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

Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no> Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no>
Mon Oct 19 20:53:40 New Zealand Daylight Time 1998

J C Lawrence 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).

The designer, not the game.  User centered design, professional ethics,
needs assessment.  If the system isn't beneficial to the user then there is
no good reason to design the system from a systemdesigner's point of view.
Resolving conflicts is another task which the systemdesigner is supposed to
take seriously. A game is a recreational system, thus it should match
recreational needs in the best possible way.

If you are a political visionary artist, then you may of course not feel
responsible for anyone, or you may follow your own moral, which could
include toasting kids.

I do however not assume any responsibility from the players, beyond covering
their own recreational needs. (Marian does :)

> 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.

Well, if you sell a game to everybody with no warnings, then you also have
to cater for everybody. If not, you have failed to deliver. Selling a MUD to
everybody might not be such a good idea... Some problems: commercial success
== ethical failure?  Are your warnings etc sufficient, or are you basically
marketing "sex and mental trauma, you have to be 20 or older, free access"
to kids?  Is a mud with honest marketing commercially feasible?  Or is the
MUD industry basically selling mental traps?

> 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.")

You seem to exclude user state from #1. The basic problem then is... as MUDs
have no external effect beyond the mental state of the users, anything that
eventually does not affect mental state is redundant. Making sure that
tailors cannot be killed is of course no problem. Making sure that tailors
aren't driven insane and totally distracted from what they care about is a
problem.  If you are designing a game you obviously do design something
which is to be perceived as "fun" and "rewarding", what else is there to
design for, but mental effect? (Assuming that "fun" or "rewarding" is what
makes a game good) Whether you get there indirectly through server game
state or by directly affecting the player's mental state probably is of
little concern to the user as long as you get there, to the fun and
rewarding mental state?

For some reason unknown to me, the tailor dilemma seems to assume that in
terms of combat all players should be created and treated equally, is this
right? In that case, would it be less painful if the attack isn't directed
towards the avatar which is a mediator for the player, but rather directed
towards the horse, or maybe a chess piece? Even if the game mechanics remain
the same?  Translation: if you are a powergamer/achiever then you are still
playing the same game, but won't stamp on the tailor's feet.

Note: I can happily play the Sarcastic Poet in both Meridian59 as well as
UO, without being seriously affected on the server side by killers. If you
limit yourself to formalized state, then the tailor problem isn't really a
problem? It merely amounts to satisfying some "equations", which is
basically impossible to discuss without discussing an actual design?

> 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.

Well, I think it is more complicated... A metaphor: The critical problem is
that liberal and conservative people need each other in order to know who
they are and what they are doing, but they don't necessarily like each
other. Tailors and poets don't like politics at all, and they don't want to
take part in it. Unfortunately God created all equal, tailors and poets live
in the larger society and have to pay taxes... Therefore they end up being
defined as either liberal or conservative, sooner or later, and find
themselves being treated as players in the political game.  

We are what we are treated as:
You cannot be a funny clown if people don't treat you as a funny clown.
However, no matter what you do, if people persistently treat you as a funny
clown, then you cannot avoid being a funny clown. *shrug*

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