[MUD-Dev] Nation of shopkeepers

Matt Chatterley root at mpc.dyn.ml.org
Sun Aug 3 23:16:46 New Zealand Standard Time 1997


On Sun, 3 Aug 1997, Marian Griffith wrote:

> On Sat 02 Aug, Brandon Van Every wrote:
> 
> > > From: Marian Griffith <gryphon at iaehv.nl>

[Snipsnap]

> > Tedium comes from positing that "everyone must accumulate wealth/resources
> > to be successful." 
> 
> > Mathematically speaking, if the goal is wealth then you're creating a
> > mono-axial system of game interaction.  Call it the "money" axis. 
> > Everyone is struggling to move towards the positive end of
> > the axis, and there aren't any orthogonal axes to pursue instead.  Consider
> > whether the other mathematical axes of your game are really orthogonal to
> > the money axis. 
> 
> ??

I believe he means that there is in this case, a game, where the sole real
goal is to amass money, and the more, the better (monoaxial - one axis,
like a barchart with just one bar that moves along horizontally along one
axis). There are no other axis to modify this (which would make the
barchart more like a scattergraph).

> > Do you always have to "save up" to get power in the game? 
> 
> This I believe is an excellent point.  But what I was aiming at was that
> it should be impossible for a player to acquire so much money  that they
> never need to worry about it again. And not everybody needs to get at it
> at the same route. Money itself isn't the subject of the game. Just like
> experience points aren't the subject of the traditional mud. If it is it
> seems to me that there's something wrong with the game design.

Oh definitely. My ideals for a game are somewhat monoaxial - but that axis
is power itself. Means to obtain it are many, and varied, and dare I say,
there are different kinds of power. To name two, financial power, and
political power, which are not necessarily distinct! They can lead to each
other! However, personal physical power (consider Hercules to be an
example), is not necessarily connected to political power.
 
> [snipped some]
> 
> > In a mathematical, systemic sense, I can think of 3 ways to break this
> > deadlock of tedium:
> 
> > 1) make other axes that are truly orthogonal.  I'll leave other people to
> > give an example of this, it would make for interesting discussion.
> 
> ??

Other game concepts that are abstract to the central. In my case, where
the central is 'acquire power', an abstract concept might be to go on a
great conquest across one of the continents, crushing all the small
peasant villages underfoot, and building up a reputation as a great and
feared warlord. This does not in itself directly make you powerful
(although knowledge is power, and by implanting the knowledge of yourself
that you want in others, you can exercise some force over them).
 
> > 2) Map the axes in 2 directions.  Why is always having "more" money the
> > goal?  One could concoct scenarios where having "more" money is good for
> > some things, but "less" money is good for others.  Then the player becomes
> > caught in the tradeoff of whether to have more or less money at any given
> > time.  The system becomes a dynamic balance between the forces of "more" or
> > "less" money, rather than ever-expanding gaseous vacuum towards more money.
> 
> True. Acquiring more money isn't going to make an interesting game. Just
> as acquiring more experience points or more equipment  is not fun in the
> long run on on traditional muds.  At some point you have reached a prac-
> tical limit and then getting more is just the same old.

Right. I think a key concept is that of providing dynamic goals, for
instance: The conquest example above.

You run on a mighty conquest with your army of 10000 men, smashing a whole
continent into submission. Not much more you can do there, but, its not
the only continent in the world. If you appear to pose a significant
threat to other great powers, they will come looking for you, and you have
a constant battle of both political and physical implications to juggle.

> A better system would require you to risk you money  in order to be able
> to keep it. I.e. a farmer must invest most of her money in seeds and can
> only hope that, come harvest,  there is enough to pay all debts and then
> have some left to safe. Shops run much in the same way, they must invest
> in getting stocks and then sell them at enough of a profit.

Yes. This doesn't work the way many muds handle things, of course. A large
problem with money in a reasonable medieval theme: Where the heck do you
put it that its safe?

> The big problem I see here is that this alone isn't going to spark inte-
> rest in players.  The system must either be as varied as the combat  (or
> better still: more varied),  or it must be a minor sideline to the game.

You can begin to decentralize combat very nicely by continuing along these
lines. Or at least, personal combat. Who would put his own neck at risk if
he can pay someone to do it for him?
 
> > 3) Make distinct points or regions of the axis qualitatively significant. 
> > In this view it isn't important to have "more" or "less" money, but rather
> > to have "the right amount of money" within some tolerance value.  This
> > destroys the notion of accumulation.  If you've got the right amount of
> > money, then there's no incentive to accumulate.  Unless you want to "hop"
> > to a different "island" of money, so as to experience a different "quality"
> > in the universe.  Which isn't really about accumulation, since you're only
> > going to hop a known, finite distance to another island.  Although if you
> > wanted to make it more challenging, you wouldn't tell anyone where the
> > islands are.  Then the game becomes a matter of iterative research, with
> > people wondering "hmm, I'm hanging out pretty good at 26, but I wonder what
> > happens if I move to 63?"  One could metaphorize this to "tuning the
> > channel on a radio."
> 
> I think I understand what you're trying to get at,  but I fail to see how
> something like this could ever be incorporated in a game. At least not in
> a way that would make sense to the player. I feel that the entire concept
> of having too much of something would not sit well with them.

It really depends. You can have enough, and you can have too much - back
to my conquest example.

If you take over a small country (say.. scotland), and stop there,
neighboring countries may bristle lots (say.. england & wales), but may
not take direct action against you. Other major powers (for instance, the
army of elves that completely hold a huge nearby continent) will probably
have relatively little interest on you. If you go on to take England too,
those Elves are going to start watching.. eventually they'll act, and you
could lose everything.
 
> > In general, what I'm developing here is a mathematical notion of ECOLOGY,
> > rather than ECONOMY.  Economy is boring.  It's based on the ever-expanding
> > gas cloud known as The Almighty Dollar.  Most of us have to play this game
> > in real life, which is why we don't necessarily want to do it when we're
> > online.
> 
> *grin* Economy need not to be boring.  Mud economies are boring because
> they're the strongest example of an inflatory economy ever modelled. At
> a larger scale economies can be very interesting.  That's why there are
> computer games that are nothing more than economic models.  The players
> have to balance resources.  Pure growth is discouraged  by creating un-
> wanted side effects.  These side effects can then be reduced,  but this
> means resources will be used for that instead of for growth.

Mud economies are typically boring because they are entirely too shallow,
and use simple economical concepts without bringing more interesting
elements (social and political) into play.

> Even in a traditional mud something like this must be used to prevent a
> rampant inflation as players keep pouring equipment into the shops.  It
> can make an interesting sub-game,  though I do not feel it is something
> that would be suited for a game  that has more than a faint resemblance
> to a mud. Player expectations would work against the necessary critical
> mass needed to get such a sub-game working.

Yup.

Regards,
	-Matt Chatterley
	http://user.itl.net/~neddy/index.html
"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's
	mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them." -George Orwell




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