[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Tue Nov 18 12:01:29 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

Marian Griffith writes:
> On Fri 14 Nov, John Buehler wrote:

>> The only real purpose of this post is to suggest to game
>> designers that they cease putting in game features that, while
>> 'realistic', do NOT add to the game's entertainment value.  In
>> truth, they oppose players finding entertainment because those
>> very features remove access to the game's entertainment.

>>   1. Don't remove or limit my ability to see the game world in an
>>   entertaining way.  A dark screen is NOT entertaining.  It only
>>   adds to eye strain.  A rainstorm isn't 'fun'.  It only impairs
>>   my ability to move around the game world to find the real
>>   entertainment in the game.

> I think you are wrong here, for several reasons.  First of all you
> seem to apply that your idea of fun applies to everybody, and also
> that your idea of fun matches the game.

Actually, I don't.  I'm saying that I don't find it entertaining to
have access to the things that I find entertaining taken away from
me.  Just as you don't.  If a game is predicated on neat graphics
and those graphics are turned off, it's taking away entertainment.
There are games that are PREDICATED on darkness and stealth.  In
those games, I EXPECT the graphics to be dark.  If they lighten up,
I'd be annoyed because I couldn't enjoy the entertainment that was
promised to me.  Similarly, if the game is predicated on socializing
and I can't reach my friends, it's taking away entertainment.  If
it's a single player game, I may not even want others intruding on
my fun.

> A lot depends, I think, on what a game is aiming at. If it is just
> a quick play with a couple of more or less random strangers, then
> you have a point.  On the other hand if the game aims at an
> immersive world it becomes much less valid. And if the game is
> aimed at roleplaying (acting) then these features you complain
> about become vital.

This is my point entirely.  I'm playing social games which are very
graphical.  Yet I can't get to those that I want to socialize with,
nor can I see the graphics half the time.  Why anyone would consider
this goodness is wildly beyond my understanding.

> Second there are many different reasons to play. "Consuming
> entertainment" is only one of them. You complain that darkness and
> rain restrict your ability to 'see' the game.  Others (myself
> included) might see those as exciting precisely *because* they can
> not see as far ahead and this adds an additional sense of
> danger. Suddenly staring at a dark, or spinning, screen gives an
> urgent "oh crap" feeling, just as being jumped at by more, or
> larger, enemies than you can handle right then.

But I don't run into people who think that way.  I do run into
people who just stop traveling when the game rainstorm starts,
because they're just gonna get lost.  They temporarily stop playing
the game.

You and Patrick Dughi both talk about challenge and danger.  I'm
sorry, but I don't find challenge or danger in my avatar getting
whacked out of the blue.  I just find it as an annoyance because now
I have to go through the mandatory recovery process to get back to
whatever entertainment I was pursuing.  So you can add random deaths
to my list of barriers.  To me, there's no entertainment in that.
Make a game that has that as a mainstream feature and it'll attract
people that are seeking that danger and challenge element.

Some players think that their entertainment is accessed at the whim
of the game because it is some kind of virtual world and that they
are subject to its structure.  I say that the game should be
providing entertainment more at the player's whim.  Does this mean
that I want some demi-god mode where I can do anything I want 'on a
whim'?  Absolutely not.  I want some sense of my character operating
in a fiction, or a context, that is entertaining.  But that doesn't
mean that in the middle of making something on a forge that I want
to have a bunch of orcs come along and kill my blacksmith.  That's
not consistent with the entertainment that a blacksmith would want.
It is depriving a player of entertainment that they are seeking.

>>   2. Don't remove my access to my character's abilities.  Let
>>   others attempt to counter my character's abilities, but don't
>>   remove access to mine.

> But is there really any difference between the two?

Yes, there is.  The difference is that I, as a player, am doing
something.  I am physically manipulating my controls towards some
end.  I am finding entertainment in the act of struggling.  As
opposed to sitting there in front of my computer, waiting for my
controls to start doing something again.

As a simple example, I can swing my sword and my opponent can dodge
or parry it.  If my opponent can cast a dart at me that completely
paralyzes me, all I can do is stand there.  I can't swing my sword
and hope that my opponent will screw up and I'll get lucky.  Maybe I
just like seeing his dodge and parry because at least he's reacting
to my actions.  Wouldn't you like to play against Michael Jordan in
a game of 21?  You'd lose 21-0, but you played.  It's a lot
different from Michael Jordan taking one look at you and saying "I
win, 21-0" and walk away.

>>   3. Don't install barriers to accessing entertainment.  I
>>   understand that players will consume all available
>>   entertainment in a game because of the difficulty in composing
>>   content.  That doesn't mean that there should be such onerous
>>   barrier to pursuing that entertainment that I spend much of my
>>   gaming experience in simply trying to reach the entertainment
>>   that's out there.

> I always thought it extremely silly to think of games as "content
> to be consumed", personally. If a game is nothing more than a 'run
> somewhere real fast, hit a couple of buttons and run back' then it
> is not much of a game to me.

I agree, but that's the sort of mainstream game that we have today.
I burn through content at a furious rate because it's all the same.
Different graphics, same game mechanics.  And if you wonder why I do
it, it's because of the social element.  I like the banter while a
group is efficiently demolishing a long string of monsters.

> This also touches on another problem that you are ignoring.  Games
> like muds are not about 'content' as such (or not exclusively) but
> also have a large social component in them. By inconveniencing all
> travel, the game forces player communities.  If travel is near
> intantaneous then the social fabric between the players fractures
> or never has the chance to develop. Of course, if it is too
> difficult then you need a critical mass of players or society will
> never develop because of lack of members. Travel, like other forms
> of down time, are necessary to a social game.

I couldn't disagree more.

First, I'm not ignoring it at all.  I consider the social element to
be the driving force behind existing games.  Without it, these games
would be mindlessly boring and I wouldn't go anywhere near them.

Second, inconveniencing travel doesn't lead to community formation
in the games that I'm thinking of - EverQuest, Asheron's Call and
Dark Age of Camelot.  The inconveniences there only delay the
ability of those who want to socialize from socializing.  Travel, in
and of itself, is not entertaining after an initial exposure.  In
Dark Age of Camelot, if I succeed in locating a bunch of strangers
to get together to hunt somewhere (a primary activity in Camelot),
then we all have to travel to a common destination.  It then can
take upwards of half an hour to bring everyone together.  That is a
barrier to entertainment.

If you want to point out the value of 'shared misery', I'll offer
that games are about shared fun, not shared misery.  If we want to
talk about shared misery, we have plenty of shared misery in the
real world to talk about.  If Disney thought that shared misery was
fun, they'd remove all the junk that they put around the long lines
to rides that lightly entertain people while they wait.

> Have you considered Diablo II, which pretty much has all the
> features you desired and none of the drawbacks you complain
> about. It is not really a mud, but I am not entirely sure if that
> is what you are looking for anyway.

I'm looking for a game which doesn't put in silly barriers to the
very entertainment that it provides.  Pick your favorite game,
consider what you enjoy about it most, then set the game up so that
you can't do those activities because of structures, mechanisms and
actions that you don't find entertaining - and that you don't find
many others enjoying.  That doesn't mean that you can IMAGINE
somebody enjoying it.  I mean that you find others truly do enjoy it
to the same degree that the primary activity that you enjoy.

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