[MUD-Dev] Story Implementation

Lee Sheldon linearno at gte.net
Fri Dec 7 16:29:36 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff Freeman
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.

But I'm "force-feeding" the players a story, Jeff.  I'm just doing
it with a bit more subtlety than you might have given me credit for.
I'm telling the story I want to tell, allowing them to experience it
and build on it in whatever way they choose.  Their interaction
won't throw me.  I'll adjust.  To quote you from an earlier post:

> And I don't think it's a good idea to attempt to do both (tell
> stories AND allow the gameplay itself to be the story), because
> the attempt to tell Our story will stomp on the players' story.

I'm doing both.  Am I stomping on the players' story?  You tell me.

> 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.

Could be, but I still think we're a ways apart.

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

And I want to direct the stories those game systems tell, but in a
way that is not obtrusive to the gameplay, that in fact -enhances-
it.

> 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.

We're are in 1000% agreement on this.  I find it ludicrous and
insulting (not that we're in agreement, lol).

> 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.

The 1000% agreement continues.

> 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".

And I hope you understand a bit better now why I rail at badly-done
story, and how it shouldn't be used to slam ALL attempts at
authorial storytelling.

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

No, I don't.

> 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.

We agree again.  Those are some of the concerns I was addressing.  I
apologize for dumping you in among the sandboxers.

> 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?

I would never dream of suggesting this one example is the only
technique open to us.  It is -a- technique, one that took 5 minutes
to write up.  There are many others, equally unexploited.

>  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.

Again, please don't think this is a catch-all solution for all the
ills that infect virtual worlds.  I'm a game designer, not a
Scientologist.

>  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.

I refuse to be detered by content-consumption arguments until
someone responds to the figures I laid out.  Two quests per person
per day should not crush any game content creator.  It certainly
hasn't any that -I've- hired.

>  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.

I'm not going to try to convince you that it's a moot issue.  I
suspect you'll need to see it in action one day.  I'm not blaming
you.  You're certainly not alone.  I hope you -get- to see these
concerns dissolve... at least in -my- lifetime.

>  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).

Remember this is an example aimed at a specific game: DAoC.  What
you describe can't happen in DAoC.  In a game where it could happen
(EQ Maybe), the example wouldn't necessarily apply, or would need to
be adjusted.

<SNIPPED REDUNDANCY>

> Sure, all of the above concerns can be addressed - but they *are*
> challenges.

I thrive on challenges.  That's why I'm desperately trying to put
solo games behind me, and work exclusively on MMOs.  That's why I
left TV to work on games.

> 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...

Yes!  Good ideas!  This is precisely how I use authorial
storytelling to advance the world.

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

I call it "storied" games.

Lee

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