[MUD-Dev] Another Reality Check [was Re: Black Snow Revisited]

amanda at alfar.com amanda at alfar.com
Sat Apr 6 13:51:01 New Zealand Daylight Time 2002

"Dr. Cat" <cat at realtime.net> wrote:

> I'm in a bit of a different business than Sony is with Everquest,
> where they are playing the Kings Of Scarcity.  They've discovered
> that the hard core gamers will put up with being in a state of
> anguished wanting and desire for months, even years in some cases,
> if only a few amongst their number can acheive momentary bliss
> (and bragging rights) by attaining the much cherished and sought
> after Blue Sword of Graulnifaugrybr, before setting it aside and
> focusing on a new longing for the matching helm and armor.

> That's fine for hard core gamers.  They're WEIRD.

Well, no, I wouldn't say they are.  The thing about "scarcity", as
you put it, is that it provides intermittent reinforcement.  This is
the same driving force behind gambling (and probably behind sex and
drugs as well, at some level), and is one of the most powerful
conditioning techniques around.  Seeing that some people manage to
get the Blue Sword of Graulnifaugrybr, and that other people give
them prestige because of it, starts the "well, maybe I can get one
too, and get the same rewards I see them getting" cycle going.

They're not weird, they're just playing out in Everquest the same
game that other people play out in their careers, or cars, or
clothes, or any of the innumerable other ways that humans have
invented to "keep score" and differentiate themselves from each

> I'm in the business of trying to please the mass market audience,
> and they require something a little better out of their
> entertainment.

Oh, I dunno.  Pleasing the mass market audience is what gets us
Monday Night Football and MTV.  The mass market audience, by most
accounts, would rather watch than play.

> Here's a potential law for Raph's list, if somebody hasn't already
> observed this: It is far harder to achieve satisfaction of the
> majority of your game's audience if the fundamental mechanics of
> accomplishment are competitive in nature than it is if the game is
> primarily cooperative and/or social in nature.

I disagree, for one simple reason: competition is fun, and provides
the intermittent reinforcement people love so much.  Look at sports.

People are loyal to the Red Sox because they're gettings *something*
out of it, after all.

Amanda Walker
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