[MUD-Dev] Information sharing (was: Re: Where are we now?)

Koster Koster
Sun May 6 15:49:14 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


> -----Original Message-----
> From: mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu 
> [mailto:mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu]On Behalf Of
> Richard Aihoshi aka Jonric
> Sent: Saturday, May 05, 2001 3:06 PM
> To: mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Subject: Re: [MUD-Dev] Information sharing (was: Re: Where 
> are we now?)
 
> Matt Mihaly wrote:
 
>> As much as I enjoyed Raph and Rich's presentation, they weren't
>> saying anything new. I didn't hear a single speaker talk about
>> anything new he/she is working on in any substantive way.
 
> While I missed the presentation in question and have no experience as
> a game developer, even an amateur, my eclectic background does
> include stints in a few educational capacities.  I would suggest
> that education is about sharing information that's already known.
> The important part is not that the information is new in an absolute
> sense, but that it is new to at least some of the audience so that
> the population of people who now share that knowledge is increased.

It was definitely new to a large group there. And sometimes you can't
tell who you'll teach something; Will Wright took copious notes during
the presentation and told me afterwards that there was much new to
him. I certainly learned things at his presentation.

There's only two kinds of information that are useful to share. Raw
data, and analysis. The raw data is by and large being kept secret in
the commercial AND hobbyist worlds. There's anecdotal evidence, but
for a lot of really important kinds of data, there aren't even any
metrics being gathered, much less publish3ed in a systematic manner.

Analysis, in the absence of publicly available raw data, is even
scarcer. I mentioned earlier that I'm into taxonomy. To my mind, a lot
of analysis has to do with classification. Most of what was in that
presentation was stuff that is publicly available raw data: room-based
maps versus continuous maps, for example, is something that just about
anyone on this list could identify as an important design
difference. But when I went looking for analysis of mud design, I
found that nobody had even classified those two very basic structures.

That's why the presentation was called "Design Patterns"--this is
stuff that everybody knows, yup. But I maintain that nobody knows how
to talk about it because it doesn't even have names. Classification in
this sense is the art of telling you what you already know in a way
that makes it comprehensible.  I'd go so far as to say this is stuff
that nobody knows they already know.

To engage in an extended analogy--just about everybody knows that some
music goes ta-DUM ta-DUM and some music goes OOM-pa-pa
OOm-pa-pa. People more educated in music can even say that the latter
sounds like a waltz and the former like rock 'n' roll. If you had
music lessons as a kid, you might say that one is in 4/4 time and the
other is in 3/4 (or maybe 6/8 given how I wrote it).

If it's actually USEFUL to you as a musician, then you can easily
ascertain things like the fact that most Celtic music is in 6/8 and
and Billy Joel's "Piano Man" is one of the few pop hits in waltz time
and that most reggae beats break the 2 and 4 beats into a pair of
eighth notes and so on down the line. And when you go to play, write,
or arrange a tune, there's common practices and standards associated
with different time signatures and rhythms.

Now, everyone KNOWS that some music goes ta-DUM ta-DUM and some music
goes OOM-pa-pa OOm-pa-pa. And if I got up at a musician's convention
to share that I was working on something new by saying, "well, I'm
exploring a new piece that goes DUM-ta-DUM-ta-DUM DUM-ta-DUM-ta-DUM"
I'd be laughed out of the room. It doesn't matter that I use that
rhythm regularly in writing guitar pieces (in fact, I use it so much I
really ought to stop!). What they want to know is that it's a
syncopated beat in 4/4 with three downbeats to the measure and 8th
note pickups before the 2nd & 3rd downbeats, etc etc.

Matt, when you say "nobody's sharing anything new and substantive" at
GDC, all you're saying is, "OOM-pa-pa is useless to me." It's
especially useless if you've heard the beat a billion times
before. What I tried to do in that presentation was say, "There's two
major classes of beats--OOM-pa-pa and ta-DUM. They're both great, but
they work differently. This beat lends itself to this, this other one
to that. You can embed triplets in other one.  By the way, you can
also change time signatures every measure if you want."

GDC is full of anecdotal raw data. Shaping it into terminology and
best practice is a necessary step towards innovating in an iterative
way. It isn't until a musician figures out that you can count triplets
that they can make an effort towards using them (or fail to challenge
themselves to use it). 7/8 is not a natural time signature to the
human mind, and it takes a degree of effort to get there; folk
musicians don't just stumble across it.

Similarly, perhaps continuous-map muds with embedded multiple scales
with flag-based PvP structures and expressive collect 'em all
mechanics are non-intuitive too. Who knows, might be huge--but
nobody's made one because right now we're rearranging variables we
don't even know the names to. We certainly can't analyze without the
terms.

On this list, we have an unusual membership in that there's a bit of a
vocabulary established. But frankly, not much. Hell, consider that I
know of at least four terms for people who don't engage in PvP
(non-PvP, carebear, peacenik, socializer) that actually mean different
things, and yet get used indistinguishably by many. Or consider PvPer
vs PKer vs Killer vs Grief Player. It's important to get those terms
straight because otherwise we're not even talking the same language,
and if we're not talking the same language attempts at information
sharing and education are bound to fail.

Of course, you might just be the type who hates memorizing the names
of metric feet in English class in high school. ;)

-Raph
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