[MUD-Dev] I Want to Forge Swords. [Another letter to game designers]

Auli auli at bellsouth.net
Sat May 5 15:04:07 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

>From Sie Ming's essay "I Want to Forge Swords
>     Where are the resources? Location, Location, Location... First
>     of all, make locations meaningful. If movement between two
>     locations is quick and easy, then they are --for all intents--
>     the same location. We would prefer that you have distinct
>     locations in your game. We would like to be known as the best
>     bronze smith in Three Creeks, or the only certified droid tech
>     on Revoli Seven. If popping from location to location is too
>     easy, then people will not settle down and call one location
>     home.

I must say this is one thing I completely disagree with.  I'll take
two games I have both played and moderated to explain.

The first game is Sierra's The Realm.  This is more of a graphical MUD
than the current 'big three'.  It is room based with the classical
N,S,E,W and occasionally down to enter a dungeon.  It differs slightly
in that the graphics allow you to move about within the room or
'screen' as well.  In this game we had social spaces.  Everyone had a
home, but they were rarely used for socializing, they were really no
more than storage bins with a password to enter.  Social space was
where we interacted with our social groups.  There were two types of
social groups in The Realm.  The first type is the kind seen in every
online community.  Call them guilds, player associations or just
informal groups and cliques, every game has them.  The second type was
your neighbors.  The reason the two did not coincide was that your
starting city was decided at random upon character creation.

My guild's social space was in the southeast corner of the town of
Leinster.  It was an outdoor room with a fountain and a tree.  When we
were not actively adventuring that was where we were.  It was unusual
to spend a play session in this game without actually interacting with
the avatars of your social group.  Socializing, forming groups for
adventures, recounting the days happenings, we didn't do it on a chat
channel, we did it in person at our social space, why?  Quite frankly
because we could get there.  The reason for this was town teleporters
and the Home spell.

Almost every player had enough magical ability to cast the home spell.
It was the most basic in the game.  It did exactly what you would
expect, it took you to your house.  Houses were virtual and outside
the play space so when everyone in a particular town left their home
they all ended up in the same room and that was a short walk to a
teleporter.  If you used the spell in order to simply get to town from
a remote location to restock then you met the second of your social
groups, your neighbors.  While this was a less important group it was
also a source of friendships and interaction.  You interacted with
these people while you bought and sold things, repaired armor or
crafted items.  It was your economic circle as all members of a town
tended to gravitate towards the shops nearest their homes.

But our base of operations and our guild's social center was not even
in this town, it was in Leinster.  Leinster was a half hour's walk, or
a short teleport away.  I could get to that room very easily and
quickly and that was what made it a viable social space.

Lets compare this to Everquest.  Everquest has exactly one social
space, the tunnel opening in the East Commons zone.  This social space
is entirely economically driven.  It is the convenient, central
location where all races can come to trade.  It is worth visiting
simply because it IS the only social space in the game.  But why is
this?  There are inns, and taverns scattered everywhere in Norrath.
Most especially in the cities.  They were certainly designed to be
social spaces, what went wrong?

You simply can't get there from here.  Last night myself and a group
decided to adventure in the far off dungeon of Dragon Necropolis.  We
had a great time, played until 2 AM and logged out.  Assuming today I
wanted to go meet other members of my social group, discuss last
night's happenings and prepare our adventures for today I have a real
problem.  If the space we chose for our 'social space' is in Kelethin
(as it probably would be had we established that space early in our
playing days) I can't get there from here.  Not entirely true mind you
but from a practical standpoint it may as well be.  Assuming I had no
access to someone with the teleport spell I would have to cross seven
dangerous zones on foot, take a 30 minute boat ride, cross two more
zones on foot, take an even longer boat ride, cross two more zones
then hope I didn't fall out of that forsaken tree city.  It would
literally take me a matter of hours to get there.  Norrath is a big
place and that limited transportation certainly makes it feel big, but
that != fun.

This is why social spaces abounded in The Realm, but never got
established in Everquest.  That is why I can go days without coming
face to face with the avatar of people I socialize with on a daily
basis.  That is why we discuss the day's happenings and prepare future
events not in the game but on our website and message board.  We never
felt the need to create either when playing The Realm.  We have no
home to base our social organization on because it is too difficult to
GO home.

And that is exactly what the space is that I'm trying to describe,
home.  Home for me was not my avatar's house.  It was a room in
another city with a fountain and a tree.  The avatars Icicle, Pixie,
and Ididit were constants in that space with me.  I was home because
we could go home whenever we wanted.

You guys build big worlds.  Very, very big.  I have always respected
the logic that limiting travel makes these worlds seem even bigger.
But that is not a way to build community.  People want to explore
these worlds, to go to the farthest reaches.  You design them with
rewards for doing just that.  But at the end of the day, if you really
want to build communities, you have to provide a way home.

Auli  aka
Erickson formerly of The Realm
Ezrick Blackpriest of Norrath
Erick when harrassing Raph on his Star Wars boards

Sometimes playing the game of life as

Dwayne A. Hall
Savannah, GA

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