[MUD-Dev] Re: simulation vs. storytelling is a fallacious distinction

James Wilson jwilson at rochester.rr.com
Sat Oct 3 23:01:34 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998


On Sat, 03 Oct 1998, ApplePiMan at aol.com wrote:
>At 10/3/98 11:55 AM James Wilson (jwilson at rochester.rr.com) altered the 
>fabric of reality by uttering:

really. maybe the earth moved for you, but I've been around the block
and it was nothing special. ;)

>>1. "manipulates-mental-state": to what degree is the player character's 
>>internal state (emotions, memory, identity) manipulated by the game?

>Or how about "nudging" the player into our chosen internal state, as 
>cinema and literature do, by selectively filtering what text and visuals 
>we display to induce the "mood" we want players to have at that point in 
>the narrative? If that qualifies, then the system *I'm* envisioning would 
>rank high on the scale. I'm not *telling* them how they feel, and I'm not 
>controlling their actions; but I *am* trying to *cause* players to feel 
>what I want them to using tried and true artistic techniques.

"mood" is on the line. I think the distinction (and it is an important one)
is between the mental state of the player and the mental state of the character.
If the player is _informed_ that their character is in love, that does not make
the player swoon with delight. If manipulation is accomplished through more
subtle means such as art, music, et al - "mood" is a concise way to put this - 
the character (which is incapable of appreciating such things) is unaffected,
but the player may be.

I am thinking now of the flickering lights in Doom, which were (at the time)
quite effective in making me skittish and tense. At the time I didn't notice
the manipulation at all - it was all subliminal, which made it all the more
effective. As a (stupid) alternative to "mood", the Doom people could have 
marked sectors as "spooky", and informed me somehow that I (i.e. my character)
became especially tense when I entered it. (As if those stoked-up Doom avatars
needed to be any more tense, eh?) Further, they could have programmed the
engine such that, if my character is marked as "tense", he has a chance of
accidentally firing without my hitting the button. (I always thought the
berserk box should make you a psycho.)

>>3. "all-objects-manipulable": to what degree is every logical object in 
>>the game amenable to 'realistic' manipulation, where 'realistic' means 
>>'coherent with the assumed laws of nature'? 

>Again, sorry, no short answer.

nor should there be.

[short answer snipped]

>>	3(a). "real-world-simulation": to what degree does the game 
>> (attempt to)
>> (but not vice versa).

>If by 'real world' you mean *our* real world, I

yes.

>can't answer that (for 
>various reasons, but mostly because it's revealing more about my system 
>than I care to at this point -- I'll answer it later =) ). If you mean 
>the 'real world' as defined for the purposes of the game (i.e., is the 
>world self-consistent?),

this more general meaning was what I was looking for with #3.

> the answer would be to a large degree, but not 
>if it gets in the way of narrative. Note however, that it's generally 
>entirely possible to come up with self-consistent "reasons" to explain 
>away inconsistencies, and do it in a manner that doesn't harm the 
>narrative.

clearly one can simply redefine the target for the sim to be exactly what the
sim does ("I don't want to model the real world, I want to model a diku mud").
This is why I asked about individual objects being manipulable in some
consistent way, i.e. governed by (a coherent set of) laws of nature - it's a
much easier question to answer than "how good is the sim?".

> Just look at all the hoops Piers Anthony jumps through to 
>explain the inconsistencies in Xanth. My point is not that he does it 
>well or elegantly, but rather that his readers don't seem to mind the 
>contrivances, as long as there is *some* 'official' explanation of the 
>inconsistencies.

indeed. I doubt that playability and fun-ness have a direct correlation with
this particular quality. 

I'm ignoring the fact that Piers Anthony is a terrible writer. ;)

James




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