[MUD-Dev] Re:Blacksnow revisited

Norman Short wjshort at wworld.com
Sun Apr 21 14:05:57 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: "Kylotan" <kylotan at kylotan.eidosnet.co.uk>

> 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.

I'm not arguing that you shouldn't have people who have played the
game long enough as to become experts in the interface and the game
system.  It may take the working stiff a little longer to become an
expert at such, but they also become experts in time.  But with many
of these systems, it will take a year or more before that person can
catch up with the kids with lots of time.  Until the world matures
and gets a lot of people at the top (something you guys seem to want
to take a very, very long time) the community will likely be
dominated by the people with the most time.

I did *not* say that people who spend 10 hours a day on a computer
game are necessarily unstable. I will go out on a limb and say that
most people who are over 30 are more mature than most 18 year olds
though.  The part where you compare the game writer to the game
player was well addressed.  I don't believe I am culturally biased
in this.  I was one of those players with more time than money, and
I became fabulously wealthy with my own island city in UO.  I
believe I was stable emotionally at the time, though playing many
hours a day for months on end did make me less so over time.  I also
saw the level of maturity of the other players who had more time
than anything else.  Some of the ones I knew quit their jobs and
moved back home with mom and dad so they could better pursue these
persistant games.  Some of these guys became highly powerful leaders
in the virtual communities.

> 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.

Heck, I'd be ecstatic to get a chance to play Kasparov, even if he
were just giving someone else the moves over the phone.  But there
are differences here which are easy to illuminate.  Persistance is
an easy difference.  People learn chess at their own pace in
relatively short sessions over a lifetime.  When the game of chess
is over, everything starts out equally again.  In MMO games, the bar
doesn't start over at even when the contest is over.  The working
guy is at a perpetual disadvantage despite perhaps having a better
intellectual understanding of the game.  An analogy would be that my
chess opponent has an extra queen he got from camping a spawn, and
next time he gets to use it again.

I'd also point out that most games are presented with straight on
competition being the only point to them.  RPGs, especially of the
MMO variety, are among the fewer games that can also be based on
cooperation.  That's a big part of the reason I played them.

> 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.

You've just admitted that using money as a resource is a valid
choice, just one the developers have chosen not to take.  You've
stated what must be the preference of the game devs that time spent
is more "satisfying".  Some MUD players might indeed feel real-life
financial advantage is cheating.  But the people who work for a
living and can only play a few hours a day can feel just as cheated
because some 14 year old has spent the last six months
powerlevelling.  What you call perserverance others call giving up
your life to play a game.  Some of you guys want those no-lifers to
be the most powerful and influential players in your community; I
just think there is a better way to allow more people to be
competitive.

>> 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.

Actually I own a chess set and nobody can take it away from me.
When I play a game of chess, it's *me* playing and I own myself.
This thread has turned that on its ear and tells me *I'm* not
playing at all; only a corporate owned entity they let me drive
around.  Not nearly so much fun in my book.  They tell me I can work
to afford something, say a chess set, and I can buy it.  I can give
it away to my friend as a birthday present.  But now I know that the
chess set isn't mine, the money I saved to buy it isn't mine, and I
didn't buy it at all, only did what my corporate masters allowed me
to do and hold it for awhile.  In that sense the argument becomes
merely a legal one that doesn't take into account what makes sense
at all.  Common sense tells me I bought that chess set and it's
mine.  Now I know that it isn't mine, that even *I'm* not mine.

> 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.

Persistance changes everything.  Most games take minutes to hours to
days to complete.  I don't develop a sense of self or ownership in
the Pac-Man icon.  Over months and years you're damned right I take
on a sense of self and ownership in the MMO game.  The game takes
years and never truly completes.  I'm willing to play Pac-Man and
accept that the icon isn't me and I don't own the game (although I
could buy the arcade console and then I do own it).  I'm not willing
to play a character for years and accept that I don't have any sense
of ownership at all.

>> 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.

This one made me laugh.  Take away owning things and EQ just became
a chat room.  All those EQ players spending hundreds of hours
camping to get an epic weapon and they just have the wrong attitude.
The games themselves encourage the idea of ownership and
acquisition, then you turn the game on its ear and tell them they
don't own anything, not even themselves.  It's the journey, not the
destination you are telling me.  I'm just saying that as presented
the journey became a lot more unsatisfying.

> 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.

I own a copy of Talisman.  I bought it, and I'm glad it wasn't an
online version that I could find doesn't belong to me at all.  But
again persistance and time investment changes everything.

> 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.

The expectations may indeed be false.  I started out reading this
thread as someone who really liked playing some of these games,
though the blush was already off the rose when I found the latest
one was just another level treadmill.  I need more than that now.
But I came to this thread in favor of the genre as a whole, and had
no expectations about selling items for real life money.  Now I find
myself unwilling to play these games, and the devs here are the ones
who talked me out of playing them.  Perhaps if the game paradigm
wasn't set for owning and aquiring items to be a huge part of the
game I might feel better about investing my time into something that
I'm just playing for the moment rather than building anything
within.  But I'll never have that feeling that I built something
again in one of these games.  I didn't do anything, except for
manipulate stuff that someone else has complete and utter control
over.

You corporate devs have been disingenuous in making us believe we
were building anything or acquiring anything.  To the extent that it
is the devs fault for giving me these false expectations, I'm angry.
Frankly I hope you guys do lose in court and it turns out players
have some rights.  I'm not holding my breath.  I expect that things
will stay largely as they are and I will continue to feel cheated
and feel that you guys are going to do things the way you always
have.  Congratulations, you've turned an avid player into someone
who doesn't want what you're selling anymore.

Norman Short
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