[MUD-Dev] RE: Storied Games

Matt Mihaly the_logos at achaea.com
Wed Nov 28 18:41:46 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

On Mon, 26 Nov 2001, Paul Schwanz wrote:

> Is it much easier for a professional writer to understand the
> nature of games than it is for a professional game developer to
> understand the nature of writing?  Or are you saying that
> something like Asheron's Call is not a valid professional attempt
> at a "storied" game because they don't have paid writers on staff?

Well, I'd certainly say that AC was not a valid professional attempt
at a storied game. It was a valid professional attempt at a game,
with some amateur-hour stories thrown in. Writing seems to be one of
those activities that anyone who reads thinks he or she can be good
at, and without even any training. It's ludicrous. Imagine starting
a company and claiming you're going to make a valid professional
attempt at an operating system, and then just hope the writers can
pull off the programming necessary. It's the same situation.

Hell, even the endless horrible fantasy/sci-fi "literature" that
many MUD players gorge themselves on (and it IS horrible. Whenever
someone mentions Robert Jordan, I want to throw up.) could not be
produced by 99.9% of people.

> Personally, I don't think the lack of story in MMO's can be passed
> off as simply a staffing issue.  Interactivity itself has some
> characteristics that make it antithetical to being *told* a story.
> It is not simply that the stories are often poor, but that having
> a story told to a player is an imposition on that player's
> interactivity. Certainly both can exist together in the same MMO,
> but when the story *telling* begins, the interaction stops.  The
> question is not whether players like stories.  They do.  The
> question is whether or not they like to stop interacting in the
> game.  I think that in many cases, they would rather not suffer
> interruptions to their interaction.

The fundamental problem with storytelling in big graphical MUDs is,
as far as I can tell, rooted in the fact that 1) The admin staff is
relatively powerless to improvise and 2) The admin staff is
generally composed of incompetents whom you wouldn't want to give
the power to improvise to anyway.

Running a story does -not- preclude interactivity. Most of the
stories we design in Achaea, for instance, are interactive. We often
only have a vague idea how they will end. Running a story in a MUD
-requires- that you can react, on the fly, to what the players are
doing. You -must- be able to improvise on the fly, or you're left
with simply telling stories that have no player participation, or
mass chaos. We might know, for instance, how a story needs to end,
but improvise, based on what the players are up to, the route by
which we get there.

Direct, don't control. Nudge, don't shove.


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