[MUD-Dev] RE:

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Sat Nov 17 14:36:26 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Fri 16 Nov, John Buehler wrote:
> Hans-Henrik Staerfeldt writes:

> For the same reason that books and movies are a poor analogue for
> most MUDs: Lack of interactivity.  The cartoon, book, or movie
> author completely controls all actions and reactions of all
> characters, permitting a very specific drama to play out.  In a
> MUD you don't control the reactions that your players make, so you
> cannot *illustrate* a moral structure.

True, though Pavlov provides a good way to present players with
hoops and have them jump through it.  In many ways that is just what
the current crop of games do, is it not?  The only problem is of
course that if you set your goals higher you find yourself facing
two problems.  The lack of new hoops, and the old training for a
different set of hoops. That is in part what made the first attempt
of UOL at an ecology fail.  They had the "kill anything that moves"
hoop in place still, and at the same time attempted to provide a new
hoop meant to encourage a more social playing style. They two did
not mix too well and players were too entrenched in their old
expectations, so they prefered the old hoop to the new one.  You
could create a game that illustrates (as you call it) a moral code
quite readily. It would not neccesarily be a game that a great many
players would recognise though.

> You can only present the predicaments and let the players react.
> They don't 'learn' anything from it per se because it is not
> illustrated for them.  Cartoons, books and movies spell out the
> predicaments and resolutions in clear ways.  That is one of their
> purposes.

Yes, that is the difference between narrative and interactive.  It
is also why I feel that inevitably games will evolve into a new
artform, separate from the classical storytelling that at this
moment dominates the field (in many guises). The one thing that
comes nearest that I know of is more of an exercise than a from of
art, improvisational acting, where a group of actors or students
more likely is brought together and without a script or director is
given a subject to (re)act on. Jam sessions have something in common
as well I guess.

> Only through the extensive use of NPCs who DO react according to
> the director's wishes can we up the ante.  That, and/or making
> player characters which have a certain autonomy to them -
> regardless of how terrible this may seem to some players.  In
> Camelot, I can walk in on the queen and dance in front of her,
> draw my weapon in front of her, etc.  Guards don't do anything in
> reaction, and the queen doesn't do anything in reaction.  The
> social code of 'respect royalty' simply isn't present.  If player
> characters enforced (or assisted in enforcing) the social norms of
> the society that they lived in, then there would be a greater
> sense of what you've asked for.

It does not require other players to enforce the game's social
rules, not neccesarily anyway.  It does however require characters
that are far more elaborate than what games typically can
provide. Right now we are stuck with nothing more advanced than a
chess piece.  It may have a name, but it has no personality.  For
your guards and queen to respond more realistically to what should
be considered an outright provocation the game would have to be able
to model to a far greater extent the characters and the nature of
the game society. It would also have to be able to interpret player
behaviour in far subtler terms than a simple "attacks" or "does not
attack".  It is not possible yet, but I am convinced that in time we
will populate our online landscape with highly advanced artificial
characters that *are* capable of such distinctions. At that moment
we will also be able to create games that are worlds unto
themselves, different from ours.  Some of those worlds will be
games.  Others will be theme parks, and some will be works of art.

> Lots more control by the game to decide what outcomes result from
> given predicaments.  This is a kind of midpoint between the purely
> non-interactive movie, book or cartoon, and the fully interactive
> MUD.  It moves the player a bit more into the area of viewer
> rather than player, which is what many players just don't want.
> They like the control and they like the sense of alternate
> identity that springs from it.

I am not so sure that you are right about that.  It may be true for
some of the current players, including you, but I would not claim it
is true for all players. There are many, a great many, games around
that severely limit the player's ability to act.  Yet they seem
equally popular. What you say sounds as if you do belief that "being
in control" and "alternate identity" are the same.  This clearly is
not the case.  They are not even related in any way or form.  In
Myst you are in control but you are not assuming an alternate
identity, while in The Longest Journey you are April Ryan but you
are not in control of the story, and only to a very limited extent
of her actions.

Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

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