[MUD-Dev] Re: Room descriptions

Koster Koster
Thu Oct 1 15:48:52 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Adam Wiggins [mailto:adam at angel.com]
> Sent: Thursday, October 01, 1998 2:12 PM
> To: 'mud-dev at kanga.nu'
> Subject: [MUD-Dev] Re: Room descriptions 
> [Raph Said:]
> > Now, remember, I say this as a simulationist myself. :) But 
> I have to
> > admit that the one thing that really gave me chills when I 
> read about
> > Physmud was that if you drank a love potion, it made you 
> see the world
> > like a person in love.
> Here's how my own line of thought on "controlling" character emotions
> (note *character*, not *player*) went:
[snip nice berserk mode I'll steal for Legend :)]
> This gets one thinking.  If this worked so well for anger, why not
> other emotions?  And indeed, we did end up doing quite a few others,
> with varying success.  Considering what I saw in these experiments,
> the love potion (above) seems far from crazy to me.  Indeed, it seems
> perfectly viable.

Viable, but a pain in the ass as it clearly requires an extremely robust
dynamic description generation engine, plus a large database of text
strings to use in said engine. Very very cool--but a lot of work.  Hence
why I said:

> > Doing this with simulation is mot only somewhat difficult, but also
> > raises the question of where the burden of the fiction falls: on the
> > player, or on the world? The love potion, by actually starting to
> > simulate the state of mind of the character you are 
> playing, probably
> > crosses the line for many players.
> Yes, and thus this has been the topic of many a discussion here. 
> There's lots of good posts on the subject.

Yes, I was here for all of those threads. I brought it up again because
the emphasis of the list was on the simulationist aspects. Here's what
occurred to me: 
if you are interested in the narrative possibilities of say the "angry
character" or the "in love" character, you might actually be better able
to convey that by not doing all the work needed for a full sim engine,
but instead using simpler tech to provide an immersive fictional
experience. In other words, by doing things like "telling the player how
they feel" in exactly the way that is generally frowned upon in area

> Many folks feel *very* strongly that this whole line of thought is 
> fruitless.

I obviously disagree with them. :)

> Some simply dislike the idea that their character could display any
> emotion not directly commanded by the player.  Others claim that it
> hampers "true" role-playing, since now there's a line drawn between
> emotions that the game happens to simulate "for you", and 
> emotions that the players come up with to fit their role.

Instead of "role-acting" it's more of "role imposition"... and I'd guess
that a full-blown simulationist mud is going to cross over this line
pretty regularly in many ways. It isn't very different from imposing
limits on actions based on stats, after all--a matter of degree.

> Indeed, JC invented the term to fit this exact phenomenon, 
> after Nathan and I had been pitching it for some time to the list.

Hurm, my recollection is that he came up with the term much much later,
referring to the effect of reputation systems and their imposition of
rules of behavior. Yes, it's the same concept, but I don't recall it
surfacing in those threads back then... I could be wrong and have just
missed it though.

> Indeed.  A naysayer could easily argue that the "mass market" is the
> possible place to test out a simulationist engine.  But obviously, it
> worked. :)

Well, it will be interesting to see how EverQuest does, since it is not
a simulationist engine, but rather a more traditional mud game that
happens to have a display that requires a 3dfx card. :)

> > (btw, UO now has something I've never seen before though I
> > imagine it must have existed before--there's now an EXCHANGE RATE
> > between UO gold and real world money...) and the numerous businesses
> > such that have cropped up are all due to the simulationist approach.
> Egad, I hope that the exchange rate is just for reference.  Otherwise
> I think we just learned how Origin is making a lot of under-the-table
> income *smirk*

Heh... to be specific, players have started up businesses whereby they
will take real world money in exchange for in-game gold. I think it's
around $1 for every 1000 gold pieces at the moment. There's also
inter-shard transfer of money; for an in-game fee, certain in-game
businesses will take money and goods on one shard and set you up on
another shard...

> Indeed.  We did "true isometric" view for Revenant, which is a *very*
> nice angle to see things from but does pose a lot of problems, both
> technical and design-wise.

Didn't know you were involved with Revenant. It looks interesting.

> > All 80 of them, sure. :) We had 50,000 applicants for beta testing,
> > though.
> Okay, so let me ask you this: where did those 50,000 come from?  Word
> of mouth?  Good websites?  49,920 of your close, personal friends?

Basically a web sign-up, plus the coverage on the gaming sites. The beta
applications got a lot of press. We had 50,000 applicants--we charged $2
for the CD and shipping and handling. 25,000 people actually paid.

> Not really.  A good budget means a good marketing department, 
> which means
> eye-catching, professional-looking ads.  Which in turn makes 
> people take
> you more seriously.

We have a good marketing department regardless of whether we have a big
budget. One of the advantages of having a full-time marketing staff that
reports to a major corporation...

> So you seem to be saying that either one of these elements 
> (your game design,
> Origin's Ultima property) wouldn't have done nearly as well 
> seperately, but
> together worked great?  This makes sense, and answers my 
> question I should say.

Yeah. Ultima already had been developing a kinda schizophrenic split
between a storytelling and a simulationist approach, you see. Not only
did Ultima mean highly narrative stories that imposed moral structures
on the player during the plot's development, it also meant being able to
move individual forks on the table, watching NPCs have their own
schedules, etc. So going with a simulationist design fot the property
well. Unsurprisingly, one of the top beefs of longtime Ultima fans has
been that there's not enough imposition of plot and moral structure on
the characters.

> Sure!  You don't think I'd talk about something without 
> having played it, did you? 

Sure, why not? :) Lots of folks do that--it's not even necessarily a bad
thing to analyze something from the outside.

> I grabbed the
> Linux client, but unfortunately it only works with glibc2 

Hope to get a fresh version of the Linux client available soon...

> Perhaps the most telling was watching a non-mudder play the game for
> the first time.  Despite me standing over his shoulder coaching, he
> just couldn't bring himself to consider the other players anything
> but mindless NPCs.  When he couldn't find something, I suggested he
> ask someone - he said he never would have thought of that if I hadn't
> mentioned it.  Then when he did ask them, he asked in the 
> curtest possible form, and didn't bother to thank them when several
> people chimed in with precise directions.

As I said, lack of empathy. :P A REALLY tough problem to solve. This is
why I think that the hands-on admin models of the past tend to crumble
as scale rises. you get more folks like this, and they pkill more
freely, cheat more freely, etc. The load of policing rises exponentially
instead of linearly... :(

> I guess considering characters in a virtual world to be other 
> people worthy
> of the same respect you give them in real life is a learned 
> skill. 

Yep. One for my laws library:

Wiggins' Postulate: "Considering characters in a virtual world to be
other people worthy of the same respect you give them in real life is a
learned skill." 

> I never
> recalled having this problem; does text somehow make it 
> easier to learn?

Good question. I imagine there's that, and there's also the differing
levels of tech savvy, education, and experience with distributed systems
and networks. Mudders after all tend to take network and multiuser
activities and "spaces" for granted.

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