Posted by: Sean | October 22, 2008

Phasing is gonna suck for role-players.

Phasing is the next-generation newwave of MMORPGs. It’s a very clever mechanism wherein the game will remember certain accomplishments you’ve … erm, accomplished, and will adjust the environment for you accordingly, while leaving it as normal for people who haven’t. For example, if you participated in a Scarlet Crusade quest that asked you to find a [perfectly spherical undead skull] then sure enough, the next time you come to the Scarlet Crusade camp they will all be playing soccer. It’s a remarkably clever technology, and it’s going to suck new levels of hard vacuum for role-players.

See, one of the weirder criticisms levelled at Warcraft role-players is that since nothing ever really changes in World of Warcraft, role-playing is pointless. Just how many times can Karazahn need to be invaded, anyhow? But in reality, we can explain these differences away. Sure, I know that the defias traitor in Stormwind is still alive, but most of the time I’m not in Stormwind Keep, so I’m just going to stick to my story that my gnomish rogue engaged in his brutal assassination. And by never naming him (He’s always a ‘prominent Stormwind noble’ in conversation) I avoid any difficulties with other players having performed the same bit of wetwork.

But role-playing demands a shared reality. You really can’t begin to role-play if you can’t even begin to agree on what’s actually going on in the world. Let’s take the following example with a likely case where phasing could have been used: With Overlord Mok’Morrok in the Dustwallow Marsh, an ogre chieftain whom you drive out of the camp. Binko and Bingley are entering the camp. Binko hasn’t performed the quest to drive him out, Bingley has. Here’s the dialogue without phasing.

BINKO: Hey, who’s that ugly dude? He looks like he took five levels in the butt feat.
Oh, what the hell? He’s back now? Again? Geeze, y’know, if these ogres can’t stop letting him slink back in with his tail between his legs, I’m going to stop believing it when they act all surprised that he’s taken over the camp again!
BINKO: Wait a minute? Butt feet?
You know what, you deal with him. I’ve given up. Call me if you need help. I’m going to see if they have any of that puke-yer-guts-out ogre beer here.
BINKO: It would make tailoring difficult, sure, but I could just sit down and rest a while, but still get where I’m going.

Now let’s take a look at the same scene, now with phasing.

BINKO: Hey, who’s that ugly dude? He looks like he took five levels in the butt feat?
What dude? Nobody’s there.
BINKO: Yes he is. Are you blind or trippin’ Cheney on me? The overlord dude! Right there!
If by “Overlord Dude” you mean “Overlord Frog” because all that’s there is a Surprisingly Large Frog (level 1 critter, drops [surprisingly large frog spittle]) hopping by.
You’re the liar! Say there are five lights, you son of a bitch! Say it!
BINKO: Four lights, you cow!

Destroy the shared reality, and the fabric of role-play tears with it, leaving nothing but bitter, bitter Bingleys.

[Edited for clarity]


  1. [Sean] has earned the achievement [Especially the lies.] for an obscure, but well placed Star Trek reference! (+10 Geek Achievement Points)

  2. It seems the issue here is that phasing is on a player by player basis. This does create disjoint and ruins the whole concept of the MMORPG. This really sucks.

    What could work would be “time phasing” – so you when you jump into WoW you can choose from a set of common phases that represent different “epocs/episodes” the world is in. So if you have already RPG’d a particular “epoc/episode” you and your merry men/women can jump into the next phase were the world is different, where things have changed. This means that everyone is in the same phase, and it also allows for a dynamic environment that can complement roleplay through its commonality.

  3. Surely there’s going to have to be a way to get your entire group into the same phase of a zone. Getting help to take down a one-shot 5-man elite mob would be a nightmare otherwise. It follows, then, that there may be a way to set the phase to one you’ve already completed manually.

  4. Once I said on a guild meeting something about Varimathras not actually thinking it through. It sucked, because to me he was still the guy in charge, but to the other guild members he already was dead.

    Now I pay much more attention about this kind of details.

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