[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Thu Dec 4 10:45:44 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

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

>> 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 want to get lost in design variations here.  I'm trying to
emphasize a principle.  If a designer provides a form of
entertainment, don't put in barriers to reaching that entertainment.

>> 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.

I claim there's no dilemma because of the distinction between
entertainment and barrier.

In the case of defeating the dragon to reach the cave, the
fundamental entertainment of that encounter is to defeat the dragon
and reap the reward.  That's the appeal of the game.

The only time the dragon would be a barrier is if the rest of the
game is predicated on walking into various situations and picking up
whatever happens to be lying around.

I'm not attempting to eliminate challenges AS entertainment.  I'm
trying to eliminate barriers TO entertainment.  I offered
mesmerization as a prime example because it eliminates essentially
all entertainment from the game experience for a period of time.
The only entertainment remaining is to watch what is going on in
front of the character.

And while I appreciate the example of Vex Thal in EverQuest, it's
too complex an example to be discussed here.  If I were to start
talking about it, the topic would quickly devolve into MUD
administration woes or some such thing.

> 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.

Again, I'm not talking about issues of balance, but of focus.  If my
game is predicated on throwing stones, then eliminating the source
of stones is a barrier to entertainment.  This is true regardless of
what steps my players can take to restore the source of stones.  If
the entertainment is about throwing stones, then my players should
be able to throw stones.  They've paid their money.  They get their

I'm reminded of the game "Deer Hunter", which involves me as a
player, wandering around, stalking deer and shooting them with a
rifle.  I don't run out of bullets and have to head back to
basecamp.  I don't have avalanches that bury me.  I don't fall and
break my leg.  These are all prospective opportunities for
entertainment, but they are not the entertainment at hand.

I believe that game designers need to consider how they are
entertaining their players and then focus on that entertainment.  By
and large, they do.  But there are exceptions.  I've attempted to
point out some of them, discussing the principle behind my
observation at the start.

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