((The RP XP with MJ #43))
In the last RP XP I gave you a little made-up quiz to gauge what kind of RolePlayer you are. While it was all tongue in cheek and didn’t really mean anything when it came down to it, I still got some pretty haughty responses to it off-line. That got me to thinking some more about what kind of RPer I am, and if I’ve become “elitist” without even knowing it.
Some time ago I tweeted about having an interesting go-round with my agent on Alderaan. I was randomly asked if I would PUG (Pick Up Group) a Heroic with a couple of other people. I didn’t know any of them, so I was reticent to say the least. The chatbox pretty much scrolled like this:
[THEM]: Wanna join us for a Heroic. We need a fourth.
[ME]: ((Thanks, but I don’t think so. I’m not very good at the ‘game’ part of the game.))
[THEM]: I don’t get it.
[ME]: ((Well, I’m an RPer.))
[THEM]: So? I’m not very good at RP.
Point made, and so too was the point that I was boxing myself in and making grand declarations without a wider aspect ratio. When I brought the conversation back to Twitter, one of my RP counterparts from another MMO pointed out, “Hey! Just because you’re an RPer doesn’t mean you can’t play the game!” They went on to comment beyond my original intent, taking personal insult to the suggestion that just because you’re a serious (or Hardcore or Diehard) RPer that doesn’t make you any less of a gamer.
That’s only true, as Obi Wan would say, from a certain point of view.
My first true love in any MMO is the creativity that comes with bringing a character to life, writing stories with friends and acting them out, or trying out different character traits and seeing how others respond. The bottom of the list is watching floating numbers dwindle, smack-talk, mashing attacks and spamming AOEs (Is that even a thing, or did I just make a PvP faux paus?)
Then it occurred to me: MJ, how can you talk about “RP Purity” and Hardcore anything without actually experiencing life on the “other side?” Now, keep in mind that I never NEVER criticized PvP or looked down at it. Just because I hold my head up high as a proud RPer doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate other forms of gaming (unless you’re the kind of gamer who runs around cantinas dancing with your shirt off while making lewd comments, spamming the chat box or firing missiles at RPers).
But, I had to admit, it’s really not particularly cool of me to wave own banner with pride without fully understanding what life is like on the other side. So… I dove in.
STARTING FROM SCRATCH
I gave a shout out on Twitter, proclaiming that I wanted to give PvP a whirl, but that I was self-conscious because I didn’t think I could hold my own in an arena setting. To my surprise, I got back some pretty helpful advice, starting with the best one: Just create a new character specifically for PvP, and queue up when you hit level 10.
Level 10!? Hold on a second! Fallacy Number One: I was under the impression you had to be a “maxed out” muscle-head to hold your own in a PvP match. Ok, when you stop laughing I’ll reiterate how I spend my game time. I have never PvP’d in an MMO. Never.
So, I created a Sith Marauder (a female Pureblood, because I figured that if this didn’t work out I could use her in RP as my Sith Juggernaut’s long-lost daughter). I followed the easy grind up to Level 10, then I hit the queue button and waited.
FIRST TIME IN THE ARENA
I opened myself up to duels and other challenges by flagging myself for PvP. I proudly made my way through the world with the green name floating above my head rather than the customary blue, and while I ran into one or two others like me, no one wanted to pick a fight. Hm. Maybe I had to be in a PvP-dedicated area? I’m still learning, obviously.
Then the drum roll, fanfare, alert thingy; the pop-up box that said I had the option to dive into a PvP match. I swallowed hard, braced myself at my mouse, and clicked to enter the queue.
I don’t know where I was. It was a wide arena and I was standing on a platform with a half dozen other characters, everyone pounding on the “buff up button” as we waited for the red glowing walls to drop and allow us to go at it against our enemy, who I assumed was gathered in a similar pen across from us.
I think my first foray dropped me into Ancient Hypergate, the capture-the-pylon PvP arena that dropped with Patch 1.6 a long time ago in a galaxy far… oh, you know. I glimpsed the map and got the idea quickly: capture and hold a pylon while keeping your enemy from taking it away from you. I found out the hard way my first time in that some kind of yellow mushroom cloud of death would re-set the pylons and wipe out anyone who didn’t retreat. And here I was, standing in the arena wondering why I was alone: “Ooh, look at the pretty light!”
It didn’t take long to learn the first rule of PvP: “MOVE!”
My first PvP went surprisingly smooth. I actually got a kill (though I died three times myself), I was instrumental in igniting one of the pylons (while everyone else did the P versus the P thing), and when it was over… we won! I don’t know how, or what we did to capture the accolades, but there I was back in the SWTOR game world with 8,700 extra XP points.
THAT WASN’T SO BAD
Every day for a week I tagged my Sith for PvP, and every time the queue “popped,” I was right back at it. As time wore on, I lost matches, won matches, got kills, got KILLED, and had fun. I thought that a world where the only goal was to score more points than other players, to flex your button-mashing muscle, would be replete with insults, cruelty and an overall selfish lack of honor. I was surprised to find that PvP isn’t the smack-talky nightmare I thought it would be. I wasn’t mocked because of my low level (or PvE gear). I wasn’t told I was “doing it wrong” (which, ironically, I see a lot in RP). And I wasn’t kicked off the team.
My biggest beef about the PvP system in SWTOR – unless I just missed this option somewhere – is the ability to queue for certain maps and not others. I hated Huttball and was frustrated with Voidstar, primarily because I figured such arenas would require a modicum of strategy and tactical thinking, or at the very least cooperation of the team. But no, PvP is nothing but PvP. You see somebody on the other side, you go after them, you whack at them until one of you dies. Repeat. Really?
I know there are PvPers out there who take it seriously, who get all the gear, grind up to max on everything, form groups or teams or guilds with specific strategies for success, but I saw none of that in my experience. One Ops Leader comment about why nobody was guarding a pylon was the only thing I saw that remotely resembled an “idea.”
Voidstar, which requires both sides to fight their way to a stack of intel at the center of a derelict space ship, should have had more to it. You have to unlock doors and gain the upper hand by getting to the map goal ahead of your enemy. Really? That’s funny, because when I played Voidstar the first time, the only thing that happened is we bashed away at each other in front of doors that no one bothered to even try to open… until the disembodied Imperial-sounding voice declared one of us the winner.
It was the same with Huttball. I expected at least a partial bastardization of NFL rules, or some kind of “footbol” strategem, anything. But no. Huttball was the same bloody free-for-all I found in any other arena. I was surprised our team won. I don’t recall anyone actually carrying a ball, having spent most of my Huttball experience in a corner getting battered to death by some crazed maniac with a pair of lightsabers, but somehow something happened and we stood victorious. More XP for me. Easy peasy.
Granted, I’m sure it’s not like that all the time. My experiences didn’t cover every map, and I only repeated certain ones once or twice. Happily, my second time through Voidstar gave me the chance to see what the rest of the map was like as someone FINALLY managed to open a door.
All in all, PvP in SWTOR reminded me a lot of the earliest online games I ever played. From Myth to Halo, it’s not about the atmosphere or the setting. It’s not about the pretty backdrops and awesome particle effects. It’s not about character or story. No, in the end its about using an avatar to beat the living snot out of another avatar, knowing in your heart of blackest hearts that there’s another human being somewhere in the world controlling the unconscious form lying helpless to your relentless teabagging.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE INDIFFERENT
Not long ago, an RP buddy gave me a piece of advice. As I bitched and moaned about not having a Level 50 (55 post-Makeb) because I spent more time in RP than PvE or daily grinding, he suggested I queue up for a PvP match. He said it’s the best way to get easy XP, it’s fun, and it’s fast. He said that PvP helped him over the reportedly painful hump between Level 48 and Level 50 – something that I hear takes forever.
Well, now I can let the secret out. He was right. All it takes is letting go of the character for a few minutes and just playing it like a game. While I was never criticized for my performance in PvP, it occurred to me that if someone shot at me: “YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!” it wouldn’t hurt nearly as much as if I heard that during RP. And there in lies the misconception among self-anointed RP “purists.” The PvPers aren’t the Snobby Elitist Majority. We humble RPers are the Snobby Elitist Minority. Consider the difference between being told you’re doing PvP wrong compared to being told you’re RPing wrong. PvP has rules, strategies (even if it doesn’t always seem like it), a basic here’s-what-you-do-on-this-map kind of thought process. If you’re told you’re doing something wrong, you probably are, and it’s easily fixed. RP is open to so many different interpretations, and it’s not “the thing” of the game (despite the fact that RP in MMO-RPG stands for ROLE PLAYING). RP is a delicate art form built upon decades of traditions and inborn nuances for acting outside of yourself. If PvP is football (or footbol), RP is Chess.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still not “looking down” on PvP. On the contrary, I enjoy it and I plan on doing it some more. It’s still not my thing, though. I’m still an RPer at heart and always will be.
And, no, I’m not saying RP is “better” than PvP. It’s just different. During the PvP matches I played, I never felt like an outcast. I felt equal – even as my Level 18 was going toe-to-toe against a Level 40. In the PvP arena, we were all just playing a game and having fun. Win or lose, we were all in it together and we all collected our easy hunk of XP at the end (and Valor Points, though I’m still not sure what those are).
And that’s why I’ll never turn my back on someone who is “trying” RP for the first time, or standing by “listening” instead of interacting amongst the BARPers. If you see someone making an RP faux paus, don’t call them out. Don’t /yell at them that they’re doing it wrong. Don’t even turn your nose up and walk away.
I once saw someone make a big mistake during an attempt at RolePlay. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was obvious they were sincerely trying to fit in. I remember my first time, being embarrassed at the “godmodder” label before I even know what that was. That was a long time ago, but if not for another player who pulled me aside to TEACH me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So, I reached out with a direct message and asked, “((Are you open for some RP?))” It was obvious they were – or were at least trying – but you never want to open with anything accusatory or insulting when hoping to correct someone’s RP mistakes. I wanted to encourage them and be that “teacher.”
They responded that they were, and even reached out to me, asking why what they were doing wasn’t working and if they could try it with me. I was glad to help, and they were excited to try some of the tricks I taught them (most of which can be found here on the RP XP I like to think that they’re out there, somewhere, building a character base and forging their own Star Wars story.
Just like I’m sure that, somewhere, there’s a Level 40 tapping their foot and twirling their sabers, waiting for me to come back for another ass-whoopin’.
((The RP XP with MJ)) appears exclusively right here on swtor-life.com. You can follow MJ on twitter @MJswtor, you can write to him directly at swtorliferp(at)gmail.com, or you can find him RolePlaying on the Ebon Hawk server. Feel free to shout out to “Elayo” Rep-side or “Solax” Imp-side.