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

J C Lawrence claw at cp.net
Thu Dec 16 15:13:11 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999


On Mon, 6 Dec 1999 16:09:14 -0800  
Sellers, Michael <MSellers at maxis.com> wrote:

> 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.  

Well, yes.

> I think I can safely say that you're in a tiiiiiny minority who
> feel that way.  

I suspected as much.

> 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.  

Which is of course explicitly stated in things like The Craft of
Adventure or or standard writing/literature texts.  The difference
however is that you are viewing a player's interaction with the game 
as necessarily possessing some quality of a "story".

I disagree.  I see all narrative, and thus story qualities in
MUDding as retrospective and often posthumous.

> 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.

Which is also not the point I'm belabouring.

_IF_ the game is responsible for protecting and warning the player
in regard to all possible dangers of magnitude, several things
become interesting:

  -- traps
  -- ambushes
  -- monsters found outside of their normal haunts
  -- environmental conditions 
  -- externally caused state changes to local objects

Consider the example I posited a little later in that post:

  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.

Now this is explicitly a _different_ situation than the simple
instance of a room with three exits, two of which are death traps
(cf Craft of Adventure).  Not to belabour the point, the difference
is between pre-designed game instances whicha re dangerous to the
player (the room with three exits), or happenstance occurances which 
*might* be dengerous to the player.

Now the game designer has some obvious responsibilities in the
3ExitRoom, but what responsibilities does he have in the
BandsofBubba scenario?

Is the game designer excused from these responsibilities if the
situation is a player contrivance(taking blessful advantage of the
impossibility of catalog and detection) and only responsible when
the situation is pre-designed and/or world-explicit and not
world-implicit?

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?  

>> "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?

Using "fun" to cover "diverting, escapist, and fun":

  Must a game be fun all the time?

  What characterises or defines a "fun action"?

  What is the "scope" of fun?  Are some things fun only in the
  larger view?

  Are some actions fun solely in hindsight of prior actions, and are
  they therefore of particular value?

  If so, what advantage can and should be taken of these?

The Craft of Adventure and "Crimes Against Mimesis" both comment on
this, but not terribly usefully I feel.  

Yes, games are enjoyed because they are "fun" in some manner.
That's not the question.  The question is the depth of how invasive
the game designer's responsibility is for ensuring an aribitrary
player's "fun".  This is in essence the tour-guide difference.  Is
the game designer a tour guide, escorting the player in
semi-vicariousness thru the game world Disney-style, or is the game
designer closer to an absentee landlord who can be appealed to via a
static riddled phone line hidden in the basement?

>> 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.  

Umm, that was a particularly bad choice of words on my part.  I'm
nto sure what the correct choice of words would be.

Taking the classical GM model as a base, the game designer holds an
ambiguous role.  On the one hand he is bedevilling his players,
causing them strife, pain, and even death, challenging them,
tauntung them, playing games with and about them.  On the other hand 
he is their greatest ally against the scenaarioes he concocts --
they only survive and even prosper to the extent that he succours
them.

This leaves a duality:

  On the one hand it is the player against the GM and game world,
and all the cards are in the GM's hands.

  On the other hand it is the player and the GM against the game
world, and the GM is occassionally able to steal cards from the
world's hands.

Both models have aspects of truth.  Neither would seem true across
the boards.

> 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.  

Excellent point.  The world is a proxy for the game designer, but
must never be seen to be a direct and personal expression of the
game designer as regards a particular player.

>> 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.

> Allowing the young newbie into that situation at all is just poor
> writing, IMO.  Or the game-design equivalent.  

  login: newbie
  password: ********
  You enter the game!
  ...
  (Newbie goes exploring)
  ...
  > l
  Main Street:  To the east lies the village square.
  > e
  A wizard is talking to a crowd of people:
    "Okay, I'll teleport you all to Rue.  Ready?  Here goes!"
  You have been teleported somewhere else...
  > l 
  The Village of Rue.

Specifically I'm looking at the case of player-derived world events
conspiring (deliberately or not) to place a character in a
particular situation.

> 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.

CraftOfAdventure demands, "3.To be able to win without experience of
past lives".  Given the ambiguity of the term "win" in MUDs, I'm not
clear how appliciable this rule is as a generality.

>> 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.  

True, but you weren't supposed to notice that I was trolling for
traffic.  The real crux of my question is in the defined position of
the game designer as regards his players.

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


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