[MUD-Dev] A Founding Father Forgotten

David Kennerly kennerly at sfsu.edu
Mon Apr 7 02:56:53 New Zealand Standard Time 2003


Paul Schwanz wrote:

> I'd sooner closely mimic what I imagine to be real regarding
> advancing or gaining power, recieving wounds, and wearing
> protective armor in a virtual fantasy world.

If making a virtual fantasy world is the only goal of the design, I
whole-heartedly agree.  A virtual fantasy world could have a lot
better inspirations than Dungeons & Dragons.

> OK, but why create a fantasy MMORPG that closely mimics levels,
> hit points, armor class, etc. in the first place?

If the goal also includes entertaining others in the short-term
future, here's some devil's advocacy, to make the decision to
experiment a more informed one.

Even if one assumes there is no design reason, there is a production
reason.  Using a well-tested system cuts at least a couple man-years
off the budget, which translates into over $100,000.  For example,
in Baldur's Gate I postmortem in an older Game Developer issue,
BioWare cited that using D&D hacked and slashed QA time.  They said
that despite all the dirty exceptions in D&D, as a whole system it
was already well-balanced.

If you count most players as playtesters, D&D 3rd edition has well
over a million man-hours of QA.  If you're going to make something
different, it might as well be something better.  In that case,
you've got to beat what a million man-hours of testing proved.  This
is a factor--albeit not a design factor--a production factor.

Back to building of a virtual fantasy world, I whole-heartedly
agree.  D&D is a poor model of a fantasy world.  However, D&D (where
one of the letters stands for a fantastic monster) isn't sold as a
simulation (even of a fantasy world), so I judge it's entertainment
suitability instead.

I don't think I want a virtual fantasy world.  Yesterday when
friends and I played D&D for ten hours I was happy when the DM
lightened up on the rules and play sped up.

On designing entertainment, there is a psychological fitness to some
of the elements, such as levels.  For example, levels appear in
hobby groups, corporations, military forces, governments, and
religions.  Humans, and perhaps other primates, level.

It's devil's advocacy.  I experiment often.  I break many rules, at
least in the lab.  Even if it is a good rule, I won't believe it
until I witness it broken.  And I don't consider any of D&D rules to
be THE rules.

I have less than whole-hearted support for Dungeons & Dragons.  It
is the Windows of RPGs.  It is dirty, ad hoc, viciously guarded, and
possesses the vast majority of the market share for dubious reasons.
During the 90s I avoided it.

I began to play 3rd edition out of respect for the property I
mentioned above, it's extremely well-tested and stable.  Despite
that some of the bricks are made of shit, the shack still stands.

D&D is not like Magic: The Gathering, which is an elegant emergent
system that is also damn fun.  The downside to Magic is the
requirement to have to continually buy new cards to compete; or be
such a master of economics as to always trade lesser value cards for
greater value cards.  When considering MagicTG, It's hard to believe
an argument that online games are a *source* of addiction.  Some
humans are sensitive to obsession; it may show up as a MagicTG
addiction, online game, or something completely unrelated to
entertainment.  There ought to be a requiem for that meme.

And a requiem for the meme that a market won't support
player-vs-player.  MagicTG is in a lot of ways PvP fantasy Nomic.
Magic: The Gathering has outsold D&D.

David


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