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

ApplePiMan at aol.com ApplePiMan at aol.com
Sun Oct 4 01:06:02 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

At 10/3/98 9:40 PM James Wilson (jwilson at rochester.rr.com) altered the 
fabric of reality by uttering:

>>>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 

Agreed. That's why I used player throughout the paragraph above and 
basically ignored the character. My system manipulates the character by 
manipulating the player (at a somewhat less than conscious level).

>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.

Ah, but if the charade works, the character *is* affected, though only 
indirectly. If the player, identifying with his character, is made to 
feel skittish and tense by the situation presented (to borrow from your 
example below), s/he will ascribe those emotions to her/his character, 
and play the character accordingly.

Now here comes the interesting part: the player perceives this process as 
if it were the *character* that became skittish and tense and s/he (the 
*player*) is so "in tune" with the character that s/he felt it, too. And 
that "in tune-ness" in turn promotes role playing.

>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?) 

LOL! Just trying to picture that strains the imagination... <g> As you 
imply, that approach would have been laughably naive compared to the 
elegance and simplicity of the method actually used, but...

>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.)

OTOH, I can see where a chance of accidentally firing if my character is 
tense (because *I*, the player, am tense) might actually add to my 
enjoyment. But that could be handled by using whatever techniques we're 
using and setting the mood to make the player tense, assuming it worked, 
and *then* marking the character as "tense".

Admittedly, that breaks down if we fail to actually *make* the player 
tense; but it still has a better chance of staying in synch than simply 
*telling* the player that his character is tense. =)

>>>	3(a). "real-world-simulation": to what degree does the game 
>>> (attempt to)model the real world? clearly this is dependent 
>>> upon #3 (but not vice versa).
>>If by 'real world' you mean *our* real world, I

Then my previous answer stands. But where would you pigeonhole UO on this 
one? Clearly, it closely models our 'real world' in many ways, but what 
about the addition of magic? And if that doesn't cause UO to fail the 
test, what about a world with normal gravity, but where water, by magical 
or other means, flows uphill? That doesn't closely model *our* real 
world, but given different physical laws could be *a* real world.

>>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 
>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 

I wasn't talking about defining the world rules based on the 
implementation. But in "our" real world there are observed anomalies that 
seem to go against what we think we know of the universe, so why should 
our imagined world be any different? In a way, that just makes our 
imagined world a bit *more* like our real world, even if its base 
physical laws are totally different.

>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?".

As I indicated before, objects are manipulable. But (just as in the 
heaviest-duty sim) that doesn't mean you can manipulate the object just 
any old way, but only in ways we provide for in code.

'Frinstance, a ballpoint pen can be picked up and used to write with, but 
that doesn't mean you can disassemble it and use it to perform a 
tracheotomy. But, if enough players complain about not being able to 
perform tracheotomies, we'll provide for it.

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

Playability? Probably not. Fun-ness? Probably, if it helps those 
particular players suspend their disbelief to have an official 
explanation of why something seemingly contradictory happened.

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

Irrelevant to the point at hand, so you *should* ignore it. =) While I 
tend to agree with you, his Xanth novels entertain me, which is more than 
I can say for some writers in the genre. But he most definitely has a 
huge and fanatical following that would choose to disagree with you 
vociferously. The fact that such a fan base exists is what matters to my 



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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