[MUD-Dev] Acting casual about casual gamers

John Buehler johnbue at email.msn.com
Wed Jul 5 22:59:56 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

Madrona Tree
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2000 11:51 AM

>Not necessarily.  It only suggests that whatever skill(s) they'll gain the
>next day will have to do with what they're doing today.  And maybe not.  I
>mean really, the burst hour shouldn't start till you start using a skill,
>that if you are just standing around doing nothing (that the game
>as skill-gain activity) for the first 15 minutes, you shouldn't be punished
>for that.
>So if I went out killing mobs, and then went back to town to sell my loot,
>and logged out in town, and went out to kill mobs again the next day, my
>burst hour wouldn't count the time I'm buying/selling ... it would only
>on the minute i whacked the mob over the head with my weapon.  Maybe you
>could even set it - hit a checkbox next to a skill or two that you
>particularly want to raise, and have your burst hour begin when you use
>those particular skills.

  Well, I'd not want to expose the game mechanics to the point of having
my players worry about setting skill checkboxes.  I don't even like them
knowing which skills there are by name.  They obviously have to be able
to invoke an attempt at a given skill, but some of those invocations
would be entirely through mouse or keyboard.  Some would be textual
commands, and those commands would certainly have to use some kind of
name system.

  I understand what you're trying to do with the Burst Hour approach.  I
still favor a cumulative amount of gain during a certain period of real
time.  So I can accumulate X points of skill gain across all skills
during a 12 hour period - where the player is not aware of the numeric
amount of skill gain, only that skills have improved a bit, a lot or
a ton.

  While I'm talking about skills, I come from the 'No Numbers' camp,
which I'm sure has been beaten to death in prior discussions.  As an item
of consideration in that discussion, I offer the 'color patch' technique.
The color patch is a simple enough idea.  Take your value from 0..N and
compute a percentage for your value in that range (50 in a 0..1000 range
is 5%).  Then show that value to the player by using a 5% saturation
patch of color on the screen.  The idea behind the color patch is that
it indicates values only in a fuzzy way.  Sound levels are another way
of indicating fuzzy values.

>>   The player would spend his time watching graphical depictions
>> of each thing that the character does.  Pumping of bellows,
>> quenching of metal, hammering, shaping, the whole nine yards.
>On its face, it sounds very interesting and fun.  In practice, I worry that
>after the "oooh, neat!" wore off, it would get boring.  And if folks aren't
>pumping out their plate tunics at a sufficient rate, they will become
>extremely expensive; perhaps too expensive for other players
>to buy.

  If the "oooh, neat!" wears off quickly for trade enthusiasts, then
the designers have done an inferior job.  The "oooh, neat!" wears off
for combat systems as well.  The reason that many people stay in EverQuest
is not because the combat system is all that much fun, but because of
the environment that they are exposed to and the community that it
permits.  The crafting of armor, weapons and other items THAT ARE OF
NECESSITY will be enjoyable if that crafting has a useful, as well as
a social, value in the game.  The visual and process complexity of
crafting such items is to give the craftsman players something
entertaining to work on.

  Because combat has a natural opposition to it, it can stay more
dynamic and interesting.  The 'opposition' in crafts needs to be
explored and understood.  In metalworking, the opposition will be
problems in the materials or defects introduced due to low skill,
decisions about whether or not to attempt certain constructions
from given materials, etc.  Find an enthusiast for the crafting
skills and you'll produce an entertaining game feature.  We have
tons of combat and magic enthusiasts and they produce reasonably
interesting features for combat and magic.  I believe the same
can apply to many other aspects of the virtual game world - and
that includes the trades.

>Your game will also need to be built in smaller chunks.  Teleportation is a
>boon to the Casual Gamer; it gets them where they want to go - fast - so
>that they can do what they want to do - fast - and get back to their
>extra-computer lives.

  At one level teleportation is a boon.  At another level, it is
a bane.  It means that no matter where any gamer goes, the
experience is approximately the same.  Having distinct cultures
and unique situations is tough when you have cell phones and
airlines and fairly small worlds.  Simutronics is talking about
creating a game that is geographically the size of Montana.  It
won't stay very large with teleportation and global communication.

>If you take that away, you'll need to put something
>else in its stead, or you'll need to design your game's map so that travel
>to anywhere won't take more than 5 minutes if you don't want it to.  Did
>ever play Fallout?  It might be nice for the casual gamer to have a map
>Fallout; where you travel from place A to B on a higher map, and if there
>are any hostile confrontations, it stops you for them.  Course, there are
>problems with this, too...

  The Simutronics guys refer to that as Overland Travel.  It's
hotly debated by the kibitzers on the Stratics board.  Any high
speed travel in the game world has the problem of making the
game world smaller.  The reason that the game world is made
smaller is so that there's lots for the players to do.  I offer
the converse of that solution.  If you want lots of things to do,
put lots of entertaining things in one small area.  Provide an
incentive for players to keep to one area of the world.  If they
want to travel, make that travel possible, but stick with a real
time format.  A long trip should be entertaining, but it won't
be the intense experience of being in combat.  Just as I claim
that trades should be entertaining for crafting enthusiasts, travel
should be entertaining for travel enthusiasts.

  Fractal terrain generation (or equivalents) to produce small
details, orienteering skills to occupy players attempting to
figure out what is where, exertion penalties for accessing
swampy areas or areas that are steeply inclined.  Climbing skills
to clamber into very inaccessible areas.  Lack of trivial
obstructions of rivers and streams - no waist-deep rivers or
swimming with full pack and armor.  The points of opposition to
travel can be rather entertaining.  Don't want to put up with
travel's challenges?  Stick to the established hiways and
byways or just stay in town - where there's lots to do.

  Yes, this is a different game than the classic puzzle-solving
and monster-killing bonanza.  It is a game where we no longer
trivialize the realities surrounding puzzle-solving and monster-
killing and instead turn them into more fun.

>Geography can change, although it is harder.  I am an explorer, and I am
>always very glad for the maps that other explorers make.  I don't want them
>to tell me everything, you know... however, the maps that come with the
>games are usually not very good.

  I get bent when the game world is so small that it gets
mapped in a couple weeks.  I'm thinking of EverQuest here.  I
don't know if Asheron's Call is getting mapped quite as much.
Of course, with a GPS system and a high level world map, I
guess there's not much need.

  For a large world, the maps can simply show the areas that
are known to my character.  Beyond that, I have to use an
orienteering skill or in-game maps to figure out where I am
or how to get where I'm going.  Out of game maps are still
going to come into existence (unfortunately), but if the
world is large enough and travel isn't trivialized, the
explorers will have lots of time to have their fun.


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