[MUD-Dev] Player Accounts on a Non-Commercial MUD

Brian 'Psychochild' Green brian at psychochild.org
Thu May 9 14:51:17 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

Damion Schubert wrote:

> My experience has been quite the opposite:
> when you give players something interesting to do, the first thing
> they'll do is reverse engineer it so they can figure out how to most
> effectively and efficiently disassemble that system.  Call it
> cheating and rolebreaking, or call it strategy and tactics, but it
> is a fundamental part of MUDplayer nature.

I'll throw a word of agreement in here with Damion.  I'll even use a
specific example from a game he worked on. :)

In Meridin 59 we have "factions".  These political factions that are
trying for the throne.  The players can join each of these factions and
gain gameplay benefits depending on the influence the faction has. 
Power is gained through finding "token" in the game more recently from
claiming territory in the name of your faction.

Originally there were 2 factions to join.  While the original intention
was to have players join a faction and play out defending their liege's
quest for the throne, people quickly learned how to game the system:
Everyone joined on faction and threw all the power behind it.  No one
resisted the system because they had to fight against players with
additional power and struggle with no (or even penalized) power. 
Group-think also helped this out.

As Damion pointed out, here was an interesting conflict that people
"powergamed" into giving them the most benefit.

The solution to this situation was many-fold.  First, we introduced a
third faction going for control.  Next we reduced the benefit gained by
the faction if more people joined that faction; in other words, everyone
joining a single faction would significantly diminish the benefits of
that faction, even if they had full power.  Then the benefits from
accumulating power were made non-linear so that gaining power past a
certain "balance" point provided diminishing returns.  Finally, we
reduced the "out of power" penalty applied to all factions.

All this created a more interesting situation: In order to gain true
optimal power, everyone had to join each of the three factions equally
and share power equally.  Any faction that tried to grab more power
would gain less power than another faction lost.  If a faction were
smaller than the others, they could gain greater benefits from less
power, thereby giving a slight advantage to the underdogs since they
don't have to work as hard as a faction with more supporters in order to
gain equal power.

Now the faction scenario is a bit more interesting.  Recently there have
been a group of players that are interested in trying to attain and
maintain a "balance" of power.  Of course, some players are greedy and
want to give their own faction a boost so that they have more benefits. 
So, conflict arises.

Now the players have choices and are very directly affected by these
choices. Do the proponents of balance fight the advocates of their
faction?  What if one of the proponents of balance is trying to rig the
system to benefit himself?  What is a fair balance?

I think it is giving players intersting choices that helps keep content
from merely getting powergamed.  Yet, this new scenario is considerably
more complicated than the previous version; it required a lot more work,
testing, and is assuredly more difficult to maintain.  A classic
tradeoff, I guess.

"And I now wait / to shake the hand of fate...."  -"Defender", Manowar
       Brian Green, brian at psychochild.org  aka  Psychochild
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