[MUD-Dev] Explorers? (Was: Codename Blue & Facets - Nick Yee's new studies)

Brian 'Psychochild' Green brian at psychochild.org
Sat May 4 16:25:36 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


An interesting study.

Like other people, I am most fascinated by the lack of validation in
the study for the Explorer type.  When I have taken the Bartle test,
I have always scored high on the Explorer type.

At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, I think part of this
inability to validate the explorer can be explained by the change in
the internet from the time when the original MUD made its debut to
the time when this study was made.  I think most people that have
been around for more than a few years will agree that the internet
has changed quite drastically.

Let's start with the basics: what is an explorer?  At it's base it's
someone who likes exploring the various aspects of the game
(interacting with the game world, as Bartle put it).  This usually
focuses on creating detailed maps, lists of items, and descriptions
of game mechanics.  (As a side note, I disagree with the Explorer
being concerned with self-discovery and group-dynamic discovery as
in Yee's study.)

Let's look first at how this information is presented.  In many old
text MUDs, your stats were presented as raw numbers.  In addition,
many games were significantly simpler; many of the MUDs I originally
played didn't even have skills, just your base stats and a level.

In modern games, things have been obfuscated behind various layers
in the game.  Graphical bars often take the place of some things
that were provided as numbers in the games.  The addition of more
skills, more stats, more everything has complicated the games.  On
top of this all, the basics of how these stats and skills work are
not even described within the context of the game.  How can I as an
Explorer experiment with game mechanics if I'm not even sure exactly
what the stat or skill does for my character?

I think the bigger issue, however, is how information that is found
is presented.  In the ancient days of text MUDs, we used to pass
around info by word of mouth and in-game mail.  "Oh, get the Sword
of Foozle! It gives a +2 to Strength and seems to do more damage,
too!"  I used to pride myself in the text MUDs I played on the fact
that I could share info with other players quite easily.

Now, however, this information is put into a database for
presentation on a web page.  I think this is mostly a function of
the scale of these games.  In a text MUD I honestly could go around
and test damn near *every* weapon in the game to see what was the
most effective.  Doing this in a game like EQ or DAoC would take an
amount of in-game resources and time that frankly boggles the mind.
The "expert" you go to to ask game questions is now any person that
can type out the URL of the web page.

I think that the "explorer" function has been diversified into the
population as a whole.  Anyone can send a screenshot of a new weapon
into the game's web site.  It doesn't take some geek with a notebook
and a pen cataloging every item in the game, anymore.

Another major factor is content generation.  In most free text
games, there are people becoming new coders all the time.  They
produce a new area or two for the players, so there is always a new
area to explore, a new weapon to add to your catalog of items.  The
content is generated on a semi-regular basis and can be gleefully
consumed.

This is not the case in graphical games.  As every professional
knows, adding content in graphical games is EXPENSIVE.  This content
is also consumed rapidly by players eager to go see the newest thing
in the game and grab the newest toys.  Graphical games simply cannot
create content as fast as the text games with free labor can.

To give a personal example, Meridian 59 had a very standard usage
pattern.  Meridian 59 produced updates to the game that were made
freely available to current players.  Every update (which happened
about every 6-8 months while I worked at 3DO), we would get a spike
of activity for about a week or two immediately after the update.
What was this?  I figure it was the explorers logging on, exploring
the new areas, then going into hibernation when there was nothing
new under the sun.

Finally, I think we should look at the motivations and personalities
for Explorers.  I personally explore because I'm a gaming geek and a
game developer.  I love tearing apart mechanics to see how things
tick.  I love to use this knowledge to improve my own toolkit of
design methods for designing new game mechanics.

In the old days of text games, the audience was more
self-selecting. Damn near everyone had a .edu address, and 99% of
the people on the internet were either in a computer-related
industry or studying to get into one.  The audience was more
tech-savvy and tended to have a greater background in mathematics.

How are things now?  A majority of people have an msn.com or aol.com
or other address that had traditionally been laughed at by the .edu
elite. There is a lot more diversity on the 'net.  We don't just
have computer and math geeks tearing apart game mechanics, we now
have housewives transforming into bold socializing amazons, lawyers
taking out their aggression by killing other helpless players, and
bored corporate drones working their way up the ladder to achieve a
higher number than other people.  Where are the geeks crunching
numbers?

I think most of them are probably making the game. :)

Fodder for thought.

--
"And I now wait / to shake the hand of fate...."  -"Defender", Manowar
       Brian Green, brian at psychochild.org  aka  Psychochild
      |\      _,,,---,,_      *=* Morpheus, my kitten, says "Hi!" *=*
ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_               Meridian 59
     |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-' http://meridian59.neardeathstudios.com/
    '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)    Welcome back to your favorite online game.
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