March 2nd, 2013

MMOs as RPGs

Don't get me wrong. I've never encountered an MMO that I consider a true RPG. And I don't entirely understand why--when I think of the MUDs and combat-heavy 3.5 dungeon crawls I used to play, and compare it to an MMO that offers quests to complete, levels to gain, skill trees to fill out, and trash mobs to slaughter, they seem familiar enough. But, like a lot of people, the element of nonlinear storytelling is so absent that I just can't look at The Old Republic or World of Warcraft and think 'roleplaying'. I think it's mostly an immersive thing?

But my point isn't to talk about what MMOs do wrong, but what they could do right. Are there RPG-heavy MMO's that I don't know about?

I've been feeling nostalgic about all the MUDs I used to play as kid, staying up late in using the /roll feature in chat rooms to move deeper into a castle, etc. And, more importantly, I've been thinking about the freeform text-based games I played for years, and how much I still love them. Someone, somewhere, has to have captured that feel in an MMO by now, right? Right?

So, that is my question. Is there somewhere an MMO that people like us would more readily consider a true RPG? I know there are sandbox MMOs like Star Wars: Galaxies, I know there are fantasy MMOs like Everquest, I know there are (vaguely) world-building MMO's (sort of) like Eve Online, and I know there RP servers on these MMOs, but somehow it all seems insufficient. Is there a graphical MMO out there, somewhere, that is immersive and sandbox, an emphasis on world-building, that's mostly played through in-character role-playing, with game mechanics based on that? I feel like the last one is hard to find, but it shocks me that no one, as far as I know, has managed to build one yet.