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

Sean Kelly sean at hoth.ffwd.cx
Fri May 31 11:26:31 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

On Wed, 29 May 2002, Ron Gabbard wrote:

> OK, correct me if I have this wrong.  The four reasons listed
> above to make characters independent (soloable) are:

>   1. People need a break from having to be in 'social' situations
>   all the time.

>   2. Some players are uncomfortable with the process of finding
>   groups and/or despair at not being able to find a group when
>   it's a requirement for hunting.

>   3. Forced grouping induces 'uber group' templates.

>   4. The cost of finding the required group is too high for the
>   casual player who has limited leisure time to invest in the MUD.

> Are the problems listed above truly the result of 'forced
> grouping'?  Or, are they caused by other game design decisions and
> are just made more apparent because of the emphasis placed on
> grouping?

Sounds like both are pretty much the same thing.  Forced Grouping,
IMO, is just making the activity aspect of the game too difficult
for a single player to solo effectively.  This is a design decision,
and thus emphasizes the importance of grouping.  A player who didn't
like this decision would likely call it "forced grouping."

>> Why do we need to be committed to the idea that downtime = social
>> time?

> I agree that downtime doesn't necessarily equal social time for
> every player.

And some of this, again, depends on design decisions.  I would
consider using craft skills in some popular MMORPGs as downtime,
purely because the activity is so repetitive but a the same time
requires enough UI interaction as to make it difficult to socialize

> But, time of high-involvement with the content (high frequency and
> complexity of strategic and tactical decisions... typically
> combat) does necessarily equate to non-social time in terms of
> communication in most MUDs... unless you have a combat system that
> lets the player hit the ATTACK button and they're done.

Many MUDs and MMORPGs pretty much work this way.  You hit "attack"
and the avatar keeps doing that until you instruct them to do
something else.  It's a common way to level the playing field
between slow and fast connections and bring combat back into
realtime turn-based mode.

> Why do MUD gamers play MUDs vs. traditional client-based RPGs when
> the traditional RPGs often have...

[description of reasons why RPGs make better questing games than
MUDs snipped]

> Traditional RPGs would seem to be superior to MUDs in every way.

IMO, they are in all but one aspect -- socialization.  There is a
large and growing segment of the gaming population that will not buy
a game if it does not support networked play.  This indicates, to
me, that in-game socialization is an extremely important factor in
game play (if you define "socialization" to include running around
and shooting your friends with an occasional mocking comment,
ie. FPS games).

I haven't yet seen a solution to the RPG problem implemented in
MMORPGs (that they follow the same design as RPGs but reset every so
often to allow the next group to do the same quest).  This and the
time factor are why I've long since stopped playing them -- they
were a disappointing waste of time.  For socialization I turn to
MUDs and other networked games with a smaller population.  The
result has been much more rewarding.


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