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

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Mon May 7 19:50:33 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


Auli writes:
> John Buehler wrote:

> 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.

The pinnacle of entertainment for these games is the shared
experience.  I agree with that.  But there are two ways of doing it.
One is to experience it at the same time.  The other is to share it
after the fact.  I relate to you what I did or am going to do,
regardless of whether you join in or not.  *You* don't work that way,
but there are many people who do.  In fact, the split is more or less
along gender lines.

>> 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'.

Ugh.  I could spend the next five months trying to describe how I'd tackle
geographically huge worlds.  A couple points would be:

  1. Pockets are not clones.  One reason for creating them is to have
  diversity for the explorers.  Travel from Britain to Italy and you
  see changes of architecture, goods and language.  This is
  desireable, particularly for the explorer types.  Another reason for
  creating them is to foster both player and character community.
  Character community permits players who don't know each other to
  meet, and player community permits players who know each other to
  use their characters to interact.

  2. Automated content creation tools are a necessity.  As with the
  large world approach, I assume that I can create lots of content
  automatically, and then I figure out how I can create an
  entertaining world with it.  One way of creating an entertaining
  world is to rely on many different scenarios coming into being.  If
  the environment impacts the performance of character skills and the
  behavior of NPCs, then that's one axis of permutation.  If the skill
  system is broad, permitting many ways of accomplishing goals, that's
  another axis.  I don't know how many axes there might be waiting out
  there.  PvP is another axis, as is having NPC wranglers 'help' the
  NPCs to do their thing.

> 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.

Since I'm pursuing simulated worlds, setting up something like this
doesn't appeal to me at all.

JB

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