[MUD-Dev] Proposed Law

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Mon Oct 22 11:16:30 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Matt Mihaly writes:
> On Fri, 19 Oct 2001, John Buehler wrote:
>> Matt Mihaly writes:

>>> Why? You seem to me to be slipping in and out of context
>>> here. When a monster is "killed" and respawns, there's no
>>> destruction of content taking place. It's just interaction of
>>> content and player.

>> I agree that the graphics, algorithms and sounds that make up the
>> experience of the monster are retained.  The player, however,
>> sees objects as something to destroy, not to interact with.  They
>> adopt a self-limiting attitude about objects and characters in
>> the world.  In EverQuest, it was a retraining exercise to realize
>> that we weren't supposed to kill everything that moves.
>> Sometimes, we were supposed to leave them alone so that people
>> could talk to them.

> "Weren't supposed to...." I don't really see how that's relevant,
> though I may be missing your point here. I understand what you're
> saying about players adopting a self-limiting attitude about
> things, but to adopt an attitude where you believe destruction is
> bad is also self-limiting (limits you from destroying things).

I didn't say that destruction was bad.  I said that it had the
characteristic of causing players to quickly cruise through
available content.  There are positive elements of the destruction
motif, including the entertainment element that many players look
for.  I may be overstating my point only because it's in reaction to
so much destruction in these games.  They are wildly unbalanced from
where I'd like to see them.

> It seems to me that what you're saying (and again, I may just be
> misunderstanding your point), is akin to the hypothetical designer
> of chess saying "Ok, now look, I've given you these pieces and
> rules, but damn it, black isn't supposed to play kt-kb4 in answer
> to kt-qb3 in the Vienna Game." I mean, yes, it's not really good
> for the player to make that move, in that it's a bad move
> (assuming your goal is winning the chess match), but would I want
> to be telling a player he shouldn't do that irrespective of his
> desire to win?  No. It's not a perfect analogy, but that is what
> it seems you're saying to me.

I'm obviously not being clear then.  This is far from what I'm
trying to communicate.

If a game has incredible fidelity in its depiction of gore, death,
sweat and pain, and that same game doesn't really bother with any
other form of entertainment, players will seek out ways to trigger
the game such that it shows its gore, death, sweat and pain.  If
talking to NPCs isn't entertaining, players won't do it.  If
juggling balls isn't entertaining, players won't do it.  (I'm
ignoring roleplayers, who will do almost anything for purely
internal reasons) Games that predicate their entertainment on
destruction encourage players to destroy things instead of seeking
out other forms of interaction with those same objects.  That ship
that burns so cleverly?  Why sail it when it's far more fun to burn
it?  It's inherently limiting to the pursuit of activities *other*
than destruction.

Said another way, if all the entertainment in the game world
revolved around construction, while destruction wasn't entertaining
at all, nobody would ever destroy anything, and the world might feel
terribly sterile.  But game content wouldn't be consumed at the
furious rate that a destruction-focused game would.

>>> After the 50th time you've broken the leg of the orc, I don't
>>> think it's any different to the player than killing the
>>> orc. Either way, he's met the victory condition. The first
>>> couple times, I agree, it'd be cool to have your orc enemy show
>>> up. On the other hand, I don't think there's anything believable
>>> about not being able to kill the orc you just battered into
>>> submission.

>> Okay, let's flip it around.  What value is there in killing the
>> orc?  Everything that can be accomplished through death can be
>> achieved through an arbitrary victory condition.  All you get
>> with killing is an added element of violence.  There isn't even
>> the finality of death.  The orc respawns.

> What value? If the player "kills" the orc, then it can be presumed
> that doing so had some expected or actual value to the player
> (likely actual, as likely it's not the first orc he has killed,
> and is doing it in expectation of the same reward as the first
> orc). And violence is fun for many, many, many players. 99% of
> MUDs are based on it. Even chess can be spiced up for many people
> with violence. Achaea's in-game chess features various
> Battlechess-like capture messages for every possible capture
> combination. Players have always reported to me that the addition
> of these violent (and sometimes quite comical) messages improves
> their chess experience. It certainly improves mine.

I submit to you that you are preaching to the choir.  They look for
violence, so they're happy when you add more.  I'm not all that
interested in that niche.  It's only one piece of a vast puzzle.
We're talking virtual *worlds* here.  All integrated into one
seamless experience.  Fourteen forms of fun and all that.  It can be
pushed into a single game environment.  That's what I see as the
future of these games.  They are simply a medium for finding
entertainment.  Not a perpetual monster frag-fest.

>> As for breaking the leg of an orc 50 times, I'm not thinking that
>> it happens every time, to every orc, on the same leg, to the same
>> degree, and produces a limp every time.  One in a thousand times,
>> you might produce a limp in the orc.  Other times, he shows up
>> with ripped armor.  Or new armor.  Or no armor.  Or a scar.  Or a
>> grudge.  Or he's more inclined to run.  Or pick a thousand other
>> variations in behavior and appearance that players can take
>> responsibility for.

>> This is why I suggest that destruction burns content.  It serves
>> as a terminus for some history of activity with an object or a
>> being.

> I sense a "permadeath" argument here. I agree that destruction
> burns content. However, killing re-popping mobiles is not
> destructive. It's only taken out of the web of possible
> interactions for awhile.

Killing repopping mobiles is non-viable once a large game context is
considered, as I mentioned above.  If we think of mobiles as more
than just targets, having them reappear becomes rather distasteful.
The technique has value today and will continue to have value for a
long time to come.  But I think that within the next 10 years, the
technique will be dumped in favor of a less lethal style of gaming,
with many facets of the environment made to be as entertaining as

>>> I think those are arbitrary rules, not applicable to games or
>>> MUDs in general. Why shouldn't the NPC who was killed reappear?
>>> And if they're burning the ship, they're probably getting
>>> entertainment out of it. Designers can't control what players
>>> get entertainment out of. They can only influence.

>> Why shouldn't gravity go up?  Why shouldn't walking forward also
>> move the closest tree to the right?  Why shouldn't any number of
>> other unreal behaviors and rules be in effect?  Because the
>> typical player doesn't want bizarre.  Only the hardcore gamers
>> can deal with bizarre.

> In most games, there are many, many, many unreal behaviors and
> rules. Eating and no waste removal. Massive flying
> dragons. Teleportation, etc. Internal consistency, not simulation.

> I'd also suggest that if you want to write a law, it has to apply
> universally. Saying "Well, it doesn't apply to these people, but
> we'll just label them as hardcore and proceed to ignore them."
> doesn't make for a law if you ask me.

Fair enough.  I'm willing to withdraw the proposed law.

As for internal consistency versus simulation, I'm not particularly
concerned with simulation.  I'm concerned with the ability of people
to suspend their disbelief.  I've read science fiction and fantasy
for a long time, but I find much of it to be tripe.  The author gets
too bizarre for me and I can no longer identify with the mechanisms
that are in effect in the fictional world.  In the case of games, I
not only have to identify with it, but I have to use it and operate
in the world.

>> As for designers not controlling what the player get
>> entertainment out of, I submit to you that they have massive
>> control.  Designers simply have a seriously flawed understanding
>> about what actions produce what results in players.

> I have a pretty good idea about what actions will produce what
> results in players. I think many people on this list, particularly
> those with lots of experience running (as opposed to designing)
> MUDs in a live environment have a good idea.

Okay, then I missed your point.

>> As for burning the ship producing entertainment, it might very
>> well be true.  And after they've burned that ship, they'll look
>> for another one.  Because it's probably low cost to burn ships
>> and it's entertaining.  Providing entertainment through
>> destruction is difficult.  Creation either comes at a high cost
>> and is believable and inherently entertaining, or it comes
>> cheaply, which is not believable and skips over a valuable
>> entertainment source.

> Sure, though again, that assumes that there isn't some magic spell
> to take the ashes of the ship and resurrect it. In a world where
> there is "magic" (or advanced technology), you can do basically
> anything, no matter how little sense it makes. Hey, it's
> magic. Better yet: God did it.

Yeah, yeah.  Unfortunately, that's so arbitrary.  If the ashes of
the ship can be recovered and turned back into a ship, I should be
able to assume that anything that burns can be reversed.  Providing
internal consistency almost demands that simulation techniques be


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