When I wrote the last post a few days ago, I was frustrated and disappointed. This hasn’t changed, but I have had time to think some more about what I was trying to say and this reflection time, coupled with the comments here and on Hotspur’s blog here, have brought me back to the subject. I don’t know about you, but I never feel I get my point over clearly enough in a post.
First off, let me state that I in no way want these posts to seem like I’m bitching about SL. I love this world and whilst I will admit it has many faults, any blame for difficult RP experiences can not be laid at its feet. SL is what it is and it’s not WoW.
I’ve also had only limited experience RPing in SL – I’ve tried to ‘break into’ several dedicated sim set ups, but despite all the rule reading & prep I did, the sims tended to be empty with little sign of RP or lagged to hell rendering even walking impossible, let alone RP. These communities seem to lack a certain something… a level of coherence that make it feel like you really are playing inside a series of impressive story arcs. Instead they seem to be more about small personal and interpersonal stories that exclude and don’t really go anywhere.
As for non-RP dedicated sims, my feeling from visiting them and reading the blogs is that you really have to move in and live in the community to take part, which is fair enough really.
It seems to me that the most successful SL-based RPing goes on outside SL, in the blogs and nings and whathaveyous of the players. The time in-world is taken up with meetings to plan and set up the events that will then be played out/photographed/filmed in-world and then expanded upon/written about out-of-world.
Rather than expand upon my perceived problems with RPing is, why don’t I list what I want from a RP experience in SL using , as an example only, the acme of my RPing desires at the moment; a Philip Marlowe-esque 1940’s hard boiled PI game:
1) A thematic location is desirable. A few sims worth of appropriate mean city LA streets would be nice. Some hills over the sea even better. Something to use as a backdrop to the pictures and films that than go onto the blog.
2) Someone in overall charge. Good RPGs need a games master – someone to direct action, help players along and enforce (with a light touch) rules. In my ideal game, the city mayor and/or DA and whilst their word would be law, they would interact and seek opinion and guidance from the players.
3) Engaging and constantly evolving story arcs. I don’t *just* want to play a story where I’m in competition for business with another PI, I want those big cases to come my way. But then I don’t always want the same type of case (broad on desk, murder rap chasing her, old man with money in the background). I want to feel that the city is alive with or without me.
4) A consistent, maintained & searchable history. How many times have I dipped into the many (many!) wonderful Caledon blogs and enjoyed what I’ve read but had no fucking clue what the wider picture is. People cross-post without links; stories start, stall and continue without recaps; no one seems to ever make a history of their character and how they fit into the world. Maybe this info for Caledon exists, but I doubt it’s any coherent form. A RP game without a sense of shared and valued history only ever exists in the present and therefore the value of the experiences being generated is lessened – after all, why RP well when the whole thing will be forgotten by everyone but the half-dozen involved.
If I had those four things, I think I’d be a happy RPer. If No 4 & 3 were in place, then I think the game would have a better chance of evolving and growing into another world you step into rather than a theatre backdrop constantly being lowered and raised behind you.
All these ‘wants’ are fine in theory, but they ignore the two biggest problems facing RP providers and players? Time and money. Someone has to pay for it. Someone has to create and maintain it. SL people seem to be transitory by nature, either leaving the world or moving on to the next big sim. Many of the Caledon blogs I stumbled upon two years ago are Steelhead blogs now. Many other blogs I read have similarly changed location and sims close or people move on. Even with a shared, maintain history it is hard for an RP game to survive this – the owners/runners of such a game have to be willing to be in it for the long haul and how the hell you make that pay, whilst still maintaining the integral feel and energy of the RP itself is, dear reader, beyond me. I guess the Guvnr in Caledon has it right – the sims pay for themselves and meanwhile small pockets of happy residents make their own RP up and blog it as they go.
And that, ladies and gentlemen is what I suspect is the only system that will work in the current SL model. Whilst people have to pay a lot of money to rent servers, RP sims will never move successfully beyond a mix of rent-to-pay and small-scale-resident-run-RP. Maybe OpenSim will one day change that? If I could rent a server cheaply, that’s 4 sims of my 1940s LA RP right there with either no or minimal need to generate revenue.
Yours in thought.
HeadBurro Antfarm, PI