[MUD-Dev] RE:

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Sat Nov 24 18:30:38 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


Marian Griffith writes:
> In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Sun 18 Nov, John Buehler wrote:

>> 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.

> Theme parks are an apt analogy for what games will start to evolve
> into as they become more powerful and more entwined with everyday
> online life.  However, even themeparks are passive entertainment,
> and the unique strong point of games that they are active. They do
> allow the player to become part of the cast, rather than a guest
> who is along for the ride but ultimately not part of it.

Certainly there is an interactivity there.  I am reminded of
"Westworld" when I think about an interactive theme park.  However,
I see a greater separation between player and participant
(character) than was present there.  In my opinion, strong immersion
is only healthy when it is limited in duration.  "Westworld"
suggested a viable model because the one week experience was so
costly.  Highly entertaining for that one week, highly immersive,
then out of it.  In our computer games, they are available 24x7 and
cost a modest amount of money.  I think that's a lousy model.  Then
I consider Disneyworld, which is expensive, difficult for most to
get to and is again intensely entertaining.  A clear separation
between normal life and the entertainment helps to make it special.

>> 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.

> Obviously I misinterpreted your intention. I do agree with you
> that game worlds should provide this kind of low level control
> over the player's characters. If you want to make game worlds that
> do have a *true* feeling over them.  It would make sense on some
> future ver- sion of Legends, but not on Quake.

In a game that uses individual characters, the higher order the
activity of player skills, the more intelligent the characters must
become.  In a game like Quake, all the player skills involve manual
dexterity.  Moving, aiming and firing.  There isn't much in the way
of a gap between what the players do and what the characters do.
Quake characters walk automtically (I don't have to tell them to
move their legs), and they do other things like keep weapons at the
ready, grunt when damaged, etc.  Go higher order, such as a strategy
for a political maneuver to control a barony, and we want most
things that a character does to be autonomous.  Only who the
character talks to and the focus of those conversations becomes
important because that's the entertainment of the game.

>> 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.

> Adopt a new identity perhaps, but is that really necessary for
> most games, or gamers for that matter? You do not adopt a new
> personali- ty while reading a book, even if you intensely identify
> with the main character.  A fair while back there was a discussion
> of different types of role playing and immersion into the game. I
> forgot who, but somebody did come up with a variety of approaches
> ranging from essentially moving a token around a board to totally
> adopting and internalising your game character (becoming that
> character for the duration of a game session).  There is a lot of
> room between these extremes for a game to position itself
> in. Also, the amount of control you do have over the *character*
> is not necessarily the same as the amount of control you have over
> the *game* (either directly or through the character). Again The
> Longest Journey is a good example of this.

I've had discussions with enough folks, generally teenagers, who
very much want to establish an identity in the game world.  That is
the period when many begin to strongly establish their identity
apart from their family, and teenagers that play these games can get
caught up in the immersive experience of these games.  Those who
never went through that process as a teenager are similarly drawn to
the possibility of forming an identity through their character.

>> This may be related to gender-specific perceptions.

> This may very well be the case, but not one I am able to judge.  I
> do not know enough girls who play games to make any kind of educa-
> ted guess, and besides, the current style of games is strongly
> ske- wed to cater for a niche market of hack and slash games.
> Neither the boys nor the girls who play these games are
> representative for the people who potentially could play games. Or
> so it seems to me.

No argument on your final point.  I think that this genre will
mutate strongly over the years and turn into something that is
vastly different from what we see today.  Not just in technology,
but in the raw spirit of who experiences these things and why.

JB

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