[MUD-Dev] Re: Room descriptions

Adam Wiggins adam at angel.com
Mon Oct 5 10:24:55 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

On Thu, 1 Oct 1998, Koster, Raph wrote:
> > From: Adam Wiggins [mailto:adam at angel.com]
> > [discussion of the game keeping track of character emotions via
> > simulationist methods]
> if you are interested in the narrative possibilities of say the "angry
> character" or the "in love" character, you might actually be better able
> to convey that by not doing all the work needed for a full sim engine,
> but instead using simpler tech to provide an immersive fictional
> experience. In other words, by doing things like "telling the player how
> they feel" in exactly the way that is generally frowned upon in area
> building.

*nod*, which is an option I certainly acknowledge.  However, I find
handing the character emotions based on location to be a jarring inconsistency,
something that clashes HARD with my Explorer (ref. Bartle) personality.
I find the game tracking certain base emotions fits in well with other
simulationist game aspects.  Which surprises me still, honestly - I didn't
think it would work when I tried it, and thinking back on it, I'm still amazed
that it did at all.  I still wonder how the masses of regular mudders would have
taken to it.

> > Some simply dislike the idea that their character could display any
> > emotion not directly commanded by the player.  Others claim that it
> > hampers "true" role-playing, since now there's a line drawn between
> > emotions that the game happens to simulate "for you", and 
> > emotions that the players come up with to fit their role.
> Instead of "role-acting" it's more of "role imposition"... and I'd guess
> that a full-blown simulationist mud is going to cross over this line
> pretty regularly in many ways. It isn't very different from imposing
> limits on actions based on stats, after all--a matter of degree.

Very true.  And the role being imposed on you is being "imposed" by choices
*you* made; just as one makes choices in real life, and then lives with them.
Certainly one could argue for the freedom of a role-actor/actress to be able
to change from a tired drunkard to an army general to a raving madman to a
dairy farmer and back again all in five minutes; again, I find this jarring.
The right players can make this work, certainly, but this is something
I neither count on nor expect.

> Well, it will be interesting to see how EverQuest does, since it is not
> a simulationist engine, but rather a more traditional mud game that
> happens to have a display that requires a 3dfx card. :)

Some guy in the office was watching a quicktime demo of EverQuest.  Um,
I'd say you don't have anything to worry about as far as the UO client looking
dated.  It looks ten times better than the 3d tripe I saw on the screen there.
(Don't people hire art directors anymore?)  I certainly hope the game is fun,
since they obviously didn't put much time into the graphics...

> Heh... to be specific, players have started up businesses whereby they
> will take real world money in exchange for in-game gold. I think it's
> around $1 for every 1000 gold pieces at the moment. There's also
> inter-shard transfer of money; for an in-game fee, certain in-game
> businesses will take money and goods on one shard and set you up on
> another shard...

The second makes sense; but egad, the first is attrotious!  I guess it
does indicate an obsessiveness only really successful games invoke..

> > Indeed.  We did "true isometric" view for Revenant, which is a *very*
> > nice angle to see things from but does pose a lot of problems, both
> > technical and design-wise.
> Didn't know you were involved with Revenant. It looks interesting.

I was heavily involved in it for a time, but as it's nothing like a mud
I'll refrain from describing that involvement here.  If anyone would like
the details you can email me privately.

> Yeah. Ultima already had been developing a kinda schizophrenic split
> between a storytelling and a simulationist approach, you see. Not only
> did Ultima mean highly narrative stories that imposed moral structures
> on the player during the plot's development, it also meant being able to
> move individual forks on the table, watching NPCs have their own
> schedules, etc.

Hmmm - you know, it's funny, but I never thought of this.  Ultima is,
traditionally, the exact opposite of traditional muds.  Traditional muds have
very fixed backdrops, which convey story and emotion but have pretty
limited and/or inconsistent interactions.  The foreground, on the other hand,
is very simulationist - randomly generated NPCs wandering about, objects moved
around by players, NPCs, flowing rivers, etc.  Ultima is the reverse: the
background is made of reusable, consistent pieces which can be manipulated in
a variety of ways by the player, while the foreground consists of extremely
scripted movement by hand-crafted characters with distinct personalities.
Most of the storyline comes from these characters and occasionally objects,
almost never from the background.

It seems to me, in fact, that this second approach is one that would work
extremely well in a mud, especially a graphical one.  Not sure that it's
every been done.

> > I guess considering characters in a virtual world to be other 
> > people worthy
> > of the same respect you give them in real life is a learned 
> > skill. 
> Yep. One for my laws library:
> Wiggins' Postulate: "Considering characters in a virtual world to be
> other people worthy of the same respect you give them in real life is a
> learned skill." 

*bow* You're going to force us all to word our statements a little more
carefuly, lest they get immortalized forever in the Laws Library. :)

> > I never
> > recalled having this problem; does text somehow make it 
> > easier to learn?
> Good question. I imagine there's that, and there's also the differing
> levels of tech savvy, education, and experience with distributed systems
> and networks. Mudders after all tend to take network and multiuser
> activities and "spaces" for granted.

True.  I got my start on 300 baud BBSs, and my first online games were
Tradewars and Empire.  Since there were about 20 people in my town who had
modems, and we all got together in person on occassion, there was no
anonominity like there is in the internet now.  I learned most of my online
skills there, I would think, despite the lack of real-time simutaneous

Not to mention - I imagine most old-timers (including most of us here) had
already done at least a little bit of pen & paper RP before ever logging
onto a multiplayer game.  This in and of itself is probably very beneficial
as far as knowing how to "play nice".

Adam W.

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