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

Brian Lindahl lindahlb at hotmail.com
Thu Jun 27 01:35:24 New Zealand Standard Time 2002


From: Ron Gabbard <rgabbard at swbell.net>
> From: "Brian Lindahl" <lindahlb at hotmail.com>
>> From: rgabbard at swbell.net

>> Building a deeper MMOG is about creating a game where combat is
>> not the center, but roleplaying and theme.

> Hehe... color me stupid.  I don't understand how roleplaying can
> be the center.  I would think that, by definition, roleplaying
> would require a 'role' and that this 'role' would have to be in
> context to

I see what you mean. By roleplaying being the center, I mean that
the deeper MMOG is designed with roleplaying being the main activity
for the players to take part in. Theme, alone, instead of
'roleplaying and theme' would have been better in the statement I
made.

>> 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.

> I will agree with you on that part... roleplaying is truly a very
> small part of MMORPGs and will probably become smaller as the
> number of people entering the genre increasingly have backgrounds
> in CRPGs and FPSs vs. D&D and other pencil and paper games.  This
> kind of

This is exactly what I was trying to relate when I was talking about
the 'single-player' mindset.

> begs the question... is reliance on players roleplaying to drive
> and/or follow the theme feasible in a MMOG of 100,000 players?

Not at all, in my opinion. For my more detailed opinions on this
topic, see my posts on the topic of 'The Future of MMOGs'

> I think the player's and the character's best self interest would
> need to be the same.  The basic assumption in economics is that
> all

Not necessarily, if the player's self-interest goal is in creating
an interesting and immersive role in which to accurately portray the
character in the theme, then the player's self-interest is
roleplaying, not the character's self-interest. I suppose
indirectly, the character's self-interest is the player's
self-interest, but this is a subsection of accurately portraying
one's character.

> eventually return to rationality.  Theoretically, I can see how a
> non-quantitative reward system could be developed to define the
> character's best self interest without being
> 'achievement-oriented'.

The non-quantitative reward system is the novel-like storyline and
complex relationships that are formed between a player's character's
friendships with other players' characters.

> But would it provide sufficient feedback to the player to keep
> them motivated without providing so much feedback that it just
> becomes another 'achievement' ladder?

>From what I've seen in the few actual roleplaying MUDs out there,
yes, it is sufficient enough feedback. Although its not really
feedback that's the reward, it's contentment with the time you've
spent. The excitement and draw that I get from roleplaying is
signifcantly different from the ego-boosting feedback I get from
achievement playing. And granted, I enjoy most, but I prefer
roleplaying over achievement playing.

> I think I understand the point you are trying to make so far as
> developing an immersive theme such that the players are more
> engrossed in accomplishing the goals of the theme than they are
> worried about the 'power-race' to end game.  I agree with you on
> the importance of theme in this sense...  liberation from the
> hamster wheel would be a relief to many (if not most) players.

Exactly.

>>> 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.

> I would strongly disagree here.  The economy can be the designer's
> best friend in supporting the theme or it can totally ruin
> immersion through inflation/worthless money sinks/uninspired trade
> skill systems.  The problem is that the economy in most games
> seems to be designed as an afterthought...  a cesspool of loot as
> it were that gets loosely integrated with the trade skills which
> are loosely integrated with mob itemization.

Well of course, if you design a poor system, in any aspect of the
game, it will ruin the immersion of the theme. However, the point I
was trying to make was that it is more important to design the theme
first, and then the coded systems. First create the economy of all
the cultures and world as part of the theme, then design the coded
system that supports the theme and displays the thematic concepts of
economy. (Economy, perhaps, was a poor example as it can be both
thematically described and technically described.)

> provide scarcity and balance.  The possibilities of using the
> economy to support the theme become endless.

Here's the problem, although it may just be your wording. You state
the economy should support the theme, when it should really be the
theme supporting the economy, I believe. You seem to touch on this
concept when you talk about how the fragments exist in the theme
first, so that they can create theme-specific objects. This is
opposed to making it so the fragments exist so they can support the
coded world.

>>> 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.

> I would disagree here.  In a single-player game, the designer has
> the ability to control every interaction the player experiences
> and can almost force the player to roleplay an 'ogre' because
> that's how everything in the game treats them.  In a multiplayer
> game, the designer has very little control over most interactions
> as they are between players.  Thus, with the absence of designer
> control over interactions something else has to take control.  I
> would argue that what takes control is 'human nature'.

The trick is to designing a roleplaying game is making the activity
of roleplaying more encouraged than the activity of achievement, so
that roleplaying becomes the dominant activity. This is the method
of control the game designer should utilize, thus, your 'human
nature' control, makes the player roleplay, not achieve (in the
majority of cases). You are utilizing 'human nature' to get the
control, as well as peer pressure. If one enters the world with
achievement in mind, but everyone else is roleplaying, he will
either conform, or leave, as roleplaying, not achievement is
encouraged by the peers.

> I think we're approaching the same problem from two different sides.

I agree.

> Enhancing the dominance of the theme increases the complexity of
> the player/environment relationship while enhancing the players'
> ability to effect each other and the world around them increases
> the complexity of player interactions.  Both ways can result in a
> 'deeper' MUD.

I believe that you cannot result in a 'deeper' MUD without enhancing
the dominance of theme. Roleplaying needs a strong theme to
survive. Although, enhancing the players' ability to effect each
other, within the enhanced theme, will allow roleplaying to be more
feasible option and more attractive to people who are used to
achievement.

> 'deeper' MUD.  Personally, I would go both routes.  It's just too

I also, would prefer and AM going both routes with my involvement in
'The Cathyle Project'. I agree the inclusion of your element would
indeed create a deeper MMOG, but I think that enhancing the
dominanace of theme is more crucial, given today's MMOGs.

-Brian Lindahl, coder of 'The Cathyle Project'
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