[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

Darren Hall darren_hall_2001 at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 4 12:57:35 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


This is a very interesting thread. I am not a game designer, but I
am an avid player and as a result I often discuss MMORPGS and issues
regarding their design and playability with friends who share a
similar interest. We've recently been discussing the ideas expressed
in this thread quite a bit.

--- John Buehler <johnbue at msn.com> wrote:
> Raph Koster writes:
>> From: John Buehler

>>> 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.

>> None. Humans drive powerfully towards convenience.  However,
>> games are not about convenience, they are about overcoming
>> obstacles to a given goal.

> I can't argue here because I think you're making an axiomatic
> statement here.  That your definition of 'game' is entertainment
> that is predicated in overcoming obstacles.  I don't look at the
> broad genre of multiplayer virtual environments as venues for
> participants to overcome obstacles.  I always start with the
> perception (which I picked up from you, by the way) that they are
> about the social interaction.  Overcoming obstacles is just one
> thing that can be used to cause social interaction.

> I wonder if players associate 'game' with 'overcoming obstacles to
> a given goal'.

If we all agree that the point of a game is "entertainment" then the
receipe for a good game begins with determining what creates an
entertaining environment. Obviously, if you ask different people
what makes an entertaining computer game, you would get several
different responses. Some would say puzzle solving, others fighting
(either computer controlled or real players), some might say
exploring a fantastic environment, or an engrossing backstory, and
others might choose crafting unique items, or simply socializing
with friends. I'm sure the list could be a lot longer. In any case,
traditionally one of the functions of the game designer is to pick
and choose which elements are entertaining (and fit with his game
type or game motif) and include them in his game. By selecting
certain elements, he is (arguably) already tailoring the game to
certain types of players.

A good example of this is the FPS where the the defining
characteristic of the game is shooting your opponent many times over
(whether he be computer generated or a real player). Players of
these types of games no what to expect when they pick them up and
play them. They aren't looking for a social game necessarily, but a
more competative, hand-eye coordination style of game. The only
social interactions these types of game allow are in multiplayer
arenas where you can kill your opponent over and over again - and
possibly some chat either between games or during the game (in case
you feel like bragging, complaining, or trying to organize your team
when playing a team game).

The defining characteristic of a MUD is multiple users in the same
environment. Does this necessarily denote social interaction a
defining characteristic? No...  but I think it can be implied. The
same goes for MMORPGs since, as defined by its name, it strives to
have a massively large numbers of players. (Role play is also
supossedly a defining characteristic of the MMORPG that I believe is
often lost, but thats a different post.) Players of these types of
games expect... what? A lot of people in the same environment,
obviously. Perhaps also the ability to play their created character
in a manner they want (possibly even role-play??) and still be able
to enjoy other aspects of the game. What else? What do designers of
these games expect? What 'should' players and designers expect?

Both game types above describe very different types of
entertainment, yet each is (again arguably) equally entertaining for
different reasons.

>>> Or do they endure them for the sake of doing something online
>>> with their friends?

>> They SAY they endure them and hate them, but when they are
>> removed, they say there's no game, and it's "just a glorified
>> chat room."  Obstacles are vital.

> 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 think the crux of the discussion is "who defines what is
entertaining or what makes for an entertaining environment".

>>> 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.

>> Careful here--there is no entertainment without hoops. You're
>> really asking a question of which hoops to include.

> 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.

Is it the player or the designer who should be responsible for
defining what is entertaining? Are challenges (or barriers) needed
to make a game entertaining? And if so, which barriers should you
include in a MMORPG style game? Does the designer make
that determination or the player?

There is also another element to be considered. Many designers of
MMORPGs claim to want to promote role-play (yet ironically they seem
to design games that require leveling or certain class types to gain
access to different elements of the game. i.e. crafters needing to
learn to fight to stave off aggressive monsters or player killers or
needing to change professions, or character skill sets, several
times to achieve some goal - both of which detract from role playing
a certain character type) and to that end, they try to create a
realistic world with a rich backstory, etc. In following along with
those ideas they will create a weather system, travel system, etc.

There is a fine line here between presenting a 'realistic
experience' for the player to role play in and presenting barriers
to entertainment.

- D

(In advance, I apologize for my personal biases about how I feel
many MMORPGs create an environment that is counter productive to
role playing. I know this is not the case with all MUDs and didn't
mean to imply that was the case. -Thanks.)
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