[MUD-Dev] Asheron's Call, Story and Population Density.

Sasha Hart Sasha.Hart at directory.reed.edu
Thu Nov 29 13:33:47 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


[Zak Jarvis]

> Either they feel isolated from other players and they solo the
> game with the occasional interactions, or they join some sort of
> guild and have no real interaction outside their group.

> I'm positing that all the solutions I've come up with previously
> and I've seen others posit are Band-Aids on bullet holes. These
> problems don't get fixed until we can build games that operate
> around real-world population densities, and that's a new can of
> worms entirely.

Hmm. Seems to me that the main way this might work is by simply
increasing the raw number of player-player encounters. (This said, I
don't see how this is going to lead to good stories.. could you
spell it out?)

So we have at least the following ways of manipulating this
"encounter rate," which I'll define as people being within some
range of each other:

  A. Attempts to plop players in roughly the same area

    1. increasing encounters by putting more population in
    (effective size of the world, e.g. the area which people visit
    on any regular basis, is the same)

    2. make the effective world smaller (population being constant)
    - could also just be making the typical-area-seen smaller rather
    than the whole world (a "water hole" or "water cooler"
    approach.)

    3. make people move around faster or more (Just allow them to
    move faster most likely, and provide reason to travel? - caveat:
    may trade off on how long people stay in the same area and on
    how big the effective world is)

    4. make or facilitate mechanisms which will bias players to
    approach each other more often (mostly positive payoff for
    interacting overall, (global?) means of controlling risks, say
    PvP risks; situate compatible players and play styles near each
    other if possible)
   
Of course, being in range doesn't guarantee any kind of interaction,
or the quality of interaction. I don't think the below are
"Band-aids on bullet holes"; in fact, I'm inclined to think that
they are smarter and more elegant solutions than simply having more
people per sq. meter.

  B. Attempts to make people actually interact/often/long-term/
  enjoyably:

    1. Provide more/better channels for communication and
    interaction (say, tell, chat; auction; fighting; cooperative
    trade skills; intelligence; etc) and at least in some cases,
    people will just use them.

    I have seen far, far too many games take these for granted,
    usually in the name of realism ("well of course you can't
    understand him, he's a TROLL!") or ICness ("If you want to talk
    to someone in my world, you have to find them IC, and you
    absolutely don't get any help in doing that.")  My opinion: suck
    it up, you need these to have an economic way for players to
    connect.

    3. Bias interaction to the interesting and rewarding and away
    from the boring and annoying; make payoffs available contingent
    on interaction (Making stealing too easy is bad; incentives for
    grouping; providing worthwhile trading, begging, stealing,
    whatever)

    3. Make choice of interaction easier (provide indicators of what
    kind of interaction you're up for and allow the choice to engage
    or not; designate some areas explicitly or mechanically for
    different kinds of interaction, providing a "smorgasbord" where
    people sort themselves; alt. might be possible to explicitly
    help them, an example being the ability on some games to decide
    whether or not you will engage in PvP, etc.)
 
    4. Facilitate keeping track of individual friends (private
    messages, knowing whether or not they're on, in-game mail, make
    it easy to find their avatar physically for interaction)

I am confident that anyone who really takes interaction seriously as
a design goal can make it better and more common without ever
dealing with population or the physical size of their world (both
somewhat difficult problems themselves.)

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