[MUD-Dev] Administrative Meddling

Jon A. Lambert jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com
Thu Jun 4 00:12:09 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

Xposted here from r.g.m.a.  .. I wrote the following:

On 1 Jun 98 06:48:57 GMT, John Adelsberger said:
>Jon A. Lambert <jlsysinc at nospam.ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>: It seems to be a commonly held notion here that administrators
>should : not interfere, help or otherwise annoy players.  Or that all
>interference : or annoyances must be conducted with equality or
>In order to _have_ a game, you have to prevent omnipotent individuals
>from circumventing the rules.  If you want a game whose real purpose
>is social interaction, fine, but then why are you writing new code to
>replace irc?:)

Yes but those omnipotent ones set the rules, change the rules and are
usually charged with the enforcement.  Nothing wrong with this BTW. 
If social interaction wasn't a purpose of mudding there would be no
player demand for IRC capability within a mud.  Most muds are a
superset of IRC funtionality in order to "run" a game. 

I merely question is what that game is and why does it entail
supervision and/or non-interference of administration.  I do not see
the inherent problems with an in-game administrator creating a 99th
level wizard who shows up and sets up a shop doles out some magical
equipment to a few characters, quests a few characters, enspells a few
characters, etc. Hmm, this causes game imbalance and unfairness.  Why?
 Because the MUD assumes the quest solving, kill-power and equipment
collection are THE game.  If the primary game goals were to build the
biggest castle, make landfall on Alpha Centauri, collect all the black
and white marbles, attract the most worshippers, build a transmud
rail-line or aquire a monopoly in bread-baking does the above
interference have any effect at all on the game?  

Rules for the HnS or the Quest game get in the way of the social
aspect of mud games.  For example: Equipment restrictions, PK rules,
Quest solutions and more importantly having players or administrators
play near-omnipotent beings.  Yes I favor believe-ability realism
also, but running a quest and not being able to relate my exploits
seems a great flaw in some games.  What's the purpose of recoding Zork
to be multiplayer? ;)

Important social/cultural positions are also awarded based on success
in these wholly unrelated games' goals.  How does one become a king in
a typical mud?  By solving all the quests, attaining the highest
level, killing all who object, by player acclaim (voting)?    

>: Is this not a product of a game design?  More specfically, the
>goals : of players to achieve objectives defined by the system.  
>It is a product of most game designs, including MUSHes, which are
>more like what you're describing as an alternative.  There is a grand
>total of _one_ gametype that doesn't lead to such restrictions, and
>that IS the Corewars/Wizwars kind of scenario.  Even those games can
>need impartial admins to perform trusted tasks such as site
>administration, although said admins may not have characters in-game
>at all.

I would make a strong distinction between a "server maintenance" admin
and a in-game administrator.  It is certainly possible to wear many
hats. Diplomacy(TM) certainly doesn't require any referee although one
is usually used to setup the game and speed it along.  MPGNet's
Operation Market Garden would pose no problems for playing server
administrators. Now when you get into the area of role-playing, there
seems to be some objection on MUDs (capitalized) to administrator
intereference, although it occurs with regular frequency in the paper
& pencil counterparts.

>: No I'm lieing. I wasn't suprised, but I think it's a narrow mindset
> : that neglects other aspects of muds or virtual worlds that are far
>: more interesting such as politics, diplomacy, economics, and social
>: interaction which just aren't "fair".  
>Politics, etc make piss-poor game subjects if certain involved
>individuals are omnipotent and others powerless; the omnipotent
>individuals face no challenge in forcing whatever they want on
>everyone else, and the powerless individuals have no reason
>whatsoever to play; the middlegrounders, if any, are left to prey on
>each other, but only unless and until one of the omnipotent ones
>comes down from on high to wield his unstoppable force.

Doesn't this sound like most HnS muds to you.  Apply a few simple
tweaks like unrestricted PK, permadeath and then assume the power
curve of a typical game (level 30 kills level 1 always, level 1 has
zero chance of killing level 30).  Now the adminstration cannot play
or interfere for some odd reason.

I assume omnipotent individuals are interested in running a game and
will interfere (in a believable fashion) to further the interests of
that game.  Prevention of interference makes no sense at all.  It goes
without saying that administrators acting like mad power-tripping
children are no fun to play with in any sort of game.  

>This, of course, leaves many possible game settings in which such
>elements are fun and enjoyable for many people; personally, I hate
>political games with a passion, because invariably they resemble real
>life _too_ much; if I wanted to kiss ass, bribe people, and so forth,
>I wouldn't need a game in which to do it:-)

Then again some people enjoy these high-stakes games, since the
real-life placation of some user-group manager (kiss-ass) and the
negotiation of specifications with users (bribery) is so god-damn
mundane.  Flattering a virtual-world king in order to avoid being
thrown to the lions (kiss-ass) and negotiating with a troll over
bridge toll with empty pockets (bribery) form much of the essence and
thrill of low-to-high fantasy.  No everything IS politics, including
befriending that king and avoiding that troll. Game mechanisms just
suck in these areas.    

>: In fact, the resources of 
>: in-game friendship and social interaction is discouraged by many of
>the : current notions of cheating for the sake of that "other" game. 
>You : know, the old d&d/nethack/moria/rogue thing. :)
>The mud I play doesn't discourage such things at all, but it does
>have a real fairness problem(I say problem because the game has
>amongst its many unstated goals that no one group ever truly dominate
>it.)  Basically, all the sociopathic dorks congregate in one set of
>organizations and spend hours every day honing their pking skills on
>anyone they can find, heedless of their own lives, and then team up
>to kill anyone they feel like killing. The proper response, of
>course, is for the admins to say 'we don't care about proof; we've
>had 50 complaints about you in the last 3 months, and we refuse to
>believe they're all lying to us.  Adios.'  They won't do it. Oh

Note in my other posts, I favor hidden/invisible administration.  None
know who exactly the in-game administrators are.  They could be
playing any PC, any creature, any NPC at any given moment.  Subtleness
and in-game believability is key.

I think we share the same goals as far as game-balance.  No it
wouldn't be a good or fun thing for a single organization to dominate
your mud or mine either.  The situation begs for administrative
influence including that which would be outside the rules in order to
bring the desired traits of the game around into something enjoyable
and playable.  Don't forget the game becomes less enjoyable for many
of the power wielders after a point since the challenge is pretty much

Without any other power systems in place, one must resort to brute
force involvement.  Now if you had other game systems in place, player
kings could issue outlaw decrees and wield armies to crush this
powerful guild.

>One game that _would_ interest me(I'm working on a version, sorta,
>along with my other half-dozen projects, which number I keep mainly
>because it keeps me moving even when I get sick of one temporarily:)
>would be similar to the setting described by Mr. Lawrence, minus the
>complete recording of history. This sort of game might have no
>VISIBLE impartial admins, but it would most certainly need admins
>nevertheless, and cheating would be a _bigger_ problem, rather than a
>smaller problem(consider: on a typical h&s, I give you a 'sword of
>slaying.'  On a deity vs deity, I give you code I've devised based on
>knowledge of the internals of the system that nobody else has. The
>former is annoying but obvious; the latter ruins the game for

JC Lawrence's game did remind me of the WizWars type in many ways, but
less so as he's refined it over time.  I do agree with the no visible
admin concept.  But rules against arbitrary influence to spice up a
game and to influence outcomes for the good of the game (invisibly and
indirect of course) seem to tie administration hands needlessly.  

--/*\ Jon A. Lambert - TychoMUD     Internet:jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com /*\--
--/*\ Mud Server Developer's Page <http://www.netcom.com/~jlsysinc> /*\--
--/*\   "Everything that deceives may be said to enchant" - Plato   /*\--

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