[MUD-Dev] MMORPG, buildings, is it bad to be just props?

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Wed Feb 19 09:24:24 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

Damion Schubert writes:
> From: John Buehler

>> That's all well stated, and I can imagine that this line of
>> thinking can carry into discussion of our favorite evils in
>> current games.  The fakery employed by game developers most irks
>> me because it contributes to the player mindset that the game is
>> a very artificial construction.  It's so artificial, in fact,
>> that players don't think of it as a world, but as a collection of
>> rules to follow and hoops to jump through in order to achieve the
>> game's end.  A kind of graphical version of the board game
>> "Life".  Suspension of disbelief is really right out the window.
>> Only the diehard roleplayer who really wants it to be an
>> immersive environment is going to go through all the emotional
>> and mental effort to say that Freeport in EverQuest really is a
>> rough and tumble town.  To other players, it's a maze with quest
>> NPCs.  Rules and hoops.

> This goes back to that realism vs. immersion thing.  In a real
> world, the world is full of buildings you will never need to
> enter, people who you will never need to interact with, and if you
> did, they'd all have something interesting to say.

Yet I'm pursuing neither realism nor immersion per se.  I'm after
content that simply is what it advertises itself to be.  Or, said
another way, have the developers acknowledge that what they're
providing is not a conversation with a character in a fictional
world, but simply a button press on an automatic teller machine.
Have the presentation match the functionality, and the functionality
match the presentation.

I think that this would knock current graphical games down to a
pretty basic presentation, to match their basic functionality.
Imagine making each monster into a translucent sphere that envelopes
some objects.  Your sphere bumps into the other sphere until it
disgorges its contents, then you move your sphere (character) over
the contents and they enter your sphere.  The color of a sphere
reflects how thick its skin is, relative to your own (taken from the
'consider' technique).  So if I see a bunch of red spheres, I know
to run away.

This is an interaction that reflects what's actually happening in
current games.  I think that if the games were graphically reduced
to that degree, then players who actually chose to play the games
would be quite happy with what they were doing because there would
be no false expectations.  The actual operation of the game is what
we see.  All monsters are the same, so we only see spheres.
Monsters contain valuables, so we see that too.  And so on.

> So I guess my take is: by all means, make a fully interactable
> town, but keep player traffic patterns in mind when you lay out
> the thing, with a real eye for what players truly value.

As far as cities are concerned, game designers should just drop them
until they make the actual participation of city activities part of
the entertainment of the game.  City politics, city growth and
maintenance, city economics, and so on.  It seems that Achaea has
this in its subgame of city politics.  That gives people a reason to
think of a city as a city.  So when game developers put something
into a game, make sure that it has the essential entertainment of
what it claims to be.  When my character has a sword, that sword had
better behave like a sword.  If it's actually decoration, give my
character some kind of decoration and not a sword.

Again, this isn't a point of realism.  It's a point of matching
presentation with functionality.  Of matching expectation with
delivery.  Make rules look like rules and hoops look like hoops so
that players can play the game that's really there and not get
sucked into thinking that they're playing some other game.


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