[MUD-Dev] Re: CGDC, a summary

Adam Wiggins adam at angel.com
Fri Jun 5 18:27:21 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


On Thu, 14 May 1998, J C Lawrence wrote:
> Adam Wiggins<adam at angel.com> wrote:
> >  - Indocrination.  Air Warrior has a training school he cited as >
> >  being an obviously retrofitted tack-on, and UO has nothing at all,
> >  but rather just dumps you into the big bad world.  I guess he
> >  wanted a Merc mud school :)
> 
> This point is arguable if only in its definition and scope.  It
> depends on the definition of "obviousness", as well as being suspect
> in open-ended or user-defined games.

Are any games really obvious, except those ones that you have direct
experience with?  Space Invaders was confusing to someone who had never
seen a video game before; those little instructions they put on the side
of arcade games ('Attempt to destroy enemy ships' 'You get three lives'
'Try to defeat the mothership') that seem ridiculous now used to be pretty
damn useful.

> How much "indoctrination" is there for DOOM?
> How much for multi-player DOOM?  How much is actually needed?  For a

I would argue that people get indocrinated to it before they ever play it.
Honestly - if you dropped someone who knew nothing of first-person
shooters (ie, they've been in a comma since before Wolfenstien 3D) and
dropped them into a multiplayer fragfest, I bet they'd be hopelessly
confused.  They would probably get blown away a few times before they even
figured out the controls and would quit in frustration.
Single player doom starts out very slowly for a reason.  The first level
has like two enemies on it.  Even so, I died a couple times there the
first time I played it.  And that's considering that I was a reasonably
acomplished Wolfenstien 3D player already.

Multiplayer is the same as the regular game, except your opponents are
smarter and faster and have bigger guns.  It's still not the easiest thing
to drop into, but assuming you already have a complete mastery of the
single-player game, the multiplayer stuff is more like a tack-on.

> no central putpose, or even no actual game-purpose at all (this could
> be a pure RP game, or could be a pure petri-dish style environment),
> the question of indoctrination is highly questionable as it then tends
> to act as a model definition of what either should be or will be
> expected in the game.

True.  I think we've discussed this before - how do you give the player
some orientation in the world without accidentally guiding them down an
arbitrary path?  In game where you can be a merchant, an assassin, or a
story-teller (or all three at once), it's pretty obvious that a static
indocrination (ie, the text on the sides of arcade games) isn't going to
cut it.

> What actually _is_ indoctrination?

I think there is two things here.  The primary purpose is orientation.  If
your world is complex enough to require some time to unravel (which many
of us believe is a Good Thing), it's going to be completely
incomprehensible to new players.  The idea is to give them a foothold, a
small bit of knowledge about the world they are in, such that they can use
it as a starting point for learning the rest of what the game has to
offer.
The secondary purpose is attraction.  Assuming that attracting new players
is something that you desire, and that attracting more players is better
than less players, the indocrination should give the player an idea of
what they can expect to get out of the game.  For a game like Doom which
is largely oriented around nice graphics and spooky sounds, no exposition
is necessary.  The player can see those things dead in front of them.  On
a diku mud, this effect is largely achieved by help files or other
informative texts openly availible:

Welcome to GimbleMUD!
% skills
At level 1, you get the 'sneeze' skill.
[...]
At level 47, you get the 'power word sneeze' skill.
% help power word sneeze
This skill will allow you to knock down opponents with a single, mighty
sneeze.
% areas
Smurf Village, created by SumLooser (levels 1 - 10)
[...]
Bluegrass Path, created by Joseph Carnage (levels 40 - 50)
% help area bluegrass path
This area is a twisting maze in another dimension, filled with terrible
creatures and is recommended only for very bold and cunning adventurers
traveling in large parties.
%

This is an effect borrowed from D&D - reading the player's handbook gave
you a preview of all the cool 'stuff' you had a chance to play with, if
you just played the game long enough.

> ie What intellectual result is it
> trying to engender in the player by the time it is done?  Should he
> have established a purpose wthin the game world?  A mere familiarity
> with the game world processes?  An expectation of what playing this
> game will be like?  What?  

The third item definitely.  The second item - perhaps with a single,
simple process (ie there are many more left to discover).  The first item,
similar to the second in that they should see *what* purposes are
availible without necessarily picking on for themselves.

I suppose it's similar to visiting unversities your senior year of high
school.  You want to get a feel for the place - what the weather is like,
what sort of people attend, what facilities are going to be availible to
you, what the day-to-day environments are like.  You also want to see what
options in the way of a major will be open to you; some may grab your
attention more than others, but that doesn't mean you need to choose one
right away.  You won't see the whole university, only a small fraction of
it.  But that's enough to make a judgement about whether you'd like to
attend or not.

> Is it presenting a range of possibilities to the user in the manner of
> a toolchest from which he may pick or assemble his own course, or is

Usually this is handled at character creation, via choosing a class, or
stats, or talents for skills, or other character traits that define what
that character will be 'best' at.  Many of us here choose to make many
(most) of these choices occur in-game in an attempt to give the players
more freedom, but this has the side-effect of leaving the player very
directionless at startup.  Consider:

Would you like to be a (w)arrior, (t)hief, or (m)age? t
Welcome to GimbleMUD!
% skills
You are terrible at stealing and hiding.
% steal coins from peasant

Instant and cheap direction.  Is stealing fun?  The player doesn't know,
but it's something to try.  Of course, this fairly arbitrary decision may
result in them playing the game in a totally different way, perhaps one
that's not as entertaining for them.  I've played many muds where I
thought it was pretty dull but I kept playing due to friends there or
whatever else, and later made a new character of a different class and
found the game to be much more entertaining, just because that class fit
how I wanted to play the game (ie, what I find entertaining and engaging)
much more closely.

> it a definition of what to expect in the game, or is it an attempt to
> provide a context sensitive knowledge base for the world (cf the
> talking sword)?

Both, see above.

> Levels.
> This is a classic and highly desired (if not desirable) by-product of
> the standard levels model.  "Oooooo!  He's a level 20!"  "Yipee!  I
> just leveled!"  "Only 530 points left to go to level!"  They are all
> comments on the same aspect: the desire for comparitive mutually
> consistent scales by which to judge "rank".  "Yes, I do have bigger
> genitalia than you do!".

Hmmm.  I hear that last bit often, and I don't believe it's the case.
Those who truly seek power in that way don't care about ranking, they care
about actually exerting that power over other people.  One of the most
common phoenomena among power-players is to exert as much 'power' as
possible with as little in-game ranking as possible.  Ie, "I killed your
50th level mage with my 10th level warrior!" and "I fraged you with a
pistol while you were wielding a rocket launcher!"

The desire for rank, I think, is something a little different.  It's a
number of things: obvious feedback of progress (I'm two levels higher now
than when I sat down this evening), a social metric (the level display in
'who' instantly tells you quite a bit about each player listed), and an
obvious goal state.

In short: I'm level 5.  This means that I have progressed (since I started
at level 1), I have an obvious goal (reaching level 6), and people that
don't know me know instantly where I stand in the game (what areas I can
go to, how knowledgable of the game I'm likely to be).

Clean.  Simple.  Solves a multitude of problems at once, can be
represented in 8 bits or less, and can be operated on with simple
mathematics.  Is it any wonder that it's been hung on to for so long?

> Such point/scale system are particularly valued in games where the
> realm of pssible activities is large.  By this single characteristic,
> suddenly, everybody knows both what they need to do, and has a tool to
> measure how well they are doing at achieving that goal.  "No more
> open-ended or user-defined games!  You've just been told what you're
> supposed to be doing!"

Well - I tend to think that classes are more restrictive than levels.  The
original D&D model had experience and levels, but you could get experience
from just about anything that you did.  Muds are the ones responsible for
reducing experience gain to repetative tasks such as fighting, using
skills, or tugging pre-defined levers.

> > - Player vs Player.  He stated baldly that no game should allow a
> > player to 'take away' something of value from another player.  This
> > PvP is "okay" for games like Air Warrior where you only loose some
> > pride when you get killed, but completely unacceptable for games
> > like RPGs where you "ruin" or otherwise damage someone's character,
> > whom they may have invested a lot of time in.
> 
> I guess he defined his fence and which side he's on.  Did he support
> the assertion?

He mostly pointed to the posts on the Air Warrior message boards of people
getting incredibly emotional about getting shot down (ie, "I'm coming to
your house to beat you up!") and said something like, "If they're this bad
when they *don't* loose anything but pride..."

> > His main theme was that conflict is essential, as it accelerates the
> > bonds between those involved, and since on-line communities have so
> > much less time availible to them (since most people play for a small
> > fraction of their total real-life time), this acceleration is
> > necessary to form meaningful bonds in a reasonable amount of time.
> 
> Good stuff, tho I'd put a different mechanic underneath it.  The
> essence is not combat, but problem solving.  Combat merely allows a
> particularly simple and easily understood set of problem mechanics.

He didn't say combat.  He said conflict.  He was very interested in
creating complete games filled with non-violent conflict.

> Consider:
> 
>   A) Bubba goes about and gathers a group of players to go off and see
> if they can finally kill the Red Dragon.  After a bloody and vicious
> fight, with great injury and some points dealt to all, the dragon
> finally dies.
> 
>   B) Bubba gets a team of people together to attempt to solve Fortress
> Fract.  People need to push stones in order, ring bells together and
> otherwise actively causally cooperate in order to do this.  After some 
> time, you all figure out how to solve Fortress Fract, and finally
> return Princess Julia to King Mandel.  Much stature and points are
> awarded by the final solution.
> 
> Which builds the better community spirit?  Why?  Does it really, or is
> it just that the mechanics and model underlieing the combat risks and
> rewards of #A are just so much more obvious and familiar?

Honestly I do think that a dangerous situation accelerates bonds much more
quickly, which was his point.  The other stuff, such as community spirit,
can come just as well from low-conflict situations like puzzle solving.

> > There were a few folks from TEN, Mpath, Asharon's Call, the guy from
> > Avalon, several from Kesmai, and a whole host of startups looking to
> > break into 'massively' (this seems to be a key buzzword now)
> > multiplayer gaming.
> 
> Which guy from Avalon?

I forget his name I'm afraid.  A thin fellow with short dark hair.
(Pretty helpful, I know)

Adam






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