How do you pronounce MMORPG, anyway? I thought this would be an excellent place to start the discussion. You might disagree, of course, saying, “Who the hell cares, … its just a word. Let’s talk about designing MMORPGs.”
To this I might counter, “Whoa! Slow down. Let’s start with the basics. If the current crop of mult-person online somewhat world-like games out there is any indication, even the industry vets don’t know the first thing about designing one.”
I remember playing real RPG’s (hopefully many readers do). D&D, Role Master, Call of Cthulu, Space Opera and some incredibly fun toon based game that I don’t remember the name of. The last was a very fun game. I played the role of a Gorilla (or was it an Oranguatan) with sufficient strength to weild a compact car as my primary weapon. You played with pen and paper (blank paper preferably). Mechanics were settled with dice. But most of all, role playing was important!
For my PnP RPG group, at least, RP wasn’t about that weird thee and thou crap (if you’re a fan of that kind of role play, please interpret ‘crap’ in the kindest and most endearing manner). But we were roleplaying. We were both discovering and inventing our characters, individually and as a group. Over time, we jointly built history: personal anecdotes and rememberences, long lines of lineage, whole worlds.
Playing was was fun! A lot of fun.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy what passes for MMORPG’s out there today. But they really have very little to do with RP. They are almost entirely mechanical contests. Its cool that you can put some window dressing on your toon … enough to hint at a history. You can type up a BIO (and hopes that someone will notice and ask). You can often decorate your own personal domain with the baubles and trinkets collected through play. This all hints at RP. But it isn’t. Certainly, it doesn’t feel like its role playing.
And I’ve tried to RP in a MMORPG. I built a character, with a history. I sought to advance in skills that I thought fit with my character. I undertook in-game events in support of the character. But it wasn’t like one of the old PnP sessions.
I’d like to capture the essense of a PnP RPG session, and implement it in a computer game. Certainly, the match will never be perfect. But perhaps a good approximation can be found. I, for one, would be very interested in playing that game.
As a closing note … I personally pronounce it ‘mmorf’, with a slight stutter on the m (by way of hinting at the double m) and as if ‘pg’ made an ‘f’ sound. There are weirder things in the English language, so why not. Plus, it provides a convenient route to changing the spelling to MMORPH, in anticipation of the day when computer games are rendered in holography.