All the World's a Stage, and all the orcs and humans merely players. They have their stories and their characters; and one player in his time plays many roles.
Playing Warhammer recently has made me think of more features that WoW could add in order to create a better roleplaying experience. Far and away the most important one, to my mind, was the Tome of Knowledge. WoW players really need an in-game resource they can refer to as a standard for information about the Warcraft universe, and having this at hand, roleplayers could do a lot better than they can today.
Knowledge is the most important thing, of course, but there are other features Blizzard could add to the game that would help roleplayers too. I'd like to address a few of these things, and see how much they could really do for us. Player housing is a possible feature that gets talked about a lot, but I have my doubts as to whether or not it would really help roleplayers all that much. Another issue is one that is more important to me personally, and is another feature inspired by my trial with Warhammer Online: looking at interactivity between characters.
A lot of roleplayers seem to want player housing, but I have my doubts as to how well it would actually work out. On one hand, it would be nice to have a place in the game that we could actually make our own, and customize to some degree. We could go there and have private conversations open only to people we want there, so we wouldn't have to worry about random people wandering by and trying to annoy us.
On the other hand, I fear that player housing wouldn't get much use among many players unless there were really clever tricks that could connect it intimately to the rest of the game world. If Blizzard just put in some extra instance doorways in a city, where a designated portal just led you to your own guild's special house, people might show up there for guild meetings, but most of the time they would want to be out in the world doing things, questing, crafting, or fighting in PvP. It could be nice to use the guild house as a place to hang out when you're just chatting with friends instead of adventuring, but if it's too far out of the way then people would never bother going there.
In order to make it work, every guild house would have to have some sort of private portal mechanism, so that people could easily go there when they want a break from questing for a few minutes. If they make it like the PvP Battleground queue so that whenever you open a portal from a certain spot you can just portal back to that spot whenever you want to leave, then it could really be the sort of place people meet up in on a fairly regular basis during their play time. They could go there to get items from a personal bank, guild bank, or even trade items with one another and then go back to their other activities.
There are a lot of other issues involved in player housing, such as whether the customization scheme will be interesting, and what actual function the space is designed to serve. Those of you who have seen player housing work well in other MMORPGs, feel free to speak up for whichever system you think WoW should try to imitate, if any.
When I started playing Warhammer, at first I didn't notice, but eventually I discovered that to a certain degree, characters will turn and look at one another. If you target another character who is within roughly a 80-degree angle of the direction your character is facing, your character will automatically turn his or her head to face that target. This in itself doesn't seem like it would do all that much for roleplayers, except it would really help make our characters feel less like dolls and more like actual actors in a story. It would be really neat if I could stand with my friends in a circle, and just by changing targets, indicate that we are listening to whomever starts speaking.
Unfortunately, that's about it with regard to interaction between player characters in Warhammer as far as I could tell. In fact, Mythic seems to have decided that Warhammer characters are just too cool for emotes like "/sit," "/lie," and "/kneel." There is an emote for "/dance," but if you try it, your character will frown and look at you like "what?" and then the game text will tell you that your character refuses to dance. Even when it came to idling, my Witch Hunter character never ever put down her gun -- it seemed odd that she should walk around all day without every resting that arm. So it looks like Warhammer is a good game for roleplayers so long as you want to stick to the adventurous, violent, and tough-guy type of roleplaying, and never have a moment when your character even sits down to have a bite to eat. In my opinion, this is a serious shortcoming for roleplaying in Warhammer, in that the character's emotes are so one dimensional.
At least in WoW, we can pretty much sit down and have a chat no matter where we are in the world. Warcraft characters have at least some semblance leisure time, of a life outside of killing monsters, which roleplayers try to use to great effect. In fact, I only hope that this sort of thing gets expanded in the future, so that WoW characters have more and more ways to interact with each other in coming expansions. The addition of a new "/cower" emote in Wrath of the Lich King was an excellent addition, which roleplayers have enjoyed using a great deal.
The key thing I hope Blizzard will remember is that emotes and animations are additional forms of communication -- not cool just things you can make your character do. Emotes and animations which are bent towards communication and interaction will always be more successful than those which just look neat. Often idle animations get in the way more than they help, for example (such as the night elf female bouncy animation -- there really needs to be a way to turn stuff like that off!)
What sort of features would you like to see added to WoW, and how do you think they would improve the game for roleplayers? How important are things like clothes and accessories to you? Are you one of those players who feels that the only thing that will help roleplayers is for Blizzard to start enforcing RP server rules more vigorously? What role do you think GM-led events should play (if any)? Are there any more features you think should be stolen from other games, and if so, can you describe them for those who've never played the game you refer to?