In this week's The Darker Side of Life, we're going to be going into a topic that many RPers struggle with and argue over. Just how much of the time can you be in-character? In the article on roleplaying BioWare's story, we touched on using the class stories in-character. This time we're going to dig deeper and include the rest of the game too. There is more to the game than just the stories. If you happen to be standing around the Galactc Trade Network on your faction's fleet base, are you still in-character? Some players refuse to use voice chat, not because it might give away that your busty Twi'lek waitress as some hairy guy, but because once you know what a player sounds like, their characters might start sounding like that in your head too, instead of whatever accent they may be trying to portray.

For those of us that have been around RP communities a long time, there are also the people we've run into that refuse to communicate OOCly with other players as well. All they do is roleplay; everything else is shunned. Is that the apex of heavy roleplay, or a dangerous lack of communication that will lead to unnecessary drama? The question at the heart of this week's column really might be how much of our community is OOC.

Read on as we break down different activites and review community responses from The Darker Side of Life thread on how people feel about doing those activities in-character. Through this we'll attempt to find a line that can be used to guide people about what is IC and what is OOC. After all, once you've finished levelling, many players will find that their time is spent doing different activites like PvP warzones that don't lend themselves as well to roleplay as a Flashpoint might. How do we deal with it? Read on and we'll try to figure it out together.

Hello my wonderful which one are you again?

Batty: Not always, No. While it is nice to be able to drop into some roleplaying at the drop of a hat the circumstances don't always fit. A good example was during SWG for me. We had a rather enthusiastic player – let's call her Sharn – who caught me fighting near a starport one evening. I was just goofing off and didn't really feel like engaging in anything other than just playing the game... she came in to my "rescue" and did so in-character. My character wouldn't really be attacking Imps, or Meatlumps, for the heck of it though so I kind of disengaged from that encounter. It applies for questing too though. I might be up for it sometimes but it doesn't mean I'm up for it 100% of the time.

Jhantiir: More or less. How deep in my character I am depends on the quest I'm doing. When doing my class quests, I'm almost fully in-character, making the dialogue choices based on my character's personality and generally considering the experience a solid part of my story. On the more generic quests, I'm still technically IC, in that it's really happening to my character, but my involvement is lighter and I have to suspend disbelief more due to the ridiculous amount of world-saving and stranger-helping. 

Ah, solo questing... this is where things tie in most with where we've been before. Can you take the class stories in-character? For the most part the answer was no. You might use pieces, but only in a vague sense, like starting out as a slave and being sent to Korriban from the Sith Inquisitor story, but not everyone can end up Lord Zash's apprentice. Planet stories work much better when applied vaguely. For instance, I know of at least two Trooper guilds that have been stomping around Ord Mantell fighting seperatists. On Lord Adraas many Guild Leaders got together and agreed we'd roleplay the Cold War until March, so it fits, and allows other people to interact freely with them in random roleplay while participating in the Ord Mantell storyline. For me that's the ultimate fusion with a planet story. 

When you're running around alone questing on a planet at random though, do you really want to be IC? Ask yourself why your character is running around Taris slaughtering Rakghouls at that moment? Though if it leads to fun random RP with someone you bump into you can always bend things; after all when it comes to roleplay, the end almost always justifies the means. Even with the RP community in its infancy, many complex characters have come out that aren't just another Sith Lord or Jedi. It doesn't have to be that distinct though. There are a lot of Smugglers not working for the Republic in-character, and the same with many Bounty Hunters. If you're not working for your faction, that takes away a lot of reason to be on a planet. Though I suppose you could always just make up your own target for a Bounty Hunter to track and be on Tatooine. 

Now that everyone has spread out through the levelling curve though, I think this is becoming less of an issue. Even the starter worlds are becoming less crowded, and chances are unless you're leveling at peak times, you won't run into that many people. Random RP is great and should be encouraged, but the opportunities just won't be there as much – you'll have to go where other players hang out like the Nar Shaddaa promenade to find random roleplay, as players don't tend to frequent far flung quest hubs as often.

It doesn't matter if you kill me, 51% of players let me live, so see you in the sequel!

FreelanceWizard: All the Flashpoints and group content I've done has been IC, actually. Again, it's part of the whole idea of stepping into the character and playing the MMO like a tabletop role-playing game. It's also fun to figure out justifications for why the PCs are all in the same Flashpoint, to react IC to their conversation choices (I've been dying to leave the Ambassador behind in a certain Flashpoint, just to see the reactions of the other characters), and to take actions and RP in a way that shows the character in their element -- not just in a cantina.

Balkito: Well, I answer the choices IC, but I don't RP with the people in my group. Generally, they don't try to initiate it, and I wouldn't want to delay the group with my RP and everything. There was one instance were I called somebody out *sough*toldhimhewasanasshole*cough* for making a Dark Side decision, and he lashed back. That instance is the extent of my RP between other players in flashpoints. I think it's mainly because people usually just want to run the instance, and prefer to RP out in the world(s). I don't blame them, though. Esselles/Black Talon are the only instances with any real story, and seem the best for RP'ing. I have RP'd during heroic quests, somewhat. Mostly on Hutta, with the quests in the Old Muckworks.

Flashpoints are different because they're repeatable content. At level 50, I can go back through the Black Talon and capture the General all by myself, and theoretically, RP that I was the sole hero of the day. You don't even have to have an ego the size of a small moon to do it. More often though it might happen when you're running a low level friend through a Flashpoint, or grinding social points. This actually happened to me today. I was running my Agent alt through Black Talon with some friends. We'd all run it a million times, so instead of just spacebarring through the dialogue, one person brought up the idea of doing it ICly. In the end I had to decline because I just couldn't think of any reason for my character to be there. 

Perhaps if I was less of a stuck up elitist, or even just a tad more bored, we would've gone through with it. The problem is that in doing so, you're making a part of BioWare's story a part of your character's story. The same BioWare story that now over two million players have gone through. I'm not sure the Sith Empire has two million Generals attempting to defect to the Republic. I have to say though, and I will be giving minor spoilers in this paragraph, but I'm sorely tempted to do an IC run of Kaon Under Siege and just RP being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's fun as hell, and earned the nickname "Left TOR Dead" for a reason: you're zombie hunting, even if they are Rakghouls. The key, as I've said before to using any BioWare content ICly, is to generalize it. We would be on Kaon on business, or vacation, or something like that and just happen to have to try and fight our way off the Rakghoul infested world. 

If you're willing to be a bit less of a RP purist though, you could always just go IC and say, "This is what my character would do in this position," or even just do it IC, and then forget about it and pretend that the story there never happened. I could have pretended that my character was a guest on the Black Talon, forced to go after the General, then just pretended it never happened afterwards. Looking back on it, I kind of wish I had because after the millionth time, even the best Flashpoint can get a little dull. Just remember to have fun and not worry so much. There are a lot of RP purists out there who believe everything done in-character has consequences, and you should never retcon anything. Keep in mind though that as serious as we take roleplay, it's still just a game. So try to have fun.

The Empire needs to be more careful, this is the fifth abandoned warship today...

Mordecia: I will try to be IC as much and as often as possible. I love being immersed and forgetting about the outside world, my day job, the things going on around me. This is my entertainment. I don't watch TV, or really go to the movies, play sports, etc. This is where I get my enjoyment. So I'm obviously going to do it as much as possible. So while I may be solo questing and not /emoting things out as I go, it doesn't mean I'm not doing that in my head, or hearing my characters thoughts as she goes about her business, much like we all do when we're stuck at work. We think about our lives and things we could have done differently. So yes, I'm IC all the time, even though it may not be evident to others.

Iamillerg: I am generally in-character, except for WZs, FPs and Operations. In those instances, I can't figure out how I would RP doing Voidstar and Civil War continuously. The same applies for FP's and Ops, I just can't see it happening. Huttball is another matter, but the game is so fast-paced that it makes RP'ing highly unlikely. The rest of the time, I am IC.

I'm a self-professed heavy roleplayer, and we've covered what that can mean before. But even I have my limits. I admit 90% of the time I'm on the Imperial Fleet, I'm OOC checking my market sales or getting ready for a Flashpoint. There was a thread on the Lord Adraas forum about a Carrick Station Security guild that really got me thinking about this. Sure it would be great to spur more random roleplay on a fleet station because that's where a lot of new players will run into RP for the first time. Since TOR doesn't have a way of flagging your characters as RPing or not like Star Wars Galaxies did, you just have to guess, and some people who are just standing around crafting might not appreciate being hassled. It's a cool idea on paper, and I wish the people trying it the best of luck in carefully navigating that minefield. 

What about Warzones and PvP? A Warzone like Huttball may be a bit fast paced to do any real roleplay, but I've seen people try, and other people get mad at them for supposedly disadvantaging the team, even on a roleplay server. Ilum is a different beast though, known for the long stretches of standing around in between massive brawls. If you wanted to RP a Trooper that was actively fighting the Empire, wouldn't this be a great place to do it? You could, but how do you account for your character dying over and over, or killing the same people constantly? Even if you RP it as being knocked out, you might be knocked out several times an hour. Not terribly realistic. Still though, it could break up some of the monotony of sitting around waiting for opponents to kill, so I can't really fault anyone for trying. 

I have to say though, the number one sign of RPing in any situation is walking. If you see another character walking anywhere, any place, at any time on an RP server, chances are they are actively roleplaying and would probably appreciate random RP. When I'm riding a speeder through the promenade, chances are I'm just going to check the Neutral GTN for some good deals. If I'm walking to the club from the taxi, I'm in RP mode, so please do say hi. I was questing my Agent on Dromund Kaas today, and when I saw a group walking through the city, I instantly recognized that as RP-mode. So, if you want to advertise yourself as open to RP in any area, hit the "/" on the numpad, and get to walking.

Look at that, not even Gungans deserve to die for this rock.
Well, maybe Gungans, but not my character...

Niatara: Yes and no. I think it's possible to never break the barrier and go OOC in public or in what we like to call "spatial." That I do think is possible. However, there comes a time in roleplay that I think there needs to be some clear cut discussion OOCly on how to proceed and handle things, and you can't just be 100% IC and deal with things sometimes. This includes combat, arrest, romance, medical RP, plotlines, etc. things where there might need to be some clear cut boundaries or ideas spring boarding. However, I think that's what groups, guilds, and tells are for, to keep the flow of conversation going along without the disruption of OOC chatter involved.

Tisiphonie: It is absolutely possible as I've seen it done. Would I attempt such a thing? No way. There should be some avenue of OOC discussion to smooth out RP, otherwise you are liable to get drama and the like.

So if you could RP in any situation, why not do it all the time? After all, isn't that what we're here for? The roleplay? The truth is most of the time it's no. While you can roleplay through even the most mundane or epic quests and content, or run around browsing the market in-character, chances are it's not going to work out in the end. The BioWare stories are designed to make you into the big hero. In common roleplay not everyone is the hero, and certainly not at once because it just doesn't work, especially if everyone is doing the same heroics. If Superman had a twin brother who went around doing the exact same things, neither would be as special. That, and if you try it, chances are many people are just going to regard you as either crazy, or a noob. 

What if that doesn't matter though? Is it possible to go all the way with immersion and just cut out the OOC altogether? I have to say no here. Even if you could pull it off for a while, what you gain in immersion just isn't worth losing the friendship and coordination you would have with other roleplayers. It doesn't save you any drama either. You can try to ignore it, but drama never really goes away unless you make amends, so it would catch up eventually. I understand people wanting to get away from the debates or trolling on the forums, and believe me, I understand that. However, there's a difference between not feeding the trolls and cutting yourself off. In an ideal world, we could be IC all the time, and never have to worry about OOC communication, but in practice, a RP community just doesn't work like that. Roleplay when you can, and don't mind the OOC stuff in between. Have fun. 

That's all I have to say on this. I'll see you again next week for another edition of The Darker Side of Life. Didn't comment or got left out of this week's article? Head down to the comments box and let me know what you think. Last week's article was our most debated ever, so let's keep it going! Once you're done there be sure to head to the Darker Side of Life thread to see next week's topic, and comment on the questions there for a chance to get your response in the article. You can also follow my wall or @SebayaKeto on Twitter for all the latest updates. Untill next week, may the force be with you!
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