[MUD-Dev] Re: PK and my "Mobless MUD" idea
cat at bga.com
Tue May 5 15:14:33 New Zealand Standard Time 1998
WARNING: The following message contains references to cannabilism.
Those who have difficulty distinguishing reality from made-up stuff may
wish to stop reading now. (Those with weak stomachs should also be
forewarned that there may be typos in the following text as well!)
Raph Koster wrote:
> cf my other post re: Bettelheim. Talking on the phone for social
> purposes is "play" by his lights. However, how much of a phone
> company's revenue comes from people in the business world (in other
> words, engaging in the "game" of getting ahead?).
I don't know. But consider... Home computer games were in the hundreds
of millions of dollars in annual revenues, for the whole industry, until
just the last few years when they grew up into the $1-$2 billion range.
Console videogames (Nintendo, Sega, Sony, etc.) have fluctuated over the
years, hitting around $5 billion or more in the better years. Arcade
machines, the kind you put quarters in, have been as high as a $10
billion a year industry, but they're seriously slumping right now.
Compare this against the phone industry. The last year I saw numbers
for, if you added local and long distance revenues together, the total
was $162 billion a year. What percentage of that needs to be
non-business calls for it to dwarf the computer & videogame market?
Heck, even broadcast TV is only $40 billion a year. And for what it's
worth, I'm willing to take money from the business community too, if they
want to buy any services we provide. Their money is just as dirty as
everyone else's after all. :X)
(If anyone's interest in the comparison - online gaming is over $100
million a year now, 1997 was the year it broke that mark. Highly
optimistic research and forecasting firms like Forrester and Jupiter are
predicting it'll be over a billion in 3 or 4 years. I hope they're
right, but I suspect when you're selling reports that cost over a
thousand dollars apiece, it pays to make sure you're offering the client
something that sounds like ral good news!)
> It's interesting to note that these two hooks are almost always
> inextricably intertwined. A roleplayer who is "playing" finds
> enjoyment from it, sure, but I bet they will roleplay extra hard if
> there's some award to win that marks them as "the best roleplayer."
What I actually mentioned as hooks were "gaining money/power/items" and
"chatting/socializing". While the former has been almost inextricably
linked with the concept of "computer roleplaying game" since the early
days, when almost everything made was a D&D inspired dungeon crawl, you
really can have "roleplaying" without "pumping yourself up" and
vice/versa. Some kids might play "cops and robbers" or "cowboys and
indians" or "play house" or have an imaginary tea party. Me and my best
friend used to play Star Trek, he was Spock and I was Kirk. We made no
effort to say we had "gained a level" or "had higher phaser skill" or had
items acquired from the last time we played, or anything. We just had
different settings and stories the next time, exact same characters.
Or maybe I'm misreading you, and rather than casting my hooks of
"building up" and "chatting" as "roleplaying" and "chatting", you're
casting them as "building up" and "roleplaying". I wouldn't agree with
that characterization either. Many people will sit around and chat about
what they did at school/work today, what they ate, what movie they saw,
etc. There's no roleplaying involved in that - but there is a lot of
money in it. On every commercial online service I know of (AOL,
Compuserve, Genie, Prodigy, etc.) the chatrooms was their number one most
popular feature (and therefore, in the era of hourly fees, also their
Anyway, when I first happened upon the mud scene, I happily accepted the
labels of "combat muds" and "social muds" as the two categories the mud
world was divided up into. On getting to know it better, though, I
realized there were really three kinds. Combat (most dikus and LPs),
social (most MOOs and MUCKs and other TinyMUD derivatives) and
roleplaying (most commonly found on MUSHes, though it pops up elsewhere
at times). On FurryMUCK, there was for a time a huge tension between the
roleplayers and the socializers. In small private groups of friends,
they'd get along fine. But in the main crowded public areas, they'd
annoy each other with the conflicting assumptions "Since this is
primarily a roleplaying MUCK, when I start acting out some story in the
park, other people should play along or at least treat it like it's
really happening" and "Since this is primarily a social MUCK, I should be
able to hang around here and just chat, and not have my conversation
interrupted by people trying to play out kidnappings, earthquakes, 50
foot giants grabbing people, and wizards turning me into a newt."
We have these two groups in abundance on Furcadia (and also people who
want very much for a combat system to be added, which isn't going to
happen - at most some voluntary tools for people who want to play out
MUSH-like combats and add some perceived validity to the results, but
which can be easily ignored). The goal was always to build the central
maps to allow players to self-segregate into groups of people with
similar tastes, rather than annoy each other and generate friction by
constantly rubbing up against people with incompatible tastes and
desires. The next update of the game will be the first one where we
actually have things set up to attempt to do a decent job of it. In
addition to the categories I already mentioned, we're going to have two
R-rated areas. The first for risque' behavior, the other I realized the
need for last week when seeing some characters tossing bloody severed
body parts around in the main tavern and cooking them, it'll be called
Dusk to Dawn and will by for gory violent stuff. I'm sure the many
vampires in the game will all gravitate to it.
Anyway I think the various elements - building up power, roleplaying a
character, and socializing - are indeed very intertwined for a player
that wants to do all of them. And they become intertwined for those that
don't, in a homogenous environment the likes of, oh I dunno, say every
mud ever (just about). But I'm making an "online service", and I feel
that a significant number of players might want to participate in only
one or two of those three things, and not be annoyed by people expecting
them to participate in the rest. It's just like an online service might
have buttons on its opening menu for news, movies, and sports - or a
newspaper would have sections for them. Organize things, let people pick
and choose, rather than having everything that can happen in the world be
possible everywhere in the world because it's more "realistic" or more
"consistent". Yes, it's more consistent. But in the information age,
value is created by sorting information, not by presenting/providing it
in a highly homogenous form. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of
small minds", as the line goes.
These are the kinds of thoughts that led me to decide years ago that in
any combat-based graphic mud I'd ever do, there would be three types of
areas. Those where anybody could attack anything, those where players
could attack monsters only, and attacks against other players would do no
damage, and areas (usually towns) where it was physically impossible for
anybody to take any damage from anything. For all the talk of loopholes
like taming dragons or whatever, if you make it impossible for people to
take damage (or other negative effects of any kind) while in a town, I
don't think any clever trick or loophole is going to turn up. I also
think that the "players can attack monsters but not other players" area
could be made loophole free, if this is a primary goal from day one
rather than "let's throw in every kind of mechanism for making lots of
different kinds of stuff happen, and hey, let's throw in that kitchen
sink too!" You either leave out mechanisms like area attacks, spells to
control monsters, etc. - or if you want to do more work, you make sure
that every possible damaging action is associated with a "who initiated
this" value, and if if the fire-wall, hynotized or tamed monster's
attack, cloud of gas set off by triggering a trap, etc. was set off by a
player it can't damage any other player. Yes, you lose the ability to
have "thief screws up disarming trap on chest, entire party gets hurt
when it goes off" situation. I would posit that there are enough other
types of interesting situations in heroic fantasy that you can create a
rich and interesting experience without needing to use this specific one.
For me, it's all about A) trying to focus more on what I think the
players want, rather than primarily on what I personally would want in a
game (as most designers do). Though it is essential that there's enough
overlap, or I'll find myself bored or miserable, working on stuff I don't
like at all. And B) providing for more than one type of player, with
different tastes, rather than picking a specific set of tastes and
catering only to the specific group of players that has those tastes.
This is because I have personal, artisitic and economic desires to reach
the broadest possible audience. I do recognize that deliberately
focusing on a specific audience, even a small one, is a valid choice for
people who have no desire to reach a broader audience, and can sometimes
lead to results that are highly interesting artistically through their
greater focus and depth.
> We're in agreement, at least, that such methods are flawed. :) My
> personal feeling is that once you say, "This place is safe" that
> players will approach it with a reasonable expectation of said promise
> being met. A promise which it appears we agree *cannot be fulfilled.*
> Therefore I prefer to a) not mislead the players and b) not incur the
> inevitable hit when they realize I did so. There's also the question
> of whether making such a promise stifles the playerbase from seeking
> their own solutions,and thus taking the development of virtual
> societies a little further.
I can't agree until you define some terms better, starting with "safe".
If it means "safe from being killed", that's a piece of cake. See any
talker, or Furcadia, or wherever. If it means "safe from anything
unpleasant ever happening", that's different. In theory we could provide
"ultra-moderated world", with five moderators to every player. To
prevent even the minorly upsetting occurence of some stranger cussing at
you once and then being booted AFTERWARDS, the moderators pre-screen
every spoken remark, and you only see it if they approve it. Heck,
though, they might show an error in judgement, or ignorance of what
upsets you. Let's get rid of that "other players" concept, we only allow
one player, and he talks to and interacts with the five moderators. (Now
we have no need to provide 10, 15, 20 or even more, 5 will always
suffice!) We have them go live in the player's house for a few years
first, before we let him even log onto the game, so we make sure none of
THEM will accidentally make a remarks that offends him because they
didn't know him well enough.
Well ok, that's a theoretical construct to counter the absolutist phrase
"cannot be fulfilled". We know that neither in the commercial world,
where it would never be profitable (unless the one player were wealthy
and wanted to squander a lot of money on his entertainment... Hmmm...),
and in the free world you'd never get so much volunteer time and effort.
Still... If it's unfair to treat "can/cannot be fulfilled" as an
absolutist statemnt... Should we treat "safe" that way either? Are
there any places in the real world that people would apply the world
"safe" to, in spite of the fact that you could be struck dead by a meteor
just about anywhere? I think we wouldn't have the word "safe" in the
language if people didn't think it ever applied. And I think if you have
someone in a big stewpot with a bonfire around it, surrounded by hungry
spearwaving cannibals, and you reach a hand down from the rope ladder
suspended from the helicopter your friend is piloting and say "Would you
like me to take you to someplace safe?" that the fellow will reply "No
thanks, I happen to know it's impossible to make anyplace safe, so I'll
just stay here".
Being able to provide "safer" environments and "less safe" environments
is clearly possible, levels of safety not being equal in all cases.
Whether it's possible to climb the laddder of "safer but still dangerous"
up into a zone that could be categorized as actually "safe" depends on
where you draw that line. What level of probability of a bad event,
overall frequency of bad events, average severity of the bad things that
happen, and maximum severity of bad things that happens qualifies as
"safe"? Is 99.999% safe "safe" to you? How about 98%? 90%? 80%
The answer, or course, is that there is no one single answer. Some
people find various levels of risk more acceptable than others. Some set
out to tame the west, some preferred to stay back east. So perhaps a
really meaningful answer to "is this environment safe" can only be gotten
by comparing it to the collective opinions of A) the current player-base
of a given game, or B) the entire target audience that the creators of
the game want to convince to come play, or C) the entire human race.
Depending on what you're trying to analyze "safeness" for.
I will point out that virtual environments are well know for allowing
people to try out different sides of their personality, or try out things
they don't even know if they want or not, to find out. They can try
being less shy, more shy, a different sexual orientation, a different
gender, being the life of the party, a leader, a hero, a dishonest
cheater, anything. And time and time again, we find people trying out
things that they would NEVER try in real life, and learning about
themselves from it, feeling liberated and empowered by it, etc.
Why is this? Because the online environments are "safer than real life".
No real life environment is likely to EVER be as safe as most online
environments are. Even as "dangerous" a place as Ultima Online, where
people can brutally murder you, hack up your corpse, cook your ribs and
eat them, still shares most of the incredibly safe characteristics that
online places inherently hve compared to real life. Nobody you
encounter, and nothing they do, is going to make you die in real life
(excluding the possibilty of them saying something so startling you have
a heart attack, and presuming you don't provide your address or other
information that might let them track you down in real life and murder you).
Nobody you encounter can make you catch a disease in real life, get you
pregnant, take your real life money (excepting the game provider who has
your credit card number - wink wink), assault you, insure you, rape you,
see the expression on your face when they embarass you, know things about
your real race/religion/gender/acne that you don't want them to know...
And the ultimate freedom, if you decide your contact with someone is so
unpleasant that you never want to see them or interact with them ever
again, the likelihood of them being able to do so against your will is
lower in cyberspace than it is anywhere else.
Online environments are safer by far than anything in the real world,
even Ultima Online is. And it's possible to provide environments
significantly safer than Ultima Online. So is it impossible to make
anyplace "safe"? As I said, it depends on your definition of "safe". By
my own - yeah, you can make a place pretty darn safe. I suspect that I
also believe you can make a social environment a lot more free from
rudeness than you would perhaps believe possible - being, as you stated
yourself, cynical. Well, believe it when you see it and not before, and
I'll strive to produce that proof. :X)
> It boils down to the fact that players will attempt to exercise power
> over one another. Presence of a combat system, the ability to do
> damage to one another, whatever, will not change this.
I've seen a lot of these arguments pop up lately on the list that
"non-killing games are different only in degree and not in kind". All
the way up to the extreme claim that any competitive game is sort of the
same thing as competing by killing someone. I disagree. I think the
feeling of seeing someone surge past me from 20 points behind to beat me
at Scrabble on the last turn by making a seven letter word is SO
different from the feeling of having someone kill me in a gory spray of
blood, cook me, and eat my ribs, that the two experiences DO differ in
kind, not just in degree. While some part of the experience of being
killed and eaten does feel "just like losing at Scrabble only much
stronger", there are other parts of the experience that simply aren't
present in the Scrabble game at all.
Likewise, I don't see the game systems that have combat mechanics that
can override your desires as feeling the same as someone typing "Ha Ha I
killed you" in an IRC chat room.
Boffo swings his sword. You take 7 points of damage. You die.
Boffo is pulling your intestines out with his bare hands.
>swing sword at Boffo
You can't do that, you're dead.
Boffo is draping your intestines over the christmas tree.
>run away at full speed
You can't do that, you're dead.
This is unpleasant in some certain specific way, which could be
categorized in a certain spot in the taxonomy of unpleasantness.
Consider a social mud, which only has a "pose" command for actions.
Boffo summons a super-duper lightning bolt from the heavens and zaps you
dead instantly, then cackles with fiendish glee!
>pose steps aside, and the lightning doesn't really hit him.
Bubba steps aside, and the lightning doesn't really hit him.
Boffo pulls a machine gun out of his nose and showers you in a hail
of bullets, turning you into a pile of hamburger riddled with hot lead!
>pose catches all the bullets in his mouth, spitting them back at Boffo
and cutting his suspenders, revealing his boxer shorts.
Bubba catches all the bullets in his mouth, spitting them back at Boffo
and cutting his suspenders, revealing his boxer shorts.
Steve says "This is pointless."
Boffo hacks you to pieces with his magic sword of no-takebacks, leaving
you irrevocably dead no matter what you type to say it didn't happen!
>say You're right, I should just ignore what he poses and not respond.
Let's get back to our conversation about the guild we're gonna start.
You say, "You're right, I should just ignore what he poses and not respond.
Let's get back to our conversation about the guild we're gonna start."
Steve says, "Are you using tinyfugue? Type /gag Boffo and you won't even
hear him anyway."
I'd contend that this is unpleasant in an entirely different way than the
previous example. And that the differences between them are significant,
I'd also contend that the nature of pests and pestering in the latter
case makes it far easier to set up criteria to distinguish them from
people who are doing things that are "ok", and to provide mechanisms to
filter, block, or prevent that kinda stuff out of the world without also
removing a bunch of the desired behavior.
I think that in a practical sense, rather than an absolutist one, the
statement "There's a maximum level of safety that you can reasonably
expect to be able to provide" applies to a combat mud. And it ALSO
applies to a social mud. However, what that maximum level IS differs
greatly between those two cases, and is much, much higher in the case of
the social mud. Also, it's somewhere in between for combat muds that
allow some mechanism for partially or totally opting out of player vs.
player combat (or even player vs. monster combat, by staying only in
towns or whatever), as opposed to muds where combat is allowed everywhere
always against everyone.
> Now, the server
> may attract a different audience because of its stated rules--eg, less
> people seeking to kill, or possibly MORE seeking easy targets--but the
> underlying dynamics will not change.
Only at the broadest levels. Like "if you put a bunch of people together
they'll probably talk to each other" and stuff. Highly different
audiences will have highly different social dynamics. I'm sure if I
logged onto that MOO that's set up for astronomers to collaborate and
communicate on, or the educational MOO for elementary school kids that's
set on a space-station, I would find drastically different dynamics than
I would upon logging onto one of the big pkill-arena oriented muds. I'm
afraid I can't possibly see the dynamics as "unchanged" there. Perhaps
you're talking about a narrower range of the field of muds than I am.
But even at that, I feel the social dynamics in Furcadia are drastically
different than those in Ultima Online, and I've from both players who
love UO and hate Furcadia, and players who hate UO and love Furcadia.
They seem to feel very strongly that there's totally different dynamics
there, and I think they're right.
> I am interested in finding
> solutions to that dynamic, not in providing a stopgap measure. I think
> said solutions will HAVE to arise from the players, not from a
> supposedly-all-powerful-but-actually-flawed "God" up in admin-land.
I'd say "one of the dynamics in human experience" rather than "that
dynamic" - shopping malls cater to a different subset of human desires
and dynamics than sports arenas, and I think different online services
and/or muds will cater to more than one also, rather than there just
being one single one we're all aimed at. That aside - I find the "from
the players vs. from the staff" dichotomy to be as artificial and
misleading as the "heredity vs. environment" debat or "the mind/body
problem". You need both, and you want them to be working together well.
Imagine someone with a good home environment set up, good parents, a nice
school ready... But they're born with no DNA in their body. Ooops! Or
someone with great genes from smart, healthy parents, but they grow up
floating in a white sensationless void. Nope. As for the mind/body
problem, well, I think brains are a body-part.
Boffo slices Bubba's head open with an ax. Brains splatter on the walls.
Yup, it's a body part. Thanks Boffo. Anyway, I really think an ideal
solution involves a combination of staff and players. I think that I
know how to do this well, and will learn how to do it better - time will
tell. I don't want to sit around rambling about it, I'm just going to
work on doing it - for years and years and years. I will say that I
think some of the strongest early knowledge and experience with the
techniques I'm trying to use and refine comes from the world of the
sysops of SIGs on the big commercial online services like Compuserve and
Genie. There's very little cross-fertilization between that body of
ideas and knowledge and that of the mud development community, though.
Oh well, one more advantage for me, maybe. ;X)
> [Total aside: the fact that virtual environments by their nature will
> ALWAYS have a "god" lurking out there--even if it's only the guy who
> has the power to turn the machine off--introduces an often baffling
> social dynamic into the design. Thoughts, anyone?]
Thought number one - I hate how it's made some people react to me -
really shy people even going so far as to say they're terrified of me.
People asking if I can view everyone's whispers (I can't) or assuming I
have a log of everything anyone ever said (I don't). Still, for the most
part, actually being present in the game defuses a lot of that (common
quote, with apologies to Douglas Adams, "I'm just this cat you know"
(comma deliberately omitted, on most occasions, for artistic porpoises)).
And it gives people the pleasure of interacting with the maker of the
game, feeling like their opinions and concerns and suggestions are really
being heard, and supports my general methodologies for making the keeping
of order a joint staff/players thing, rather than assigning it to one or
the other or having a sharp division about who does what.
People would love it to death if Richard would spend a significant amount
of time playing Ultima Online. A pity that sort of thing just isn't his
cup of tea enough for him to spend large amounts of time doing it.
Failing that, it's worth considering having Lord British actors run
around, like the multiple Mickey-Mouse suited people at Disneyworld, or
all the department store Santas, building up the name recognition more
heavily of other staff members who DO get on a lot, or even giving
players titles and/or minor powers that make them feel like staff to
players that interact with them.
Powers most players don't have do distort the game experience, by the
way, and I think the BEST creators have to spend most of their time
living in the game world experiencing it exactly the way the players do.
So that anything that sucks about the game world is something YOU want
changed because YOU can't stand it and must improve/fix it, as soon as
possible! It's far, far too easy to let an issue be a lower priority
than it should be, or even not deal with it at all, because it's only
bothering all the players and isn't bothering you at all when you go into
the game world. I've learned this lesson time and time again in the game
development world, where often developers will test their game only on
super-souped-up computers and never FEEL whether or not it sucks on
average performance level type computers that the typical consumer has at
that point in time.
I know I play Furcadia over a 28.8 modem. Sometimes I play as alts, that
don't even have access to the paltry selection of sysop commands that are
in so far. (I will confess I cheat sometimes and look in the system logs
to see when my fiancee' was last online. The players don't have a
"laston" command yet, and I feel my cheating robs me of some of my proper
level of motivation to add one...) And sometimes I play on my old
486-33. Which can actually handle the game reasonably well. :X)
> I believe that if we did this, and it didn't work out as they had
> hoped for, they would blame us for "not doing it right." Without
> understanding the underlying dynamic.
Since you never have this problem with the current game, I can see why
you wouldn't want to make this change. ;X)
Seriously, you have this problem already, and yes you'll continue to have
it with a no-pkill shard, but so what? What if it turns out that the
percentage of people complaining about their expectations not being met
is lower than it is on the pkill shards? What if it's roughly around the
same level, but now you're catering to TWO groups of players, with two
different types of tastes, rather than one?
I still think you could keep this fairly minimal, too. Plaster huge,
bloody-red dripping letters on the opening screen that says "WARNING.
This shard doesn't eliminate the possibility of getting killed by other
players, it just reduces it beause now they have to think up weird tricks
like turning tamed dragons loose next to you. Have a nice day."
Or adopt one of my more drastic solutions, and turn off ALL ability for
anyone to take damage anywhere from anything. You should probably then
shut down all monster generation, and require people to earn money from
mining, tailoring, etc. (I imagine you'd leave in chickens, cows, etc.
for hunting and getting hides and food and the like. The fact that
people could kill a cow or rabbit every time and never get killed by it
wouldn't upset their expectations too much - in fact it might be more in
tune with them than the fact that you CAN be killed by them now.) Stamp
the title screen with "This is the way it is on this shard so listen up
and then don't complain later that it wasn't what you thought it was".
With something that clear and straightforward, I don't think you'd get
many people complaining because of incorrect expectations. Some would
say "It's no fun for it to be this way", to which you say "try one of the
other nine shards, duh".
The people that say "The way you did the other nine is wrong, and this
way is wrong too, here's MY brilliant idea and you should have done it MY
way you fools!" Well... All those people are already saying that to you
anyway, aren't they?
You really ought to do this. And I stand by my prediction that
management there will never go for it. That's ok, I won't mind having a
larger share of the combat-disliking market for Furcadia. :X)
The Oasis example you cite is interesting. I'd just contacted the
founder of Oasis myself last week, and asked him what changes he would
want in game mechanics to make it more practical to found and run
player-built cities. He said it all really boiled down to needing better
ways to deal with the problem of people who want to spoil other people's
fun. I just smiled when I read that, because I think at the core of it,
that's one of the two fundamental goals of Furcadia. One is to provide
tools and encouragement to get the players excercising their creativity
and sharing it with others. The other is to provide tools and education
that do the most to minimize the amount of spoiling of people's fun that
the jerks can accomplish. I'm sure that most muds have that as something
on the list of stuff they want to do, but I think very few would consider
it one of their core priorities.
Me, I still think that in a world where people kill each other for real,
it's pretty important to help them learn how to get along better. All
the more so if we've invented, say, nuclear weapons. :X)
So anyway what I'm really trying to say here is - Good luck with the baby!
Dr. Cat / Dragon's Eye Productions || Free alpha test:
Furcadia - a new graphic mud for PCs! || Let your imagination soar!
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