Today I’d like to talk about my experience with RP, and my frustration at its absence.
I’ve been mulling this post over for a while, and recent events have prompted me to think about it in a more focused and introspective way.
Let me start with a little background. I first started playing WoW during the Burning Crusade expansion, back in mid 2007. When I first launched the game, I was presented with the realm list, and saw that The Sha’tar was being recommended for new players. I also saw that it was an RP realm, and was over the moon. Just to be sure, I went off to read about what Blizzard thought an RP realm was, before deciding that was definitely where I wanted to be.
My first character, Melana, was a wide eyed and enthusiastic Night Elf Huntress. She did a lot of exploring, and met some great people during those early days. Right from the start, I did my best to roleplay her and had a great time doing so. I would constantly meet fun people, who were interesting to talk with, and who had well thought out back stories. We’d often meet up in Stormwind, (usually in the Pig and Whistle) and chat over our recent adventures. I had some great times with a very eccentric gnome Warlock, who was conducting mysterious research, (though this usually involved listening in to other people’s conversations!). There was also a very fun human Warlock, and her pet pig.
I found a guild, and had some fun times with them, before leaving and setting up my own guild with a great friend. Together, we built a very nice little group of people who shared our goals and aspirations. There was the upbeat, pizza-loving warrior, who loved helping people in distress; the noble and loyal Paladin, who liked the ladies a lot; The fun, but shy, Druid who aimed to catalogue our adventures in Azeroth; the adorable Draenei Priestess, who was simply too sweet. The list could go on, and I miss them all dearly. Together, we had many, many fun times. A particular highlight was the concept pioneered by our pizza-loving warrior;
The naked dungeon run!
The concept is simple. Pick a dungeon that every group member can access, strip off all gear and weapons, then run the dungeon as normal. During the course of a run, the members can only wear the items which drop in the instance. I have fond, fond memories of a particular naked dungeon run through Scarlet Monastery, which included our Paladin dancing atop the training dummies in the courtyard. Truly, those were fun times.
As time went on, the guild dissolved due to various factors, not least of which was my own absence from the game.
I moved around a bit, tried other classes, and ended up on the Horde.
In all that time, I did as much RP as I could. I would always walk in town, keep /s to in character conversations, etc. I found a few guilds on the Horde, in which I felt comfortable, and there was still some RP to be had.
What I’ve noticed lately, is the dearth of that fun and RP. I can’t pinpoint when it happened, nor how. What I can say is that for at least a year, though likely far longer, The Sha’tar realm has become less and less of an RP realm. Where once it was impossible not to run into random RP, whether it be in bars or streets, these days one must actively seek it out. The overwhelming majority of the server, (at least that’s how it seems) feel it perfectly acceptable to talk out of character in /s, to behave as if it were a normal PVE realm, and to name their characters in the most inappropriate ways.
This was brought home to me only a matter of days ago, when I made the mistake of monitoring the Trade channel, (I normally keep it turned off for the very reasons I am about to mention). I was logged in with my Druid alt, and had a player, (who shall remain nameless) spam the channel with requests for a “friendly, social levelling guild, which was higher than guild level 10″. A few people were light-heartedly saying that we only have level 3 guilds, and that he was on the wrong realm. A few also pointed out that The Sha’tar is not really about guild perk guilds. After watching the unfolding story, and having him fail to take the hint, I gave in to temptation. I, politely, stated that at least part of his problem may be his name. I pointed out that it is an RP realm, and that no RP guild would take him seriously with his name.
Well! What followed was a tirade from a few players, who were of the opinion that names don’t matter on an RP realm. That “no-one bothers with RP, and it’s just stupid”. I was shocked; stunned; horrified.
This was the confirmation that things had gone completely downhill on my beloved realm.
What caused this change is hard to pinpoint, though I have my own theories. For a start, I don’t think Blizzard do enough to point out the differences between an RP realm and a PVE realm. Others have suggested that when a player clicks the “create character” button, there should be a pop-up which explains, briefly, what is expected on an RP realm. So many people use the excuse that they “don’t really know what an RP realm is” that there has to be an issue of education here. I also feel that the addition of achievements and guild levels did a lot to kill the RP scene. I’m hopeful that this was an unintended consequence, rather than a deliberate act. In my own experience, when given the choice between attending an RP event and socialising, or going off to PVP, raid, or instance for “sweet achievement points”, a lot of players will choose the achievement points. There are other issues, of course, but these are the ones which stand out for me.
However, I also realised something else in my musings and reminiscences. A big part of the problem is me!
Somewhere along the way, I gave up. When surrounded by idiots, forced to endure trade Anal Dirge spam, and finding fewer and fewer people who were prepared to RP, I simply gave up. It was easier not to care, and to blame the realm, than to push through and keep doing what made me happy. I realised I had also fallen into the trap of heirloom gear! It’s very, very hard to RP when you are wearing gear that gives you such an edge, and allows you to level so much faster. How can one stay involved in a storyline, when heirloom gear makes it possible to out-level a zone before the story has concluded? In short, I’m my own worst enemy!
So, what to do?
I stand by many of the points I made above. I feel there are a number of things wrong with the World of Warcraft and, specifically, the RP realms. I feel they are too readily seen as the “easy option” by players who don’t care about the additional policies. I feel RP has acquired a bit of a taint from all the “dragon-in-disguise, vampire, Blood Elf nobility, erotic roleplayers”.
However, rather than giving up, and allowing the realm to become just another PVE realm, I also realise I have a responsibility to play my part. I can ensure that I roleplay whenever and wherever I want. I can continue to bow in the presence of our Dark Lady, (since doing otherwise is unthinkable!). I can don my best party dress, and head out to a bar, where I can proceed to get riotously drunk!
So, in an open call to all those on the Sha’tar who still value RP, I invite you to say hello to Alethiar, if you see her on your travels. Wave, smile, or simply nod. She’d be glad to discover there are still others out there who value simple pleasantries, and who agree that a good time can be had by simply sharing a romantic picnic basket with a friendly stranger.
Please also feel free to leave any comments on your own experiences, and ways in which you have kept the RP alive.