I have been thinking about the races that I would allow players in my game a lot of late, and at the same time I have been reading a book based in the Eberron world. The thing that I really like about the Eberron world in general is that you go to a city and it seems just teaming with races of different kinds. What this really lends to is diversity which I love. I love that there is just a whole lot of different things going on. I think this is one of the qualities that I like about Star Wars as well is that you go into the cantina and there are dozens of races in the one little cantina, a quality I think SWG failed miserably with.
This actually gets me to the point really well however. There is a reason why a game like SWG couldn’t have replicated the amount of races inherent within the world of Star Wars and bring players a true amount of diversity, there are actually a few.
Races are graphic heavy
First, the graphics resources needed to make a race are huge. Artists must render them, animators need to animate all the basic moves and additional ones like dancing, and then you need to also worry about how armor and clothes act on them.
Races for a Reason
Another reason for the lack of race diversity lies in the fact that most MMOs rely on an RPG’s need to have statistical differences between them. After all, Halflings make good rogues, Dwarves tend to be stout fighters, Elves tend to be magical, Humans tend to be jack-of-all-trades, etc. This is a system that I like quite a bit as it offers up a wealth of opportunity to roleplay for when say you have an Elf fighter who hates all things magical, or a Dwarf who steals. Something that is against the typical stereotype tends to be the funnest type of character to portray.
However, when you do this, you need to have differences between the various races and sometimes they feel a little too similar to each other. For instance, a Dwarf is a stout warrior… so is an Orc…. if you have a barbarian type human race they tend to be as well… yeah there are still slight differences between them. For instance, Dwarfs also tend to have a decent wisdom to them which oftentimes makes them fairly decent at healing in addition to fighting and I suppose these are where you find the significance. But if you were looking for 30 or so races to get that diversity (30 may be exaggerating but you get the point).
No reason at all
EQ2 had something like 19 races the last I counted, though many of these were repeat so you have 3 humans, 3 elves, 2 faeries, etc. Which takes it down closer to about 12 which is still nice but lowers diversity. Over time I think that SOE has made the stat differences less worthwhile, it does make some difference, just not much. And this leads the effect of allowing players to choose whatever race they wanted for whatever class they wanted which was also interesting in its own right. Though this has recently been taken away by racial abilities. This is an option though, to essentially take away the meaning of the races, thus one less barrier. You still have animations to contend with, but this would narrow out at least one issue.
Another solution would be that instead of allowing a player to have access to all these races, why not just have a bunch of NPCs that aren’t a playable race running around the city? If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. In Eberron for instance, which is one of the sources of this thought, players don’t get the player races such as Minotaur, Goblin or Harpy but these are still creatures that inhabit the city of Sharn and are part of its charm. I am sure a competent DM could make these races available, but they just aren’t the standard. Also taking it into Star Wars… most of the characters are human with your random Wookie thrown in for flavor. But those cantina races are rarely used as even a semi-main character type. Not only that, but you also don’t have to worry about having a ton of animations and clothing types for NPCs, players don’t really care about that as often. Even if you have them moving around the world.
I kind of like this idea and feel it is the easiest out. Though, there still is something to the feel of going to the character creation screen and having a good variety of choices when it comes to your player race.