[MUD-Dev] Re: WIRED: Kilers have more fun

Dr. Cat cat at bga.com
Fri Jun 26 16:30:48 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


Raph Koster wrote:
> It IS better. But the thing that I keep in mind is that the original
> lofty, hopeless vision was of a setup where we handed the players their
> own destinies, allowed them to determine the policing, the course of
> events, the societal pressures. And that's a vision that is very popular
> *even among our players who saw the hideous aftermath.* We all talk even
> on this list about things like this, and the sad realization I came to
> is that players aren't ready for it any more than they are in the real
> world (how many are actively involved in their local government in real
> life?)
>
> I think a true roleplaying game can survive and thrive--as long as it is
> small. But to grow beyond a very elite audience, it will have to accept
> the fact that it will need to direct players very firmly along
> predetermined ethical lines, it will have to shoulder much of the burden
> of organization on either the code or admin side, and it will have to
> sacrifice that sense of complete freedom. A large-scale pure roleplay
> game would basically have to be a fascist state. :(

I feel like the question of how these issues play out in an environment 
with no combat coded into the system is glossed over or ignored on this 
list.  There was some earlier mention of the notion that in games without 
combat, verbal harrassment, banishing from certain areas in response, 
etc. serve as the functional equivalent of combat.  So I presume it's 
implied that the situation and the way it plays out are "pretty much the 
same" in that context.

I couldn't disagree more.

To me, that's kind of like waving a hand and saying "Those things over 
there?  Oh they're all pretty much the same thing, they're all just 
four-wheeled motorized vehicles."  That generalization might be a 
sufficient level of detail if all you need to know is "what could get me 
across town right now".  But if you're asking "which should I pick to 
compete in a race" or "which should I use to move all my furniture to a 
new house", then the differences between the members of that class 
actually ARE highly significant and varied.

I think that the difficulties of accomplishing the kinds of goals 
mentioned are less in the non-combat games.  A few of the problems are 
bigger, a lot of the problems are smaller, so overall it's a more 
suitable environment.  I agree that people are not totally ready for 
self-governance anywhere, including in the real world.  But to me that 
says maybe three things, none of them bad.  1) So a game like that would 
be about LEARNING to do that better, rather than coming in and doing 
something everybody knows how to do great from day one.  2) Since it's 
needed in the real world, there is even more value in creating an online 
space that can help people learn it.  3) If a small minority of people 
have good understanding, skills and/or motivation regarding the effective 
governance of the community, it just means that you'll end up with more 
hierarchal sorts of governments, rather than flatter models - just like 
the vast majority of forms of government tried in the real world.

I spent last night witnessing & participating in the defense of 
Furcadia's largest-yet player founded community, Sanctuary, against a 
fellow who set out to deliberately disrupt it.  I deliberately avoided 
using a single iota of the power or knowledge available to me as a sysop, 
I wanted the players to continue learning how to deal with problems like 
this on their own.  And it gave me a chance to see how effective they 
could be.  I felt like I got a year's worth of education in the 
development of online communities in one night.  Were I an academic type, 
I could probably write a whole sociology or anthropology thesis on all 
the nuances of interaction that I saw coming into play.

Anyway, overall the level of unity, coordination, and effectiveness of 
the entire group were very impressive, heartening, and surprisingly 
effective.  This kind of stuff can be made to work.  When I have more of 
the planned support features in the server, it'll be even easier for them 
to do, and work even better.

I do think it's interesting to note that the founder & leader of 
Sanctuary is a woman who runs a day care center.  There's a lot of 
carryover of those skills and experience to the work she chooses to do on 
Furcadia - particularly with our especially young demographics.  It also 
suggests another point in favor of the theory that non-violent muds have 
a better chance at effective self governance...  This woman would never 
play a combat oriented game like most of the stuff out there.  Not only 
would it not be appealing, in her case she probably couldn't even handle 
it.  Even a little posed violence on Furcadia can be very upsetting to 
her.  It's fairly obvious that you're going to attract different types of 
people to highly violent games than you do to mildly violent ones, and 
different sorts of people again to non-violent ones.  I'll offer the 
opinion here that the more combat-oriented games are inherently going to 
attract higher concentrations of the types of people that are the LEAST 
conducive to developing effective self-government.  Whereas a less 
combat-oriented game has a better chance to attract a player base that is 
more representative of the average human being, rather than the most 
ungovernable extremes.  Or, depending on the style and focus of the game, 
in some cases you could get a playership that is MORE conducive to good 
self-government than a random samplying of average human beings would be.

That's what we're shooting for with Furcadia, by the way.  :X)

The question of scale that Raph mentions is a seperate issue, by the 
way.  Communities inherently can only scale to certain sizes while 
maintaining certain levels of cohesiveness.  For each level of 
cohesiveness, there's a certain size-range that's about the maximum you 
can hope for while still maintaining it.  The important thing is to have 
a structure and setting that naturally allows people to keep breaking off 
into sub-communities and sub-sub-communities as the population keeps 
growing.  If you do that, you can still have very high cohesiveness on 
local levels, hopefully overlayed with a less strong but still positive 
feeling of "nationalism" towards the game as a whole.  Which is useful for 
branding purposes for those few of us doing this commercially.  :X)

If you have too much homogeneity in your system, and no natural sorts of 
dividing mechanisms and seed points to let groups gather, differentiate 
themselves, and then split off and isolate themselves to whatever extent 
they desire, then yes, there will be a huge problem with maintaining the 
character of the place once you get a huge number of players in.

P.S. One last whine for digest mode on this list.  I've switched to using 
PostPet at my main emailer (http://www.sony.com.sg/postpet/ppindex.htm - 
warning, PostPet may be WAY too cute for many of the members of this list 
to tolerate, particular anyone who's on insulin), and while it's adequate 
for most of what I use email for, it's really poor for dealing with high 
traffic mailing lists.  It is a very interesting model of how to set up a 
non-real-time virtual community using email only, with people able to 
send their pets to visit each other, trade snacks and room decorations 
by sending file attachments, etc.

I'm afraid there's no combat coded into this distributed mud though.
Unless you count the fact that you can slap your pet when it's bad to 
teach it to behave better.  Slap it too much though and it runs away from 
home.  :X)

*-------------------------------------------**-----------------------------* 
   Dr. Cat / Dragon's Eye Productions       ||       Free alpha test:
*-------------------------------------------**  http://www.bga.com/furcadia
  Furcadia - a new graphic mud for PCs!     ||  Let your imagination soar!
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