[MUD-Dev] Re:Blacksnow revisited

Kylotan kylotan at kylotan.eidosnet.co.uk
Thu Apr 18 18:30:44 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: Norman Short <wjshort at wworld.com>

> 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.

I agree that allowing your community to be led by the people with
the most time is not always a good thing, but on the other hand,
there are benefits too. Nearly all games require some degree of
'domain expertise', and although maturity and intelligence help you
to acquire this, time is important too. Additionally, I don't think
that branding people who spend a lot of time on a computer game as
emotionally and psychologically unstable - because that is the
implication - is fair or accurate. Of course, one could argue that
these players are the demographic that most highly resembles the
developers themselves, which makes the bias even more
understandable! :) But to say that spending 10 hrs a day writing a
game is ok but 10 hrs playing a game is not shows some sort of
cultural bias on your part which isn't going to solve anything -
just highlights a difference of opinion.

Additionally, if you think it's ok to allow money (or various other
resources) to dictate the game rather than time and skill, then
would you consider it fair to play Chess against an opponent who has
Gary Kasparov on the other end of his cellphone? You might argue
that not everyone has 16 hours a day to learn chess, but being
resourceful enough to get Kasparov's home number makes it
legitimate. But most of us would agree that would be a ludicrous
stance to take. The game should be between 2 people on their own
merits, and the 'merits' in this case are intelligence and
experience as applied to chess.

Sure, it's a very arbitrary choice. We could choose money as the
resource that dictates status in our game. Or any other resource or
resources. But the most satisfying choice for most game developers
is to ensure that progress within the game is linked to experience
within the game, not external factors. Just as people would feel
cheated in Chess if their opponent phoned Kasparov during a match to
be told which moves to make, MUD players feel cheated when their
peers use their real-life financial advantage to improve their game
standing. Generally, in a game, intelligence and perseverance are
regarded as 'acceptable' ways to get ahead. Real-life finances and
contacts are not.

(Aside: I have nothing against people who choose to run their MUD or
other game such that you can buy extra items or services. I am
merely defending the right of MUD admins to make the decision on
whether this is acceptable in their own game or not.)

> 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.

If you play Chess, do you own the board position? No. You own the
memories, you own the excitement of playing the game, but you don't
own anything as such. If you're playing White, then you can call the
white queen "my queen", yet you do not own the piece if it's someone
else's chess set. Now, exchange the "white queen" for "character"
and "chess set" for "MUD" or "MUD server" and you'll see why player
ownership doesn't really make sense.

If you play Pacman, do you own the wafers and power pills that you
collect? Of course not. There are a billion and one analogies to be
made here, some better than others. But when it comes down to it,
items on a character are just part of the game. You don't own the
game itself, you may own a copy of the game, and you play the
game. These items are just tools we provide for you to play with
during the game.

> If all I am in the end is a gerbil on a treadmill turning the
> wheel to get items that I have no sense of ownership at all over,
> what's the point?

The point is that if you go into a 'game' with your goal being to
own things, then you have the wrong attitude in the first place. The
game should be about the playing, not about the result. With your
reasoning, almost no games are worth playing because hardly any
games give any sense of ownership, only an enjoyable experience
while you play.

If I play a fantasy roleplaying-style boardgame such as Hero Quest
or Talisman, my character may acquire items during the game. But at
the end of the game, the owner of the boardgame collects all the
items, and my character, and takes it home. I never felt at any
point that -I- (the human player) owned anything. Is there something
wrong there? Of course not. I enjoyed the act of playing of the game
- that's what it's about.

So why, if I put the game onto a computer server, should a player
suddenly feel that they (as opposed to the character) start to 'own'
things? Where's the difference? This is the closest analogy that I
can think of, since in both cases you play a character, the
character collects items, you don't own the physical infrastructure
where the game takes place, and so on. The only 2 differences I see
are firstly, that one is on a board and one is on a server, and
secondly, for some reason, people have wildly different expectations
regarding ownership regarding the 2 types of game. It may be the
developers' (or more likely, the marketers') fault for the players
having these expectations, but the expectations are still false. You
pay to play, you don't pay to buy.


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