[MUD-Dev] MMORPGs & MUDs

Michael Tresca talien at toast.net
Wed Dec 12 21:10:06 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


Matt Mihaly posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 4:04 AM

> Well, I obviously share some of those sentiments, but I think
> there are two points you're not addressing. First, scale does
> create extra problems at a geometric rate.

Agreed.  However, some problems are simply a magnification.  I
haven't seen unique PKing problems on MMORPGs.  I've seen the same
PKing problems with two differences:

  1) there is MORE pressure, not less, to have it fixed because
  money is involved, and

  2) the issues are massive, enormous, and urgent because whereas
  one player abuses something on a MUD, thousands may abuse it on a
  MMORPG.

But, and this is significant, there were massive MUDs before there
were massive MMORPGs.  The issues were the same.  No, the MUDs
weren't as massive of the MMORPGs today, but they certainly
approached the ratio of staff to gamers, expectations
vs. implementation, the parallels go on and on.  Enough parallels to
make learning from MUDs extremely valuable.  There haven't been a
lot of great solutions to a lot of these problems, but at the
minimum, I'm surprised to see a lot of "standard" solutions among
MUDs not used on MMORPGs.  The PK flag, hardly an innovation, seems
to have crept in (finally) after much agony and heartache.  The
decay of weapons and armor and castles -- most definitely not new,
is still an issue for some MMORPGs.

MUDs are smaller and they had the same problems.  Heck, what a great
way to really playtest your system.  No graphics at all.  Just
gameplay.  It's free.  You tweak it as you go.  Let 'em bang on it
-- forget graphic betas.  If your coding and support staff can't
handle a (comparatively) tiny game, they're definitely not ready for
a million users.

> Second, there is a big difference between commercial and
> free. Players simply behave differently when they've laid down
> money. Their expectations are, rightfully, a lot higher, and this
> leads to different patterns of behavior.

I disagree.  Their expectations are higher, yes.  The patterns of
behavior are exaggerated on a grander scale -- but they're still the
same patterns.

For example:

> For instance, one of the reasons Achaea works, I think, is the
> heavy admin involvement. Admins (who play as Gods most of the
> time), are allowed to slay people who talk back to them, and
> generally are pretty involved in things. I can do this because I
> can hand-pick the

If you have problem players on your game, it doesn't get any better
on a MMORPG -- it gets a thousand times worse.  What I'm missing is
how that hands-on touch becomes a frill rather than a requirement --
when did it become acceptable to let the jerks overrun the game?

I've heard players say it before: thank god for those graphic games,
the twinks all play there.

What's the screen?  Ultimately, a game filters out players that
don't match its style.  So far, to date, the only requirement that
I've seen is, "Pay your monthly fee."  Games shouldn't be for
everyone -- they CAN'T be.  Carefully targeted MMORPGs won't make as
much money, but I'd imagine they'd have a more loyal (and
ultimately, greater ROI) player base in the long term. It seems a
lot has been sacrificed for the sake of generic appeal.

> Now, I try to imagine applying that sort of thing to a game the
> size of Everquest, with multiple shards, and frankly, it couldn't
> be done. I can get quality volunteers for Achaea because they can
> work their way to importance (our first full-time employee started
> as a volunteer), and have a real impact on things.

> Everquest would probably need a good 50-75 volunteers of this
> caliber per shard in order to achieve the same thing we
> do. Multiply that by however many shards Everquest has. There's
> just no way it could be done. A big company is never going to
> attract volunteers as dedicated and as competent as ours are,
> because they can't be made to feel special and because with that
> many people, you simply can't trust them with the same kind of
> power I trust mine with.

Then why are these games being made?  If I'm reading this correctly,
you just laid out how an online fantasy game with multiple users
needs to be run to make for an entertaining game. If you can't staff
a game that size, it shouldn't be that big.  I have yet to see a
plausible solution to this kind of interactive scale.

Since the WWIIO and AO fiasco, it's becoming clear that the gaming
populace is learning. Initially, their ability to perceive a quality
game was diminished.  The nature of the universe entertained them,
the graphics, the "newness" of the game.  The second time, the same
thing happened (with MORE people and BETTER graphics!) but the cycle
time was shorter.  By the fourth and fifth game, people blip in for
their free months, aren't impressed, blip out.

>From the amount of joy (and trepidation) brought on by DAoC, it's
clear that the gaming community has refined its tastes.  This will
only narrow the market more.  Over time, I imagine it will fragment
completely.  I don't think the MMORPG can last for long in its
current state, because ultimately, that feel of a "small" game is
not integrated into the foundation of the MMORPG itself.  Heck, now
it seems we've already given up on the current populace and just
want to introduce the old MMORPG model to a new playerbase (MMORPGs
in Asia).

This is the same problem very large companies have with managing
people.  You cannot manage a company of 300,000 employees -- you
HAVE to break it up into smaller groups so those people feel they
belong to something.  In essence, treat the large company as a
conglomerate of smaller companies.  Heck, people do this on MMORPGs
when left to their own devices: they create their own clans with
more detail than some MUDs out there.

> That's just one example of how scale would definitely seem to
> invalidate what works in the small text worlds many of us run. I
> can think of quite a few others.

So can I.  But it doesn't invalidate the text MUD paradigm.  It
simply re-emphasizes the value of a small MUD's feel.

The mass-market approach will increasingly "not cut it" as the
distinguishing tastes of a maturing gaming populace develops.  The
next MMORPG to provide that level of attention (or that level of
exclusivity wherein it's not a game for anybody with a credit card)
will ultimately have an edge over the rest.

And this leads us back to Neverwinter Nights.  It's basically
dividing up a MMORPG into a bunch of tiny graphic MUDs.

Although these days I worry if it will ever be made...

Mike "Talien" Tresca
RetroMUD Administrator
http://www.retromud.org/talien




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