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

Michael Tresca talien at toast.net
Thu Jan 16 08:46:19 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


Damion Schubert posted on Monday, January 13, 2003 3:20 PM

> However, that was not the point I was trying to make.  My point
> was this: players play these games a lot - in the hundreds to
> thousands of hours.  _Any_ game gets boring at that point.  When a
> player gets bored, he has an expectation (and a reasonable one, in
> my opinion), that if he's going to pay $50 dollars for the box,
> and $13 bucks per month (total: $206 per year), that he is
> entitled to more than 1/16th of the classes and 1/8th of the races
> (adjust numbers for your game of choice as appropriate).

I pay up to $10 for a movie which is approximately 2 hours of
entertainment, or $5/hour.  To have the equivalent entertainment, I
would have to see 41 movies in a year to equal the entertainment
value the game offered.  41!

I think people WOULD like to play other aspects of the game.  But
why must they retain the other character?  What's wrong with
starting over?

> At any rate, if you have spent 8 digits making a game, do you
> really want to bet that you have _completely solved_ the boredom
> problem that seems to hit all of the other games - to such a
> degree that you start stripping out playstyle paths from the
> player?

Heh.  Uh, I'd like to spend 8 digits making a quality game with
vision that has lasting entertainment value over a long period of
time for the majority of the population, not only the powergaming
playstyle.

> Great!  So now he's paying $412 per year!  That's great for us,
> but I suspect that most casual gamers will start to suspect that
> we're bleeding him for every cent we can milk out of him --
> because we are.  I also suspect that most casual gamers will
> choose not to, instead choosing to get bored and, eventually,
> wander elsewhere.

If I'm following you here, apparently one character's development
can't satisfy a player.  Why not?  Most characters aren't developed
enough to be believable -- provided the game has sufficient depth, a
player could develop a character tremendously in a year.  And yes,
for $412 even. Why does having multiple characters somehow equate to
"getting your money's worth"?

To repeat what I said before: when did MCS become a RIGHT?

> And that's you.  Other people (in fact, the majority of them)
> prefer to have a bit of variety in their life.  Most people don't
> want to even max out all their characters, they don't want to be
> the best at everything.  They're quite happy to get good at one
> thing and play around with the others.  They are not happy,
> however, when they are forced to delete all of their hard work or
> leave all of their friends behind to do so.

Games can accommodate this level of exploration -- just not to 100%.
You can develop your skills (just like I develop hobbies) that are
not part of your profession. But it is not the same as becoming a
whole other person.

The development of self, of a virtual body, of a consistent portrait
of another personality is built on a foundation of CONSISTENCY.
Multiple bodies, switching between characters, all degrade that
attachment to one character.  I have no problem with exploring other
levels of the game's character development -- I do have a problem
with having multiple characters. What's wrong with having one
character and just developing his skills so he's "sort of" a
merchant, but not 100% good at it as someone that plays that role
full time?  Why must a player be the absolute best at a role rather
than dabble in it (which again, mirrors real life)?

> I'm a huge advocate of not putting in permanent choices in the
> game if you can help it, and I've always been an advocate of skill
> atrophy of some sort in games.  However, I do not feel that this
> is sufficient to allow players to experiment with all factors of
> the game.  Permanent choices such as race cannot be undone.
> Frequently, changes must happen slowly (i.e. over weeks or months)
> for reasons of balance and supporting character identity).  Huge
> achievements (i.e. hard to reach skill boxes or quests) must be
> discarded, meaning you're still asking the player to throw away
> work.  All of their recognition as the best cook in the world must
> be tossed in the trash can if they decide they want to try
> fighting monsters.

> This is not something that is fun or attractive to the average
> player.

And I would submit that the average player, who works hard for a
year on certain achievements, is going to be severely pissed off
when Joe Powergamer beats him with one of his alternates and takes
those achievements away from him.  In order to compete with Joe
Powergamer, I *HAVE* to use multiple characters too.  The
competition increases, the game degrades, character development
suffers, and the powergaming style drives the other styles off.

> How does my ability to play a stormtrooper AND a cantina owner
> destroy the theme?  Playing a stormtrooper will be affected by the
> art, the sound effects, the nifty armor and the gameplay
> experience of shooting and missing rebel soldiers repeatedly.  I
> can't think of any way where saying "This is boring, I think I
> want to take another role in this huge, sprawling universe"
> removes the Star Warsness from the theme.  If anything, it offers
> a chance for you to be exposed to more of it.

It doesn't.  Play them in a way where they interact, where one guy
gives the other guy his equipment, where a stormtrooper barges in
after a cantina owner is killed for some contrived revenge (really
the player getting revenge) and THEN it destroys the theme.

> "Maximizing the best combination by testing out all the
> alternatives" is fun.  Powergaming is fun.  My girlfriend purports
> to hate power- gamers and their ilk, and yet she started 16
> different Morrowind characters to find the best one.  Those who
> don't percieve this activity as fun are psychologically disjointed
> from the market.  _This is how most people play games_.

Powergaming IS fun.  Trust me, that's how I beat Terminator: Dawn of
Fate.  >:) Powergaming is HARMFUL to other playing styles.  Given
enough time, I believe powergamers will not stay powergamers
forever.  Powergaming is not the only style.

And really -- psychologically disjoined?  Heh.  Years ago, the
primary reason people ate at McDonalds was for the speed of service,
not the quality of the food.  Wendy's came along and offered GOOD
TASTING food and went from the top 5 the #2 competitor.  The so
called "psychologically disjoined" populace always existed, the
market research just wasn't looking for them.

I do not believe that "lots of money must mean we're right" is a
valid business model.

> Experimentation is how players learn these games.  Lord knows that
> they don't read the websites and strategy guides, and even if they
> did, those would be out of date all the time anyway.  In a
> persistent state world, though, experimentation is much more
> costly since there are no save games or do overs.  With SCS, the
> concept of experimentation is crippled even beyond its normal
> state.

Not at all, with a sufficiently flexible character system (read, no
classes) it still offers the opportunity for character development.

> This entire paragraph reads like "Star Wars is too good for MCS.
> Why?  Because MCS is bad."  I'm saddened that you feel that games
> like EverQuest, Asheron's Call, and Ultima Online had 'no real
> vision as to what the game's about'.  Having personal friends on
> all of those teams, I can tell you that all of them had a very
> firm vision of what the game was about, even if those visions
> suffered from difficult implementations or the harsh lessons of
> the marketplace.

The harsh lesson of the marketplace: a game dominated by powergamers
alone degrades the game and drives off the casual gamer.

MCS *IS* bad.  I'm just reiterating the same argument over and over
so I'll do something different:

MCS -> degradation of character investment -> advantage to MCSers ->
forces other styles to go MCS to survive -> drives off other play
styles -> social networks degrade -> casual gamer stops logging in

> A vision is worthless unless it accommodates a player's desires
> and expectations.  The player's vision is in many ways more
> important than the developer's, and ironically, the players
> usually end up winning, too.

No argument from me on that.  Players are content.  But who gets to
determine the majority of that content?  Developers are not absolved
of that responsibility.

> Star Wars, other than its broad market appeal, is no more or less
> good an MMP universe than hundreds of other fictions that are
> available, and it certainly has unenviable problems that I'm sure
> the team is regrets (the loudest being the 'jedi' problem).  > As
> for the design, there's no doubt that the design is good.  Not
> only is what is available on the sites good, but I know most of
> the design team, and have immense faith in them. I find it sad
> that most people will only really get to play a fraction of the
> design.  I also find it sad that many people will be so
> discouraged to try new things that they will never truly find
> their best place in the universe.

I haven't flown to South America.  I learn about South America from
folks I work with who live there.  They tell me all about it.  When
we have a task detailing South American culture, that person's
knowledge is critical in getting it done.  If I knew everything
about South America, I don't need that person on my team.

If I know everything, if I can be EVERYBODY, I don't need anybody
else.  Why am I playing on a MMORPG, then?

Single-player games are quite accommodating to MCS.  MMORPGs require
networks and people.  If I can BE everybody, I don't need anybody.
I can certainly explore content I never PERSONALLY witness by
learning from other people about it.  Again, this is what people do
in real life every day.  Nothing sad about it -- indeed, it
increases the value of other people on the game.

> At any rate, I'd argue that the more well-fleshed out the various
> career paths are, the more necessary it is that those career paths
> are playable by everyone.  Sure, if the difference between a
> barbarian and a fighter is that barbarians get a neat-o loincloth
> bonus, it's no skin off my back if I can't play both.  But if the
> gameplay experience of both Jedis and Cantina Owners is
> exhilerating, I'm going to be annoyed to discover that I can't try
> the other one without sacrificing hundreds of hours of work or my
> friendship net.

We'd all like to be rich, popular, brilliant, strong, healthy, and
wise.  An entire society built upon uberhumans is unlikely -- we
band together precisely because of our flaws.

> Causing people emotional distress is not something that builds
> character.  What it builds is frustration towards those who
> provide the service, which snowballs into enmity.  Let's look at
> this again.

>   - Player plays character for 500 hours.

>   - Player gets bored, because anything gets boring after that
>   period of time.

BZZT.  Says who?  We have players on RetroMUD who have been on for
nearly 10 years.

>   - Player decides he wants to try something new.

>   - Player realizes he either has to leave his friends behind, or
>   he has to destroy 500 hours of work.

And why do people "leave their friends behind"?  Why can't your
"friends" play with you on the other server as other characters?

>   - Player chooses one of the above, severing one of the major
>   things retaining him in the game (friendship set or character).
>   (OR player chooses neither, and gets even more bored).

>   - Player gains bad feelings towards how he is being fleeced by
>   those running the game.

And where does this jump come from?  Being fleeced?  Based on what
evidence?  That the game doesn't have the same generic free-for-all
style that other games have?

>   - The next time something bad happens to the player (bug, CS
>   incident, even an emotional death), player has less retaining
>   him into the game, and has enmity towards the service provider.

> This isn't building character, nor is it in any way a positive
> experience for either the player or the service.  And as of yet, I
> haven't seen any arguments against MCS that aren't fixable along
> some other design avenue.

> The reason people play games is so they can do things they can't
> do in real life.  This isn't a character flaw, this is a part of
> human nature.

Human nature is to HAVE flaws.  The proposition that everyone should
be able to be the best at everything all the time may be appealing
on a selfish scale, but it does not build a viable interactive
universe.  We'd all like to have no flaws whatsoever -- but that
doesn't mean it's fun in the long term to be absolutely perfect.
This isn't "one man saves Metropolis" -- it's a MMORPG, with other
people.

> A huge percentage of the people playing these games are not
> adolescent, and a huge percentage of these people like playing
> second characters.

I'd like to see the numbers on this.

> In a MCS system, a player's second character is on the same
> account as the player's primary character.  When the player
> decides to cause mischief with his secondary character, a GM looks
> up the secondary character and bans the account, thus banning the
> primary character as well.  End result: players are more likely to
> 'be good' with their secondary characters, as it carries the
> emotional attachments that the primary character does.

This exact situation can be applied to a player with just one
character.  When the player decides to cause mischief with his
primary character, a GM bans the account.  End result: players are
more likely to 'be good.'

All I'm seeing is you added an extra step "looks up the secondary
character" and requiring staff involvement.

> Anonymity encourages griefing.  No argument there.  SCS characters
> are vastly more anonymous than linked characters on an MCS
> account.

Anonymity of self depends on your ability to be tied to a particular
"face."  MCS is multiple faces and thus creates anonymity.  If one
face dies, I have others to hide behind.  If I am solely represented
by one character, I have a much more powerful emotional and social
investment in that character.  If I grief, it reflects on that one
character -- the single, precious character.  With MCS, I have
multiple characters, have less investment in each, and chances are
use them only for certain situations or to explore certain roles, so
I don't mind as much if they die, if they go broke, etc.

Michael "Talien" Tresca
RetroMUD Administrator
http://www.retromud.org
telnet://retromud.org 3000


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