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

J C Lawrence claw at kanga.nu
Sun May 24 22:55:43 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Sun, 24 May 1998 13:13:05 +0100 (BST) 
Marian Griffith<gryphon at iaehv.nl> wrote:

> In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Fri 15 May, J C Lawrence wrote:

>> On Tue, 12 May 1998 22:16:13 -0700 John
>> Bertoglio<alexb at internetcds.com> wrote:

>> > From: J C Lawrence <claw at under.engr.sgi.com> 

>>> From: Dr. Cat <cat at bga.com>

>>>> I'd argue not.  The sheer overcrowding of UOL creates something
>>>> of a hot-house environment.  Much like your fruit flies --
>>>> things breed faster when they're hot, sweaty, and can't escape
>>>> each other.  Interestingly enough this experiement has been done
>>>> with rats.  They breed like rabbits, and eat and kill each other
>>>> almost as fast.

> This does not necessarily make it a good idea for a game does it?

No, it doesn't.  Equally however it does not mean that its a __bad__
idea for a game either.  

A rather glorious if contrived comparitive is Frank Herbet's Dosadi
Experiment (one of his better, and particularly fascinating to read
immedate after Heinlein's Friday).  Among other things, the world of
Dosadi was pastulated as an epitome of competition and ruthless
function.  It was not a pretty world, or a pretty construct; in many
ways it makes Mad Max seem utopian -- however its pretty easy to argue
that it would make on hell of a game if yuo get sufficient controls
over body language.

I wouldn't argue that Doom is much of a game either -- certainly its
not one that holds my attention.

The related problem of course is that as much as we may measure our
game designs against what we like in games, and what we pre-suppose
would be fun, we have the errant problem of being on the inside with
no possible way of getting out.  We can't see the forest for the tree
because we know far too much about the trees to be comforatable, and
also happen to be right slap in the middle of the thicket bit of the

I don't know what UOL's attrition rate is.  I assume its high -- I
don't know of a product in the entire gaming industry which doesn't
have an abyssmal retention rate (loose numbers I've heard is that 10%
is considered incredibly high).  I also don't know what their gain
rate is -- the apparancy from their continued growth in server/shards
is that they are growing, which also indicates that their gain rate
exceeds their attrition rate.

>> Lets say UOL started with a truly enourmous world with few centers
>> of population and great dangers inherent in striking off into the
>> wilderness.  What would happen?  I'd wager than endless streams of
>> players would gleefully wander off into the wilderness, would die
>> there, and would then give up.

> You could of course tell them that the world outside the citywalls
> is a dangerous one, and provide more safe, but slower, methods of
> traversing that dangerous area.  

The problem with this is that it assumes that players value their game
lives.  Raised against a DOOM background, life is expected to be cheap
and endlessly replaceable.  The presence of healers and ressurection
ensures that life remains at least fairly cheap.

So, leaving the city and striking out into the bold lost yonder may be
fatal?  Big deal.  A few mouse clicks later I'll have a new character
and can go do something else.  While I have no survey data to back me,
my suspicion says that a very large (and key) precentage of players
would so head out into death's jaws.  Why?  Because it is there, they
keep telling you that there's nothing out there and warning you
against it, so that means that the MUST be something seriously k00l
out beyond the woods and mountains.  After all they wouldn't have
spent all that time and money to put the areas there if there wasn't
anything there.

A more subtle problem would seem to relate to the problem Raph related
with being a fisherman on UOL.  Players have the inbuilt computation
that "invested effort or time" must equal a gain or prioit in the
game.  The idea that they could sit about all day and catch fish, and
then find that they couldn't sell those fish for more than peanuts
*really* ticked off many players.  If they could do it, it must be
profitable, and it must be fun.

The fun bit is what bites here.  Wandering off into the wilderness,
despite the warnings, may or may not be fun.  Wandering off into the
wilderness and dieing, alone, is not fun.  There are no sunsets to
ride into, and there certainly are no greater glories out there in the
lost wilderness.  

> Trade caravans have been used to this end for many centuries haven't
> they?  There remains a problem with the reduced attention span of
> the typical player, but the travel itself could take lots of time
> and become an adventure in itself.  I know this has been talked
> about before on this list. In fact, players could even set up shop
> as a caravan, hire guard (players or otherwise) and transport goods
> and other players between the densely populated cities. Their game
> wouldn't be the same as the players, finding safe routes, managing
> their trail, supplies and security where the city players are
> interested in the same things as they are now. Or perhaps other
> things as well, like ensuring the caravan arrives as planned or the
> city must do without some amenities like food.

Now if you had pre-established caravan r0outes, with pre-existant NPC
run caravans etc already being run with all the structures and other
supports in place, yes, this would be extremely attractive.  You could
also (likely) afford to do very little fleshing out of the wilderness
for more than a mile or on either side of all routes and about all
city borders.  

Urk.  Scenarion:  Man embatteled by the environment.  The external
environment is both hostile and implacable, engaged in a never ending
assault upon man and his structures.  Leaving the protected confines
of the compounds and trailways exposes the individual to the
non-existant mercies of the marauding native life (ie they die,
quickly, painfully, gruesomely).  

There was an SF novella based on this premise where the native life
was partially empathic, picked up on the human settler's hostility to
the alien life and reacted against.  The result was a case of endless
war against the environment where the alien life fought Homo Sap to a
standstill and held him there, the battle front wavering slightly over

>> There's precious little of a _game_ nature to keep them in the
>> population centers.  There is quickly monotonous fun in exploring
>> the wilderness where no virtual foot has tread before.

> It could also be a matter of teaching.  

True.  The problem of couse is how to teach (or hook for continued
play) a new player within those first few critical minutes.


> But probably it would
> require a change to the game.  If going out and dying in the
> wilderness means that you have to resurrect your character and start
> again then there is not a lot that prevents players from exploring
> in suicidal mode.  

I've certainly used many throw-away or guest characters in this way.

> If a corpse is required to resurrect on the other hand, then
> explorers would become more cautious I would wager.

Depends on th expense of character creation.  If its cheap enough
they'll just create a new trash character and see what they can find
out with him before he suicides.

The attack of life upon the universe.  It attacks, is beaten back,
retreats, recoups, analyses its efforts and advances again for the new

> One of the great things that kept people bottled up for so long is
> the knowledge that if they left there would be no returning.  The
> colonies were a one way trip for both the volunteers and the forced
> settlers.  And the inherent danger meant that only the desperate
> would try. While you can not recreate that kind of desperation in a
> game something like it would definitely help.

True.  The really tough bit is convincing them that they are better
sticking it out than either abandoning the game or creating a new
character in more charming circumstances.

>> There is a simpler problem.  The mass of people so motivated is not
>> large and not cohesive enough that any attempt they make will
>> survive.  They go out, they fizzle.  They can't afford to have them
>> fizzle.

> But is not the chance that the effort fails part of the risk they
> must take?  

Yes, however the game operators can't afford to have it fail as it
will both discourage future efforts and rapidly convice them that the
game is both pointless and "unwinable".  

The pidgeons have to win -- even if it isn't fair.

(Aphorism #397)

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

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