[MUD-Dev] Building a \\\'Deeper\\\' MMOG

rgabbard at swbell.net rgabbard at swbell.net
Wed Jun 19 04:26:31 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

Note: This message was written via the list web archives.  There is
no guarantee that the claimed author is actually the author.
Original message: http://www.kanga.nu/archives/MUD-Dev-L/2002Q2/msg01361.php

"Brian Lindahl" <lindahlb at hotmail.com> wrote:
> From: Ron Gabbard
>> I totally agree with you.  In the end, it's the theme of the game
>> that is the 'game'.  Designing an evolving economy, ecology, and
>> societal structure is not the 'end' of the game... it's just the
>> foundation and the 'world' in which the game is played.  However,
>> that foundation is extremely important as it adds meaning and
>> context to the thematic events that occur.  I would refer to it
>> as 'societal' depth rather than 'technical' depth as it really
>> has little to do with the 'code' and everything to do with
>> placing a context on societal relationships within the
>> player-base.
> I consider societal depth as the methods in which the player-base
> can interact with each other. Evolving ecology, weather, terrain,
> etc. I consider to be the 'technical' depth and does not play a
> part in 'societal depth'.

Creating a deeper world provides the 'why' for social interaction
and a context for the theme.  If a horde of goblins attack a city,
why should the players care?  The primary mechanism currently used
for getting players to react to the threat is to give the goblins
'special' loot, e.g., most EQ events and AC's shadow armor and
motes.  In a dynamic world, the incentives to react to a 'thematic'
event are almost limitless... are the goblins attacking a town owned
a operated by a player's guild, are the goblins destroying a rare
resource, is a player aligned either commercially or militarily with
the owners of the property under attack, etc.

Think back to the Persian Gulf war.  Why did the US invade Kuwait
and bomb Iraq?  One word... oil.  As Matt pointed out in his litany
of various peoples around the world who are suffering, if it's not
directly affecting people, they generally don't care.  They may send
a couple bucks to UNICEF but it won't evoke the interest and passion
for an event that designers are trying to put into games.

>> That's why the Invisible Hand is invisible.  I would argue the
>> point that societal depth is any less important than thematic
>> depth as that implies that player interaction with other players
>> is less important than player interaction with the content.

> I consider player interaction to take place from within the theme,
> and therefore part of 'thematic depth'. Afterall, the theme of the
> game dictates where a player's character fits into the world and
> how he interacts with other players' characters within the
> game. In the end we are arguing the same point.

I guess my challenge is to list any situation where 'theme' has
effectively motivated player behavior in an MMOG.  (The rules are
probably somewhat different in smaller MUDs as the player base is
smaller and somewhat tighter.) Granted, I've only played EQ, AC, AO,
DAoC, and UO to a limited extent... in none of these games do the
players stick to the theme if there is a better reason to 'defect'.
In EQ, 'evil' ogres commonly group with (and even in-game marry)
'good' high elves... in AC, the main driver for killing off the
'shadows' were to get shards for shadow armor (loot)... in DAoC,
it's not uncommon for players from different realms to meet in PvP
areas for friendly duels and/or 'realm point farming'.

In short, players are going to act in accordance with their own best
self-interest regardless of theme.  So, might as well give players
the ability to organize as they wish in accordance with each
player's own best self-interest and give them a 'real' reason for
conflict versus an artificial 'black hat versus white hat'.

> The reason why the connection wasn't made right away is because I
> think of player interaction as their character interaction, which
> should be driven by theme in a roleplaying game, not by the
> technical aspects of the world, such as a fancy movement system,
> or a fancy combat system. Whereas you referred to interaction as
> player interaction, which takes the emphasis out of theme, and
> into real life.

The example I gave of trees in the dynamic ecology/economy was just
meant to be a very small example of making a game deeper.  It wasn't
meant to diminish the need for a theme.  It was just an example of
how a theme can be enhanced and given significance by being
supported by the game world.  Human nature is human
nature... players may play an 'ogre' in-game but they are still
driven by the same motivators that drive them in the 'real world'.



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