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

Jeff Cole jeffcontact at mindspring.com
Tue Dec 11 06:22:05 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

> From: John Buehler
> Jeff Cole writes:
>> From: "John Buehler" <johnbue at msn.com>

>>> To contrast, chess is quite complicated, but it has a high
>>> entertainment density because of all the thought involved in a
>>> fairly short period of time.  The same can be said of the game
>>> of go.  I haven't hashed this out yet, but I'm wondering if
>>> there is are treatments of game content and player interaction
>>> that will give a higher entertainment density - more to do in a
>>> shorter period of time.

>> You must be careful, here.  You speak of "entertainment density"
>> as if it is some objective measurement when it is really a
>> subjective measurement.  Even in the second paragraph you define
>> it two different ways: "[quite a bit of] thought involved in a
>> fairly short period of time" and "[quite a bit] to do in a
>> shorter period of time."

>> You recognize that, then, that you are measuring to different
>> "types" of entertainment per unit time.

>> The question is, is one able to compare the different types of
>> entertainment in any way that is meaningful?

> You're drifting away from the idea behind "entertainment density".
> It's not an issue of actually coming up with a number that
> reflects the "density" of entertainment.  The purpose of
> presenting the term at all is to put a notion into people's heads
> that the amount of stimuli per unit time is important to players.
> Not just the amount of stimuli available.

I don't think it's drifting at all.  I think the concept of
entertainment density is a very good one.  But I do think that it is
important to delve further into the concept and its practical
application.  Simply saying that a game does not have a high
"entertainment density" really says nothing.

By considering the entertainment densities of various aspects of a
game with respect to the intended audience(s), developers could
indentify potential areas for improvement.

But even in the abstract, by going through the process of honing the
concept and the qualities we want to measure, perhaps we will better
understand the art.

Also, I think it is important to note that if we are talking about
some sort of mass (even relatively so) market MMO*, then you have to
consider the attention span of the average target consumer and
indentify what sort of density for which they hunger.  It isn't the
chess variety.

> In the latter case, players will attempt to accelerate through the
> available stimuli (aka content and other things) in order to
> artificially bring up the "entertainment density" of the game to a
> level that they find acceptable.  Yes, that is a subjective point,
> but I submit to you that the virtual reality model has an
> inherently low density of stimuli.

I disagree that it is inherent.  I think, though, that until games
implement real "consequence" to action, the range of available
player interactions will be necessarily and drastically limited.  I
am not talking so much about coded consequence as much as I am
talking about provding the community the appropriate tools to create
their own consequences.  But that is a whole other can of worms.

> Leveling is entertaining.  Changes in leaders in a competition are
> entertaining.  Seeing new sights is entertaining.  Experimenting
> with new abilities, spells, skills and items are entertaining.
> These are distinct stimuli that have a shot at actually tickling
> the brain of a player in some positive way.  Watching paint dry is
> not entertaining because there are essentially no stimuli to
> please the brain.  Show a time-lapse film of paint drying and you
> will have a couple seconds of entertainment as you see the areas
> dry according to the thickness of the paint, etc.

> The question is, will players remain loyal to lower density
> experiences when competing higher density experiences exist?  And
> I'm wondering and pondering the possibilities that permit a
> competing higher-density experience.  I'm wondering if such
> reformulated 'high density experiences' will be the next step
> beyond the creation of a virtual reality - which appears to be the
> broad goal of current designers.

I still think the density concept as you apply it is too broad to be
useful.  Your examples run from chess (lots of though, but very
little "stimuli" in the traditional sense) to leveling to exploring
to experimenting.  There is a lot of valuable insight one might
glean from delving further.  Drifting a bit wouldn't hurt either.

Yrs Affecty,
Jeff Cole

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