[MUD-Dev] Re: Marian's Tailor vs. Psychopaths

Koster Koster
Sat Oct 3 11:54:56 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

> -----Original Message-----
> From: apocalypse at pipeline.com [mailto:apocalypse at pipeline.com]
> Sent: Saturday, October 03, 1998 10:57 AM
> To: mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Subject: [MUD-Dev] Re: Marian's Tailor vs. Psychopaths

Stuff I didn't say is misattributed to me throughout this post...
> Im going to have to interject that I think this issue has been taken
> magna extremis. I cant believe that even a moderate size of the
> mud population is going to have any amount of psychological
> damage because they were "pk'ed" or they lost their "great
> shiny ring of happiness" in an online game.

If PKing grows common, then yes, you WILL lose significant parts of your

> Substance at last. Does anyone actually perform a psyche eval. on the
> oncoming "demon class" cruisers' crew in subspace before it blows
> your tiny ship to little bits? The topic of a model for better mud
> administration warrants study, wether it be hard-coded procedures and
> player commands, or human intervention.

There's a lot of info in the archives on this; I particularly suggest
the threads "WIRED: Killers have more fun", "Marian's Tailor Problem",
"UBE/High", and "Affordances and Social Method" for lots of in-depth
discussion on this topic.

To address the specific issue you raise in your post: basically, damn
few players consider another mud player to be on the same order as
another Subspace player driving little graphical ship intended for the
sole purpose of killing. A lot of it has to do with the scope of the
game. Subspace supports only killing; ergo, killing is OK. Muds support
a broader range of activities; ergo, you get Marian's Tailor Problem.
The broader the scope of activities you supply, the more you raise Dr
Cat's Stamp Collecting Dilemma:

"Given that we know there are a wide range of features find enjoyable in
mids, and given that we know some of these features are in conflict, is
it possible to have a successful mud that incorporates all of these
features, or must the design choose not to include some of the

> set_bit(player,no_pk); /*This player does not wish to attack, 
> or be attacked
> by humans*/
> It could also encompas attacks by charmed mobs, and "flame channels"

It also doesn't work in a simulationist environment. There are too many
ways to circumvent the flag simply using the laws of physics. The
example cited here before was dropping a large boulder on someone. You
can solve all of these problems by starting to break the laws of the
sim, but then you have two laws of physics operating in one world and
that leads to problems of its own with consistentcy and special
advantages afforded other players.

Also, there's social factors; as you scale up in size, you'll get more
people attempting to circumvent the flag. Since doing so is pitifully
easy (Player A hires flagged player B to kill flagged player C; flagged
player C hears about the true killer and rightfully says that the flag
was circumvented in intent if not in practice--this is just one example
of many) your admin calls start to skyrocket.

> I doubt it. Just because a person dosent have the option to 
> kill another
> player in no way means friendlier. They can verbally, publicly (chat)
> privately(tell),physically(emote/social), and with charmed mobs,
> be VERY unfriendly. If the guy has a bad day, and wants to take it
> out on someone, just because he cant kill someone, dosent mean
> he is just going to sit there quietly wallowing in misery.

The statement was made before that violence will occur on your mud even
if you don't support a combat system. The classic case to point to is
the LambdaMOO case described so well in Julian Dibbell's article "A Rape
in Cyberspace"--a link should be in the FAQ. This sort of violence is
also completely impossible to block using the flag you described above.

> >2- Much more realistic. (How many sociopaths have you met? 
> And those who
> >   do have a tendency to die horribly, not enjoying the experience.)
> Uh, Jefferey Dahmer? Charles Manson?  They didnt kill 
> everyone they met,
> only the ones who tasted good with fava beans :), or the ones 
> who thought
> they were god. You, in your neighborhood, have, on the 
> average, at least
> on such individual. And as far as meeting one, im quite sure, 
> we have all
> met several, and never known it. The statistics are common among FBI
> profilers, and other organizations that track such patterns.

The fact is that Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson and any others have
not impinged upon my daily activities. And even if they did, I wouldn't
want to see them impinge upon it *in a game*:

Players have higher expectations of games than they do of reality. They
want it to be fair. And they want it to be fun.

> >3- Playable for all players, instead of only those who are 
> interested in
> >   becoming the biggest bully,  and taking whatever comes at 
> them  until
> >   that goal is reached.
> Id say thats definately not on the mark. Even on the HUGE 
> muds (150+ players
> at all times), they dont have this mass hysteria of killings, and by
> definition, as the populace increases so will the potential. 

Again, 150 isn't a very scary number. You start to run into community
formation around 80; you start to run into community breakdown around
250, when people are no longer able to all know one another personally.
There are MANY muds which have been brought to their knees by this
problem, and perhaps a good sign of how difficult it is to scale up is
the fact that I have never seen more than a handful of muds with more
than 200+ player at any given time in the last five years.

> All the player
> has to do (if its coded) is request that non-pk flag.

Which works pretty well at small scales (though I'd note that I have
seen plenty of problems with it in muds of 80--it was certainly a top
admin call on Legend for a while...).

> Again, just because they PK in no way means they are not social.
> Hungry wolves eat their own kind...does that mean they arent
> social? no..they are highly social.

PKers don't kill other PKers, in my experience. That is, they tend to
kill the ones who are most vocally loud about being PKed, because that
gives the greatest thrill. They don't tend to kill the ones who are
willing to die. :)

Wolves eat sheep, not wolves.

>  And here is where my
> magna extremis argument comes to bear. I dont think a mud
> should try to or is able to, enable anyone to be more empatic
> than they are. Once the computer is shut off, and tommy goes
> back to school, and gets beat up by those nasty boys in gym, he
> is surely not going to do a psyche eval on them. He will probably
> go home, and vent his angst/tension on some alien invading race
> in one of his many escapes from reality (games).

This is why I said "virtually sociopathic"--one of the key things that
everyone needs to remember in dealing with players like this is that
they are generally perfectly nice people. Their behavior like this
manifests ONLY in your game. You'll have GREAT trouble convincing the
victims of this, btw--I have had many state that "oh, I am sure they are
sociopathic in real life too" and it's just not true...

> Marian Griffith:
> > Gameplay in general should require groups.
> Ill agree that generic quests have flaws for high powered characters
> but I cant see mandatory grouping as the general rule.

I can't either; but life in a group should be substantially easier than
life solo.

> Marian Griffith :
> >I'm not sure if the problem of lack of empathy with other players
> >can be solved through  in-game solutions.  The real problem is in
> >the players not in the game.
> Should a game, operative word game, try to solve someones
> RL problems?

Two points to make there:

1) Game design is an art; solving people's problems, or helping them
confront them, is indeed a valid artistic goal.
2) It's a service, it's a world, it's a community. Anyone who says it is
"just a game" is missing the point.

> I thought the point of a game, was kind of like therapy. To escape,
> and deal with outside issues, by doing things that you cant do
> in everyday life. What about the healing process of releasing angst
> through gameplay? Humans have done that since the dawn of time.

This is a very valid truth. But "your right to swing your fist stops at
the end of my nose." The other players may well be there for reasons of
their own, not to serve as a punching bag for someone else to relieve

The challenge is, can you support both in one environment?


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