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

ApplePiMan at aol.com ApplePiMan at aol.com
Sat Oct 17 01:48:11 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998


At 10/16/98 9:58 PM J C Lawrence (claw at under.engr.sgi.com) altered the 
fabric of reality by uttering:

>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:
>
>> 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.

I think I could learn to like your sense of irony. =)

>> "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. 
>
<snipped long, pertinent quote> 
>
>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.

Absolutely agreed. I wasn't suggesting it *remain* easy to create as 
creations gain complexity; but if you put me in a world full of 
cow-patties where the shovel has never been invented, I shouldn't have to 
fully learn some arcane scripting language to invent it and make my fame 
and fortune selling it to my fellow cow-patty movers. Make it simple to 
learn enough to invent small utilitarian items, and you've gone a long 
way to giving people with a creative bent the impetus to learn enough to 
create quantum physics. If Bubba sees useful results from the little 
(painless) bit he learned, he'll most likely see the potential of 
learning more (which will *not* be painless).

>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.

There's a lot of room between idleness and herculean effort. =) I don't 
think players mind working for in-game goals in the least; but as with 
most other things, they expect "more bang for the buck" with their 
in-game work than their RL work. Make inventing the shovel *too* 
difficult and player's will continue to move cow-patties by hand.

>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.

That's what I'm talking about (though "staggered barriers" is a much 
better way of stating it than my "removing the barriers"). The idea is to 
focus players' attentions on the ground at their feet, which is 
relatively falt, rather than a sheer cliff they must scale to get where 
they're going.

>> 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.

Agreed.

>> 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.

I think our answer would be the same. I wasn't in the least suggesting 
that allowing players to create was a solution to the tailor scenario, 
nor even necessarily a step in the right direction. What I was saying is 
that setting up in-game goals and then erecting too high a barrier for 
most players in the game to reach those goals is a good way to exacerbate 
the problem. Players will become frustrated, and cast about for something 
(or someone) to take those frustrations out on in the game setting. I'm 
convinced the opposite (i.e., easily attainable goals making the world a 
safer place) is not true, however.

>> ...(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.  

Point made and taken. But even though, at this point, our potential 
marketbase (those on the 'net) represents the "brightest of the bright", 
that will not remain the case, egalitarian sociologists notwithstanding. 
Some of us geezers are *already* lamenting the influx of idiots -- and it 
*will* get worse. <g>

I think it's clear I'm more market-driven than many (if not most) on this 
list, but if I'm going to build a mud I don't want anything in it that 
will *inherently* exclude those with below a given 'high-ish' IQ. I'm not 
saying morons should be able to participate in every last in-game 
activity, but they shouldn't be made to feel there's nothing for them to 
do in the world, either.

>> 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.

Nor does it govern my own goals, which are (for the most part) quite 
separate altogether from design details and marketshare (I want to get 
rich doing this, but that's not, ultimately, my goal =) ). Knowing who my 
targeted market is plays a significant factor in the design decisions I 
make. Doing things that way makes more sense to me than any other, but 
YMMV.

>> 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.

Then the primary attraction of your proposed world is not the world 
building? Or is it? My point being that it seems to me the world should 
have some over-arching theme that all players can participate in. That 
could be the world-building (in that some players participate by playing 
the part of the oppressed have-nots), or it could be something else. 
Since finding volunteers to play "have-nots" can be somewhat problematic, 
it could be an interesting way of imposing in-game conflict based on RL 
limitations of the players.

>> 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."
>
>True.
>
>>> 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.  

Agreed.

>I fually expect a lot of the 
>"joy" to come in restrospect for the early years.

All I can do is speak for my own self, but I'm not sure I would continue 
to play if my "joy" were only in retrospect; but also note that immediate 
"sorrow" would work equally well, in my case, to keep me involved, or any 
other strong emotional response you care to plug in. But I want to 
experience it *as* I'm playing, not in thinking about it later. And the 
obvious response that you don't *want* me (or those like me) in your 
target audience is perfectly valid here... <g>

>> 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.

Then, since you're doing it intentionally, it stands a fair chance of 
great success.

-Rick.



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