[MUD-Dev] Introduction and My solution to Powergamers, Treadmills, and Content Devaluation.

Ken Raisor kenraisor at earthlink.net
Sat May 4 10:14:33 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


Hello, 

Im Ken Raisor.  I go by the handle in most forums as
Surgeon_General.

I am designing a Persistant World (PW) structure for Neverwinter
Nights. I do not know if that qualifies me as a valid contributor to
this forum.  I suppose it will be up to your Moderators if that is
so or not.

When designing the framework for a PW, all the classical problems
for MUDs come into play.  I have taken in as much of the liturature
available and have crafted my solution.  I borrow heavily from
several different authors theories.  To my knowledge there is no MUD
out there using this particular structure, and if there is please
send them my apologies for having the same good idea.

I seek the Holy Grail of a completely balanced, self sustaning
Persistant World where the different types of players with different
agendas compliment and build upon eachother as oppose to compete
with eachother for resouces.

I use Richard Bartles catagorizations of players as a basic devision
of the basic content types players desire.  Whether you think his
breakdown is th'bomb or th'suck, its still a good place to begin.

My first decision had to do with Powergamer Content.  Powergamers
easily eat up the most resources in a modern day MMORPG.  Modern
MMORPGs have taken a stance on powergaming that I find perplexing.
The Solution that seems to be prevelant is to raise the incline of
your treadmill higher, add additional levels or skill branches, and
constantly add more High level content.

Because this solution to the powergamer is so resource intensive, it
becomes the primary focus of the development team of any given MUD.
As the development team focuses more and more on high-level content,
the players begin to think that the high-level content is what the
game is 'all about.'  I believe the players will follow the
developers in their focus.  The more time the Developers spend on
the Powergaming content in comparison to other parts of the game,
the more the players will see Powergaming as the superior
play-style.

This leads into an unfortunate cycle, because as more players begin
to think the game is 'all about' the high end content, the the
lesser in apperant value of your lower level content becomes.  Your
world becomes less of an experience and more of a race between
developers and players. Your lower level content is left unattended,
and so further validates Powergaming as the preferred playstyle to
your world.

But Im sure you all have debated this a million times over.

Fortunately Neverwinter Nights will not allow for the above approach
to persistant world content.  The toolset we have been given only
allows us for character advancement to level 20.  Now mind you level
20 is pleanty good enough, and characters that move beyond the level
20 barrier in traditional Pen and Paper D&D begin to move into the
rediculous stage of their careers.  Most Dungeon Masters refuse to
let players advance past level 20, as the required amount of content
to contend with such a character becomes unsurmountable, and the
believability of such encounters moves quickly towards nil.

But does that mean Neverwinter Nights will only have a limited
amount of retention of its powergamers?  Won't power-gamers reach
level 20 and 'beat the game' and head back to their old EQ server?

If the ruleset is left unaltered, then perhaps so.  But I have a
different approach.  I do not see Power-Gamers, Munchkins, Uberists,
or Min-Maxers as players playing an invalid playstyle, I see them as
one type of player styles among several.  I believe their needs
should be met just as all other playstyles needs need attention.

So how, given the limitation in the ruleset can we satisfy
Power-gamers? Well what is it that power-gamers are really after?

Power-gamers might think they want to beat the game, but I think
they enjoy beating the game.  What I mean by that is that power -
gamers want to have ever increasing power, wealth, and admiration
from their peers.  When they come to the edge of the world and
realise they have conquored all their is to conquor, that's when the
game has lost it's appeal.  So what we need is a way to allow for
power-gamers to have a near infinate amount of power and influence
growth, that does not involve an unbalanced amount of resouces in
developing their content.

Is there a way to give powergamers room for infinate growth without
moving the focus to exclusively their playstyle?  Here is my theory
on one way how.

Final Death and Inheritance.

  Allowing for Infinite respawns of players on death creates a one
  way ticket towards a server's Powergamer dominance.  As players
  can raise in levels and not lower, you create an inheriently
  misbalanced world.  The Power economy will always be under heavy
  inflation.  You will end up with all the horrible nasty side
  effects that plage your modern MMORPG.

  Final Death brings ever renewing value to your low level content.
  All levels of the game can be given equal amount of development
  attention without worring that it will be rushed through or
  ignored on a players race to the top.  Final death will cause
  players who in modern MMORPGs would be forced into 'beat the game'
  thinking might instead explore other playing styles.  Final death
  brings an additional level of excitement and sense of adventure.
  When the risks are higher, the rewards seem all that much better.
  With final death you can lower the incline of the leveling
  treadmill back to a level where it is a fun game, not frustrating
  work.  The list just goes on, and becomes increadibly more
  appealing when compaired to modern MMORPG woes.  You might bring
  the focus of the game back from a race and into an experience.

But Final Death is th'Suck!

  Yes.  Final death is not fun.  We are here to make games that are
  fun.

  But by implementing final death we introduce so many wonderful
  long term benefits.  Is there a way we can make Final Death not
  suck as much?

  Final death sucks the most for our Power-gamer.  To lose all the
  Wealth, Noteriety and Power in one bad move is 'losing the game.'
  Most power-gamers would just quit and go camp ToV or whatever it
  is that they do.  Can we somehow allow our powergamers to keep his
  collection of Wealth, Noteriety and Power without losing the
  benefits of final death? I think one solution would be to let
  their new Level 1 Character be the origional characters Heir.

Inheritance.

  On final death characters have the option of creating a new
  character that Inherits a good portion of their old characters
  wealth, housing, servants, and possessions.  There will of course
  be restrictions, new characters must be of same race and faction,
  etc.

  This soulution helps, because it allows for our powergamer to ever
  increase in Wealth, Power, and Influence over time, while not
  pushing our development focus to high end content.  It also is a
  terrific source for player created drauma and storylines.

Still, your not convinced, Final Death still sucks.

  Well perhaps the most horrible part of final death is the finality
  of it.  Dead with no hope for a return.

  Perhaps if we only made death Effectively permanant, with some
  hope be it unlikely.

  This is where where our Killers get into the Mix.

  When someone dies, an Amulet or Statue of the victums god is
  dropped on the ground. Anyone can be ressurected once that
  individual's Amulet is brought back to the temple of their god.

  But..

  Anyone can pick up that amulet; even Mobs, NPC's, Epic Encounters,
  Other Players, ect. Especially Other Players.

  So if some Player kills you, they can take your amulet and lock it
  in the bottom of their keep, under the most expensive form of
  protection that they can afford to upkeep. (players cannot log out
  with amulets, they simply drop to the ground if they try)

  Should you decide you wish to have that character ressurected, you
  new character acting as your most recient of Kin must first get
  through that players personal defenses, and perhaps that player
  himself, to recieve your older counterpart.

  Should your new character, or your allies, not be able to get
  through the defenses of this keep, then your dead character is
  un-rezz-able, effectively in Final Death.

  At least that is until you and your allies are stronger than your
  PC Opponents.

  Very few of the PvP players will be able to get rezzed easy. But
  those Socially inclined PVP players that are attached to large
  cities or organizations have a better chance of getting rezzed
  than a smaller group of Thugs will.

  Thus making way for a reasonable player justice system. One where
  alliances and alligences help determine a defense for the majority
  aginst unwanted minorties, while keeping these unwanteds in the
  game to act as a catylist for the social growth.

  It will also allow for a rapid return of power to one side who is
  currently way behind, helping to re-balance the system over
  time. (for problems of misbalance of power in a player-competative
  setting see DAoC, where boredom is the current self righting power
  balance system)

  Players who have just died to a mob, simply need to find the mob
  that killed them and kill it.  Or have their guildmates help him.

I know those involved in MMORPGs have a hard time accepting such a
mixup in the paradigm, but remember:

  1: The token is somewhere, forever 

  2: You inherit all your old stuff except for the stuff on your
  corpse.

  3: Leveling up in NWN will be quite easy 

  4: The economy wont go out of wak quite as fast 

  5: Your friends die a lot, or are leveling up their heir, so you
  wont be left behind.

  6: You really feel fear and excitement when you turn the corner
  and see that mummy that might be just a bit too much for you.

  7: If someone takes your amulet, you can always level up, get your
  friends together and teach him a lesson.

But, you say, this opens for a whole new level of griefplay!  Why a
single nasty PC can hunt you down and collect your token, just to
make your life more miserable!

Lets look at this.

  "Yes, What an Evil Villan, in fact that villan is much more
  HORRIBLE than all the Villans that the DM has ever thrown my way,
  he has true maniacal intent, and I am now REALLY emotionally
  involved."

(hmmmmmmmmm.....) 

  "In fact Im going to start a social character and run for town
  mayor, and Im going to Make sure our town has a deep dark dungeon
  guarded by elite guards. Then Im going to have my guildmates track
  down that Bastards stronghold and take mine and HIS token, and see
  if he ever sees it again once I put it in My towns dungeon! "

(hmmmmmmmmmmmmm........)

Have we not just then closed the loop?

What I mean by this is that any given community has the potential to
become self sustaining.  We as developers should look at how our
communities different divisions can support eachother, and build
structures to facilitate and encourage such efforts.  The end result
is a story in itself that is all the more real to the players
because the important elements are not Uber Mobs, NPC, and DMs, but
the actual individuals who play them.

Whenever we as developers create a linear system by removing in game
checks and balances to a certian momentum or direction, we are
creating an inevitable misbalance.  In the long haul we will
constantly have to invest resources to keep those liniar misbalances
from collapsing the system.

It is my opinion that every line in a persistant world should be
bent into a circle.

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