[MUD-Dev] UO rants

John Buehler johnbue at email.msn.com
Wed Aug 23 16:54:23 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


> Matthew Mihaly
> Sent: Tuesday, August 22, 2000 7:10 PM

> On Tue, 22 Aug 2000, John Buehler wrote:
> 
> > In the real world we have all the processes and checks and balances of the
> > real world - proof by obvious.  In a virtual world we don't have the same
> > checks and balances.  Most obviously there is the fact that the player is
> > not the character.  The moral judgement of a character is pretty weak given
> > that its decisions are made by a player who is 'outside the law'.  This is
> > why murdering thieves are so rampant in worlds that permit such an
> > individual to be successful or thrive.
> 
> It's that combined with the fact that most games don't have any serious
> permanent consequences that can damage the investment of time and/or money
> that someone has put into his or her character.

Agreed.  Obviously not clear from my post, 'consequences' was an intended part
of 'checks and balances'.  My personal preference for the consequences is
temporary impairment of character effectiveness commensurate with injury,
combined with rare death.  Death results in temporary permadeath, which is
the removal of the character from player control or observation.  In other
words, the character cannot be used for some period of time, usually measured
in multiples of days.  The number of days is a function of the severity of
the death.  Being hit by a club that actually kills you (rare) is a one day
death.  Being hit by a 16 ton weight is a three or four day death.

> Why MUST NOT criminal acts go unchecked? I fail to see the reasoning for
> this. I would alter your statement that the worst crimes are those that
> annoy players and make them go away to read something like, "The worst
> crimes are those that cause players to go away without causing a
> corresponding increase in interest from other players."
> 
> Crimes are a good thing in the proper proportions. They generate strong
> feelings among the player base, which is also a good thing for the sort of
> game I am interested in running (ie I have no interest in designing to
> limit how much time people want to stay in the world) and they are
> interesting. The absence of some overbearing near-omnipotent justice
> system can cause a game to feel more serious than one in which the players
> are coddled and guaranteed a nearly hassle-free existence. 

As you say in another post, you're not that interested in player versus NPC
worlds.  That is the type of world that I am primarily interested in.  I do
not believe player versus player worlds to be viable in a massive context.
The interpretation of what is fun and what is not is too variable in such
an environment.  As a result, many players become disgruntled and/or
disenchanted with the opportunity to get into some rough and tumble.  As
evidence, I consider the PvP instances versus the PvE instances of EverQuest
and Asheron's Call.  While neither is a panacea of gaming experiences, the
advantage is clearly in the camp of the PvE instances of those games.

Your personal preference for conflict is shared by a number of vocal
players.  I believe the entire contingent to be in the minority, and
certainly not representative of the group of gamers that I am most
interested in - those who are not spending their lives in the virtual
environment of the game.

Given my attitude, criminal acts must not go unchecked because criminal
acts are defined as those that the vast majority of players will find
undesireable when they are the victim of the act.  That's simply not
good for business if the world involves lots of potential paths through
the world: exploration, construction projects, item crafting, and so on.
Those who are interested in crime will impact the non-criminal endeavors
of these other players.  If crime is at all profitable or valuable, then
a number of players will pursue it, making encountering a criminal act
all the more common, further eroding the enjoyment of the game for those
who are not interested in having other players decide how they will
experience the game.

I have a difficult time articulating my viewpoint because you have a
fundamentally different attitude about what is viable in life and what
brings the greatest joys in life.  If we're not trying to reach the
same end place, it's a bit hard to agree on how to get there.

One other point.  Player conflict need not be directed towards killing
or full-out combat.  Fisticuffs, wrestling, brawling and such are
reasonably legitimate outlets for unhappy citizens of a virtual community.
They let the characters vent and nobody gets hurt in the end.  It's not
clear if it lets the PLAYERS vent enough, however.  Embedded in such a
system is the assumption that characters do not drastically depart from
each other in personal power - which is the antithesis of current game
systems.

> There is also not, in my opinion, any way to deal with the following sort
> of situation. Bob the Newbie deliberately and intentionally insults  Lord
> Studly the Powerful. Lord Studly the Powerful, rightly, decides to put the
> hurt on the newbie for it. This happens frequently and is, in my opinion,
> completely justified (I certainly wouldn't punish one of my players for
> it.) There's no way for the game itself to know that Lord Studly was
> justified and to convene a player run jury every time someone gets killed
> would be a laughable waste of time in Achaea, for instance, as it is a
> frequent occurence.  

You believe that this Lord is perfectly justified in attacking the newbie.
That's the fallacy.  You believe that vigilantism is a viable justice
system, while I do not.  Vigilantism is having those who have not been
authorized by the governing body going off and deciding what is appropriate
justice.  The question is, can any player be considered trusted when it
comes to player-player justice?  Especially when the offense is against
the vigilante?

When a police officer has an offense against him, that police officer is
not permitted to be involved in the investigation of the crime.  The
reason behind this is that those who are victims of crimes do not see
situations involving the criminal in a healthy light.  It leads to
vigilantism.

> And in terms of using religion as a model for how to keep people from
> killing each other...sheesh. The crusades, the inquisition, the
> homophobia, the institutional racism, the jihads, etc etc. Not my idea of
> a good model.

So unless every individual who professes to follow a certain set of
beliefs makes no mistakes, that set of beliefs is of no real value?
Your desire for theological perfection is definitely admirable, but
I also think you're limiting yourself by approaching 'organized religion'
with such a mindset.

> Well, I'd be open to hearing how you would solve the situation with Bob
> the Newbie and Lord Studly the Powerful, given that in Achaea, insulting
> someone is a good reason to die. When newbies complain to me about crap
> like freedom of speech, I just point out that I expect people in Achaea to
> be responsible for their own behavior, and that everything you do has
> consequences, so if you don't feel you can deal with the consequences,
> don't do the deed. There's no paternalistic all-powerful government police
> force to go hide behind after you've intentionally pissed off someone
> else. 

What is the penalty for murder?  Is that penalty applied to the Lord when
he murders the newbie?  The newbie insulting the Lord is very much like
a PvP encounter.  Why doesn't the Lord consider this as one of those
scenarios that simply adds to the spice of the game without having to
resort to murder?  Being on the receiving end of a PvP encounter is never
fun, and that's why I don't like PvP worlds.  In the end, only the most
powerful players are able to enjoy the experience.  And those tend to be
the hardcore gamers.  Like yourself.

I certainly think that those who shoot their mouth off should have some
form of sanction applied to them.  Do you really believe that any sane
government would condone execution for foul language?  As I suggested
elsewhere (and as somebody else apparently suggested as well), perhaps
player declarations of 'unpleasantness' or 'untrustworthiness' could be
applied to players/characters.  Once at a sufficient level, the game-
master could employ tools to monitor characters to watch their behavior.
The players are the monitors, but not the judge, jury and executioners.

> Yes, I do. I'm quite certain of the fact that I have a better
> understanding of community in the virtual world than every major religious
> scholar in history. The same goes for most of this list. Anyway, I won't
> be so petty as to bar people with testicular cancer from paradise.

You believe that virtual communities are different than real life
communities.  What you're missing is that a virtual community is simply
a primitive vehicle for a real life community (real people are involved).
Understanding human nature is required before understanding a virtual
community of people possessing human nature. The scholars of the past
2000 years have a significant leg up on you in understanding human nature.
The rules of inference can be applied to understand a virtual community
once you have the rules of a real human being.  In your case, the
understanding of people that you have determines the inference process
that you go through - resulting in a flawed conclusion.

Obviously, you can claim the exact same thing about me  :)

JB




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