[MUD-Dev] Winnable MMO

Larry Dunlap larry at intelgames.com
Tue Apr 8 11:19:17 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

<EdNote: Attribution fixed>

John Buehler wrote:

> In any case, I advise against a single goal in a multiplayer game.
> In a traditional board game, you select your competition knowing
> that you will have an entertaining competition ahead of you.  In a
> massively multiplayer environment, you are competing against an
> unknown quantity.  You may be hopelessly outclassed.  And in an
> environment where time played is the final arbiter of success, not
> even your personal skill can make the difference.

Winning and losing are often very subjective concepts. In a campaign
game or a PBM game that takes a finitely persistent time to play,
many other concepts, personal to the player, surface as the game
progresses. A game that requires points, for instance, to win may
offer many other victory conditions that become apparent during
gameplay and not before.

In IWars, an Episodic Metagame, which can last to around four
months, we find that many players have lots of reasons to continue
play long after the winner has been decided. Reasons include,
wanting to see a friend or ally win, wanting to see an enemy lose
and helping to cause either of these events, victory conditions that
have been sublimated due to the close relationships of the players
established in the game. Wanting to see what is on the next world or
what a particular artifact does or a world blown up, some aspect not
yet seen before, the "tourist" effect. Actually, each person playing
finds his own reasons and victory conditions during the game. That
is not to say that everyone doesn't want to win, and some more than
others, but most accept, with a bittersweet realization that only
one player can win and learn an important life lesson - the process
is much more important then the goal, which illustrates what is to
me another very important aspect of games, learning. I find that the
most interesting and fun games have an aspect of gaining knowledge
of some kind. As humans are playful we are also naturally attuned to
learning unless horribly stunted in some way. The classically
successful games always provide an element of growth in some form or

Any game that defines winning narrowly is probably not much fun to
play.  Sports are fun to play because you can win, which is sublime,
but also because of the joy of competition. Losing creates a
challenge to do better and hone skills and there are moments of
winning all through a game; an athletic move or a great pass in
basketball or soccer, a terrific pass play in football, a great
passing shot or serve in tennis. Layered, or textured games supply
many moments to win in and while the ultimate goal of having the
highest score is a driver for playing, much more important is the
goal of feeling the time spent playing was worthwhile.

> More likely, I would think, is having an experience which contains
> many traditional style games which may or may not contribute to an
> overall plot progression.

JB. I particularly like this statement and would re-iterate that
games have been played for as there has been recorded
history. Whether by accident or plan the concepts of why people play
and enjoy games are available for us to learn from, from over many
thousands of years of game making. Standing on the shoulders of
giants should be second nature to an informed designer. We either
learn from them or we are forced to make the same mistakes over and
over again. Lasting games are not about eye-candy because technology
changes to fast and that leads to a "hit" business, a terrible
treadmill to begin and impossible one to maintain your balance
on. The amalgamation of game styles in patterns that reflect the
latest technologies will create lasting evergreen games that will
carry on for years.

In my opinion, much, if not all, of the interplay between humans was
lost at the beginning of the electronic age because of the solitary
nature of computer gaming. The Internet has provided us with a way
to recover the truly exciting part of games, the personal
communication between humans.  Most of our games are still savage as
a result of this since these games allowed us to "savage" an
electronic artificial intelligence in a game. Many people still
speak of "beating" a game. We are still re-discovering the fine line
of how to play together as humans, how to evoke our playful nature
without evoking our worst natures. Games that uncover or recover
that sense of community and playfulness can not fail to be
successful, as we humans will continue to come back to games that
let us endlessly discover ourselves over and over again in our
relationships with other humans.

The reality of the Internet is that it contains Information and
produces unique Communications. If we consider our games to be the
gathering of Information and to involve the embedded, successful
kinds of communication of this medium, we have the method of making
these kinds of games.

Larry Dunlap
The Galactic Effectuator
Intelligent Life games
makers of Imperial Wars

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