[MUD-Dev] The Player Wimping Guidebook

&lt &lt
Fri Aug 4 14:33:44 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

On Fri, 4 Aug 2000, Koster, Raph wrote:
> [adam at treyarch.com]
> > What if you make a change that causes half your playerbase to 
> > depart, but the other half to enjoy the game twice as much?
> This is an indication that you are moving towards a more hard core
> playerbase.


For a flat-rate-fee commerical game, this is probably not such a good thing.
It raises the barrier of entry for newbies and discourages casual gamers.

For a hobbiest muds, especially one that is trying to attract a very
specific kind of player, this is probably a good change.  If you prefer
heavy roleplaying, and you make a change that causes most of the people
not interested in roleplaying to leave, and the remainder to enjoy the
game more, then the change could probably be called 'successful'.

> > What if you make a change that causes 1% of your playerbase to depart,
> > but the other 99% to enjoy the game twice as much?
> This doesn't happen--if there's even a modicum of word of mouth, it's a
> statistical blip. You'll start gaining more folks like the 99% almost
> immediately.

I chose this as an extreme, to counterpoint the previous extreme.

The situation that I was actually thinking of was one where you make a change,
or set of changes, that causes the playerbase to drop, but not a huge amount.
Say you make the change(s), and you immediately notice that your peak
time of day is running at about 80% of the level that it was prior to the
change.  After a couple of weeks, you're back at 90%-95%, and you've gotten
about an equal number of good and bad feedback about the change.  And
yes, this DOES happen - in fact, I would consider this the most common
case, at least in my experience.

Can we consider this success, or failure?

My point is that it is very hard to judge.  Even though "playerbase size"
seems like a hard number, it's not.  Besides fluctating on its own anyhow
(for example, going down during finals week and summer vacation), there are
a million and one ways that you can judge the size of your playerbase.

To illustrate, muds usually experience a jump in playerbase size upon
adding a new character class.  Is this *truly* an increase in the playerbase?
No - usually it's just that old players are creating new characters (of
the new class) and so your total player count increases suddenly.
And those players are playing more often - because they have a new challenge,
so they are online more of the time.

So, technically speaking, this is not a true increase in playerbase at all.
(Yet I would still judge it success, as it has renewed interest in your mud.)

> > If you replace your mud server with a Quake server and subsequently
> > double your playerbase, is this considered a good design choice?
> No. It might be a good business choice if you're charging, though. :)


And again, the example was flippant, and an extreme.  It is, however,
a real scenario - dumbing down your world in order to increase your
market.  It happens with all forms of entertainment on a regular basis,
and I expect it will (and probably already has) happened with certain

> > Success is defined by you, the admin.  Most administrators agree that
> > a larger playerbase is better, but it is not the only metric.
> True. But it happens to be a metric we can actually measure, unlike "how fun
> the game is to x% of the game."

For me, the primary metric is how fun the game is for myself and my close
friends (that is, ones I know in RL).  If I implement a change and we all
love it, I dub it a huge success, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

The second metric is player feedback.  Whether it be on the mud itself,
on the message boards, or in email, players are usually happy to share
their feelings, good or bad.  If all my existing players are telling me,
"Woah, this ROCKS!", then I tend to consider the change a success, even
if I didn't gain a single new player.

The least important one is playerbase size.  I redid our website a while
back, and I was rewarded with the largest surge of new players that we
had had in a while.  I did not, however, hear a single word from any of
our existing players.  Quite simply, they don't care.  I consider *this*
change a success, but a minor one.  (One could argue that this is in a
different category, as it is marketing.)


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