[MUD-Dev] Story Implementation

Jeff Freeman skeptack at antisocial.com
Wed Dec 5 00:19:10 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


Lee Sheldon Wrote:

> Let's say there are three things blocking the entrance to the
> mine.  Spellcasters discover the huge spell needed to break the
> enchantment.  Each must contribute an ongoing portion of their
> mana to breaking the enchantment.  Until the quest is ultimately
> solved they must play with reduced mana.  b) Fighters must slay an
> apparently finite number of creatures guarding the way.  This
> number is adjusted based on the number of quest participants, and
> the building results of the other two attempts to unblock the way,
> so it's a sliding scale behind the scenes, allowing the killing of
> the last mob at the best possible moment for suspense.  These
> beasts can "permanantly" reduce fighter's constitution.  c)
> Crafters can contribute to the building of a unique siegcraft
> weapon that not only cracks rock, but conveys it out of the way,
> the only machine capable of smashing through the physical barrier.
> This machine requires many crafters of many disciplines working
> together (how siegecraft works now), and in some way reduces their
> ability to craft normally.

Wow.  You know, when you say "storied game", what I think of is
exactly *not* the above.

When I say that we should be doing game-systems that create story by
virtue of being played - i.e. games as story - the above is pretty
close to what I'm saying we should be doing.

If that's what you mean by "storied game", well ok then.  I think
you're right.

Which leaves me to think that we've been arguing as the result of
not having a common-vocabulary, rather than as any real disagreement
as to what games should be trying to do.

I want game systems that create stories by virtue of being played.
I don't want to "tell the players a story".

I don't think players are compelled by clicking on an NPC to read a
block of text, running a great distance to click on another NPC to
read another block of text, to run another great distance to read
another block of text, to run another distance to kill a guy for a
Thing.

I don't think players really like that.  I think they're just
willing to endure that (if they are Gamers) in order to get the
Thing.  I think when players ask for more of that, they're really
just asking for more Things.

Your arguments against the linear quest which every player
experiences as though they are the only ones to do it, which has no
impact on the world whether they succeed, fail or logout, are my
arguments against the "storied game".  I hope that helps to explain
what I mean when I write "storied game".

Anyway, I don't like it.  I gather that you don't either.

I don't really believe in the pure sandbox approach either.  But
rather there should be game systems that prompt players to act, and
have the world react to the players.  'Course, that's a huge step.
Heck, it's a huge step just to get the world to recgnize that the
players acted, let alone to react.

All that aside, in the interest of discussion, here are the
challenges we face with the specific example you provided:

  A) It's inflationary.  Players do it, and they (server-wide) get a
  perk.  You can't keep doing that.  How many perks are you going to
  give the players before the game is a cake-walk, and there's
  really no "game" left there?

  B) Technical limits.  Will you unveil a new zone every month?
  Every hour?  At some point, there's a techinical limit that you
  smack into: Can your tech support 1000 zones?  At another point,
  it's a matter of scale: If there are only 5 zones, unlocking
  another zone is a HUGE deal.  If there are 10000 zones, unlocking
  Yet Another zone is no big deal.  There are diminishing returns
  there.

  C) It is content-consumption: Players devour content more quickly
  than it can be produced, or at least a lot faster than you think
  they'll consume it.  You spend x man-hours devloping content,
  which then goes away when the players complete that
  never-to-be-repeated quest.

  D) Rather than spending all your time adding content, you spend a
  lot of time *replacing* content.  Even on the level of
  trivial-dialogue: All those NPCs you have chatting about how
  wonderful it would be if ZoneUber were opened have to stop talking
  about that, and start talking about something else, once ZoneUber
  has been opened.  You're writing content to be deleted, deleting
  it, and then presumably writing new dialogue which will also be
  deleted some day.  Oh, and then translating all that new dialogue
  into a mess of foreign languages, and deleting that eventually,
  too.

  E) Developers in general are, I think, gun-shy about giving
  players power.  It's difficult to link responsibility to that
  power: The developer is ultimately responsible for whatever
  happens.  As an absurd example: Say you give players the ability
  to set things on fire: The default state of the world will be
  "burned down".  And the developers take the blame for that (as
  well they should).  Give the players the ability to open a new
  zone and a mess of them might fight *hard* to prevent that zone
  from ever being opened (whether you give them tools to do so or
  not).  If there's an NPC that kills all players on-sight and is
  opposed to opening the Perks For All zone, there'll be a group of
  players that swear they serve that evil NPC, gripe at you for not
  making it where that NPCs acknowledges their "help", and gripe
  even more if they aren't able to prevent the Perks For All zone
  from being opened.  And then again if they can't do anything to
  close the Perks For All zone.  All of which goes back to PvP in
  general.  There'll be a group of players *demanding* that power,
  but then you're responsible for that they do with it.

Sure, all of the above concerns can be addressed - but they *are*
challenges.  As an example, the "bonus" that you are unlocking could
be at the expense of a penalty in another area.  Yeah, you get
uberweapons and put the hurt on Lizardmen, but the Orcs on the other
side of the kingdom are more powerful now.  It can be recycling
content: When you get sick of the orcs beating the pants off you and
taking all your land, you (masses of players working together over a
long period of time, again) could close-off that silvermine, put the
hurt on the Orcs, and give the Lizardmen a break.  It could be
class-specific: On some servers warriors are more powerful, on other
servers, wizards are more powerful, etc. - based on the players'
choice, just depending on which epic quest that server's players
chose collectively to accomplish.  Or the silver uberonium mine
could eventually run dry.  Great while it lasted, but it's gone now.
Oh, I heard a rumor about this other mine...

That said, yeah, what you describe: That's the sort of thing I want
to do.  Whatever you call it.



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