[MUD-Dev] Re: State of the art?

Matthew Mihaly diablo at best.com
Wed Feb 17 22:30:12 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999


On Thu, 18 Feb 1999, Martin Keegan wrote:

> On Tue, 16 Feb 1999 diablo at best.com wrote:
> 
> > I don't think everyone makes MUDs in order to gain as many users as
> 
> No - but this is certainly the most commonly used judgement criterion,
> unfortunately. If it's good, more people will want to play it, right? I've
> always said that this is wrong - people crave badness. In partciular, the
> average mudder in the late 1990s (in contrast even to the early 1990s)
> wants a very specific form of innovation.

Yes, it definitely is a commonly used judgement criterion, but I think it
is an irrelevent one as far as state-of-the-art goes. No one claims that
movies with huge box office returns like Jurassic Park or Independence Day
are great movies in the sense that something like Citizen Kane or Das Boot
are. Likewise, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Danielle Steel, and Stephen King
sell the most books, but their books are pulp trash. 

You may argue that taste is relative, and thus so is quality, but I would
disagree. Using wine as an example, I have found that even a novice
taster, once given a little education, will, when presented with a junky
$7 dollar bottle of wine and a nice $50 bottle of wine, almost always
prefer the $50 (this is without knowing which is which of course). Why?
Because people prefer some level of well-executed complexity to either
poorly-executed complexity (what I'd call chaos), or simplicity. A show
like the Teletubbies is extremely simple, and would only ever entertain an
adult on a meta-level.

Furthermore, the opinion of a novice in a field is, I think, rightfully
discarded as not valuable except from a user-interface point of view, or
when one is trying to market ones product to the greatest number of people
possible. In issues of quality and taste, experience and expertise is
called for, I think.

> You're only allowed to be different in certain ways, and certainly not
> allowed to challenge players' views or intellects. If you do, you get the
> {"this sucks!"; quit} reaction.

Sigh, no kidding. I had all these big plans to do incredibly complex
things that would challenge the players views and open up "new worlds" for
them. What a slap in the face actually trying to make it work is. For
instance, I was going to have subtle clues all over the game, permeating
many things, hinting that the best thing is Aristotle's "Golden Mean".
Then, as part of the criteria for Ascending to Divinity from mortality,
the players were going to have to correct answer "What is the best thing"
(the idea was that any player intelligent and perceptive enough to have
figured it out is likely to be able to be trusted not to tell others the
answer). Ok, you guys can stop laughing now. Obviously I discarded that
idea as soon as the first player logged on.

Even little things though, they seem unable to get their heads around. We
have an organization called the Church. It has nothing to do with
worshipping a particular God, or even Gods generally. For the longest time
though, people vilified them (even though they were the do-gooders), and
I'm convinced it is because the Catholic Church in real life has such a
bad reputation among net-users particularly.

 
> We have a well established system of giving people what they want: stock
> muds. Those of us who are interested in muds for their own sake (either as
> coding/thought/scientific/sociological experiment, or as a medium of
> artistic expression far richer than hypertext), rather than for their
> players' sake, however, may find it more difficult to "compete" for the
> login time of players looking for other players, since our muds will be
> offbeat and oddball, and will take time to catch on.

This sounds good, but I'm not sure I agree. In a medium with such an
extremely low barrier to entry, trivial on-going costs (except in
terms of time of course, but as this is a hobby for most people, they are
willing to write off the value of their time), and with essentially
"finished" (though god-forbid someone consider a stock-mud to be finished)
products freely available, it's inevitable that you'll end up with more
stock muds. Without a central advertising medium (tv) with which to
advertise, the muds people go to are far more random than they might be
otherwise. Simply given the huge number of stock muds out there (due to
the reasons listed above), and the decentralized channels used to educate
people about what muds are out there, it's inevitable that most people
will be playing stock muds. I don't think that means it is what they want,
however, at least on any meaningful level.

--matt



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