[MUD-Dev] Geometric content generation

Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no> Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no>
Tue Oct 2 18:43:54 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

"Koster, Raph" wrote:

[the behaviour of rats are representative of humans]

> Well, if you believe the behavioral psych people, there is no
> difference, right? :)

If you believe a carefully selected subset of behaviourists,
maybe. Hmm, how to put this.  Yes, behaviourist thinking can
probably be valuable for training people with braindamages, maybe
the only way. Does that mean that we should treat most people as if
they are braindamaged!?  YES, the gamedesigners shout, we are
catering for the masses! :^)))

> Seriously, though--even if you do provide such a world, research
> seems to indicate that if there is no feedback mechanisms, people
> won't pursue the activities.

(this is my _opinion_, hypothesis to be tested if you will)

Oh, wait, no feedback is never good because then you don't know what
you are doing.  However, they will pursue the activities if there is
no explicit reward IF that activity is _meaningful_ to them (or
compelling).  The reward does not make the activity itself
meaningful though (unless it is strongly related to the activity).
However, sometimes you need a carrot to get people started, but when
they are IMMERSED into the subjectively MEANINGFUL activity then
they don't need the carrot anymore.  If you have to PAY your players
to participate in activities, then there is bound to be something
boooring and unsatisfactory about those activities.  People go
biking and skiing without getting paid, don't they?  They also
ROLEACT without getting paid.  Those activities are inherently
meaningful to those that participate in them.  I believe that they
partially are so because the player himself can increase the level
of challenge and change the focus and variation, but partially also
because they have a very high potential for being "compelling" along
multiple dimension.

> Even the crudest simplest DikuMUD derivative offers more than just
> the hjunt for XP, yet many seem to prefer the shallow experience
> the game rewards over the richer experience that the game doesn't
> acknowledge.

People that play Dikus _expect_ the (braindead) RPG or at least a
run-of-the-mill game (not a _world_).  I (and most people on this
planet) would never play a Diku/EQ/AO/whatever unless I get paid for
it.  With one exception, I did play LegendMUD because I was
motivated to explore the system, the promise of interactive fiction
and traces of authorship (some cottage in the desert you had
designed was very interesting to me, it had so much inscribed
meaning because I know something about the author and I am somehow
affiliated with him through this group, interests in the same field
and so on). I was motivated by curiosity and expectations of
interactive fiction.

Take a look at the LegendMUD characters, and ask yourself, who of
the oldest active characters are xp-hunting, roleplaying, building,
socializing etc.  I'd be surprised if the less autonomous, less
meaningful activities won.

I don't believe payment cause a rise in motivation, but rather a
perceived lack of outcome does reduce motivation. This does at least
seem to hold in the work environment.

> Seems to me that it's a good thing, making use of these tools in
> order to open the players' eyes to the complex world and
> unfulfilled need you cite.

Except that the worlds are not complex and does not provide the
tools to fulfil those needs :P. If they were you would not need to
PAY the players to participate.

And of course you know this.  You want to have player-run vendors
and houses.  You want some autonomy and player control.  You want
players to define their activities in ways that are meaningful to
them, not necessarily the gaming system, right?  Still, you realize
that you need to collect the money. Retaining players in a
non-complex world is achieved by streeeeeeeetch the content, by
polishing and relaunching, by making the world tedious, and by
paying them to play, and nurturing their desire to belong to at
least the middle-class (and making that a moving target).  Hmm,
maybe someone should do a marxist analysis of MMORPGs.

I don't like this, I think the extreme end of this is _wrong_, I
also think it is wrong to addict people to soda pop by artificially
injecting coffein, or tweaking cigarettes to increase nicotine
addiction, putting alcohol in clear view at the entrance to make
sure that alcoholics don't miss it or what not.  If people come out
at the other end of the system, feeling empty or bad, then that
system had no right to impose themselves on them.  I wish I knew of
a study of this, but my unqualified GUESS is that quite a large
number of MUD players only play MUDs for a couple of months until
they are able to tear themselves away from the system to never
really play again.  I also guess that this holds for a lot of hard
core EQ players, they have learned and felt that they do not have
the time to meet the requirements of the high level game play and
will shy away from games that will induce an artificial need to do
so. In a couple of years the majority of hard-core game players will
have burned off any novelty they might have experienced under this
gaming model due to the intensive requirements in existing
systems. So, then maybe designers will at least put in time-caps and
provide a rich world for casual gamePLAY (opposed to work). So far
MMOPRGs have been lucky, next to no competition, and novelty of the
genre (to most players).

Btw, I'm following a class on narratology in media-science, and I
believe there is something to be learned from that field (+
dramaturgy) about making things compelling with variation.  Not sure
exactly what, but something.

As we all know, the expectations about the possibilities of the
future IS the most powerful aspect a designer can play up to.  (is
that one of your laws?)  Players do want to believe in the
possibility of a story, I believe.  Possibilities is what makes a
world.  The promises of a valid and meaningful future.  The promised
land so to speak...

(I guess one could pull off an analogy to the suffering of the
jewish people here, but I will drop that one.)

Ola  -  http://folk.uio.no/olag/

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