[MUD-Dev] A new game paradigm (was: Star Wars Galaxies)

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Wed Feb 19 09:20:17 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Scott Miller - Intelligent Life Games" <up at intelgames.com>

> Being that I am new to this list I feel that I am talking out of
> my ass on this reply, but here it goes.

We've argued a lot on this issue, actually, and you appear to have a
good perspective on it.

> While I understand the need for a "progression" through a game, I
> do agree that "leveling" is not the way to do it.

Well, it's not quite the same as progression; progression is a much
bigger idea. I use "leveling" as a concise way of saying "character
progression".  There are lots of varieties of progression; there is,
as you mention, your equipment. There is your character's membership
in organisations or guilds, lists of quests completed, friendship of
other players, all sorts of things.  But there is almost always some
way that your *character* progresses in the game world, in the sense
that the character becomes inherently "better" than he was
before. If you took a character and put him all alone in a new
environment with no equipment and nobody playing him, whatever you
would use to determine how powerful that character was would be your
game's "level", and that's the feature with which I'm concerned.

What I've noticed is that we tend to build our game worlds with a
very wide range of power differential, and then cram spanning that
differential into a reasonable amount of time for the player. It's
like the 0 to 60 time in a car: a player should go from the starting
level to a level of moderate power in a certain amount of time, and
thence to a level of high power in another certain amount of
time. What causes the problem is not the idea that players need to
be classified in terms of low and high power, nor the idea that
players should cross the border at a certain point -- it's the huge
difference in power levels. In order to have something that
challenges the mid-level player, you almost *have* to build an
environment which is instantly deadly to the low-level player. The
same thing happens with high-level players.

This is where our own efficiency comes out and bites us. Since most
players will get into the mid-level areas and stay there, that's
where most of our content is built, because we simply can't afford
the time or the personnel to build enough content for all of our
players. This places the low-level and high-level characters into a
dilemma, where they don't have as many places to play. These
characters are then forced to engage themselves in tedious, boring
gameplay -- the low-level character can't succeed in the mid-level
area, and the high-level character can't find a challenge there.
They become bored and frustrated. Now the big problem occurs: bored
and frustrated players play other games, but they don't always leave
to play them. Some of those games take the form of harassing other
players or exploiting game weaknesses. In any case, if you're
running a commercial game, bored and frustrated players cost you
money. A lot of money. They may be the single biggest expense your
game will ever face.

When I look at this problem, I perceive the lack of
properly-targeted content as the root of the issue, and it seems to
me like content designed to be used by ALL players would not take
any more time or energy -- you would just need to know that this was
the case when designing the game, or at the very least have NO
assumptions ANYWHERE that an area is restricted to a certain skill

So why aren't we building content designed for everyone, and letting
the environment define itself? Instead of making a static
playground, we could conceivably build a world which responds to
player activity within defined parameters -- then tweak the
parameters if the resulting world isn't quite right.

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