[MUD-Dev] Fair/Unfair? Scenarios (fwd)

Sellers Sellers
Mon Dec 6 16:09:14 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

JC wrote:

> ...
> The idea that the game world (or game designer for that matter) is
> going to come up to me prior to every "dangerous" section and warn
> me off (however subtlely), or ensure that I can never trap myself
> without a means of escape is somehow deeply offensive.

To you.  I think I can safely say that you're in a tiiiiiny minority who
feel that way.  The idea that (as they say in the theatre) "a pistol placed
on the mantel in the first act must be used by the third" is seen all
throughout our culture's fiction.  A corollary to that is that you don't
make a pistol that no one's seen or talked about a central piece to the
story.  Doing that is deeply dissatisfying to most people.  So, in terms of
the fiction created by our game worlds, it's not surprising that most people
would find it unfair (dissatisfying/frustrating) to have the centerpiece of
their story turn on an item or monster that they could not possibly have
known exists.  Some, of course, will find such uncertainty thrilling and
anything else annoying and coddling; but most will not.  

> "Life isn't always fair.  Deal with it."  We've all heard the line.
> How true is that for our players?  

People play games as a diversion, escape, or for fun.  Life isn't fair, and
it often isn't fun.  Why should our games follow the same restriction?  

> At what point does our role as
> world designers change from hand-holding tour guide to protagonist?

IMO, the designer is *NEVER* the protagonist.  The player is.  The designer
may sometimes supply the antagonist, but only very indirectly.  If the
puppeteer's hand shows, then it's not Punch whacking you, but the puppeteer.
That makes a lot of people angry and frustrated (and that last thing I want
in a game with a lot of players is any significant portion of them angry at
me -- they can do a lot of damage if they really want to).  

> > It doesn't have to be explicit and certainly shouldn't be 'out of
> > world', but there should be a warning of some sorts (maybe an old
> > man who advises the unready to trun back).  
> So, the wandering Bands of Bubba, nasty headhunting brain bashing
> villains that they are, have been magically transported into the
> Village of Rue by a wayward wizard, and, just happen to meet up with
> their dire enemies, Boffo's Brutes who are enjoying a spot of pie at
> the local pub after losing their way due to a disorientation spell.
> Of course a battle royal ensues across the tradionally tranquial
> streets and squares of Rue, that utopian dream of bucolic
> simplicity, and our young newbie, knowing nothing of this, walks
> into the middle of the fray, finds himself lost and both a head
> shorter and dead, tho possibly not in that order.
> Shuld, upon the instance of that battle, a surrounding circle of
> beggers and grizzledold men uttering warnings of dangers ahead
> suddenly spring into existance surrounding the village?  

Allowing the young newbie into that situation at all is just poor writing,
IMO.  Or the game-design equivalent.  Good writing and gameplay involve
tension -- not too much or too little.  Too much and you get dead quick.
End of game.  Too little and nothing ever happens.  Yawn.  End of game (from
boredom).  Walking this line of having one or more increasingly powerful
characters moving through the world without either nuking them or making
things too easy is one reason why this kind of design is so difficult.  

> Again, is the game there to provide a carefully guaged and vicarious
> tour for the player, or is it there to provide a logically
> consistent reality for the player to deduce and seduce into
> survivability?

Neither.  That's a false dichotomy.  It's there to provide an engaging,
immersive, hopefully on-going experience.  That's neither tour nor proxy
reality.  It's a game.  Games that are fun (for most folks, tastes certainly
vary!) go by different rules than canned tours or raw life.  

Mike Sellers

MUD-Dev maillist  -  MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

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