[MUD-Dev] Something in the water
jhopson at nc.rr.com
Tue Jul 24 10:59:44 New Zealand Standard Time 2001
At 07:43 PM 7/22/2001, Koster, Raph wrote:
> And yet, it seems that most often, what's important to players is
> the game's reaction to their actions. The feedback loops, the
> "ding," the level up and the new skills.
Let me take a quick moment to toss in a couple of technical terms
that might help in discussing this idea:
There's a behavioral phenomenon called "learned helplessness" that
seems applicable. A rat is placed in a cage and every so often, a
small electric shock (on the order of a static electricity zap
from a doorknob) is applied through the metal floor. Nothing the
rats can do will turn off the shock during this first phase.
After the rats have experienced this for a while, a way to escape
the shock is provided, such as running to the opposite side of the
cage. But because they previously learned that they couldn't
affect the shocks, the rats take a long time to learn that they
However, there are conditions under which this doesn't happen. If
one changes the first phase of the experiment so that running from
one side to the other causes the lights to blink, the rats quickly
learn to escape the shock in the second phase. Because the
environment acknowledges their action, even if it's a meaningless
acknowledgement at the time, they learn that they can affect the
environment and are quicker to try that action later.
Currently, in most muds, the environment doesn't acknowledge
roleplaying at all. It acknowledges pkilling, mindlessly hunting
mobs or typing "Mine ore" nine thousand times, but an hour spend
roleplaying is, in the eyes of the system, utterly meaningless.
It may be that part of the solution is just acknowledging
roleplay, even if that acknowledgement doesn't translate into
character power. For example, a number of muds have an "rpxp"
system where players gain experience points as they roleplay,
which usually work by counting says and emotes done while other
people are in the room. I'm not entirely sure I like this system
as a way to gain power, but just creating a roleplaying stat that
other players can check might be a big help. If I could look at
another character and see they spent 20 hours roleplaying this
week, it would provide a reward for them and help guide
roleplayers to each other inside a larger game.
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