[MUD-Dev] curses and grief players

J C Lawrence claw at kanga.nu
Sun Jul 23 10:30:02 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


On Sun, 23 Jul 2000 13:09:48 +0100 (BST) 
Marian Griffith <gryphon at iaehv.nl> wrote:

> The reason why what we call democracy works is that it gives
> nobody enough power that their mistakes really mess up the system.

Its worth noting that Democracy does not prevent (and can actively
encourage) the Tragedy of the Commons, as Brazil and several others
can testify.  Majority rule is easily turned, especially with media
cooperation, into institutionalised aristocracies.  Again, look at
various parts of the second and third world for examples.

>From a MUD perspective there is another problem with such governing
systems:  the feedback loops are inherently flawed.  IRL we have to
live with what we create.  In MUDs the player can (and do) just get
up and leave.  The kill all the sheep and now the dragons are peeved 
and are toasting players like marshmallows?  Well,  if the game is
not fun in that marshamallow state, if it is not just as playable in 
that condition as it is in the sheep-herder condition, why should
any player stay to try and reverse or alter the condition?  Why not
just go to another game?

Ahh, but our games are sticky, we have community, we have
participation and player investment, and all those other neat
socially oriented things.  However that ignores a critical fact: At
Scieties in practice are (loosely) formed of two classes of people;
a core of actively contributing faith-holders and a much larger
disorganised mass who mostly just happen to be there and run along
with what generally happens.  Once can't survive without the other,
and a society, as a conglomeration of cultures, can't survive
without both (there just aren't enough faith holders).  If/when the
game ceases to be fun because of an ecological feedback loop, fringe
and along-for-the-ride players will begin to leave.  There is no
value left in it for them.  This will tend to escalate, as many
hobbyest MUDs have seen, where a once populous games rapidly
diminishes to a core set of half a dozen or so who spend their time
wondering why they're still there.

Or, to put it another way, from a game perspective, reality sucks
and doesn't sell terribly well (and even hobbyest games have to sell
something their players want to their players or they'll have none).

> Dictators and other absolute rulers do have that kind of power.
> E.g.  if the president of the USA declares that all dogs should be
> killed, he will be put out of office.  

Never question the power of charisma and glory of a popular hero.
cf Thomas Beckett among others.  Given a sufficiently popular leader
(eg Simon Bolivar), yes, an offhand comment about killing all the
dogs may very well have been carried out just because Bolivar said
it.

> In PK muds on the other hand powerful players have an almost
> absolute power over weaker players, and their decisions can
> destroy a mud (by driving other players away).

While true I think this casts attention in the wrong direction.  The 
problem is not that high level players can (and do) terroise low
level players, but that:

  a) low level players have no effective method of avoidance or
defense without rendering the game unplayable/not-fun.

  b) There is no spread of goals/activities for low level players
that either does not lead them into direct conflict or contact with
high level players, or which are enjoyable in their own right (mix
the Stamp Collector's Dilemma with basic game requirements).

  c) low level players are rewarding targets for higher level
players, even if not in in-game returns (this is a human problem,
not a game problem).  

--
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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