[MUD-Dev] New laws. (was: Player Manipulation of Environment)

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Mon Nov 26 19:09:15 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Sun 25 Nov, Hans-Henrik Staerfeldt wrote:
> On Fri, 23 Nov 2001, Marian Griffith wrote:

>>   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.

> This is only if you assume that Muds necessarily provide a high
> degree of freedom for the player. I'd say its more a sliding scale
> of two dimensions;

>   Free Will vs. Narration.

Not really. Or at least not necessarily. What I was saying is that
the narrative structure is ill-suited for a multiplayer game. This
is, I think, reflected by the current games where the story con-
tent is limited, repetitive and generally has little impact on the
actual game itself.  This is a matter of demands and constrants by
the narrative structure, and has no bearing on the other qualities
of the game. It also applies to multiplayer games only.  The free
will of the player has no meaningful impact on this principle, other
than that lack of it is one of the elements that ma- kes a narrative
structure impossible.

> The more free will you give the player the more difficult
> narration becomes. There is no problem with both being the hero
> and participating in a great narrative (see FPS game such as Max
> Paine), problem is that your free will becomes extremely limited
> (in MP its limited to shoot everything that moves or Game Over).

> The obstacle here is to _ensure_ that each and every action of the
> players become meaningful elements in a(the?) narrative, which is
> not an easy task, unless you limit the free will of the players.

Regardless.  One of the key elements of the narrative structure is
that it has a begining and an end. When you reach the end you have
to end the game, or you have to restart it. The first obviously is
not working for muds.  The second also does not work, though more
subtly so. When the story cycle is extremely short you end up with
the spawning problems most large scale muds seem to have, but even
if it is very long you still lose the sense of story, just like a
book is never so fresh on a reread (even though you might pick up
new details you had not previously noted).  With muds you have the
additional problem that for some players it will be their first time
around, while others have seen the story unfold so often that they
have become jaded.

All this does not mean that you can not tell great and wonderful
narratives *within* the game. However, those are events. Or unique
quests. Not something that can be repeated, and not something that
is the core of the game itself.

Muds are stages and props departments, grand vistas and complete
worlds on themselves, but they can not be narratives without des-
troying what makes a mud.

>>   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
>>     bigger 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.

> While i agree that this is good advice for dynamic, persistant
> environments, concluding that no system currently supports that
> players can affect the environment in a meaningful way is a bit
> too broad.

Perhaps, but I do not know many games where the player's impact on
the world (*not* on the game's society) is wiped out with the next
area reset.

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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