[MUD-Dev] RE:

Mark Eaton marke at mac.com
Tue Nov 20 12:44:43 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

On Sunday, November 18, 2001, at 10:11 AM, Brian McGroarty wrote:
> On Fri, Nov 16, 2001 at 05:31:16PM -0600, Sellers, Mike wrote:
>> Brian McGroarty wrote:
>>> On Wed, Nov 14, 2001 at 12:13:56PM +0100, Hans-Henrik Staerfeldt
>>> wrote:

>>>> Even if you adapt that idea then i would re-ask Raph's question
>>>> in your wording;

>>>>   "Why is it that the average cartoon lets you project your own
>>>>   values and morals onto it better?"

>>> The average cartoon has a storyteller with the focus where he or
>>> she places it, and a singular agenda.

>>> Multiplayer games have multiple people with multiple agendas,
>>> and most players' focus is set upon their own self.

>> Yep, this is the canonical excuse for not telling meaningful
>> stories in games.  And IMO it's a piss-poor excuse.  All it means
>> is that we don't yet know *HOW* to tell stories in a
>> multi-protagonist, self-directed environment.

> Which would make the focus and agenda two parts of an obstacle,
> not an excuse, and good topics for discussion.

> So, what's key to overcoming this obstacle? Guiding players toward
> a specific agenda? Making the game suit an arbitrary agenda? 
> Pushing the focus away from the player and toward a built-in story
> line?

I think its a combination of several things:

  1) First and foremost I think players need a strong sense that
  they can change the world (even if in very small ways). There are
  zillions of quests that are in the MMORPGs today that can be done
  over and over (and over) and never end. Bob wants you to kill Fred
  and return his head as proof that you've done the deed. But when
  you do Fred is right back where you left him, happy as a clam, and
  Bob still wants his head. Talk about giving the players a Sisyphus

  2) Players want a sense that their actions have meaning. When
  you've killed your twelve thousand one hundred and thirty sixth
  Orc Centurion, the game takes on a certain repetitiveness.. There
  is a reason that players call these games whack-a-mole. There is
  no story because there are no (worthy) villains.

  3) NPCs are completely artificial. The NPC interaction in the
  current crop of MMORPGs makes Zork look like true AI. I'd love to
  see an NPC that asks for your help in killing a monster, and then
  joins your party and accompanies you, acting like any player
  would.. fighting, casting spells, healing, etc. On the flip side,
  the NPC monsters are just as bad. They're so completely
  predictable that players use slang phrases like 'agro
  management'. Does 'managing' a monster sound just.. wrong to
  anyone else? What, other than the simple arithmetic of bigger
  stats, is qualitatively different from the biggest dragon and the
  smallest drake in your typical MMORPG? In all the fantasy I've
  read and table-top games I've played Dragons are supposed to be
  super intelligent. You wouldn't know it from any of the current
  crop of games.

  4) Player-Player conflict (aka PvP, RvR, etc.) is held up by many
  as the holy grail, the savior of MMORPGs. The sad reality is that
  its so random, so without meaning, that most players avoid it in
  the games that feature it. I would like to see an upside here,
  rather than just all negatives. Give players the tools to set up
  quests - including scripted NPCs - and reward other players (and
  give the players that go to the trouble to do so rewards
  also). Build positive feedback into structured player-player
  interaction. (I say structured because un-structured interaction
  is already fairly well served by the chat and trade interfaces of
  most MMORPGs)

The game is supposedly taking the place of the DM in the traditional
pen and paper RPG. Unfortunately none are coming even close to
this. The two routes I see are to make the game engines better at
storytelling or to give players the tools to tell stories. To come
around (by the long way) to answering the original question, these
games aren't good at letting players 'project their values and
morals' into the game because even when they do it goes unobserved
by the game. In a table top game the DM would see and reward or
punish every player action. MMORPGs today only 'observe' and react
to 1 thing: who you kill.

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