[MUD-Dev] Re: WIRED: Kilers have more fun
cat at bga.com
Mon Jun 29 20:58:23 New Zealand Standard Time 1998
Raph Koster wrote:
> > From: Dr. Cat [SMTP:cat at bga.com]
> > 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.
> As I said before, "to grow beyond a very elite audience, it will need to
> direct players very firmly along predetermined ethical lines." Leaving
> combat out is exactly that.
And various forms of predetermination that do involve some combat are
also exactly that. Anyway, the fact that one of the types of solutions
described by one of your past remarks could be interpreted to cover some
non-combat muds as well as combat muds isn't very much discussion or
coverage. I'm still going to consider the question "glossed over" on
this mailing list. I don't think anyone other than Mike Sellers and
myself seem terribly interested in the question, and purrhaps it belongs
on some hypothetical new mailing list which doesn't yet exist.
It is telling that you refer to "leaving combat out", as if the default
state is to contain combat, and if you don't have it then you've
"changed" something or done something "unusual". I don't view combat as
having been "left out" of IRC, ICQ, or the many TinyMUD descendants that
don't contain any. I view them as having "not been added in". The words
you use to describe a game without combat & the words I use to describe
it are an indicator of our respective biases, I think.
> It is "shouldering the burden of
> organization on the code side" to be exact. And it is, yes, a sacrifice
> of freedom of action for the player.
That's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that
environments where everything is done with a pose/emote type command
offer the ultimate freedom of action, and games where they impose the
game mechanics of the coded combat system on you off you less freedom of
action. By refusing to allow you to do things that "aren't possible" in
the combat rules, like making your sword turn into a pink-polka-dotted
nuclear bomb, by refusing to allow you to hit (or miss) when you choose
to do so, rather than when the dice come up the right way, and by making
you subject to the effects of actions that, in a world of ultimate
freedom of action, you might have chosen to respond to with the classic
"bang you're dead - no I'm not" countermove. Some freedom is added - the
freedom to more effectively impose YOUR "bang you're dead" on a would-be
no-I'm-notter, a freedom you don't have in the pose-everything world.
But it's freedom given one at the cost of taking from another, and there
are freedoms globally removed from everybody, like the ability to turn
your platemail instantly into fluffernutter sandwiches for a picnic, so I
have to say the total, global amount of freedom becomes lower when you
code combat into a game, not higher.
> > 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.
> I am one of the people who has made that statement. They are all forms
> of aggression. They differ in degree, in nature, in details, sure. But
> they are nonetheless forms of aggression. And If you code away the one,
> then you are differentiating by degree, nature, and details, but not, to
> my mind, addressing the root issue of "ways to handle aggression."
To me, the amount of "degree, nature, and details" here is hugely
important. To you apparently they are not. I also see again "code away"
- where is the code in MUCK or MUSH or IRC that "codes away" combat?
Wouldn't taking combat out of DikuMUD be more a case of removing lines of
code, rather than adding stuff that "codes away" combat? The real issue
here is that you seem both combat and non-combat pestiness solely as
forms of aggression, and that our issue as designers is "ways to handle
aggression". What I'm dealing with is the evolving information age
economy. And to dig out my favorite Dr. Cat quotable quote, I've long
said "The currency of the future is attention."
Are the pkiller, the obscenity shouter, the game-crashing hacker, the
entrance blocker examples of "agressor"? Or are they examples of "thief"?
Somebody who is stealing the information-age currency of "attention" from
you without giving the tradional sorts of payments, like being interesting,
friendly, or helpful? To me they are immature people, who can't do well
with the socially-acceptable ways of accomplishing the goal most people
desire of "getting atttention for a lot of people". Or don't want to
bother to try, if they think there's a quick and easy way.
Vigilante type solutions punish by getting people to kill troublemakers.
Past experience has shown over and over again that troublemakers
rightfully recognize this as a form of attention from the vigilante, and it
often encourages them to make more trouble to get more of the reward. I
focus on "denial of attention and/or access" penalties, and try to educate
our players that these are the most effective. We really need to put in
better ways for people to block other players from their own maps. But
in the absence of the ban feature I'll eventually add, the Circle guild
cobbled together their own ban function, MacGyver style, using the
"share" and "eject" commands I have put in together with a bot cat
running on a machine in Finland that's logged on 24/7. Very clever.
We're also planning on some really innovative new extensions to the
simple kinds of "ignore" functions that are around, based on a
combination of the suggestions of the brilliant and hugely
underappreciated Jennifer Diane Reitz (http://otakuworld.com/jennifer.html)
and some ideas of my own. I don't think anybody's done all of these
things before, and I think they'll be amazingly effective. Apologies for
not saying what they are, but I am hoping to benefit financially from my
good ideas this time around, rather than inflating the worth of some
fat-cat employer I'm stuck working for. :X)
> > I think that the difficulties of accomplishing the kinds of goals
> > mentioned are less in the non-combat games.
> Naturally, you've left out a part of human interaction that, while we
> deplore it, is (judging from human history) a significant part of our
> makeup. You've reduced the problem set.
So have you, by leaving out toothbrushing, toilet-going, airplane travel,
taxes, arthritis, and llamas. Well ok, so you didn't leave out llamas.
Anyway my point is, I don't think you should take the position of
"defending why to leave something out" necessarily, rather than
"defending why to put something in". Even IRC, with almost none of the
mud features beyond say and pose, is an adequate solution for some
specific sets of goals (though miserably inadequate for other goal-sets).
You have to make a case for why something fits with a specific goal-set
before you put it in. "Size of problem set" is a misleading criterion
here. A bigger problem set can be detrimental rather than helpful, if it
involves trying to make the users learn more than they're willing to
learn, and they don't play. And if you have a problem set that's not
detrimentally large, but is five times the minimum needed size to
accomplish your goals, finding someone with a problem set half as big
that ALSO accomplishes the goals should be a positive rather than a
negative. They've improved efficiency and cut development time. :X)
That also applies to the "prove it should be put in" rather than the
"prove it should be left out" approach. The number of features that will
be put in a mud is probably small enough to actually count, in most
cases. And the number of features that will be left out is infinite.
Which set would you rather produce an exhaustive set of proofs for?
Anyway, you have made, to some extent, your case for why combat is a
"should be put in" feature for the goals of developing online societies
and taking care of troublemakers. What you haven't addressed, to my
mind, is where they fit into the entire space of possible alternatives.
Other than to state that you think they're best, without much analysis of
the pros and cons of the other alternatives or even saying what they are.
Personally, I really feel like attention-control mechanisms are far
superior to life-and-death control mechanisms for a myriad of reasons,
not the least of which is that they accurately represent what the players
are REALLY dealing in with each other, trading, sharing, stealing,
coveting. They are humans sitting in front of computers, they are not
really going to be dead when they turn off the computer and go outside,
or be a real murderer, or have gained or lost any real gold or jewels.
But they ARE really paying attention to other real people, and craving
the attention of others.
You feel my mechanics are "less real" or "less powerful" in some sense
because there's no combat. But I feel *your* approach is "less real".
I still see it as much like the Star Trek episode where the energy
critters that fed on emotion set up an attempt at endless warfare between
klingons and humans trapped on a starship. They had very good excuses
for thinking there was something still "real" about the combat, since
they had all of their senses operating, real physical opponents, wounds,
everything. And they'd been operating in a world where combat WAS real
up until then. But once there'd been enough evidence for them to realize
the ground rules had been changed so much that their conceptions of
consequences of actions had become totally wrong, they realized that they
could, nay must, react to situations and events in a totally different
way than they were used to.
The one case I could maybe see for combat is "People can't learn later,
better solutions to problems until they're ready". Just like you
couldn't have tried to start the industrial age or the information age
back when people were just inventing the agricultural age. The question
is whether we have to take a step backwards in our online environments
because they're new and/or different, rather than starting at 20th century
levels of social progress and going from there. I remember a comment
about Ultima Online having recreated in many ways the social development
of the period 500-1000 AD (if I remember the dates correctly) in a matter
of months. That's nice acceleration - but it's also going over old
ground again & relearning things we already know, isn't it? In this day
and age, in the more advanced industrialized nations, the percentage of
problems that are resolved by the actual use of physical violence is
surely a lot less than it was through most of past history. Do we really
need to work our way through the more highly violent times in order to
learn how these social mechanisms can and should evolve in the somewhat
different context and constraints of online living, before we can progress
to modern kinds of lower frequencies of violence? Or is it the case that
even if violence is necessary in some way, or "allows better solutions",
that Ultima Online still has far more of it than is needed?
Well I dunno. :X)
> > 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.
> I strongly agree with all of the above. In fact, I'd argue that #1
> suggests we ought to be tackling the issues in an environment that
> supports combat. :)
I don't see the chain of inference here at all. Unless it's "Raph thinks
combat in online worlds is helpful for a wide range of issues including
this one, as he's said before." I don't think it suggests the idea out
of the blue to someone who hadn't already thought of the possibility. :X)
> It is indeed wonderful to see this happen. I would be very curious to
> hear what methods were used by the guy who was disrupting it, and what
> methods were used by the community to defend itself, given the absence
> of direct violence. What forms did the aggresion take?
This particular incident involves, among other things, the use of posed
violence and murder. There's tension and dispute about such issues,
among others, as whether to deal with the issue in an IC or OOC manner,
whether the guild should RP conflicts with evil/violent characters who
are non-members of the guild that come in trying to act out attacks, or
if they need to establish some characters within their "RP Circle" who
everyone agrees will be playing as evil. (Talzhemir, my co-creator, has
guidelines for this in her Sanctioned Guilds page, indicating that evil
characters should only be played in these situations by members of the
guild, to avoid just exactly the kinds of problems The Circle is facing
right now. Of course most of them haven't read those guidelines yet -
I'm going to suggest more of them take a peek.)
There have also been incidents with players trying to cause OOC types of
trouble for the guild - mostly people that have been ejected and/or
banned from Sanctuary for being rude or not following the rules there.
A common attack against them is to surround the entrance to their map
with obstacles so nobody can get in, which requires members to go and
clear the obstacles. There was also an incident where a member of the
guild used a bot or macro to spam one of these "enemies" of the guild,
prompting him to go after the guild more aggressively. When the guild
leader told him he mustn't spam people like that, he quit the guild in
anger and vowed to become an enemy of the guild himself.
I think these kinds of "social combat" (ejecting, spamming, banning,
etc.) can serve some of the same role as a stimulant to social
development that combat can. If there's any reason to think combat does
it BETTER, then I haven't heard it. It does exclude from participation
the vast number of people who choose to not play games that involve
combat because that doesn't suit their personal tastes. (Granted,
absence of combat excludes the vast number of people who prefer to mostly
or only play combat-oriented games. But I think this second vast number
is smaller than the first vast number, given the ratio of combat to
non-combat games in the non-computer-games world.)
I'd note that some of the other forms of conflict and strife we
encounter, such as sexual harrassment, jealousy, and rudeness, are things
people are likely to encounter in their real lives. And thus are
potentially more valuable to learn about than combat with deadly weapons,
which is something people often go through their whole lives now without
experiencing. Mind, you might make an argument from this that the
underprivileged nations might have more need for a game that is about
violence, food shortages, revolutions, and dictators than for one with
about jealousy, sexual harrassment and petty rudeness. On the other
hand, those people really don't have computers and Internet access
anyway, so it's something of a moot point... Maybe by the time we get
them all computers, we'll have enabled them to wallow in petty rudeness
and other equally shallow things, just like us. :X)
> I too believe they can be made to work; that belief is part of why I do
> what I do. I just don't think that we are there yet. I don't think the
> field as a whole quite has an idea of what support features are needed,
> particularly in a full environment as opposed to one which leaves out
> aspects of behavior.
I don't think the field has much of an idea either, which is why I don't
talk to people much. :X) I have to say the "full environment" remark
here not only reiterates your "combat is necessary to really get the job
done well" theme, but it also shows the whole fallacy that Richard has
been building more and more upon in the Ultima series ever since 5 or 6.
There IS no "full environment". We can't make something as detailed as
reality. And if we could, it would have no value, because we have an
accurate version of reality available for free. Leaving OUT wasted time,
like defecation and clipping your toenails, makes the environment more
valuable rather than less. And what features to leave in to make it
desirable isn't based on some ideal of what's "more full" or "less full",
it's dependent on what goals the environment is built for, and whether a
given feature tends to be positive, negative, or neutral in making the
environment work well for that goal.
In "astronomy mud" where some scientists are simulating physics in order
to develop and test out theories about star and galaxy formation,
simulating the presence of thousands or millions of rabbits and orcs upon
that little "earth" planet (or any other planet), your ability to go
there and kill them and eat them, etc. would be a huge waste of
resources. It would suck up programmer time to implement, and suck up
disk space and memory during runtime, without contributing in the least
to the goals of the project. On the other hand, simulating the motion
and gravitational effects in Ultima Online of some nebula or pulsar or
black whole millions of light years from Britannia would be a waste of
memory and disk space and CPU cycles on your servers. Couldn't the
astronomers rightly sneer that UO is not a "full environment" for not
having that? Or is it the case that A) there are no "full environments"
possible (remember that a computer totally simulating the whole universe
would have to contain a total simulation of itself within a subset of
itself, leading to infinite regress), and B) you can't even meaningfully
speak of "more full" or "less full", because different goal-sets for
online environments aren't all co-linear, but rather scattered over a
weird multidimensional solution space.
I think "full environment" is just a prejudicial and misleading term.
> > 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...
> I wouldn't call your average day care attendee "self-governing." :)
That's besides the point. The skills for accomplishing something in
setting A may carry over to the task of accomplishing a somewhat
different thing in the somewhat different setting B. I think that's the
> fact, I'd also call your average day care a highly restrictive
> enviroment in which you are allowed to play freely in a very very
> limited playspace, without access to numerous freedoms.
Also not relevant. In the daycare center, there's no self-governance
because she is using her knowledge, experience and insight in a
sysop-like role of total control. Unless we turn over ownership and
control of Furcadia to her, she is excercising that knowledge, experience
and insight upon fellow players in the role of someone with identical
power and authority (or lack thereof). She can't restrict them any more
than they can restrict her, except through greater skill at doing so
and/or the ability to convince other players to help her.
Well.. I suppose that it does show why in addition to the skills that
carry over, she might bring some that don't, or even trip her up and get
in her way in the highly different environment.
> Of course, in a
> day care we are talking about children (though I also believe that
> children deserve more credit than they are usually given for their
> ability to analyze and evaluate). In any case, I agree that many of the
> skills are very similar.
She does have a number of the 11-14 year old crowd in her guild, along
with various adults. Her skills might be more useful on Furcadia than
they would be in a game with more typical demographics - remember that
our user-run survey indicates 80% of players are in the 10-21 age range.
> > 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.
> I think we are in opposition here. I feel that the "sandbox" is not
> actually the environment representative of the average human being. Our
> "safe areas" in the real world are ones that we struggled quite hard
> throughout history to set aside in a generally hostile environment. For
> that matter, our safe areas aren't all that safe either.
It's not clear from context what you mean by "sandbox" here, so I can't
reply to that comment - also I don't see environments as represting
people, they represent environments. I could theorize that the sandbox
is "the ideal online environment" or "any sort of online environment",
and that you mean "the type of person drawn to that type of environment"
is what isn't the average person, rather than the environment not being
the average person, but then I'm putting too many words in your mouth, and
I might be guessing wrong about what you meant. I don't get the point of
the observations on safe areas, either. If they are something we
struggled hard for, obviously they are considered desirable and worth
effort to obtain, so doesn't that mean we should make them online too?
"all that safe" is a totally subjective measure. I think they're safe as
hell compared to many/most periods of our past, and dangerous as hell
compared to various works of utopian science fiction. So? If we want
some amount of safety online, the level we happened to have achieved so
far in real life is no kind of indication of how much we ought to have
online - if we're striving for more in real life still, then environments
that have more are hardly ruled out. And today isn't necessarily the
pinnacle of how safe we will make real life either - I suspect we may
have made it far, far safer by the year 2500, say, than we have so far.
We certainly have various forms of safety and freedom & the tools to
implement them (technological, political, and cultural) that people 500
years earlier could never have dreamed of.
> > 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.
Earlier, in a passage I didn't quote, you replied to my believe that
combat-games attract those least suited to self governance. Here you
agree that some type of game could attract people above average for it.
If the goal is to find a game model that causes self-governance to occur,
then, it would seem reasonable to conclude that one should be seeking a
game that does not contain combat, and that does have whatever it takes
to attract these above average people. Unless it's the case that both A)
the effectiveness of the uses of combat mechanisms in developing self
governance are so strong that they are more significant than having
people who are better at doing it, and B) there exists no alternative to
combat that could serve a similar purpose well enough to enable "well
suited people with alternative mechanism" to outperform "poor suited
people using combat mechanism" at self-governance.
I think B is a pretty weak assertion, even if you believe assertion A.
> > That's what we're shooting for with Furcadia, by the way. :X)
> I guess that what I'd wonder is, do we feel that the models for
> self-governance that we arrive at from such a self-selected, highly
> civilized, non-violent group will hold up when applied to anything else
> than said elite? My gut feeling says "no," and that if we want to really
> advance the state of the art with our work, then we need to address the
> full problem, not the subset only. (Not saying that tackling the
> subset isn't a valuable endeavor--it is, of course, and as you know, I
> have the utmost respect for you and you work, Dr Cat).
I am culturing a rare species, in a petri dish I like to call "the Earth".
Imagine I found these little critters in the rain forest, and they're the
cure for some big world problem, like the cancer the ozone layer or
illegal parking. But it takes a lot out of them to deal with the
problem, and they don't always succeed, depending on how many illegally
parked cars you turn them loose on and how big a flock of the critters
you have. And they're an endangered species, and the rain-forest doesn't
have many of them.
Do you turn the critters loose on "sim-earth", or even just
"sim-Chicago", which is, as you put it, "the full problem"? And watch
them all exhaust themselves fighting the millions of illegally parked
cars, and go extinct? Or do you set up a sheltered environment, with
plenty of their favorite food, luxurious settings, anything conducive to
breeding, and build up their numbers as much as you can until maybe
you've got enough to turn loose on the real thing finally?
I say we're so early in the game we have to teach teachers to teach the
teachers of teachers and spread the skills people like Talzhemir have
learned until we have enough people to tackle the bigger, harder
problem. Rather than turning people loose in the "Britannia Chainsaw
Richard always believed in biting off more than he could chew with
Ultima. I remember him bringing a cauldron into the office during Ultima
6, along with other bits of stuff he had from the SCA or wherever, to
weigh them and put realistic weights in for the objects in the game. I
remember him exhausting himself so much with the vastly harder task of
map creation and object placement that he wasn't able to participate very
much in the other aspects of the game's development once that started. I
believe Richard's philosophy is that if you bite off way more than you
can chew, set your goals really high, then what you DO manage to chew
will be as much as you possibly can chew, probably more stuff than your
competitors at other game companies chewed, and that's great.
Well, it's true - but I think having your mouth stuff full of food isn't
the only issue. There's the question of what type and quality of food
your mouth is stuffed full of. You have to have a clear vision of what
you ought to be trying to chew, and why. Richard believes that if you
simulate more and more bits of realism and physics and just plain detail,
that the interactions of the rules and the stuff in the world and the
player's actions will create interesting situations, challenges, and
events. This is true - if you pick the RIGHT kinds of details and
physics, and if you pick sets that go together. Take the weight of
Richard's cauldron. The weights of objects in Ultima 6 add very little
to the amount of playability and fun. To some, they're even more of an
annoyance than fun - I can't carry what I want right now. If there were
other laws of physics that played against that rule, like "you can throw
stuff and how much damage it does depends on weight", or "there are
pressure plates and they need a certain amount of weight set on them to
trigger them", then it starts to get more interesting. But there were no
such mechanisms, it was very one-dimensional and boring. And I would
argue that even with such mechanisms, I could describe alternative game
rules that would generate more "fun" with the same amount of programming
There is a role in the computer game industry for people who are
dedicated to simply pushing engines to the most difficult and complex
levels of technical accomplishment and nothing else. The more so because
we're still early in the development of the medium. Improving the
technology of tv and movies by adding things like "color" was very
important, when we didn't have it yet! But eventually, while
technological advances still occur and have value, movies and tv became
more about the content, about knowing what food is better to spend your
time chewing, and the choice of ingredients that will give it the highest
I feel like most online game designers, whether professional or hobbyist,
are like a bunch of people showing up at the local community college for
the first day of pottery class. They've got a potter's wheel, and they
know that bowls and cups and vases are things that exist, and they want
to make some. But they don't know that the stuff they're sticking their
hands in is CLAY. They have no idea what it is, what its properties are,
what you might want to do with it because of those properties, or why.
They're just kinda sticking their hands into that wet grey stuff and
squishing and squeezing it around.
It's human attention. The "clay" of our online games is human attention.
I think most people still don't grok that, and what it really means.
> Yep. Of course, I'd argue that leaving out combat is a sure way to get
> said homogeneity. :)
Let's see... In the world of "things that are not combat" in the world,
we have mathematics, cooking, literature, painting, music, stuffed
animals, dancing, frisbees, pachinko machines, surfing, Mardi Gras, the
Apollo moon landings, platform shoes, african tribal masks, roller
coasters, Hello Kitty, ocean cruises, pretty sunsets, kissing, rain
forests, deserts, desserts, comic books, sushi, rugby, archaeology,
karaoke, penguins, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, rum trifles, trifling with
people's emotions, holograms, monograms, boomerangs, botany, bigamy, big
old trees, bicycles, tricycles, epicycles, playing cards, pinball
machines, spelling bees, sewing circles, butter churns, beekeepers,
origami, kirigami, calligraphy, scrapple (ew), durian fruit,
anthropology, economics, plastic spoons, yoyos, jai alai, and of course,
cheese. I'd argue that leaving out combat does not guarantee homogeneity
in a world.
Indeed, the World Wide Web doesn't have much in the way of a combat-like
mechanism (though I suppose a few hackers could play the "crash my
enemy's web server fighting game), and yet it's not homogenous at all. I
would say it's one of the least homogenous things in human history, in fact.
...Anyway, I would ask, out of professional courtesy, that if I'm
actually right about any of my opinions that you please remain
unconvinced about them. I'd just as soon profit from them myself if I'm
right, rather than anyone else, and you do work someplace where you get
development budgets an order of magnitude larger than what I'm working
with. Being right is the only advantage I can hope for. :X) Besides,
I'm also trying to discourage the spread of companies that put most of
their profits into enriching executives and investors, in favor of
companies that give a lot more of the profits to the creators.
Especially when it's me!
Ok, I'll go crawl back in my hole now. 98% of the list only wants to
make games about combat, right? :X)
Dr. Cat / Dragon's Eye Productions || Free alpha test:
Furcadia - a new graphic mud for PCs! || Let your imagination soar!
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