Over time with writing on TRR and role-playing in general, I’ve examined role-play environments and built a good understanding of what makes them work (or in some cases, not work). I’m not the be-all and end-all resource for role-play but over time I’ve accumulated questions from readers, role-players and budding role-play environment owners of what I think makes for a successful role-play environment. I never thought it would be appropriate or fair of me to give those opinions to only a select few who ask and I’d much prefer everyone have access to it. Here are my top 4 traits that can make or break a role-play environment (not in order of importance–they are all equally important):
Look and Feel
How a role-play environment looks, feels and immerses one is crucial to the success of the environment. It’s the first thing potential players will see and judge and can sometimes be a deciding factor in whether or not that player will stick around for the long haul.
I’ve noticed something though, it seems as though different styles of role-play end up with different levels of build quality. I’ve found that meter-based role-play environments typically end up with the lowest build quality, casual role-play comes in second and paragraph role-play comes next with the highest overall build quality. That’s mere anecdotal evidence, however, so interpret what you want from it.
Fact is, all role-play environments regardless of role-play styles should have similar build quality levels. I think it would do a world of difference if role-play environments stepped up quality across the board for all styles, whether it’s metered, casual or paragraph based.
It’s all in the details: poorly built welcome areas are a turn off for new players, it’s up to you to make a good first impression and a poorly built welcome area isn’t going to do it. Roadways, side walks, they need to be proportional to the environment and using freebie or highly distributed textures is not the way to go. Buildings should be prim conservative and built to a high standard of quality. Shoddy textures, poor prim and texture alignment all contribute to a bad first impression and poor overall immersion in the environment.
Believe it or not, but the look and feel of a region is just as, if not more important than role-play quality (which I talk about next). It’s what gives players their first impression, it’s what people come to see, and it’s what will represent your environment. Pay close attention to it or risk falling into the trap of being just another role-play environment.
Role-play & Role-play Identity
Obviously, role-play holds a very big role in whether a role-play environment will be successful or not. It’s got to be to the standards of your target audience. Are you trying to attract very casual and relaxed people with a focus on combat? Metered is probably the way to go. On the flip-side, are you trying to attract a multitude of players that wish to write deep and insightful prose? Paragraph role-play is probably the way to go.
The trick to being successful here is to make it clear what the environments style is. Each style from paragraph role-play on down tend to allow management a little bit more room in terms of deciding an appropriate level of strictness. Implementing something like firearm commodities on a combat oriented and meter-based role-play environment is likely not going to work out well for you, but on the other hand in a paragraph role-play environment something like this might actually be expected of you by players.
Choose a style and stick with it: changing styles drastically (for example going from metered role-play to paragraph role-play) may alienate many of your current players. If you’re just not happy (and most of all the community isn’t happy) with your overall style and you must transition, I’d suggest doing it slowly and consulting vigorously with your current players. Be prepared for a rocky and perhaps inactive time though: some or many of your current players may not wish to transition and may seek role-play elsewhere.
I’ve commonly seen management teams thrive and then unexpectedly collapse. Drastic changes in leadership or varying opinions can sometimes be considered the root cause, but other times some members just get fed up for whatever reason and leave.
I’ve always held the opinion that role-play environments should have a single central person making all final decisions. Moderators, administrators, and estate managers are good to have, but ultimate decisions on region-wide issues should come down to a single person. Frequently, you’ll find in the role-play community that players have preferences for who owns the environment and who has control over it. Once you add others to the list of those with ultimate control the waters get murky. If current players dislike that person for a particular reason they may no longer be comfortable in the environment. With a single person who has control over bigger decisions you limit this issue from occurring.
It’s not a competition! Frequently management teams get stuck in the rut of competing with other environments of a similar style. It’s not needed. No one is making a large profit (if any) off owning or running an environment, and while it might be fun to compare and contrast at times don’t make a habit of it.
This is a perfect segue into the discussion of financing. I’d highly recommend not starting up a role-play environment if your idea is based around making money and not passion for the subject. I’ve rarely seen a role-play environment have any demonstrable way of making a profit and if they do make money it’s usually always way under any set profit margin. Some can pull it off, but it’s really rare–don’t count on it.
It seems sometimes that players are overlooked and it makes me chuckle sometimes. Management teams can sometimes get too busy and don’t pay enough attention to what makes their environment tick: the people. That’s okay, a lot of management teams get pretty busy and when you have an entirely volunteer staff it’s okay to a point.
I’ve found that the more successful role-play environments have utilized forums, they don’t need to be super fancy, they just need to work. Even a free forum site is better than nothing (though I’d suggest setting up your identity and brand with a paid and hosted website–it just looks more professional to people visiting it).
Forums allow your players and prospective players to converse, discuss and propose new ideas. On the forefront of this I feel it’s the managements responsibility to welcome differing opinions. Differing opinions allow you to clearly see what the majority of players enjoy and appreciate and also see what some dislike and may allow you to meet half-way on hot topics. It’s also good because it will help players feel like their voice is being heard (hopefully it is).
Be a community: even though you may have one or two people paying the way financially for the environment and probably make little in return it’s still good to understand that everyone is on equal ground. Without financing the environment wouldn’t exist and without players the environment would be so dull that there wouldn’t be a point to having it.
As an added side-note, if all this talk in this post comes out of left field for you and you’re considering owning a role-play region it may be worthwhile holding off on your plans until you better understand the needs of the role-play community. Use your own discretion.
I encourage all readers to discuss in the comments. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below and feel free to give your own tips for making a successful role-play environment.
by Caitlin Phenomena