[MUD-Dev] Alignment

Jon A. Lambert jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com
Tue Sep 9 02:26:02 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

On  8 Sep 97 at 10:25, clawrenc at cup.hp.com wrote:
> 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:
> It started life as a polemic against Good necessarily being the winner
> in the initially referenced election.

I see.  The assumption of my election was that of a RP environment.

I also see good and evil as relative issues here.  The reverse could 
be true, Evil might be predisposed to win in certain races.
> Spooky?  I had not expected my posts to haunt the place.  <fading
> scream>

There were many fleeting shades of ideas that lurked within that 
post. You have given these wraiths more solid forms this time 
around. Now I can attempt to make grisly sport of these former 

> 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.  

Is it?  This depends on your views of how the RL counterparts 
operate. I'm cynical enough to view both as gameplay with similar 
motivations. You might be correct in assuming some parody of RL will 
result in a such a game. If you throw in the RP aspect, maybe 
not.  There is an amount of gamesplay or showmanship aspect to RPing 
also.  Many RPers (no not all) have strong desires for "visibility" 
or "lead roles".  Both player types are human after all.  Considering 
that an RPer has to depend on game simulations to cooperate with them 
in my system, they will of necessity have to adopt gameplay 
strategies to achieve positions their character's desire.  The 
strategies that are most in character for the position will be most 

Surely one can tie GOP into a realistic economic game.  It's been 
done outside of muddom.  Object of the game is to make the most 
money.  How about "Tradewars" for example?  It's simplistic but could 
be made more realistic and complex. In a political game the goal 
becomes king/emperor/master of the universe.  Remove the concept of 
killing monsters.  Make it a game of pure political power. Are you 
really sure a game of just politics could not resemble RL in any 
satisfying degree?  If one assumes we can get a reasonable facsimile 
of realistic combat in a traditional HNS mud in a GOP game, why not 
other arenas?  

>   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.

Definitely.  Destruction can be fun.  My RPing experience is about 
50/50 on both sides.  Although I know dozens of players who won't 
even consider this side of RP.  I suspect with the anonymity of the 
net the players willing to play evil for the thrill or fun is MUCH 
larger than ftf play. Perhaps this parallels the netsex phenomenon; 
this explicit activity was rare in ftf play.  I don't try to prevent 
it (unnaturally that is). In certain areas/cities traditional "evil" 
has the advantage of great but short-term gratification and short 
lifespan, while good has the less but more long-term gratification 
and longer lifespan.  The essence of traditional evil is selfishness. 
This eventually tends to piss off other players socially including 
other evil ones.  Eventually these are reflected in game play.
Is it not realistic to expect the masses of simpeeps to be "good" or 
follow the ideals of "good" especially in civilized areas?

>   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 will reread Bartle.  I don't remember disagreement with much of 
what he said on the tactical design level.  However, his 
generalizations were based on a userbase that was "typical" net 
population.  Both of us are performing a bit of "pruning" on 
prospective playerbases.  

[snipped Chris "abusing" Tron]

I've certainly used and abused Civilization and other games in other 
ways.  Calculating the shortest path to nuclear weapons, building as 
many as possible, nuking every city on the map including my own, and 
then rebuilding from nuclear winter. Not that I consider any of this 
abuse, it's just playing with the system.  Discovering ways to beat 
the system or conquering boredom of an already conquered game. 

>   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.

Certainly.  If it's something I'm interested in developing into an 
fully fleshed out subsystem, it will become so.  If it's an 
activity that goes in a direction that is deeply disturbing to my 
concept of the game and sense of fun, it will be toasted and groked.  
If its exploitation of a design weakness and I find it amusing and 
enjoyable so be it.  Players have little power in this regard unlike 
a commercial environment.  I think we may have touched upon this 
before in USENET(?).  The notion that the mud exists for the sole 
enjoyment of the players and they have certain inalienable rights.
My conclusion, if I didn't state it explicitly, was the mud exists 
for MY amusement and when that ceases so goes the mud. 

>   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.

Stop it. You're making me nauseous. ;)

>   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.

I feel better now.

For Ancient Greece, do you think I would implement deities any 
other way? ;)  

We must also acknowledge my RP aspect here though.  The types of 
players that would be considered annoying or incompetent may be quite 
different from traditional HNS muds.  In addition the 
deities/immortals punishments/rewards further the "story" while 
providing the requisite fear and capriciousness element. 

>   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.

An immortal in my game has the controls or adminstration of the 
mechanical systems imbedded within the character.  A deity is both
game mechanics and player in one being.  Quite possibly this is 
a contrived solution to the above problems.  Important game resources 
must be logged.  I fully expect bugs or holes to develop in the 
system.  I note in the Habitat treatises that they were able to 
measure the amount of gold in the world and tracking it over time led 
to discovery of discrepancies in prices in different locations.  You 
also mention your desire to be able to run queries into how many of X 
where killed by means of Y, etc.  I've always wondered how 
effectively one could administrate a mud without any notion of what's 
actually going one inside the world, especially these critical 
resources.  Muds as world simulations _must_ have administration 
tools for game balance. Otherwise you are completely dependent on 
player rumours, random snooping and logging.  I see a new thread 

[snipped shoebox analogy]

I find this quite useful.  Simcity represents to my mind a very 
similar shoebox.  It's very difficult to deviate from the state of 
stasis, the more sims introduced into the mix (each building a 
sim).  The fuller the shoebox becomes and motion (change) is reduced.

> >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?

You presume that Bubba's perversity is not ideal for the position.  
Bubba may well be very good for Sparta.  Perhaps he wishes to embark 
on a campaign of conquest of the other city states destroying all 
other game structures.  

Let's assume what I'm sure you meant.  Bubba wants to be king of 
Sparta so he can destroy the Spartan game systems.  Bubba wants to
destroy just for the sheer joy of it or because he's bored with 
his "spartan" lifestyle.

Assume Bubba by GOPing manages to extract RPs from the many 
mechanical AIs by playing each one like a fiddle.  Also, we have 
many Spartan players willing to go along with Bubba's explicitly
stated (through socials that is) goals.  Bubba gets his position
destroys the economy (ruins many player businesses, naturally),
burns surrounding villages and starvation sets in (many players die,
naturally), reduction in trade effects other city states (other 
players investments go bankrupt, naturally), etc.  

Assume the gods are completely asleep at the wheel and noone in 
their favor dies, suffers or makes last ditch appeals (not likely). 
Assume simpeeps and NPCS are passive sheep (not likely). 

How long will Bubba survive if even a small minority of disgruntled 
players exists in the world. Not very long. 

I would allow Bubba to exist and might even encourage the attempts.
But let the natural games systems handle it, naturally and 

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

I would imagine many players including myself would give Bubba a go.

If Bubba's exploitation and perversion of game systems causes them to 
fail, including life sustaining ones affecting other players and non 
players alike.  Do you think a second Bubba will be allowed to arise.

This is what I'd like to achieve.  It's not necessarily a morality 
play but a simulation of cascading effects.  

Jon A. Lambert

Nature comprehends the visible and invisible Creatures of the Whole 
universe. What we call Nature especially, is the universal fire or 
Anima Mundi, filling the whole system of the Universe, and therefore
is a Universal Agent, omnipresent, and endowed with an unerring instinct,
and manifests itself in fire and Light. It is the First creature of 
Divine Omnipotence.

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