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

amanda at alfar.com amanda at alfar.com
Tue Jun 4 09:03:40 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

John Buehler <johnbue at msn.com> wrote:

> 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 :)

Quake is a sport; you play best once you've internalized the
available game play options and constraints to the point where you
just sit "in the zone" and watch yourself play.  There's no downtime
at all, aside from the occasional call of nature, but I agree,
there's no (or little) conscious-level decision making.  If you have
to involve the 50ms conscious reaction time delay very often, you're

> 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.

At some level, yes.  For example, last night I leveled a character
on DAoC while catching up with email.  The whole "target a blue,
engage, back up while hitting it so I don't get ganged, sit to
regain endurance, stand up, rebuff, find a yellow, repeat, find a
blue, repeat" loop takes almost zero attention.

> 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).

They aren't exclusive, though.  I (and most of the people I
play/socialize with) simply use a separate mechanism for
socializing.  Telephone conference call, Roger Wilco, a laptop
running IRC or AIM, sometimes several at once.  OK, we're geeky, but
we're not that unusual in doing this.

The problem isn't that the game is exclusive, just that the keyboard
is in many games, but this is easily worked around.

One area I think is fruitful for UI experimentation is to take
advantage of multiple machines if they are available.  Examples:

  - 2nd machine to handle in-game chat, mapping, in-game "news",

  - Keep a PDA updated with character stats/inventory.

  - Put the 2D parts of the UI (stats/inventory/merchants/etc.) on a
  2nd monitor or even a second machine.

  - For a single machine, allow two USB keyboards, one for commands
  and one for chat.  Might bring a wholesome new meaning to
  "one-handed chat" :).

Consider a player who's gaming environment isn't a single PC, it's a
desk with 2-3 computers, a headset, and a fast Internet connection.

> 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.

Indeed.  At a previous job, we had an almost daily FPS match at the
end of the day (originally Marathon, then Quake).  We had widely
varying skill levels, but the point wasn't winning.  The point was
the 8-way conference call, full of trash talking, bad movie quotes,
and the like.  Now, that particular context was an in-group ritual,
not a public gaming experience, but I've noticed that the same group
of people tend to use multiple channels even in public games (such
as AC & EQ), console games (multi-player Halo), and socializing in

"One monitor, one keyboard, one mouse" is quite limiting to the UI.

Amanda Walker
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