[MUD-Dev] Re: Levels versus Skills, who uses them and when.

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Wed Jan 13 15:04:09 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

On Wed, 13 Jan 1999 09:58:36 -0600 
Koster, Raph<rkoster at origin.ea.com> wrote:

>> From: J C Lawrence

>> Quoting from:
>> http://mud.sig.net/raph/gaming/laws.html

> Presumably the quote was offered up to make you consider whether
> having sculptors or whatever is desirable, necessary, or even
> feasible. 

Surely.  My internal phrasing was an attempt to broaden the scope of
the considered goals of players by offering a formal statement that
considered their intersection.

> Quite aside from whether it is, I have become convinced that the
> secrets to a really long-lived, widely appealing online game *in
> the gaming sense* are multiple paths to advancement, ease of
> switching between paths of advancement, clear milestones in said
> advancement, and ideally, no sense of running out of significant
> milestones (eg the ladder does not feel finite). 

<nod>  <ponder>

I quibble with that slightly.  Clear, or at least apparent
advancement paths to known goals are important.  However I also see
significant value in sideline growth opoortunities that are
"advancement" per se (the player/character can now do things he
could not do before), but which don't necessarily relate to known
longer term goals (eg "learn to whittle chess pieces from

The reason for this quibble is that I see these philips as the key
to expressive fertility, and, by the simple means of watching your
players use of them, of finding new areas/goals/activities to
expand/build_on as you increase the depth of the game (eg notice
that people are playing chess with the whittled pieces, so add a
chess AI and other explicit game supports).  Without such side-items
there is a reduced stock of raw bits for players to start building
with to *show* you want they really want (cf the old rule about
satisfying player wants destroying the game).  Yes, flexible game
mechanics can do a lot of this (cf the monster farms for sparring in
UO), but adding abilities-to-do seems the real key to providing the
seeds of later outgrowths.

Perfect if minor example: The fishermsn in one of the LPC libs.
Reese has commented several times that they were a throw-away
feature that got ad hocly dropped in, and yet significant numbers of
players like playing fishermen and swapping stories about the
virtual big one that got away.

> These four secrets together are a tall order.


> An analysis of classic designs based on the above four principles
> would argue that:

I'm not certain on this, but I suspect that actively ensuring that
there are no uber-characters or otherwise stereotypic characters
(even if only as a presumed logical ideal to attempt to approach
with a real character) is key to this.  As soon as you get
characters being gradated variations of the same definition you've
lost, as you then have a battle for nearest approximate to a single,
and thus known, goal, and that instantly reduces the player-apparent
complexity of the game down to a selection of which particular
uber-target to go for next.  If instead all characters are *really*
unique (largely guaranteed significant functional difference from
all others), then even if you have a limited set of presumed
uber-target characters, the path that any given character has to
take to get there will be different and *none* of them will arrive
at the same or similar locations but will instead create wildly
variant approximations of the uber-target.  I suspect that once you
reach that point that the deviance from the uber-target will then be
more interesting than the uber-target, thus actively working to
devolve the perceived value of the uber-target.

<<Does this make any sense?>>

Without digging up the archives, I'm reminded of a post I wrote to
Marian on controlling/influencing player actions where I drew the
analogy that controlling player actions is much like attempting to
control a torrential river rushing (and cutting a channel) across a
soft plain (King Knut?).  In that model putting up dams is doomed to
failure as the torrent will perceive them as targets and
aggressively undermine them.  In the above character development
model, the goal is to create an evenly distributed mesh of minor
tributaries (one stream per player), which wander, cross, and
fragment the plain.  The problem being to prevent larger stream

J C Lawrence                              Internet: claw at kanga.nu
(Contractor)                             Internet: coder at kanga.nu
---------(*)                    Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honorary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

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