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

Patrick Dughi dughi at imaxx.net
Wed Aug 9 09:56:57 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


On Tue, 8 Aug 2000, Brian 'Psychochild' Green wrote:

> Patrick Dughi wrote:
> 
> 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!)

	Actually, with any given mud, you can usually find that a majority
of the players believe that everyone is doing an okay job.  Likewise, you
will find that every player has at least one pet peeve, or suggestion that
they think should be implemented.  If the majority is happy, you've
probably not screwed it up.

    Otherwise, the players quit, word travels around, and the mud folds.

		That would mean you've screwed it up. :)
> 
> 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.

	This isn't ideal. This isn't even realistic.  Even playing a
subset of the game isn't enough, because you would have to play that
subset with every sort of possible interation with every other sort of
possible player type.  One person cannot expect to have usable experience
except over long periods of time - even for a small subset - because of
the multiuser interactions which complicate the system.  Time investments
like that are expensive in most concievable ways, and frankly, that's what
player-testers are for.  You can't expect your programmers, or developers
to stop developing/programming so they can thunk down and play their game
for several weeks after each change goes in.  Anyone can do that, and
anyone can give some sort of valid feedback.  

> 
> 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.
> 
	That's why you get feedback from a large number of people, to
remove this bias. Recently there has been a few posts regarding statistics
gathering on the list, and this is one way of collecting fairly objective
feedback from players, though you'll still require an occasional
emotional, non-objective, player response.  Fun, after all, is subjective.

> >         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.  
> 
> 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. 

	That's not quite what I meant.  When I say 'pro-player', I mean
that the scales of balance between instant gratification and appropraite
level of challenge have been shifted towards the gratification side (the
player side).  As an admin, you're sort of the floodgate for fun and
enjoyment - you have to let it out at a controlled rate.  If you flood the
players, and are unable to consistently give that level of progress (ie,
not keeping them at that level, but consistently raising the level) they
will get bored and leave.  Liken this to a paper rpg where your first
level characters all carry artifact-level items, or video games with cheat
codes.  Unless you can keep delivering the high-gratification increase,
you'll loose people.  

> 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.

	The biggest problem is that the mud is the main admin.  What it
says goes.  You can kludge your way through and fix it's faulty calls
later, but this detracts from the gaming experience.  You don't get to
have the human game master who decides that even though the Evil Monster
rolled an instant-death strike, that it isn't going to happen because it
would detract from the 'fun'. As a developer, you have to describe every
sort of action you want the mud to take before the situations ever come up
(you know - programming).

	Though, this was not my point here - I was claiming that
objectivity in regards to any given aspect of your game is valuable.  The
implementor that alienates 90% of their player base because they made
changes favorable to 10% should probably have some opinions from
non-involved (objective) parties.

> 
> >         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?"
>  
	Play the game you made - no.  Play at all... debatable.  I don't
know of any people who have developed an RPG from the ground up who have
also never played any sort of RPG.  Tends to be that you're interested in
the creation after you've played.

> >         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.
> 
> friends' characters.  Are you really advocating that MUD admins should
> be unfeeling, friendless people?  Er, wait, that would describe most of
> us already, right? :) :)
	
	Heh, no, of course not.  They will probably appear to be that way
though, to players.  Simply, an admin has to make decisions which will
affect the entire playerbase, and some of those reactions will eventually
be negative. If the change truly is a 'good change' (subjective),
hopefully you'll have put in some time verifying that as best you can
without your personal bias (objectively).  I usually find the person who
will be/is most against the change, and argue with them.  Though it
doesn't happen often, I do occasionaly have reason to rethink my idea,
perhaps scrapping it altogether.

--bit off this topic, but relevant to previous ones ---
	As a side effect that person usually ends up in my camp; as
their opinions in the matter are actually heard and debated they tend to
believe that the admins care about them as an individual, which is  
justified in this case.
---------

> 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.

	I find it quicker to have someone describe to me the problems and
successes of a given system, than to use it myself.  Keep in mind that
I'm developing a system that will have admin-human interaction only at the
higest level (instead of a per-die roll, per decision basis).  I'm more
worried about rule-interaction and situation resolvement via rules, since
that's what's going to become the part of the system that I implement or
avoid.

	Usually the effort required by both yourself and others (since
most RPG's are not made to be played alone) to achieve a status in the
game where you are well versed with every intriciate methodology is wasted
if you're simply considering integrating or avoiding integration of that
systems components into your game.  It's simply not possible to try every
thing out there.

	This is also the premise behind gathering info from your players.
100 people can discover all the quirks and oddities in 1/100'th of the
time that you yourself could.  More efficient to let them look, and spend
your extra time considering if a given piece of information is biased and
by how much.

					PjD





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