[MUD-Dev] Memory, the Brain, and Dogma

rayzam rayzam at home.com
Wed Jul 26 00:37:14 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

----- Original Message -----
From: "Patrick Dughi" <dughi at imaxx.net>
To: <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
Sent: Tuesday, July 25, 2000 8:49 PM
Subject: Re: [MUD-Dev] Sustainable Ecosystem

> This is a great idea.  It just doesn't seem to be viable.  The
> chance that one person could put together in their head the realization
> that killing species _x_ raises the number of species _y_, is pretty good.
> Humans can handle in their head simple equations with just a few
> variables.  The more variables you add, the less chance that the player
> will 'get' it.  I think someone said that the normal number of things that
> we can keep in our head at one time is 7.
> So, the situation of just animals existing in a specific number is
> easy for someone to grasp.
> Of course, that's assuming that we actually _have_ all those
> things in our head.  We probably won't have the actual variables
> displayed; the best idea that populations are up or down will only come
> from a player walking around and looking.  Really can you count how many .
> If other players are altering/adjusting/manipulating them, and we don't
> even know the potential effects of any change - or even which changes can
> be done, to which variables, well....
> Now, we're assuming that players can notice and react to these
> trends, and be able to both educate and regulate other players inorder to
> maintain a viable system..don't hold your breath.

    Actually, it's from G. Miller, who determined that the magic number for
working memory is 7 +/-2. That means if given a string of digits or letters,
the average person can remember 7 plus or minus 2 of them, accurately.  But
this doesn't count for things you really commit to memory. Another seemingly
magic # in how the brain works is 4. That is, most people can track 4
independently moving objects simultaneously, or note 4 changes, etc.
    But aside from that, humans [and other primates] are very good at
noticing trends, underlying distributions, timing, and other things of that
nature. That is how we learn, we make a lot of causal associations, based
often times on little data, because the brain takes short-cuts. Example: why
does images changing on a screen at a refresh rate appear like continous
motion? because we cheat and assume that something moving continues to move,
instead of teleporting in and out quickly.
    Yes, players may come up with feelings about the underlying mechanics.
This tends to be a problem in general, but for false associations. That's
where players start believing something, making a correlation, that just
isn't true. And then publicize it, till it becomes dogma.

    An example, we've had to deal with specifically on Retromud. We have a
Luck stat. It used to increase with level, and be visible in a player's
score. So players could always see their luck. One thing luck does is give a
bonus to skill and spell use. Note that this is a bonus, from no bonus at 0
luck, to a small bonus of 5% at 100 luck [the maximum]. One thing luck does
not do is affect stat increases when a character levels [levelling gives
stat bonuses based on race, giant gets a lot of strength, but little
intelligence, etc].
    Then I changed it. Luck became invisible, only noticeable in a statement
such as 'You are having a great day!' or 'You are having a lousy day!', a
gamut of about 5 different levels of messages. No longer based on level,
luck is  randomly determined by race. Most races have average luck, i.e.
from 0 - 100. Some races are considered lucky, and therefore from 50 - 100,
or unlucky 0 - 50, or in some sense, luck-neutral, 40 - 60 luck.  Luck is
assigned at a random amount for that mud-day. When the mud-day changes, a
character's luck is updated. This is a fairly good representation of the
randomness of luck, and the message to the player is for all the little
things that don't make it as real mud events [i.e 'You are having a lousy
day' may mean that your breakfast was burned and oversalty. You spilled your
juice. Your hair is a mess.].
    This new luck system only affects the luck stat, and not the places in
the lib where the stat is used, such as bonuses to skill and spell use.
However, misattribution and correlations caused a lot of problems. First of
all, players had the impression that you should only level when you were
having good or great luck, or else you had worse stat increases. This
superstition still lasts in some players in the light of multiple posts by
the wizard staff.
    Secondly, players have the impression that great luck means you fail
spells more, as if the bonus was really a curse, as if the sign of the bonus
was flipped. Another superstition. This one stems from misattribution
however. A player sees he has great luck, and fails a spell, he notices it.
Another player fails spells and sees he has bad luck, he doesn't notice as
much. The incongruous first situation is more memorable. Therefore, the
player remembers more of those incidents, and then makes a connection that
great luck = more failures.
    Both of these cases become more ironic since players had been able to
see their luck and effects of it before the change to the invisible, daily,
random system.

    And that's how superstitions start in the real world too. But in the
case of the mud, it seems to be more difficult to deal with. I know that
even though I may sit at a red light and blink my eyes, thinking 'turn
green!', and it does, that really, its not working that way. But a mud is a
lot of complex code behind the scenes, the laws of which players [and
wizards!] may not fully understand. Which can lead to more superstitions.
Then the dogma gets spread. And becomes difficult to disentangle.

    Dogma, something I hate, but pops up in the strangest ways. The real
problem is debunking it without giving away formulas, game mechanics, or
other inside information.


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