[MUD-Dev] Protecting the Player's Suspension of Disbelief

Sasha Hart hart.s at attbi.com
Tue Feb 11 02:34:50 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

[Ron Gabbard]

> Where do you draw the line between increasing the
> convenience/playability of the game and protecting the player's
> suspension of disbelief (SoD) with regards to the immersive game
> world and/or storyline you're trying to create?

This doesn't make it The Right Opinion, but I think most people are
going to tell you that SoD doesn't mean much if you are being driven
nuts by your character's stupid pleas to go to the bathroom every
couple hours :)

Put it another way: every feature intended to enhance suspension of
belief is not equally effective. Conversely, not every apparent
departure from realism is equally effective at breaking suspension
of disbelief. Some things people don't even think about. Some things
people think about for a moment and realize the wisdom of it,
especially if they have engaged with the game as a game and not
purely as an ersatz world.

That all seems stupidly obvious. To actually make a guess about
which details are more important and which are less, I think I might
draw a comparison with theories - if the theory is silent about
something really crucial to what it is intended to do, or if it says
something really outlandish, it won't fly. But if it leaves out
detail, simplifies some, employs 'all else being equal' clauses,
etc. then people often buy it as essentially a true theory, plus or
minus a few details. Maybe it works something like that (FWIW).

> MMORPGs already ask for a high suspension of disbelief in that the
> player is asked to accept the existence of worlds, magic/science,
> races of creatures that most frequently don't exist in the "real
> world".  If the player elects not to suspend their disbelief (or
> that disbelief is stressed to the point of breaking), the player
> can still enjoy the game within the context of trying to beat the
> code, outperforming their peers in some competitive sense, or just
> enjoying the chat room experience with nice eye candy.

I very much agree.

> "Personal dungeons with common entrances" allow individual and
> groups of PCs to consume temporary content that was generated just
> for them (as in the case of AO missions).  This guarantees that
> the PCs travelling to the content will have the ability to consume
> the content without having to compete with other PCs.  However,
> there are also many situations where multiple players/groups are
> standing at/entering the same door while each is zoning into their
> own world.

This has never seemed entirely satisfactory to me. It is a good
illustration, though, because I have the intuition that there is
some relatively firm reason why this is unsatisfactory and not
insisting on going to the bathroom is not. Grasping at straws, it
seems to me that the violation of spatiality, the total departure
from what a person raised here and not in limbo would naturally
expect, is much more salient than the lack of inclusion of details
that are often omitted in other media, like other people's
narratives, movies, books, etc. It just seems as if I can hear 'John
loves Mary' and feel OK if I don't know anything about the contents
of John's bowels, but hearing 'John loves Mary but his name isn't
John except when he hates Mary' at least gives me pause.

> However, this stresses the player's SoD in that they have to
> assume that they are infinitely strong (regardless of what their
> character sheet says) or that the carried items have absolutely no
> weight.

This definitely seems tolerable to me, given the usual premise of
earning stuff down in a dungeon. It seems to me that the more you do
something over and over in a game, the more smoothed the edges
(should) get. If it is just bar-pressing, I try to make it
convenient even if it is a central part of the game (especially, as
it gets done a lot). If it is a choice (and not a heavily repeated
choice with the same repercussions each time) then I don't smooth
the edges. As you say, it is definitely not a science - you are
skating between giving the player nothing substantive to do, and
giving them lots of boring bar-pressing to do.

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