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

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Wed Dec 5 15:44:26 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


Derek Licciardi writes:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: John Buehler
>> Derek Licciardi writes:

>> 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.

> I was merely speaking of an improved economy as an improvement
> because of scale.  The statistical possibility of a transaction
> occuring in a larger world is a simple function of some player
> activity rate * number of players(buyers or sellers).  The fact
> remains that in a larger system, you as a seller have a larger
> chance to find a buyer and vice versa assuming the game mechanics
> allow for easily finding that seller/buyer.  This results in a
> more steady transactional flow of goods through your economy.

You're reasserting your original idea, and I just don't buy it.  The
number of transactions goes up, but the base balance of supply and
demand will remain the same.  The same problems will be present.
Instead of having 30 people spamming with broadcasts and 5 people
buying, you'll have 60 people spamming and 10 people buying.  Five
more transactions, but 30 more people trying to get them.

The alteration that is necessary is to change the balance of supply
and demand.  Daniel Harman hinted at a means of doing this, and I'm
sure there are many such approaches that would produce a more
entertaining economic experience than EverQuest's.

> I only offer size as a possible "improvement" to the economy in
> the loosest sense of the word "improvement".  Economies of scale
> exists for a reason and to some degree this is just another
> application of it.

I think you're misapplying the phrase.  "Economy of scale" has to do
with efficiency of creating and selling many items of the same type.

>> 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.

> I think we are agreeing here for the most part.  Future MMORPGs
> will have to answer the problem of what to do besides kill kill
> kill.  It is possible to give players a more unique experience.
> It may not be possible to give everyone a fantastic hero-like
> single-player RPG experience but even a normal experience can be
> unique to the player, especially if it is an experience derived
> from the people he/she is playing with at the time.  This is what
> I was referring to as "real" interraction.  I completely agree
> with you that the game-play in most games today is what restrict
> "entertainment density". (is this an official buzzword cause it
> sounds good enough to be?)  My only thought was that following the
> statistical improvement logic of the economy above we could
> potentially apply that same logic to player interactions and story
> as there would be more of a chance for ANY story to take place.

I think most folks are agreed that the EverQuest-style cycle is
passe.  I found it to be such about the time my first character
reached level 10.  I was simply pointing out that even the newest
games are not doing what is necessary to permit players to be
involved in activities that are in any way memorable - or
noteworthy.

Simutronics was recently discussing the creation of a game called
"Hero's Journey".  After some thought, it occurred to me that you
can't have a MMO experience where everyone is a hero.  Ignoring the
fact that being powerful doesn't make anyone a hero, heros are the
extreme exceptions in a society.  In a MMO experience, everyone will
become powerful, negating the value of the achievement.  I want the
equivalent of "Joe Average's Journey", which is just an environment
where I start out being a normal, capable person in a society of
normal, capable people.  And I stay being a normal, capable person.
The fun isn't in mindless power accrual, but in engaging
entertainment.  Actually ENGAGING things to do.  Things that I don't
want to macro, because I want to experience them.  I find it
hilarious that Dark Age of Camelot refuses to lose focus because
they want to discourage macroing of their game.  If the game is that
mindless, it SHOULD be have people running it with macros.

As for "entertainment density", I made it up.  It seems a good
phrase to communicate an important notion.  Current games are very
low in entertainment density.  On a scale of 1 to 10, I put Watching
Paint Dry at a 1.  I put current MMO games at about a 3.  And that's
primarily due to the social aspects of the game.

One last observation would be that it is my opinion that
implementations of MMO experiences need to back WAY off on their
ambitious goals.  They need to figure out how to bring a number of
people into an interactive environment and give them simple,
entertaining things to do.  Folks need to stop trying to create an
online world with graphics and story and instead come up with
something simple and entertaining.  Take a first competent step
instead of jumping off a cliff and hoping to fly.  As this just
occurred to me the other day, I'll have to ponder it a bit more to
see what would be good entertainment.

JB

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