[MUD-Dev] Casual player socialization (was: Star Wars Galaxies: 1 character per server)

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Mon Jan 6 17:03:17 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

Ted L. Chen writes:
> John Buehler wrote:

>> But note that there is no shipment involved.  You may have been
>> speaking lightly of the notion, but the model being suggested is
>> to permit two characters to conduct business within the fiction
>> of the game - where one is on autopilot (the controlling player
>> is absent).  The two characters still have to get together in the
>> game world in order to physically exchange goods and money.

>> I'd be interested in hearing what the pesky problems with the
>> interfaces would be.  I'm imagining a game that uses a
>> conventional trade mechanism (e.g. EverQuest's) that is simply
>> primed by the crafting character's player to accept payment and
>> offer goods according to a predetermined exchange.  So only the
>> 'setup' would be needed.  And I assume that the setup could be
>> applied more generically to cover contracts between characters -
>> beyond handling the offline/autopilot case.

> Ah, I was under the supposition that we were dealing with a
> systematic contract-trade mechanism in-game.  That is, filling out
> forms, sending it to a specific merchant or posting them on some
> global cork-board - then vice versa.  All of which would take some
> specific interfaces to set time of delivery, price (or barter
> items), quality, etc, etc.

> Of course, this is mostly moot if I'm suppose to talk to you and
> tell you what I want through text.  Heaven forbid ;) But it still
> does leave the question of how you coordinate the agreement on
> payment (part of that setup).  Conventional trade mechanisms
> assume the interactive give and take of bartering - something
> which might not work well when playing tag with 'automatic
> characters'.

I'm assuming that the game actually understands enough of contracts
to facilitate some aspect of them automatically.  Perhaps only the
final pickup can be accomplished while the craftsman's player is
absent.  So the adventurer is trundled up to the craftsman, and they
act out the exchange of monies and crafted items.  The actual
bartering could obviously be handled through game-controlled acting,
using the skills and traits of the involved characters.  This would
make construction of a character for the game of trade just as
involved as construction for the game of combat.  It all depends on
the focus of the game world.

Personally, I like the idea of the game world characters doing
interesting things based on basic commands that I issue.  Such as
'negotiate to have a sword crafted'.  And the two characters go at
it, bartering, negotiating, cajoling, waving their arms, etc.
They'd use whatever negotiation skills they have in an effort to get
the best deal that they can.  As if it was combat.

> I think it might be important (for social aspects) to have either
> the merchant or buyer come to the table with a fixed price at
> hand, and make it some form of implicit/explicit convention.  In
> AO, I had setup an automated inventory-pricing and web-based
> ordering system with fixed prices which kept me from having to
> haggle.  On the rare occasions I decided to use the in-game
> shopping channels, I spent hours sitting there advertising and
> arguing over prices.  It'll depend on the person, but I much
> preferred being a store-owner than a retail sales clerk.  And if
> we're talking about promoting casual player socialization, I do
> believe I was much more socialable when I hand-delivered
> web-orders than I was after spending the 3rd hour staring at
> WTB/WTS chat.  :)

I'm no fan of big time investments such as the screaming auction
channels.  That opposes casual player socialization.  The idea is to
have things happen at the character level.  Combat happens at the
character level.  Trade does not.  Trade happens at the player
level.  Crafting happens at the character level, but I have yet to
see it done in an entertaining way.

So I want more stuff to happen at the character level, and I think
that permitting this with characters whose players are absent will
help players to spend less time in the game.  They have the option
of just managing their character or of actually socializing through
their character.  But either way they retain their connection with
the community because their characters are able to interact with
other player's characters.


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