[MUD-Dev] Alignment

Jon A. Lambert jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com
Thu Sep 4 23:30:50 New Zealand Standard Time 1997


On  3 Sep 97 at 14:38, clawrenc at cup.hp.com wrote:
> In <199708260030.TAA05736 at dfw-ix9.ix.netcom.com>, on 08/25/97 
>    at 07:01 PM, "Jon A. Lambert" <jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com> said:
> 
> >Who really wants to run for office on a chaotic evil platform
> >against one running on a lawful good platform? ;)
> 
> This calls into question the more interesting area of value systems,
> which in turn calls into question the entire area of popularity
> campaigns within MUDs.
>
> Consider:
> 
>   The prime concentration in a MUD is to have "fun", however that
> "fun" is defined.
> 
>   The prime concentration in RL is to survive, or to improve one's
> survival.  
>
> Survival is not always synonymous with "fun".  Additionally the
> value of survival is considerably lower.  IRL few would consider a
> program which slaughtered hundreds for the possible benefit of a few
> (enemy hundreds or no), yet in a MUD this is pro forma. 
> Additionally any MUD activity or program which is seen as "fun" will
> be championed, and activities strictly geared to survival
> downplayed.  Few want to spend their MUD time scrubbing pots and
> pans behind the Inn while earning a liveable MUD wage.  Many are
> willing to grab a rusty piece of lightly hammered iron with one
> less-dull edge and run off to confront Tiamat's rotisserie oven.
> 
> Reverting to the above quote for a GOP game:
> 
>   I'd suspect that an chaotic evil platform could easily be played
>   to
> the hilt, making it very fun, with all sorts of crafty
> embellishments, jibes, digs, and finger pointing at the stodgy
> enemy.  "Yes!  You too can wander in the pits of hell turning up the
> flames on your favourite enemies, pouring acid on their festering
> wounds, awarding yourself the choice selections from their
> EQ...etc,"  or even the more probable fun-thru-corruption campaign.
>
> As Hollywood has long known, Bad Guys are fun.  The recent otherwise
> abysmall Batman movies are perfect cases in point.  Who remembers
> Buster Keaton's role in Batman 1?  Who remembers Wolf Man Jack as
> the Joker?
> 

I'm not sure what to make of all this Chris.  You seem to be touching
several topics at once and I detect a spooky feel to this post. Let 
me toss some RAMBLINGS out and hopefully they'll be marginally 
related (to something). :)

A game (of whatever type) can be singular game or be a set of loosely
or tightly coupled games/sub-games.  And each one of these games can
have a single goal or multiple goals.  Attempting to achieve these
goals requires a player to exercise a value set or multiple value
sets.  This "fun" aspect, of which you speak, comes during the player
activity to achieve a goal or goals.  If this activity is not "fun"
then the particular goal or perhaps game/subgame is not
popular/played/achieved/worthwhile or well-designed.

Along with the "game" activity, there is social activity.  I would 
venture that the above "evil" character is having "fun" primarily 
through social interaction.  It's one aspect of a mud that we can 
count on being present (reference Raph Koster's UOL post).  It can be 
channelled, muffled, extended and manipulated to some extent.  It can 
also be the essence of the game itself (freeform storytelling or 
diceless roleplay).

Putting aside the social aspect for a moment, let's look at goals 
and value sets.

Goals can be long term, mid term, short term, immediate or indicate
completion of the game.  Value sets relate to achieving these goals, 
yet they can change over time.  Here are some simple games evolving 
to a more mudlike beasts.

Chess - I would describe chess as "competitive puzzle solving" 
between two players.  The puzzle changes after each player moves.  
The game completion goal is to checkmate your opponent (or at least 
draw).  There are short term positional goals, midgame goals. The 
value sets are reflected in the valuation placed on the individual 
pieces, positions, control of key squares, exchanges, strategies, 
etc. A chess player will place a value on these and call them 
excellent, good, poor, bad, etc.  At different points in the game the 
value a player places on certain pieces will also change.  

Now suppose I arbitrarily decided that in chess the white side was 
good and the black side was evil.  Does this value set matter a whit 
to those involved in the game?  I would think not.  The good and evil 
aspect of the pieces have absolutely no in-game effect.  Of course 
the *cackling* of the black side's queen could provide some social 
amusement.  The lesson of chess is, that you cannot insert an 
artificial value set unless you change the mechanics of the game 
in order to make using that value set relevant.  Then the nature of 
the game would change.

Civilization - This game could also be considered a puzzle-solving 
game, but it's more one of solving resource management decisions.  
And their is a bit of randomness thrown in.  Let's consider this game 
to be a player vs computer simulation (it can be played PvP also).  
As such it is a player vs multiple computer opponents. The game is 
completed by conquering the world or by colonizing Mars first.  There 
are many goals or milestones to achieve to get to this point and 
there are probably many methods to go about it.  Value sets change 
over time.  The values placed on technology, forms of government, 
economy and military is dynamic over time.  Much more so than chess.  
There is a hidden cooperative player or opponent in this game.  The 
people living in one's cities.  These computer simulations make 
judgements from turn to turn based on their state of "happiness".
If you take decisions which decrease their happiness they rebel.  
Over time a player of the game must use a wide variety of value sets 
to achieve goals.  (i.e. Make the people happy/unhappy, Expansion is 
good/bad, use of military is good/bad, technological development is 
good/bad, etc.)
 
The computer opponents in the standard game are operating on certain 
predefined value sets or game plans also.  For instance the Mongols 
tend to favor aggression, the Indians are generally more cooperative. 
I suppose while one plays the game, they might consciously 
superimpose values on their opponents, like the Prussians are 
enemies, the French are our allies.  There is no good or evil aspect 
to the game though, just a Machiavellian practicality.

Now both of the games can be considered "fun" by some; by others not 
so fun.  Civilization also involves some mundane resource management 
activities that are vital to survival.  But not as mundane as baking 
bread or anything. ;)

> Given this, the whole question of popularity campaigns within a MUD,
> especially something like the Rank Point system I proposed earlier,
> is questionable.  It would seem that the "civilizing" influences
> will now have to be embedded in the game (otherwise unplayable chaos
> will result) with the players acting as injected corrupting
> influences.  
> 

Hmm, back to popularity campaigns. The question is, what value sets 
are used to achieve rank and just what game effects are felt when 
one achieves the goal of a rank or position?  

Assume that on "some" mud you have dozens of these positions 
available in different locales.  Achieving one of these positions is 
a sub-game in itself (modelled as a subsystem).  The value sets a 
player uses to achieve the goal of the position _must_ be different 
for each position.  If the value sets are different then a _global_ 
rank point system would be too generic.  I would guess that some rank 
points are more important than others.  For instance, to become the 
new Oracle at Delphi one must fulfill certain requirements.  Rank 
points gotten from Apollo and priests of Apollo would be more 
important than rank points given by Bubba the troll.  Rank points 
gained from opposing deities might counter "good" RPs.  Positions may 
also be chained together where ones current position affects the 
calculation.

One method is to have a separate track of ranking for each possible 
position. I don't think I like this idea. It still might be possible 
to achieve a generic rank point system.  If the position subsystem 
provides the derived rank point attribute by scanning and weighting 
the relative ones when the position is check for, then a generic 
system may still be useful.  The rank point assignment remains with 
the assigner and three pieces of information are needed.  The 
assignee, the points assigned, and the nature of the points.  This 
"nature" could be a simple boolean yes/no modifier to the points or 
could be another value (a tri-value boolean or a more complex scale 
of flags).  The weighting logic remains within the position 
subsystem.

Example position: Warlord of Sparta

rank points = Athena * 10 + Ares * 8 + Other Deities * 4 + Spartan 
Simpeeps * 4 + Spartan players * 4 + King of Sparta * 10 + 
Councilors of Sparta * 5 + all others.

Positions then become a quest-like pursuit of resource management.  
The lines of good and evil are blurred into good opinion and bad 
opinion.  Actions which are seen as against Sparta (evil) or for 
Sparta (good) becomes one's reference point or value set to 
achieve the above position.  The character may have a personal 
view point of good or evil and in the course of achieving the 
position in an RP environment may have to hide their own nature to 
some extent to achieve this goal.

Hrrmm, Would this be "fun"?  It think it might.

There are many things I didn't address here.  NPC contenders for a 
position, the benefits and responsibilities for a given position and 
the actual method of resolving vacancy and occupancy and probably a 
host of others.  I'll leave it stand for now.

Jon A. Lambert



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