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

Dave Rickey mahrinskel at brokentoys.org
Wed Apr 30 13:26:41 New Zealand Standard Time 2003


From: "John Buehler" <johnbue at msn.com>
> Dave Rickey writes:

>> And why is it the focus?  Because the players insist on it.

> Dave, I think you're in the frame of mind where you've got a
> hammer and everything looks like a nail.  The players that think
> that leveling treadmills are entertaining are the ones insisting
> on it.  The players that you don't retain or who are fed up with
> treadmills certainly aren't insisting on it.  Treadmills are not
> some universal vehicle of entertainment.  They are just a first
> form of entertainment that has wide appeal.

Our current MMO games are descendants from a long evolution in the
MUD/MOO games.  Diku (treadmill based) was by far the most popular
MUD variant.  Far from being a happenstance "just good enough"
guess, it's a highly refined and adapted tool of significant
sophistication and with many specialized variants.  The problem *is*
a nail, and the treadmill is the hammer we have developed to use on
it.

What is "seniority" and yearly raises but the treadmill in the real
world?

>> Supply and demand assumes there *is* a supply, not just a stock.
>> There's a reason why art usually becomes Art only after the
>> creator is dead: As long as there is a supply (a living artist)
>> the value of existing items can be devalued by the creation of
>> more in the same style (and equally authentic).  Once he's dead,
>> that no longer exists.  But because there's no supply of
>> rarities, by definition "supply and demand" cannot apply to
>> rarity value.

> You have an interesting take on things.  To my mind, rarity is
> just a characteristic of supply.  Supply is not an issue of some
> pace of manufacturing.  It has to do with how much of a given
> thing is available at a given time.  Demand has to do with how
> much of that thing is desired at a given time.  For a consumable,
> a renewable supply is typically needed because of a renewing
> demand.  But art is not consumed.  It remains.  So the laws of
> supply and demand certainly apply to art.  There is a supply and a
> demand.  The supply is either fixed if the artist is dead, or
> growing because the artist is still creating items.

Technically, art is consumed just by the passage of time.  It can be
preserved, restored, conserved, but eventually it's going to be
gone.

But economics theory has *always* had a hard time with rarities,
never having come up with a really satisfactory explanation for why
a piece of canvas smeared with pigment can be worth the equivalent
of a century of skilled labor.

>> But why was it possible to be a supplier of goods to other
>> players?  Why were you able to create them (become Supply), and
>> why did they desire them (provide Demand)?  Because I assumed
>> that economic activities were the process by which Time converted
>> to Power?  Or was it pure chance, I threw random darts at the
>> board of potential economic structures and happened to come up
>> with a reasonably stable configuration?

> I said that I found entertainment in providing goods to players
> for reasons other than my own advacement in power.  I would still
> have found that same entertainment value if the rest of the game
> hadn't been predicated on a power & time structure.  You're
> assuming that power & time are the raison de etre for this genre
> and that no other basis of entertainment can support a multiplayer
> experience.  I don't make that assumption.  Ergo, employing
> another form of entertainment as the basis of demand would permit
> my entertainment to be derived from something other than a power &
> time structure.

You sidestepped my point: Why did the players desire these goods?
Because they represented *power*.  To them, you were the mechanism
by which their time (measured in currency) could be converted to
power.  From their point of view, it would have made very little
difference if they had purchased them from an NPC (not completely, I
hope that they themselves were more entertained by the process of
personal interaction through which they managed the conversion.  But
many of them argue the point).

Photosynthesis is the process by which carbon dioxide, water, and
sunlight is converted into unbound oxygen and hydrocarbons.  It
makes little difference to the system as a whole if the
photosynthesis occurs in a rose bush (aesthetically pleasing),
ragweed (a noxious weed), or algae (pond scum).  In fact, the vast
majority of the oxygen in the air we breathe comes from oceanic
algae.  But the fact that the core process is so simplistic and
uninspiring doesn't prevent the system as a whole from providing
fantastic variety and many aesthetically pleasing properties.

Camelot's economy is predicated on the notion that time is being
converted to power, yet it incorporates considerable complexity and
interdependancy.  Just as knowing that photosynthesis is a
comparatively simple chemical process doesn't reduce the aesthetics
of a grassy meadow or a red, red rose, knowing that an MMO economy
is the process of converting time into power does not reduce the
entertainment you (and hopefully your customers) derived from the
intermediate steps.

> Naturally, you have the benefit of being in the middle of a
> running, very successful game to support your assertions, while I
> have a brief, unseen design document to support mine.  And lots of
> opinions :)

Not in the middle of it anymore, but I do have the advantage of
being the first guy to build an MMO economy that *didn't* fall apart
and require emergency repair after the players got their teeth into
it.

>>> This just points out how game designers can be rather myopic in
>>> not seeing the potential for entertainment in their own games.
>>> If they see entertainment as an issue of time and power, they
>>> will miss enhancing the entertainment that their own players are
>>> seeking from the context that they've created.  Eventually that
>>> gets into the stamp collector problem, but I think that many
>>> games miss out on opportunities to provide entertainment to
>>> their player base that is vastly larger in scale than a niche
>>> like stamp collecting.  Crafting systems are always a
>>> disappointment to me because they remain focused on time, power
>>> and rarity in order to provide entertainment.  I don't believe
>>> that's what crafters find entertaining.  The currency of
>>> crafting is not being well-factored into the game economy.

>> Being entertained by economic activities requires that the
>> economy *work*.  If no one is buying, sellers cannot be
>> entertained through selling.  I believed very strongly that the
>> entertaining part of crafting systems is the interactions
>> surrounding the sale.  But sales of items requires that not
>> everyone be able to create those items.  Since I was directed to
>> create a system where advancement was controlled by creation of
>> items, I had to turn that process into a significant hurdle.

> I agree that supply must be limited.  Level treadmills are not the
> only means to accomplishing that.  They are simply the only proven
> way to do it.

It wasn't my first choice for the crafting system.  But in all
truth, I didn't have the time or resources to really pursue
exploring alternatives, and it was more important to me that the
system *work* than that it was new and different.

--Dave


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