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

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Fri Oct 16 20:45:37 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

On Fri, 16 Oct 1998 20:52:03 EDT 
ApplePiMan <ApplePiMan at aol.com> wrote:

> At 10/16/98 3:05 PM J C Lawrence (claw at under.engr.sgi.com) altered
> the fabric of reality by uttering:

>> ApplePiMan <ApplePiMan at aol.com> wrote:
>>> At 10/15/98 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:

>> No, you're missing the point.  The idea is not that everyone will
>> use those reality editing features, just that they *can*, and
>> that a small percentage *will*.  You don't need very many
>> Edison's per capita of general population.  You do need at least
>> one however.

> If you have even *one* Edison out of the entire population, much
> less one per capita, you're arguably already statistically well
> beyond what you'd encounter in RL. 

True.  you actually don't need any Edisons -- merely a few hackers.

> But what I'm interested in is not a rehash of LamdaMOO (as good as
> it might be, it's already been done), but rather in a methodology
> that would allow anyone interested in becoming an Edison to do so,
> at least at some minor level, without having to learn a new
> language.

I'm technocratic enough to not be sure if I want that.  Any such
game is going to have power structures.  I can fail to define or
suggest any and have the players assemble some ad hoc, or I can
provide a simple model structure of techno-worship as a sample and
then let them build whatever they want, with the most likely forms
being reflections of my techno-model.

Given the reputedly bad social skills of technologists and the fact
that all such power structures rest on social skills, the dichotomy
is kinda cute.

> "All" I'm advocating is tearing down the entry barriers and
> flattening out the learning curve, so Bubba doesn't feel too
> intimidated to "give it a go" if he doesn't have the RL mentality
> of an Edison or an Einstein. 

     He was a very great artist at the business of designing
     aeroplanes, and like all great designers in the aircraft
     industry he was a perfect swine to deal with. 

     There is, of course, a good deal of explanation in the
     psychology for this universal characteristic of the
     greatest aeroplane designers. A beautiful aircraft is
     the expression of the genius of a great engineer who is
     also a great artist. It is impossible for that man to
     carry out the whole of the design himself; he works
     through a design office staffed by a hundred
     draugthsman or more. A hundred minds, each with
     their own less competent ideas, are striving to modify
     the chief designer's original conception. If the design
     is to appear in the end as a great artistic unity, the
     chief designer must be a man of immensely powerful
     will, capable of imposing his idea and way of doing
     things on each of his hundred draughtsman, so that
     each one is too terrified to insert any of his own ideas.
     If the chief designer has not got this personality and
     strength of will, his original conception will be
     distorted in the design office and will appear as just
     another, not-so-good aeroplane. He will not then be
     ranked as a good chief designer. 

     All really first class designers, for this reason, are both
     artists, engineers, and men of a powerful and
     intolerant temper, quick to resist the least
     modification of the plans, energetic in fighting the
     least infringement upon what they regard as their own
     sphere of action. If they were not so, they could not
     produce good aeroplanes. 

     -- Nevil Shute 

The question is not the presence of barriers to entry, the question
is what the barriers to entry impede.  If Bubba can wander into the
game, kill mosters, kill players, politik a bit, gid ditch about his
hut, turn his hut into a castle etc etc etc etc yada yada without
undue technocratic requirements we're doing pretty well.  Now if
Bubba wants to create a new magic system, craft new spells, create a
new communication mednium, program up a new sort of Frankenstein
with better features, then I find it quite acceptable for there to
be technological barriers to entry for those specific non-game
required activities.

I'm not into the, "Let there be light!  And there was light..." 
business.  Creation is work.  Work is occassionally hard.  That
seems about right to me.

Now this is not to say that there won't be various light weight and
simple scripting tools and even pseudo languages (I've got a design
for something on the order of LOGO v1 sketched out) that
non-technological players can't dip into -- but those merely provide
a staggered sets of barriers to entry to a scale of different and
progressively more complex goals.

> It may be that all Bubba is *capable* of inventing is the in-game
> equivalent of the whoopie cushion, but so what? He'll have fun
> inventing it, and it will be "his" invention. 

Quite.  Yet there is a complexity involved in achieving that much
creation, and thus an accomplishment.  Similarly there is a
different order of difficulty in creating a full homunculus, and
thus a different barrier to entry for that level of creation.

> Yet if he has to learn an arcane scripting language to invent it,
> odds are he'll turn his energies to less-productive (game wise)
> enterprises.

A society needs predators.  Taking Marian's Tailor problem in its
simplest essence: The ability of one character to enforce their will
on another character despite their resistance or protest; I don't
consider that inherently a problem.  The core of the problem is one
of scale: Not that the tailor gets killed, or their shop/goods
stolen/destroyed, but how often it occurs.

Yes, I would like a game world that supports tailors.  Yes, I would
also like a game world that supports Vlad the Impaler.  I also know
which I would sacrifice first should the need arise.

> Just how broad *is* LambdaMOO's market? 

Extremely narrow in the field of games, tiny in 'net terms, large in
current MUD terms, massive in the universe of social MUDs.  Its most
pressing problem is that it (RL physical universe) doesn't scale due
to server design limitations.

> Without waiting to hear an answer, it's still a niche. 


> Maybe a niche market is the best *any* mud will ever do...

One of my goals is to accomplish something of the character and
social quality of the Walled City in Gibson's Idoru.  I don't care
about how he describes it, or the various gimicks and toys, but the
structure, social involvement, and sense of a practical universe
operating on different assumptions are glorious.

> ...(contrary to comments I've seen here, even UO is not really
> "mass market", where MacDonald's and Coca Cola play), but it's
> *certainly* the best we'll do as long as we build in barriers to
> keep out Joe Blow.

One of the egalitarian sociologist laments is that western society
(particularly under the influence of the 'net) is turning toward an
intellectually stratified society, where the less-bright are damned
to increasingly futile and marginalised lives by the comparitively
incomprehensible activities and technocratic rule of the more-bright
and (potentially) the more bright are able to ensure that their
offspring are also more-bright thru nutritiion, genetic engineering,
etc etc etc, further stratifying society into the new have's and
have-not's and almost inextricably dooming the less bright to
squalid disconnected miserable lives.

Distopia re-invented.  

> And let me hasten to add there's nothing wrong with shooting for a
> niche market (even a tiny niche can be *very* profitable,
> actually, given the right circumstances); but unless you define
> your market and plan accordingly, you'll just be "shooting in the
> dark" and very lucky to find a market segment.

Yeah.  Then again that doesn't govern my goals.

> My question then boils down to, must such a system where players
> build the world itself by definition aim for the programmer niche,
> or can it be broadened to appeal to a wider niche, or possibly
> even mass market?

Stratification allows multiple markets to be satisfied by makeing
the aspects that tend to each ignorable by the others.

> Check out Geoffrey Moore's _Crossing the Chasm_ (I can track down
> the ISBN if you like). The problem is that's there is a "great
> gulf fixed" between the early adopters and Main Street (the market
> segment where the product hits pay dirt). The early adopters
> aren't your problem: you'll indeed be able to find hackers to get
> the ball rolling (they'll seek *you* out, even). The problem is
> the paradigm shift it will take to keep the ball rolling once it
> starts. According to Moore, it's *not* a given that later adopters
> will come along to leverage what was done by the early adopters,
> even though human nature is to assume it is given (assuming the
> early adopters like what they see). A product can have tons of
> early adopters who dearly love it, but still bomb without a plan
> to bring in "fresh blood."


>> Players will complain.  This is a given.  The world with
>> complaint free players is farcical utopia that logically can't
>> exist.  If you have a player complaining about something that
>> means that there is something they like and value there which
>> they would like to appreciate and value even more.  Translation:
>> They've taken the bait and swallowed the hook.  Your only
>> question is wether you need to set the hook or not.

> Seems like an awfully long block to travel around only to end up
> where we started with players complaining the world wasn't "done
> right," if that were the only reason to implement this. =)

Nahh.  Then again I don't think happy players are a valuable or even
necessary final product of a game.  Involvement and entertainment
neither necessarily require happiness.  I fually expect a lot of the 
"joy" to come in restrospect for the early years.

> The point I'm getting at is that I don't think a large portion of
> the virtual world's population would be *capable* of "step[ping]
> up and 'do[ing] it right' any time they wish". 

Certainly not.  That's entirely the idea.  I wouldn't want the
majority in that position.

> You're setting up an elite
> ruling class and giving them special powers. 

Absolutely.  Further, I'm deliberately crippling them to boot.

> Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that (a classless
> world is as impossible and boring as Utopia), but I don't think we
> should pretend it's anything other than that. The "haves" (the
> intelligentsia) can create, and the "have-nots" (the rest of the
> population) cannot. If the "have-nots" get fed up, they'll just go
> somewhere else, where someone has given thought to allowing
> *everyone* to create (if such a place exists).


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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