[MUD-Dev] Cost/Benefit factor and The Player-driven World [ was In defense of "soloability"]

Ron Gabbard rgabbard at swbell.net
Wed Jun 5 09:25:59 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: "Matt Mihaly" Monday, June 03, 2002 10:47 AM
> On Sun, 2 Jun 2002, Ron Gabbard wrote:

>> 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.

> Most players don't have the imagination to entertain themselves in
> the sandbox. I used to be a sandbox elitist, but through running
> Achaea for the last 5 years, my views have been altered by
> watching the entropy that sets in if you just hand them tools and
> expect them to entertain themselves.

> They need tools, they need rules, and they need admin intervention
> to keep things interesting.

I wasn't inferring that the designer should divest themselves of the
responsibility of creating entertaining content... I hope it didn't
come across that way.

This illustrates an entirely separate issue that may have already
been debated ad infinitum -- what is a 'player-driven' world and how
much control does one give players to 'drive' the world?  There
seems to be a gradual scale in almost every aspect of the game world
and the optimal point on the scale will probably vary from game to
game based on number of players and the homogeneity of the players
(the first is often a factor in the second).

Putting on the Marketing hat a second... I would argue that smaller
boutique MUDs would want to stay away from/limit the exent of
'player-driven worlds' (depending on definition) as it
negates/reduces the primary sustainable competitive advantage they
have over the larger commercial MUDs -- a more homogenous playerbase
resulting in a greater ability to create content targeted to the
vast majority of the players and a greater ability for interaction
with players.  It's a lot easier for a parent to build sandcastles
and provide an entertaining interactive experience when the children
playing in the sandbox are their 2 kids than it is when 50
neighborhood kids come over and the parent becomes a 'referee' more
than a 'storyteller'.

Within the context of larger commercial MUDs, I would argue that
using player-driven mechanisms is the only way to reach an
equilibrium between the cost the player is asked to pay versus the
benefit they receive... unless the designer is prescient or more
benefit/less cost is always better.

Take the example of access to 'save' spots (bind/bank, insurance,
cloning facilities, etc.).  Games are all over the place in terms of
access and availability ranging from the 'only in cities to which a
character has access and/or only if the character has access to a
certain skill' model to the 'ability to carry save game mechanisms
on the character for use anywhere' model.  Where are the equilibrium
locations and costs?  They will vary from game to game and area to
area within a game world based on death penalties, itemization of
mobiles, encumbrance rules, etc.  However, it is certain that the
equilibrium location/costs will be different than anything
hard-coded into the game world as different players have differing
levels of risk aversion and place differing values on their time.
(The more players there are, the greater the probable variance.
Thus, the smaller boutique/large commercial MUD distinction.)

It's convenient that the kings/gods/dictators of the world are
infinitely rich and can build as many facilities as they wish
without ever running out of resources as they then can err on the
side of low cost/high benefit.  However, is this the ideal solution
if the players were willing to pay a higher cost for that benefit or
receive a lesser benefit for that cost?  The question is not meant
to be rhetorical... it may be that the veterans out there have found
that more access to save features, storage inventory,
supplies/vendors, etc. is always better than less access.  (As is
apparently the case with communication and global chat channels.)
That's why I'm asking.  It's counter to almost every principle of
economics.  However, I've never run into an economic model that
adapted well to having a supplier with unlimited, cost-free
resources and that wasn't concerned about maximizing their utility
gained from those resources.

Cheers,

Ron




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