[MUD-Dev] (fwd) Re: POLL: Games ruined by bad players (Player killers, tank rushers etc)

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Tue Apr 28 17:10:04 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

Some of you may have been following my tete-a-tete with Aristotle in
r.g.m.* in this thread.  There have been some good posts there:

From: Raph Koster <rkoster at origin.ea.com>
Newsgroups: alt.games.ultima-online,comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.action,comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.rpg,comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.strategic,rec.games.computer.ultima.online,rec.games.mud.misc
Subject: Re: POLL: Games ruined by bad players (Player killers, tank rushers etc)
Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 17:20:40 -0500

I was alerted to the existence of this thread by JC Lawrence, since I
tend not to haunt the newsgroups anymore... but I figured that maybe as
a major player in the whole debate, I ought to drop in a few comments.
These will largely be random, disconnected to any specific post or

Background: in the mud world, most know me as Ptah, imp over at Legend
MUD. Folks who've been around the mud newsgroups for several years may
well remember me. I used to be fairly active in the mud community. I
stopped being so once I began work on UO.

In the world of UO, I'm known as "Designer Dragon." I'm lead designer
for the product.

As another poster pointed out, it was very interesting to see the byplay
between JCL and Aristotle. :) Yes, there are differing world views
conflicting there. I'll state flatly what the design conception is: UO
is to be a virtual world. Not a virtual park, not a "resort," not a mere
venue for entertainment. FWIW, a virtual park or resort is my preferred
metaphor for muds in general, and what I regard most virtual
environments to be at the moment. From the beginning, however, UO was
conceived as more than a game. It was conceived as a world in which a
far wider range of capabilities and actions would become possible than
is possible in the current run of muds. I'm not shy about stating that
we wanted to really drastically up the ante on muds as they exist now
(which I think have been stagnant and lacking in innovation for years

To this end, UO was originally intended to

- simulate economies, ecologies, etc, as much as possible. For the mud
techies--the concept of a "reset" did not exist in UO's original
design.  The basis of the game was a Maslow-inspired simulation of basic
organizational behavior in an ecological setting.
- displace as much as possible of the administrative burden from
immortals to players. In regular mud terms this meant no imm-run quests,
no imm intervention for resolution of petty disputes (such as occupy 90%
of the time of a typical mud immortal). It also meant frameworks for
player governments, the absence of "imposed from outside the world"
restrictions on playerkilling, etc.

UO was not undertaken lightly--there's basically no system in it that
follows an existing mud model precisely, and in many ways we stepped
quite outside the "tradition" in mud design. And in a few areas of the
design, as anyone knows, we made mistakes. :) We've learned quite a lot
from it.

I can't say whether the game is "fun." I know it is deeply compelling to
a very very large number of people. We have some of those people thanks
to marketing money and the like. But we also have quite a lot of people
because UO currently offers a wider canvas than any other game of its
type, free or pay-for-play. There are no other virtual worlds, muds or
otherwise, which allow you to run a travel agency selling magical
teleportation devices you crafted with an NPC employee out of a house
you built yourself guarded by animals you tamed yourself wearing clothes
you made yourself... (etc). But at the same time I say "currently"
because there's no question in my mind that there will be other such
virtual worlds.

In designing UO we looked hard at the lessons of the past (a typical
reading list for the development team was the Habitat papers, the Black
Rose incident, the works of Rheingold, Turkle, and others, the complete
contents of the MUDDex, the Dibbell article on virtual rape, and so on
ad nauseum--I've often seen it suggested that the UO team ignored prior
art which is completely false). We knew we had the goal of making this a
real stepping stone towards virtual community. That meant that many of
the traditional safeguards, such as "pk flags" and the like, were
intentionally left out of the design. They stunt the development of
community-driven solutions to those problems. Arriving at a feasible
means of self-government for an always-changing large public who is not
generally educated about the issues involved is NOT easy. But I'd like
to think we are making good progress on a problem that I personally
consider to be critical to the ongoing development of virtual realities.

Someone in some thread or other wondered if UO was deserted. Hardly.
We're growing. :)

In some other post, someone stated that the average mud player plays
muds for five years. Unless life has changed a lot in the mud community,
this is plain false. 90% of your newbies quit in the first five
minutes--any experienced mud admin can verify this. The average player
lasts 3-6 months. Since I first saw these figures in research, I've seen
them empirically demonstrated over and over again.

The average playtime for UO for a player btw is around 4 hours each day.
Which is pretty much in line with text muds... our addicted players have
also logged hours comparable to mud-addicted players--the 30 hour
marathons and the like.

Aristotle was arguing pretty strongly for administrative intervention.
I'd be curious to know how many admins he has on his mud. :) I assume,
of course, that they are not paid. In a nutshell: human administration
at the typical mud level is, simply put, commercially impossible. That
ALSO means that it is impossible in any large-scale project, because
large-scale projects will require commercial funding. Ergo, if you want
a large audience, you must minimize human intervention...

I will NEVER say UO is everyone's cup of tea. It isn't. It is
directionless, non-linear, complex and with a steep learning curve, very
thoroughly non-story-based, and (perhaps most crucial of all) it is mass
market, so it does not attract an elite audience. I read the thread
about age... well, as we all kow, the average age of mudders has also
been dropping over the last ten years. The Internet itself has become
more mass market. And BOY does that exacerbate problems UO has faced and
that muds are, (luckily) too elitist, insular, and obscure, to ever get.

As to whether graphical muds will kill text muds: of course not. For one
thing, ALL the major developers of graphical muds are from text mud
backgrounds. I think I feel safe in speaking on behalf of all of us that
we've got too much affection for the history of the genre to say that it
will die. But will it be a niche? Almost certainly.

-Raph Koster, aka Ptah, aka Designer Dragon

J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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