[MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #303 - 17 msgs

Dr. Cat cat at realtime.net
Mon Apr 2 13:32:12 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

> From: "Koster, Raph" <rkoster at verant.com>
>> [mailto:mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu]On Behalf Of
>> Baron, Jonathan

>>   3. An online gaming world must offer a departure from the
>>   physical one.  No, it needn't be pre-Christian medieval fantasy,
>>   the air war in the 1940s, or adventures in imaginary realms of
>>   imaginary galaxies.  The very extremes of our game worlds to-date
>>   may well have limited our audiences.  Nonetheless, there must be
>>   a departure.
> Two things there--one, you could argue that the interestingly
> selective sanitization that The Sims world represents is already a
> sufficiently escapist departure. Two, there's all that
> user-generated content that pays no respects to thge bounds of
> intellectual property. The Sims had plenty of Star Trek, Buffy, X
> Files, and superhero skins made, for example.

Well, I'd also debate whether it's even true you need a "departure",
or if so how much of one.  In other media, the movie Forest Gump, TV
soap operas, COPS, and any number of novels like The World According
to Garp (also a movie), romance novels, etc. all succeed in attracting
a large audience.  While they "depart" in the way almost all art does,
by focusing in on more interesting types of events and people, being
"larger than life", having more exciting coincidences and occurences
per day than real life tends to, still they are set very much in our
time, in mostly realistic settings, with people much like ourselves
(except for that Gump guy, who I don't think any of us here on the
list are much like, personality-wise!)

The further you move along the "departure" axis, the more you appeal
to the hardcore sf/fantasy/weirdo geeks like me - and the more you
start to be "too strange" to appeal to an increasing percentage of the

Is the optimum "level of departure" different for an online game than
for a single player game?  Yes.  But I would argue you've got it
exactly backwards.  A single player entertainment experience will tend
more towards escapism and wild flights of fantasy, because it can't
offer you deep interpersonal interaction.  Entertainment media like
IRC or telephone calls offer NO window dressing or built-in fantasy or
"departure" elements, and yet they're extremely popular.  Phone calls,
I would argue, are the ONLY entertainment medium with grosses in the
twelve-figure range!

Talking to other people is so desirable that less "departure" is
needed to make an experience satisfying.  And too much departure may
detract strongly from the experience.  Most humans strongly seek
conformity, and are loathe to appear weird or outside of the
mainstream.  Geekish, nerdy, dweeby, socially inept, an outsider,
DIFFERENT.  If you make the "We're all stange alien floating eyes with
tentacles chat-room", you'll find it isn't as popular as the "We're
all average people with normal jobs chatting about local restaurants,
new movies, sports, or those normals jobs we have while looking like
humans chat-room".

I think there could be a huge market for the "Virtual San Francisco"
mud, or "Virtual Hawaii".  Or maybe even a generic "Virtual
Someplace-land" like the Sims.  Where the point is about meeting and
interacting with people more conveniently than you can in real life,
and staying in touch with old friends, without the time and effort
involved in travelling even a block down the street to chat with them.

Online worlds allow you the possibility to get real world money, real
world sex, real jobs, real power, cooperate or compete with real
people, or even end up married.  Single player games rarely lead to
any of those results.  These things are interesting enough to people
in and of themselves that you don't need to rely on exotic settings or
events as much.  I followed that link to Lum the Mad's new home, and I
saw mention on there that there's even been a couple of Lineage
players that met in person after fighting on the game, and one of them
killed the other with a machette.  Pretty nasty business, that.  (Is
this the first known homicide motivated by events in an online game?)
But it does underscore that when you let humans communicate at all,
there's powerful forces at work there even before you add your game
and its mechanics into the mix.

   Dr. Cat / Dragon's Eye Productions       ||       Free alpha test:
*-------------------------------------------**   http://www.furcadia.com
    Furcadia - a graphic mud for PCs!       ||  Let your imagination soar!
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