I know one of these pop up once a month or more, but there are several threads dealing with the subject right now, so I decided to reply to one. Then it got really big and I couldn't decide which one to put it in, so here it is.
I have never been a huge role-player and mostly not by choice. I think most developers have left role-playing solely in the hands of players. Some developer teams may create tools like emotes or music or whatever, but there aren't really any human goals to attain in most online games these days. There aren't any Dungeon Masters or great leaders on most servers asking players to do certain things. The developers or GMs sometimes hold events for the players that are online at that time. They can spawn creatures and hand out special loot, but as far as giving players direction and perspective they are completely absent apart from the content they create. Most GMs just handle customer service these days and that’s it. And while there certainly are some creative players that find their own fun ways of doing things, I haven’t met any great active role-playing guilds or players in years. Perhaps I wouldn’t even recognize great role-playing if it jumped out and bit me, but I know, as a player, I am always looking for something or someone to inspire me, or to get me to want to do things just because I can, or because it's the right thing to do.
I want to hook up with the mayor's son to go into the dungeon and rescue some precious jewels from a pack of goblins. And I don't want to read about it in a quest log. I want a real person to ask me to do that, and for a reason. Not just some XP or currency, but because it's expected of me; Because it's fun; Because the whole time, I'm being led by a real person who can change the environment to suit whatever tale he/she is concocting. They can make the weather bright and sunny or stormy and spooky. They can have a pack of wolves attack us on our way. I'll probably never experience the same thing again in this game the same way, and that's fine. That's the way it should be. I know that sounds impossible, maybe even dull to some people. But if done well, I think it would be a big step toward the pen and paper roots of the role-playing genre. I know a lot of players think that role-players are an insignificant fragment of the current player-base, but role-players started this genre, and there's a reason that these games have held such a fascination for them over the years. It was an alternate reality, like being an actor in a movie or a soldier in a platoon.
Do the games really have to lose that just for the sake of convenience? Is it safe to say most people don't want to or don't have time to play these games as a form of alternate reality? 30 min chunks on average. Maybe an all-nighter on the weekends. Does this inhibit the more social and human aspects of a role playing game? Or is it just that the majority of the current player-base does not allow it? If you aren't constantly in combat then the game is boring for many, many players. If you aren’t grinding, you are wasting time and time is money. And the developers are trying to appease these players, as it should be in any successful enterprise. But what if the developers were somehow able to show these players that these games can be so much more than just combat? If I could get them into my imagination, let me puppet the world around them like a good movie director, perhaps they would come around.
It's impossible to blame anyone for why the games have become all action and no story. Even games like the new star wars which is supposed to have a huge story element will not be able to offer anything that Mass Effect cannot in terms of human content. Yeah, you can help your buddy choose what to say back to the computer or fight alongside or against them in combat, but why? What for? Because you want to get more experience points and higher statistics? I'm sure that's what The Witcher was after when he was killing zombies in the sewer, or on your way out of the Vault for the first time in Fallout 3. Forget that, I don’t want to play as The Witcher or the vault dweller, I want to BE them. For many players, myself included, all of these games have a great story, otherwise I would not love and play them as much as I do. But when I’m online, interacting with other human beings, I expect much, much more. Not just from them, but from the people I pay to play the game.
Vault-Tec analysts have concluded that the odds of worldwide nuclear armaggeddon this decade are 17,143,762... to 1.