[MUD-Dev] Alignment

clawrenc at cup.hp.com clawrenc at cup.hp.com
Mon Sep 8 08:29:20 New Zealand Standard Time 1997


In <199709050330.WAA27771 at dfw-ix12.ix.netcom.com>, on 09/04/97 
   at 09:51 PM, "Jon A. Lambert" <jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com> said:

>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.

I'll note for the wary here that I view any system which is dependant
on a popularity campaign as inherently farcical and impracticable.  As
such idiocies, they are fine fodder for games to play with.

>> 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.  

It started life as a polemic against Good necessarily being the winner
in the initially referenced election.

>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). :)

Spooky?  I had not expected my posts to haunt the place.  <fading
scream>

Yep, I'm heading for several items:

  1) There has been much discussion here of social and political
systems which attempt thru game-internal mechanisms to shadow or
emulate their counterparts in RL.  I now strongly doubt if this will
work with a GOP player base as the motivation is so massively
different from the motivation of the players in the RL structures.  

  2) For the RP tainted, Evil would seem a heck of a lot more fun to
play with than Good.  As I mentioned, who remembers Keaton in Batman? 
Who remembers Jack in the same movie?  Who ware more "fun"?  This has
some interesting extensions even if you move away from Good/Evil
contructs.  Deconstructionalists are a *lot* more enjoyable to play
with than contructionists -- same principle at heart as Good/Evil.  In
the game Lemmings, in a lot of ways it was a lot more fun obliterating
the poor wee beasties, and putting them thru terrible trials and
intricate traps than it was hauling their sorry arses to the door to
get to the next level.

  3) Games atttempt to define goals.  This is implicit in the
definition of a game as consisting of goals, barriers, and freedoms. 
Its tough to ensure that the goals you attempt to design as a
game-designer in a MUD are really going to be the goals your players
assign themselves.  Bartle approached this area in his MUD survey with
his panning and dimissing of the Tiny-* clan as not games but merely
over-designed telephones.  

  I've discussed this area a few times previously.  Mostly I recall
mentioning the arcade game Tron and how I redefined its goals:  In the
game you stood on one of a number of circular disks that floated at
one end of a cuboid room and threw frisbees at your opponent who
similarly stood on disks at the other end of the room and threw
frisbees at you.  The nominal goal was to knock the other fellow off
his perch on the disks and thus "win" the level, and ultimately the
game.  This is a fairly simple and obvious goal.  I didn't play it. 
Instead I noted that when your frisbees hit his frisbees they mutally
exploded in a loud "CRACK!", and you got a lot of points.  I also
noted that this was a lot more challenging than merely knocking him
off his perch (which quickly became a simple speed question as the
game rate increased).  Ergo, I changed my game goal to staying on each
level, destroying his frisbees without ever touching him diredtly for
as long as I could.  I think the longest I ever played was just under
an hour and a half on one quarter, during which time I managed to get
as high as level 6...

  The implication here is that you may define "collect lotsa money",
or "collect biggo weapons", or whatever as your game goals. but its
quite likely that your players are going to pick on doing something
else entirely *IF* they consider it more fun.  Add in the strong
social element implicit in MUDs, and once one finds that "other goal",
its quite likely he'll drag the rest of the player base in that
direction as well.

  Recently I noticed that if one asks my son where his belly button is
he'll always look first, find it, and then say, "There!".  This is
even if he already has his hand on it from your having asked him 5
seconds previously, having played with it the whole time since.  While
this is of course a cause for much laughter in the family, it
illustrates the point of the "fun" not necessarily having anything to
do with the "goals".

  I also recall a certain dwarf on a bridge in MIST (? may have been
MUD1 or Laser) where one of us discovered that if you stood on the
bridge and did nothing but jump up and down the drarf would draw his
sword and run about shouting imprecations and mangled version of
previous player comments it had overheard.  This turned into a major
game and gag within the game and was high on the list of mus-visit
sites for newbie tours.

  4) Historically, MUD aministrators and IMMs have been asked to play
the Good Guys.  Per r.g.m.admin they should be kind and caring and
considerate, and willing to restore player accounts and lost EQ at a
whim, should be happy, and should offer mental salve and an endless
ear for all those times the big mean nasty monsters somehow,
freakishly, win and slaughter the poor unassuming over-armoured
behmouth players with +d10 accoutrement.

  Of course r.g.m.admin also suggests that this is not quite always
true in practice.  Lorry (MIST IMM and Admin) clearly proposes that
admins should be capricious, evel-minded, nasty, profane, easily
provoked, cruel and petty only at the best of times.  The rest of the
time they should be much much worse/(better).  Bartle implicitly seems
to support this with his comments on creating wizard heirarchies,
ensuring annoying or incompetant mortals were perma-deathed before
they got too far, etc.

  This echoes #2, but extends the argument to the challenge of the
game.  MUDs are inherently mechanical.  Mechanical systems are
implicitly easy to beat once one has learned the "trick".  There's
always some sort of basic formulae which can be followed to "success"
within a mechanical system.  If you don't want this, a major portion
of your system must then be non-mechanical -- ie heavily influenced by
players or the Admins.

  Unfortunately players can't really be trsuted to do this.  Their
goals allign with their "success" in the game.  Therefore *not*
permuting the game away from their assumed basic formulae is to their
advantage.  Even if you add various forms of feedback into the system
(XX wins big therefore some YY must lose big to maintain equilibirum),
all you've really done is added some oscillations to the steady state
that already exists, and added a competitive edge to the already
present basic formulae.

  Thus, it is left to the admins.  They have no vested interest in the
game mechanics or their impacts on player's and accomplishment of
in-game goals.  They can freely be rogue elephants, or the looney
bearing the steel football on Airforce One.  They can, with a little
imagination, inject real randomity into the system.  They are utterly
unpredictable at base within the game as they have no interest in
winning the game.

  Thus in a military arena they would be the Isle of Togo declaring
war on the USSR and (nearly?) winning, or in a Monty Haul the Newbie
who wanders in, slaughters Tiamat with a bodkin and crashes the
gold-economy by dumping the entire hoard on the market, or in Lorry's
case, makes an implicit function of the formulae of the game "ensure
Lorry doesn't wipe me" when Lorry is known to be a random number
generator.

>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.

Agreed.  One of the hopes in this is that the number of sub-games and
goals and the various attempts to achieve them by divers players will
create a sort of cross-synergy to the game making it appear (if not
be) a lot more complex and interesting than it really is.

This can be a difficult thing to craft.  Too often the game devolves
into a loose mesh of sub-games which cross each other rarely, and
actually effect each other little.  Interestingly enough if the game
designers concentrate too heavily on the cross-connects, then instead
a steady-state is achieved.  There is so much cross-activity that
nothing really changes.

  Analogy:

    1) Take a shoe box and put two table tennis balls in it.  Shake
the box up and down only.  The balls will occassionally bounce off
each other, but will largely just bop up and down between the box
walls.  This is the case of the too-few cross-connects.

  2) Take the same shoebox.  Now put in 50 table tennis balls.  The
box will be not that far from full with balls.  Shake the box any way
you want, as hard as you want.  The balls will hit each other a lot,
and they will make a lot of noise.  However they won't really move
very much.  Mostly they'll sort of rattle in place.  This is the case
of too many cross-connects.  There are so many cross-connects that
everytime something changes something else changes to put it back.

There's a delicate balance in there where the balls rattle well,
bounce off each other a lot, and very very rarely spend any time
merely bouncing unhindered between the sides of the box.

>Along with the "game" activity, there is social activity.  I would 
>venture that the above "evil" character is having "fun" primarily 
>through social interaction.  

Absolutely.

>> 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?  

A more telling question:

  You have 50 rank points you can freely assign.

  There is a position (whatever) up for grabs within the game.

  Bubba has a very perverse imagination and has some ideas for what
he'd like to do if he got the position.  His activities will result in
demolishing many other game structures, causing bankruptcy, starvation
etc etc.  But the ride up to the fall looks like being a real hair
raiser, full of interesting twists and clever features.

  Boffo is much more staid and promises to coninue things largely
unchanged and in a predictably "positive" and constructive manner.

Who do you give your RP's to?  Why?

Now you are Bernie beer swillin' redneck, who do you give your RP's
to?  Why?

Aside: I'm *really* curious here.  What could possibly be descirbed as
"spooky" about that post?  <<baffle biting>>

--
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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