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

Kwon J. Ekstrom justice at softhome.net
Wed Apr 9 18:09:01 New Zealand Standard Time 2003

I've been meaning to reply to this for the last couple of days, but
have been too busy.  So here goes.

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.

I have to agree with you that there is more diversity in P&P games
than there are in ANY MU* and perhaps even the entire genre.

Where I happen to disagree is your position that this is because of
any failing from the developer community.  Sure more things can be
done but P&P games have several advantages in this respect.  First
off, they require a human to host each game session.  This is also a
liability in that a human must be available to run the session.
Humans are intellectually superior to computers.  They learn, adapt,
and interpret situations.  A computer is a rigid host, only able to
perform tasks given to it in strict order.

P&P games are an older and more mature market.  Based on fiction and
history, they have a wealth of information.  The market is
different.  For an MU* your job is to entertain the "user", and for
the P&P market, you're selling resources to allow the "user" to
entertain themselves.  P&P also has the advantage of content by
edict.  Once something is said to exist, it does, and is available.

Third party resources (such as magazines) often contain small
adventures and even new "content" and is often contributed by end
users themselves.  (If you flip through alot of D&D material you'll
notice credit to such things).

Put simply, there is simply no way to compete on the level of
content generation.  P&P games make their money by selling
resources, such as campaigns, sourcebooks, and various other
content.  The content is the money maker, and at literally no
maintenance cost.  Sure, spelling and grammar updates, perhaps the
rare modification of a rule or statistic.  Each individual DM is
allowed to "interpret" the rules as they see them.  Or to even
impose new rules, or ignore existing rules.

To run a MU* you must do several things in addition to this...
Maintain enough bandwidth and server resources... Stable server code
(someone call a doctor!!! our dm just crashed).

After deciding you want to add something new, you must check if you
have the existing abilities for it (hrmm, I want a flaming sword
but...).  For a graphical game you need to have someone draw a
picture...  The list goes on and on.

I would like to ask... in the last 20 years how many man hours would
you say that official staff have put into generating new "user
accessible" content for P&P games?  For just AD&D alone?  Including
editing time?  I'd say it's a bit harsh to expect MU*'s to equal
that level of content in half the time.  I'd say that MU's have come
a long way since the genre was created.

Now there are several things that MU's can do about this.  The 3d
models you mentioned are necessary for computers to react in a
meaningful manor to situations.  You can chain small affects
together to create diverse end results.  AI is starting to allow
more engaging NPC encounters.  Most importantly, MU's need to
develop better development tools.  What I've been working on for my
own is making it extremely easy to create generic content, then
allowing the builder to add the "interesting" custom stuff on top.
This seems to have many benefits including less builder wearout
(they're working on "new" and exciting things), less testing (most
of the stuff has been tested already), and quicker turnaround (less
work from start to finish).  There's also issues with making things
scale to the "massively multiplayer" games.  Remember, at one point
computer graphics were limited to lines and circles (remember the
movie Tron?), compare that to modern computer graphics (LOTR?).

-- Kwon J. Ekstrom

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