[MUD-Dev] Storytelling and Gods (fairly long)

Koster Koster
Wed Mar 3 10:39:29 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Matthew Mihaly [mailto:sarapis at achaea.com]
> Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 1999 5:32 PM
> To: mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Subject: [MUD-Dev] Storytelling and Gods (fairly long)
> 
> 
> At 11:40 AM 3/2/99 -0600, Raph  wrote:
> 
> 
> >Lastly, the playerbase is highly resistant to change. This means that in
> >general, the parameters for both a static narrative construct OR a
> >simulation tend to be narrowly defined. We can't generally do things like
> >cause continents to sink, cities to die of the plague, etc etc, because
it
> >scares the bejeezus out of the newbies, horrifies the players who lose
their
> >standing or accumulated possessions, and disturbs those whose sense of
> >familiarity with the environment is the biggest reason why they still
play.
> 
> I think you are quite wrong, I'm afraid. I'll provide an 
> example below.

I'm happy to be proven wrong... your examples all seem to be of temporary
upheavals, however. How do you handle the influx of newbies who find one
character class impossible to play for the duration of the plot (eg, in your
Sentinel example, when all their powers were weakened)? Tell them to start
trying to solve the problem? Or of those who simply do not care, and want to
just keep playing as they always do?

I ask because both of these factions are huge factors for us in UO.

> >Thus, it could be argued that the absolute best tactics for mud
storytelling
> >are:
> >- encourage players (through the provision of tools for this purpose) to
> >form groups with conflicting goals (philosophical, territorial, etc) of
> >*some* sort that are a) significant in impact b) achievable yet c) not
> >overly destructive of the environment. This is a large design issue which
is
> >in many ways frankly contradictory to basic design principles in many mud
> >code bases today.

But clearly not contradictory to the principles YOU use, since your Gods are
precisely ways for players to form groups with conflicting philosophical
goals that have significant impact and are not overly destructive in a
permanent way. :)

> I'll provide two examples of large-scale desctructive acts. First though,
I
> will again say that I vehemently disagree that destructive things cannot
be
> done in a mud, and I think that the reason you think they cannot is that,
from
> what I gather from your previous posts, you don't place a whole lot of
store in
> the idea of Gods.

To be honest, I don't recall ever having commented on them at all.

>  To me, Gods (and I don't mean coders, imps, or wahtever you
> call them. I mean Gods in the Greek sense of the word...each with agendas
of
> their own as far as the players are concerned) are the factor that allow
these
> things to happen. When something really bad happens, the players can still
> maintain their faith that their God will not let them down, and that they
will
> be saved through the grace of the Divine. 

To abstract it a little more, you mean, essentially, leaders of factions
that players are obliged to join as they enter the game; said leaders played
by humans; effecting changes in the game that are feasible to reverse via
player action. This is not only something I am not opposed to, it's
something I endorse enthusiastically (we're in the middle of implementing
something similar in UO). To my mind, the fictional dressing doesn't matter
all that much, as long as it is compelling & can be backed up by real
consequences in game.

All the questions I ask below are not to undermine your statements, but
rather to try to get a better sense of how you go about doing this.

> I wanted 3 new player-Gods: God of the Sky, an evil God, and Goddess of
Light.
> After having found suitable candidates to play these roles (not easy)

How many gods do you have, how are they recompensed, what sort of powers or
capabilities do they have?

> The basic story then was that a black hole and a star collided out in the
> cosmos somewhere and the release of energy created Apollyon, the
Malefactor,
> and Aurora, Goddess of Light. Sadly for the mortals, the release of this
> energy killed every player (bar one lucky bastard), all mobiles, and 
> all plant life (plant life is crucial to players generally).

How much playerbase attrition did you suffer during the time period this was
going on? I noted that the lack of Gaia in the second scenario increase
usage & am curious if this event which seems to have had mroe far-reaching
consequences did likewise. What consequences did the players suffer from
this death (eg, was it a "special death" which cost them nothing?) What
damage did not having plant life do to the game economy?

>  Afterwards, some other Gods
> intervened to clean up the lingering radiation, but this didn't solve the
> problem of the plant life and such being dead. Essentially, the Druids and
> Sentinels (Sentinels are an off-shoot of the Druidic class) had to go
about
> regrowing the plants to replace them, etc.

How long a period was this? To what extent were character classes hampered
or temporarily rendered impotent by the lack of plant life?

> Did this have a huge, permanent destructive effect? No. I'll  agree that
huge,
> permanent destructive events shouldn't be used too often (although I
completely
> disagree that they cannot be used at all). But, it A) provided a lot of
> excitement in the land, and people talked about what happened for quite
> awhile, and b) it gave the Druids and Sentinels something very in-role to
do to
> "solve" the problems created by this. Again, the official history is 
> included below if anyone cares to read it.
> 
> Example #2: The Nature Wars
> The Nature wars resulted from one of our Gods, Gaia the Earthmother,
managing
> to actually slay Twilight, God of Darkness. This was completely
unacceptable
> from an administration standpoint, as Gods must never be seen to be
vulnerable
> to a single force, lest mortals lose fear and respect for them. 

Can you go into more detail about the behavior codes and standards required
of gods?

> Obviously, this caused a lot of outrage, once again, among 
> the mortals. They
> were furious that Twilight would do this to them (it's funny 
> that almost none
> or none of them ever thought to say, "Hey, Sarapis (that's 
> me) wouldn't let an
> entire skill set be destroyed for the sake of role)

I think it is more interesting that they didn't say, "Hey, Sarapis is
ruining our game" and instead ascribed it to the actions of Twilight--even
though they weren't his actions at all, really. In other words, your players
reacted in an extremely IC fashion. What sort of measures or conditioning
exists to ensure that this is so? 

> Eventually, through a variety of measures, they 
> were able to assist
> in the release of their beloved Goddess, and once again life was good.

What sort of measures did you come up with for something like this? And how
long did the event last?

> Ok, now I realize that neither of these events is on par with 
> a city becoming
> plagued out or a continent sinking

Quite comparable, I think.

To explain to you why I stated what I did: if we plagued out a city, we'd
likely lose a couple hundred players a day who found the game too daunting
(newbies start in these cities). If we broke a character class, the
development team would get blamed directly, regardless of fictional dressing
(and this is arguably because the fiction is not compelling enough). If we
introduced a major out-of-whack factor in the game economy, the many players
we have who completely ignore the fictional events, who just want to do
their own thing, run their own cities, etc, would likely complain that we
were ruining their game. We're very concerned about attrition in these
cases.

> You CAN completely mess with mortals, but as long as they are 
> given some sort of hope, it acts as a motivator to them.

A key point. I also gather, from your examples, that the trick is to take
something away, then let players earn it back. We had tried a large-scale
event which was based around the opposite--the threat to take something
away, players had to prevent it. The result was that players didn't feel
involved enough (on the other hand, we got a faction who worked to MAKE the
disaster happen).

> Many of the naturists prayed to Aurora during their
> difficult times, trusting that somehow she wouldn't let them 
> down.

Does this have an actual game mechanic, or was it purely roleplay?

If the latter, how big is Achaea?

All in all, an excellent & fascinating setup.

-Raph


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