Koster Koster
Sat Dec 22 16:25:58 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Michael Tresca
> Jeff Freeman posted on Friday, December 21, 2001 2:15 AM
>> Want to point me to a forum I've missed?
> This is by no means an exhaustive list.  Also, please note, these
> are critiques of intent vs. playability, which I categorize as
> "art vs. fun" -- when the players don't see or experience what the
> development team promises:
>   This fabulous poll (10/21/2001)
>     http://www.voodooextreme.com/pollcomments.taf?pollid=93
>   Kudos to the DaOC team, incidentally, they're winning.

I don't know what this poll is supposed to be saying about fun
versus art or whatever. :) To me it says DAoC is a) fun, b) newest
c) has players who read this site. But I'm cynical that way!

>   Thinking Virtually by Shannon Appelcline
>   - #33: The Fun Factor
>     http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/virtually26nov01.html

I really enjoy all of Shannon's articles I've read (most of the ones
over at Skotos). I assume that you are saying that "The game
designers design for themselves, not the players." equates to "art." 
I can live with that assertion, though I think Shannon's article
does a much better job of explicating the various issues than
that. :) Is Shannon on the list?

It's also worth pointing out that there are four principles outlined
for making a game fun:

  1. Set Your Player's Expectation Correctly. 
  2. Offer Rewards. 
  3. Make Sure You Have Fun Players. 
  4. Constantly Offer New Experiences. 

Unfortunately, these don't necessarily add up to fun, and I suspect
Shannon knows it. Certainly, though, if they're missing, fun is more
likely to be absent.

>   Mu's Unbelievably Long and Disjointed Ramblings About RPG Design
>   - The Grandfather Clause of Stupidity
>     http://mu.ranter.net/theory/general.html#grandfather

I first pointed out Mu's writings to this list a year or two
ago. There's some very good stuff in here. This excerpt is about how
RPG design is too burdened with the assumptions from CHAINMAIL: to
wit, combat as the core mechanic, and simplistic rules for combat
resolution. The points are very well taken. Of course, arguably the
most "artistic" of the MMORPGs went after the former with a
vengeance, so I am not sure what your point is by citing it.

>   Foaming at the Mouth by Erich S. Arendall
>   - Hanging Up the Dice Bag
>     http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/spritefeb01.html

This article is about how roll-players and role-players clash, and
games that cater too much to one extreme or the other grow boring to
the writer (but presumably not to the targeted audience).

>   - You're Doing What On-Line?
>     http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/spritejan99.html

This article is about how you actually can roleplay in online

>   - Computer RPGs and How Most Aren't
>     http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/spritejan98.html

...as opposed to CRPGs where there is no character development other
than statistical.

>   Gamegrene.com's Rants
>   - What's Wrong With RPG's? Part 1 
> http://www.gamegrene.com/rants/whats_wrong_with_online_rpgs_part_1.shtml

The principal point is that he didn't like EQ because of technical
reasons and UO because it didn't feel heroic, whereas the original
NWN captured the pen and paper experience...

>   - What's Wrong With RPG's? Part 2     
> http://www.gamegrene.com/rants/whats_wrong_with_online_rpgs_part_2.shtml

...which is what he sees as the way to go. And therefore, Bioware's
NWN will save the day!

>   - Click Me Baby One More Time
>      http://www.gamegrene.com/rants/click_me_baby_one_more_time.shtml

  "True role playing goes beyond just wearing the body of an
  imaginary character. True role playing is giving your character a
  fully developed personality of her own, directing her actions
  based on that personality, and can even go so far as to include an
  entire imagined life for the character.  It includes giving a
  character likes and dislikes, goals, fears, behaviors, speech
  patterns, and other distinguishing characteristics that make her a
  unique individual. Furthermore, the relationships that your
  character builds with other characters and the history of your
  character within the world make up an important part of her
  personality. True role playing in an MMORPG is almost impossible
  because the structure of the game cripples or removes many of the
  important elements that allow a character to build and develop a
  personality and interact with other players and the world around

Makes a nice contrast to Jeff's essay, which even uses the same
term, "true roleplayers," albeit in a more sarcastic sense.

True roleplayers are a miniscule market and not what MMORPGs are
targeting.  There, I've said it, everyone can recoil in horror now.

>   Ack! by Jeff Freeman
>   - The One True Way to Roleplay
>     http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/columns/ackjul99.html
>   "I haven't played on a text MUD (or MUSH) since Ultima Online came
>   out."

Another essay about roleplaying versus other forms of playing. Mike,
you're going to need to actually explain your point somewhere along
the line here.  It's not art vs fun. There's some other agenda, and
I can't tell what it is.  You've argued that large is bad, you're
citing a ton of essays about immersion roleplaying... all I can
presume tis that you are arguing that muds should go back to being
small, rp-required environments.

> Did I mention that a lot of my feedback comes from disgruntled
> players who quit MMORPGs and went back to MUDs?

Who, I'll say again, are a tiny niche market that the MMO companies
aren't really targeting.

> Perhaps the issue is that the MMORPG forums are exactly the wrong
> place to be listening for customer feedback.  Those aren't the
> customers I'm talking about -- indeed, the customers I'm talking
> about are disgusted long before they would engage in a forum, a
> newsgroup, or a list.  These are the folks who play those "dead"
> games -- tabletop RPGs, MUDs, among others.  If they simply bashed
> the medium, I would agree that their opinion is irrelevant.  But
> it's not irrelevant, because they paid, and then they stopped
> paying.

We KNOW that those who prefer small, RP-required environments all
left. I never expected otherwise. I also never expected the hardcore
CRPG player to stick around, because what they want is story.

> They were lost as customers.

They weren't the core audience targeted. We pick up a lot of them,
but if they feel that strongly about OOC talk or whatever, they're
not in our target market.

> Fundamentally, this thread can't really go anywhere without
> developing the concept of what the target customer is.

I'm getting the impression that the problem is that you feel the
target customer should be someone else than who it actually is.

> Obviously, I believe everyone I just listed has a valid opinion,
> because they're paying customers.  Conversely, one could argue
> they aren't the target market.  But I'm of the opinion the target
> market is anyone with a credit card.  In which case, just about
> every person's opinion about the game is valid.

Again, you cannot please everyone. And in this particular case, the examples
you cite are ones which actively diminish the size of the audience base.
This would be why many of the MMORPGs have started up the notion of
alternate rules servers--another experiment that can only be done with
sufficient scale, of course. :) In fact, an experiment that largely failed
in smaller environments (I used to think they couldn't work because the
audience wouldn't support it. Turns out that it can--if you go over 150,000
players or so).

> We can go round and round with this, but it won't mean much if we
> can't define whose opinion SHOULD matter.  I'm curious as to what
> the ideal player is -- the one that's SHOULD be playing MMORPGs.

It's fairly expansive:

  - people who don't need a story told to them

  - and aren't hung up on fictional consistency

  - who want to do things they cannot do and visit places they've
  always wanted to see and have their wishes and dreams fulfilled

  - along with other like-minded people

The range of wishes and dreams is definitely larger than what a
single game can encompass, and that would be why the games tend to
target specific wishes and dreams a bit more precisely.

The problem I see is that item #2 is contradictory to the
"immersive" RPG experience, and #1 is contradictory to, frankly,
most of the entire "fandom" community that has such a large overlap
with these games at the moment.

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