[MUD-Dev] To good to be TRUE, in an MMPORPG?

Koster Koster
Fri Jul 27 08:32:40 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Sean K

> As you say, I think the size of the playerbase is the issue.  I
> can't remember the term, but one of the nifty observations to come
> out of sociology is that an individual is likely to answer a cry
> for help in inverse proportion to how many other people are
> around.  Policing is the same problem -- the more players ther are
> the more likely it is that a player will think "someone else will
> handle it."
> I would think this extends to socialization as well.  In a small
> MUD, evey player could be considered a member of the same social
> group, with the same norms and mores.  So the playerbase as a
> whole exerts peer pressure upon itself to influence behavior.
> However the larger the playerbase is, the easier it is to get lost
> in the crowd.

You're treading close to the "250" Law. :) Basically, you're giving
a good explication of why it matters.

> Once the playerbase is a sufficient size it dissipates into
> numerous smaller social groups, each of which have their own norms
> and mores.  Peer pressure in this case serves again to enforce
> group behavior to conform to those values, but some of those
> groups may have values that are not in keeping with the
> overarching theme of the MUD.  In a sense, they carve out their
> own territory.

Exactly. And then you start getting dynamics related to the
conflicts between these groups, shifting alliances, etc. A lot then
starts to depend on what means you have to express that conflict.

One point I used to make (and which means diddlysquat to the
victims, so it wasn't a very empathic point for me to bring up) is
that speaking in these terms, there's really no difference between
the roving band of PKs and the small roleplay town. They are both
subcommunities seeking to survive and perhaps expand their
influence. From a group standpoint, the PKs are merely pursuing
economic advancement for their group; of such things are wars made,
particularly tribal wars. It's just Mongols versus Eastern European
villages, at that point, and we can easily make moral judgements
about whether or not the Mongols were "in the right" all we want,
but it's still pretty much an inevitable development when there's
multiple groups competing for the same resources, each of which
values its group more than the aggregate of the two groups. One will
seek the eradication of the other, because frankly, small social
grops like that don't tend to be very enlightened about cultural
diversity and inclusiveness (cf the post I just made to Jeff Freeman
in this same thread).

Read another way, both sides are subhuman jerks to the other, mere
ants to be stomped. Valuing one type of behavior or culture over
another is fundamentally a value judgement. We are perfectly free to
make value judgements. We should just be aware that's what they are.

Players don't like hearing the above. I speak from experience. ;)

> I think the only solution is to accept the inevitability of such
> behavior and either create a game which ignores it by insulating
> groups from one another or encourages it by pitting them against
> one another.  In either case, the player base is divided into
> subgroups which ideally all have similar interests.

Hence the proliferation of UO emulator shards, each designed to
cater to a particular band or tribe-sized group. Hence the great
anticipation of Neverwinter Nights (the common cry I hear isn't
"Great! We'll have better narrative roleplaying!" Rather, it's
"Great! I can play an online game and keep out all the jerks!").

> Hrm... interesting that my proposed solution to social problems in
> a massively multiplayer game is to divide the player base into
> smaller groups.  Seems a tad contrary to the intent of the game.

In Privateer Online our direct heads-on attempt to tackle this was
to have hundreds of planets, each designed to support a
band-to-tribe sized group of people; a fixed amount of resources; a
mechanic about resource extraction from the ground and "colonization
of the wilderness," and frankly, difficulty in getting from planet
to planet. Trade was encouraged from planet to planet, and the hope
was that most of the time, you'd deal with your planet and your
neighbors. Conquering neighboring planets was not really an
available mechanic (once a planet was established, you were unable
to conquer it by force; you had to conquer it by consensus, by
getting voted into office on it).

We are retaining some elements of that in SWG, but it's not nearly
as direct an approach to the problem. Which is a pity, because I
still think PO would have been a valuable experiment to try...

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