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

Peck Peck
Sat Oct 3 00:44:19 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

> From: 	Caliban Tiresias Darklock[SMTP:caliban at darklock.com]
> On 09:18 PM 10/2/98 -0400, I personally witnessed ApplePiMan at aol.com
> jumping up to say:
> >At 10/1/98 10:21 PM Brandon J. Rickman (ashes at pc4.zennet.com) altered the
> >fabric of reality by uttering:
> Oohh, good quote header. ;)
> >>Simulation wants a cause for each effect;
> >>storytelling wants to make things up as you go along.  
> Dissention: Simulation wants a PROGRAMMATICALLY DEFINED cause for each
> effect, e.g. when something happens in the game, the *game* must know why.
> Storytelling is satisfied if the *players* know why.
I would agree to this definition, to a point.  Storytelling does not truly
require players to understand why event X occurs.  My understanding of
storytelling( or dramatist, as Travis Casey recommends) is that a given
event occurs because it is interesting.  This may or may not be planned in
advance, and may or may not appear to have a cause.  For example, a party
comes upon a pair of dragons copulating in the woods.  Under a simulationist
perspective, these dragons are objects that happened to interact, happened
to be opposite in gender, and in the mood.  Under a dramatist perspective,
the game engine (or one of the administrators) decided that it would be fun
to drop a pair of copulating dragons in front of the party.

Another example I just thought of brings up the old theory about a tree
falling in the woods.  In a simulation, it would make a noise.  In a drama,
I doubt that it would, or it would even fall.  Perhaps it always existed as
a fallen log.

However, these are more simple examples.  To regurgitate a previous (and
more complex) example by Mr. Casey, let us assume that a group of players
kills the evil sorceress.  They may or may not know that the evil sorceress
was the lover of the recurring evil sorcerer in the story.  However, this
evil sorcerer decides to visit them while they are fighting a horde of orcs.
It does not matter why he appears, but it makes for an interesting story.
Or the evil sorcerer might have decided that he would wreak his revenge, and
happens to scry them, in the hopes of finding an inconvenient moment and
exploiting it.  Which one actually occurred?  It depends on the engine.  But
for the players it will not matter.  The sorcerer, no matter how he got
there, and no matter why (is he getting revenge, or has it been a while and
he's just reminding the players he's still around), is still there, and
needs to be dealt with.  

> >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.
> Or which has defined a working method of attracting and inspiring
> volunteers to do it for free. We discuss this a lot on the Godlike mailing
> list, which is MUSH-centric and about as hostile to simulationists as we
> are to storytellers. (The signal rate is a lot lower, too, but you could
> argue that point by saying that while the posts aren't always *topical*
> they are at the very least *interesting*. The converse is often the case
> here; I see a lot of stuff that's on topic, but I don't care about it. On
> Godlike, the conversation is only on topic about half the time and the
> list
> sits dormant for weeks at a time, but every post I see there interests
> me.) 
Do you have an address for that?  It sounds like it might be interesting.  I
am always willing to expand my horizons and receive large volumes of email.
I can probably lurk there at least as successfully as I do here. :)

[snip comparison of MUDs and MUSHs and the imms on them]

> My take on why this happens is reasonably well-defined. The imps and imms
> on a MUD are generally people educated and interested in the sciences, and
> as such they value the control structures of a MUD -- but you really need
> to balance that, since any control structure can be abused, so they
> balance
> it by selecting administrative personnel based on the control structures
> and an arbitrary "trust" value. The folks who run a MUSH, on the other
> hand, tend to be educated in the "softer" disciplines of psychology,
> literature, philosophy, all those subjects which we laughingly refer to as
> the "humanities" (would that make the sciences "inhumanities"?) -- and as
> a
> result, they have a general distrust of and often a disdain for those same
> control structures. Once again, they recognise a need to balance this with
> control structures, so they make an additional effort to offset the
> "trust"
> value which the system is based on with guidelines and rules. 
> The common thread here is that both groups are trying to balance their
> games, but both are also prejudiced in favor of their chosen directions --
> so when they balance things out, they *overcompensate* in the other
> direction. Part of this is because they place too much faith in their own
> field; part of it is because they don't place enough in the other. 
I would tend to agree to that.  I am a chemistry major, with the intent on
attending Medical School.  (Soon to become a reality, hopefully)  I would
have to say that my mud is going to be more simulationist than dramatist,
though I hope to have aspects of both (as most people probably do).
However, if I have to sacrifice something, I would probably sacrifice the
storyline.  Since I plan to have various events trigger sequences that will
proceed on their own course, players may or may not become involved in
certain of those plots.  If they do, great, it would make for an interesting
story.  If not, the events still proceed, and the players must live with the
consequences (which has its own implications for the "storyline")  However,
the story does not drive the events, but the reverse.

> Henceforth, MUD as used in this post will include all online multiplayer
> games which fit to a significant degree the What-Is-A-MUD (proposed WIAM
> abbreviation for future reference) definition we keep arguing about. 
I second the motion.

> >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. 
> This is the problem. The physical world is bound by laws which can be
> quantified by physicists and mathematicians and other "hard" scientists,
> and as a result can be modeled. However, there is no program out there
> which can write consistent, cohesive storylines which will spark the
> interest and participation of players -- there has to be a human being in
> there. Every game, as soon as it comes out, bangs headlong into the
> problem
> that while computers are *intelligent* they are not *smart* (intelligence
> is knowing something, smartness is knowing what it means). People, by and
> large, tend to be smart but not intelligent. The combination is powerful,
> but either on its own can succeed only in a series of well-defined tasks
> that do not stray into the other side of the equation. Unfortunately, any
> sort of world simulation which is intended to interact with human players
> must take both into account.
This is clearly stated, and I totally agree with you.  Computers are great
for knowing stuff, but are weak on application.  The great difficulty of
coding AI programs to pass a Turing Test is proof of that.  In any dramatist
environment, I see the need for a large amount of human interaction in order
to make a good story.  Simulations are much easier to set up and turn loose,
each cause being the effect of some other cause, all the way back to the
beginning (booting up the MUD in the first place). 

> >But remember, I'm coming at this from the viewpoint of a commercial 
> >venture. 
> I think every MUD is a commercial venture. It succeeds or fails in the
> arena it defines (whether success is a matter of number of players, size
> of
> database, money from subscriptions, whatever) primarily on the strength of
> its ability to convince the public at large that to contribute to this
> arena will be Fun. In other words, whether your MUD is commercial or not
> in
> the sense of its intended income-generating potential, it will make or
> break itself based on its ability to locate and please a market,
> full-stop.
> And that's the primary aim of any commercial venture; to make the customer
> happy, so he keeps coming back.
I agree on this point as well.  There is no sense in running a mud if no one
comes on.  It might be the best code in the world, but if no one enjoys it,
it is less than useless, being a drain of resources.

> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> As the fire burneth a wood, and the flame setteth the mountains on fire; 
> So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. 
> ---------------------------[ Psalms, 83:14-15 ]---------------------------
> Caliban Tiresias Darklock     <caliban at darklock.com> | "Hell, you don't   
> Darklock Communications   <http://www.darklock.com/> |  know me."         
> FREE KEVIN MITNICK!   <http://www.kevinmitnick.com/> |    - Charles Manson
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass he'll kick the shit out of you.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matthew Peck
No Homepage to speak of
x96724 at exmail.usma.edu or 
valatar at mb2.mudservices.com

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