[MUD-Dev] Re: Administrative Meddling

Jon A. Lambert jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com
Fri Jun 5 03:25:15 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On  4 Jun 98, Mike Sellers wrote:
> At 12:12 AM 6/4/98 +00-05, Jon A. Lambert 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
> >>fairness.  
> >>...
> >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. 
> I disagree.  There is a complex and potentially perilous relationship
> between any player character and overt admin-character (which is what
> you're talking about).  Some PCs will avoid the AC, some will fawn all over
> him or her, some will do everything they can to frustrate the AC or those
> who seem to be in the AC's favor -- even if the AC has not snubbed them in
> any way.  Then too, the human behind the AC *will* have preferences in PCs;
> we all like some people better than others.  Sometimes the AC will show
> conscious favoritism, sometimes it will be unconscious, and sometimes it
> not be there but the PCs will perceive it anyway.  At this level, the game
> will quickly turn from one of monster/PC killing laced with social
> interaction between players to one of bragging about getting the best
> treatment from the AC or whining about someone else seeming to get the
> same.  If you think admins burn out fast now, you can imagine how wearing
> all this would become.  
> Then there is the problem of the AC's player's ego.  Ego-bloat is, I think,
> one of the largest unspoken personal and professional problems in mud
> administration, and it leads to many other better-known ones.  Adulation is
> poison, and creating an in-play AC is like feeding the admin candy coated
> arsenic.  

There is some confusion here and it's probably my fault in the order 
of my rambling.  :)

Later in my post I said:

:: 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 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.  

The admin identity issue is a key one as it was for Habitat.  The 
Habitat papers were written by an administrator "playing" the game,
whose activity was not recognized as such.  He was one of many 
such roving hidden admins.  

> > 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?  
> Yes, it would still have all sorts of repurcussions, as above.  And of
> course, a game like this would end quickly: just as the Habitat folks found
> out with their early treasure hunts, you cannot create goals that are
> 'winnable' only by one person in a persistent-world game.  Goals that you
> are certain will take weeks or months to accomplish will be completed in
> hours or days, and meanwhile, you're alienating 99% of your player base in
> favor of one individual.  

All these goals are side-effects of simulation systems.   These are 
not necessarily single-winner specific goals.  There is no direct or
implied reward.  Whether a player has achieved a particular goal
is only in his/her own mind.  This is very different from running a 
Treasure Hunt which is just a form of one-shot quest.  None of the 
above are quests, they are analog possibilities which contain 
short-term to long-term goals.   There is no "game over".

My "collect all black and white marbles" may have been misleading.  
This could be a player's short term goal.  Why this goal would be 
chosen by a player at a given time is driven by a particular need.
It's more likely it would be "as many as needed" rather than "all" 
which may well be an impossibilty.  And I don't assume there's any
competition for such a goal, though it is possible.

I'm particularly railing against a Zork/Myst like quests.  It's not 
that I don't enjoy them, I do very much.  The problem I see is when 
such a game becomes a multiplayer one, this game design becomes 
horribly flawed because it introduces the Admin as referee and a 
whole host of rules specifically designed to restrict player 
interaction and communication.   

Now the Treasure hunt does differs from the Zork-like model because 
it is a dynamic one-shot quest and quite usable as administrative 
meddling to liven role-play interest.  I  see this as being as much 
player run as anything.  I see the primary essence of "questiness" as 
a by-product of running simulations and role-play.  The 
puzzle-solver appeal could well be encapsulated in the role of 
resource manager solving the simulation (economic/ecological).  But
since such a thing is dynamic with introduction of random events, I 
don't see administration meddling as problematic or detectable as in 
the the traditional quest 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? ;)
> Admittedly, the kill-the-monster, get-the-treasure, solve-the-puzzle form
> of mud-play is still, after all these years, pretty primitive.  Some games
> have made progress beyond this by placing additional control of the world
> in the *player's* hands.  Putting this back in the hands of an
> admin-character is taking several large steps backward.  

But you see game control here as a fixed pie.  If you allow 
additional administrative influence and control, it does not mean you 
are taking control away from players.   I say nothing specific here 
about additional player control, but it has been a key point in most 
of my posts here. 

> >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)?    
> Does any PC really _want_ to be king -- sit around the throne room
> listening to various complaints and making in-game administrative decisions
> all day?  I don't think so.

I disagree.  You stress the mundane aspects of being a king.  
Traditional muds do not stress the mundane aspects of being a cleric
thieve or magic-user.   Why would I do so for a king?  Also this 
sitting around or "idling" issue is a peculiar bias of HnS-only 
gaming.  Absence of physical or locational motion somehow means 
there's no game being played.  Role-play does not require this, 
neither do most of my favorite simulation games.  I think its quite a 
popular form of game.  

>  This might be a good place for an admin, as
> they are powerful but both bound and relatively unapproachable -- quasi NPC
> status at least.  OTOH if people *do* want this, make them get it the
> old-fashioned way.  Institute a complex familial hierarchy, and have the
> royal members start jostling with one another.  That in itself could be a
> great game for players so inclined (and the rest could go kill monsters and
> drown their sorrows in the local taverns :-) ). 

Exactly.  I have mentioned player multi-charring before but not here. 
But I was looking at administrator influences on mud games. 

> >I assume omnipotent individuals are interested in running a game and
> >will interfere (in a believable fashion) to further the interests of
> >that game.  
> That's a huge and untenable assumption.

Its the only possible or practical assumption.  The whole foundation 
and concept of FRPGs rests upon it.    

>  It makes no allowance for human
> personality (the admin's) or human perversity (the players').  In the early
> days of M59, I crafted the "Prime Directive" strategy of admin
> non-interference.  It was difficult to enforce with some admins who just
> insisted in sticking their noses in, always for "the good of the game."  In
> nearly every instance, the consequences spun out of control, well beyond
> what they imagined would happen.  All of our biggest PR headaches came from
> admins "just trying to help" in the game.  

What are administrators used for if there is a non-interference rule?
Are you talking about a technical role, like server maintenance?

> >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.  
> True.  Unfortunately, even if you manage to find the rare admins who
> *won't* act this way, they *will* be loudly accused of acting this way by
> some of the players.  This alone will perturb the play of the game.  

I don't think this is a rare trait at all.  The only way I could see 
such individuals as rare was if I were randomly picking 14-25 
year olds off the street.   Also the high-visibility issue is 
assumed.  Perhaps thats a big problem with the nature of some
styles of MUD.  The notoriety as reward might well attract such

--/*\ 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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