[MUD-Dev] Re: Storytelling vs. Simulationist (Was Re: Room descriptions)

ApplePiMan at aol.com ApplePiMan at aol.com
Fri Oct 2 21:18:30 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

At 10/1/98 10:21 PM Brandon J. Rickman (ashes at pc4.zennet.com) altered the 
fabric of reality by uttering:

>If there was a continuum between simulation and storytelling it might
>center around the quantity of pseudo-physics used by game systems.
>Simulation relies on a high amount of physics, usually hidden or
>abstracted, a set of rules that is at an extreme completely deterministic.
>Storytelling can use few or no physics, maybe a handful of suggestions but
>not a lot of fixed code.  Simulation wants a cause for each effect;
>storytelling wants to make things up as you go along.  

Hmm... that's exactly where I think the problem with viewing it as a 
continuum comes in. As a somewhat abstract example, let's start with UO 
as a baseline. I think we can all agree that UO is simulationist, so if 
we start with it and just add to it without taking anything away, we 
should still be able to say that the result is simulationist, right?

Let's say someone, somewhere, has figured out a way to evolve a virtual 
Proto-GM out of the primordial slime of 1's and 0's. Let's also say these 
Proto-GMs were 'cheap' enough (resource wise) to reproduce that we could 
have one assigned to each character in the game. Or just for the sake of 
argument, let's presume, for a moment, a venture that has a huge bankroll 
and is not concerned with making money, and hire a human GM for every 
four or five characters in the world.

Remember, we're adding all those GMs to a base of UO, so we're by 
definition simulationist. But it seems to me we'd also have plenty of 
(human or virtual) GM processing power to introduce mood and events to 
ensure we could come up with a very dramatically satisfying storyline. So 
simply saying that increasing simulation decreases storytelling (or vice 
versa) is, at the least, an oversimplification.

That doesn't mean, however, that simulation isn't a continuum and 
storytelling isn't a continuum, and that these separate continua don't 
overlap enough to form a *third* continuum that forms the limits of the 
*degree* to which a world can be both simulationist and storytelling -- I 
don't know about that. In fact, that was what I was basically asking, I 


>Simulation gives everything a pretty even amount of potential.  If you can
>burn one thing, you can burn any thing that will burn.  Common consensus
>says that this is a guarantee for fun.  But a simulation will keep running
>even if no one is paying attention.  There is the potential that you might
>log in one day and find that all the characters have been killed and eaten
>by starving wolves.  This is not fun.

Ah, but to be economically feasible (at least for a commmercial venture), 
the storytelling world would need to be at least nearly as 
self-sustaining. It might require tweaks from time to time to make sure 
it was staying on track, but unless the world could take general plot 
directions and basically write its own sub-plots you'd never see it as a 
commercial venture (which is where my own interest in this subject lies). 
Maintaining the system would eat up your profits if you had to manually 
come up with sub-plots for thousands of simultaneous players.

>> Please note I understand the technical reasons why implementing one 
>> would, with the state of the art, limit the other. What I'm asking here
>> is if there were some way to magically brush those technical reasons
>> aside, is there some deeper level at which drama is so much at war with
>> free will that, even if the story were not "fixed" and instead were 
>> allowed to drift toward a new destination determined by the players (but
>> prodded and reacted to by a godlike storytelling Agency), you could never
>> have a game world that was strongly storytelling and  simulationist at the
>> same time?
>You can switch between the two, alternately letting the story drift
>according to player desires and rooting the story in fine detail.

Or adjust your story's branching granularity to fit the fine detail.

>Personally I find simulation to be unforgivingly rigid, and it already
>permeates what is out there, so I have no interest in pursuing it.  

But remember, I'm coming at this from the viewpoint of a commercial 
venture. With the success of UO, totally ignoring the simulationist 
approach would be a mistake, IMO. Perhaps not as serious a mistake as 
simply cloning UO, but a mistake nonetheless.

>think the audience for storytelling is much larger than for simulation,

I would tend to agree. =)

>but simulation is a more attractive solution for those who are actually
>capable of building these worlds in the first place.  That doesn't come
>close to answering your question.
>- Brandon
>"Down with Simulation!"

"Not Ready to Go That Far!"

Rick Buck, President and CEO  <mailto:rlb at big-i.com>
Beyond Infinity Games, Inc.
See you in The Metaverse! <http://www.big-i.com>

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