[MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev Digest, Vol 4, Issue 30

Rayzam rayzam at travellingbard.com
Wed Oct 1 21:05:34 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "Chanur Silvarian" <chanur at guildsite.com>
> "Rayzam" <rayzam at travellingbard.com> wrote:

>> For example, when you read a book, you're immersed in it. Yet it
>> has chapter and page numbers. So at any point, you can see how
>> much you've advanced (page #). You can see what general level
>> you're at (chapter). These don't take away from immersion just by
>> their existence.

>> In a mud, exp and player stats are metagame numbers. They measure
>> advancement and progression.

> This particular analogy falls flat because the author does not
> (generally) number the pages.  Two different copies of "The
> Hobbit" published on two different sizes of paper or in two
> different size fonts would not match up in page numbering.  >
> Well, take an analogy for what its worth: the spirit behind it,
> not the specific mechanics. However, that said, the author does
> determine how much goes into a chapter. And how much goes into a
> scene in it. How much description and words are necessary to get
> the point across.  But if you want to push the fact that the
> author doesn't number the pages, the author and the developer are
> similar, the reader and the player are similar. The developer
> measures the chapter. The players determine how much killing they
> need to get there, by a variety of factors. 2 different level 20
> players killed different numbers of different creatures to get
> there, but they're both level 20 now [both 'The Hobbit'].

> The complete removal of chapters and pages from a book would not
> reduce enjoyment of the book because the chapter numbers and page
> numbers have no impact whatsoever on the story being told.
> Conversly the level and experience numbers have a very direct
> impact on the gameplay of these types of games.  Complete removal
> of experience, level, attributes, etc. would change the basic
> mechanics of the game, a game without levels is very different
> from one with levels (level vs. skill systems).

Chapters are defining constructs of the book and the story it tells.
Removing chapter numbers doesn't remove chapters. Removing level
numbers, but still having all the benefits/actions of levelling
occur at those times wouldn't remove levels.

To push these analogies, I expect a skill-based system is like a
choose-your-own-adventure book. In that case, yep, page numbers and
chapter numbers are meaningless.

But I digress! I mean, what's the point here? My original thesis was
that there are 2 types of numbers: In-game numbers and Metagame
numbers.  Specific analogy aside, I still defined what I meant by
those in terms of a game. I don't see any disagreement of those
points, just the analogy here.  Do you find fault with In-game vs
Meta-game numbers and which need to be presented as description and
which as numericals?

> Hiding the level/exp numbers from the player does not change the
> underlying mechanics, but changes the "focus" of the game.  I
> still don't agree that a player needs to know what level their
> character is or how much experience is necessary for the next
> level.  I believe that this information only contributes to
> experience grinding and does nothing to improve the quality of
> play.  Think of it this way... if you progressed in an MMO by
> reading (as you do in a book) then people would read as fast as
> they could to move through pages and chapters without ever
> enjoying the story of the book.  If, however, progression metrics
> were removed from the player's view then it will change focus on
> enjoying the game rather than grinding out as much experience as
> possible.  Some will still grind experience, of course, but when
> it is removed as the central focus those who do not enjoy that
> play style won't feel forced into it.

I agree with the fact that reading a book as fast as possible to get
it done would detract from the fun for me. However, we do call
levelling, a treadmill. That description has a basis in fact. If the
games were as fun as books outside of advancement, then what you
said is right, some will still grind, but again, as you point out,
many won't because it's not the central focus. The problem is that
in most of our current worlds, it is a central focus.

> I can just imagine if Tolkein had written according to the idea
> that putting meta information into the "world" was okay... "No,
> Frodo, I cannot take the ring!  Only hobbits with their +35 magic
> resistance are able to withstand its effects." or how about
> "... and they awoke in the house of Tom Bombadillo, the level 63
> naturalist."  Even as a footnote at the bottom of the page this
> type of information would have detracted from, rather than
> enhanced, the book.

Right, because as a reader, that's not your advancement. Hundreds of
people level a day in games that you don't care about, and being
told everytime it happened, or everytime someone got a new piece of
phat loot, would detract from your experience in the game.

And again, reading the book doesn't have advancement of the
characters [i.e. not advancement of the reader] as a central focus,
so it's a different issue.

> The meta information does not belong in the world whether the
> world is a book or a game.

I'm not speaking in an absolute, I'm speaking in my opinion, and
from an empirical point of view. The games that are currently
successes, owe part of that success to the ability to see
advancement on a treadmill. And that ability is based on giving them
access to the meta-game numbers. If you went back in time and
removed all those numbers, I'm basically predicting that we would
still only have small niche commercial games, instead of UO, EQ,
SWG, etc...  So, spiritually you may feel it doesn't belong in the
game, but practically it's been an inherent part of the success [and

By providing a framework for metagame vs in-game numbers, I'm trying
to point out places were more of the numbers can be replaced by
descriptions.  This is to increase the immersion. There's a
continuum, and treatments like this can help determine where to set
the bar. That's how science works ;)

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