[MUD-Dev] D&D vs. MMORPG "complexity"

Edward Glowacki glowack2 at msu.edu
Wed Apr 9 10:00:13 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

On Mon, 2003-04-07 at 18:10, Ryan S. Dancey wrote:

> In fact, having played most of the current MMORPG offerings, I'm
> tempted to say that the MUD-Dev community has a long, long way to
> go before the complexity of the games offered on-line begins to
> match up to the complexity of most popular tabletop RPG systems.
> Sure, those systems usually don't bother with a real-world
> physical model, and while I have an understanding of the coding
> complexities required to achieve those effects I consider them at
> best windowdressing on top of what amount to very, very simple
> games.

I think the whole difference between D&D and a MMORPG boils down to
one thing: Having a GM vs. not having a GM.  Most of the technical
issues are of lesser importance to creating a "depth of
experience"[1], so long as the basic game platform allows for a
reasonable range of flexibility.

Take for example some of the more "advanced" spells you mentioned,
like the ability to "research the future".  With a GM, you can
research the future and see "Your character is going to be killed
tomorrow by a big orc."  The DM can then make that event happen as
predicted, regardless of the "rules" of the game, e.g. "You slip on
a rock and fall onto the orc's sword."  Without a GM interactively
controlling those types of events, and improvising stuff on the
spot, your obviously going to have a less "complex"[1] game.

The obvious cause of MMORPG's not having a GM/player ratio similar
to D&D sessions is cost.  D&D sessions are very cheap to play, as
once you buy the books, the GM can design his own campaigns and you
play the whole thing with pen and paper which is very cheap.  A
MMORPG on the other hand is very expensive to operate, requiring
technical support, artists and musicians and animators and
programmers etc. just to support the basic game functions (i.e. the
pen and paper part).  In addition, to get a comparable GM/player
ratio to that of D&D (say one GM per 4-5 players on average), a
100,000 active connection MMORPG would require 20,000-25,000 GM's!!
Assuming a fully trained GM (of sufficient quality to provide
commercial grade service) makes only $10/hour (including all
benefits and overhead costs for the GM, NOT including costs for the
game environment itself), that splits to $2-$2.50/hour per player
just to pay the DM's.  That alone is going to limit their
mass-market appeal.

[1] "depth of experience" and "complex" in quotes because as Matt
Mihaly said in another reply, MMORPG's can do much better than small
group D&D games in terms of political and social complexity.


Edward Glowacki <glowack2 at msu.edu>

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