[MUD-Dev] CGDC dinner

J C Lawrence claw at kanga.nu
Sat Mar 11 10:36:00 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000


Well, all told, it went well.  Unfrtunately I was on the last legs
of recovering from the flu (I forgot the digital camera, my wallet,
to get a roster of who was there, and was a little bleary throughout
alas).

I received 8 RSVPs by Wednesday when I reserved the wine room at Al
Fornaio for 15 -- and 21 finally showed.  While we got the "Wine
Room" for dinner, we also got a very long narrow table which
resulted in there being at least three or four discrete
conversations going on at any time with little cross pollination.  I
suspect a round table would have prompted shouting matches however
as different conversations competed to be heard.  Tough call.

>From my vantage in the middle of the table with Chris Allen from
Skotos, Richard bartle, Raph Koster, Mathew Mihaley, Bruce (forget
last name) once of Cold and now doing a TOM project, a chap from
Skotos (sorry, forget your name), and one of the guys from EQ (my
memory is getting really bad), some of the interesting topics raised
encluded:

  -- What supports are needed during the time a game is building its
population base to create and sustain verious economic systems (eg
UO's crafters and the NPC vendors etc, artificial pricing etc), and
how the later removal of those systems (when the population base is
there) makes for a better game.

  -- The effects and problems of game items being sold in
game-external sites, and why different games suffer differently from
this eg: selling houses on UO, characters on EQ, and access to
respawn locations on AC.  This last one is particularly iniquitous:
Apparently certain guilds now regularly encircle the NPC respawn
points in AC and, "you have to buy a $500 ticket on EBay to get to
kill the NPC or they'll kill you if you try and get in to the
respawn".  Also, what extent is the game vendor responsible either
for, or for curtailing such activities?

  -- Social ranking systems and how they can be used to pull players
out from a purely linear level advancement path into something a
little more complex, long lasting, and less likely to prompt them to
burn out and leave. 

  -- Percentage churn rates among AC, EQ, UO, etc and some of the
effects that has on those games.

  -- Crime on EQ and player handling of it (mafia types running
reagent rackets, protection schemes etc).

  -- The fact that AC and EQ seem to have both now stated that their
PK switch "was a bad idea".

  -- What does the MUSH/Tiny-* community really need from a server
or game world and how can we find out?

  -- Some minor details on why AC's server system is so technically
advanced and slick (scaling, distribution, dataset and connection
migration, etc) and how that benefits them.

  -- The various levels of bandwidth consumption among the
commercial games, and what trade-offs were made to get there (mostly 
in terms of what is dynamically streamed from the server, and what
is stored statically on the client-side).  

  -- A little circling around the (to me) burgeoning market for
profitable niche games (ala Achea (sp?), Simultronic's offerings,
etc) and some of the reasons players are deliberately leaving the
graphical games for text-only games (with no prior experience of
text MUDding) with specific reference to Simultronics and their
rather unusual demographics (many players are 40 - 60yrs old,
professional, affluent, etc).

  -- What really is a next generation MUD/game/server, and why?  (Hi
Bruce)

  -- Is EQ's massive monetary deflation (which they claim is by
design?) and the resulting big bazaar-style barter meets really an
economy?  Some comparison was made here to UO where there is
apparently a well established (and documented) rate of exchange
between real $$ and game gold coins, and some of the results that
has on game playe and presentation and interest in the game.

  -- The fact that there are now people who are making a decent
living making gold coins on UO and then selling them for real world
$$.

  -- Details of the allegiance system on AC, its effects,
weaknesses, and how that built interesting social systems.

  -- How to clean up trash items in your games (and thus handling of
resets and respawns).

  -- Ways Kanga.Nu needs to be improved: I need to stop changing the
URL paths to things, extracting key MUD-Dev posts into a sub-library
for key-point thread referencing, ability to reply to a message in
the archives directly thru the web (this one is coming), the library
needs user annotations, comments, better categorising (its too
organic now), better search, user-customisation etc.

and most annoyingly (and yet true):

  -- How often threads are not raised on MUD-Dev because "They've
been done already', "Everybody knows...", "Well, they all think that
its a Good/Bad idea anyways", "Its too trivial and uninteresting for
those big experts", and various other assumed orthodoxies.  Eg:
level based systems (obviously levels are evil and bad), PK versus
no-PK (just a flame fest and of course you must have PK), handling
of game resets (all resets are bad), game world and player
persistence (a fully persistent world is obviously the only way to
go), and other such idiocies.

  I'm not going to rant, just please don't do this.  There are level
based systems out there that work extremely well and the _reasons_
they work so well needs to be understood.  Furcadia and others
survive quite well without PK and that doesn't make them any less
valuable or intereasting as games, and in fact can be argued as
making them even *MORE* interesting as being "against the common
wisdom".  Handling of resets is a pit bog in itself -- I'm not sure
anybody has really done a great job there.  And no, while
persistence is not the be-all and end-all of game systems.  There
are a great many games out there which suceed very nicely and do
very interesting things with rather narrow definitions of
persistence -- so why the bleep is it some sort of holy grail?
   
  ...and a bunch of other discussions that I just don't remember
right now.  If you do, please post them here.  They're all great
fodder for list threads.  The discussions down at the end of the
table surrounding John (ex of Kesmai) sounded fascinating, as did
the ones at the other end around the EQ/Smaug guys.

A big thanks goes to everyone who showed up.  A great time was had
by all, many faces were put to names (and no, I'm normally a tenor
and not quite so basso), and we got to eat some great food (in
particular the deserts were exquisite).  Thankyou.  Lets do it again
at next years CGDC and thankyou for coming on over.

--
J C Lawrence                                 Home: claw at kanga.nu
----------(*)                              Other: coder at kanga.nu
--=| A man is as sane as he is dangerous to his environment |=--


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