[MUD-Dev] [DSN] Why Permadeath is Irrelevant

John Buehler johnbue at email.msn.com
Sun Sep 9 19:04:25 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Paul Schwanz writes:
> John Buehler wrote:
>> Paul Schwanz writes:

>>   2. Players should not be risking their entertainment as a
>>   result of normal gameplay.

> It is difficult to reconcile this statement with (nearly?) every
> arcade game I've ever played.  Your quarter (and therefore your
> continued entertainment) is always at risk.  Perhaps you will say
> that with arcade games, you haven't lost much, since you haven't
> invested much.  While that may be true to an extent, if you don't
> have another quarter, you are risking your entertainment.

The price paid for admission doesn't fall under the category of what
I'm referring to as 'entertainment'.  With arcade games, the
challenge of the game is the entertainment in general.  In some
arcase games, the eye candy is another element of entertainment.

>>> 1. Give a wider range of significance to actions, instead of a
>>> narrower one.

>> I certainly support the idea of a spectrum of outcomes, what you
>> call "all kinds of consequences".  Personally, I don't think that
>> "consequences" in a game world really matter to anybody.  It's
>> when the consequences are applied to the players that they
>> matter.  And negative player consequences should be eliminated
>> where possible.

> Are you then saying that games should not matter to the players?
> At all?  I knew you were interested in making them more casual,
> but this makes it sound like you are interested in making them
> irrelevent.  Is this right?

> Perhaps I'm not understanding. It seems to me that you are saying
> that only extra-game consequences really matter to the players,
> but that there should be no negative extra-game consequences.  To
> me, if all extra-game consequences are positive, then they are not
> really consequences...they are more akin to give-aways.

The purpose of my statement there was to say only that when players
play games, they should find entertainment, not penalties.  Both the
entertainment and the penalties that I'm referring to are at the
player level.

To contrast that statement, if my character is walking down the
street and it steps on a tack, it might react automatically by
hopping up and down on one foot, cursing a blue streak and then
hopping sideways into a vendor's display, knocking it over and
tossing bits of goods every which way.  That's unpleasant for the
character, but it might be very entertaining for the player

Because of the way that people seem to tightly associate player with
character, it generally results in the structure that when the
character has something bad happen to it in-context, the designers
ensure that the player doesn't enjoy the outcome either.  The
realism folks will say that this is necessary because the world
won't operate properly if players don't feel the consequences of
their character's actions.  I say that the basic premise is silly.
Players play games for entertainment.  Only the most hardcore are
interested in enduring the pain of bad decisions - and the stress of
ensuring that bad decisions are avoided or not made by mistake.

Death models are the most obvious example of where character
misfortune is tied to player pain.  Typically when a character dies,
the character loses achievements of one form or another.
Unfortunately, this not only penalizes the character, but it also
penalizes the player.  It's usually not entertaining for the player
to regain the same achievements that had already been gained.
According to the rules of what I'm saying, a game should be
structured so that losses in combat or other dangerous pursuits
should result in even more entertainment.  When a character's leg is
damaged, I expect the character to limp, and entertainingly so.
Further, I expect the introduction of a limp to change the
entertainment that the game provides, however subtly, without
dramatically reducing it.  For example, perhaps there is a medical
evacuation that is available for limping characters.  It's a
different path through the game, but it at least offers the player
some kind of new experience.  The goal being that the newness is
entertaining (spoken like the explorer that I am).

Ultimately, what I'm talking about would boil down to the player
never being obligated to do anything that they don't want to do.
That's fairly impossible in a multiplayer game, but limiting the use
of negative consequences on the PLAYER when a character does
something bad is A Good Thing.

> Personally, I see nothing wrong with negative extra-game
> consequences per se.  I'm interested in keeping the focus of the
> consequences in-game because these are role playing games and I'd
> rather keep the fiction intact while letting the impact of
> decisions filter down through the character to the palyer.  In my
> mind, these games could have something to teach players about
> making wise decisions, and the developer that spares the rod
> spoils the player, to coin a phrase.  (And here I realize that we
> are perhaps talking about two different kinds of negative
> consequences.)

If a roleplayer plays the game, they don't need extra-game negative

If a non-roleplayer plays the game, they don't care about
roleplaying overmuch, and they don't want extra-game negative

Note that I'm referring to NEGATIVE consequences.  I want all
extra-game consequences to be appealing to the player.  So being
thrown in jail should be entertaining.  It's just another avenue to
gameplay.  If you need to limit the number of players who are
playing criminals, then artificially manage it.  Don't rely on the
pain of having one's character in jail to discourage criminals.
Create a list that players sign up for in order to quality for the
ability to commit crimes and to keep the player-run justice system
going.  When you get caught, your turn is up and you can reapply for
another spot in the list after you finish with your entertaining
in-game character penalty.  Note that criminal acts have to be
entertaining for all involved as well.  If you can't make it
entertaining for all, don't put it into the game.

>> As an extreme case, consider non-consentual player character
>> conflict.  It has negative consequences for players.  If being
>> killed by another player character was as inherently entertaining
>> as playing the game normally, PKing wouldn't be as offensive.

> Non-consensual player character conflict is exactly what I am
> targeting as a symptom of the real issue.  I don't think there is
> anything inherently bad about player conflict or the consequences
> of that conflict, even when those consequences are quite
> unpleasant.

And for you, that's entertaining.  For others it may not be.  You
must ensure that those who are faced with the unpleasant outcomes
are happy to endure them.  To do otherwise is to give a player a
reason to be discontent with your game or worse, to vote with their

> How do we give players predictablility and control so that they
> can manage their risks?  Now there is an interesting problem worth
> solving.

Any player who is interested in risking in order to be entertained
does not fall into my bucket of what I consider a casual player.
Casual players are not trying to get their heartrate up.  They're
just trying to tickle some neurons.

I leave the problem of risk management to other folks :)


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