[MUD-Dev] Continuous versus Discrete Functions

Koster Koster
Sat Dec 22 17:19:18 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


> -----Original Message-----
> From: John Buehler
> Raph Koster writes:
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: John Buehler
 
>>> Is it possible that a smart game designer could obviate that
>>> entire problem by eliminating the player-versus-player race that
>>> forms the absolute backbone of games of this genre?
 
>> I am not sure you can without also removing all forms of
>> feedback. People simply like to compare themselves to
>> others. "Keeping up with the Joneses."
 
> I don't doubt that this phenomenon will remain intact to some
> degree, and we can argue the degree forever I'm sure.  Can it be
> reduced in the near future to the point of being a sidelight -
> such that min/max fears and 'balance' are no longer a significant
> concern of system designers?  Can designers cease fearing the use
> of continuous functions, and to cease fearing the use of other
> mechanics/mechanisms that 'give up control' to the players?

I am not not entirely following the logical leap you made there to
the "give up control" issue, but that's OK.

There's a philosophical question to ask ourselves, one alluded to in
that Shannon Appelcline essay that Michael Tresca just
referenced. To what degree is "balance" something that we as
designers desperately pursue, as opposed to the "balance" that
players pursue?

After all, if there's an overpowered class according to player
perception, they seek and find equilibrium. The correct proportion
of each class naturally emerges, as players who are too invested in
particular character archetypes refuse to change, and those who are
min-maxers pursue the class or profession du jour. Often a
designer's "fix to balance" doesn't come along until well after this
new equilibrium has been reaches, so all it does is upset players,
rather than aid in this mythical "game balance" anyway.

So the philosophical question is, if something is out of whack,
should we as designers care? Do we need to always have everything in
mathematical perfection?

As an example of where we are wrestling with this in Star Wars
Galaxies--we have several very large overlapping constituencies of
likely players. One, for example, is all those players who want to
be Jedi. And Jedi, frankly, crush everything else in the
setting. Then there's all these players who want to be melee
fighters. All those who want to be Rebels and Imperials.

In the movies, the Rebels win by luck and pluck. It's not surprising
that many players want to play Rebels. They are also all continuity
fanatics, and keep insisting that everything be as like the movies
as possible. If it were, the Rebels would wink out of existence in
the first week the servers went live. We as designers feel an
imperative to supply balance there simply because otehrwise, a major
attractant to the game goes away.

On the other hand, we're just plain giving up on the issue of melee
combat.  A good ranged guy is always gonna take a good close
quarters guy, and there's no getting past that. Yes, we've innvested
a fair amount of time in vibroblades and stun poles and what have
you, and there's skills to learn for melee, motioan captured moves,
and all sorts of goodness. But really, we already know the
min-maxers won't use that stuff. So it's there for those whose
self-image really calls for it.

Lastly, there's those pesky Jedi. They're barely balanceable. So
we're making them extremely rare (and no, I'm not going to say how,
not even here.  ;) and we're going ahead and giving them the
power. They're gonna be superbeings, and if you see one, run.

Mathematically elegant? No, not really. But frankly, I'm going to
sacrifice the "balance" for the sake of the players'
wish-fulfillment.

We're getting asked whether the crafters and the peaceful people
will get equal access to the goodies as the people who are declared
Rebels and Imperials. Well, the answer is yes and no. There's perks
on both sides. Are they "balanced"? I don't know. My main concern is
whether the two playstyl;es each have fulfilling gameplay that they
find fun. They're not even advancing on the same scales, so that
they do not feel like they have to compare themselves. Nonetheless,
they already do, and I don't doubt they always will.

-Raph
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