[MUD-Dev] Player Manipulation of Environment/New Laws

Paul Schwanz paul.schwanz at east.sun.com
Mon Nov 26 16:26:43 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


Marian Griffith wrote:

> It seems this leads to two new laws :)

>   1) Muds can't be narratives for the players.

>     Players "live" in the game, they participate far more directly
>     than the reader of a book, or the viewer of a
>     movie. Techniques and strategies that work for a narrative
>     structure do not work for muds.  This is a direct result from
>     the "everybody wants to be the hero of the game" law.  >

I'm comfortable with the notion that MUDs cannont *be* narratives.
I think this is a result of the fact that MUDs offer player
interactivity while narratives impose authorial will.  On the other
hand, MUDs certainly can *have* narrative content.  What form that
content should take and whether or not it will be ignored by players
in favor of interaction are questions still very much in debate.

>> 2) The game world must be large enough to absorb the player's
>> ability to affect it.

>     The more freedom the players have to affect the world the big-
>     ger that world has to be, or the they will rip it apart sooner
>     or later.  Probably sooner.  This however requires some
>     serious change to the way games are organised, including the
>     fact that for games to be experienced as lively they need to
>     be extremely dense, which directly conflicts with their need
>     to be big.  Of course currently players have no ability to
>     affect the world in any meaningful way, which lead to the game
>     feeling stale and to repetitive gameplay.

I think the requirement for density (I'm assuming you are talking
about player density) can be lessened where players are allowed to
interact more with the game world.  If the game world itself seems
more "alive" you don't need as many other players around giving the
virtual world its liveliness.

I will now rant. ;) I'll talk specifically about DAoC, not because
it is any worse than some of the other MMORPGs, but because it is
what I've been playing recently.

The developers at Mythic have determined that I will have one and
only one method for interacting with pigs (and virtually every other
creature in the game).  I can kill them. That's it.  They are
designed to be killed for gold and exp.  I can't breed them.  I
can't herd them.  I can't own them.  I can't raise them to sell
them.  They may drop stuff that *looks* like meat, but it isn't.  It
is simply copper in a different form.  How do I know this?  Because
I can't eat it.  I can't use it in recipes.  It is designed to be
taken to a merchant and exchanged for a few coppers.  Any merchant
will do and all give exactly the same amount of gold for it.  Why
not just give me the gold in the first place?  And when I do kill a
pig, it isn't really gone.  I have had no lasting effect on the game
world.  The pig will just respawn.  So I'm not really killing it, am
I?  In fact, we talk about "farming" a spawn point.  We use language
like this because we know that a pig is not really a living animal,
even in a virtual sense.  It doesn't act like a living animal.  It
is an exp farm.  A small faucet from which we may collect precious
drops into our cumulative character containers.

Similarly, the game dictates to me that I will interact with my
trainer, Mavelle, in one particular way.  In her case, I may *not*
kill her.  Why not?  I'm not sure.  We could always respawn her just
like we do the pigs.  I suspect it is because Mavelle isn't really a
human.  She is a kiosk.  She is not a person, she is a function.
She doesn't need to be mortal in order to be a function.  In fact,
she can do her function much better if she isn't dead.  And her
function has nothing to do with dripping exp into our little
cumulative character bags like other exp farms, so why should I be
able to kill her?  In any case, the scope of possible interaction
with both Mavelle and all other MOBs in DAoC is very narrow.

The other day, I killed a creature in Midgard and it dropped copper
in the form of a carving tool and some carved figures.  I wished
afterward that I didn't have to kill the little guy.  I imagined how
cool it would be to discover the carving tool on the ground
somewhere and give it to one of these little creatures, only to be
offered a carved figure of myself.  I imagined searching around for
scraps of wood in various raw shapes and returning to these
mysterious carvers to see if I could get them to make other objects.
Unfortunately, someone else had already decided that I could not
interact with a huldu stalker other than killing him.  And it had a
yellow name, which told me that I could probably kill it and get a
good amount of exp.  Of course, there are probably a hundred
different ways to go about killing the huldu.  I suppose the
developers were too busy figuring out the different methods for
killing to have time to explore other types of interaction.  Or
maybe they were concerned about how such interaction might be
"gamed." You know, you have to constantly be vigilant to ensure the
game doesn't become unbalanced.  If you are not careful, you players
might skip across your cumulative character rainbow and discover
there is no content pot of gold at the end.  Of course, DAoC has
RvR.

What it doesn't have is trees.  There are things that (sorta) look
like trees, but they are not trees.  How do I know this? Because
they don't grow.  I can't plant them.  I can't cut them down.  I
can't use wood from them to build a house or a barn.  They are not
trees, they are props on the stage that I must walk around in order
to kill things.  The wood that is available in DAoC is not in any
way tied to these props.  The wood is unlimited, created ex nihlo
each time I visit the (very functional) wood merchant.  There is no
concept of scarcity (at least not as it pertains to wood), so the
value of wood never changes.  In fact, very little ever changes in
DAoC.  It seems entirely static.  Players cannot have any real,
true, lasting impact on the world.  (Maybe this is why everyone
seems to focus on changing themselves through their constant
endeavors to gain exp.?)  But maybe RvR will change my perception of
this.

Bleah.  I hate rants.  They tend to simplify and point out problems
without offering solutions.  I want to offer solutions.  I will do
so in another post, however, since this one seems to be getting all
long and rambly-like.

--Phinehas

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