[MUD-Dev] DESIGN: The purpose of MUDding?

clawrenc at cup.hp.com clawrenc at cup.hp.com
Mon Aug 11 15:32:20 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

In <199708011734.KAA21469 at animal.blarg.net>, on 08/01/97 
   at 10:42 AM, "Brandon Van Every" <vanevery at blarg.net> said:

>Anonymity.  That's an interesting notion.  I wonder if partial
>anonymity is a precondition to the worlds I imagine.  Most MUD taboos
>are about the fear of your persona being subverted/destroyed. 
>Psychically, people really hate it when you screw with their sense of
>self.  But no persona, no fear?

My approach to this is to make anonymity implicit.  Bodies and
characters and accounts (humans) are severely seperated in the game
model.   There was some decent discussion of this earlier:


From: "Chris Lawrence" <clawrenc at xsvr1.cup.hp.com>
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 1996 12:53:16 -0700
Subject: Re: a bunch of stuff.. ;)

> From: S001GMU at nova.wright.edu
> Subject: Re: a bunch of stuff.. ;)

> >Actually the whole reason I came up with the feature was that I wanted
> >the extra complexity of allowing the names user to be using-player
> >defined.  I thought that the whole idea of the name set not being
> >unique _or_ constant over the MUD would be delightful.  Additionally
> >the requirement for character names to be unique, MUD-wide seems
> >incredibly artificial and tailored solely for the ease of the
> >programmers.
> the only problem I have with adding this feature is that you can run
> into some very serious RL problems.  A while back some friends and I
> were thinking about a disguise spell and we went through this topic.
> should we let people assume the description of another PC?  eventually
> we decided that, as silly as it sounds, such things could result in an
> invasion of privacy and/or harassment. A name is just a name, but when
> it's all you have to go by, it becomes something much more than it is
> in RL.  Yes, it would be neet ot watch as people people become confused
> as to who they are talking about, but I think it's too much of a
> double-edged sword for my tastes.

The classic example used in these cases is the Lambda MOO rape.  In
highly simplistic terms, a rogue user manufactured robots which looked
and operated exactly as if they were real players in the game.  He
then, via remote control of those robots, made them commit various,
err, unnatural(?) acts, much to the displeasure of the players they
were pretending to be.

The LambdaMOO rape case is also probably the most studied and well
documented (tho the documentation can be surprisingly difficult to
find) of MUD-World social justice systems in action.

I thought about this quite a bit when I came up with the name concept,
but decided that it was not innately applicable for a couple
fundamental reasons:

  1) The LambdaMOO rape case was dependant on the fact that the ID's
manipulated in the "crime" had no reasonable expectation that they
might be opaquely mis-represented or forged.

  2) Most (all?) MUDs currently define names are unique and
inextricably bound to their owners.  The fact of this equation leads
to strong identification and symbolisms wrapped on the name alone. 
Simple evidence of this can be seen in the players who use the same
ID's on every game they play, and are disgruntled if they find another
player has already taken the name.

If those two equations were explicitly broken for a given MUD, such
that the concept of a "name" was inextricably virtual, I don't see
that anything similar could still, supportably, happen.  The result is
that the concept of identity in the MUD world becomes very amorphous.

Look at it from the player's perspective:

  He logs in:
    He enters his account and password.
    He is presented with a list of characters he has created.
    If it is his first ever login, he can create a character to now
      play instead.
    He choses a character to play.
    Possibly he enters a character-unique password.
  He is now playing.
  He can see no names for other player's characters.
  Other players have no evidence he is playing any specific character.
    All they know is that a specific account is logged in.
  If he wants to talk to another player, he must either assign them a
    or he must use a general tag, such as "human" or "troll" which
    to uniquely match their general description in his current
  Nobody knows who he is.
  Until he forms a social relationship, he has no social context
    the game.
  He can tell other's what he would like to be called, but has no
    to enforce that request.
  He has no idea what names others have assigned to him, or even that
    names have been assigned.

Rather than a double-edge sword, I see this as just removing the
entire mechanism on which both the "crime" and the
identification-with-ID rests. Sometimes I think of it as namespace



J C Lawrence                           Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                           Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------------(*)               Internet: clawrenc at cup.hp.com
...Honorary Member Clan McFUD -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

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