[MUD-Dev] Wilderness

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Mon Aug 6 11:13:16 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Matt Mihaly writes:
> On Thu, 2 Aug 2001, John Buehler wrote:

>> I think that choosing to adopt the attitude that wilderness is
>> the stuff between points of interest is a major mistake.  You've
>> immediately relegated wilderness to something that is not of
>> interest.  As a result, it only exists to separate points of
>> interest.  From an entertainment standpoint, that makes no sense.
>> If you're going to put it into the game world, it has to be
>> inherently entertaining.  If it's not entertaining, don't put it
>> in.  EverQuest understood this to an extent, but then still put
>> in the Plains of Karana, which were, in a word, BORING.

> I used to think that too, but I was wrong. Well, I never thought
> that things that aren't fun shouldn't be in the world, because
> it's not just a game, it's a life. Life doesn't have to be a
> constant high.

The notion that the game is a life is one that I'm directly
opposing, regardless of how foolish the old hands believe that to
be.  I want to make the highs and lows less intense.  I want players
identifying with the game less strongly.  I want them looking at the
game as if it was just an alternative to Disneyland, with far more
engaging experiences than the ones found in that park.  This doesn't
mean lining up for a ride, but it also doesn't mean that people get
into the game in order to validate themselves, either.  Going to a
multiplayer game for validation only leads to frustration and the
creation of grief players when their form of validation doesn't
happen.  Or it doesn't happen on that particular day.

I also suggest that this 'validation' stuff has a greater
application to the younger players, who are almost universally
trying to establish their own identity.  Lots of other older people
are still trying to establish an identity, and games that provide
the illusion of an alternate life provide fodder for that pursuit.

> I did believe that large 'useless' areas full of nothingness were,
> in fact, useless, but I've gotten a lot of complaints from Achaea
> players lately saying that they want more large barren
> wildernesses where they can go to to be by themselves and just
> feel isolated. I have always enjoyed that sort of thing in worlds,
> but had thought there weren't many who felt similarly. I believe I
> was wrong.

> I think the difference here is one of how we envision a virtual
> world.

No question.

>> If the wilderness really is just filler, then you're going to
>> have to put in teleportation, fast travel, offline travel or some
>> such thing that negates the very existence of the wilderness.  If
>> you put something out in the middle of nowhere and require
>> players to reach it via conventional travel, it will only bore
>> them to tears because you're forcing them to engage in something
>> that you quite consciously accept as being unentertaining.

> This is definitely not true, at least if it is a blanket
> statement. Consider the modern world. Today, it's fairly easy to
> get to any major city. I've got a couple friends in Spain right
> now, walking pilgrimage route hundreds of miles long to get to
> Santiago (where James, the brother of Jesus, is said to have been
> buried). It's a traditional pilgrimage route. Why do it these days
> though? You COULD just catch a flight or rent a car. By my
> friends' own admissions, the route is long, arduous, and really
> not particularly exciting. Yet I'm sure they will look back 10
> years from now and not at all regret that they didn't just rent a
> car or hop a flight.

By analogy, that suggests that if teleportation is available in the
game world, that some people will choose to travel a long distance
on foot because of the sense of accomplishment that they gain upon
arrival.  I believe that most players are interested in these games
for the entertainment that they provide.  As a result, I doubt many
would bother with trying to gain a sense of accomplishment through
that mechanism.  Again, despite the prevailing wisdom of the seers,
I claim that these things really are games, and not a life.
Pursuing the 'life' route will exclude casual players who are
seeking entertainment.

Note that I am not claiming that there are no players who would take
the long way around.  Especially if there was additional reward for
having done so.  The greater the achievement, the greater the desire
by some players to attain that achievement.

> Teleportation is NOT fun.

I agree.  Considering that nothing really happens, it's fairly

> Finding that place on the other side of the Mongo Huge Desert is
> fun (well, for me and many other people at least). If the big
> boring desert was there, I wouldn't value finding what's on the
> other side.

And 'value' is the key word.  I want players to be able to value
what they find because it's inherently entertaining.  If you cross
the desert and nobody else does, you could bring back an
unidentifiable lump of coal.  But if it had a unique description, it
would be priceless and a worthy item to have.  Despite the fact that
there is zero entertainment inherent in it - other than the social
element of having something that nobody else has.  I don't consider
that to be a redeeming element of social gameplay (the desire to
stand apart from or above others).

When players are crossing the desert, I want them to be entertained
by the experience of crossing a desert.  If they aren't entertained
by the experience, I want them to be able to log off, let their
character cross in some kind of a caravan, and then log back on when
they reach the other side.  When they reach the other side, they can
then begin to seek entertainment in the town on the far side.  This
is how I see entertainment and the pretext of a virtual world
working out.  If the virtual world element unnecessarily gets in the
way of finding entertainment, I want to reduce the impact of the
virtual world.  I could go on about balancing the two, but that's
it's own thread.

>> The entertainment of the wilderness is going to be derived from
>> whatever it is that tree huggers like.  They like the views, they
>> like the wildlife, the foraging, the diving off cliffs into
>> lakes, the fishing, and so on.

> I like those things. I also like totally flat deserts. They all
> have their charms. The point, though, is that boring wilderness
> (boring if you don't enjoy it) is an obstacle to overcome and, in
> my opinion, provides for a more real-feeling world, rather than a
> Disneyland packed full of "entertainment."

I don't have a problem with totally flat deserts.  So long as they
don't stand in the way of entertainment that everyone wants access
to.  If the primary bazaar that everyone uses is in the middle of
that totally flat desert, I see a problem.  If it's simply a handy
place to go off and write your virtual party invitations, that's
fine.  Lacking totally flat deserts reduces the impact of the more
richly-adorned areas.  And having said that, no I don't believe that
having arduous trips makes non-arduous trips even more entertaining.
I think that people's real lives are arduous and grief-filled enough
and THAT is why they come to games - for the contrast.

>> The wilderness must be entertaining.  If it's not, don't put it
>> into the game.

> Yeah, difference in perception. It's a world with SOME game-like
> aspects. (at least the ones I'm interested in are)

Right, and for me it's a game with world-like aspects.  At least the
ones that are needed for entertainment's sake.


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