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

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Tue Jan 14 18:08:23 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Michael Tresca" <talien at toast.net>
> Damion Schubert posted on Friday, January 10, 2003 1:46 AM

>> 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.

> Sounds like a game flaw to me.  Strong argument to fix the game,
> not so strong argument against SCS.

I don't think you can make any valid arguments for or against MCS on
a per-character level. I think MCS can be an effective crutch when
your character concept is too limited, turning a game that sucks
into a game that's tolerable, but the problem is still in the
limited character concept.  Multiplying the number of boring
characters you can have doesn't actually make them less boring, it
just takes up more of your time while you learn that they're ALL

By then, you've got so much time invested in learning this stupid
system full of boring characters, you just don't want to admit you
wasted it. Now you feel FORCED to have fun in this system, so you
start inventing ways that you could make it fun. Some of them are
fun for you, but really piss off all the other players... which, in
its own way, is even more fun than something benign and
isolated. After all, you're undoubtedly harboring a certain amount
of dissatisfaction over spending so much time and money on a boring
game, and since you can't go take revenge on the devs directly you
may as well take revenge on their fan club.

>> 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.

> And he still has that option by buying another account.

That's not really a fair response. I pay money to play a game
because I want to have fun. If your game eventually dumps a big
steaming load of "no fun" in my lap, I shouldn't have to buy another
account. I should be able to say "hey, this is no fun" and have some
sort of recourse. Starting over isn't an acceptable recourse if the
design essentially guarantees that no matter what kind of character
I create, you'll drop another big load of "no fun" on it.  In fact,
if your game design drops that load on more than a miniscule
fraction of characters, the design is utterly hosed and would be
better off in the garbage.

There is probably a certain amount of fear that since the company
makes more money because you buy new accounts when you don't like
your game experience, the company will actively attempt to degrade
that game experience.  Realistically, though, degrading the
experience doesn't make people buy new accounts... it makes them
play other games.

> As a player, you make choices in your character's creation that
> limit his ability to experience the entire universe.  Just like
> real life.  These choices require us to deal with the
> consequences.

The one thing I hate more than anything else in a game is looking
back and saying "that was a dumb idea" later in gameplay, and having
no way to change it.

For example, I could buy a skill like "dark vision" to make things
easier while I was crawling around dungeons. Eventually, I might
discover that there are no dungeons that provide enough of a
challenge for characters above level 12, and I'd have to start doing
all my adventuring outside instead. If "dark vision" gives you
severe combat penalties in the light, it now becomes a liability.

What are the options at this point? Ideally, I'd like to get the
points back so I can use them on something else, but chances are I
can't have all the points back. If I can get some of them back,
fine, I'll take them, but chances are I can't do that either. So I'd
like to turn off the skill and not use it, but have the option to
turn it back on later. Failing that, I'll grudgingly accept that I
have to just throw out the skill and make a mental note not to buy
it again. If you want to be a real bastard and make me buy a
counter-skill that gradually attenuates and eventually removes the
limitation, I'll grumble about it, but I'll probably do it.

But what you actually get in today's games is -- nothing! I either
live with what I've got, or I throw out everything. That just plain
sucks, because I worked hard to earn what I've got. If you expect me
to throw it all out because I made one bad decision, am I going to
work hard next time? Hell, no. I'm going to take a lot fewer
risks. I'm going to lie, cheat, and steal to avoid making bad
decisions. If it's fair for you to dump a big steaming load of "no
fun" all over my character, then it's fair for me to dump a big
steaming load of "no fun" all over everyone else's characters,
right? After all, I *paid* you, but nobody's paying me.

> Generally, what I've seen of the MCS complaint that they "can't
> explore character creation content" is actually, "I can't maximize
> the best combination by testing out all the alternatives."  People
> don't want to make commitments because they're used to
> free-for-all games with no real vision as to what the game's
> about.

I think it's more that people simply can't imagine a character
development system with enough richness and depth to make one
character enough -- unless that system is either hopelessly
complicated and difficult to learn, or so bug-ridden that the entire
game goes straight down the toilet. This is pretty much all we've
seen so far: shallow, complicated, or broken. Until we see something
that actually manages to have depth, usability, and stability, I
think the community will resist the idea on principle.

> SCS psychologically discourages griefing because it means there is
> more investment in a character.  Less anonymity.  Anonymity
> encourages griefing. See my thesis for more details.

How does SCS decrease anonymity? On an SCS system, I *have* to
create my next character on a new server where nobody knows
me. Doesn't that make each character MORE anonymous?

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