[MUD-Dev] Geometric content generation

Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no> Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag@ifi.uio.no>
Thu Oct 4 21:52:24 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Dave Rickey wrote:

> The purpose of a schedule of reinforcement is to encourage certain
> forms of play over others.  When the players find the ways to skip

Exactly, MUDs as school.  Behave or you'll get lousy grades.

> If it was acceptable to have only a single mode of play, we could
> ignore it, but in these games we are usually trying to integrate
> multiple play modes into the same reward structure (at a minimum,
> a "melee" style, a "nuker" style, and a "healer" style).  We do
> this in an effort to create complementary strengths and
> weaknesses, push the players towards group pursuit of individual
> goals, and drive our social construction and organization.

I don't mind creating interdependencies, that is what resources are
for.  This setting may be a lot more complex than you can easily
account for predictively by psychological theory, though.

But, as you yourself point out, what makes these games fun is
hanging out with other people (or making fun of them).  The mazes
are by definition tedious.  They do not make the game fun (unless
they involve real danger which provide drama).  In fact, finding a
cheat can be VERY fun. :) I still think that the long mazes
primarily are in place in order to sustain the belief that there is
"something more", something mythical, something to be proud of etc.
So, they are there to prevent, not only to enable.  That's where the
tediousness come in.  What I want is a design that involves almost
no "prevent" and lots of "enable".  I am not saying that this can be
achieved within the current RPG paradigm though.

> in AO, and UO.  IMHO, EQ's status as the #1 game in the US comes
> not from the fact it is prettier than the alternatives, but
> because it has these fundamental socializing pressures, and the
> others do not.

Maybe you are right, and many would claim that you are, several
players also dislike the stickiness.  I don't play EQ though, so I
can't tell you for sure.  EQ did have a head start as a big 3D MUD
though.  I.e. no competition and a solid publisher.  The vision was
to go with the well known as far as I can tell.  The controversies
about EQ's addictiveness might also generate buzz, which in turn
generate interest. I think the fact that AC, UO, AO were all built
on more innovative visions (I am not claiming that they did
materialize) might be an issue as well. That can be more risky and
lead to dysfunctional design decisions (i.e. driven by some epic
vision rather than function).

> servers crash frequently, AC almost never crashes).  What I do see
> is a direct correlation between socializing pressures and revenue.

Probably, although AO is too young and lineage is a different
culture. AC's interface looked dated to me before launch. I think
there are lots of contributing reasons. Number of buyers, retention
and what not are somewhat different issues too.  And of course, high
revenue early could mean a higher ability to improve and project a
promising future (expansions and such).

Still, my perspective is different from yours. I only care about the
users, and not at all about the company that design the game and
their revenue.  I don't even view it as desirable to retain players
for years.  Having users that feel that the world was worth the
trouble and enabling is what I care about.

> Players will complain about graphics, whine about balance,
> *scream* about stability.  But when it comes time to renew their
> subscription, what decides if you keep that customer is how many
> friends he feels he'd be leaving behind.

This is what several designers say.  I don't think that is enough
though.  IMO the player also wants to believe that there is a (new)
future (for him) in the system.

> Show me a better way to create those friendships than through
> manipulation of the XP treadmill system, and I'll be all over it
> (I always hated them, anyway).  For right now, I'll go with what
> works.

There are other concepts that involve cooperation, but right now the
current market expects the RPG model I guess?  So, to get there you
need to grow a new market. (Or you could provide them as alternative
paths with some exclusive advantages.) Of course, as I believe you
also pointed out, the treadmill system is not too complicated to
balance as your contribution to progress is almost an illusion.

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

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