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

Paul Schwanz pschwanz at comcast.net
Mon Mar 3 15:23:53 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


Damion Schubert wrote:
> 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.

Sorta.  On the other hand, the real world is not full of buildings I
*cannot* enter.  Buildings I don't need to enter and don't try to
enter will not affect my immersion, but buildings I try to enter and
cannot will certainly break my immersion *in addition to poorly
reflecting reality.* Here immersion is not pitted agains realism.
They are one and the same.

It is precisely the interactive nature of games that makes the use
of props problematic.  Consider "extras" in a movie.  They are
basically props used to make the movie world seem more alive and
more realistically populated.  But their usefulness to immersion is
predicated upon the certainty that no main character is ever going
to try to interact with them.  The moment main characters begin
addressing them and it is revealed that they have no prepared
dialogue with which to respond--that is the moment they begin doing
more harm to immersion than good.

It is good to note that immersion and reality are not the same
thing, but I believe that this discussion is concerned with
something that does damage to both and not with something that pits
one against the other.  In fact, your last thought, "if you did,
they'd all have something interesting to say," seems to suggest we
might be talking instead about immersion vs. content or immersion
vs. available development resources.

> 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.

With this, I full agree.

--Phin


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