Linedan over at Achtung Panzercow raised an interesting question a while ago - why do you play on a rp server if you're not interested in rp? I gave a short answer over there but thought I wanted to elaborate on it. The reason I've chosen to play on a rp server, although I'm not interested in rp, is because I've tried the other forms of servers and I didn't like it. There is a difference between servers and that is what I would like to discuss here.
I just want to straighten something out. Although I'm not interested in rp I never ever make fun of people who are. I try to respect the few rp events that occur on my server, and I will even play along if I get caught up in one. I never engage in rp on my own however, so it would be reasonable to ask me why I've chosen to play on a rp server.
I could give you the short answer - I just ended up there - and we'd be done with this post. But that would be boring, and not entirely true either. So here is the slightly longer version.
I didn't start out on a rp server. I started playing on the same server as my brother, which was the pvp server Stormreaver. Why he had chosen a pvp server, I don't know. I'm not sure if he knew. I wasn't exactly a well versed mmo-player at the time, actually I barely played computer games at all prio to playing WoW, so I didn't give the various server labels much thought. I eventually learned that the labels made a difference however, and learned that pvp meant anyone could attack you in any zone except the green zones. Since I was completely un-interested in pvp, I even thought it was rather annoying to be constantly ganked in stv, I quickly decided that if I ever chose to play on another server, it wouldn't be a pvp server. My brother lived for pvp however, so he clearly had made the right choice.
Stormreaver was a good server, but it had one big flaw. Being one of the older servers it was also one of the most populated. Having a huge population has its benefits, but it definitely also has a lot of drawbacks. Getting into queues just to log on to the server when you wanted to spend some time playing was common. You usually had to wait a couple of minutes just to be able to get on to the server. As soon as free character migration was available, me, Love and a friend of ours decided to split. We didn't leave anything important behind since neither of us had been part of a serious guild. We transferred over to Balnazzar, another pvp server (you could only transfer between equal servers back then).
My transfer to Balnazzar was my first encounter with the fact that playing on a new server meant playing with new rules. The Balnazzar population played by rules that were completely new and weird to us and we never felt really at home. And even worse, I didn't get rid of the pvp. So we decided to start out fresh on a completely new server.
I insisted that we choose something other than a pvp-server, but had everyone against me. We were some 4 people, and all the rest felt like being able to engage in world-pvp was a good thing, eventhough it mostly meant being forced into world-pvp when you really didn't feel like it (or so I thought anyway). I managed to come to a compromise - a rp-pvp server. I had no idea what that would mean, but I was hoping that the rp part would lower the amount of pre-teen, frustrated wanna-griefers that seemed so prevalent on pvp-servers. I thought rpsers usually try to play the game more seriously and not just for the fun of getting to laugh at others demise.
Interestingly enough, I was right. The rp label actually did factor into what kind of people the server attracted. Where both Stormreaver and Balnazzar had been filled with people who named their characters Falafelhead, Istabu, Lolknight and Dwarfhunter, The Venture Co came with a player base who was slightly more inventive in their character naming. Where the Stormreaver and Balnazzar players seemed to prefer leetspeak and profanities for communication, TVC players actually knew how to spell "rogue". Where SR and Balnazzar players seemed to average 13 years, TVC players seemed to average 25 years. Yes I am generalizing, but there was definitely a difference. And the difference made pvp, if not entertaining, at least tolerable.
As soon as I started playing alts on off-servers, and I could freely choose which server to play on, I played on rp-servers or normal-servers. It made me notice that there was a difference between normal servers and other servers too. Normal servers seem to gather people who know little about the game, or actually gaming overall. It's like they've looked through the realm list and though; "hmm... pvp.. no don't know what that is. Hmm... rp... Nah, I don't do that. Oh look. Normal, that's me alright". It could've been me a couple of years ago, so I don't intend to mock these people. But it still fascinates me how there could be such big differences between servers. Normal servers seem to be packed with people who don't know much about gaming, and don't care to learn either. Don't be offended by this if you happen to play on a normal server. I don't mean that all and any person on these servers behave this way. It's just a general feeling I get when I play those servers.
All my experiences combined from various servers had led me to enjoy the player base on rp servers the most. It's not really a matter of whether rp:ers are the most sane people or not, they just happen to fit my personlity the best. We've got our fair share of asshats and people who seem to have gotten their character name from combining the first two words that popped into their heads (Nakedparty comes to mind). Also now that Blizzard are alot more slacky when it comes to banning names (they sersiously don't seem to care about names anymore unless it is directly offensive), transferring betweens any server is possible and the player base has increased something like tenfold since I started playing, the differences between servers has shrunk alot. I wonder if it's even there anymore. But it used to be, and that is the reason I play on rp servers although I don't like to rp! If you find this subject interesting I recommend you check out Ironyca's post on server nationalism too.