[MUD-Dev] Geometric content generation

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Wed Sep 19 09:39:56 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Matt Mihaly writes:

> This list seems to accept the maxim that you can't generate
> content fast enough to keep up with player consumption of it.

Only the unenlightened ones accept that :)

> 2. Increase the power and capability of development tools.

>    - A long-time, on-going process, but tools seem to be a lot
>    more effective at breadth creation rather than depth
>    creation. Algorithmic content has so far been shallow.

Tools capture prior experiences so that what has gone before need
not be done 'by hand' again.  The question is, are developers trying
to understand and formulate the learned elements of design and
development?  In general, it is a developer's job to make their
current job obsolete and to invent a new, higher order job.  Tools
are the pitons that they leave behind them as they climb the wall of
All Information Problems.  Unfortunately, I have found very few
pitons in The Wall in the past 18 years.

Algorithmic content has been shallow because nobody has been taking
the existing content generation tools and moving them to a next
level.  Reinvention is the hallmark of modern software development,

> 3. Increase the complexity of the game/world.

>    - The example that made me think of this is chess. Chess is a
>    simple game, but the rules interact in such a way as to create
>    a game of sufficient complexity that it's never been
>    solved. It's not possible to talk about an optimum strategy in
>    chess (at least yet. It'll be solved eventually, presumably.)

> It strikes me that #3 has to be the way to go, if you're
> interested in honestly being able to out-produce the consumers of
> your content, no matter what they throw at you. Again, think of
> chess. It's not a broad game, but it's incredibly deep. Depth can
> be easily created. Breadth is what takes the time (you have to
> have both, of course).

I think of 'content' as any experience that a player finds
entertaining.  The elements of the game of Go remain static, but the
interaction of those elements varies considerably.  The macro
experience of Go is never the same twice, which is significant to
its appeal.  To contrast with Go, current games such as EverQuest
and Asheron's Call predicate their entertainment on a linear
advancement schedule.  The game changes as the player advances a
character, producing a sense of 'using up' the content.  Once a
character is level 50, fighting a level 5 monster is no longer
entertaining, thus the loss of entertainment, thus the loss of
content.  Go doesn't suffer from this effect because it doesn't by
design discard its own entertainment.  Once a game is won, the
pieces and rules remain unchanged.

Go and Chess remain entertaining because of the complexity of
interaction during the game.  There are many ambient conditions that
alter the experience.  In Go, it is purely the location of the
pieces.  In Chess, it is location and piece type.  In current
adventure games, the number of ambient conditions that alter the
gaming experience are typically very few.

I think that one of the best things that adventure games can do is
to stop powering up characters to the point where content is
discarded at a furious rate.  If I can fight an orc the first day I
play a game and I can still fight that same orc the last day I play
the game - and it remains entertaining to do so - then I have
avoided loss of content.  The hard part is keeping that orc
entertaining to fight.  The way I assume that this can be done is by
adding many ambient conditions to combat, or any other skill system
for that matter.  Put in enough variables to keep it entertainingly

This style of game is not about powering up.  I'm of the opinion
that powerup games are about a competition between the developers
and the players.  If the players are entertained by experiences
other than 'powering up', the game becomes a place where players are
simply trying to experience the new (including variations on a
theme) or share experiences with other players.  And that covers the
explorers and socializers.  The killers will be sated by having
entertaining things to hunt and kill.  Take stalking a wild animal
and killing it as an example.  Put in lots of variables so that no
two hunts are the same and you have sustainable content.  The only
thing consumed is the animal itself, not the entire experience of
hunting that type of animal.  For the achievers, put in means of
attaining achievements that are pure recognition of having gone
through a given experience.  Such as hunting that animal.  Bring in
the pelt of a tough animal to track and kill and you are praised as
a master hunter.  Achievers consume content at the greatest rate
because now that they have achieved the rank of master hunter, that
rank is now consumed and no longer entertaining to that player.  As
a result, I'd argue against having excessive emphasis on in-game
achievements.  They should only be a small fraction of the game's


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