[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

Corpheous Andrakin corpheous at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 4 10:57:09 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


From: John Buehler

>>> Do players really care about the actual process of leveling,
>>> carrying anti-mez equipment, devoting character skills to
>>> dealing with annoying mob behavior, etc?

>> Yes, they do. They take pride in learning the intricacies of the
>> system, and they need the "puzzle" element because that is what
>> lies at the cognitive heart of gameplay.

> Again, if 'game' is defined as above, I can hardly debate this.
> If we're talking entertainment, then achievement is only one card
> in the deck.

Yet to make a full deck, you not only need the socializing factor,
you need the achievement, killer and explorer (at least going by
Bartle's studies).  You cannot achieve a well balanced game design
without giving in to some while balancing out others.  Very few
games try to make that leap toward one side or the other (I view
"The Sims Online" as being a very social oriented game) but that
means that you will never get the level of players you could if you
implemented more measures for say...the kiler type or explorer or
achiever.

> I don't debate that the mindset that you're talking about exists.
> And in large numbers.  The players of existing games prove that.
> But I think that there is a segment of the population that doesn't
> even go near 'games' because of the very view of gaming that you
> are describing.  I keep stepping into the gaming world in hopes of
> finding entertainment, and all I find are barriers to getting to
> entertainment.  Barriers that, whether there are 'solutions' or
> not, I'm just not interested in overcoming.

You have to make sacrafices in order to make a game on time,
interesting to the majority and sizable to a person's hardware
specifications (a 400 gig game just isn't going to cut
it). Therfore, you have to cut corners, and in the process, you may
have to make the game "unfun" to some players.  That's why a lot of
people do marketting procedures beforehand and come up with a target
audience before they start implementing every feature that they can
think of.

> Use my example of playing basketball with friends.  We're going to
> meet at the gym.  But there's a traffic jam.  To arrive on time, I
> have to use my skills to solve the puzzle of the traffic jam so
> that I can arrive on time or at least in the shortest time.  But
> the challenge that I chose (basketball) is not the challenge that
> I have before me (traffic jam).  The traffic jam is a hoop.  The
> basketball game is entertainment.

So using your example, the traffic jam is a hoop that YOU don't want
to jump through.  The designers would take market samples (if they
were smart) and see what types of hoops people generally consider
entertaining.  If they find that traffic jams are fun for even 60%
of the people, they'll probablly consider including it.  If over 75%
consider it fun, you can probably count on seeing traffic jams in
the game.

The problem that you might come up with next is, why not let some
players encounter traffic jams and others not.  That's because in
fair game mechanics, players must all play at the same relative
level.  That means either they must both encounter traffic jams to
be fair or the player who didn't encounter traffic jams must come up
against another obstacle (or hoop) to be fair to the player who
likes traffic jams.

> LOL.  So having hated elements of gameplay to bring players
> together is a good game?  I don't think that people are confused.
> I think that there is a mix of entertainment and barriers to that
> entertainment.  They stay for the entertainment and hate the
> barriers.  But which parts are entertainment and which are
> barriers varies from player to player.  And I believe that is a
> valuable observation.

I don't think the observation is overtly valuable.  If I were to
make a game, I'm going to put in some obstacles which may or may not
be fun to the players at ALL, but are critical to game mechanics,
perhaps a method of slowing the players leveling down so they can't
get to level 50 in a day.  It's important to figure out what players
want, and put that in there, and to include barriers, whether the
players particulary like them or not, because that is the basis of
risk and reward.  Do something and get something from it.  I think
nearly every game in existance is based around this concept.

> Right.  But the question is one of whether those challenges are
> interesting to a given player.  Travel can be a barrier to
> entertainment or it can be entertainment itself.  If I'm not
> interested in dealing with the traffic jam right now, then it's a
> barrier.  If I want to challenge my driving skills, then it's
> entertainment.

Exactly, now you just have to figure out if challenging your driving
skills is what more than 50% of your player base would want to do in
such a given situtation.  It may have to be included anyway due to
balance issues elsewhere in the game.  It's all up to you, the
designer, because the player is playing your game, not making it.
If they wanted XYZ to be done Q way, they can make their own game
for all you care, you're not targetting them you're targetting the
people who want it done R way.

> What if the individuals that we want aren't available?

Then invite more friends to play the game and encourage them to
create a mixed set of skills.  Or find a new friend online who can
supplement the skils you do not have.  Or a myriad of other things.
We shouldn't have to give the players every tool they'll ever need
in the whole game, that's part of the advancement and balance in the
game, slowing it down to a pace where they won't just go through and
beat every puzzle and dragon in a day.  Then the game is just a time
based excercise, which isn't a LOT of people's version of fun.

> What if we've already solved the problem 'this way' 10 times?

This is usually the reason that new modes of transportation come out
or there's alternate forms in the form of spells or such.  SWG
releases mounts this month being an example.

> The creation of a new character in games predicated on leveling
> requires a lengthy level grind before that character can be used
> in the game content at the level that the players are working
> with.  We're back to a barrier to entertainment.  What the players
> want to do is to bring in a Goblin Engineer to their group so that
> they can tackle the challenge the way that they find entertaining.
> They want to use catapults this time.  They've already attacked
> with pure melee, with archers, with mages, with infiltration
> followed by archers and myriad other approaches.  But now they
> want to try siege.  But they can't until they jump through the
> hoops that the game has placed in their way.

That's all fine and dandy if you want to give the players whatever
they want to experiment with next but that defies nearly every
online gaming law to date.  Not everyone can do everything so they
can attract more players with more diverse skills, cross
international boundries, get the word out about their game
everywhere and make money while having fun with other people.  The
idea of giving everything the players want to them sounds extremely
"social gaming" oriented to me, which is as you said, only a piece
of the greater puzzle (Bartle's 4 gamer styles).

> This is about being able to do what the players find entertaining,
> not what the gamemasters think the players will find entertaining.
> As I said, I don't want to kill a dragon on day one.  But once
> I've completed the challenge of killing a dragon, maybe I don't
> want to mindlessly work through the 'challenge' the exact same way
> where I've already completed the steps.

Just out of curiosity, why do you want to kill the dragon again?
I'm trying to look at it through your socializer viewpoint but I
can't seem to understand why you'd want to attempt the same thing
twice, even in a different fashion when the end result is the same.
As an achiever, of course I can understand the accomplishment of
being able to say, "I killed Nagafen 100 times!" or getting a large
amount of elite loot ;)

> I don't think that anyone finds the challenges of these games
> particularly challenging.  I think they find them annoying,
> onerous and mindless.  The task of chipping through a wall with a
> rock hammer (analogous to the leveling process) is not a
> challenge.  A challenge is one where my skills as a player clearly
> come into play.  I have yet to see that in any of the big
> graphical multiplayer games.  What I see is a requirement that I
> spend time in the game.

Until games AI gets very good or a game project that's had YEARS of
development comes out, you won't find too much diversity in the
leveling process itself.  Until then, developers are doing a decent
job implementing the "repeat puzzles" that are usually entertaining
to the masses (i.e.  there are many different types of monsters you
can fight, each has different attacks and weaknesses).

> You may be asking "So why do you play the games?"  Because I enjoy
> socializing and doing whatever exploration I can.  In achievement
> scenarios, I'm purely supportive.  I have no interest at all in
> obtaining the Gizmo That Few Have.

This is one of of those things I never really understood about
socializers (being an achiever myself).  Why would you have no
interest in say...a Gizmo of +2 to Healing Skill?

> More than that, I'm saying that the players should be given
> options so that they can pick and choose hoops at a finer level of
> granularity than an entire game.  This is particularly true of
> hoops that have been dealt with once.  Okay, make me ride the boat
> one time.  I did that 'challenge'.  I've experienced it, so I know
> how much fun it is.  Just don't make me do it again.

If someone could tailor a game to be balanced to all sides of the
equation, they'd be insanely rich right now.  The only game that has
even come close so far in my opinion is AC and SWG.  In those types
of games you are not only not locked in one choice of class for your
whole characters life, you can fulfill your fantasy of advancing as
a socializer, achiever, killer or explorer. Moreso in SWG but then
again, it's a much more recently updated game :)

> That might be the essential point here.  That having to repeat
> 'challenges' over and over again in order to get to the
> entertainment I'm trying to reach is a nightmarish mistake that
> game designers make.  Dark Age of Camelot recognizes this to an
> extent.  Once a player has developed a level 50 character, then
> can immediately start new characters at level 20.  It's not ideal,
> but it sure is a help.  Sure, except that you've fundamentally
> altered my statement by equating entertainment with cognitive
> puzzles.  Not all entertainment is a cognitive puzzle.

Giving players level 20 is not the smartest idea I've ever heard.
Why not just give them level 50?  Why not just give ALL players
level 50?  It's insinuating that they have no "fun" content below
level 20 or that the content is so repetitive and worthless that
it's not worth going through twice.  Or that going through it twice
would be the exact same process and there's not two ways of doing
it.  That sounds like an admitance of basic game design flaw, which
may be a nightmarish mistake game makers do make, but not in the
fashion that you're thinking.  All together, I don't believe this
was even close to being the correct solution to the problem.  I
believe they may have misquoted the problem all together.  And heck,
what am I supposed to think as a level 1 newbie if someone can just
create level 20 characters out of thin air?  That sure doesn't sound
fair to me!

I don't believe there's much more I can comment on without repeating
myself but I will suggest browsing over Richard Bartle's book on
designing world's if you haven't already.  You may disagree a lot
with what he says based on your opinions but at least it may show
you why most designers think a certain way :)

-Lee Delarm

=====
Corpheous
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