[MUD-Dev] Re: Administrative Meddling

Jon A. Lambert jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com
Sat Jun 6 15:00:01 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On  5 Jun 98, Mike Sellers wrote:
> At 03:25 AM 6/5/98 +00-05, Jon A. Lambert wrote:
> >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. 
> In my original reply, it's this model of admin-in-the-game as 99th level
> wizard doling out items and quests that caught my attention.  This idea has
> all kinds of pitfalls, such as (perceived) favoritism, egotism, and loss of
> player-centric control ("why are we doing this?" "um, because the big
> wizard dude told us to").  Having admins in the game as minor NPCs,
> interacting with the PCs by playing out their own characters (and staying
> *in character*) and agenda, is not at all the same -- I think this makes
> for a much more textured world that enables RPing rather than just GOPing,
> and without the fictionally discontinuous 'deus ex machina'  aspect of a
> quasi-omnipotent individual being plunked down in a small shop in town (and
> I would put the M59 Guardians at their worst in this cadre of 'deus ex
> machina' stumbling blocks to more enjoyable game play).  

Perhaps, I have led you astray.  There all all kinds of assumptions 
about a 99th wizard and the power relationships to a 1st level 
fighter.  And the above would be really bad role-play. ;)

No my game would best be described as heavy RP and administration 
(in-game) is done by gamemasters and favored players.  Interference 
and favoritism by near omnipotent beings is essential to the theme.  
Even if it wasn't, I think it's still valid for game-balance and 
continuity of playability.   

Relationships between omnipotent or near/omnipotent beings and 
the relatively powerless are discouraged in HnS-style muds, because 
the _game-goal_is far more important than RP.   It's also a single 
goal.  Restrictions on these relationships prevent role-play or 
restrict interaction and role-play to that between characters of the 
same power.  

The simple the goal structure of a typical HnS style game is 
progression from level 1 to level 100.  At level 100 you have won the 
game.  Now there are infinite variations on this theme.  You may have 
infinite levels or you may have replaced levels with a skill-tree, 
yet all resources in the game are linked in support of this 
single-goal.   Support of other game-goals and systems is secondary 
and often tied tightly to the HnS primary goal.  Interference by 
near-omnipotent entities is viewed as _a very bad thing_ because  it 
is viewed in terms of it's effects on the primary goal and not in 
terms of it's role-play value or secondary goal value.  

Perhaps my interpretation of LOTR may vary, but if you see that
99th level wizard character as a Gandalf's visit to Bilbo Baggins it 
makes sense.  Gandalf is as close as you get to a good demi-god like 
figure in LOTR.  His near omnipotence, relative to the other 
characters, is restrained for reasons not illuminated in the Frodo's 
tale.  Whether a player fills that role or administrator is 
irrelevant.  What you seem to be saying is that you cannot trust 
anyone to fill that role?   

> >
> >:: 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.
> > 
> >and
> >
> >::  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.  
> Yes, this I agree with.  OTOH, maybe we should all go watch "The Truman
> Show" and then see if we reconsider our thoughts. :-)  

Good analogy, I think. :)   The movie previews have caught my 
interest and I plan on seeing it real soon and will be looking for 
things relative to this context.    

> >> >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.    
> You're going to have to make even your invisible admins accountable in some
> way to someone trustworthy, whom you *know* has the best interests of the
> game at heart.  Otherwise you *will* see instances of oddly large numbers
> of trolls appearing whenever a certain character walks through a forest,
> and strangely large numbers of gems being strewn on the path when another
> walks through.  Some invisible admins will have their favorite players,
> their favorite characters, their favorite situations ("waitaminute, you
> *look* like a damsel in distress, but I'm betting that you're really a
> aspho-demon in disguise just like the other five girls I've rescued this
> month..."), etc.  If there is no clear accountability behind the curtain of
> invisibility, some portion of your admins *will* use it to their advantage,
> and affect the game in unbalancing, potentially visibility-increasing ways
> as a result.  

This certainly rests on the issue of trust.  You assume admins cannot 
be trusted because they are humans.  Thus rules, regulations and 
restrictions and mechanisms of accountability must be in place.  
OTOH, I assume admins can be trusted by virtue of the fact that they 
are human and bring a sense of social accountabiliy and responsibilty 
to the game.  Then again, the social cost of entry into M59 and many
MUDs is negligible when compared to similar games of the genre.

Philosophically speaking, it's the differnce between:
  "Absolute power corrupts absolutely" 
  "Great men wielding great authority become greater still and
   small men wielding great authority become smaller still."

Note:  Apologies to the fairer sex and my munging of the authors' 
quotes. ;)

--/*\ 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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