[MUD-Dev] Affecting the world

Matt Chatterley root at mpc.dyn.ml.org
Sun Sep 7 12:46:47 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

On Sun, 7 Sep 1997, Marian Griffith wrote:

> Hello everybody,
> Time for a new thread.  At least for me, so I can partake in the discussion
> again.  Most of what has passed lately was rather too deep for me,  or if I
> thought of something to add I found that somebody else already had mention-
> ed it <gr>.

Heh. I actually began to address some of the herein in my rgma post about
types of game. I doubt it contained anything that is new to anyone here
though, so I will refrain from forwarding it, and instead give replies to
this in context.
> I noticed that a lot of the general comments and a lot of the aims for muds
> mentioned on this list  are about giving the players  a more complete world
> in which to play.  E.g adding politics to the game. Or having other actions
> than fighting have meaning within the game world. This is certainly a thing
> that I can agree with. If muds are to evolve beyond the rather simple games

The issue to me is 'elements' and 'aims'. It is possible to 'throw'
elements into a game, such as a political climate, an afterlife system,
and so forth, but what you end up with is a collection of systems rather
than one coherently interfaced game. All these sections must be created
and tied together with a common aim - an aim for the overall environment
and atmosphere, as well as playing style of the game.

For instance, I am aiming at 'adventuring' - if you've ever played a D&D
type campaign that was shifted more towards h'n's than heavy RP, you'll
have an idea of the feel. Its not RP, and its not really hack-n-slash as
muds know it - what it IS, is enourmously good fun, and I love it.

> they are now  it is probably even essential.  Currently they are geared to-
> wards  what I (cautiously) would call a masculine playing style:  going out
> and be the strong powerfull hero  by beating monsters and demons.  I do not
> attach any value to that but I have observed that this is the kind of thing
> that is primarily enjoyed by males.  If  my own opinion may serve as an ex-
> ample,  I would say that females in muds  in general are more interested in
> group mechanics than in going out and kill. I'm putting to words very care-
> fully because I do not want to spark another male vs. female debate on this

I don't think you need to fear an inflammatory m/f debate here, the
readership is very mature, and I believe largely able to see both sides of
this three-edged discussion. (An obscure babylon five reference in a way,
referring to there being THREE sides to everything - their, your, and

The 'go kill' approach is almost as dead as its virtual targets IMHO -
playerkilling muds are expanding rapidly to cover the killfest approach,
and killing based games are often shallow and unsatisfying. RP games have
always been quite proliferate, but where I see a gap in the market is for
what I describe above as the 'adventure' style.

I will not divulge into reasons why I think RPGs in general are viewed
more as a male passtime (at least over here, I truly believe they are seen
this way, which is tragic), but will instead say: Men and Women bring
different elements to any environment, by their very nature (and excluding
any social intersexual converse). Each sex has its own characteristic
attributes (and there are members of either which possess characteristics
of the other, or a cross between the two). Your generalisation that women
are not as into pure H'n'S is a valid one, as is the generalisation that
men are more aggressive in normal circumstances.

However, there are things in the 'adventure' style to enhance the game for
all intelligent players (those without two braincells to rub together -
the singleminded morons, can push off). While my game has a heavy combat
element, it does NOT have a combat focus (this is an important
distinction). The focus is on amassment of power, and while you can
accomplish this by killing, it can also be accomplished by obtaining
wealth (rob a tomb, gamble, start a business!), and by its own use. If you
can exert control over people, you have power, and can use that power to
get more power. In this way, women are just as (if not more) ruthless than
men, and the environment fits everyone fairly well.

> list where it is somewhat inappropriate.  What I -am- trying to say is that
> to remain interesting in the long run and to attract a more balanced player
> base a mud needs more diverse goals.  So that if a player loses interest in

Not 'attract' a more balanced player base. I would say 'create' a more
balanced mindset amongst players. You cannot change the group of mud
players as a whole, but you can change one, or two, who go out to change
another one or two, and soon you have an attitude change as a whole.
Idealistic? Yes. Realistic? Maybe.

> fighting, or never had that interest in the first place, they can remain in
> the game but persue other interests.  Like a veteran of many campaigns that
> retires from active service and becomes farmer or marshal to a king or even
> simply becomes a teacher for young fighters who are just starting their ca-
> reers with the blade.

Yup! Remember - no sane person will fight an army of orcs in person, if
she can order someone else to do it for her. Or him. Or it.

> Nothing of the above can be very new to anybody on this list.  But what has
> made me wonder is, how do you get around the limitations of players to have
> an effect on the game world.  What is the point of having politics if there
> is nothing that a politician can effectively do?  In traditional muds there
> is only one thing that affects the world:  killing monsters,  and even that
> only lasts until the next reset. (I think that is one of the most important
> reasons  why the enjoyment of muds gets stale so fast,  but that belongs to
> another thread).  The only other commodity on the mud, equipment,  is down-
> played as much as possible on most of the games. And suggestions to make it
> a real commodity, e.g. by making unique equipment truly unique in the enti-
> re history of the mud, is met with violent denial most of the time.

There are more aesthetic commodities too (such as influence and power,
social aspects). I think the real problem with much of what you state here
is the shallow or duplicated theme on many games.

I could, and would if I had time, write at least one novel about the world
my game is based in. Not just because I wish to be published, but because
I find developing the world a fascinating and enthralling hobby, and I
love to spend time 'in' it. Sadly time does not currently allow for this.
If I ever get around to it, you folks will have first dibs on the virtual
manuscript for previews! ;)

> I think the only way to add new goals and interests to a mud is by allowing
> the players to irrevocably modify the game in more ways than simply killing
> things, and even that should be irrevocable. If a player kills the evil wi-
> zard it should remain killed, not return a couple of minutes later.  If the
> players build a city it should become part of that world,  and if it is set
> to fire that too should become part of the world.  Likewise politics, know-
> ledge, tools, songs and histories should become part of the world once they
> are created, and remain a part until destroyed or forgotten.

It is not the only way - but it is one, and it works in reverse too.
Letting players become part of the theme by legends and so forth is an
astonishingly straightforward way to draw them into the atmosphere and

> I do not really expect anybody on this list  to fundamentally disagree with
> this, it has been discussed in many forms already,  but are there any ideas
> how to go about it? I mean not in the technical sense although that is part
> of it also,  but how to design a game  around this goal?  How to put checks
> and balances on the most dramatic power available to players  (to fight and
> kill each other). How can politics affect the gameworld in meaningful ways?
> How to limit expanding the detailed world by players without hindering them
> in playing -that- game? Even the recent thread on having magic something to
> be created by players  is part of this question,  for if players can invent
> new magics that too is a way to affect players,  and it requires a means to
> balance this ability,  like all powers granted to players that affect their
> world require a balance.

To summarise my angle on this whole thing; the world is what we make it,
and as mud designers, we are like toddlers with a big box of duplo bricks.

If you build it, THEY will come.

	-Matt Chatterley
"In space, you never know when to expect danger.. except when an
Enterprise away team beams down on a routine mission." -Greg Proops

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