[MUD-Dev] Re: CGDC, a summary

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Thu May 14 17:27:07 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Mon, 11 May 1998 11:48:28 -0500 
Koster, Raph<rkoster at origin.ea.com> wrote:

> On Monday, May 11, 1998 10:59 AM Holly Sommer
> [SMTP:hsommer at micro.ti.com] said:

>> What, exactly, is the problem with mud schools? [snip] to make
>> negative comments about a learning center seems... myopic, IMO. Why
>> would newbies hate a mud school?

> Nothing is wrong with them per se. 

I'd change that to, "The idea is sound, most implemenations aren't,"
but I'm perhaps under-generous.

> 2) They're typically not very fictionally involving; this is mostly
> a flaw with the ones that have been made thus far. They are also
> typically pretty long; this is an issue for those going for mass
> market, since attention span with tutorials is miniscule when on
> that playing field. It's also an issue even in the mud world. I have
> almost never seen someone completely new to muds do the mud school
> first thing. Usually they want to dive in feet-first, then MAYBE go
> back to the school later.

Bingo!  The toy and obviously contrived aspects of most attempts are
also insulting enough that players seem to tolerate them only for the
sake of getting thru them for that crucial small bit of data.

  "Yes, you're potentially a hulking great barbarian lout, a latter
day Conan, but we're going to start out in this beautiful field of
pansies, and you're going to practice decapitating caterpillars and
small song birds."

Its staged, its obviously phony, and pre-calculated to be innocuous to
even the most feeble-minded player.  

Compare the "Learners mode" on many video games, for instance the
various driving games where race down city streets or around a course
and win to stay in game.  The learners mode there just uses a simpler
course with a more generous time allowance.  It is very exactly
_reality_ as it occurs in the game world, its just a more generous and
less fault-finding reality.  Another example is a head to head tank
game (forget the name, but its one of the very few current arcade
games I like), where the learners mode progresses thru a scale of
environments each of which is fully capable compared to the real game,
but is selected and constructed to emphasize a particular skill needed
in the real game (hiding behind obstacles, missile collection, etc).

Key seems to be that the learner's modes are:

  a) Unrestricted sub-sets of the full game.  They may be simplified,
and easier, but they are not sanitised, or unchallenging.  They're
just slightly toned down, not cushioned with padded walls.

  b) They're actually fun in the same manner the game is fun.  They
are merely slightly simplified versions of the real game, and thus
jsut as fun as the real game.

> 3) There's alternate methods too: Avalon has a fascinating newbie
> tutorial mode for example, wherein you are essentially put in the
> real world, but everyone else is invisible to you, and you play out
> a few pre-scripted storylines that serve as tutorial instead. The
> "guardian spirit" method is another nice tactic, as discussed here
> earlier with the (failed) "talking sword" on Worlds of
> Carnage. There's the "restricted initial area" approach instead of
> the "school" too.


I'm rather fond of the talking sword.  It has problems, but the idea
of a "wizard" or other guide form that goes along introducing you to
the world, and giving you world context as you go along is appealing.
Its non-linear, its unrestricted, its not required (you can just throw 
the sword away), its inherently context driven, etc.

Infocom's Hitchhikers use of the guide internally to the game also
seems relevant, and perhaps more useful.  I can image that a sword
constantly interjecting its comments could quickly become annoying.
The ability to gag the sword and then have it only respond to explicit 
queries could well be useful.

> So, nothing wrong with the concept as such, but I don't think that
> it's anywhere near reaching the potential it could.


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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