[MUD-Dev] MUD Wimping

Michael Tresca talien at toast.net
Tue Aug 1 07:16:29 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


On Tuesday, August 01, 2000 1:58 AM Dan Shiovitz wrote:
> So if you don't do the kind of kind of wimping he hates, I don't think
> there's any alternative to doing regular player wipes. The win that way is
> it's scheduled; the players can know it, plan for it, have little goodbye
> parties.

Actually, we've never done a player wipe.  I think playerwiping is never an
absolute necessity unless it's very clearly testing -- in which case, I
don't consider it a wipe.  While it may take extra effort to "fix"
characters, long term players enjoy that status.  Six years, no wipes, and
I'd say we're the better for it.

> You can say "ok, we'll just make a different guarantee with the players,
> we'll tell them everything, including skills, can change without
> notice". But it won't work, I promise. People can't play under that sort
> of setup, so what they'll do is they'll look at the guarantee and what
> they'll read is still "We promise not to change the way skills work".

I absolutely agree.  If the only promise you make is no promises, you get
one of two reactions:

1) Players stop seeing that warning because it's there all the time.  I
don't recall the term, but basically you can flash "You are being snooped"
over someone's email login every time the access email, but eventually they
don't see it and forget about it completely.  Similarly, players will forget
about the claim that you said you can change things at a whim.  Then they'll
be pissed off at you when you do change things, which of course ruins the
purpose of warning them about it in the first place.

2) People view the place as more unstable than other MUDs who do not shove
the fact that almost all of these games are ever-evolving in their faces.
So the MUD that gives the ILLUSION of stability wins.

This is what Tenarius is revealing in his wimping rant, that the illusion is
just simply that, an illusion, and he's bitter about it.  But it seems to me
that the nature of the MUD development paradigm is entirely based on this
illusion -- ideally, players don't see when things break, they don't know
the code behind your interactive NPC, and they don't realize that you
tweaked the monster several times since you created it.  This almost never
happens though -- players are usually recruited to fix things, because
there's more of them than you (the coders) and therefore they're in the best
situation to resolve and catch problems.  On the other hand, sometimes
coders must take overt and obvious action to correct these problems.
Tenarius finds this "revealing of the illusion" to be unacceptable.

Or I should say, it's only unacceptable if the CODERS reveal the illusion.
It's okay if players abuse the game, do things they're not supposed to, and
reveal the flaws of the gaming experience.  It's no longer a believable and
immersive fantasy world experience, it's Bob with his +50 Bobslayer who
found out it kills everything in one hit.  It's okay for Bob to reveal that
it's just a game, but coders can't apparently step out from behind the
curtain to fix it.

Seems like circular logic to me.

Tenarius states:
> Nobody wants a long term commitment that fluctuates. How would you
> like to be married to someone that would fluctuate in how much they
> do drugs, commit adultery or beat you?

He wants the illusion of stability to be the actual reality, which is a
guaranteed way to give your MUD a long, very slow death.  All games
fluctuate (and I'd submit, as do all relationships).  The difference is
Tenarius assumes that changes are inherently abusive.

And when is it okay to finally modify things? According to Tenarius:
> As long as they are not maliciously hurting each other leave em
> be and let them have fun!

Apparently, "maliciously hurting each other" is a purely moral judgment.
I'm not sure if this would exclude player-killing.  It certainly seems very
peculiar -- I know of no MUD where one player hasn't at one point or another
attempted to be malicious to another.  That's the side effect of millions of
people potentially having access to your game through the Internet.

> Unless your mud is dropping in players because massive numbers
> of them are telling you 'this twink mud is too easy so I am
> quitting', let them be!

So this would mean that until your MUD is in serious danger, with players
leaving in "massive numbers" (which for many MUDs could mean losing 10
players or more), you are not within your rights to fix anything.

Dan Shiovitz asked:
> Anyone have an example of a player base taking a largish code change well,
> and saying "man, that was a good change even if it hurt in the short
> term"?

Yessir, we did just that.  We had vigorous arguments with players about why
mages weren't allowed to wear bulky armor.  Then we decided to create a
system out of that vigorous arguing, the bulk system, which amusingly enough
matches the Arms Law system by ICE (and I've seen elsewhere).  We divided
bulk into 4 categories: clothing (light), leather (flexible), chain
(semi-flexible), plate (inflexible).  For every armor slot taken up, it
reduces certain skills by a percentage.  The more slots taken up, the less
effetive your skills are based on their type -- the Armed Combat category
will work fine with plate, but the Stealth category won't.

We also made a Spell Bulk setting.  Religious guilds that are warrior-like
were able to cast spells with more armor on, than the mage who needed room
to gesture and concentrate.  In all cases, the characters could wear various
amounts of armor of different bulks, but the more they wore, the more
penalties they accumulated.  It was no longer an all or nothing deal (like
AD&D was).

The change caused a lot of hysteria, because while some folks increased in
power because they could now take advantage of armor they didn't have
before, an equal number of players found themselves restricted in ways they
hadn't been previously.  Those players screamed a wicked flame that burned
for several months.

About a year later, the bulk change was publicly acknowledged by the players
as one of the best we'd made.  We regularly get congratulations by high
level players for our efforts to balance the game, but according to
Tenarius, those are those are either Self-Preservationists or Ass-Kissers.

Tenarius leaves no room for players and coders to work in conjunction with
the development of a game.  You're either for them, or you're against them.
In reality, coders are always willing participants in game development.  The
players may or may not be willing -- but they are ALWAYS participants.

Michael "Talien" Tresca
Gamers.com MUD Department
Staff Writer
http://www.gamers.com




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