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

Auli auli at bellsouth.net
Mon May 7 17:26:53 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


John Buehler wrote:

> I'm a believer in the big world, combined with realistic travel
> times, so I'm interested in your view.

> Is community of player or character more important?  Is it important
> for characters to come together and use character conversation, or
> to have the players have a means of communicating?  You cited
> EverQuest's single social location, yet every guild is a social
> entity unto itself via the guildchat mechanism.  I'm of the opinion
> that the social structure of a game is the players and that the
> characters only afford an excuse for the players to interact in an
> interesting way.  It could just as easily be a deck of cards.

I'm sure communities do get built around online card games :) The
important thing to remember here is no matter what the venue the
reason online communities form so easily in these games is that you
have already removed one social barrier.  In our case we are playing
roleplaying games ostensibly because we like role playing games.  We
already have one thing in common. Likewise powergaming guilds form out
of powergamers, player killing guilds form from player killers.  I do
not like chat rooms per se, so why should I most often interact with
my social group (a guild in this case) almost exclusively on chat when
I want to do it in the context of the game?

> As a result, I assume that the players should be able to communicate
> with each other using game-supported, but out of context tools.  If
> I want to talk to you as a player, that means that I need to know
> your name - not your character's name.  I can communicate with you
> so long as you are online.  And possibly even if you're not, if the
> game mechanism dovetails with ICQ or even email.

Again if I want to chat on a chat channel or ICQ or E-mail whatever
what use have I for the game at all?  It is all about shared
experiences within in the game context.  Quite frankly its more fun to
do it in the game at the same place where you can fully interact with
your avatars as far as the game mechanics allow.  It is a natural
thing to do.  This was not something unique to my social group in The
Realm, every group likewise had a social space.  Just about every open
space in every town hosted its own group.  Certainly every park-like
room did.  These groups congregated generally in the rooms immediately
surrounding the city's teleports and thinned out from there.  It make
the cities more alive and vibrant.

> Also, there is the issue of world design when considering casual
> social meeting places.  These are places that characters come
> together to socialize.  In this way, players can meet through their
> characters and form new social groups.  I believe that, in a large
> world, the entertainment of the game must be formed into pockets.
> That is, near any given location that player characters work from,
> there must be interesting entertainment nearby.  So close, in fact,
> that the player doesn't feel obligated to travel very far in order
> to do something entertaining.  These pockets will form a microcosm
> of activity, and the same groups of players will be encountered over
> and over again.
 
> So avoid creating a world that requires far-flung travels in order
> to find entertainment.  Don't create X amount of entertainment for a
> world Y big, then create a world ten times as big and retain the
> same amount of entertainment.  The entertainment density has to go
> up, but focused in on the places that the player characters will be
> encouraged to congregate.

Sounds good in theory.  Unfortunately each 'pocket' would have to be a
virtual clone of the other to make it work for explorer types like
myself.  Otherwise I'm still going to end up far from home eventually.
You are also trouncing some serious design and economic theories here.
You can only create so much content before you have to release a game
and you have to sell X number of copies and keep Y number of
subscribers to make a profit.  That seems counter to creating
duplicate content so that each town or social area remains 'self
contained'.

You might get away with this if you used a linear progression scheme
where all characters of a certain 'level' would be in pocket 1 and
advance to pocket 2 etc.  It may even be a nice kind of milestone for
players to judge their progression on.  It would still fragment
communities like guilds unless all members progressed through the game
at a fairly similar pace.

Auli
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