[MUD-Dev] Something in the water

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Tue Jul 24 18:44:07 New Zealand Standard Time 2001


On Tue, 24 Jul 2001 17:15:35 -0700, J C Lawrence <claw at 2wire.com> wrote:

> The problem is that implementation is an automatic, or at least
> computable system requires that the item be subject to
> determinable metrics (ie it has to be able to be measured), and
> there lieth the rub.

Aye, there indeed.

>   How can you mechanically determine when RP is occuring?

I don't think you can. I've thought about that a lot. The problem is
that the *propriety* of roleplay is also at issue:

  Bob leans in to kiss Rebecca.
  John shouts "I AM THE GREAT CORNHOLIO!"
  Rebecca says "She kinna take any more Cap'n! I'm givin' 'er all she's
  got!"
  John shoots Rebecca in the face with a bazooka.
  Bob says "I'm not wearing any pants."

Now, maybe if you're running LunaticMUD, this is okay... but I don't
think anyone else reading that exchange would be likely to call it
roleplay. This is probably related to the "time flies like an arrow,
fruit flies like a banana" problem. ;)

> Or, if the problem is not subject to mechanical determination:
 
>   What social systems can you implement which are variously
>   resistant to gaming/overt_manipulation to measure RP?

Something I've been considering is directed exchanges. In any given
login, you earn RP points for directing actions at other players
*provided* they direct an action at you in return. Each two-way
exchange is considered a unique RP point for that login, so if you
log in and talk to Bob for an hour you get one point, but if you
talk with Bob, Simon, and Jessica you get three.

This isn't really an RP system, though, it's a socialisation
system. It doesn't reward the introvert, which is a failing of most
RP systems.

> Historically various things have been tried ranging from counting
> the number and rate of poses and emotes, to having players award
> each RP points.

Counting poses and emotes unfairly rewards the flamboyant and
penalises the stoic. Player awards unfairly reward the popular and
penalise the unpopular. Both ignore the introvert.

> The grinding point is that all such systems only work reliably
> when the player base explicitly colludes with the system in
> maintaining the validity of the gathered stats, and they fail
> horribly once any noticeable percentage of the player base games
> the system.

Which *may* reduce our problem set to:

  How can we encourage player collusion with the system?

> <<Damn, that'll teach me to hack elisp while writing list mail.
> Urk.  Sorry for the dupe/half-edited post guys>>

I wondered... ;)

> I believe the problem is solvable at the social engineering level.
> I'm convinced its not solvable purely via technical/mechanical
> approaches.

I have to concur on this. I think you *have* to involve human beings
in the process somewhere, even if it's just to validate the results.
Technical processes can rather easily determine that something MAY
BE roleplay, but they can't easily determine that something IS
roleplay.  That takes a human being. It's possible that we can cull
out the things MOST LIKELY to be roleplay, but a lot of stuff falls
through the cracks.  A generic engine is almost impossible, but a
tightly-defined engine for a tightly-defined environment might be
able to work if supplemented by human intervention.

> Ugly problem.  Big too.

Tell me about it.

>>  So I'm going to ramble at great length about it. Oh, wait,
>>  that's my response to everything. ;)

> Hehn.

Well, it is.

> IOW the critical factors are positive feedback loops and a
> critical mass of RPing players who mutually collude in presenting
> a single RP style/image.

Exactly. Bartle's analysis of types applies here, as he said
essentially the same thing.

> Its interesting to contrast this with Castle Marrach which adopted
> something of a middle route.

Ummm, I got in trouble for this long ago, so I think I need a
disclaimer:

The use of Diku and MUSH as examples is not intended to indicate a
natural strength or weakness of either server, merely a principle of
common usage which has been empirically observed by the author. A
Diku may certainly be built from scratch, and many initial codebases
have been distributed for MUSH servers; there do exist many games of
many varieties which have used both approaches, as well as several
hybrids, and there is generally nothing to *prevent* most available
MUD servers from taking any approach they like.

Okay, I feel a little better. On to the meat of things.

Sounds like the MUSH route to me; the problem between the Diku/MUSH
examples was the relative desertion of the Diku at opening and the
lack of any real exploration options. An active staff involved in
maintaining a desired environment is helpful for RP, while it tends
to get in the way of game-oriented play.

You know, that's sort of interesting. Where do the admins fit into
Bartle's types? Clearly, they impact the balance of players. I would
theorise that administrative intervention effectively "tilts" the
MUD toward interacting, making the game more attractive to the
explorer or the socialiser depending on whether that admin's job is
world building or player relations. Active builders means more to
explore, active player relations staff means more people to talk
to. I would also expect that these drive off killers and achievers,
because killers see the admins as guards while achievers see them as
"playing favorites". The opposite would apply with an inactive
staff, I think.

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