Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Role-Playing: Part Four - What the Dragon Said

Okay, so, this truly is going to be the last in my running series of posts dedicated to RP. That does not mean, unfortunately for you, that I am going to stop talking about it altogether, however. Sorry. And I have decided that I shall write about the aforementioned "Restrained Love Viewer" as something completely separate. Let's just say that when I do, you will understand why. 

So, I made a new friend this week. No, she is not imaginary. Her name is Salix, and she is often involved in role-playing of a more fantasy based nature, which is handy for me because I am a huge fantasy buff, but have had absolutely no luck finding decent fantasy RP sims within SL. From what I have learned, most fantasy sims only accept role-play about happy Tolkien-esque elves or forced sexual slavery, and I must confess that neither of those themes particularly appeals to me. Salix seemed to know some good ones, however, and I had a great time writing with her. 

Did I mention that Salix spends much of her time as a dragon?
If I didn't have a height complex before...I do now...

Whilst we were writing, Salix's computer crashed and my new purple acquaintance vanished from the sim. Left alone and feeling somewhat vulnerable in unfamiliar territory, I was soon accosted by a much smaller dragon who introduced himself, told me that he had seen Salix vanish, and asked if we had been writing together. I replied that yes, we had, and we got talking generally about RP. He suggested to me that I wouldn't be such an amateur writer if I went further up the hill and engaged with the people who usually role-played there.

What was so special about the hill-people? Well, to be perfectly honest, I have no idea because they weren't logged into SL at the time. From what I could gather, however, they write in paragraphs. Great long paragraphs of text, heavy with speech and detailed actions - which isn't something uncommon in SL. I have seen it taking place at Necronom, and a little at Botany Bay. What surprised me was that this man quite brazenly suggested that this style of writing RP was the "right" or "best", or even the "elite" style. He had, as far as I am aware, not seen Salix and I writing together, and thus had no idea what my writing style was like. It took quite a lot of my resolve not to turn around and tell him that, actually, I was a published poet...but that small success was a long time ago, and the only person that really cares about it is my mother (Hi Mum!), so I held my tongue. 

I also held my tongue because I appreciate that he was trying to be helpful, and he said that he compared himself to them and had thus decided that he was a bad writer. I am quite sure that that is not true! And it made me wonder how many other people are wandering around role-playing sims avoiding active players because they think they can't hold their own. That makes me sad.

As I have suggested...this kind of posting of text-walls is, in my opinion, simply another approach to role-playing. It is not any higher or lower than any other form. For some people, this works, and that's fine - but it is not the style for me. What I like about SL is the capacity it has for a kind of quick-fire, quick-response; the story can move at pace, if you allow it to, and there is the capacity for a good rapport to build. I personally don't necessarily need or want to know that your character took a puff of a cigarette in text when I can see them doing it live on my screen, unless that particular puff is significant to the plotline - but that is entirely my preference.

There's a kind of formula that a lot of my role-playing responses generally follow, though, of course, if every line I wrote was like this, it would become very dull very quickly. I like to give myself an expression, put an emotion on my face."Kitti Wytchwood looks distraught". Then, I add in an action, even if it's only a small one. "She sighs heavily and rubs her eyes" (before you jump on my back, I don't have an animation for that gesture, so shush) . Finally, she should say something, "..."I'm so sick of all this fuss!"..." or make some kind of action or movement that does the talking for her. "She moves towards the door as if to leave". And that's about as lengthy as I get.

One of the major flaws with SL RP demonstrates itself right there, however; not all participants are massively active. Often, writers will be doing other things whilst writing, and so the gaps between responses can be quite lengthy and, for me, it thus loses its punch. If I wanted to wait half an hour for a response, I'd be opening my old role-playing forums again, not dancing around forests and sci-fi bars in SL. It can be very frustrating, but you can hardly blame someone for having a life, and as you wait for someone to type back, you often find that your mouse, having a mind of its own, is moving across the screen to the "Mozilla Firefox" button....

Less "dancing", and more "standing around looking surly", but you get the point.

There is also an often large gap between what is written in the text, and the visuals. This is something that I feel has been running through all of my posts about role-playing - the kind of ineffectuality of it all. If I slap you, via text, my avatar will not raise her hand to slap yours. I have no doubt that animations exist that allow you to make this kind of thing happen, but they are not something I possess, nor something I would look to possess, and they make for a kind of disjointed chronology. 

The most obvious disruption of this nature actually demonstrated itself this morning in role-play with Sian. I wrote that "Kitti Wytchwood slipped through the door", but I had not, in fact, slipped through the door. I was standing on the other side of a closed door, which, once I clicked it, slid wide open. I then walked through the door, clicked on it again and watched it slid back into place with a clunk. There was nothing "slippy" about it. I then said that Kitti was hovering nervously near it, when in actual fact her AO was making her wander all around the small room, waving her arms around.

So this, right there, is my big conclusion. The one I have taken four posts to get to :P. SL does not aid RP, come to take a pleasure in realising a character's physical appearance line by line. It provides a medium with a pretty backdrop, and no doubt makes Linden Labs a whole lot of money as we all scrabble to make sure that we are dressed correctly.

And, for the record, I'm not dressed correctly in that screenshot.  There is no way that those boots are fantasy regulation. Don't tell the elves.

Is it going to stop me role-playing? No it is not.

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