[MUD-Dev] UO rants

John Buehler johnbue at email.msn.com
Thu Aug 24 12:33:57 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


> Matthew Mihaly
> Sent: Thursday, August 24, 2000 3:20 AM

> This is an interesting idea, although I think that in practice banning a
> character from playing for a few days will have two consequences. 1) Every
> character who this ever happens to will have a second which he or she will
> log on and basically treat as an extension of his 'first' character in
> terms of chatting and such, while the character is banned. 2) You'll find
> players that this happens to quitting sometimes. I know that I,
> personally, find that time away from a mud decreases my interest in it
> dramatically.

I'm relying on the second effect not being all that likely.  The delay in
playing is short enough to let players tinker around with a second character.
If I were packaging the game, I'd acknowledge this pretty early and make
sure that the game game two characters to the player when the game was
obtained.

Note that I believe in realtime travel and realtime communication mechanisms.
So if the character is physically in a different part of the world (and it
will be), then it is forced to interact with the world around it.  Obviously,
the net, Roger/Wilco, chat and other out of game communication mechanisms
can be used to interact with other players, but realtime travel cannot be
overcome.  You walk, you ride, whatever.  But you don't gate, teleport or
otherwise magically move.  That might be a death-wish for a game, it might
not.  But without realtime travel, the phenomena of a large geographic
landscape don't come into being.

> But Ultime, Everquest and Asheron's call barely have anything that even
> passes as PvP. You can whack each other. That's basically it. You're
> judging PvP on systems that are utterly simplistic in their implementation
> of it. You could log into Achaea, note that the player vs. NPC combat is
> simplistic, and say "Damn, PvE sucks!" 

Your point is taken.

> Also, and I do hope you'll respond to this, I challenge your assertion
> that it isn't scalable. I'm quite tired of people asserting that Achaea's
> design and business model aren't scalable. The fact is, it works on every
> scale so far tried. Unless you can point to some critical factor that will
> cripple the system as it grows, I think the best default assumption is
> that it is scalable. I really would be interested in any convincing
> arguments that impune PvPs scalability, but I've never heard one yet.

The scalability argument is that if I take people who are interested in
games as a whole and let them play a game that has cooperative ventures as
well as competitive ventures, most will go for the cooperative ventures.
I have to assume equal potential for gain and enjoyment.  My claim is
that as a whole, we get more than enough competition in our lives and not
nearly enough cooperation.  If I hop into a virtual world, I'd like to
see a bit more cooperation.

> I, personally, think the reason a truly large PvP world hasn't been
> developed isn't because of a lack of interest. It's because people get
> stuck in the traditional gaming model, which is almost always PvE. You
> have a few standouts here and there that are PvP, but generally very
> trivially so (ie usually only one aspect is being tested, like twitchiness
> in Quake, quick strategy decisions in C&C, etc). Diplomacy is the example
> I would hold up of a great PvP game, though even there, it's too limited
> in its options in my opinion.

There's a problem with citing board games and such in support of either
PvP or PvE contexts.  That is one of time investment.

In Quake, I have no real investment in my character.  It takes me seconds
to advance it as far as it can go and develop it as much as I can.  Death
is a way of life, and when I die, I don't really lose much of anything
except the equipment that I got and possibly the position I got myself
into in the game world.

In a persistent world where I've been working for days or weeks of real
time in order to complete a quest or build some item or whatever, having
someone drop by and do something destructive or criminal to me can have
a rather greater impact.

> The fact is, nearly every single most popular game in history has been
> PvP, from Go to Chess to Monopoly. That's not an argument for scalability
> obviously, but it certainly is an argument for popularity. Why do people
> use online chess services? Because playing against other people is a lot
> more fun than playing against AI. 

I'm not averse to having competition in the game world, especially when
that competition is consentual, as it is in the games you mention.  The
problem is the one that I mentioned earlier: one player is controlling
what another player gets to do in the world.  I come along and kill your
character.  Your gaming experience is adversely affected from your
standpoint.  You didn't want your character to go through the death
penalty and you're really not interested in hunting me down to kill me.

The bottom line here is that there are many games that are interwoven, and
each player picks his own game.  Having the ability to jump into somebody
else's game is the problem with one segment of PvP interactions.  Imagine
if you were playing Go with a buddy and somebody decided to come along and
kick over your board?  Do you now play his game and punch him in the mouth?

> Well, your definition of criminal acts as things that will hurt the
> overall business is a bit of a truism. I don't think anyone is going to
> disagree that things that hurt your game as a whole are 'crimes'. 

That's what takes me back to the whole philosophical thing about that is
good and what is not.  If I can decide what things and actions are
inherently good for my players, then I can know what to permit.  Everything
else should be restricted because they fall into the realm of 'crimes'.

> I don't care what brings the greatest joys in life in this context. I look
> at PvP and PvE and all I see is that in PvP the content is largely created
> by the other players, and is created on-the-fly. In PvE, it's not. I view
> PvP as personally more fun, but more importantly, I view it as presenting
> more opportunities for new things to happen for the players.

This is a view that I've argued with others in the past.  The argument that
I use is that players are interested in their own fun.  The gamemasters are
supposed to be interested in the fun of the overall player base.  Players
are part-timers.  Gamemasters are full-timers.

I believe that having full time staff devoted to the entertainment of the
overall player base is preferable to having part time staff devoted to
pockets of entertainment.  As has been said, cooperation is difficult, and
cooperation is required for the 'big' picture of a truly massive world.
What's the community limit on size?  200?  300?  Once you get beyond that,
your world starts to fragment unless there are artificial forces that act
to bring it together again.  In the game universe, I believe that those
forces will be the gamemasters, who provide the big challenges to the
players - the macro level.  At the micro level, I want players to control
the way the game works.  They have to have SOME leeway, else they'll feel
like they're watching a movie.

> Killing. There's no real killing in Achaea. Saying "Bob killed Bill" is
> just a handy way of saying (in Achaea at least) that Bob caused Bill to
> lose some xp and in the process gained half the xp that Bill lost. Sure,
> it's phrased in the game as killing, but functionally, it bears no
> relation to actual killing. 
> 
> I'm assuming that we're speaking on a meta level here. If that's the case,
> I don't see why you think there's any difference between wrestling and
> fisticuffs as opposed to someone getting a message in a game saying 'you
> died.' Letting the characters vent is of no consequence at all. Who
> cares. They don't pay the bills. Letting the players vent is what matters.
> It's basically irrelevant whether you phrase it as 'beating someone into
> submission' or 'killing them'. I could put in 'beating someone into
> submission' into Achaea, and cause an xp transfer in the process. Exact
> same thing as killing, aside from the messages that get sent out.

I understand you point, but there's a practical difference.  In a world
with consequences, killing has to carry more severe consequences than a
bruised shoulder.  So if I use my death model, if I kill your character,
you can't play that character.  If our characters get involved in a brawl,
we both emerge battered and bruised and probably tired, but we'll both
be back in fighting trim in a couple minutes.

Even in your death model, you would be penalized by experience, while I
would be rewarded with experience.  If you're interested in gaining
experience, you have been pushed back from your goal.  Depending on how
important experience is in Achaea, players may get more or less bent
about that.

> Incidentally, what you say about current game systems being the antithesis
> of the idea of players not departing from each other in power is not true.
> That is _exactly_ how Achaea functions. The big games don't, and frankly
> that's one reason I don't play them. I'm not interested in a game where
> intelligence and skill have little value, and simply putting in the time
> to bash stupid monsters to get xp and equipment makes you powerful.

My apologies to the various game designers that haven't pursued the 'power
ramp' approach to character development.  As I said, I'm relying on the
graphical genre.  I've tried hopping into one or two text games and was
immediately turned off by them.  I'm pushing 40 and just don't want to
read that much that fast.

> And you know what? Despite the fact that differences in power in Achaea
> are probably a magnitude or two less than in something like EQ, people
> still pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to try and get the best skills
> and equipment. In the end though, what matters more than anything else is
> you personally. If you're good, you can easily beat someone twice your
> level with twice your skills and better equipment. Give Tiger Woods a pair
> of crappy golf clubs, and give me the best clubs you can find, and Tiger
> will still whoop my ass. 

Yes, yes.  Tiger Woods is a one in a million player.  So is Michael Jordan.
Such characters do not exist in these games.  What one player can accomplish,
so can all players.  I certainly won't take exception to the 'twice as good'
argument, however.  I firmly believe in that, having whooped and been whooped
by folks on either side of me in various skills.

> I'm just curious where the governing body derives it's authority, and
> what gives the governing body some moral right to make a decision
> instead of me? I'll tell you what it is: The power to act like a
> vigilante. Vigilantism is like terrorism. It's all in the eye of the
> beholder. When bin Laden bombs something, it's terrorism. When Bill
> Clinton bombs a pharmecutical factory in the Sudan, it's ok. Kill one man,
> you're a murderer. Kill a million, you're a 'general'.

Kill one man, you're a murderer.  Kill a million, you're a really good
murderer.  If you kill because you have no other choice, the impact of
the murders is limited.  Murder has impact because of your chosen intent
on your victim.  Are you killing them to save someone else, or are you
killing them because you want them dead for your own gain?  Either way,
you have to actually kill somebody, and that leaves an indelible stain
on your life - as I'm sure many veterans of war can attest to.

What gives the governing body some moral right to make a decision instead
of you?  Partly it's because their decisions are very public.  The
governing body has to present not only their decisions, but usually
their decision-making process.  Further, the process of that governing
body coming into being is supposed to be predicted on some natural
selection process that encourages those well-suited to make those
decisions to reach those governing positions.

I can hear the laughter already.  That's the theory.  Our current
means of electing officials is not what I would call natural selection
leading to 'well-suited' candidates advancing.  There's a natural
selection process involved, but it leads elsewhere.

> Any in case though, I don't see why you are concerned with whether a
> player-run justice system will be fair. Corruption is fun and good in a
> game.

As I said before, knowing what's good and what is not for players is
a big part of coming up with an effective justice system.  You believe
that corruption is fun and good in a game.  I believe otherwise.  And
I believe that because the game is an extension of reality for the
players.  It is not an alternate reality, as I believe you and others
have misunderstood me to believe.  Because it is an extension of our
reality (real people are involved at their computers), the same good
and bad that are present in our world must hold sway in the virtual
world.  If your intention is to 'kill' another player's character
because you think that 'killing' that character means that something
bad happens to that player (or even the character possibly), then
that is a negative influence on the killer player.

Before you bring up the separation of player and character and how
a character can pursue killing while the player is not really
impacted as I claim, that same separation can exist in the real
world.  It's what permits mass murderers to function.  A sense of
separation.  Of abstraction.  It's quite a game genre we're pursuing.

> > 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.
> 
> Real-life laws are not motivated by a desire to maximize the profit that
> may be obtained from those living under the legal system.

I beg to differ.  All nations keep their criminals in check in order to
maximize the efficiency of the nation.  This is done for reasons of profit.
There's a reason that we no longer have raiders on horseback and instead
have corporate raiders.  The former requires more capital outlay.  Nations
that wage war burn up their resources.  Crime-free societies are more
efficient than ones that have crimes.  Crime is like grit in the gears.
It impairs the production capacity of the society.

> I don't have a desire for theological perfection. It does not strike me as
> a coincidence that the vast majority of those belonging to organized
> religion are poor and relatively uneducated. I'm far more interested in
> philosophy, which at least attempts to question everything.

Nor should you consider it a consequence.  But you might be looking at it
backwards.  Maybe the gift of insight is being given to them because of
all the pain and suffering that they are going through.

> Shrug, the penalty for murder is whatever the player governments a) decide
> is the penalty for murder and b) can enforce. No different from real life.
> We don't have some all-powerful authority in real life punishing
> murderers. 

Well, actually we have the prospective murderer's conscience working for us.
That's one reason that we don't have as many murderers as in Ultima Online.

> There is no doubt that I am a hardcoder mudder, but frankly, you're wrong
> again. Achaea is a thoroughly PvP world, yet the two most successful
> players of all time (the only two that have ever Ascended into Divinity)
> barely player-killed at all. In fact, I'm not sure one ever killed a
> single player. Of course, both were extremely influential political
> leaders (and politics is one aspect of PvP after all). 

Yes, politics is one aspect of PvP, and I'm certainly pleased to hear that
Achaea provides non-lethal ways of ascending through the ranks.

> No actually, I dont' believe virtual communities are that much different.
> That is, in fact, why I structure virtual communities on real life. You
> are the one that seems to be arguing against any semblance of reality in a
> community. I mean, what do you think motivates people the most to form
> community? _Conflict_. Throughout human history, the #1 strongest
> motivation to strong community has been shared external threat from
> another community. It's visible everywhere, from the slave revolt led by
> Spartacus to the Spirit of '76 in America, to the do-or-die work-your-ass
> off culture of a lot of dot coms.

Cooperation is the basis of strong community.  It's visible everywhere,
from the slaves who worked together in the slave revolt led by Spartacus
to the colonists in America to the do-or-die dot commers who share a
vision of how to make their service work.

It's all a question of whether two groups of players oppose each other
with one losing and not being happy about it (unless they cooperate in
the spirit of the game and agree that we're all in this for fun) - or
whether it's one group of players opposing the gamemasters.  In the
end, the gamemasters simply do whatever works for the players'
amusement.  The gamemasters aren't in the game to have fun.  Well, if
they are, then their idea of fun has to be the players having THEIR
fun.

> Well, I don't really know what you've done. I _know_ I'm right at least to
> some extent, as Achaea is exceeding the goals I set for it initially.

In the world of fantasy gaming, just design.  I've never put fingers
to keyboard for that genre.  My background is 17 years of software
engineering at DEC and Microsoft.  The closest I've come to this genre
is 7 years of personal time working on a multiplayer flight simulator
for VAXstations.  Those of you from the late 80s working on those
boxes might recall the simulator known as "FLIGHT".

JB




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