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

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Mon Jun 3 09:39:51 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

Raph Koster writes:
> From: Clay

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

> A lot of the discussion of that statement of mine has centered
> around the semantics of "downtime." But I was using a very
> specific definition. I was defining downtime as time during which
> the player is not actively engaging in making decisions. This says
> nothing about the "quality" of the downtime.

> People don't seem to like being interrupted when they're making
> decisions.  They tend to complain about people ruining their
> concentration. So it makes for a bad time to try to have an
> in-depth personal discussion with them. If we want more
> socializing, we have to provide breathing spaces in which it can
> occur.

I'm going by the dovetailing of your comments about lack of downtime
in Quake, and people not liking being interrupted when they're
making decisions...

If I'm plaing Quake, I'm not making decisions.  I'm just running
around on autopilot, gunning anything that moves.  This is
dramatically different from trying to compose a reply to a message
on MUD-Dev.  Perhaps I don't play Quake the way others do.  Perhaps
that's why I don't play Quake much :)

But I would claim the same about 'decision-making' in games like
EverQuest, Ultima Online, Asheron's Call and Dark Age of Camelot.
The decisions that I make there are very primitive.  Only when I
have to visit a merchant and have some useful choices does any kind
of contemplation take place.  Of course, because the decisions are
so simple, there's not much material for discussion.

If you're referring to interruptions and concentration in text-based
games, then we're back to the problem of mutual-exclusion of
socializing and any other game activity (i.e. typing/mousing for
everything).  Given voice, I can be talking about the weather while
killing a nasty monster.  It's most gameplay is essentially covered
by my internal autopilot, where in the one-second time intervals
where I have to consider what I'm doing, I pause my speech, figure
out what I need to do, then go back to my discussion.

Here's an interesting question to ponder: if we had speech in
current games, where socialization was available all the time, would
we require more things to do in the game in order to feed that
availability of socialization?  Or would we invent reasons to
socialize?  One of the most enjoyable times I ever had was playing
Diablo with two guys at work.  We were teleconferenced while
playing, so we could talk freely.  One of us kept getting into
trouble, requiring the other two to bail him out.  This constant
lack of wisdom on the part of that one player kept us all ribbing,
joking and laughing for hours.  If the three of us had been
efficient about gameplay, it would have been fairly boring.  Would
games that permit full-time socialization be exposed for what they
are if players cannot come up with things to socialize about?  Would
players tend to invite newbies into their groups for the
socialization value?  Would players tend to orchestrate more complex
strategies to approaching problems so that they could socialize?  I
don't mean that players would do these things because they consider
this issue, but rather that they do it out of a natural desire to
enjoy the game experience.


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