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

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Wed Dec 12 08:48:36 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Jeff Cole writes:

>> 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.

What it says is that the volume of offered stimuli per unit time is
high.  As to whether those stimuli appeal to a given participant or
not seems to be the issue that you want to hone in on.  Note that
repetition of the same stimulus is not entertaining.  For example,
watching my character run.  It's not entertaining because it is
repetitive.  If the character leapt objects, tripped, grunted,
huffed and puffed, sprinted, paused to inspect things, adjusted its
pack, etc, then there would be unique stimuli to the process of
running.  Eventually even those things would lose their potential
for being stimulating because they would lose their uniqueness in a
given time interval.  That's just a biochemical aspect of the human

> 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.

It's important to note such things, but not when considering the
CONCEPT of "entertainment density".  You're talking about the type
of entertainment, whereas I was originally inspired to make my
comments based on the simple dearth of stimulus in the games that I
play.  I don't want to lose that point in the application of the
basic idea.  Thus my unwillingness to go much beyond it in this

>> 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.

Another can, but certainly related.  Because of the simple
programming techniques in use, developers need to understand that
their hardwired reactions to player character actions quickly lose
their ability to stimulate the brain.  The first few times I crafted
something in a game world it was entertaining because it was a new
experience for me.  Or it gave me something that I wanted to have.
Or it gave me the ability to interact with other players.  But after
crafting that same item or a similar item (which produces an
identical experience) 20 times, the actual crafting process loses
all entertainment value.  I may perceive a higher order pattern
(e.g. achieve a new crafting rank) that I can derive entertainment
from, but I want the stimulus of that pattern NOW, so I powercraft
in order to trigger that higher order pattern as soon as possible.

The use of the player base in order to alter its own entertainment
has problems and potential.  Part of the potential is to bring up
the entertainment density.  New and varied things can be happening
all the time, whereas a hardcoded stimulus/response behavior from
the game software will not hold the same promise for a long time.  I
suppose that if I had one statement to get across to game developers
about the whole "entertainment density" notion, that would be it.

>> 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.

The 'broadness' of the concept is very much by design.  It is
intended to point out a very fundamental notion.  Beyond that, I
welcome folks to examine any number of forms of entertainment with
that notion in the back of their mind.  I suspect that Disney and
many other entertainment organizations already have a term for what
I'm talking about.  It's not clear to me that the MMO gaming market


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