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

Brian Lindahl lindahlb at hotmail.com
Thu Jun 20 01:57:48 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: rgabbard at swbell.net

> 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

No such situation exists in the current MMOGs, because none that
I've come across or heard about have been truely theme-oriented
games. All of them have been combat-oriented games, the theme
playing a background role in the game. What would EQ be without
combat? Pretty much boring, right? I'm sure you can say the same
about the others. Building a deeper MMOG is about creating a game
where combat is not the center, but roleplaying and theme.

> players stick to the theme if there is a better reason to
> 'defect'.  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 reason why they act in their own self-interest, reguardless to
theme, is the fact that such people have no sense of what
roleplaying is. They think that because it has a story, a history, a
fantasy or sci-fi environment its a roleplaying game. Perhaps, in
the sense of the genre, it's a roleplaying game. But roleplaying is
an action, not a genre. A game is only a true roleplaying game when
the majority of it's players take on the action of
roleplaying. Roleplaying is the action of playing and understanding
a role or character within a theme. When players act in accordance
to their character's self-interest, rather than their own, they will
be 'role' playing. Players who act in accordance to their own
self-interest are 'achievement' playing.

The trick to building a deeper MMOG is not adding more features for
players to achieve, but bringing the players into the world of
'role' playing, versus 'achievement' playing by increasing the
dominance of theme. When players who signed onto the MMOG for
achievement begin to play as their character and incorporate true
'role' playing, then you know that you have built a deeper MMOG. The
MMOG encourages players to become involved in the theme and become
absorbed in the fantasy world.

> From the list of games that you mentioned you have experience in,
> it's no wonder that this concept is hard to grasp. For hardcore
> gamers who started on single-player games and have moved over to
> the online gaming world, it's difficult to change the mindset from
> playing a game to reach an end, to playing a game to be a part of
> a persistant and evolutionary world (evolutionary in the sense of
> a changing world, not evolutionary in the scientific sense).

> 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

Well the difference is that you were using this example in the
context of making a MMOG deeper in theme. Ecology and economy may
aid a player in feeling like the world is more living, but this
rarely helps the theme. For example, if you add more detailed
graphics in a single-player game, the player will feel like the
world is more living, but it won't enhance the theme. A good example
of a technique that would help create a deeper themed MMOG would be
to think about the world first, and the mechanics last. Come up with
the relationships of the societies, use social anthropological
techniques to come up with a variety of realistic cultures that have
a wide variety of morals, ideals, rituals, and general culture. In
doing so, the theme will be much more immersive, and the player will
have an easier time being absorbed into his or her character's role
in the world. Making it so the players can kill off a species or
perhaps evolve a new species (as per an ecological system), will not
help a player become more absorbed into his or her character's role.

> 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'.

Again, this is a single-player game mindset, for many, if they move
away from the achievement style of playing, and into a roleplaying
mindset, they'll achieve a greater satisfaction from a
theme-oriented multiplayer roleplaying game.

-Brian Lindahl, coder of 'The Cathyle Project'
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