[MUD-Dev] In defense of "soloability" [was Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility]

Clay clayf at bu.edu
Tue May 28 09:39:46 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: "Ron Gabbard"

> This is why I am puzzled why so many commercial MUDs are striving
> for 'soloability' of characters and minimal downtime.

Because other players are not simply the best and most important
part of these experiences, they're also the worst.  The former gets
its due emphasis, and the latter is too often overlooked.  And I'm
not just talking about griefers here, your own guildmates and
friends can also become tiresome, and sometimes (perhaps often,
depending on the player type) you need to break away from them for a
bit and try something new on your own.

Grouping spontaneously and for the fun of it (or for a particular
challenge) is a good thing.  But I think the conventional wisdom
which holds that a game which constantly pressures you to play in a
group improves "community" ... well, that seems a little misguided
to me to say the least.  Players can feel shackled by this pressure,
and chaining people together isn't a very good way to enhance your
social setting.

Pressured grouping actually often shoots itself in the foot here,
because the grouping mechanics are rather sensitive to having the
right combination of complementary skillsets.  So the "grouping
imperative" becomes instead a way to divide players whose characters
don't fit each other in the right way

Added to this is the time issue.  Pressured grouping is another hit
against the casual player, who ends up spending ("wasting" is a more
common word) most of their time trying to find a group and be
accepted
by them.  And this is not particularly fun or rewarding.

> While I don't know if I totally agree with Raph's "50% downtime"
> model, time for socialization certainly needs to be greater than
> the "almost zero" downtime found in some of the more recently
> released commercial MUDs.

Why?  Why do we need to be committed to the idea that downtime =
social time?  Is it because people started chatting it up when they
were bored and had nothing better to do?  Do we need to make people
bored in order to make them social?  That doesn't seem like a very
good answer.

> And, it needs to be 'quality' downtime for socialization and not
> downtime where the player goes AFK for 15 minutes (as in the case
> of the 'boat' in EQ).

If it's quality downtime, I'd hope you wouldn't have to call it
downtime at all.

Cheers,
Clay Fenlason

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