[MUD-Dev] The Player Wimping Guidebook

Matthew Mihaly the_logos at achaea.com
Thu Aug 3 06:37:11 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

On Wed, 2 Aug 2000, J C Lawrence wrote:

> On Tue, 1 Aug 2000 16:16:56 -0600  
> Malcolm Tester <MTester at cambric.com> wrote:
> >> From: Matthew Mihaly
> >> I'm sorry, but this just seems like poor design to me. One side
> >> should never be able to "win" irreparably in a persistent world,
> >> though it doesn't sound to me like you guys are much concerned
> >> with player persistence. 
> > I have to agree with Matt.  As both a designer and a player, I
> > would never code/play on a MUD that had player wiping.  
> Assumed orthodoxy!  Assumed orthodoxy!  Assume orthodoxy!
> Our automatic assumption is that player accomplishment is important,
> and that player advance, player accumulation, growth, and
> development within the game is both important and necessary to
> preserve.  Why?  Why is that an automatic assumption?  What would
> change it it weren't true?

Well, it's my automatic assumption because it's what I like creating. I
don't think that Malcolm was engaging in assumed orthodoxy. He simply said
that he would never code/play on a MUD that had player wiping. Neither
would I. I wouldn't eat ice-cream flavoured like yoda's armpits either,
but it's just because I don't like that flavour. *shrug* I fully
understand that some games could be fun without persistent players, but
frankly, when people talk of pwiping, _generally_ speaking they are
speaking of relatively unplanned pwiping, in that the designers were not
capable of sorting the design out so that it wasn't necessary. Rarely is
it done as an integral part of the game design. My scorn is reserved for
those who do it to fix a problem they deem unsolveable by other methods
(when it's certain that it was the designers fault in the first place).

> In GoP games (which we mostly seem to end up focusing on), the
> concentration is on accomplishment.  "I did X."  "I am now a Y."  "I
> am no longer a Z."  What if the focus instead were on activity, on
> process?  "I'm planning the campaign."  "I'm fighting the rebels."
> "I'm building Kazola's tavern."  Activities of course have end
> points, they result in accomplshment.  Yet, listen to your players:
> Do they really talk about what they have done, or do they really
> want to talk about what they are doing?  Which one gets them more
> involved?  Which one are they more interested in?  Which one gets
> them to log in again tomorrow?

Well, I agree with you here. If everything a player can do happens in a
split-second and there can be no gradually working toward a goal, you have
quite a weird game. Even in Quake, you can say "I'm hunting Bob." not just
"I shot Bob. My ranking is now #2. I'm no longer #3."

Activity is important. Activity without accomplishment is something that
I, at least, find pleasureable only in certain contexts: a good
conversation, sex (though one could argue that the arching "moment of
pleasure" in sex is the accomplishment), an '89 Margeaux, etc. 

Both are important.

> This has direct (and insidious) parallels to Green's commentary on
> ripping advancement out of our games.  How exactly you lead on your
> players so that they have an endless sequence of goals, always
> accomplishing enough en route to retain morale, but also never
> actually accomplishing the ever changing main goal (for that player)
> is tar baby I don't know how to discuss.  I don't doubt it can be
> done (without an unewlcome deception), I just done uinderstand the
> machanics yet.

I'm definitely not interested in ripping advancement out of my game. I
like advancement personally, and my games reflect my personality. I'm not 
into muds that consist mainly of going out and killing monsters (and
embarassingly, I have no idea what GoP means, though the feeling I have
from the acronym is that it is often used to describe that sort of mud).
One way to ensure that there is never a ceiling is to make your game
focused on player vs. player interaction. I don't simply mean combat
either. Competitive economics, competitive political systems that actually
matter, etc are all things that almost all muds either make half-assed
attempts at, or don't attempt at all. 

Think of it like chess vs. checkers. Checkers is a relatively trivial
game. It's a bit pointless to play once you're good because the optimum
strategy is known. That's the ceiling of your possible achievement in the
game. Once you have learned the optimum strategy, you cannot get any
better. In chess, on the other hand, there is no known optimum strategy.
Perhaps it exists, but it seems unlikely it will be found anytime soon.
Your possible level of advancement in chess is not capped, because not
only can you continually learn more and more about it, but so can your
opponents. Someone can always come along and best you.

The problem with advancement muds that focus on player vs. monster is that
there comes to be a very definitive point, generally, where the only
advancement that can be done is by battling it out to see who can grab the
most xp or whatnot (in an open-ended xp system). Not very satisfying, at
least to me. Once you've hit a certain point in those muds, you can kill
every monster, or have killed every monster, etc. No challenge left.
Again, when your opponents are largely other humans (in whatever context)
there is always the treat of one of them becoming better than you.

"He that is wounded in the testicles, or have his penis cut off, shall not
enter into the congregation of the Lord." Deuteronomy 23:1

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