Here’s some source material an eagle-eyed reader pointed out to me that was already on Designer Emeritus Dragon’s website. You know, with all the thought he’s put into this, he should work on a game or something.
There was a debate a while back on the Ultima mailing list on just what a roleplaying game is. Needless to say there wasn’t a great deal of agreement (heck, they couldn’t agree on whether or not elves belonged in Ultima).
Most roleplayers see themselves as acting out a given role. “I am Lum the Mad, priest of Mondain. Have you heard the good news, my child?”. In effect, they become part of the scenery. Think of the bit players at a RenFair. Generally the worst thing you can do to a roleplayer is to break the fiction that they try to present. Of course, those who don’t happen to like roleplayers enjoy doing so often and with great gusto.
Most gaming companies see roleplaying as, as the OMM review of Asheron’s Call put it, the fine art of moving an experience point bar from left to right. Unfortunately, while addicting in a very Skinnerian sort of way, it isn’t roleplaying. Even more unfortunately, it’s what gaming companies tend to concentrate on, since intricate gaming systems are somewhat more easy to code than intricate social systems.
UO has made the most progress at trying to integrate a story line into the actual game (the “Interest program”, or the Seers). They are at least making an effort. Although not much of one. The main problem with UO’s Interest Program is one of logistics. There simply aren’t enough seers out there for anyone to actually notice that they exist. And if there ever was a publicly known, advertised, somewhat important ingame event, everyone would go to it, and that subserver would crash to a grinding halt.
One problem here. Remember the house looting bug that Companions were able to briefly exploit before it was patched? (and by the way, thankfully, it was patched before Dr. Twister ever had a chance to post it… so much for his being the only impetus for Origin to patch bugs, I s’pose). This despite the fact that supposedly, Companions had NO special exploitable powers. Well, Seers need a whole bunch of powers to affect the game. Without them, they’re about as useful as that woman wistfully emoting at you in the player-run tavern.
Picture a Seer with the ability to spawn monsters at will, change the landscape at a whim. Picture that seer deciding he doesn’t like macroers. Or reds. Or roleplayers.
Once again, we run up against the fact that any solution is going to have to deal with that unpatchable bug known as other people. Dammit!