We can see several patterns in this chart. First off, normal PvE servers are the most popular server type (despite the fact that these are "role-playing" games). Secondly, PvP servers (whether normal or RP) are twice as popular among men than women.
And here is a stacked chart that shows server choice by age group. This chart shows again the age difference in PvP appeal we've seen above. The two RP server choices (the lower two colors) actually remain mostly flat across the age range and it is the PvE vs. PvP data that shifts. Appeal of PvP servers peaks in the 18-22 age group and mostly falls after that point.
What this set of data reminds us of is that server differences aren't only a function of server rules, but that they are also a function of demographic differences. The difference between a normal PvP and a PvE server isn't just because of the rules, but also partly because PvP servers attract significantly more men relative to women and it also draws from a younger age group.
For those of us who RP, it remains mind-boggling that so many people play an RPG but don't want to roleplay.
I'll add that it's even more mind-boggling when people don't want to roleplay but ALSO actively inhibit it, either through crude/annoying names, ooc chatter, disruptive activities (training IC weddings, for example), or just outright insults.
I can see not being comfortable enough to bust out RP with strangers - most people feel the same about acting. However, I wonder at the fact that only fantasy MMOs seem to really succeed while their most significant playerbase has no interest in indulging the fantasy whatsoever.
Indulging in the fantasy is one of the main reasons I play MMOs.
I enjoy both game immersion and roleplaying (they seem to go hand in hand for me) which is one of the reasons I enjoy my current game, LotRO, more than WoW.
When they introduced motorcycles into WoW I lost all interest in the game. It was too much tech for me. (I know Exodar was a spaceship, but I could ignore that one instance and pretend it was magic).
I'm enjoying LotRO because the player base would riot if any tech, even steam-punk type tech, were introduced into the game. Sometimes having a fanatical player base is a good thing.
And, even thought I play on a 'non-rp' server in LotRO the population seems to be much more accepting of roleplaying than any the seven WoW servers I played on.
Maybe it's because the game seems made for roleplaying - you can have titles and surnames and family trees. Whatever the reason it's much more enjoyable.
I seem to break all stereotypes. I'm a middle-aged female who prefers an RPPvP server.
I think that the attraction of PvE for most older players is directly related to inexperience in gaming and to time constraints. Jumping into an MMO for casual solo PvE or small instances doesn't require much commitment to the game.
I think that the lack of female PvPers is no surprise. Look at the dominance of men in competitive sports. PvP is very competitive, and also involves killing other players, something some women might feel squeamish about. I don't know - I'm not like that. Additionally, there's a humiliation factor in PvP if you are the loser.
As far as RP goes, I am mystified by why there aren't more older players - since people of my generation basically invented RP with table-top D&D. I am also surprised there aren't more women. Us women mastered RP back in the days of playing with barbie dolls. I wonder if it is lack of awareness of RP or lack of interest due to time constraints?
@the above commenters - I have found that on the WARhammer RP servers, there is little to no griefing of RPers. I chalk that up to the more serious gamers who are attracted to a purely PvP MMO, plus the longstanding roots in table-top RP that WAR possesses. The fact that WOW borrowed (stole?) their lore from WAR and had no established base in table-top prior to launch has probably contributed to the hostile (to RP) atmosphere. Indeed, Blizzard itself doesn't seem to take its own lore seriously and has often reversed gone against its own lore and added anti-immersive items like the motorcycle. That anti-RP attitude has trickled down to the WOW community, I believe.
On the flip side of that though, I tried an RP Server and it wasn't for me. The problem I had was that the 'hardcore' RP-ers barely played the game. Their toons sat around in one location and, for a lack of a better description, played a role playing game around a camp fire, describing what they did or what they doing, instead of actually doing it. For me, that's maddening. If I say I'm going to go to Bob's Bar, it's because I'm going to Bob's Bar, and I go to Bob's bar. I don't tell a story about going there. It's one thing to create character backgrounds, or to rp a different motivation for your character to do a quest instead of the motivation presented in game, but to have a virtual reality in front of you and not use it; just didn't connect with me.
I must also agree with the above statement from MxxPwr. Some RPers can take it too far for me. Not mentioning standing around instead of playing the game, I can feel constricted with RPers around me. If you break RP, you will be ignored or even hated on. RP can be a form of commitment. That, for many players, can be too much.
All this talk about "server type" and PvP verses RP etc seems geared entirely toward one specific game. Are there less specific data about gamers in general and their preferences? For example, in Eve Online there is only one server (well, there is one live server, one test server, and one Chinese server) but within that server there are different regions: some where PvP is opposed by NPC police, some where it is tolerated and some where it is pretty much normal. So while everyone is on the same server, the specific areas people hang out in and their strategies (always going around cloaked for the paranoid) in those areas defines their preference for or perhaps fear of pvp.
It just seems occasionally that to some people, Warcraft is the first title they think of when they think MMORPG... and perhaps the only one they could name. It does seem to get inordinately more press than, say, Guild Wars or Warhammer Online.
I rolled a toon on a RPPVP server (Ravenholdt) and the Alliance/Horde balance is so off, the Horde could roll into Stormwind at will and basically take over the city. I witnessed them basically sit there between Mage Quarter and Trade District unchallenged for more than an hour. I think King Wrynn needs to station more guards there. I have had some instances of roleplay, but it wasn't much.
I have several toons on Kirin Tor, and really witnessed almost no roleplay. I have had much better luck on Wyrmrest Accord, but I assume it's because it's a newer server, and like the others, will soon become inundated with those not into roleplay.
Who's to say everyone who logs into an MMO is not roleplaying in some way? They are stepping outside of their physical bodies and taking on the role of an orc, a thug, a thief, a criminal, or whathave you. Whether they admit it or not is irrelevant. I pose this question to you instead - why is your roleplay more valuable than theirs? Do you think the roleplay "snobs" on various games may in fact be inhibiting their own roleplay by attempting to disregard facets of the world they exist in? Are you not breaking character to tell the PK with the crazy name how annoying his actions are? There are better responses that would in actual fact be more in character, and allow both types of individual to enjoy themselves.
You can really see this phenomena in Age of Conan. Due to the PvP aspect, the population was overwhelmingly young and male, however the most successful servers were RP-PvP because they attracted an older and more female audience overall.
In WoW I tend to migrate to RP-PvE servers, not because I like to RP (I am an immersion player but I don't actively RP) but because the server tends toward more older people and more women.
I find that women are less into PvP not because of squeamishness, but usually because of the juvenile banter and e-peen waving that accompanies it. I personally love PvP but I have to ignore all the "Pwned Nub!" and call outs. Also, PvP tends to be "twitchy" and us older players are not nearly as nimble in our playing. My son can out-PvP me 9 times out of 10 due to how dextrous he is on the computer and all that aggrivating jumping about.
Long after it came out, but just got around to reading this release. As an older player, PvE is chosen over PvP more because I and others like me do not want to deal with the immaturity that tends to go along with it. Most of us older players have been gaming since before MMORPGs came out, and the majority of us have been playing MMORPGs since their inception or within a few years of it, so I do not think inexperience or being new is the reason that PvE is chosen.
I think that there are three main reasons why the people who choose to RP and RP servers are such a small percentage, the enjoyment of advancing over acting, the time investment in character story development can be inhibitive, and for some at times it can get in the way of succeeding at the game. Most people who play MMORPGs have done so because they played games like Zelda, final fantasy, and such on game consoles and enjoyed that kind of game, they liked advancing and equipping the characters and beating the bad guys. A lot of people also tend to think of RP as being a lifestyle, you have an established backstory for your character and that establishes what the character will do and who with, the development of which is more than some people want to bother doing. Last, at times RPing can actually interfere with playing the game, such as if you are a goodie and will only group or guild with people who are also good; as a result you may not be able to complete certain missions as readily as those who group with whoever.
As was mentioned above I also have seen a lot more RPer hate on non-RPers than vice versa. My personal view on RPing in MMORPGs is that everyone is, and if I feel like RPing then I will treat what everyone says in say, shout, and other such definite in character modes of communication as being how their character talks and if they interact with me that's what they will get. In that aspect though I suppose I was influenced somewhat by www.wtfcomics.com and how they pretty much just incorporate most of the ooc things was being normal.