[MUD-Dev] [STORY] Story and population size

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Tue Dec 4 12:17:46 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Derek Licciardi writes:

> The next generation games will most likely try to handle a larger
> number of users.  Besides the budgetary costs associated with this
> level of server design, it changes the entire design of the server
> and directly impacts the gameplay inside your game.

> IMO the first aspect of the game that should see a dramatic
> improvement is the economy.  I believe it will be easier to manage
> an economy given 50,000 or 100,000 plus players.  Today's games
> are fragmented populations that do not have statistically large
> enough numbers to sustain the proper buyer/seller relationship.  I
> use EQ as an example where you can walk into Eastern Commonlands
> anytime and hear a pile of seller and buyers with very few items
> actually being sold.(based on the numerous repeat sell auctions
> and repeat buy auctions by a single person in five minutes) By
> increasing the number of players you increase the chance that the
> economic transaction will take place and the flow of goods to and
> from buyers and sellers will not stop.  that being said I think
> this whole idea of improving the economic flow in these games will
> bring with it increased problems from the admin side that we have
> never seen.

I find this a rather odd assertion.  I see no reason why an economy
of excessive supply is going to be improved by introducing a greater
number of both producers and consumers.  EverQuest's economy has
some flaws to it that, if repaired, could permit the existing player
bases to enjoy a more reasonable economic environment.  Note that if
the economy was inclusive of all servers we wouldn't see a change in
the excess of supply.  More players, but still the same issues.

Excessive supply seems to be the general failure of most economies,
where the assumption is that producing many items is entertaining,
while producing few is not.  Just as killing many monsters is
entertaining, while killing few is not.  Because of the very low
'entertainment density' in games, players feel compelled to perform
what few tasks there are in volume in order to get some sense of
extracting entertainment from the games.

Textual stories have this same flaw as far as I'm concerned.  There
is a low entertainment density in textual story elements.  This is
partly true because of the fact that the story presented is static.
It negates the entertainment value that it COULD hold.  If I thought
that sneaking into the temple to recover the gem for the town's
clerics was a one-time thing, you can well believe that I'm going to
greedily read every bit of one-time text involved.  This is a
momentus occasion for me.  But when I'm the 800th person to complete
the canned quest, the entertainment density drops like a rock.  That
text being presented to me is just a hurdle to be overcome, like
sneaking into the temple in the first place.  Note that this would
be true even if I were the FIRST of 800 to tackle the quest.
Nothing is going to change as a result of my actions.  They are
essentially futile.

> Aside from the major server concerns and the benefit of an
> "improved" economy, I can't see there being much difference in
> stories or interaction except that which could be attributed to
> the higher chance that player-driven content could occur.  Without
> the ability for players to affect their world in a dramatic way,
> organize into larger than 250 person communities, and begin to
> make a mark on the world other than slaying a moster that will
> respawn of levelling and looting, players will be restricted by
> the game mechanics more so than the server population.  I believe
> that increaseing the server population removes one side of the
> problem while adding player interaction that has "real" meaning
> answers the other.(ie affecting the world they play in)

Now consider the problem of entertainment density with a world that
is flooded by repeated items.  Thousands of players obtaining the
exact same specially-named item completely eliminates the promise of
holding a 'special' magical weapon.  There's no story there.
Thousands of players are killing the same specially-named monster
with their specially-named weapon.  Often all at the same time.

As far as I'm concerned, a story is something that is noteworthy
because of its uniqueness.  'Note' worthy.  Worthy of note.  Worthy
of writing it down.  Worthy of presenting it as a story.  To be told
to others.  Why should I tell you about my killing of Bob the Troll
when you've already killed Bob the Troll yourself?  Obviously there
are small stories to be told, such as how you specifically
approached Bob the Troll.  But again, we get into that problem of
entertainment density.  There just isn't that much that you CAN do
that's unique or special when tackling a problem.  Game designers
think up ways to solve problems and that's the way that players
solve them.  So ALL players solve them in essentially the same way.
Getting interesting stories out of these games is just a nightmare.


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