[MUD-Dev] Re: Laws of Online World Design

ApplePiMan at aol.com ApplePiMan at aol.com
Thu Oct 15 22:01:39 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

At 10/15/98 5:43 PM J C Lawrence (claw at under.engr.sgi.com) altered the 
fabric of reality by uttering:

>ApplePiMan <ApplePiMan at aol.com> wrote:
>> At 10/13/98 4:44 AM mud-dev at kanga.nu (claw at under.engr.sgi.com)
>> altered the fabric of reality by uttering:
>>> Have I lost anybody yet?
>> Mmm... I hate to say this, but yes. Try as I might that last
>> sentence just doesn't parse. =/ 
>Players have two basic forms of expression in a MUD (or any other
>world).  They can use the objects and features of the world to
>create expressions (ie codified communication), or you can use the
>objects and controls of the world to process communication with the
>results of that processing being the expression.  To model this out:
<snipped model>
>Or to analogise this pairing again:  
>  You're not just restricted to writing on paper, but you can
>program, create, and actually define the base laws and modes of
>operation of TV, radio, RADAR, telepathy, sign language(s), the WWW,
>email, NetNews, etc etc etc yada yada, _and_ automate and interate
>all of that.  In essence you can play God with the very medium that
>is used for communication rather than being restricted to merely
>creating instances of communication.

Thanks! I'm with you now.

What's your target market for such a creation? Is the "play[ing] God with 
the very medium that is used for communication" a requirement for being a 
citizen of the world (or at least, for getting the most enjoyment from 
citizenship), or just something those with such an inclination *may* do? 
It seems to me there would be a very steep learning curve that many might 
not care to undertake for something that is supposed to be a leisurely 
occupation. Witness the small percentage of folks who undertake such 
things as those in your list in the "real" world, and then extrapolate 
how many you think would care to do them in our created microcosms (the 
number should be somewhat higher, but I'm not convinced it would 
encompass the majority -- in fact, I'm not sure I'd be in their number if 
it entailed learning yet another language).

>> Or rather, I understand what you're saying, but don't see how it
>> relates to muds (remember, my background is largely paper
>> RPGs). What, in mud terms, is an expressive environment, and how
>> does one implement it "just good enough"? 
>LambdaMOO did it by implementing free user programming, implementing
>an internal soft code language which was simple and obvious enough
>for generic non-programmers to understand and do useful things with,
>and provided all the tools needed to edit the basic definition and
>reality of the shared world with that code (which was easy because
>the entire world was written in the same soft code and that source
>in turn was available to all wannabe LambdaMOO user-programmers).
>(Perl has largely accomplished the same feat thru its language
>features, CPAN, and other such culural pivots)

Still, how many folks who don't breathe our rarified air are _really_ 
capable of learning to fluently express themselves in Perl (I can't speak 
to LambdaMOO's language as I'm not [yet] familiar with it), much less 
will take the effort to do so "just" to play a "game"?

I'm not in any sense implying there isn't a market for such a thing (in 
fact I think it would gain a *very* vocal niche very quickly), just 
wondering if there's some way to broaden the market without insulting the 
intelligence of the existing market...

>Players were not only able express themselves, but they were able to
>create and customise new forms of expression.  Legba is a glaring
>and obvious case here with her robots, character morphs, sexuality
>and body language changes, etc.  (Read the Dibbel articles IIRC --
>he interviews Legba extensively in one of them (hope I have right

Thanks! I'll look it up.

>> Sounds like a fascinating topic in and of itself, but I'm not
>> following it well enough to comment further...
>Allow your users to create edit, and define your world.  Forget
>playing god with the implacable doctrine and the deistic mandates.
>Your job is to provide fertilizer and convice enough of the players
>that they can and want to grow things.  Its whats going to happen
>anyway in the long term (your users will play your world, create
>their own new visions, go create them somewhere else, new people
>will play there, create new visions, go create them somewhere else,
>etc), so you might as well encourage the process and try to branch
>over at least a few generations.

Agreed. But, again, is there an implementation palatable to both the geek 
and the technophobe? How do you break down the entry barriers so your 
(average) players won't take a look and decide that growing things is not 
more trouble than it's worth? A few people, those who would, as in your 
example, go and create their own worlds, will go to the trouble no matter 
what; but is there a way to get your average Bubba and Sally Jo in on the 
fun? A solution that could be carried over to the mass market (who 
generally can't, or won't go to the trouble to, program their own VCRs) 
would be ideal.

<snipped wireframe world idea>

>> My background is different from that of most of you (and so my
>> spec'ed software is not "exactly" a mud to begin with), but I view
>> this as essential, in one form or another. Players must be able to
>> make the world "theirs" in some way, by personalizing their corner
>> of it. 
>I'm looking more at having the users actually define and create the
>world at a very fundamental laws-of-the-universe level far more than
>pick out new colour schemse for the paint jobs on their tract

I, too, had in mind much more than picking a color scheme. But in the 
"real" world, I wouldn't build my home from the ground up (though I 
realize I *could* if I were so inclined). I *might* design it and have it 
built for me. I *would*, most likely, look around and pick one with a 
floorplan I liked. Then I'd paint and decorate to my taste, and in the 
end have something I considered no less personal, no less "mine", than if 
I had built it myself (I would, however, be missing a certain sense of 
pride I would have had in building it myself, but that's a separate 
matter from "ownership").

If I'm not missing your point, that feeling of ownership, attached to our 
virtual worlds, is what we're after, and the route we take to arrive 
there is secondary. If we can get players to ascribe ownership to an area 
we supplied as a shell that they then re-formed to their liking, our job 
is done. And note that this doesn't apply merely to personal residences: 
if players get sick and tired of a two-day delay going around the forest, 
they can build a road through it. We supplied the forest, and players 
made the area "theirs" by building a road through it.

>> Whether I allow, as in your example, building the world from a
>> wireframe up, or just players making their customizing marks on a
>> pre-built shell, the customization is a vital element; ...
>Agreed.  (Actually I'm looking at having them editing the wire-frame 
>as well).


>> I think the alternative (a "finished" world) is a bad idea in that
>> it is not a strong stimulus to player imagination. And if we
>> manage to involve the player's imagination, we've got them
>> "hooked" for as long as we manage to *keep* it involved.
>While I forget the attribution, 98% of sex occurs between the ears.
>Ditto for our worlds and games.  Its really not what happens on
>screen, in the channels, what is emoted etc that matters.  Its what
>happens inside the players own mental universe, the one they
>occassionally peek out of to check on that status of reality.  Or,
>to get back to a previous post of mine: The basic medium and the
>basic value is communication.  Take that out and you have less than


>>> Two translation: Design of the internal programming language, and
>>> class/object heirarchy.
>> This is where I'm missing your boat altogether. =( How are you
>> tying this to "expressiveness"? (I'm certain I'm just being
>> incredibly dense... I never cease to amaze myself with just how
>> dense I can occasionally be for a basically intelligent
>> fellow. <g>)
>Implement the entire world, every last teensy bit of it in soft
>code.  Allow your players to edit and write that soft code.  Allow
>them to define, redefine, and create the world in their own image.
>Allow them to communicate whatever than can manage to create.  

Again, how many do you think will go to the effort? And won't the ones 
who won't go to the effort (rightly or wrongly) complain as much about 
the way the ones that *do* go to the trouble implement the world as they 
would have a world completely of our own invention?

>If your softcode is good enough, they'll use it.  If its use in the
>game and gameworld is bad enough, they'll fix and extend it and
>immediately become partial owners and evangalists for their project.

Good point (especially the evangelism portion).

>The object heirarchy is merely the expression of the above in code
>in the game world.  Its the instantiation.
>>> Three translation: Don't strive for perfection, strive for
>>> expressive fertility.  You can't create utopia, and if you did
>>> nobody would want to live there.  You can howver create knee-deep
>>> cow patties and semi-implement admobe construction.
>> Amen, brother! Preach on!! <g> (I still didn't quite parse
>> "expressive fertility", but I *strongly* agree with the contextual
>> sentiment of letting PCs "fend for themselves" whenever
>> possible...)
>The "expressive fertility" bit is the really a re-working of the
>perl mantra.  Just why is perl so popular?  Why didn't Python,
>Tcl/TK, or any of the very large host of other scripting and text
>processing languages out there not take that crown?  Python
>certainly ia faster...  Simple really: perl is incredibly expressive
>in exactly the same way that Inuit can talk about snow formations
>with extremely flexibility and precision, or the French is called
>the "Language of Love".  Not only can you say damn near anything
>with it, but you can say any one of those damn near everythings in
>(seemingly) a near infinite number of ways, all of which both work
>and communicate succssfully.
>Its expressive.  It allows free and multi-formed and finely nuanced
>and carefully connotationed communications without restricting *how* 
>that thing is said.
>How many ways are there to say "Hello!" in colloquial english?
>"G'day!"  "Lo!"  "Hail fellow traveller!"  "Howdy!"  "How ya doin'?"
>"Lookin' good!"   And the list goes on for miles.
>_That's_ expressiveness.  

That has also evolved over a *very* long period of time. And if it were 
possible for a computer to "understand" a language as expressive as 
English, why not just have it parse English? 

The very expressiveness of the English language is also responsible, to a 
large degree, for many of the misunderstandings between people supposedly 
speaking the same language. An example that springs immediately to mind 
is that, even though I have a very sophisticated English-language parser 
(a human brain with English as its native language), I didn't fully 
comprehend your first post on this subject. The fault was not in your 
choice of words or their ordering (you stated it very well, actually), 
but in my lacking the context to understand the nuances. How do you 
propose to have a computer do better?

>Now take your standard programming language, say our good friend C.
>How many ways are there to assign a string to a variable?
>  char *string = "this is a string";
>  char string[] = { 't', 'h', 'i', 's', ' ', 'i', 's' ...etc};
>  strcpy (char *string, "this is a string");
>  memcpy (string, "this is a string", strlen ("this is a string") + 1);
>  memmove (string, "this is a string", strlen ("this is a string") + 1);
>  sprintf (buffer, "this is a string");
>Most of which you'll note aren't really synonymous with each other.
>Now count the number of ways you can do the same thing under perl
>(you can stop when you get to 20).  

Point made... but how many of the first 20 you or I come up seem 
"naturally" expressive of the concept to someone untrained in computer 
languages? How do we bridge that chasm?

>Programming languages are not historically expressive.  Instead they
>are logical, orthogonal, and orderly, have well defined and
>ligically consistent grammars, and generally encourage
>single-best-approaches for common problems in their problem area.
>Perl takes the opposite approach in many ways.  Its disorganised,
>full of special and corner cases, ultimately non-orthogonal, very
>disorganised, has a regularly inconsistent grammar, and generally is 
>very organic in nature.
><<I should note at this point that I *really* don't like perl.>>

I would have supposed the opposite. =)

I think we have yet to prove that because Perl is expressive and is also 
"disorganized, full of special and corners cases, ultimately 
non-orthoganal" etc., that the two are causally related. That is, are you 
sure expressiveness spontaneously emerges from the chaos that exists in 
the underpinnings, or can expressiveness be intentionally engineered into 
an orthogonal language?

Still, unless we can use a subset of English (or the native language of 
our playerbase), I don't see it gaining wide appeal (but what marketshare 
it *does* gain would, as I said, be very vocal in their liking).

>J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
>(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
>---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
>...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...


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