What's Wrong With Online RPG's? Part 1


It's about 90% of the reason I have the internet, Online Role playing games. It's like pulling teeth trying to gather a group together for a game very often, so here's where I turn. It's a shame to have been disappointed by so many MMRPGS, so what do I look for in a game?

Years ago, I was an avid player of a semi-popular game called Neverwinter Nights. It was available only on AOL and was limited to 500 players at a time. During this time, AOL wasn't yet a flat rate ISP, but a 3 dollar an hour service. Addiction got expensive, but I regret spending none of that $800 bucks for about 4 months of game play.

It was my first tastes of many things that would become what I commonly waste my spare time on. It was my first time on the internet, my first time using something close to a chat client, my first time noticing that what seemed like 2 or 3 hours passing was in reality a 10 hour stretch, and it was the first time I "met" anyone via the internet.

The game itself, is still what I use to hold newer MMRPGS (massivly multiplayer role playing games) up against for comparison reasons. The game was basically a goldbox game by SSI that was modified to play online. The rules were AD&D and the levels capped off at 11 for some classes, 10 or 12 for others.

While the graphics and actual realism weren't the best, the game itself was a perfect example of what a game should be. The only thing I would actually change would be to raise the cap of players from 500 to 5000.

There is currently a group of old NWN players like myself, using their skills to bring back the magic of the old game. So far, I haven't been able to test the actual game to check the accuracy and likeness to the old NWN (not to be confused with the upcoming 'Neverwinter Nights' which you can find info here). I commend the idea and hope for others sake and my own they succeed. You may be asking yourself "why would he want a game with outdated graphics back when he could be playing one of the much more advanced MMRPG's?" The answer is quite simply that these newer online roleplaying games, well, they suck.

How about Everquest? Hardly. A pretty interface, with a nice view of landscapes and creatures doesn't save it from the lag pockets, "YOU HAVE BEEN DISCONNECTED" screens and poor newbie structure. Although I have to give it credit, once you get past some things, this game can be fun.

Ultima Online? Well, I don't feel I have to rip this one apart, but what the hell! I will. Any game, in my humble opinion, with a skill based system rather than a level based system is just too realistic to play. When I sign up for an RPG, online or not, I sign up to play a hero (or villian) who roleplays, kills enemies, saves the weak, solves problems, and builds in strength. I don't expect to waste hours upon hours in front of my screen fishing, knitting, chopping lumber, or giving snickers to trick or treaters! I can do most of that crap in my backyard. I also expect to be able to kill things on my own... instead, I get the glory of taking out bunny rabbits and running away from bears. I can do that in my backyard too! I suppose some other changes to the UO realm have caused a majority of the older players, who HAVE to have patience to deal with the aformentioned crap, to leave.

The next entry from me will be what should happen, how to fix it, what to do, and how to win the lotto. Keep looking, It should be posted within a few days.

Forgottenworld.com has some screen shots of what's to come.

If you had to narrow the magic of Neverwinter Nights into a TODO list for game developers, what would it be? Perhaps a limited server community? 5000 players? A small town in the scheme of things? In future expansions, people could travel between the town at the expense of losing two weeks of game time?

Can games like NWN *work* nowadays? Has the intense desire to produce good graphics, to wow people at shows and players gazing through magazine, overridden the urge to create a good story?

Online RPGs seem like hastily put together plots - "it doesn't matter if there's a story, the multiplayer aspect will create the story for them! whooo! (hey, these graphics look good, right?)".

Anyone wanna play Wolfenstien?

Have you tried Asheron's Call? The developers there seem to be pretty much focused in improving the game every month. This includes (shockingly) monthly improvements to the story and background. There's now a huge amount of in-game back story and a growing number of quests. I think there should be some kind of "most improved" award given out for this. But then again, I'm one of those poor sops who spends hours trying to figure something out in-game, when I could just surf over to mondo-bob's webpage-o-spoilers and do it in 30 seconds.

I must be a poor sop too. I was playing Diablo 2 the other day, and exploring around, going in some stupid side dungeon. The people who were with me were like "there's nothing in there. not important. follow me."


Hey, I *like* exploring. I *like* being challenged. I *like* wasting two hours in a 4 level deep dungeon, killing all the monsters and selling off all the items, only to find there's nothing worthwhile in there.

That's me. Poor old sop.

I still play the old gold box games, esp Pool of Radiance. I'd like to see them open the source for that whole series (including NWN) so we can each have little worlds for others to come play in. I know the new NWN offers this, but I LIKE the old style of graphics, and even the messages that flash by too fast to read:

Maybe I'm misreading things a bit (and correct me if I'm wrong), but the argument(s) here seem a little unbalanced and unsure of themselves. It appears that y'all are trying to argue both sides of the coin at the same time. On the one hand, it seems that everyone enjoys a rich storyline and detailed background. Yet at the same time it appears that you just want to run around and kill things for hours at a stretch. These two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive of one another, but they don't totally jive either.

Let me quickly interject that my experience with MMRPGs is limited to being a spectator. I've watched Everquest being played, and I've seen Ultima Online, and I wasn't enthralled with either one to the point where I wanted to run out and buy it.

The main reason for my attitude towards them is the fact that they contain the same seeming paradox that is being discussed here: rich, detailed backstory, and a world populated with mindless killers. Skills and character-advancement aside, in my experience all everyone wants to do is kill things. And that's all fine and dandy if that's your bag, but if you want to play a game where 5000 people run around and hack things to death for 8 hours at a stretch, don't come crying to me about realism and detail.

I've spent way too many hours over the past 4 years developing a rich and detailed backstory for Iconoclast, only to discover the same problem affecting us. Despite our best efforts, most of the supposed "Role-players" just wanted to log on and kill things. It's akin to setting up a mile-long domino rally, only to have some punk come knock it down when you put the last one in place.

I'm not going to argue that the "hack-n-slash" attitude is wrong. Far from it - I enjoy a good game of Unreal Tournament or Half-Life myself. The difference with those games, however, is that the multi-player versions don't pretend to have a rich storyline or any deep meaning. You log on for the sole purpose of killing. And in my estimation, honesty is a better policy than the illusion of role-playing, sloppily slapped atop the hordes of rabid killers like a poorly-frosted cupcake.

There will always be a place for killin' in my house. Just don't try to tell me it's role-playing when you're kicking down the door.

What you're seeing here is the essential split that has come across from paper-and-dice RPGs: the kids who just want to kill and collect treasure and experience, and the folks who see getting there as being ALL the fun. SO the first group basically mechanically goes through the motions of gaming while trying to find the most effieicent way to "win," while the latter group have a tendency to get caught in the minutiae of the character.

Neither view is compatible with the other, so while it's insightful to point out the difference, the only real solution there is to have different games pointed at the different types, which is why paper and dice games are so effective: each game master plays to his immediate audience.

The old "NWN" has the same engine as the other gold box games, if it was fully customizable you could set up your own server, your own world, and run your game to your immediate group of players. Deathmatches, experience building, or in depth storylines could be explored by different people, but it would probably be too difficult to do in the same game, thus the need for a set of (basically) conflict-resolution rules to build stories around, but without the proscribed storylines and settings, so people can get together and do what suits them.

I agree with Aeon.

Rename your article series to "What's Wrong With Online Multiplayer Killing Games?" and then maybe your argument works. Roleplaying is not running around and killing things.

Keep your eyes peeled in the next week or so for an article from me about a new online playing experience that is coming soon. The company unveiled their concept at Gen Con, and I was able to sit in on a media demo and talk to the CEO.

I have to say, however, the big factor keeping me from even trying some of these games in multi-player mode is knowing that many of the people are college students sitting in their dorm rooms with a T-1 while I'll trying to play through a 56k modem. I just haven't wanted to get into a game to only find out that I am always going to lose because of net lag. That may be an untrue perception, but it's the one that I have.

Sigh...Well This was only part one of my rant, and theres still alot to be said.

I appreciate the feedback, though some people were probably misunderstanding what I had to say. Ill clear it up soon. Then flame the hell out of me ;)

Keep the feedback coming, minus the nit-picks :P

This is only my opinion and the only thing I wish to argue is if people misread what I say. (I.E. NDogg's post) I understand what roleplaying is, and let me strengthen my view on RPG's here. Story line and character development is what keeps me playing these games. I feel, and Ill discuss this in pt. 2, that the more a game concentrates on a pretty interface, the less role playing actually occurs.

I love the Goldbox games, esp. Pool of Radiance (best game ever made?). I sooo wish I had played Neverwinter Nights, and I had hoped that some enterprising souls had got a similar thing (ie. cool goldbox engine) running... would be kool if they open sourced the goldbox games, and no copyrights on all the graphix, etc. then you could make a kickass game. Oh well.

A Tale in the Desert is a new MMORPG that has *no* combat and instead focuses on building, negotiation, and trust! Looks kind of interesting. I'm not involved in it or anything, just read about it on another site.


My point of view on the matter is that there are many different types of MMRPG's I've played many
I assure all of you but people nowadays just want something to do like hacking away at rabbits or knitting, fishing, and chopping lumber. People in big city's can't go in a backyard and do any of that. that's why games like UO are popular.Sure NWN was a great game but it's well and gone. I think that there is a type of RPG for everyone out there such as a tale in the desert that has no combat or Kingdom of the winds which is a hack and slash type of rpg. If you don't like the rpg's of today then just don't play them and stick to the mud's

(I just felt like saying something)


Your statement about skill based versus level based systems is invalid, in the level based systems you do the same old bunny-bashing you are attributing only to skill based systems.

Weither you call the bunny a giant rat or a kobold doesn't matter. The heart of the matter is the creature is a challenge only to your then weak-ass character not to you an intelligent human. And if a bunny isn't a challenge, then a non-sentient tree is even less of one.

Thats not to say skill systems are better than level, on this front they are basically the same.

However, skill systems do overcome one important thing, that is time. Who wants to pay to run around as a peasant in a world filled with heros.

i personally have never role-played, but as far as i can tell form reading articles online, role playing revolves around the hero(s) vs the villain(s). an objective that is very different from uo, eq, or ac. even though they call themselves as rpg, and even though all of their storylines might seems to encourage the creation of heroes or villains, the game play itself actually is not about rp and neither does it promote rp.

there is one thing that all of them have try to incorporate into the rpg genre which ensured role playing cannot succeed, imo, is the concept of a persistent world.

the corollary of a persistent world is a working economy. uo started out trying to make a closed economy, but failed. eq and ac never even attempt to created a closed economy. however the difference between them, the key is an economy. a traditional role playing game is not concerned with global economics within its own world. all mmporpg however is created revolving around it. as a result, this persistent world with an economic system created new politics.

in mmporpg, quests are just economically inefficient, so they are naturally abandon in an economy. guilds are strongest with all types of people whom collectively possess the whole spectrum of every possible skills, so in-character factions are ignored. basically, a whole new set of politics was created revolving around opportunity in the market instead of in-character story. furthermore, quests with valuable rewards are made so that only a sizable force with numerous people, whom all have good weapons and armor, can achieve. this factor, although most reasonable even in terms of rp, ensured the success of the market and its new politics, which is harsh for rp.

i reiterate, since i never role-played, this is merely an opinion. if we were to look at the traditional rpg, the involved world would undoubtedly have politics, but they are usually what we in real life would call fundamentalism. and as for economics, i really doubt there would be anything but a brief and vague treatment. however, imagine if those worlds are as persistent, then the likelihood of the two characters, niccolo machiavelli and adam smith, coming into being in a long winding history of that world would be high, and they will destroy your ways of traditional rp in your world. when that happens, you know you have arrived to the worlds of the mmporpg.

Man why dont they have two parties in their staff one for pretty graphics and those who incorperated good storylines. Instead of throwing anything down. ANd make the sacrafice of creating NPC or any source of problem who that constantly doing things to affect the lives of the players who interact with each other in this OMMRPGs. Also make it a greater task to reach these NPC/Sources instead of throwing a truck load of monsters, cause when u think about it. The LV of the monsters in your way dosent matter since there are thousands of players who can just join up together and get through the quest without a problem. This will affect the story giving a real reaon to do anything in the RPG world.

Ultima Online was my first MMORPG, and after getting addicted by the Multiplayer factor, I didn't realize it took too long to build the caracter. After on, playing Dransik, on Beta stage, 2D graphics, no skill, only experience, I felt that it was the kind of game I wanted to play. Not that much of do the same thing repeated times. Just get a good level, then make allies and enemies. If someone finds a 2D MMORPG like old Dransik please tell me.

animol if someone finds a 2d mmorpg like old dransik and say to you say plz to me :D thx ...