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

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Thu Jan 23 14:42:52 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Damion Schubert" <damion at zenofdesign.com>
> From: Caliban Tiresias Darklock

>> 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 boring.

> An overall agreeable point, the only part I'd disagree with is
> that even the gameplay for Civilization and Tetris gets boring
> when you play it enough.

Exactly. Even when you can start the game over and over as much as
you like, when the game becomes boring, starting over simply isn't
fun any more. I would argue that it's MORE fun if you do it less
often, and if the gameplay experience is distinctly different each
time, but everything wears thin.

One of the harder questions I think we need to answer here is how to
make the game equally fun for all types of players at all levels of
character development. Most games allow you to reach a point where
they're not fun just because there's nothing left to do, and at that
point you get faced with this annoying choice between sitting around
with your high-powered character that can't do anything fun because
it's not there, or starting over with a low-powered character that
can't do anything fun because there's a long stretch of tedious work
between the starting point and the fun point.  Either way, the
player can't do anything fun, and the game is failing that player.

>> 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.

> To be fair, Asheron's Call 2 and Ultima Online both have atrophy
> systems, and in both cases, the atrophy is by player choice only.

I haven't played either of these, so I'm pretty ignorant of their
features.  How do these atrophy systems work? I did a few web
searches, but it doesn't seem like anyone has written much about it.

> The player's dilemma comes, though, from the fact that once you've
> actually gone through the gruelling task of Grandmastering
> Tailoring in Ultima Online, atrophying it is not an option.

Another annoying aspect of modern games: trading time for
advancement. If I pay for the right to advance a character, I don't
like being told that the character can't advance in this area until
he advances in this other area, and I also don't like being told
that he can't advance unless he trades a certain amount of time for
the advancement. That seems very much like you're trying to stop me
from getting too good too quickly, probably because you want to
force me into something you think I ought to be doing. I'm not
really in control of my character if you do that; certainly, there
are things that should be in place to protect the experience of the
other players, but I fail to see how it protects the experience of
other players to stomp on my advancement.

I'm going to manufacture a hypothetical game's requirements as an
illustration here. "Castle World" (CW) is a medieval fantasy online
game with a skill-based character system. You earn points every time
you go up a level, and can then spend those points on skills which
have levels from 0 (no skill) to 10 (mastery). Going up a level is
the usual D&D-derivative experience system, and experience is gained
in the usual D&D-derivative "go kill things" manner. It is expected
that 4 to 6 hours of gameplay are needed to achieve the next level.

The world of CW is divided up into invisible zones, just like
Diku-based systems, where you "ought" to be in a specific range of
levels to go there... but nobody will stop you if you decide to go
there with a character outside the recommended range. If you
adventure in higher-level areas than recommended, you earn levels
faster; if you adventure in lower-level areas, you earn them
slower. Pretty standard setup.

Some zones are located in areas where you must have a specific skill
or set of skills to get there -- at the top of a mountain, for
example, where you must have some skill or item that allows you to
climb or fly up the side of the mountain. For some arbitrary reason,
be it character class or level restrictions or what have you, we'll
conveniently say that items and skills which allow you to fly are
less available than the mountain climbing solution.

Now, if this area at the top of the mountain is Really Cool, and
everyone says it's a great place to hang out and do stuff, I come on
the game to play this Really Cool area and start a new character. If
a character level of 15 is recommended for adventuring in the
mountain area, I'm expected to invest 60 to 90 hours of gameplay to
play productively in that area.

Why? How does it make the game experience better for me if I have to
play for 60 hours before I can go where I want? Doesn't this mean
that I have to spend 60 hours playing where I don't want to play
with people who don't interest me? How exactly does this make the
game better for anyone else?  Don't they now have to deal with a
frustrated and annoyed player who's trying to get to the Really Cool
part by playing things that, in his opinion, suck?

It might be worth considering whether pay-for-skill systems might
work. If we assume up front that a player will play for an average
of two hours a day, then we can conclude that he will play for
approximately sixty hours a month and earn ten to fifteen
levels. Taking the lower figure, why not allow players to hand you a
month's subscription fee in return for ten levels?  Many players
have more money than time, and would be more likely to pay an
additional one-time fee than to play for a month while they feel
unable to accomplish anything. That way, you don't force people to
play "the hard way" when they don't want to, but you also don't
prevent people from playing that way when they like the challenge.

I'd like to hear other people's thoughts and ideas on how the
lowlevelitis problem could be productively solved without alienating
too many people.

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