Monday, 14 December 2009

Conduct issues in the Wider World of Warcraft

So it’s here. Dungeon Finder, allowing us to group with adventurers with other servers to complete instance runs. Aside from the advantages to gathering a party, what are the interpersonal issues raised by this significant adjustment to the WoW experience?

To answer that question, let us consider for a moment the concept of a community. Community describes a collection of people who are share some common ground. For example WoW players or members of The Venture Co. server.

However a community is not a stagnant thing. It develops and progresses, experiences a ‘life’ of it’s own. Most importantly, members of community are stakeholders within it. Or to put it another way, how you behave in your community is important, if you want to keep enjoying it’s benefits.

Cross-server experiences are very interesting, because whereas there is something to gain from cooperating, the penalties for being anti-social are less severe. If your behaviour with a group of random people from other servers is ruthless, dishonest or antagonistic, the chances are they won’t be shouting about it in your local Ironforge and killing your reputation.

It’s back to the old adage about the Internet, anonymity and being an asshole.

So what we have here is a good test of character. You may find it interesting to observe player behaviour in coming months, and to note when people are unable to be pro-social, honest or useful without the sword of server notoriety hanging over their heads.

Bit like the Battlegrounds then.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Serious Soloist

In a society dominated by powerful guilds and a world where the greatest challenges must be faced by large groups of highly co-ordinated and well-prepared heroes, what is required of the serious solo adventurer?

Reputation. Without an illustrious guild name over your head, your personal reputation is key. All the principles of courtesy to others, fair play, knowing your class/build and preparedness go double for the person whose invites stand on their own reputation alone. If you aspire only to be a well-geared delinquent, you will find an appropriate guild on your server to do that and get away with it. Solo play is not recommended for ninjas or unreliable people.

Friendships. This goes hand in hand with the above point. Know your key allies and cultivate mutually beneficial relationships.

Determination. Whilst enjoying all the freedom in the world, you must also do without scheduled guild runs. Therefore you must persevere to use your time wisely and pick the best opportunities for development. People pug for all kinds of reasons, and the poor quality of random groups is exaggerated in popular talk. However, you will have to accept that at least part of the time the groups you join will fall apart. On the bright side you set your own timetable.

Pride. At the end of the day you did it your way. Your success or failure will depend not only on your keyboard skills, but navigating relationships and choosing opportunities.

Monday, 5 October 2009


Ignore lists are a little problematic and there are disadvantages to being too hasty. Someone having a bad day might be a useful contact tomorrow.

However bad behaviour is often repeated and it doesn’t make sense to get bitten twice.

This weekend I cleared my ignore list. Only four names were listed as I am fairly thick skinned.

I began anew with a new policy. From now on if I feel someone deserves ignoring then I send a short, politely worded message explaining why they will now be ignored. They can then reflect on what has happened.

Readers may want to comment on what they consider ignore worthy behaviour.

I had two people listed before the weekend was out. One left a 10man raid we had spent a considerable amount of time recruiting after one wipe. Apparently his guild needed him. His ‘guild’ consisted of two other players, neither of which were level 80. I have to wonder what urgent raid he had to run off to. Predictably his departure caused a domino effect, everyone left, and all that time waiting around had been wasted.

The second successful candidate was in Arathi Basin, when a nobody (yes this sounds haughty but I mean a character of no repute nor notable guild) felt it was appropriate to /spit on me. If like myself, you’ve been bought up in a noble Darnassian bloodline, the idea of a random human spitting at you is intolerable. Nevertheless I had the pity to politely question why, but it seemed the neanderthal was unable to articulate any grudge or rivalry.


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Reward Feeling

So I decided to have a go at Aion.

It was a Friday night and ahead of me was the chore of doing the Daily Heroics over the weekend and maybe some daily quests for gold I don’t even need. Nothing much more exciting to look forward to until Wednesday’s raid. So I thought hell with the dailies, lets do something totally new and try Aion!

Naturally I rolled a Warrior, as up and close fighting is what you crave when you shoot arrows at people for a living. I had a lot of fun designing my character and then, miraculous birth, I spawned into an unsuspecting server along with about two-dozen other people spawning at that exact moment.

Imagine a world where every female looks like Kate Beckinsale, and you will quickly grasp the distracting beauty of the many player characters currently running around the crowded Aion servers. The environment was very nice. Not fall off your seat nice, or staggering innovative by any means, but pleasant to explore.

Here’s what happened in one paragraph. I moved between quest hubs and killed X number of monsters. I experienced several innovations on the WoW system. These were: player shops, more frequent cut scenes, a location helper, a campaign quest log, a great chain-combat system, the ability to fly slowly for short periods of time. (That last one won’t feel like a great innovation if you have an epic flying mount).

I had lots of fun hitting monsters with a big sword, and enjoyed the very regular reward feeling that comes from gearing up a character from nothing. Best of all there were lots of people around and there was a nice general atmosphere of communal exploration.

Then I logged on to WoW to do the Brewfest Dailies (achievement hunter). At that exact moment our 5v5 Arena leader decided we should run some games. We had an absolute killing streak and suddenly I had access to more new arena gear than I had the Honor to buy. I stayed up till almost 2pm grinding battlegrounds and got the first two items that night (reward feeling). But I needed a lot more Honor and suddenly I had new purpose.

I will of course return to Aion, to enjoy some more sword-fighting and at my own pace adventuring. It’s not as polished, precise or self-satirical as WoW no matter how shiny the graphics. It’s not as bloody or combat tactical as AoC or as stylised and innovative as WAR. However it has great atmosphere at the moment because of all the new players exploring it for the first time, and it’s a very competent fun example of it’s type.

But it’s not Coca-Cola. And judging each game by its ability to differentiate itself from it’s peers, I feel it’s the weakest of the primary WoW alternatives.

Friday, 18 September 2009

WoW vs (other)

One talked about MMORPG coming very soon is AION.

I spent some time last night researching this, not because I’m about to jump ship, but because I have found that games such as Age of Conan and Warhammer Online (both great games!) have offered me a really enjoyable short-break akin to picking up an X-Box game and playing it for a month.

Inevitably the WoW comparisons overtake discussions about new MMORPG releases. This could be constructive if it were a point-by-point comparison as to how game-play issues were addressed in different or similar ways. You know, things that really matter.

However more often what we get is comments like:

‘WoW gets pwned’

‘WoW sucks’

If you dislike World of Warcraft – fine. But if you really believe that WoW sucks, then you need to add a bit more substance to your argument. Because as a solution to the challenge of creating an interactive virtual fantasy world, WoW clearly doesn’t suck.

First off we need to define the contested territory. Beautiful graphics may be a big consideration for some. But your personal preference to look like an emo in Aion rather than a cartoon character in WoW is only going to get you so far. If you just like eating cake and have no literally no idea what ingredients actually make a good cake then keep your mouth shut.

Core issues, i.e. things that contribute to the quality of the gaming experience are more to do with actual play issues that are; economic and social, that consider player reward and playtime longevity, environment immersion, learning-curve, variety and choice.

Second, on both sides of the fence, enough about what is a WoW-Clone or who stole ideas from Everquest. Unless your tipple of choice is 1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons, then it’s a moot point.

WoW has been embellished continually since its release. It has a lot of content and designers are responsive to the needs of the community, continually increasing the functions available to its subscribers. For this reason alone it will be extremely difficult to challenge by any new offering at point of release.

This isn’t to prove that’s it’s the best MMORPG possible, or even available already. I simply ask debaters to weigh up the ingredients that actually matter when exploring relative merits. I have to wonder if people who genuinely think that WoW is a poor offering will recognise a better one when it comes along… or know why it is better!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Plz boost me Hercules!

Help-beggars and their alts...

Do you have an alt? I do own a couple, largely built from the desire to have same level characters to play with levelling friends, or the rare moment of hunter fatigue. But these days my alts rarely see the light of day.

I don’t often feel inclined to play an alternative character for two reasons:

1. I am quite immersed in experiencing things through the eyes of my main.

2. Given that I exist outside of WoW as a family member, employee and student, it is hard to find extra time beyond keeping my main character up to date. Especially right now when Emblems of Triumph can be farmed every single day, so priority one is often getting that daily heroic done no matter what.

However, many others do enjoy alts and are able to split their attention better than I. If you play an alt then feel free to comment why, so I can grasp the appeal better.

However, there are a proportion of alt-players who expect their friends to do the work of levelling that alt for them, through frequent boosts and assists. This is approached with a sense of ‘entitlement’ that is often part of the psychological make-up of any anti-social person.

Our usually worthy Guild-Chat was bought low by one such help-beggar recently. I was this player's Guild Master once, suffering about a year of their lazy antics. This week, having failed to beg a boost, they exclaimed; ’20 guild members online and no one can help me?’

How does this translate into what is understood about the mythical journey of the hero? Certainly the classical hero had helpers on his or her journey, people who provided crucial advice, or even fought side by side for similar ends. However this help appeared because the hero was on the path and attracted cosmic assistance, or inspired others to their cause. Not because they begged and whined about it.

Jason and the Argonauts - Deleted Scene:

Jason: Can anyone boost me to get the Golden Fleece plz!!

Hercules: Sorry mate, I’m a bit busy doing my dailies at the moment.

Jason: When will you be finished?

Hercules: Not sure. Why not get a party, similar level, and challenge the quest the way it’s meant to be challenged? That way it will be more fun and you’ll get the learning.

Jason: I can’t be bothered. Plz boost me Hercules! Plzzzzzzzz!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Cataclysm – You Know Too Much

You watched the Cataclysm trailer this weekend didn’t you?

I have to say it looks pretty exciting. However it sometimes seems to me a pity that we can become so much in the know about future WoW events before they ever happen, from a story-telling point of view.

There’s a strange irony to how we approach this RPG. We strive to know tactics before we step through the door of an instance. Almost certainly we know the potential loot! Of course it varies from person to person, but often players have enormous amounts of information about challenges before they are undertaken, and not to have that information is failure.

Does this foreknowledge fly in the face of immersive roleplay, or would the heroes of old have indeed gathered as much information as possible before heading off to kill that Minotaur? You decide.

Aragorn: ‘Okay when Frodo draws his sword about 100 orcs are going to come charging out of the woods. I want the Hobbits to draw as much aggro as possible and start running to where Boromir will tank the main group. Legolas, Gimli and I will deal with any adds, dps like crazy, and then run down to the others. I’ll off-tank the main boss while the rest of you finish off the mobs.’

Frodo: ‘How do you know all this stuff anyway?’

Boromir: ‘I still think we should wait for a healer. Ask Guilds.’

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A Myth in Action

Playing any adventure game with a reasonable amount of freedom is about choosing to be a hero. Or a villain. Or a morally ambiguous character.

Morrowind and Fallout as well as Dungeons & Dragons and other table-top RPG’s are examples of forums where this moral choice is available.

The same holds true for Warcraft. Whether you like it or not, whether you play on a RP server or not, you will make choices about the moral quality of your character.

Everyone is free to be a total bastard if they want to. However I think many aspire to be a hero! But does being a hero actually involve?

A hero might have fantastic equipment. In Arthurian mythology the sword Excalibur was an exemplary weapon, as was Narsil in Lord of the Rings. The shield of Achilles and the spear of Odin are among many, many other significant and magical artefacts wielded by mythic heroes.

A hero may belong to an elite group such as the Spartans, the Knights of the Round Table or the Myrmidons. They may brave dangerous ruins or explore strange forbidding islands, as did the Argonauts.

But still the quality of heroism would be elusive without the heart and soul of the hero, his or her conduct and contribution to the world, ‘the power to bestow boons on his fellow man’ (Campbell 1949).

A true hero is a ‘living-light fountain, which it is good and pleasant to be near… in whose radiance all souls feel that it is well with them’ (Carlyle 1841).

If you choose to be a hero then choose to be pleasant to be around, helpful, fair and righteous. Lifting up others on your journey and showing the camaraderie of the classical heroes. Demonstrated from Spartan courage to Arthurian chivalry; it's not just what you do but the way that you do it!

Epics come and go, but what abides is your conduct. A good reputation, once broken, is not easily fixed by a trip to the blacksmiths.

‘We hunger for heroes as role models, as standards of action, as ethics in flesh and bones like our own. A hero is a myth in action’ (May 1991).


Campbell, J. (1949) The Hero with a Thousand Faces
Carlyle, T. (1841) On Heroes and Hero-Worship
May, R. (1991) The Cry for Myth.

Monday, 10 August 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Seven

Role-playing is not optional on a RP-PVP server.

Like many I was caught up in this weekends post-patch fervour to grind Emblems of Conquest. We ran a massive slew of Heroics to that purpose. After which I put on my favourite robe and waited in Elwynn Forest for the chance to kick someone’s ass.

While I was sitting on the fence, like Elves do for reasons known only to us, another 80th level character came strolling along, bristling with armour and weapons.

One of the aspiring heroes ran up and told him; ‘Good evening!’

To which he replied; ‘Fag’. And then rode off.

A few minutes later this same arrogant person put out a message on the general channel:

‘Anyone want any help with Hogger while I am here?’

I couldn’t resist replying; ‘You and what army?’

This bought some sniggers on the general channel and the angry reply:

‘F****king roleplayers! I won’t be laughed at by some kid who thinks he is his character!’

I might usefully add that the speaker was from a guild once considered the elite of our server. But in those days elite also meant friendly and helpful.

If you’ve been following this blog, you will have noticed a broad and encouraging attitude to defining role-play. Thus far I have:

Looked at role-play in terms of developing character.

Encouraged people not to break character for the purposes of arguing about role-play in game.

Invited everyone to consider themselves as role-players. You don't have to sit in the tavern chewing over the old days. But you should try to stay in character.

You may or may not agree with my definitions. However, role-playing is not optional on a RP or RP-PVP Server.

Some confusion exists about the definition of RP-PVP. I will make it very, very simple to understand. A RP-PVP server is a RP server. With PVP active.

Anyone who disagrees and thinks it is either/or can try two experiments to check:

Read Blizzards own definition. It is very clear.

Go and stand outside an enemy city.

It will soon become clear that neither RP nor PVP are optional.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Six

About character…

When I’m running a Dungeons & Dragons session, I encourage players to flesh out their statistics and weapons by adding four personality traits to their character sheet. In many ways these traits will inform the gaming experience to a greater extent than their +3 Vorpal Swords or whatever hardware they are carrying.

What makes a great Warcraft character is not the ability to spew huge chunks of rhetoric and mythos, but the ability to play a consistent and interesting character.

One the notable characters in the history of our server is Benevolent. Grand Marshal Benevolent led a great many pre-made battle-parties during the golden age of battleground warfare. I was aware of his back-story and he acknowledged the back-story of others. His character's achievements weren’t invented, he had actually accomplished all this stuff. Notably he was a consistent personality. Let’s try and create a character trait list for this person:


Interestingly, I never saw Ben hanging around in Goldshire chatting about the World Tree or walking slowly around the capital cities with a stick up his rear. Yet for me this character became as much a part of the Warcraft mythology as any notable NPC.

Keith Johnstone, an innovator in the field of Theatresports, provided some valuable advice in creating character in his book Impro for Storytellers.

‘Knowing the characters’ purpose isn’t enough – what really matters is how your character tries to achieve this purpose.’

Try creating a list of personality characteristics to inform how your character goes about their objectives. It’s likely, if you’ve been experiencing your character for a while, that you can already identify key character traits that may differ from your own. Many who consider themselves “non role-players” may be surprised to learn that they’ve been in character for quite some time.

Feel free to write your characters traits in the Comments box if you want to share them.

Because it’s my blog and I may as well indulge myself, here the traits I aspire to when being Fey:



The following lists are suggestions for actors on portraying personalities. They are slightly different from character traits, but useful in honing appropriate behaviours for the attitude you want your avatar to convey.

(From Impro for Storytellers)

To be Thought a Hero:
Talk about your thrilling adventures, Start a fight, Guard and defend your honour, have a beloved, issue dares.

To be Thought Intelligent:
Correct people, know everything, use long words, analyse everything.

To be Thought a Jerk:
Brag, point out people’s defects, make pointless jokes, pass blame onto other people.

To be the Life and Soul of a Party:
Be positive, be generous, know fascinating gossip, compliment/flatter.

To be High Status:
Take or fight for control, be more relaxed and stiller than your partner, talk in complete sentences, often use people’s names.

(Many other lists are possible).

Saturday, 1 August 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Five

I need a quick break from WoW, so I decide to try a free trial of Star Wars Galaxies.

After 10 minutes spent creating a suitably mullet-headed Jedi I log in and busy myself running around undertaking quests for Han Solo. It's all happy fun, even though the whole affair seems somewhat unpolished compared to WoW.

I'm pretty much alone in this starting zone, but after an hour or two of play I finally run into a group of other player-characters playing musical instruments in a medical bay. One of them stares at me as I stride in and comments; 'A loljedi'.

Instantly paranoia hits me. A loljedi? What does that mean? The implications don't sound very good. Have I chosen a character class that will mark me out for humiliation across the universe? Shit. I decide to Google the expression and try and get a better understanding of exactly what a loljedi might be.

The results aren't very flattering. I put together a picture of a game overun with wannabe Jedi's, often roleplayed very poorly. I feel a little stung by the insult. After all, I hadn't interacted with anyone yet.

I log back in and a stocky looking man in a military jacket approaches me.

'slt' he says.

I'm a little puzzled by the odd statement. Who or what is slt I wonder. Is he calling my William Wallace looking Jedi Apprentice a slut?

'Excuse me?' I respond, slightly annoyed.

'Sorry,' he pleads. 'I'm French.'

Some hours later, after having failed to use my Jedi powers to leap off low surfaces, I land on Tatooine. Here a reasonable collection of other players are, well, standing there. I can't see any other Jedi's and am feeling slightly on the spot in my Padawan judo outfit.

A bearded man comes up to me.

'English or German?' he questions.

'I'm a little bewildered,' I try to imagine my characters response to the strange question. 'I've just arrived here.'

Weirdly he turns tail and runs away. Watching him jog on I feel I have won a small victory of some kind.

Suddenly my name is being called and a very wise looking person is approaching me. Due to the miracle of floating titles I can see he is a Guild Master. This kind person answers some of my immediate questions and does it in such a way that allows us both to stay in character. At last my first sophisticated Star Wars Galaxies conversation!

I'm about to finish the happy exchange with a wise closing remark. Perhaps 'May the force be with you!' or simply 'Farewell friend' when a terrible message appears on my screen...

You have exceeded the chat limit for a trial account. You will be unable to chat for the next 8 minutes.

I try to speak but nothing comes out. My mouth is opening and closing, but I'm standing there in front of this wise Guild Master and unable to say a single bloody word. How the hell do I get out of this situation without losing massive face? In the end there is only one solution.

I turn tail and run away. Like a loljedi.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Four

Our Guildmaster, Overon is emphatic about Roleplaying. Recently he encouraged Vision of Excellence members towards a simple rule. Say what you need to in party or guild chat but keep /s (‘say’) for in-character dialogue.

For myself I added an extra rule. Be nice.

Like most people I don’t want to be famous for looking down my nose at people. Like everyone I have some real-life friends on the server, and sometimes that entails discussions about real life.

I found it easy to implement Overon’s simple rule, and to encourage others to do the same, without ever needing to mention it.

‘Are you from Sweden?’ someone asked me in /say last night. I replied in /whisper and the entire conversation switched channel without anyone being scolded. Even if it hadn’t, I’d have quietly followed the simple rule without passing judgement on the other person.

Anyone pulling their hair out over the state of role-play on their server might consider how they can quietly lead by example. An appropriate emote or inspiring comment will often stir others to join in the flavour of the moment.

It worries me that many are very quick to define themselves as not being role-players. This feeling is reinforced by the behaviour and complaints of those who consider themselves the ‘real thing’. Such behaviour makes role-playing seem like an unattainable holy grail, available only to those with a degree in Drama.

However I find it hard to believe these ‘non role-players’ do not become as immersed in the experience of adventure and danger as the rest of us. You’d really have to be swimming against the entire stimulus of WoW not to feel some immersion in the experience. We can add to that immersion by staying in character ourselves. That includes not going OOC to complain.

Let’s try to treat everyone as role-players. Lead by example. Not bash those who don’t conform to our own approach (mine or yours) and encourage role-playing by portraying characters that actually have some character.

And be nice!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Three

Stories within stories…

Warcraft has a considerable back-story and mythology informing it. Quests have purpose. You’re collecting twenty vehicle parts because some lazy gnome needs them to build his new invention. Real rivalries exist, as anyone who has been ganked more than once by the same enemy will realise.

Camaraderie is genuine and unforced. Bringing down a raid boss with your guild, or fighting for long months in a pre-made battleground or arena team will demonstrate this feeling.

Arch villains haunt the world with their schemes, and servers have their own legendary heroes and villains.

So why then feel the need to ‘go and do some role-play’?

To me this is akin to a group of Dungeons & Dragons characters, playing in a richly imagined campaign world, deciding that they will sit down and… play some Dungeons & Dragons! Thus creating a fiction within the fiction, but one that is contrived by the players instead of the Dungeon Master.

Now some innovation can indeed add depth to the WoW experience. On our server a guild called Theatre of Blood decided to put on an afternoon’s entertainment by staging a theatrical play in Duskwood. Other’s have organised parties or opened shops in Stormwind. These are natural developments within the existing structure.

However, contriving stories within the game or sitting in the tavern creating made-up material shows a lack of understanding that we are the players and that Blizzard are the DM’s!

Does it matter? Is this not a legitimate form of proactive creativity within the game?

It matters because those who ‘take time out to role-play’ are missing the point that role-play should not be distinct from any other part of the game.

Monday, 20 July 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode Two

Westfall. It needs no introduction if you’ve ever taken a stroll around its hills and plains at sunset. After a few hours being harassed by outlaws I stop in the tavern for a breather.

A muscled human Warrior is buying something from the tavern keeper. Being a polite sort of Elf I wish him a good evening… by name.

‘How do you know my name!!?’ He demands, his eyebrows meeting like two furry swords.

It’s a showstopper. Of course I read it above his head. My bad. But unless he has the improvisation skills to acknowledge that I might indeed know him by reputation or prior friendship this is going to turn nasty.

We are two actors on a stage, and I’ve fluffed my opening line. Some good nature is required on his part to keep the show rolling.

‘Why aren’t you role-playing?’ he presses the attack.

What he really wants me to do is to break down, acknowledge my mistake and plead for mercy. Say something like; ‘I cannot justify knowing your name. I read it above your head. Please forgive me for not role-playing.’

Luckily I have the wit to help him out and rescue the scene. Praise Elune.

‘Of course I know you,’ I assure him. ‘You’re the hero who slew VanCleef!’

He follows my lead with the reply; ‘This is a RP server!’

What’s really going on here? Is the Warrior a valiant guardian of the sanctity of role-play facing down an intruder or an unimaginative keyboard puncher trying to prove their superiority by using “RP” as a weapon?

I hacked his head off, put in it my backpack, and went home.

I landed in Ashenvale where a young rogue came dancing up to me.

‘Hey Fey!’

‘Hello,’ I replied, removing my weapons and settling down for a quick nap. I love it when people remember me.

Friday, 17 July 2009

What is Roleplay? Episode One

I think Blood Elves must spend a lot of time on their hairstyles. When honest adventurers are out earning a living, these vain creatures are sitting in front of ornate mirrors with a fist full of hair gel.

I’m watching one right now, trying to determine it’s gender while I get ready to fire a well aimed arrow into it’s ear. He or she hasn’t spotted me yet, but in a few moments we’ll be engaged in a life or death struggle and only one of us will be walking away with dignity intact. I’m in a mean mood today.

They are almost far enough from the local guards for me to take my first shot, when some shouting breaks my focus.


Suddenly I am no longer in the forest. I am sitting in front of a computer playing a game. Thanks very much.