[MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #445 - 27 msgs

Travis Nixon tnixon at avalanchesoftware.com
Wed Oct 17 12:14:47 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


From: "Paul Schwanz" <paul.schwanz at east.sun.com>
> If I may, I think that the point is that procedures can become quite
> good at creating content, but not intent.  Evaluation as to whether
> the sequence is rubbish or not is focused on content.  I think that
> this evaluation can be made with little regard for authorship.
> However, in many cases, it is the intent that is the more
> interesting of the two (as in the case of lost love).  When it comes
> to intent, authorship is crucial.

This thread has triggered a thought that may be obvious to the rest of you, but
is new and novel to me.

If it is true that generated content can not be as entertaining or as
"explorable" as hand-made content, then there's a level of interaction going on
here that nobody's talking about.

There are, of course, the typical interactions:

First, the players interact with the world.  The rules may be simplistic, such
as "kill big ugly monster and get cool new stuff", but they're interacting with
the world.  At this level, there is absolutely no difference between handmade
and generated content.  In fact, I would argue that, in most cases, generated
content wins here.  The amount of time that people will spend playing Diablo 2
to get a particular randomly generated item just boggles me.  So, handmade
content is not a big win here.

Second, the players interact with each other.  Sometimes it's a positive
interaction, sometimes it's negative interaction (which I'll define here as an
interaction that leaves one party feeling "screwed over").  Again, at this
level, there is no difference between handmade and generated content.  In fact,
in many cases, there's little difference at this level between having content
and not having content. :)

Third, there's an interaction you don't hear much about, and that I think is at
the root of this "you can't explore generated content" idea.  Please note that
it's just occured to me that "interaction" has become a very inappropriate term
at this point, since what I'm about to describe isn't really an interaction, but
hey, I'm making this up as I go, give me a break. :)   The players interact with
the maker of the world.  I've heard a number of times something to the effect
of: "I can't wait for the next book in that series.  I can't wait to see what
MrSuperAuthor does with the characters next."  I can't personally understand the
sentiment, because I'm such a visually oriented person that books are more like
movies to me, but it exists nonetheless.  So in some sense, when taking part in
any form of entertainment, you're not really exploring the world as a world, but
as somebody else's creation.  They've made something cool, or they've made
something that sucks, and maybe you somehow feel that what you're experiencing
gives you a window into a part of another person.  When they've made something
cool, this feeling can approach reverence.  You want to identify with the person
who created the experience.

And now that the gears are turning, this doesn't only apply to entertainment.
It can apply to just about everything.  Hell, most religions are almost
certainly based on this need to identify with whatever or whoever created our
own world, which in my opinion is a very cool place.

At this level, there is definately a difference between handmade and generated
content.

...

Or is there?

I suspect this is a point where people will have one way of thinking or another,
and no amount of discussion will change their minds.  Personally, when I'm
reading a book, I don't much think about the author.  I'm way too involved in
what's happening, in seeing what's going on, to have time (or the attention) to
do anything else.  When I'm playing a game, I'm far too immersed in the
gameworld to spare a thought for the developers.  Even bad games.  I'm
practically a developer's dream customer.  I can suspend disbelief at the drop
of a hat.  You don't even have to work for it. :)  However, I can certainly see
where people might feel more involved with the author of a book, or the
developers of a game.

Of course, I'm not a religious person, either.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I think
the world's a much cooler place if it were "randomly generated" as opposed to
having the hand of a creator.  I mean, think about it.  If our planet, our
lives, came about as random chance, then we've won the universal lottery!  How
cool is that? :)  I feel the same way about generated content.  If it's fun,
then it's even more impressive than handmade content.

I suspect you don't have the same point of view about the world, or books, or
games.  Nothing wrong with that.  Different strokes and all that.

However, I will say that I really don't think encouraging this need to identify
with the creator is necessarily a good idea.  Like it or not, at some point
players are going to want so much content that you cannot hope to create
anything but the smallest percentage of it by hand.  The current ratios simply
won't scale to millions of people.  It just can't happen.  I simply do not
believe that you can have thousands of people creating the same game and have it
work.  The law of diminishing returns comes into effect.  Adding that 789th
person actually makes progress slower than it would have been with just 788.
Er...or something like that.

Or maybe the players won't want more content.  Maybe games will get smaller
rather than larger.  Deeper instead of bigger.

Personally I'd rather have both.  Deeper and bigger.  But again, I don't believe
you can do that with people making hand generated content.

Or maybe all of the above will happen, and people who need to believe in god
will play games with handmade content, those who think the universe is a much
cooler place without god will play games with procedurally generated content.

And there you have the meaning of life according to Travis.

:)

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