[MUD-Dev] Player-admins, was wimping/wiping and the big blind spot

Brian 'Psychochild' Green brian at psychochild.org
Tue Aug 8 20:47:55 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

Patrick Dughi wrote:

> > Peter: 'Ugh, how can you code if you don't know what's fun?'
>         I have to raise a complaint against this mindset, as I've
>  encountered it many times in the past and found it to be poorly concieved.

Oooh, I think I'll do likewise with your points.

>  You do not have to play a game in order to know what would be good or bad
>  for your game, for in truth this is not that difficult of a thing.  

If it's not that difficult, why do so many players think that admins
screw it up on a regular basis?  Heck, why do so many admins they they
screw it up on such a regular basis?  (Myself included!)

The ideal situation would be to play your game exhaustively.  Play every
race/class combination in every area using every possible skill. 
Obviously, unless your MUD is extremely limited (or, you have given up
the need to sleep and are independently wealthy), then this is
impossible.  So, most people settle for playing a subset of the game and
judging it from there.

Feedback has the evil of being filtered.  No matter how honest someone
is, they're always holding something back.  Perhaps they don't want to
hurt your feelings, or perhaps they DO want to hurt your feelings, or
perhaps it just takes longer to explain the whole playing experience
that you have the time.  So, you have to settle for listening to a
subset of the feedback out there.

There's also the option of winging it.  Don't play the game and don't
bother with feedback.  Just do what you think is right.  I'll leave
investigation into this method for others.

>         This is also where the problem lies.  As a player, your
>  preconcieved notions take on a subtle pro-player cast, often at the
>  expense of the entire mud.  

I think the problem here is that you haven't defined what a "good MUD"
is.  I like to think of a good MUD that's like a good paper RPG; it
provides entertainment for the players.  It's not so hard as to be
frustrating, but not so easy as to be unchallenging.  Given this
definition, a "pro-player" attitude is quite helpful, I think.

>  That is to say, you loose your objectivity
>  which allowed you to generate a well oiled interconnecting series of
>  systems (combat, exploration, socializing, etc).  It's replaced with less
>  of a game-orientation, and more of a personal, individual orientation.

Again, depends on what you want from your MUD.  If you're looking for a
perfect world simulation, then perhaps taking a sympathetic view to
players is harmful.  They should live or die upon what the world
simulation says.  If you're looking to capture the challenge and fun of
a paper RPG session (without the Mountain Dew and Chee-tos), then being
biased toward the players could provide a more fun environment.
>  Let me give you an example:

[Example of an admin noir going unchecked snipped]

I think this is a perfect example of an admin focusing on only a subset
of the game, the subset he happens to have played and was interested
in.  He made the game for fun for that subset, at the expense of other

Yet, I argue that this could just as easily happened if the admin had
not played the game.  You said he preferred the gothic frame of mind, so
I imagine many of these changes would have happened if it benefited his
preferred character or not.  Even from your own example, the admin
didn't lose objectivity because he was also a player; he never had the
objectivity in the first place.

I question if objectivity is all that vital, though.  Like I said, I
like MUDs that are like paper RPG sessions.  I want the admins to do
their job and make the game fun.  I want to be heroic and take chances. 
I want the risk of failure, but I don't want failure to be a constant
state.  In general, "objective" admins can't create this type of game.

>         Thoughout this all, the constant claim from the implementor was
>  simple; "You don't play so you wouldn't know."  My claim was just as
>  simple; "You don't have to play to write code."

To split hairs, I think that you don't have to play in order to write
code.  I can write a elegant code and not play.  But, I think the real
question here is "Do you have to play in order to design a fun game?"
>         This cycle is not assured though - many admin/etc start out with a
>  very objective mindset.  Over time though, their emotional investment
>  tends to do it's work.  The admin's players soon become more important
>  than the game viability.

Ah, but emotional investment can happen over more than just one's
characters.  Perhaps you can become invested in one's creation, or
friends' characters.  Are you really advocating that MUD admins should
be unfeeling, friendless people?  Er, wait, that would describe most of
us already, right? :) :)

Seriously, your personal biases will always figure into design of the
game.  The best thing to do is to realize this, and either work with
someone that compensates for your "weaknesses", or do evaluations to
make sure that your bias isn't altering the game in negative ways (tough
to do for most of us mere mortals.)
>  Unlike a commercial game, feedback
>  response can be near-instant, heading most errors off before they affect
>  playability.

Most commercial MUDs worth a damn have beta periods where they ask for
feedback.  Whether they have the time to consider all feedback is
another issue.

>  Having played RPG's for
>  at least 10 years before I even heard of a mud, and then mudded like mad
>  for several years afterwards, I feel I have acquired the basics, and so
>  too have many others.  Tempering this knowledge with the constant feedback
>  a mud generates should be enough.

There's the question of the current "state of the art", and knowing what
other people did, either to emulate their success, or avoid the pitfalls
that caused their ruin. Someone who had played a lot of Chainmail and
played some MUD1 isn't exactly what I'd call a prime MUD developer
candidate; that doesn't mean he or she can't learn, though.  Playing
games (both others, and your own) gives you this edge, the ability to
sort out what works and doesn't work from other people's efforts,
especially if you have multiple developers on your own game.

Some points to ponder on the other side of things.

"And I now wait / to shake the hand of fate...."  -"Defender", Manowar
     Brian Green, brian at psychochild.org  aka  Psychochild
       |\      _,,,---,,_      *=* Morpheus, my kitten, says "Hi!" *=*
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_  
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'  "Ritalin Cures Next Picasso" 
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)               -The_Onion_, August 4th, 1999

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