[MUD-Dev] Legal enforcement mechanisms (was Re:Blacksnow revisited)

Jon Leonard jleonard at slimy.com
Thu Apr 18 08:39:30 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


On Thu, Apr 11, 2002 at 07:45:13AM -0500, Norman Short wrote:

> That isn't the reason I see this as a devolving game genre in
> holding my interest, however.  It's what I see as you folks and
> your attitude about ownership and EULA's.  So you want me to
> understand at all times that you own my character, my account, and
> every item in my inventory.  Well, doesn't sound like the word
> "my" applies at all anymore.

It strikes me that the real question isn't so much about ownership
as about enforcement mechanisms and jurisdiction.  It isn't so much
that game designers and administrators think you don't own your
character, it's that when there is a dispute, they'd much rather
handle it in a customer service department than in a court of law.
The "problem" is that the US legal system doesn't have a convenient
way to delegate that kind of authority, so we make up the legal
fiction that it isn't "really" ownership.

And when you think about it, most players prefer it that way too.
If, for example, you had a dispute with another player about your
killing his character in retaliation for his stealing an item from
you, you'd much rather not have to show up in court and testify
about your actions...

But the question of jurisdiction leads me to a tangent of much
greater interest to me.  To what extent is it fun in a game to have
multiple competing justice systems?

There's an opportunity (probably exploited by some games I should be
playing) to add an extra dimension to group-vs-group conflict, by
having different guilds, cities, or governments have different ideas
about what constitutes 'legal', and different ideas as to how these
things should be enforced.

>From an individual characters's perspective, he might be engaging in
a trade (mercenary work, for example) that's legal in some of the
cities in the game, but not others.  This impacts where in the game
it is safe to go, which NPCs will treat the character as a criminal
(or even an outlaw) and so forth.

The hook for generating more interesting conflicts occurs when a
character or group (player or NPC) of high status in one area is
considered a problem in another.  The implicit underlying tension
between the governments can yield warfare in some cases, and peace
in others.

Jon Leonard
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