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What a misery. For years I have been hunting the MMO - "so-called" - RP - Games for something with decent roleplay and a focus on old-schoolish concepts like immersion, roleplay, shared story telling and creativity.
The last game I found with communities where there was a chance to find something resembling that was Neverwinter Nights (NWN) and its hundreds of privately run worlds and servers. It was also my first online RPG and I was instantly hooked. Personally I like harsh death-settings, mature play, playing to create and weave great teales cooperatively. If I want to do number-crunching I can get an excel sheet or immerse myself in some book about physics or math. I am not seeking L337, grind, or great stats in games, but great tales, something to dream in and about. Just as in the occasional prose book I read from time to time. I don't want to open the discussion as to what play-style, what death-penalty and what amount of RP is globally the most honorous, mature and preferable. It is just that me, personally, get satisfaction from the aspect of improvisation, creativity and cooperative story-telling in online-RPGs.
What got me in online RPGs like Neverwinter Night was the cooperative weaving of dreams and tales. The spontaneous creativity of players that met, behaved in-character and stitched great encounters and stories together. Also the creative outlet it offered to builders, coders and Dungeon Masters who weaved their own tales, and also served to offer a platform for players to get immersed in. I know that there are many players and coders with this taste, for I have met many. I wonder where they all are.
What happened to this style of play? All I see in contemporary MMORPGs is mainstream and boring grinds. Players are reduced to mindless grinders, denied of even the least opportunity to get creative. They click their avatar together from a shallow set of pre-set components. Most of the current games don't even bother to offer a little editor to write up a biography or description of your avatar. You are what you see: A generic, life- and storyless virtual avatar - looking, behaving and skilled just like all the others in your chosen profession and race, devoid of any individuality and of any means to get creative. Your job as a player is simple: Grind, bore yourself to death, and pay - or don't pay in the sea of F2Ps - to kill your time with no reward at all, but meaningless stats and titles that are handed to you by algorithms.
Roleplay? Who gives a heck! It might be an mmo"RP"g, but please don't expect to find roleplay in one of the current titles. One of the big companies that would go through the pain of offering a true RP server? Why bother? RPers are nerds. Only a few of them exist. They don' merit to go through the pain of listening to them. They will make do with whatever we throw at them, for there is nothing better out there. They will jump at a new game, hoping to get their fix there. Then they will find out it is just another mindless and mediocre mainstream cash-cow. They will hold on for a bit, flock together in isolated guilds and clans, try to make do with the flat and life-less code and engine they get handed, and eventually move on to the next disappointment.
And I am also amazed about the level of immersion, the quality of the roleplay, the vivid and colorful characters that unfold on my MUSHclient.
If anyone wants to give an old-school experience a shot, and is willing to revert to having the graphics only inside the head, I warmly recommend to you: www.armageddon.org.
The setting is harsh and merciless. The quality of RP and immersion you will find IG is superb. People play that game for a shared dream. To impress and to be impressed - by the quality of the interaction.
2014 and text-based MUDs? If it is the best place to go, why not?