[MUD-Dev] Geometric content generation

Dave Rickey daver at mythicentertainment.com
Fri Oct 5 18:42:08 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


-----Original Message-----
From: Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag at ifi.uio.no>
> 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.

Play nice and you get a star, be bad and you have to stand in the
hallway.

>> 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.

Only as a piece of a larger theory.  What I'm leaning towards lately
is a mixture of behaviouristic motivations, game theory, and
emergence in complexity theory.  Been out of touch with this list
for the last few months while DAoC was in crunch mode, now that
we're approaching launch I've got a lot of ideas to kick around.

> 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.

Okay, I'm going to have to revisit this at length in the near
future, but what you describing is what my private shorthand refers
to as the boundaries between "Impositional" game elements and
"Interactive" elements.  Impositional elements are dictated by the
game developer, and are part of the "laws of physics" for the game
world.  Interactive elements are those that are manipulable by the
players.  The key to the boundary is that impositional elements
define interactive ones, but if they over-define it the regime of
interactive elements is very limited, and if they underdefine it the
regime of *desirable* (to the player) interactive elements is even
more limited.

>>  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 head start could account for the lead, but not the fact that all
the competitors except UO have languished.  If the games were
generally comparable (and as games, they generally are), the growth
in the market should have been spread across all three, not limited
to only one.

> 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.

Innovative, shminnovative.  It was a Diku in 3D, so was M59, AC, and
UO.  So is Camelot.

Almost every single EQ player has gone through a period of
"burnout", where they wondered why they spent so much time playing.
Usually 2-3 months after they started.  Those that had made friends
in the game usually stuck it out, those that didn't usually quit.
I'm not sure that a tradmill that lasts for more than 6 months is
really serving any purpose.

>  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).

Vision can only account for so much, most development decisions
respond to the same pressures in the same ways.

>>  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).

There's definitely a "critical mass" of subscribers, around
50,000-100,000.  Less than that, and the game goes on a death
spiral.  It doesn't get ongoing development because it's not making
enough money, so it stagnates and loses more players, so it gets
less development....

> 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.

Beyond a certain point, yes.  There's only so long you can hold the
carrot out in front of them before they figure out they are never
going to reach it, or be satisfied with it if they do.

>>  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.

No almost about it.  We're going to have to grow beyond it.  It
works, but so inefficiently that it practically begs for
replacement.

--Dave Rickey

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