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

Dr. Cat cat at bga.com
Wed May 6 16:13:10 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


John Bertoglio wrote:
> 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.

I don't think it's the case that winning and losing in Scrabble and Quake 
are in some sense "different to people that whine about losing, but just 
the same to everyone else".  Even on a purely physical level - when I play 
Quake, my pulse races and adrenalin is released into my bloodstream.  
When I play Scrabble, these things do not happen.  There's lots of 
difference.  I could ramble about psychological differences for hours, 
not all of which apply only to the immature.

I don't know that it's appropriate to discount the experienes and 
reactions of the immature, either.  Little kids often play a lot of 
games, and rightly so, as "play" originated as a learning mechanism.  In 
games that involve social interaction in particular, learning how to 
become mature can be one of the things practiced at and learned about by 
children playing it.  I'd say that unless you plan to make games that are 
only aimed at emotionally mature players, considering details of how 
immature players (of any age) will interact with the game is useful in 
order to enable better understanding of design tradeoffs, and hopefully 
better game design.

> 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.

I could perhaps agree with the a statement that "most games" are forms of 
ritual combat.  I certainly don't agree that all of them are.  You might 
make a case that charades is ritual combat, even though it's a very 
entertainment and socializing oriented play process, because one team 
wins at the end of it.  But then, there are many people that will play 
charades without the formality of keeping score, or even of having 
teams.  It's hard to find a "ritual combat" element in it then.  I've 
heard and seen the phrase "let's not bother to keep score" applied to a 
lot of other games, too, by people more interested in the process of play 
than in the element of competition.

Then there are games like Spin the Bottle, Truth or Dare, and Post 
Office, which are not combat rituals, but mating rituals.  There's other 
types of games floating around out there that aren't forms of ritual 
combat as well.

I really am starting to think that nobody on this list is interested in 
doing games that are even remotely like the kinds of games that I'm 
interested in doing.  That's ok, wildly different kinds of games can, 
should, and do exist.  It does, however, suggest to me that there's not 
much common ground for discussion between me and the rest of the list.

I don't think there's anything bad about games centered around killing, 
by the way, in case anyone's gotten that impression.  I've probably spent 
more time developing such games, and am responsible for more player-hours 
spent stabbing, shooting and blowing up stuff than anyone else on the 
list.  I still play such games (more often single-player ones than 
multiplayer, though), and might make more of them some day.  But after 
over a decade spent making 'em, I'm BORED of that.  And I'm not just 
dissapointed that my own career lacked the variety of covering a lot of 
other types of games besides combat - but that my whole INDUSTRY was 
lacking in it.  To the extent that people who's tastes might run more to 
other types of games find themselves with few choices, or none at all.

Anyway I'll keep making what I'm making, but ranting about it here is an 
excercise that doesn't really help me make any forward progress at all.  
If some of my comments are interesting or useful to others, at least 
there's some benefit to it.  But I reserve the right to pop back into my 
gopher hole at any time, and probably will soon.

> I would suggest a different solution to the problems of the city of Oasis.
[snip]
> 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.

The problem with addressing this issue by making the process of "getting 
stuff done" more time consuming and difficult is that it also makes 
various tasks that don't spoil anyone's fun more time consuming and 
difficult too.  Some hardcore gamers would enjoy a game even more if 
mounting an expedition to a dungeon involved loads of  time, effort, 
planning, coordination, resource management, etc.  However, the majoirty 
of people would enjoy the game less.

To me it's about playing to the strengths of the medium.  Make-believe 
activities on the computer can be presented as being quickier and easier, 
more time and attention being focused on the rewards than on the 
difficulties of getting to them.  Television is an extreme example - 
finding a show that brings you pleasure to watch generally only involves 
pressing the change-channel buttons, or maybe a minute or two of waiting 
for commercials to end or flipping through TV Guide.  And this medium of 
television has proven to be quite popular and profitable.

Players of RPGs generally want something that's higher on the effort 
scale than flipping channels.  They tend to have the type of personality 
that feels a reward that requires greater effort has more significance 
and/or value than one that's easy to get.  It's a validation thing.  The 
question is, how much effort is optimum for your audience, and of what 
type?  Setting aside the "how much" question, I'd say that most 
combat-game players prefer "risk" effort and/or "challenge effort" 
(whether that's a challenge to the intellect, the reflexes, or both).  
Some people even have a taste for a significant luck factor.  What they 
don't prefer is "time expenditure", in most cases.  (Some people do, of 
course).  This is why in submarine simulators that strive for realism, 
they usually have options to "fast forward" the passage of time during 
the long, boring stretches of going from one place to another between 
combats.

I'd say that heavy restrictions on travel are generally only desirable if 
you're going for a certain sort of niche audience.  For most audiences, 
or to reach the broadest possible range of users, very quick and easy 
travel is desirable.  In fact, I'll make a strongly opinionated statement 
and say that I feel that in order to maximize the potential of any mud 
over a certain size, it's essential to provide some form or forms of 
long-distance teleportation.  The only question is what forms and how 
they work.  :X)

I do suspect though, that of that small minority of the humans on the 
face of this planet that would favor an immensely detailed world with 
large amounts of time and actions and decisions required to accomplish 
thing, and huge numbers of player-hours sunk into such tasks needed to do 
well in the game...  That the members of this list have a 
disproportionately high number of people who are in that minority, many 
orders of magnitude than the composition of such people in the population 
at large.

My tastes in games used to be like that too, when I was younger.  My 
tastes changed, though.

I do think it leads a lot of the people on this list to envision and 
discuss games with levels of detail and complexity far beyond what 
they'll ever be able to manage to implement.  I know I was reading all 
the details in the (mostly snipped) description of what a raid on New 
Oasis, and every time I read another detail, two little odometers in my 
head were spinning more and more.

The first one is how many man-hours it would take to implement all the 
game mechanics, tables, etc. it would require, that would be intended to 
result in players having experiences like the ones described.

The second one is the additional man-hours spent, after all that's 
implemented and it turns out not to produce the intended results at all, 
because of a variety of imbalances, design flaws, loopholes, and other 
problems that all have to be addressed in order to make the game really 
feel and play that way.

Of course in the actual game industry, only a fraction of the hours rung 
up on my second odometer are generally spent on a game - or else none at 
all.  I guess at least it lets them actually ship product once in a while...

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MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.



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