[MUD-Dev] Re: Marion's Tailor Problem

J C Lawrence claw at kanga.nu
Sat Oct 17 16:56:13 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

On Sat, 17 Oct 1998 14:01:37 +0100 
olag <Ola> wrote:

> Marian Griffith wrote:

>> What I am missing in his list of (possibly detrimental) effects of
>> PK on a game is the following: With a player attacking you there is
>> always the doubt that it is some- thing personal, or worse yet,
>> that it is impersonal.
> Question: is it emotionally better to have your horse killed rather
> than to be killed yourself?  Even if the consequences were the same?
> (loss of resources) It is of course possible to be emotionally
> attached to a horse...  -- Ola

Which would seem to imply that the game or game world should take
responsibility for its players emotional state and the emotional
effects the game has one them (especially if negative).  I don't buy
this.  Yes, I see value in being considerate, and even of implementing
or encouraging such consideration in the base code, but the idea of
mandating it scares me far worse than 1984.

This rests I think on the key point of misunderstanding of Marian's
Tailor (the world supports tailors versus goal competition versus
emotive impact).  The scenario has three main sides, each of which is
an extension of the one before:

  1) The ability for one character to enforce an effect on another
regardless of their wishes or attempts to avoid the affect.  ("You're
gonna give me your money whether you like it or not.")

  2) The ability of players to define and play a certain game view,
and for other players to impact or prevent that.  ("I'm going to play
a tailor in the world of Melnibone."  "I'm gonna steal your tailoring
goods and run you thru with a sword.")

  3) The emotive impact and communication when such enforcement
occurs.  ("You are less than dogmeat and I destroy you becasue you are
beneath my notice and I don't care, or because I want to hurt you.")

For defined goal competitive games we must have #1.  Without goals
there are no games.  Even in a seemingly purely social MUD or IRC,
there are goals.  Consider the impact of noise makers, spam and
off-topic onUsenet, etc.

There are two basic forms of goal based games: competitive and
self-challenging.  Self challenging goal acquisition is of necessity a
solo affair -- socialising and social contexts are not key.  Even if
the self-challenging goal involves others, they are not party or
functionally useful to the goal acquisition.  In competitive goal
games it is important to achieve the goal before, to a greater extent,
instead of another, or to prevent another's acquisition.  As such the
key is not only one's own progress to the goal, but the ability to
impact other's goal acquisition (your competitor can't win the horse
race if you lame his horse or kill him).

  Note: It is almost impossible to absolutely separate
self-challenging goal games from competitive goal games.  Even if the
mechanics of the goal are solely self-challenging (cf sokoban), other
players can and will determine that they don't want that goal
accomplished by that person for whatever socially derived reason
(Spite?  Competition across self-challenging goals?  Social status?
Personal enmity?).

Competitive goals can also be implicit rather than explicit:

  Yes, you are a tailor making clothes.  People like and buy your
clothes etc.  Then Big Bubba Marketeer comes in, corners the MUD
leather market and drives you out of business thru resource control.
You either cease being a tailor or virtually starve.  Bubba's
intentions can be strictly personal in this ("I'm gonna make that
little pipsqueak tailor's life hell!") or quite impersonal ("Tailors?
They exist?  Are they important?  No matter -- there aren't many of
them and they have no relevance.").

  This mechanic of course does not limit the enforced effects to such
indirections as above.  You are a tailor and Bubba is a adenoidal
PK'er.  You have money from your tailoring, and Bubba needs money to
fix his armour from his last resistant victim.  Bubba this time
doesn't drive you out of business thru market forces, he just forces
you to give him your money.  

The emotive aspect of goal conflict and interference is personal and
most importantly is a personal interpretation of an event.  Bubba runs
up and shouts, "You nigger lovin' whore, you don't deserve to live!"
(or <insert pejoratives of distaste>) runs his sword thru you and has
his pet monkey rape your still-twitching carcass in the middle of the
town square.  (ie, behaves in an upsetting manner for you and other
players).  The choice to be upset is made by those upset, not by
Bubba.  The critical point is that this is a linear extension of the
much simpler case where the presence of tailors interferes with
Bubba's cotton-mill plans so he goes and has them all killed/run-off,
or the simple horse race where every time you get your horse back on
its feet and running, one of Bubba's goons slaps another arrow into

You can gear the world against such scenes, but you can't prevent
goal-conflicts and goal-prevention and interference.  You also can't
gear against personal interpretation: consider the jilted lover for
whom everything is now a slight.

What you can do is to affect the _balance_, the ease and extent to
which players can affect each other goal acquisitions, and the extent
to which they can absolutely prevent goal acquisition by others.  The
critical bit is the ease with which a player not directly involved in
a given goal path, can affect others on the goal path, and the number
of intersections of goal paths.

J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at kanga.nu
----------(*)                             Internet: coder at kanga.nu
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

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