[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Thu Dec 4 11:21:32 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

Paul Schwanz writes:
> John Buehler wrote:

>> 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?
>> 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?

> While not entirely disagreeing with your points, I think that this
> line of thinking can be dangerous.  If players could choose for
> themselves whether to detract hit points from their character when
> a monster scored a blow, would they do it?  Or would they find
> that such changes would detract from the entertainment of the
> game?  The thing is, I don't think that entertainment can be
> deconstructed to this level.

This isn't the point of the post.  The point of the post is that
when a game is predicated on players acting together to overcome
challenges, they should be able to get together to overcome
challenges.  There should not be challenges to getting together.
That's not the entertainment provided by the game.

The second example of changing class at will is a more obtuse
reference to the challenge of experiencing the game entertainment in
different ways.  I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritties of the
mechanics and balance of class or skill changes because they're not
pertinent.  What IS pertinent is the fact that if a player has
experienced slaying the dragon with a particular character, that
same experience may not be available to them until they create a new
character and go through all of the 'challenges' that lead up to
facing the dragon again.

What was entertainment becomes a barrier to entertainment.  This
isn't a statement that certain changes should be made to existing
games.  It is an observation that there is a problem and that
solutions should be sought.

I have no interest at all in letting players do everything and
anything they want, any more than I want to eliminate all challenges
as entertainment.

> It is said that the Artist of our lives gives unto each day "its
> part of pain and pleasure; mingling toil with peace and rest."  As
> I've pointed out before, I don't think that the art is in the
> pain, pleasure, toil, peace, or rest, but in the mingling.  I
> believe that the art involved in creating a virtual world is
> similar.  If you focus entirely on pleasurable experiences for
> each moment, I think you can actually end up with something that
> isn't very entertaining or compelling over the long run.

Now take that same spirit and recognize that constant challenges to
every action that a player tries to make is fundamentally prone to
cease being entertaining.

I'm not focusing on pleasurable experiences for each moment - at
least not in the way that you're using the word 'pleasure'.  I'm
focusing on players enjoying their time in the game.  Whether that
is through challenge or just talking to somebody, it doesn't matter
to me.  But if physical challenges are the entertainment at hand,
don't interrupt it with a need to gab with somebody.  Because it
ceases to be entertaining to those who were drawn to the physical

> So while I think it is a good idea to ask questions and take a
> hard look at how dim lighting or other sorts of game mechanics are
> used, I think it is also important to realize that the long-term
> entertainment in a game exists in the mix of game mechanics moreso
> than how a particular mechanic is used or not used.

That's important, and I don't believe that I've lost sight of its

The mix that you're talking about is the very problem I'm attempting
to address.  It's not enough to take challenges, socialization,
exploration and an opportunity to kill stuff and throw them into a
pot and declare the resulting stew as attractive to players
interested in those things.  Game designers have missed at least one
important design principle, and that is to keep a path of
entertainment open according to a given theme or experience.

Think of the achievement game as a ride through a theme park.  It
may have lots of decisions that the achievers can make, but those
should be achievement-related decisions.  Perhaps players can get
off the achievement ride at any time and hop onto the exploration
ride for a bit, then get back on the achievement ride.  But the
achievement ride doesn't dump you onto the socializer ride, and
vice-versa.  If I wanted the log flume, I would have gotten on it.
I'm on the rollercoaster because that's what I wanted to do.

Still don't like my choice of analogy?  How about going to marine
training for the true challenges, heartbreak and such that marine
training presents?  Now suppose that instead of survival training
week, we put in an art history week.  Entertaining for some, but not
for those who are doing marine training.

I say that darkening my screen periodically is art history week.
I'm *doing something* dammit.  Don't take that away from me
gratuitously.  If I want to deal with darkness, give me a dark
forest so that I can deal with it when I'm up for that particular

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