[MUD-Dev] Proposed Law

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Sat Oct 20 13:07:19 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


Ola Fosheim Grostad writes:
> John Buehler wrote:
>> Ola Fosheim Grostad writes:

> The way spawning often is done, is silly from an artistic POV. It
> is obviously possible to do it in more interesting ways. For
> example: use AI to open "gateways" from hell in areas with few
> players (who will run screaming), then direct these evil armies
> (tailored to the type of players in the area) to temporarily
> disable goals significant for the players (sources for various
> resources), let the evil soldiers pick appropriate enemies. Or
> create a densely populated hostile environment (masking spawns),
> require longer fights, spend more time in preparation for a fight,
> move enemies in groups. Yet another alternative is to have evil
> masters that spawn "servants" from their own bodies, or evil
> untouchable ghosts that turn matter into living... etc etc.

For the record, I'm trying to get farther and farther away from the
notion of magical or other high fantasy mechanisms to explain why
things are the way they are.  Instead, I'm looking to use mechanisms
that work a little better with the actual ebb and flow of the game.
For example, if you can't kill NPCs because they keep coming back,
don't predicate the interaction on killing.  Because they don't stay
dead.  If they keep coming back, they they must not have been
killed.  So what does that leave?  Knocking them out.  Well, we
can't have wars predicated on knocking people out.  It would be
silly to have an invasion force attack, get knocked out, pick
themselves up afterwards and go away quietly.  So that leads me to
exclude wars.  Instead combat consists of small engagements in an
otherwise-civilized world.  And that seems to work well with the
structure and technology of current games.  Having wars really isn't
practical in graphical games yet.  So small engagements are the way
to go anyway.  This works reasonably well with PvP and with NPCs.

What kind of small engagements don't involve death?  The kind that
come straight out of martial arts movies.  The ones where everyone
can take ludicrous amounts of punishment and still hop up to fight
some more.  There are martial arts movies that involve lots of
killing, and I'm simply ignoring those.

This mental exercise isn't complete yet, but the general idea is
that there are small gangs and groups out in the wilds, and they are
the opposition to the players.  Perhaps there are a series of clans,
some NPC and some player (as with Dark Age of Camelot).  Groups from
the clans square off and go to town, using their martial abilities
in hand to hand and light blunt weapon combat.  Last man standing
wins.

I don't want the entire world to be predicated on combat, however.
It would be one of a hundred different activities.  Hey, I get to
dream, right?

Just to take it all in a different direction, what if we wanted to
have actual combat leading to death?  This would mean that we'd need
a steady stream of NPCs and player characters because they're dying
all the time.  This would suggest that any given character is easy
to manufacture because they're easy to lose.  It might also suggest
that a given player controls multiple characters simultaneously.
The player's investment in the game isn't with single character, but
with his ability to have a role in many activities.  If we say that
the world is based on the 100 Year War in Europe, then players would
be sending their characters into the wars, working on the farms,
crafting items, witnessing or partaking in political wranglings,
etc.  Keeping tabs on their characters would form a kind of soap
opera.

I get the impression that current games are really shoehorning an
experience into these games.  One that requires too great a
suspension of disbelief for most people.  When that ability is
exceeded, people think of these games as just a collection of code
to be manipulated, documented and defeated.

>> Who is going to bother with creation in a game world where
>> destruction is the focus of the game?  Certainly not me.  It's
>> like making sand castles in the face of a rising tide.

> If the garden is well protected (by code), why not?

Because when destruction is the focus of the game, the garden is
going to be attacked, regardless of the mechanisms put in place.  It
will be all the more tempting because it is well guarded by the game
itself.  This is the mindset problem that I was referring to - once
destruction is the focus of gaming, it creates a high content burn
rate.

> But I have to say this, since M59 I've realized that the
> _possibility_ of socially unacceptable playerkilling does add
> something that is quite intense.

Okay, so it's intense.  Is it entertaining?  Some people like
intense, some don't.  Games are about entertainment.  For those who
want intense, let them seek out an intense game.  I submit that most
people don't want intensity in their entertainment.

> So I wouldn't dismiss even hard-core destructive activities just
> like that, as long as they are not the norm. Such destructive
> activities should be fairly easy to prevent and escape from (run
> away) though. It should also primarily be a matter of attention,
> not one of skill or power. The goal being drama and social
> interaction, not points.

You say drama and social interaction.  What about the 14 different
forms of fun that are listed in another thread here?  Sounds like
there are a vast number of game combinations out there.  Lots of
time, I just want to build stuff that will be used by the dramatic
guys out there.  While I'm at it, I probably want some social
interaction.  So drama isn't what I'm after lots of the time.

> Heterogeneity is where one wants to go, but that is difficult
> under a static global regime, so I've been in favour of having
> multiple "playgrounds" with different rule sets, foci and
> hierarchies within the same world for quite some time.

I agree, but I think that those playgrounds can be feathered
together if each one isn't too extreme in its formation.  For
example, asking players to move from the rampant player killing
environment to a farm community where people are making wool by hand
probably is a bit much.  Those player killers are going to be fairly
'dramatic' for that sedate farm community.

> That does require a decent _design_ that is sound (i.e. amenable
> to semi-formal reasoning), a large well managed team and financial
> stamina, so I doubt we'll see it in the next few years...

Well, I'm just working on the design for now :)

>> This illustrates the pinpoint focus of current developers and
>> gamers alike.  Not all players need to achieve in order to be
>> entertained.  Not all players need comparisons to be entertained.
>> Not all players need to win to be entertained.  We're only
>> exploring a tiny segment of the potential player population.

> I agree, but a lot of the players you want are hanging around
> playing free games on the web.  And those games are actually
> getting quite good.  You need stamina to develop a casual
> co-operative large scale MUD that requires subscription fees and
> installation of software.

Yup.  Think of future 'MUD' games as simply being entertainment
facilitators.  You take your character and you go find the
entertainment that you want.  That entertainment is experiential.
You can go bungee jumping, cliff diving, train driving, or just bake
a cake, play a game of backgammon or talk.  The experiences are
currently limited to visual and audial forms.  But as computers get
better, we'll have greater depth to the experiences.

JB

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