involving a part of the world being terrorized by ogres. An infinite number of groups might play a scenario where they track down and kill an ogre chieftain. For each of those groups, “they did it”, and for those characters, that ogre chieftain is defeated. The impact of actions taken at the group level is then fed “up” into the community space, to be distributed to other groups as appropriate.


Anonymous said...

Lack of world persistence is one of the things I hate about MMORPGS. To me, it displays a lack of creativity on the part of the designers (who obviously HAVE creativity or else there would be no game). It leads to odd chains of events such as helping a friend kill a named NPC, only to go to town and pick up a quest to kill the SAME named NPC. Having a world that you can change would go a long way in improving the game genre.

Charles said...

I don't think that's possible in MMORPGs however. Simply too many players and too prone to abuse.