Posts Tagged ‘role playing’

No, I don’t actually have Guild Wars 2 yet.  I’ve just been perusing the wiki, getting a sense of what’s there and what I might do for my set of characters.  I was reading a fun article from Rakuno over at Shards of Imagination, wherein he writes a bit about offbeat race/profession combinations.  This is the sort of thing I love, and something I think is sorely missing from World of Warcraft.  Yes, I would make a Pandaran Druid.  And a Gnome Hunter.  Just because.

Why Gnomes Can’t Be Hunters

(That’s a bit of art I did for BBB a while back.  Too much fun.)

I therefore took a matrix of races and professions in Guild Wars 2, trying to come up with Twitter-sized role playing backgrounds for each possible combination.  Some are way too easy and obvious, others are more esoteric and interesting.  I won’t play all of these, but it was fun to imagine “what if”… if only for a short time.

Now… I should preface this by noting that none of these are actually professions.  It seems to me that the profession of every player character in pretty much any MMO is “mass murderer”, the difference only being in the methodology.  This is key when considering something like the Thief profession (which awesomely, actually involves something almost like theft in GW2).  I imagine these characters as actual, y’know, thieves, not “mass murderer who uses thief-style killing tools”.  Maybe that’s a failure on my part when considering role playing, but I do like to think of these things as professions, if only because it makes writing character fiction more interesting.  Every one of these characters will wind up as mercenary assassins of one sort or another, trying to selfishly gain power and loot.  That’s just how these DIKU MMO things work, for better or worse.


  • Guardian – Tinker’s Guild guard on remote assignment. Secretive, stern, strict.
  • Warrior – Napoleon. Must fight anyone and everyone to compensate for ego/size mismatch.
  • Engineer – Absentminded professor. Tinkerer with little direction.
  • Ranger – Studying animals as golem inspiration/substitutes.
  • Thief – OCD kleptomaniac. Simply must have at least one of everything.
  • Elementalist – Scientist, systematically exploring elemental magic.
  • Mesmer – Con artist, pulling one over on other races to prove Asuran superiority.
  • Necromancer – Technomancer, researching corpse/golem similarities.


  • Guardian – Samurai-like with grudge against Raven Norns.
  • Warrior – Distilled Klingon.
  • Engineer – Weaponmaster, searching for best weapon tech.
  • Ranger – Alpha male. Seeks to dominate all animal kingdom.
  • Thief – Interhouse chessmaster for hire. Intrigue instigator.
  • Elementalist – Pyromaniac. Unhinged and obsessed with Ascalon’s FoeFire.
  • Mesmer – Mind game tactician. Compensating for childhood by manipulating others.
  • Necromancer – Boneyard caretaker; Grudgebearer avenging those under his care.


  • Guardian – Royal guard washout trying to prove himself.
  • Warrior – Mercenary. Purely available to highest bidder. Medieval melee Jayne.
  • Engineer – Sparky mad scientist. More Tarvek, less Gil.
  • Ranger – Circus trainer grudgingly playing the hero.
  • Thief – Artful Dodger with little long-term aspiration.
  • Elementalist – Sailor with wild talent, primarily Air mage just starting to branch out.
  • Mesmer – Carnival entertainer; two bit stage magician with debts to repay.
  • Necromancer – Accidental hero. Only defeating bad guys to forestall rivalry.


  • Guardian – Mama bear. Do not cross.
  • Warrior – Berzerker, Wolf devotee. Lone wolf because he’s too dangerous.
  • Engineer – Civil engineer. Raven-like focus and mental discipline.
  • Ranger – Grizzly Adams. On steroids.
  • Thief – Enforcer. Mobster. More robber than thief.
  • Elementalist – Ice/Water shaman. Specializes in defense and healing.
  • Mesmer – Psychiatrist. Norn tough love.
  • Necromancer – Preparing heroic spot in afterlife for friends… by any means.


  • Guardian – Pale Tree Rootguard. Just wants to stay home.
  • Warrior – Photoinsane bloodlusty nut. Only calm in the dark. Avenging vegetable slaughter.
  • Engineer – Researching how to make technology useful to Sylvari plant physiology.
  • Ranger – Experimenting with animals. Fascinating things.
  • Thief – Shiny! Ooh, another one! Squirrel! Mine! ADHD? What’s that? Sounds like fun!
  • Elementalist – Earth mage hippy.
  • Mesmer – Dancer out to see the world.
  • Necromancer – Golgari “circle of life” kind of guy. Just helping the circle along.

I’m not quite sure what I’ll play once I actually get my hands on the game.  Apparently, without buying extra, I’ll have only 5 character slots.  That means one per race, but not all the professions.  (Or some other mix, sure, but I’d like to have one of each race to see the stories.)  I’m leaning to the following: Asura Ranger (the bigger the pet, the better), Charr Mesmer (tricky kitty), Human Elementalist (or maybe Thief), Norn Engineer and Sylvari Warrior.  That last one could be especially fun to role play, as light and dark in the environment would alter his mood, and his psychotic penchant for avenging vegetable slaughter could have shades of HK-47‘s “meatbag” commentary.

I reserve the right to change my mind on any of this… but it was fun to play with the ol’ imagination for a while, no matter how it all finally settles out.

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I suspect that there will never be a consensus on what “role playing” is in an MMO.  There are simply too many players, each with an opinion and history.  That’s not a bad thing, but it does make playing a role in one of these MMO things an exercise in filtering and careful deliberation.  (Of course, you could always go with “roll playing” and call it a day.)

To one degree or another, we are all merely players, each acting out our own fantasies, oblivious to the rest of the game world and even the real world.  Some of us are soloists, content simply to explore the stage and the setting, while others are only complete if they are with other players, content to ignore everything around them, so long as they company is good.  Some have… different goals.  Whatever the case, we’re all putting on a character, acting out whatever fantasies we may want to indulge in given our chosen game.  That’s all well and good, until opinions clash.  That’s inevitable in an MMO, even though the communities aren’t always what one might call “massive”.  (Shamus wins again with a great article on that one…)  At some point, you’re going to run into someone who isn’t doing it right, and you’re just going to have to move on by.

Wolfshead, Psychochild, Jay, Spinks, Jason, Chris, Scott and many others have written about Role Playing in one form or another, with more experience in the trenches.  These illustrious folk are better reference than I for this topic, and I wholly welcome any other links to great references.  There have to be bloggers who dive into this sort of thing.  Take Ratshag, Orc extraordinaire, for example.  Of course, I’m talking more about the layer removed from that sort of fun, but still, there are better sites than mine to check out for role playing.

Since I tend to dig into the “why” and “how” more than the “what” and “how to”, let me diverge a bit.

I’m an artist in the game industry.  It’s my job to figure out how to make these game things look fantastic.  When I fire up a game, easily half the time I’m “playing”, I’m actually taking screenshots and looking at how other artists have solved issues that I’ve either wrangled with in the past or am looking forward to handling.  The first time I played WoW, at the behest of a friend at work (then Headgate Studios), I fired up a Tauren Shaman because I wanted to see how those massive characters animated (I should have played a Druid; more bang for the buck).  I spent a couple of hours looking at water in the game, trying to see if I could make the lakes in Tiger Woods PGA Tour games look as good as or better than Stonebull Lake.  I took hundreds of screenshots.

Y’see, I’m more interested in the stage than the players.

An interesting stage can almost tell its own story, or make it so that everyone can tease something out of it, according to their interests.  If, on the other hand, the stage is little more than a platform with a few props, players are only left with interaction to fuel interest.  Neither is necessarily wrong, but devs really need to be aware of what they are trying to accomplish and why, so that they can set the stage properly.

Even a sandbox game should have some toys to play with.  To me, sandbox games are more toolbox than litter box.  They are about crafting a setting with nooks and crannies to explore, and way to do so.  When and how is up to the player, but there is still stuff there to explore.

To me, it’s easier to imagine a role within a world that has a history, a good sense of place, and things to see and do all over the place.  I couldn’t be a pacifist in Modern Warfare 2 or Gears of War, for example.  That role is simply unavailable to me, no matter how much I’d like to play it.

Similarly, I wasn’t able to play an undead-phobe Forsaken in WoW.  The structure simply isn’t there.  I can’t attack my own faction (outside of duels, but that’s so… proper for someone in a blind fear-fueled rage) or try to rejoin the Scarlet Crusade.  The battle lines are drawn, and I’m For the Horde, whether or not I like it.  I also couldn’t understand most Alliance characters (despite having been one)… with a few odd exceptions.

So, the WoW RP stage is there, but given the lore tangles and structural strictures, it’s just not enough of a freeform stage for me to do what I’d like to.  Then again, it’s not like I’m in the game for the long run anyway.

Of course, comparing this to Allods Online as I did while playing, it’s not like that game is any better for free form role playing.  The Empire and the League are similarly divided, and there are only two servers; no RP-specific realms.  Playing a trio of Gibberlings can be fun, and has RP potential (like the Arisen techno-undead have potential), but since you’re surrounded by all sorts of players without even the structure of an RP server, you’re dealing with even more static to filter.

Also, as has been noted before, how many people even really bother with Role Playing on a Role Playing server in WoW?  More than once, I’ve noted people suggesting that role playing is stronger in text MUDs.  That’s an interesting artifact of the game design, perhaps, since players have to imagine more of the stage.  I suspect that tends to either increase immersion (via investment) or blow it out of the water.

We could also take a step back and ask “What is one of these RPG things, anyway?”  Jay and Gareth have bandied this about a bit thisaway:

Messing Up My Perfect Game Taxonomy!

Mass Effect 2 – An RPG?

With such a variable definition of what these RPGs are in the first place, perhaps it’s no wonder that RP itself is such an ill-defined beastie.

Though… perhaps that’s as it should be.  Leave it up to the players, and craft a spectacular stage for them to play on.  In the end, they want to play, after all, and it’s their role.  Why not step out of the spotlight as devs, and just be the stage hands?  Let the players play.

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I’m not really much of a Halloween sort of guy.  What little I do for Halloween is indulge my kids’ interest and get candy cheap once the holiday is over.  I’ll even hand out candy to the little thugs that stop by if I’m in a good mood.

(OK, I’ve been having great fun with Halloween events in Wizard 101 and Puzzle Pirates, but that’s sort of… not normal.  When I tell neighbors I work on games, I get the standard blank stare and a “that’s nice” when they are actually trying to find a way to discreetly run away and tell their kids to avoid me.)

Anyway, things worked out this year.  I didn’t need to find a role to play for Halloween this year, Ixobelle did it for me:

Plot Refinement: NPC Intros


(Is it terrible that I can actually identify with the “grieving mad doctor” character?)

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