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Thursday, October 25, 2012

What the Pro's Feel About my First Necro Panel!

One of my panels at Necronomicon Convention is MMO vs PnP RPG, since 99.9% of you will not be attending here is what some people I know who have been in both industries said:

Jim Butler (Trion-Rift and WotC and more) Each of the genres have their strength. PnP tends to be much more sociable, and you can do anything and reshape the world through cooperative storytelling. MMO is instant, visual and provides a level playing field for everyone. There's room for both. :-)

Jeff Grubb (ArenaNet GW2 and WotC) MMOs have a lot more restrictions. Everything you see on the screen, and all of your options as a player, have already been pre-determined before you even sat down at the table. Good MMO design provides a wide variety of options, but they are still from a menu. PnP on the other hand, has the ability to respond instantly to the situation of play itself.
I use a bunny as an example. For an MMO, you see a bunny on the screen. That represents someone concepting the bunny, drawing the bunny, animating the bunny, determining bunny behavior, determining bunny skills, determining bunny reactions (does it have a death animation? Will it run away if it is within aggro of a fox?). Oh, and someone to determine if all of this work is worth it just to see a bunny on the screen.
In a PnP, you have the following:
PLAYER: Do I see any wildlife?
DM: (MAYBE flips a couple pages in a book). Yeah, you see a bunny.

Darrin Drader (38 Studios and WotC and more) Well, I agree with everything Jim and Jeff just said, and thanks for including me in this, by the way. One of the things I realized once I moved to work on an MMO is that things tend to be much more meta in MMOs, and I think this point is really just an elaboration on what Jeff just said. For example, when you play through an encounter in PnP, the goal is whatever is laid out for you by the scenario (assuming that the GM isn't just winging it). In an MMO, there might be an encounter, but it serves a specific purpose. It might be designed for single player game play, in which case it's not entirely unlike an encounter you'd find in a regular single player RPG, or it might be designed for multiple players.
If it's a multiplayer encounter, there are a number of design decisions that might go into it, but the ones I've worked with had the following requirements: it had to be challenging for 3 to 5 players, it had to involve multiple stages that progressed in a logical manner, and bonus stages for when the group was too efficient dealing with the regular stages. It also had to have a story reason for it to reset to its base state. Likewise, there's PVP encounters which are usually had to have a little more going on than just an empty map where players from opposing factions can kill each other.
I also think that aside from these meta considerations, there's also something to be said for the fact that PVP really doesn't exist as a supported model in any PnP that I'm aware of (though there are many, many board games where it is).

Another thing is mob naming. In most PnP games, you have the monster name that comes from the monster book, for example, 'orc'. You might also have a specialized type of monster, such as 'orc archer'. You might even have a uniquely named and statted monster, like "Grunhaar the Orc, commander of the Deathaxe Brigade". That's really about all the complexity you need to worry about with tabletop. And in truth, some video games don't go too far beyond that either. However, in order for quests to work properly, you have to be able to tell the player that you need to go to do something (collect something, kill something, deliver something, etc.), and while you're there, you're going to run into trouble. What trouble? Well, they might be orcs. However, in order to help the player know that they're barking up the right tree, it helps to give the orcs unique mob names. For example, you might have the red orcs in Bloodhollow, and the Grizzlefang orcs in the Bear's Hollow, and the Skyrager Orcs at Silverhorn Peak. Further, you might get rid of the name 'orc" entirely, and call them Grizzlefang berzerkers, or Skyrager Grimaxes, and so on. Of course this gets complicated pretty quickly, so it falls on someone to put together an expansive spreadsheet on which groups exist where in the world, that way you don't accidentally repeat a mob name half the world away, which of course would be nonsensical. Item naming in an MMO tends to run into similar issues as well.

Ryan Scott Dancey (CCP-Eve/ Pathfinder MMO and WotC) The MMO is to the TRPG what the automobile is to the horse.
Its not just about getting from place to place or carrying a load. It is a fundamental restructuring of the way the world functions and what human capabilities are.
We are raising a generation that is as comfortable in a digital world as they are in the physical. I've even stopped using the word "real" to refer to the physical world because it is actually no more "real" or "unreal" than some digital worlds.

This generation will have a relationship with digital worlds the way we and our parents had a relationship with television. Their experiences in digital worlds will drive a lot of the way they understand human events and society. These digital worlds will provide entertainment and education. They will provide a space in which work is performed and wages are earned.

But unlike the TV epoch which was a one to many broadcast system, the digital world epoch is a many to many social networking system. This is a new level of human organization and it will be fascinating to watch how it changes and evolves the arc of history.

The tabletop world laid the foundation for the digital worlds of the future. And there will always be people who are interested in the limitless potential of the tabletop environment, where the "rendering engine" and the "client/server architecture" is the human imagination.

As a benchmark for what could be, the tabletop will remain a crucial way to measure progress in the technology of digital worlds. But in terms of sheer impact, the tens of millions of people who engage with each other in digital worlds, which will soon be hundreds of millions, and then billions, will have a much more lasting and deeper impact than anything we did achieve, or might achieve, on the tabletop.
Jim Butler I pretty much agree with what everyone has said here. The biggest problem that PnP faces now is that it hasn't aged well, and it's inability to merge technology with the social experience is killing it for this generation. If it doesn't figure out a way to level the playing field, it won't make it.

Kevin Kulp (Disruptor Beam-FB Game of Thrones/Marvel MMO-various PnP projects)  I think the difference that always resonates with me is that MMOs are generally incapable of agile adjustments in pacing. There are some exceptions in games - Left 4 Dead is one, with its zombie rushing system that takes into account how you're doing - but in a PnP rpg I can change and adjust an encounter on the fly to make it as fun as possible for my players. You don't find that in a MMO.

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