[MUD-Dev] RE: player-driven content?

Paul Schwanz paul.schwanz at east.sun.com
Fri Nov 16 17:47:42 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Sasha Hart wrote:

> I agree that this is probably how a story-game, where people just
> say what happens, works. And you present a very good argument
> within these story-games for some kind of limitation of the
> player's scope in saying what happens.

> But the image I have of "player-driven content" is not one where
> players are given enhanced editorial scope over the narrative
> itself, but rather one of a game in which player's moves create
> "eddies" which in turn provide reactive content for themselves and
> other players.

> The focus is on the system which mediates between game "moves" and
> their narrative-like consequences rather than a direct focus on
> the narrative as itself.  Admittedly, the line is not always very
> sharp. I think that it is at least an interesting goal to make the
> two converge utterly.  Is this possible? Well, who knows, but past
> efforts along similar lines have turned out to be pretty
> interesting. At any rate, I do think that >

I'm not entirely sure what you mean here, but I think I agree.

I tend to believe that the best stories will be the result of
developer-generated content and context to some degree.  I also
think that they will include player-generated content.
Unfortunately, I think that the terms content and context can have
broad definitions and as a result there has been some talking past
each other in this thread.  I'll try to explain in a bit more detail
what I envision.

I think the game *design* can create quests that arise naturally
from gameplay.  I'll give an example.

Create a game world that includes the following as part of its design.

  1) You need to mine ore and then refine it before it can be used
  to make items

  2) It is more efficient or advantageous to refine ore at certain
  locations (i.e. you can build hydro-powered mills that can assist
  in the process)

  3) The mineral resources you can mine are located far away from
  where the refining process will occur (i.e. some distance from any

    You have already created a number of ongoing quests that may

      a) finding ore

      b) locating fast moving rivers, 

      c) building mills 
      d) transporting raw ore from the mines to the mills.
    And that is not even to mention the sort of supporting quests
    that might arise in the building of a mill or the transportation
    of ore.  Will you need to clear land, create a blueprint, start
    a logging operation, build a lumber mill, and hire builders to
    construct the mill?  Perhaps you will need to buy or breed pack
    animals to transport the ore.

    Anything that may occur to disrupt any part of the process will
    become a quest as well.  If monsters are threatening to overrun
    the forest between the mines and the mills, someone needs to go
    clear them out so that the ore gets through.  And this is only
    one step in what could be a rather lengthy process to go from
    ore to a finished item.  You could easily add the following.

  4) It is more efficient or advantageous to craft items at certain
  locations (i.e. climate might affect the quality of the item)

  5) The best crafting locations are not near the best milling locations

  6) It is more efficient or advantageous to enchant items at
  certain locations (i.e. ley lines affect the strength of the

  7) The best places to enchant an item are not located near the
  best crafting sites.

If you design it right, you've created caravans and caravan routes,
which then give us quests for robbing the caravans or protecting
them.  In reality, you are creating *the potential* for quests by
your design of the game world.

Additionally, instead of writing a canned quest, you could create
powerful, world-impacting items.  Depending upon an item's nature
and how it functions, a quest could be the natural result.  To me,
this is the difference between writing Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings"
trilogy and trying to imbed it as static, canned pieces of text
throughout the game world, or simply creating the Rings as actual
in-game items that have the properties of those in Tolkien's
stories.  Then sit back and see what happens.

With the latter approach, the players don't read some text about the
background of the ring and realize they must complete a fed-ex style
quest to take the ring to some volcano where they hope to get lots
of experience.  Rather, they *live* the dilemma.  Do they keep the
ring to themselves for the sake of its ability to render them
invisible, suffering from its corruption?  Do they try to find and
assemble the other rings in order to unleash tremendous destructive
power on the world?  Or do they quest for some method of destroying
the ring and keeping the world safe from its power.  Perhaps they do
none of the above, but rather come up with their own unique solution
to the ring's existence.

So is this about developers creating content or context?  I see it
as the developer creating game content that provides story context.
I don't think this is the same thing as the sandbox approach.  The
developer is doing more than just creating a stage.  The developer
may even have a story in mind or a concept of how things could pan
out.  He is being very deliberate about creating a quest, but he
doesn't actually write the story and feed it to the players.


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