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

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Tue Feb 4 02:31:32 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Peter Harkins" <ph at malaprop.org>
> On Thu, Jan 23, 2003 at 02:42:52PM -0800, Caliban Tiresias Darklock wrote:

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

> The standard answer is: make some Really Cool foothills.

However, the standard answer misses the point. The issue isn't that
the current area has problems, it's that the player doesn't want to
be here. The player wants to be *there*. He can't be there for an
extended period of time -- weeks of normal play -- because the game
engine simply will not allow him to productively play there. Making
it better to play here is still not going to get the player there,
so the player is still not happy. At best, he is less unhappy, but
he will more likely be annoyed that you wasted your time improving
where he *is* instead of helping him get where he wants to *go*.

The big question, IMO, is: why does the player have to be here? Why
do we forbid *player* actions because of the way the *character*
appears to the game engine? A first level character looks like a
first level character, but a newbie and a veteran will do entirely
different things with them. This is, at its root, a roleplaying
aspect of the game; we want the character to seem as though it
evolves from a beginner to an expert. And that's a reasonable thing
to do, in a roleplaying context, but most of our games aren't really
designed to *be* a roleplaying context.

It's probably time we threw out the fiction that MUDs are intended
for roleplaying; once upon a time, that was true, but it's not true
anymore.  Certainly, you *can* roleplay on a MUD, and those who
enjoy doing so *should* roleplay. But the players who are generating
the lion's share of commercial game revenue don't really care about
this whole roleplay aspect, so the small vocal minority who *do*
care shouldn't be directing our designs.

More importantly, it's next to impossible to predict what
roleplayers are going to do, because they seem to take some sort of
perverse pleasure in being irrational. This is where the
stamp-collector's dilemma really comes into its own; not only do
roleplayers consistently present this dilemma, they will actually go
several leagues out of their way to find new opportunities to
present it, which makes it almost impossible to effectively support
a roleplay community. A dwarven cleric isn't interesting enough;
let's have a dwarven cleric who has taken a vow of silence and must
communicate via sign language while traveling the world and writing
the definitive encyclopedia on the proper ways to cook exotic
fungus, as well as anonymous treatises on fungal poisons which enjoy
quite a stellar reputation among high-grade assassins.

Interesting? Sure! Feregar lasted through several years of PNP play,
and there was never a dull moment... but while it's easy to satisfy
this in PNP by simply dotting your maps with fungus, it's a big pain
in the ass to try and code it into a MUD. Put fungus around the
caves, and someone will start whining about wanting moss in the
forests. Put moss in the forests, and someone will start whining
about not being able to milk the goats. Let people milk goats, and
someone will start whining about what he wants to do with the
sheep. It never ends, and you simply can't predict what the next
problem is going to be.

Roleplayers get much of their fun from surprising and delighting
their fellow players with interesting new ideas -- and in a PNP
group, that's a highly entertaining way to play, but on a MUD it's
just one administrative nightmare after another. MUDs are not PNP
games, and pretending they'll work the same way is probably going to
end badly. The conventional wisdom is that a PNP game can be
effectively run by one person with up to about a dozen players, and
after that point it really doesn't work all that well. Most referees
can handle parties of six to eight, and that's about it; roleplayers
are high-maintenance, and need a lot of validation and approval.
We're drama queens; whatever we have, it has to be important to the
world at large. That's a great deal of what attracts us to roleplay.

The question then becomes how much support roleplayers *should* get,
and the answer is: surprisingly little. Roleplayers are
resourceful. If the game doesn't really support roleplaying, we'll
still roleplay. It's our idea of fun, and we're willing to work VERY
hard to have it... just look at our dozens of rulebooks, hundreds of
dice, and character sheets that fill three-ring binders. If we need
a rule that isn't there, we'll make one up on the spot and fine-tune
it during play until it works. Even if you provide *no* avenues for
roleplay, we'll invent them, adjust them, and maintain them just
because we think it's fun. Look at the huge PA community for SWG,
and the game isn't even released yet. Some PAs already have ongoing
feuds and rivalries. Roleplayers simply can't be stopped; the best
advice is probably to just stay out of our way.

MUD-Dev mailing list
MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

More information about the MUD-Dev mailing list