[MUD-Dev] Acting casual about casual gamers

J C Lawrence claw at kanga.nu
Fri Jul 14 23:30:56 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


On Sun, 25 Jun 2000 08:43:31 -0700 
Brian Green <brian at psychochild.org> wrote:

> So, what creates this problem?  What prevents the casual gamer
> from enjoying our games?  I think it can be caused by both an
> unbalanced focus on advancement and an improper handling of the
> social environment.

Advancement curves are a problem in so far that we have defined them
as increases in core abilities.  You are stronger, faster, tougher,
and able to do more of what you were doing before, and to do it
better.  Yuore previously extant stat maxes are increased with each
level.  You become more of what you were.  This is rather than
gaining new abilities, and new things to do, and new goals to match
those abilities and activities, your becoming OTHER than what yuo
were.

So, you're a sword swinger.  You work hard and are disciplined in
your craft and now find that your mental concentration and general
mastery of the chi has grown thru this practice that you are now
able to perform various mental/biologic feats that were not possible
before.  You excercise these new abilities, maintaining the rigours
you learnt in your swordsman days, and find that you are starting to
develop TK abilities...etc.

At each stage and level the character becomes more able.  He can do
more.  Not the same old in a bigger scale, but more variety.  He can
do the old things, and some new thing.  He also has to work to
maintain this new abilitiy in addition to his older abilities (no
rest for the wicked).

> As Lee said, he feels penalized for only playing a couple hours
> (only?!?) per night.  Why?  Because he can't keep up with the
> advancement of other players he knows.  Every hour he's not
> playing that someone else is is an hour he's behind.  The only way
> to catch up is to spend an extra hour playing that his friends
> don't.  If his friends spend 10 hours per day compared to 2 hours,
> you can see how quickly he falls behind.

Yeah, this is still a problem with the above, tho differently as the
the bsic game definition is changing rather than him merely being
outclassed/juniorified.

> Yet, I think that character persistence can be partially applied
> to ease the problem of the casual gamer.  Many people have
> suggested allowing characters to do typically repetitive
> activities (such as using trade skills) during offline times.
> Although the character is not "in the world", they are still doing
> something productive for the player.  This would allow a warrior
> character to patch up his or her armor using offline time instead
> of online time.  Or, it would allow a merchant to produce and
> procure items during offline times, allowing them to focus on the
> more "fun" social interactions.  Or, another merchant character
> could sell items during offline time, allowing them to focus on
> the more "fun" exploration for new items to sell.

Sudden thought:

  We've long concentrated on theplayer as being "in" the game and
adopting a direct personality there.  How about a different view?
The player is really a significant landholder, a succesful merchant
with a retinue and extensive holdings and staff, the ruler of a
small city state.  Ergo, he gets to play meta-politics, and
pseudo-sim games, which can be fun, or he can dip into the head of
any one of his vassals/staff/retinue and play them directly, much
like our current MUDs, and then when he wishes, he can jump back out 
to the over-view, or dip into someone else.  While the player is not 
occupying a particular junior they run on automatic, doing whatever
it is they do in normal (boring) fashion.  AI is not terribly
significant -- there's no attempt at representing humanity here --
all the interesting things happen because human players pick up
individuals and make them do interesting things which affect other
human players.

  ObNote: Not terribly encouraging of socialising.

> Any game that does not have sufficient messaging options will hurt
> casual game play.  

When you get down to it, it is all about communicating effects to
others.  All of it.  Be it from the game designer to the player,
game designer to groups of players, or player to player.  The effect 
can range from the banal "I kicked your arse," to more cerebral or
socially (in)significant items, to cooperative forms etc.  Its all
about communicating *something*.  

ObNote: This is the basic reason I consider the current legal
efforts against Napster (and indirectly Gnutella) doomed (note this
is not a commentary on the morality of Napster or Gnutella, just
their mechanics).  In essence they are asking people not to
communicate to each other.  I don't see that asking people to shut
up has ever worked.  Its an uphll against natural tendency battle.
Conversely, getting people to communicate MORE tends to work well.

I don't see that games, or MUDs, are any different.  The more ways
and the easier you make it for people the communicate, the more
they'll tend to do it.  

Thing is, different people will like and use different media.  I
happen to consider things like ICQ and IRC actively useless if not
perniciously distracting.  I've looked at both several times over
the last years and can't find sufficient reason to ever use either
of them.  I seem to be rather uncommon in that view.  Conversely I
adore email as a communication medium.  Others loathe email and its
semi-structured formality and slow pacing, and adore ICQ/IRC-like
media.  So, offer both, and as many other media, methods, and
flavours as you can contrive.

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


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