[MUD-Dev] Innovation restrictions (was: Information sharing)

Ben Sizer brsizer at kylotan.eidosnet.co.uk
Mon May 7 12:17:51 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


From: Greg Munt <greg.munt at btinternet.com>

> Yet another thing that slows innovation, perhaps. Players don't want
> it.

> Or, at least, players are unwilling/unready to accept big changes to
> something that they already use. Innovation has to be presented as a
> completely new game.

> An observation: free muds seem to develop, change, grow and evolve
> as a single long-lived entity, whereas commerical muds don't seem to
> do that.  They have limits on their growth; anything outside those
> limits has to be presented as a sequel, or another game entirely.

I think there are two contributory factors to this.

The first is that people expect to 'get what they paid
for'. Commercial muds are often sold as both a product and a service,
where the player paid up-front for the game advertised on the box, and
then pays month-by-month to maintain this experience. To have the game
changed significantly on them might (to them) be considered to be
unfair, as they no longer have what they paid for. Imagine buying
Quake 3, and then 2 months down the line, discovering that the servers
have been patched so that you can no longer kill other human
players. Now, I appreciate that the analogy is not a great one, but
there are some parallels. To paraphrase one of the 'Laws' as put
forward by JC, "the more people you get, the more versions of "what I
paid good money for" you're going to get". Whether a player's vision
matches the designer's vision starts to become less relevant when they
are paying for the privelege of playing.  After all, there are now
legal contracts involved. This isn't to say that free mud players
don't have a large (huge?) investment in their characters, but it's
likely that someone with the same amount of hours played, plus a fee
paid up-front for the client, plus a fee paid monthly for continued
access, plus a belief that they are entitled to the service that was
initially advertised (and for which they chose to pay for) will have a
little more investment in the game, both personally and financially.

I once had a discussion with a friend over the implications of
Everquest forcing all its clients to upgrade to DirectX 8 in order to
continue playing. (Note: since I do not play EQ, I have no idea how
true this is, or whether it actually happened.) She was arguing that,
since EQ is essentially a MUD, and MUDs evolve and get added to over
time, that players should expect such changes to happen as they are
part of the game. I argued that, since these people paid up front for
a shiny box which (almost certainly) said "Minimum Requirements:
Internet connection, DirectX 7, etc...", that they should be entitled
to be able to access the service as long as it is publicly
available. Perhaps making the client free (as opposed to a product you
buy in game stores like any other game) would simplify this argument,
as it's somewhat more straightforward (in terms of legal issues) to
deny someone continued access to a service than it is to essentially
render useless a game that someone bought over the counter.

Of course, this also points out other aspects of reduced development
on commercial muds; they also have client programs to support, as well
as the servers. Perhaps many proposed upgrades would have required
just too many alterations to the client program. Whereas free muds
running across telnet don't really have that problem in any
significant way.

The second reason I think that free muds tend to evolve and change
whereas commercial muds stay relatively static, is because some of the
new ideas are deliberately held back for sequels. Since I don't work
in the industry (yet), I am purely speculating here, but I'd be very
surprised if publishers and the like didn't 'encourage' developers to
leave big and interesting things out of the ongoing game patches, so
that they can form selling points for a subsequent sequel (or indeed,
expansion pack.)

--
Ben Sizer

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