[MUD-Dev] Re: PK and my "Mobless MUD" idea

John Bertoglio alexb at internetcds.com
Wed May 6 12:01:06 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

-----Original Message-----
From: Dr. Cat <cat at bga.com>
To: mud-dev at kanga.nu <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
Cc: pixel at bga.com <pixel at bga.com>
Date: Tuesday, May 05, 1998 1:43 PM
Subject: [MUD-Dev] Re: PK and my "Mobless MUD" idea

<HUGE amount of interesting material snipped>

>> 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
>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.

Certainly, the concept of virtual death and dismemberment is somewhat more
visual that an intellectual defeat in scrabble. But I would suggest that a
persons reaction to either is simply a reflection on their maturity,
security and general mental health. Whiners are whiners. It is just that
the emotional nature of being "killed" in a virtual world will bring you
more support (in the form of other whiners) than grumping about being
beaten in Scrabble or Chess. There is no difference.

All games are a form of ritual combat. Some games become so abstract like
Advanced Squad Leader or corporate mergers and aquisitions, that the
satisfaction comes primarily from the process of play. Winning is cool, but
the game is the thing. A mature player of any game accepts the reality and
form of defeat as part of the process. An immature player will rail at the
world for the terrible blow he has taken. It is just that if you complain
about a Scrabble defeat, people look at you like you are an idiot.

<Additional interesting comments snipped>

>> [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?]

Play a single player computer game, build a table out of wood...any
activity. What happens if you get stuck, cut too deeply and spoil a
piece...or some other problem? You fix it. You start over. You curse and
moan. But you know it is your responsiblity. An online world has an
additional dynamic.

It is the parent thing...There is someone here who can fix my problem, why
won't they. The notion here is that the builder of an online world is held
to a higher standard of conduct than other providers of recreation. There
is a level of reasonable expectation here which should be admitted. I have
a right to complain if my table is dirty at DisneyWorld. Part of what I
have paid for is a clean environment. I don't have the same right about the
table in my home when I am showing the Lion King (for the xxxx time) in my
media room.

<More snipped>

<Oasis is a player-run city built on one of the Ultima Online servers>

>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.

I would suggest a different solution to the problems of the city of Oasis.
I think the problem is largely mechanical.

Their problem is similar to city-states in medieval Europe. Getting raided
by neighbors (whose plans definately resulted in fun-ruining) was a
painfull part of life. But it wasn't a fact of every daily life. Raids
happened once in a while with full-scale invasions being quite rare. Why
was this? Organizing a raid on a neighbor is a big deal. You have to
provide transportation, coordinate people, secure supplies and weapons and
plan the attack. You are operating outside of your base so you only have
those resources you can carry. A major invasion is an even bigger deal
since you also need people to garrison your new holdings as well as lay
siege to there fortifications.

None of these constraints exist in Ultima Online. Evil (in RL) characters
can assemble nearby, equip themselves and raid the peaceful town. The can
then in a few minutes of real time be back in a city or base where they can
store loot, heal, reequip and sally forth again.

Back to "the mechanical problem".  The world is too small and there are
very low "costs" to mount a raid or invasion. The size of the world means
that getting from a place of safety to the target takes a small amount of
real time. Everything is known by everyone. There are no secret enclaves
where roleplayers can build a city or world of their own without immediate
detection and harassment.

Let's look at the nature of people whose apparent goal is to "spoil other
peoples fun." In broad terms I would suggests that they are:

--- Impulsive
--- Seekers of "immediate gratifacation"
--- Easily distracted
--- Bullies in that they don't like fair fights
--- Seekers of the "path of least resistance"
--- Rude, lewd and obnoxious

Lets wave a magic wand, make the technological limitations go away and make
the world of UO 1000 to 5000 times bigger. Lets add resource consumption
(food, drink, fatigue) based on distance traveled. Lets make road travel
quicker and travel on public transportation (coaches, etc.) use no
resources (assume the coach line feeds its passengers.) A bunch of
roleplayers get tired of the world near the established enclaves so they
mount and expedition to build a new city. Taking existing elements in the
game, they buy a large number of pack horses on to which they load the
materials they will need to build their new world. The required deeds for
buildings are purchased along with food for the journey. A large band of
NPC and player mercenaries are hired to cover the party's exodus to the
great unknown (where if they are smart, a few scouts have already set up an
initial infastructure). This trek might take an hour or so of RT to simply
move through the required number of cells, more if the party has to stop to
replenish supplies, feed the livestock, fight the odd troll or such.

Now the hardy band is in their new home. Using game tools, they deploy
their new homes and resources and begin roleplaying to their hearts
content. This makes them happy.

This news (that people somewhere else are happy) greatly upsets the
sociopaths back in the big city. They set out to "spoil the fun" of the
folks in New Oasis. However, there are real (in-game) restrictions to their
actions. The trip to New Oasis will be just as dangerous for them as it was
for the original pioneers. While they (being good barbarians) can travel
lighter than the pioneers because they are not carrying tools for a
productive life, they still need to provision themselves for the journey.
They are limited in their plunder by what they can carry back. And of
course, the return trip is just as dangerous and tedious (to kewl deewds
with short attention spans), especially if the remaining residents of the
city are hot on your trail.

This is just for a raid. "Taking over" the city of New Oasis will require a
full scale invasion which requires real planning and leadership. You have
to have enough people to hunt down and kill all the residents and then to
take advantage of the spoils.

I would suggest that the residents of New Oasis would consider such actions
as part of the "spice of life" and would accept the risk of invasion and/or
raids as part of the roleplaying reality. Planing the community would
involve "gun or butter" decisions like buying more fortifications or
ballastia and catapults (when made functional in UO) or adding a forge so
ore can be refined locally instead of having to bring in ingots by
cararvan. Even if an invasion was successful, the former residents of the
city (who unlike their medieval counterparts are not really dead) would
have a great tale to tell. Other potential outcomes could happen as well.
Say the invaders kill all the warriors, stockpile all the weapons and
control the forge and blacksmith shop. Now, the distance which worked to
protect the citizens becomes an enemy. The residents can work their way
back to civilization and rebuild their virtual lives or just delete the
character and start over.

But what if the new rulers of New Oasis get smart...they let the other
players stay and just demand tribute in terms of gold, food, etc. They
provide the population with minor weapons and armor to allow them to hunt,
etc. The barbarians recruit from the existing players and move on to try to
conquer other areas. Now, eventually, they will stretch themselves too thin
and a counter attack by the forces of "good" will be able to drive them
off...add another chapter to the book.

>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.

As I said before, killing for real is just an (unfortunate) extension of
killing for fun inside of games. I do think an online world CAN help people
learn to get along with careful structure and a well thought out reward
system. But "womp-em and take what you want" is hard coded into our genes.
We always need to be aware that the process of civilization simply overlays
a risk-reward system which favors the supression of those instincts and

>the more so if we've invented, say, nuclear weapons.  :X)

[Total OT aside]
Someday, I will figure out why people are so freaked about nuclear weapons.
They are just little boxes with big booms. Fallout is nasty but is mostly
caused by ground bursts designed to dig missles out of silos, not air
bursts designed to kill people and destroy cities. We tend to forget that
their strategic value is simple economy in the delivery of force. You are
just as dead if you are hit by a rock. Far more people died in one night
during the firebombing of Dresden and Toyko (during WWII) by the creation
of firestorms than were killed or maimed by the nuke at Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. The only issue in military terms was the former requried hundreds
of bombers and crews and the latter only one. While ethical is a difficult
word to use to describe nation-states, the possession of these weapons by
the western democracies, removed the ability of the less "ethical" (in
terms of willingness to expend human lives to achieve political and
economic ends) to threaten global peace in a major way. Israel "lost" the
73 war with the arabs. It it widely believed that the otherwise
unexplainable failure of the victors to exploit their gains can only be
explained by the credible threat of a nuclear response. The threat of a
holocoust prevents a holocoust.
[End totally non-PC, totally OT aside]

>So anyway what I'm really trying to say here is - Good luck with the baby!

Same from all of us.

>   Dr. Cat / Dragon's Eye Productions       ||       Free alpha test:
>  Furcadia - a new graphic mud for PCs!     ||  Let your imagination soar!

John Bertogio

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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