[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

Sheela Caur'Lir dstgasey at webhiker.dk
Wed Dec 3 18:22:21 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: "John Buehler" <johnbue at msn.com>
> Daniel Harman writes:
>> From: John Buehler [mailto:johnbue at msn.com]

>>> While I appreciate the agreement, this really isn't about
>>> fairness. It is more fundamental that that.

>>> You make two statements about mesmerization:

>>>   "It is distinctly and decidedly unfun."

>> Except that in EQ at least, there are means of countering all of
>> the things you call unfun. For me that invalidates your argument
>> as they serve as incentives to up your game. If they were
>> unavoidable you'd have a point.

> Except that if at some point I don't care to 'up my game' any
> further I'm back to doing something that is unfun.  The fact that
> a workaround to an annoyance exists doesn't make the workaround
> entertaining.

> Players are jumping through the hoops that game designers are
> presenting to them.  But I wonder how many of those hoops would be
> jumped through if they were optional.  Do players really care
> about the actual process of leveling, carrying anti-mez equipment,
> devoting character skills to dealing with annoying mob behavior,
> etc?  Or do they endure them for the sake of doing something
> online with their friends?

Both.

Some definately want to "beat" the game, while others jut hang out
with friends. Besides that, having someone who is good at countering
odd MOB behaviour can sometimes be a timesaver AND great fun.

I'll list two examples one from EQ, another from AO :

EQ : In the old Plane of Hate zone, there was a "swirl" in the
pathing nodes that made pulling very odd, if a good puller knew
about it, he could almost pull one monster around another group of
monsters, just by sidesteppuing a very little.  One who didn't know
about it would bring a train on his raid force.  So, it was much
more fun to have a puller who knew his stuff.  There was much
prestige in being a good puller.

AO : There were people making online music stations, and hanging out
in the bars in AO cities, just to have people come and dress up in
different social clothes and chat with each other. This sometimes
ran into several millions of credits for the single individual if
they REALLY wanted all the clothes and gimmiks they wanted.  In this
case, you could say that hunting to get enough credits to buy all
those props 'n' stuff was simply endured so they cuold play with
their virtual dolls, they would probably have been just as happy
dressing up in something handed to them for free at the very
beginning of the game.

> If players could instantaneously transport to destinations at
> will, would they do it?  Or would they find that such
> transportation would detract from the entertainment of the game?

Plane of Knowledge in EverQuest and the Whompa /Grid system in
Anarchy Online is basically what you described - Instant travel
between two points. Also, many games incorporates Call and Recall
type of spells.  So, yes, I think it's safe to assume that players
would do this, at least to an extend.

Wether or not it detracts from the game is hard to say - I think
that too much instant travel is bad for the game, as you don't see
the outlying areas and stuffs.  But on the other hand, I don't want
to slave for 3 hours to get from point A to point B, at least make
some of it available at high speeds, if not instant.

Think cross-continent travel here, would you take a rowboat instead
of an airplane when going from Australia to America ?

> If players could instantaneously change their class at will, would
> they do it?  Or would they find that such changes would detract
> from the entertainment of the game?

Hard one to answer - But I think most would be leery at changing
constantly.  However, you could say that SWG have tried something
along those lines and people seem to have fun with that since they
are not locked to one class.

And then there's the whole deal with games that are not Class based,
but skill based, how would they figure into this ?

> I don't believe that when I start a game that I should be able to
> go buy a castle and kill a dragon with one swing of my sword.
> That would make those tasks meaningless.

Agreed - If the start of a journey is also the end of a journey,
there is no journey.

Unless ofcourse you start out as a dragonslaying knight who have to
protect his newly bought castle, but then we would have created a
new starting environment as opposed to traditional RPG's.

> But I don't think that every task in a game needs to be a
> challenge in order to be entertaining, and I also don't think that
> exhorbitant challenges are more entertaining than modest ones.
> Because 'upping my game' eventually turns unfun.

Agreed, but in order to turn other things, such as exploration, Lore
gathering and social events possible, the game developer have to do
even more work to just stay afloat, thus they often focuse on doing
one thing and do it well. We can't very well stop and smell the
roses if there are no roses in the game, can we ?

They have to make a choice as to what area they want to focus on,
and it seems that lately "upping my game" has been the favored
choice.

> In the end, the very hoops that players are invited to jump
> through in the process of upping their game turn into barriers to
> accessing the entertainment of the game.  Because various players
> don't want to make the investment of time, energy, concentration,
> whatever, that the game requires via that hoop.  The entertainment
> that the game provides attracts a certain type of player
> interested in a certain thing.  When the hoops deviate from that
> type of entertainment, it presents a greater barrier than when the
> hoops are consistent with the entertainment provided.

There's lots to be said about barriers.  Some good, some bad.

Passing a barrier can be lots of fun, like besting that nasty dragon
at the cavemouth in order to get into the Great Cave of Phat Lewts
(or whatever) but can also be a major caveeat for some, especially
casual gamers.

It's a bit of a dilemma actually.

Say, the developers create an encounter that takes 10 high level
characters with average gear. The powergamers will take down this
encounter within a month or two,.  the casual gamers will come so
much later that the encounter have been given "farm status" by the
high level crowd and thus the encounter may never be available to
the casual gamer crowd, which will forever be locked out of the
Great Cave of Phat Lewts unless they join high level crowd, which
becomes harder and harder because the high level crowd only wants
people with the good stuffs from the Great Cave of Phat Lewts.

So - If the developer do not make it challenging, the power gamers
will get bored and leave. If they make it too hard for the casual
gamers, they may create a rift between the two crowds of players and
eventualy the casual gamers might leave.

A good example of all this would be from the game EverQuest where
there's a "Great Cave of Phat Lewts" named Vex Thal. In order to get
into this place, you need to collect some pieces from all over the
nearby places and combine them into a key. One of those pieces comes
from a singular MOB called Emperor Ssraeshza. IF this MOB is not
available for killing, you simply cannot finish the key.

Thete have been many attempts of guild (guild = player group
association) literally trying to keep other guilds out of Vex Thal
by killing him as soon as he appears. And are often able to keep the
others out for several months. Not only that, but many ofthe later
encounters require great gear in order to be done succesfully. Gear
like what comes from Vex Thal.  So now the casual gamer crowd is
ALSO locked out from anything after Vex Thal.

Now, is this a "fair" barrier or not ?  I mean, it has storyline and
all, the Quest in itself is a good one, but it's so easily abused
that one have to ask oneself - "Is this a good design ?"  And if you
make it easier, what happens then ?  Mudflation happens offcourse.

So the developers of EverQuest (or any other game with a likewise
situation) sits in a bad situation where they need to keep the
difficulty, yet cannot balance it with a singular difficult raid
MOB, because said MOB can be "held" by one nasty guild, thus locking
everyone else out of it - And thus you get lack of access to
content, not by the developers hand, but by the players.

---
Jens L. Nielsen
(aka. Sheela Caur'Lir)
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