[MUD-Dev] Something in the water

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Wed Jul 25 15:49:29 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Wednesday, July 25, 2001, 1:57:08 AM, J C Lawrence wrote:
> Caliban Tiresias Darklock <caliban at darklock.com> wrote:
>> J C Lawrence <claw at 2wire.com> wrote:

>>> How can you mechanically determine when RP is occuring?

>> I don't think you can. I've thought about that a lot. 

> That was the conclusion of previous attempts on the topic on this
> list.

I'd say that the first thing you have to do is define what RP is.
I've given my own definition of RP many times here before, but to save
anyone from having to dig in the archives, here it is:

  Roleplaying is making decisions about "what does my character do
  next" in character.  That is, such decisions should be based on the
  question, "What would this character do, given his/her knowledge of
  the situation, current physical/mental state, etc?"

There are, of course, other people who have different definitions.
One common definition seems to be:

  Roleplaying is interacting with others in character.

I'll refer to these as definition #1 and #2, respectively, in this

>> The problem is that the *propriety* of roleplay is also at issue:

> Taking the definition of propriety in its "suitable for a given
> context" form, yes, quite, very.

Under either definition, determining whether or not something is
"proper" roleplaying requires knowing a lot of information about the
character and his/her situation (in the general case, that is).
Further, it's going to require a lot of world-knowledge and the
ability to use it -- e.g., the ability to reason from premises like:

     Buffy hates Boffo.
     Buffy is physically much weaker than Boffo.
     Buffy knows that Boffo has previously killed people to "keep
         them out of his business."
     Buffy knows that Boffo has been stealing from his teammates.

to conclusions like:

     Therefore, Buffy might want to let Boffo's teammates know that
     Boffo has been stealing from them, but would not want Boffo to
     know that this information came from her.

     Buffy would not want to confront Boffo with her knowledge that
     he's been stealing -- at least, not without good physical

This requires a huge amount of knowledge -- knowledge about the
characters, knowledge about the world, knowledge about how people
interact socially and physically -- and the ability to apply that
knowledge.  I'd venture to say that it's an AI-complete 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.

> I'd argue that the introvert case is largely a red herring, and the
> cases where its not a red herring are subject to semantic analysis.

> Posit:  

>   Player value requires communication.

> Counter:  

>   No communication equals no value.

> The silent type who stands about and says nothing communicates
> nothing and therefore (arguably) has little/no value to the game or
> other players within the game context.

Which matters, *if* the purpose of the system is to reward those who
are of value to the game and/or other players.  With a stated goal of
"rewarding roleplaying", though, we can't make that assumption.

Using definition #1, such a system has nothing to do with roleplaying
at all -- you can roleplay without ever interacting with another
character, and you can contribute great value to the game without ever
actually roleplaying.

IMHO, "rewarding roleplaying" is a very bad specification for what you
want a system to do.  In order to implement a real system, the goals
ought to be better defined.

I've said here before:  people do not actually want to reward
roleplaying (at least, not by my definition).  They want to reward a
set of behaviors that they associate with roleplaying.  Roleplaying,
however, does not require those behaviors, and those behaviors can be
engaged in without roleplaying.

Or, to put it another way:  The appearance of roleplaying is more
valued than the actuality of it.

> Taciturnity is not the problem.  Social connectivity and
> representative perceived social value is (ie how well is he known,
> what is his perceived value).  

This only matters to roleplaying, though, if you define roleplaying in
a social context.

> I've done some messing about with this list attempting to graph and
> determine aspects of the peerage and meme transfers by isolating and
> tracking adjectival phrase usage across posts and posters.  I'm not
> convinced of the validity of the model (MUD-Dev is a very small
> sample base) but I get some nice graphs out of it which subjectively
> feel "right" for the list.  The suggestion is that automatic
> analysis of character actions and resultant memeticly similar
> actions by others can both be detected and measured, and would be a
> reasonable indicator of effective social activity.

But not of roleplaying, by my definition.  Of course, that doesn't
really matter too much -- I'm not a zealot saying mine is the only
true way.  All I'm saying is that "roleplaying" is not a very good
descriptive term.  If you want to reward people for effective social
activity, then say that, instead of saying, "roleplaying" -- it'll be
much more clear to everyone what's expected, then.

>> Technical processes can rather easily determine that something MAY
>> BE roleplay, but they can't easily determine that something IS
>> roleplay.  

>From my point of view, technical processes can't even do that much --
at least, not in a useful fashion.  Since roleplaying takes place at
the level of decisions, anything a character does *or doesn't do*
could be a roleplaying choice.  Technically, it's very easy to always
pop a "yes" flag up, but it's not very useful.  :-)

>> 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 can't kill the beggar!

>   Why not?  He's worth 15 XP!

>   But he's a beggar!  You're supposed to pity him and give him spare
>   change and maybe some scraps of food.

>   Screw that!  I only need 20 more XP to level and he'll do nicely
>   for most of it.  How many XP is the little orphan worth?  Maybe
>   I'll just stab the leper.  That should be worth at least 5.

Logical consequences within the game world can help as well... and,
for that matter, getting rid of the whole "shoot-and-loot" D&D-style
experience structure can as well.

Travis Casey
efindel at earthlink.net

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