[MUD-Dev] Affecting the world

clawrenc at cup.hp.com clawrenc at cup.hp.com
Thu Sep 18 12:16:17 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

In <199709171517.IAA07569 at user2.inficad.com>, on 09/17/97 
   at 08:53 AM, Adam Wiggins <nightfall at user2.inficad.com> said:

>I know it may be a bad word on this list, but don't forget about the
>dikus!  This is a fundamental problem I've always had with LPs -
>cooperation is not only not necessary, but it's often frowned upon. 
>On any diku worth its beans, 'soloing' is usually pretty
>unproductive, and in many cases there are puzzles, quests, and fights
>that you just can't get past without large groups of people.  (See my
>previous post about moving the rock...) On some of the bigger ones,
>the group leader practically becomes the general of a small army.  A
>good leader is highly useful for any size group, but once you get
>over twenty or thirty members, it will disintegrate into chaos
>without a well-organized, knowledgable, patient leader...

Without straying into commenting that I don't find such structures in
MUDs "fun", I think this illuminates a more basic and interesting

  What percentage of a player's attention while playing a game should
be directed to the social/cultural structures within the game-world,
as versus directed at the game-world itself?

Note that I am distinguishing between the social structures among the
players themselves, and the in-game social structures

If the game is chock-a-block with such large-gang-required tasks, then
a significant portion of the player's attention will have to be
devoted to his placement and participation is such gangs.  Similar is
true for the political and other such structures (kings, earls,
armies, guild leaders, etc) that have recently been discussed here. 
If you live in a world where there is a constant public and
personally-effecting (ie they affect your character or character's
abilities/actions significantly) fight for placement in the various
in-game social structures, then of necessity, players are going to
have to pay attention to it as part of playing.

This recalls Raph's assertion that you'll get social structures in a
game by default, and in fact can't avoid them.  Should your
social-game be predominate over your mechanical game, or should it be
an adjunct to your mechanical game?

>The approach we (that is, Orion and I) are using is simply to make
>the players be small components in a very large world.  Although I
>don't think a 'solo' player would necessarily be bored, they'd find
>that they have a hard time having much of an influence over the
>world, or achieving major goals. This is drawing on the same
>principle illustrated above, except even more so.

There is also the approach of making player characters tiny in
comparison to the non-social world structures.  The base idea is that
there are forces and structures common in the game-world which so
out-class anything a player can muster as to render them fleas against

I have two approaches to this:  Making players a prey species within
the game (game structures actively prey on players), or making the
world oblivious to players but having common world mechanics forces
out-class players by many orders of magnitude.

An example of the first case might be: 

  Players are a preferred food source for dragons, basilisks,
phoenixes, gryphons, etc.  The world is heavily populated with such
predators.  Players have little defence against any of them.  Players
have a tough time hiding from them as well.

For the second case:

  The world is modeled on Clement's "Mission into Gravity", and due to
internal tidal forces is also in a constant state of volcanic eruption
and earthquake.  Volcanoes will toast players by the thousand without
ever noticing.  Nothing can stop or accurately predict an earthquake. 
Gravity sheers and tides will rip players to pieces purely
mechanically in the same way that a dropped apple falls to the ground. 

In both cases the players are insects compared to the base mechanical
structures of the world they inhabit.  There are no over muscled
Conan-wannabes who can dominate the world.  The "biggest"
king-of-the-hill player really only summates to a more tasty morsel
for a dragon, or yet another carbon crisp attempting to surf a magma

To date I've mainly concetrated on making players a prey species.  

The problem here is balance.  For playability you can't have any
careless/ignorant player getting offed by the system willy nilly. 
Newbies don't like it when their first 10 characters are eaten within
5 minutes of their taking their first step.  

My approach to this has been to make the system only sensitive to
players who try and rock the boat.  As long as they don't try and get
more than a teensy amount of power, or change the world in more than
inconsequestial ways, the predators of the system will ignore them. 
As soon as they stick their head above the crowd more than that little
bit, they start to be identified as prey.

This aligns directly with my base theme of players being descended
dieties whose task in-game is to regain their former stature and
capability.  Players start out as comparable to RL humans in most
ways.  They can grow beyond that to become veritable gods.

A more accurate model:

  Players are prisoners in a jail.  After all, someone reduced them to
their current miniscule stature, and that someone has an interest in
seeing that they don't escape that jail.

  Players who remain safely within the confines of the jail, don't dig
tunnels, don't rattle the bars, don't scream too loudly, don't try to
escape, are model prisoners and can largely be safely ignored by the
system.  They're not going anywhere.  They are content with being
merely human.

  Players who do not remain safely within that norm attract attention
from the system.  They may potentially escape.  They may in fact go
and attack the Big Baddie who helped jail them in the first place. 
They will get whacked and stomped back down at every opportunity.  

Free, or partially free prisoners are dangerous -- and the games
treats them as such.  The game will also actively encourage players to
lead themselves back into jail, to engage on red herring courses of
action which don't lead to freedom, but only to greater depths of the
trap and subjugation.

All of this is of course hidden.  Players can't see their direct
progress.  They have no awareness of the scales involved until they
are significantly along the way if they decide to start (you don't see
the mountain you are climbing until you break out of the trees and are
near the top).  Instead they are taunted, tempted, and lead by real
and fake carrots on the end of a stick into climbing out of the pit,
or jumping back in.

The aspect of dominating the players with the base world forces is one
I've been playing with but haven't gone very far with.  I *really*
like the idea, I just haven't thought of a system or model I like yet.

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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