[MUD-Dev] Re: CGDC, a summary

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Tue May 26 12:32:32 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Thu, 21 May 1998 17:40:10 +0100 (BST) 
Marian Griffith<gryphon at iaehv.nl> wrote:

> In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Mon 18 May, Travis S. Casey wrote:
>> On Friday, 15 May 98, Chris wrote:

>>>> The nominative value of progress is also significant.  "I know
>>>> I'm playing well becasue I keep gaining score and advancing in
>>>> levels!".  Its a self-referencing, self-supporting, and
>>>> self-defining closed system which defines both the goals and the
>>>> expected accomplishments of players.  Its actually almost
>>>> definitionally impossible to have an open-ended or user-defined
>>>> game with this sort of system in place as point rewards are tied
>>>> to activities, and thus implicitly devalue and thus damn all
>>>> non-rewarded activities.  ("Thou shalt have fun killing monsters
>>>> 'coz you get points for that, but thou shalt NEVER poison the
>>>> water supply to kill all the monsters, or build towns, or RP, or
>>>> set up wineries and blacksmith shops because you get no points
>>>> for that.")

> So the challenge of a roleplaying oriented mud is to provide an
> alternative system for levelling that does not bias towards one
> particular type of behaviour.  

Any system is going to be biased.  You can't avoid it.  You can
provide multiple biases, but that's merely multiplexing the problem,
not solving it.  The nasty bit comes when sufficient multiplexing is
deemed "good enough".  When does that occur?  



Any system which defines the concept of goals or rewards, de facto
also defines either progress towards those goals, or activities (if
only at the level of goals via the concept of products or effects)
which result in the rewards.  You can increase the number of goals, or
the variety of reward systems, but that merely(!) multiplexes, it
doesn't remove the barrier.  There are still other possible undefined
goals and unrewarded activities.  No matter how many possible goals
and reward systems you install, they will still be finite, and at some
level restrictive or counter-selective.

No surprises there.  Bah humbug.

So, instead you build in enough goals, and enough reward systems, with 
enough cross-pollination and cross-currency among them that the total
set of valuable (per player viewpoint) permutations is "large".  Yup,
carving anorexic tree god statues from ogre brains may very well not
be rewarded by the game, and will thus be selected against.  Ditto
perhaps for excellant deep sea fisherman skills, or being able to live 
an entire life balanced atop a hermit's pillar.

Ya gotta draw the line beyond which you just don't care any more.  Its 
an arbitrary.

> Doing away with levels is not going to prevent this entirely. The
> players will simply invent their own levels if the game does not do
> it for them.

Bingo.  Usenet has abley demonstrated the genitalia comparison games
-- which still go on despite Usenet having no direct support for the
feature.  Just think what would happen if the medium supported the

Amy's comments on rites of passage, and UOL's Yew's "Mayor" tag also
hold true here.  They're fundamentally the same thing in more
sanitary, socially and ego sensitive packages.

>> This is the primary reason why I favor learn-by-using-based skill
>> systems.  In such a system, players are free to define their own
>> goals (at least, as far as character advancement goes), and the
>> means of achieving those goals to is to exercise the skill in
>> question.

> I think things would even better if the game did not define an
> ultimate goal for the players?

We enter the question of the definition of a game.  Is a "game" which
has no goal (ultimate, sequential, or otherwise), still a game?
Arguably, no.  This is the crux of Bartle's dismissal of the entire
Tiny-* clan in his MUD survey.  While they're not games per se, he
never really defines either what they actually are, or what drove (and
drives) their success.

<<Sent an invitation and pointer to the archives to Bartle a while
back.  Got nothing back alas>>

My preferred viewpoint on the mechanics of games: Games consist of
goals, barriers and freedoms.  The barriers attempt to prevent
accomplishment of the goal(s), and the freedoms are the possibilities
which can be used to accomplish the goal(s).

Remove the goal and, at a mechanical level, you don't have a game
anymore.  Echoes of Bruno Bettelheim's "game" and "play"?

>>> Whilst reading the above, something just occurred to me (probably
>>> already been tried). Many MUDs have safe zones where
>>> player-killing is not allowed.  Its a simple mechanism, but seems
>>> effective. In mine, I only allow combat in the single combat
>>> zone. Similar effect. So, how about letting players choose whether
>>> or not their character particpates in the "kill things and gain
>>> levels" race?

> The problem I see with this is that unless the -game- is radically
> different a player has no real option but go out to kill things and
> gain experience or levels or whatever. There simply is nothing else
> to do.

I recall in the fairly early days of this list campaigning against
"simple mechanical equations" in MUDs.  Unfortunately WebGlimpse is
dead yet again, so I can't dig up the original texts (I'm now hosting
and archiving XShipWars list and broke glimpse when I attempted to
seperate the glimpse indexes (fixed RSN)).  

>>> Is it too much to hope that the PK-ers would tend to leave the
>>> non-levellers alone, since they really aren't worth it? Unless of
>>> course they are *really* ticked off, but then they are effectively
>>> role-playing in their killing!

> Hardly roleplaying since they use OOC emotions as a justification
> for IC actions. If it is roleplaying at all then it is very poor
> roleplaying.

This is of course the line between "functional roleplaying" and the
more classical forms of roleplaying.  Functional roleplaying is of
course a variation on rollplaying.

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...

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