[MUD-Dev] RE:

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Sun Nov 18 14:23:36 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Marian Griffith 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?

No argument there.  I was simply offering an answer as to why
interactive games are poor vehicles for illustrating any particular
message.  Do interactive games have the ability to impact players?
Absolutely.  And far more significantly than movies, books and

>> 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.

As a simpler example, how about real life?  Your life, my life,
anybody's life.  We have a context in which we operate and we react
in that context.  I don't think of these things as 'games' in the
same way that I think about chess or checkers or even Quake.  I
think about them as theme parks where I can go and experience things
that I normally wouldn't.  It's not about winning.  It's just about
doing things.  Personal bias there, of course.

>> 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.

I don't believe I said anything about that.  The treatment that I'm
talking about is having the software enforce the social norms or any
other 'enforced' behaviors in order to maintain the pretext of a
specific culture or society.  As a slightly silly example, consider
if there was an automatic translator for everything that my
character said.  I type "Do you know where the main town is?" and it
comes out of my character's mouth as "D' ye know where the main town
is, boyo?"  Trivial alteration, but it ensures that I cannot say
"you" because characters of my social group don't say that.  That's
the software enforcing a rule.  In the case of royalty, my character
would automatically stop and bow whenever it sees the queen.  That's
the default.  I can alter that, but altering it is a conscious act
that can have all sorts of warnings and implications that are
communicated to the player.  When the queen comes by and my
character doesn't bow, other non-player characters will take note of
it and be less inclined to interact with my character.

> It does however require characters that are far more elaborate
> than what games typically can provide.

Absolutely.  We have a long, long way to go before we can have this
software do things that are very sophisticated.  We haven't done
much at all with perception models, reasoning models and action
models.  Just having a character wandering around town on a fixed
route seems to be the state of the 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.

Actually, I'm at the other end of the spectrum.  I *want* the fairly
autonomous character that I get to watch do its thing, while I issue
commands that more broadly direct it.  As for being in control and
having an alternate identity, I suspect that it is quite difficult
to adopt an alternate identity without having control.  You may find
that to be true, but I doubt if that's typically the case.  The game
may be predicated on the notion, but I wonder how intensely that
identity is adopted.  This may be related to gender-specific


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