Brand Loyalty (was Re: [MUD-Dev] Requirements for MM (wasComp lexities of MMOG Servers))

Daniel.Harman at Daniel.Harman at
Thu Jan 9 12:31:41 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

>From : Koster, Raph [mailto:rkoster at] 
> From: Daniel.Harman at

>> I (and a number of others) believe this can be achieved by
>> migrating away from character skill based systems to player skill
>> based ones. It dilutes the pure essence of what an RPG is
>> currently accepted to be, but it's a worthwhile change imho.

> This will limit audience.

I agree completely. However every design decision does, including
predicating all character advancement/skill on time investment. Even
powergamers get burnt out grinding.

> > This has been discussed before, especially in the context of >
> non-deterministic combat systems. Personally I can't wait until >
> peoples achievements in these games can no longer be dismissed
> with > the assumption that anyone could do it given sufficient
> time.

> Don't get me wrong, I am not any more fond of repetitive
> treadmills than you are. And I think the idea of rewarding real
> player skill is fantastic.

> The question is how anyone without said skill finds a place for
> themselves in the world.

Indeed, the age old problem of everyone wanting to be the hero. You
are however describing two groups when you descibe people
'...without said skill...'. Those who have the potential to learn
the skill, and those who do not. The latter group are the problem I
think you are alluding to.  Fortunately, there is an important
factor that works in our favour in this instance, and it's a
compound of two elements.

Firstly, in a game where power is predicated purely on level/time,
its trivial for players to make accurate and direct comparisons with
each others ability. In the hybrid system I propose, these
comparisons whilst possible, are far harder to make with any
certainty. E.g.

  You may have 'Demolitions IV' (character skill) whilst I only have
  'Demolitions III', but I may be better at placing the explosives
  than you (player skill), so more than compensate for the fact that
  my explosions are smaller and the charges take longer to set. By
  giving 'Demolitions' deep complexity, it is no longer an easy
  objective comparison even though in certain circumstances, we are
  letting the skilled player achieve better results than the skilled

Secondly, incompetent people have a tendancy of not recognising
their incompetence (#1 Kruger & Dunning). This blissful ignorance
allows them to play and find their place without feelings of
inadequacy. They may not be the best, and most people can deal with
that, but they certainly won't realise they are the worst.


P.S. I know it may seem presumptious attributing deep complexity to
the Demolitions skill as described, but there are several other
elements to the design of it that are highly coupled to other
elements and would take longer than I have to cover :)

Reference :

#1 Justin Kruger and David Dunning,
   Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
   Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing
   One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments,

- Abstract -
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in
many social and intellectual domains. The authors suggest that this
overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in
these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach
erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their
incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize
it. Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in
the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly
overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their
test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated
themselves to be in the 62nd. Several analyses linked this
miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the capacity
to distinguish accuracy from error.  Paradoxically, improving the
skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive
competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their
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