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

Ron Gabbard rgabbard at swbell.net
Sun Jun 2 07:21:08 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: "Sean Kelly" <sean at hoth.ffwd.cx>
> On Wed, 29 May 2002, Ron Gabbard wrote:

> 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."

Yes, making the risk/reward factor non-efficient for 'solo' players
is a design decision.  The same could be said about the need to wear
armor in order to survive combat.  Most players don't even think
about the process of buying, wearing, and repairing their armor as a
'burden' in most MUDs...  it's just a necessary condition for
playing the game.  However, if the designer made it so that a very
specific set of armor was required for survival, made the
"breastplate" and "helm" of the set rare and in limited supply, made
it so the armor was expensive and degraded quickly, and made it so
the armor was too heavy to carry spares, you would have the same set
of problems associated with grouping (with the exception of just
wanting to 'get away' for a bit).

Clay's argument was that the costs associated with grouping are too
high in some MUDs and forcing players to group forces them to pay
this cost is just not fun.  One way of addressing the problem is to
remove the grouping requirement and make players 'soloable'.  The
other way of addressing the problem is to reduce the costs
associated with grouping.  Each design decision causes ripples
throughout the game into areas not even considered when the decision
was made.  Yet, generation after generation of games carry these
paradigms forward using 'hack' methods (like artificial XP bonuses
for grouping) to address issues instead of fixing the core problems.

I suspect that many issues that drive the angst behind grouping will
lessen in severity as games migrate to 'player-driven' worlds.  Many
of the issues caused by the gap between how the designer intended
the players to play the game and how the players actually play the
game are lessened/removed when you give the players a sandbox versus
building them a sandcastle... tools not rules.



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