[MUD-Dev] thoughts on 'realism'

Matthew Mihaly diablo at best.com
Tue Sep 21 01:12:46 New Zealand Standard Time 1999


Fairly recently, there was a discussion here about immersion, and the
level of detail which is necessary to produce a feeling of "realness" in
the minds of the users. We talked about whether it matters that you can
interact with every object in a room description, and so on. 

Obviously a few examples don't prove the rule, but in the last 2 days,
I've gotten literally nearly 10 compliments from players on how real and
immersive Achaea feels to them (quote, "I was marvelling at the richness
and realness that it emanates."), yet we make not even a basic attempt to
have things in the room descriptions interactable with. We don't treat
objects in a general way at all, and there are tons of examples where
things are logically inconsistent (we have a huge selection of what I
would say are very original skills and spells, but all of the offensive
ones, bar a couple that each class has, will not work on mobiles). 

So it makes me wonder. I stated in the discussion that I don't think it's
important to worry about things like being able to interact with a chair
in a room description, because the users do not treat a MUD as if it was
real reality. From an assumed NPC population of the city-states that is
based on the real PC population, to many references to places that don't
exist and can't be gotten to, etc, users treat these
what-would-be-inconsistencies-in-the-real-world as merely part of the
reality in which they live in Achaea. 

I have no real theory as to why a feeling of immersivenes and richness can
be gotten without all the little inconsistencies fixed, except that we
maintain an environment within the game that takes itself very seriously.
Myself and the other admins (who roleplay Greek-style Gods) expect
responsible behavior from the mortals, and make frequent points about it.
When the leaders of a city are not doing well with the management of their
city, we encourage people to challenge them in an election. We
occassionally may give talks on proper leadership. Basically, we take
ourselves and the events in the game as being very serious, and I think
that this factor, more than anything else, is what contributes to the
feeling of realism that at least some of our players apparently feel. 

Another factor is coherency, I think. I wrote (and continue to add to on
occassion) fairly extensive histories (some of which can be found at:  
http://www.achaea.com/history/history.html), and when I laid out the
world, I first crafted the geography of it, and then have put down areas
within the geography, rather than adding, improbably, new geography, as
some muds are wont to do. I have, however, left things open by suggesting,
for instance, that there is a large jungle south of some impassable
mountains, and an entire other continent across the still-to-be-built
ocean. 

This very well may not be the only way to achieve that feeling of richenss
and depth which presumably every mud aspires to (although muds that
resemble disneyland, with different "silly" areas (little mermaid,
pokemon, etc) sort of haphazardly slapped about perhaps aren't concerned
with it), but it certainly does work. It does require active management on
the part of the admins, acting in-role, encouraging certain behaviors,
discouraging others. Once you have a core base of players who adhere to
those behaviors, they start to transmit this seriousness to others. Of
course, not all our players act that way. We have the standard annoying 15
year olds who start with names like "LimpBizkit", but they are quickly
forced to either take it seriously, or at least not pollute any public
forum with their triviality.
--matt




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