[MUD-Dev] Re:Blacksnow revisited

Paul Schwanz paul.schwanz at east.sun.com
Mon Apr 15 11:58:00 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: "Norman Short" <wjshort at wworld.com>

> After my admittedly strident and "obstreperous" (good word!) 
> initial post about this topic I've listened with interest to the
> many posts that have followed.  The more I hear, the less
> interested I became in playing the games you guys would presumably
> like me and lots of others like me to play.  And I don't even care
> about or want to sell my account or trade items for cash.  I'm
> actually one of the people with enough time on his hands to
> succeed in a game that rewards only people using vast amounts of
> time.  Why you guys think rewarding college kids perpetually
> skipping class over adults working a job and raising a family is a
> choice I'm not sure you've explored fully.  Seems to me supporting
> people without 16 hours a day to devote to your game but who are
> emotionally and psychologically stable adults would be in your
> interest.  Instead your community will be led by people with the
> most time.

It has been some time since I've experienced this much agreement and
disagreement with the same post. ;) I absolutely agree with one
point I think you are making here.  I think it is a shame that many
games out there are currently focused so heavily on the amount of
time a player has to invest.  And I particularly dislike the whole
loot-n-level paradigm.  However, I do admit to being a bit confused
by your consistent use of "you guys."  For one thing, as I've
listened with interest to the many posts that followed yours (I'm
assuming they are the same posts that you've been reading), I've
seen quite a number of varying opinions and perspectives expressed.
In addition, most of the opinions have seemed to center around
discussing ownership issues and not so much supporting loot-n-level
as a good idea.  I think your statements indicating that <some
undefined group of us guys> want you and lots of others like you to
play games that reward people with the most time over those who are
emotionally and psychologically stable are indeed a bit
presumptuous.

Since your first post, Raph Koster has talked (on another thread)
about the fact that SWG (and what other game in development has as
much potential to form opinions and directions in MMORPGs going
forward?)  will likely support some degree of offline resource
gathering and offline item creation.  I believe this sort of design
directly addresses your concerns, since it moves the focus away from
player time and toward character time.  Although a much more modest
undertaking, our own Magicosm plans to shift this focus even more
strongly by placing very few restrictions on what actions a
character can be set to perform while the player is offline.  By
making the character persistent, we believe that we are addressing
the time imbalances, allowing for player skills (not twitch so much
as leadership, political, management, etc.) to come to the fore.

So, if you feel that you disagree with what someone has said, please
feel free to name names.  Better yet, you can even quote them and
respond directly.  I think this will help avoid confusion as to whom
exactly you are addressing your concerns and what exactly prompted
your response.

> Somehow you're going to have to lie to me and let me pretend I
> have some sense of ownership over what I acquire with my time in
> game, when in reality you don't want me to have any ownership at
> all.  When you speak honestly about that desire, you leave little
> left for me to enjoy in your game, since I know that I'm just
> hitting a lever for a pellet, and you own the pellet, the wheel,
> and even "me" as it exists in game.  Maybe it's legal (maybe), but
> it sure aint fun.

As to the ownership issue (leaving aside that perhaps too much
player "work" is required, which I think can be addressed as above,
by making the character work for the player instead of the other way
around), I completely disagree.  Even though there is a lot of
disagreement over what constitutes role-play, I think it is
difficult to deny that in some manner or another, these games are
about a player taking on a role to interact with the game world and
with other players.  When you lose sight of this, I think you will
run into exactly the sort of thinking you are expressing.

Back in the 80s, Tom Selleck took on the role of Thomas Magnum,
Private Investigator.  He drove around in a really nice Ferrari.  As
I recall, the car actually belonged to Robin Masters in the show,
but let's suppose that it belonged to Thomas Magnum.  I'm sure Tom
Selleck worked very hard in the role of Thomas Magnum.  Magnum drove
(let us suppose) his car all around Hawaii.  But clearly, the
Ferrari can still belong to the studio that produced the show.  And
clearly, the studio retains all rights to the very character itself.

Sure, Tom Selleck took on the role of Thomas Magnum for different
reasons.  He was pursuing a profession as an actor.  He was
compensated for his work (but even this doesn't automatically give
him ownership of the Ferrari).  MUDs take a different approach.  The
goal is not supposed to be work, but entertainment.  As you say,
there is no guarantee that taking on this sort of role will be fun.
It will only be so if designed properly.  But suppose in the future,
a MUD is developed that will allow you to take on the role of Thomas
Magnum.  Not only that, but instead of having to play the role
according to a script, the script will arrange itself according to
how you choose to play the role.  This could be fun, perhaps the
epitome of interactive entertainment.  You may experience real
emotions and become totally immersed in the role of Thomas Magnum.
In the game, you may often talk about "your" car.  Others may talk
about "your" car.  But this doesn't mean that you own and can sell
the Ferrari data any more than Tom Selleck owned the Ferrari used in
Magnum, P.I.  Neither does it mean that the MUD has "lied" to you
regarding ownership.  (Of course, in a sense, I suppose you could
say that all fiction is about lying for the sake of entertainment.)
It simply means that the game is doing a good job of immersing you
in the character of Thomas Magnum.  But in the fiction, Thomas
Magnum owns the Ferrari.  You don't.  And in real life, the MUD owns
the Ferrari data.  You don't.

Hopefully, you'll have fun driving the Ferrari anyway.  But I think
that is a different issue.

--Phinehas

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