[MUD-Dev] Star Wars Galaxies: 1 character per server

Damion Schubert damion at zenofdesign.com
Fri Jan 10 00:46:08 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

Christ, I said I wasn't going to get into this thread, but after
finally getting around to reading it, I had to say something I felt
wasn't emphasized.

[ Caliban Tiresias Darklock ]
> I'm still waiting for someone to tell me how SCS *hurts* casual
> players.

Okay, let me try.

  1. SCS amplifies the most boring parts of your game.

  2. SCS will eventually force players to choose between their stuff
  and their friends.

  3. SCS makes it harder to get rid of griefers.

Let's start at the beginning.  I've seen a lot of nasty things said
about people who want or use multiple characters.  But they really
aren't the evil, baby-eating, destructive forces of nature that
everyone seems to think that they are.

They're just bored.

Bored because of the treadmill.  The hardcore gamers make designers
feel compelled to create something where 'it'll take a player 3
months to get to level 50!'.  Of course, we speed up the low end so
that you can zip through, oh, 5 to 10 quickly, but before you know
it, all the gamers are stuck between levels 15 and 20.

For a casual gamer, one of those levels could be a week.  During
that week, they will typically discover an optimal monster.
Smeagles drop no treasure, giant platypi have a critical hit that
can kill you instantly, and mad cows can give you an annoying
disease that you have to go to town to heal.  Lizardmen, on the
other hand, give decent experience with relatively predictable risk,
and occasionally drop phat l3wt, creating the overall most efficient

  (There are, of course, only four monsters at level 15 because we
  can only create so many monster models).

The player then spends a week playing level 15, gets his level, then
discovers that lizardmen are still his best bet.  Maybe he leaves,
tries to fight walruses, and gets killed by the harsher AI.  That
tacks on another three days to his week, and he finds himself
killing lizardmen (the safe, efficient bet) again.

At this point, the player wants to do something.  Still wants to
advance a character, but he wants to try something new.  Maybe a
fighter, or a mage.  Just something that's _different_.  Something
that feels like he's making progress without making him want to poke
out his own eyeballs.

Sure, it would be great if we had more content.... but we do!  We
spent a lot of time making more spells, more quests and more areas.
He only gets to experience 1/16th of those class-restricted stuff,
and 1/8th of the race restricted stuff.  Just by way of comparison,
they get to play all of Baldur's Gate of it, and miss hardly any of
it, in just about 120 hours (more or less) In an MMP, a player can
play 500-1000+ hours, and yet SCS suggests they should limit
themselves to a fraction of the design.

Well, now our guy's got a nasty choice.  He can either sacrifice all
of the friendships that he's made, or he can destroy the weeks of
work it took him to get that first character to level 16.

Given that friends and achievement are possibly the strongest
retention factor in a game, this is a nasty, unfair choice to offer.

Most hardcore gamers will buy second accounts (we had SCS on
Meridian 59, so I feel pretty confident of this).  I've heard it
said that SCS prevents griefing.  Wrong.  It's now harder to prevent
griefing, because players now have second accounts which they have
very little emotional investment in, and which are difficult and
time-consuming to trace back to their primary "I've spent 500 hours
on this character" character.  Who cares if my second account gets
banned?  I'll just plunk down $20 bucks for a new box, and I'm right
back in with a mule.

And muling doesn't go away.  It simply is a problem that is
transferred to those who have money (i.e.  the hardcore), creating a
huge advantage they have over casual gamers (beyond the skill, stuff
and advancement they already have).  Oh, and it's harder to trace
and stop now, too.

This is not to say that MCS is flawless.  All of the problems that
Raph brought up in his post were very clear.  On UO2, I was
advocating that we have Three Characters per Service (you could have
three characters, TOTAL, on any servers you wanted), and that we
offer a nominal monthly fee for players to add additional
characters.  While having problems in its own right, it certainly
seemed to handle many of the problems that both MCS and SCS have:
players could experiment, but characters were linked by account, and
(most importantly in our mind) every character slot a player had was
valuable (even SCS allows you to create junk grief players on
servers you don't care about).  In my mind, making character slots
have value seemed to be the important end goal.

(By the way, players who have multiple characters are not limited to
lone wolves and powergamers.  The majority of UO and EQ players have
second characters of reasonable levels - and usually third and
fourth as well).


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