Powergaming (was RE: [MUD-Dev] How much is enough?)

Jeff Cole jeff.cole at mindspring.com
Fri May 3 21:08:04 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: Kwon Ekstrom

> My solution to power gaming is complexity.  By increasing the
> number of stats and attributes required to make the system work,
> you make things more difficult to "power game" as such.

Unfortunately, I also think you make it that much more difficult for
the average player to get an intuitive feel for the game.  Camelot
tried this approach: obfuscating the data and creating
pseudo-diversity among the classes/realms.  I think the game suffers
greatly for it.

I think a much better approach is to focus on a smaller set of
stats/skills and design a system that allows for greater interaction
among the stat/skill set.  Freely give the players the information
and create a system such that the information accurately and
obviously corresponds to what they experience in the game.

Also, let the powergamers run amok and crunch their numbers; with
information freely available, there won't be much to crunch. And
what they do crunch, will not provide them any substantial advantage
over the non-crunchers.

Consider an n-dimensional gamespace (theoretical, not to be confused
with the "space" in which the game is played) that represents the
potential interactive space for a given stat/skill set.  Ideally,
players would be able to explore the whole space.  To the extent
that space is full of holes (representing unimplemented
interactions) or nooks and crannies (non-smooth gamespace boundary
surfaces in which characters can get "stuck" or which abruptly
change a player's development vector); to the extent that players
are restricted by the mechanics to an (n-1)-dimensional (or worse);
and/or to the extent that character development is irreversible your
players will quickly come to resent that which is prohibted rather
than appreciate that which is permitted.

> Truthfully, my game is designed in such a way where balance isn't
> possible.  There are simply too many separate routes that a player
> can take, I don't really care if they choose a "lesser" route.

If you don't care if players take the "lesser" routes, then why are
they ("lesser" routes) in your game?

> Perhaps comic books and movies may portray what we "view" as the
> human condition better ...

I know that Raph thinks other media portray the human condition
better than games, but I think his focus on portrayal is misplaced.

I think that the games portray the human condition just fine, but
lack sufficient consequences so as to give the portrayal any real
meaningful impact on the average player.

There is a real dichotomy manifest in this list.  Developers want to
engage greater audiences more deeply but not so deeply that they
begin to feel any "real" ownership of the characters.  Don't get me
wrong, I am not arguing that the ability to sell game items on E-Bay
implies player emotional attachment.  But I am arguing that if a
developer cannot afford the players a basic sense of ownership and
title in their characters, then it will be impossible to foster the
type of emotional impact that I think Raph would qualify as
portrayal of the human condition.

Perhaps the ability to portray the human condition suggests an MMO*
is much closer to "virual world" than "online game" on the McQuaid
Continuum(tm).

If player ownership of and title in characters would ruin the
industry, then portayal of the human condition might well take out
most of a city block. =P

Yrs. Affcty, 
Jeff Cole

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