[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

Sheela Caur'Lir dstgasey at webhiker.dk
Fri Dec 5 06:55:38 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

From: "John Buehler" <johnbue at msn.com>

>> 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.

> Sure.  How detailed is a designer's understanding of how various
> game elements interrelate and affect the interest level of the
> players that the marketeers are selling the game to?

Hopefully it's very good, or his game will flunk.

>> 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).

> And those games usually don't have barriers to entertainment
> because they are so focused on one form of entertainment.  One
> experience.  Everything in the game supports that experience.  In
> games that involve multiple experiences, it's important to
> recognize that those different experiences may have different
> natures.  When there is a dependency between experiences, it is
> important to make all of the experiences in the dependency chain
> of essentially the same form of entertainment.

Yes, but in FPS games you aren't generally cooperating with each
other, you are trying to blow each other up ! PVP is an entirely
other ballgame than PVE is.

You don't need a barrier / challenge in a FPS multiplayer game to
make it interesting, the others players will make sure of that
.. very very fast. Well, actually they do have one barrier - No
socialization is a big turn off for lots of people. Never the less,
there's still hoops to jump trough in those games, it's just
different hoops they use.

> There was a lengthy discussion a while back about the topic of
> 'enforced downtime' and why people don't like it, why it's
> valuable to game structure, what people get out of it, etc.
> Downtime is a dependency that is predicated in socializing.  But
> if the 'downtime' is a dependency to achievement, it's likely not
> going to be enjoyed by the player base as a whole.  They may be
> able to make the best of the situation, but that's not much of a
> statement about providing entertainment to players.

I think that the downtime is often needed for people to get a
breether in between battles, since most MMO games have much longer
continious play sessions than regular games. I think that most
people enjoy the chance to unwind now and then, constantly fighting
with no breaks for hours is stressing.

So if downtime makes it easier to keep a group of players going for
extended periods of time, then essentially it IS helping the
achievers in the long run.

You could say the same about "Why does it take so long for me to
kill this thing ?"  Well, how much tactics can you employ in a 5
second long fight ?  And what if you get some lag ?

In a single player game, you have instant decisions giving instant
responses, you cannot get this in an MMO environment, if nothing
else because it takes time to communicate between two or more
humans. It's the whole Act and React deal.

... well ..

As long as you don't wind up with so much downtime that you have
time to read, and complete, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time epic
series of brick like books.

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

> It's not a question of whether something is entertaining.  It's a
> question of whether it is entertaining to a specific player.  If
> it's not entertaining to them, then they shouldn't be obligated to
> do it.

Not even if it would be storybreaking to have them skip that part of
the content ?  I mean, let's be honest here, you cannot shape every
piece of content to every type of player there is, at some point you
have to say "oh well, this will have to do".

> It means that if I don't want to take damage, I don't have to
> engage in combat.  And that means that I'm not obligated to go
> into a combat area for non-combat activities.  I figure that
> implications are fine, but they should be closely correlated
> implications, not implications that the game designer throws
> together to get an emotional reaction from the players (also known
> as "yanking the player's chain").

Indeed, if I was to have to fight a Bear everytime I wanted to chat
with a friend, I would probably get peeved as well.  But if I saw
some tailor go out and pick off the fur of said bear and not even
have to fight it, I would get peeved too, because that's damn
unrealistic, even in a fantasy world.

Just like I would get peeved if another player could avoid that big
Dragon over there and walse into the Great Cave of Phat Lewt while I
had to fight it, just because he didn't want to fight
it. Admittedly, that is probably the most extreme example, but if
you travel in a virtual world, it should have virtual world
consequenses, or the entire purpose of persistant virtual worlds
have been defeated completely.  Still, having large well defended
vehicles travelling the breadth of the virtual world could provide
with safe transportation for those who wished it ... for a fee.

But you didn't want to sit on a boat or a horse, or did you ?

It's like jumping from 5th floor and whine about not wanting to deal
with gravity.  Many people will give you the "Tough, deal with it."
attitude and let you go "splotch"

Me ? I'd cast a levitation spell on myself before jumping. Sure, a
temporary solution you might say - and - I'd have to go trough hoops
and break barriers in order to get this spell, but it sure is sweet
to fool around with once I get it.

If you want to go trough somewhere without a fight, you could get so
big and powerful that they stopped attacking you. A means to an
end. Or get a horse / vehicle.

If you wanna do something odd like that, you probably have to go
trough hoops to get to it, or the game would be uninteresting,
because you'd get nothing new to play with as you progressed trough
the game.

>> Is it the player or the designer who should be responsible for
>> defining what is entertaining?

> Consumers always define what the value of a product is.  If we
> assume that games are about being entertained, then the player
> decides what is entertaining.  If you're asking about who
> assembles the game experience, that is best done as a
> collaboration.  The game designer gives some amount of rope to the
> player and the player decides how to hang himself with it (which
> is not intended to be an endorsement of player-run worlds).

Players does indeed define the value of a product and they choose it
with their wallets. If they don't want it, they don't buy
it. Offcourse, the designer still has the resposibility to define
what he thinks is entertaining to their target crowd.

So in teh everyday practical crowd, I'd say the designer.

>> Are challenges (or barriers) needed to make a game entertaining?

> Don't mix the two words 'challenge' and 'barrier'.  That is the
> source of a serious misunderstanding in this thread.  A challenge
> is a form of entertainment.  A barrier is an obstruction to
> reaching entertainment.  To present the same example, enforced
> downtime.  It is a barrier to entertainment, yet has no challenge
> aspect to it at all.  In fact, it stands in the way of getting to
> the achievement experiences that I'm probably playing the game
> for.

>> And if so, which barriers should you include in a MMORPG style
>> game?

> Never include barriers in a game.  Ever.  They are, by my
> definition, a bad thing.  They are not synonymous with challenges.

While barriers are not synonymous of challenges, challenges are
often synonymous to barriers - I mean, if a challenge cannot hold
you back when you handle it wrong, it's not much of a challenge, is
it ?

The thing is to figure out when something is a pure barrier with no
reason to be there, or a challenge. Gravity is a barrier, yet oddly
enough we never complain about it in a game - Until we miss it. I
think many people were puzzled over not being able to jump over a
fallen log in SWG.

Also, what constitutes a Challenge and what constitutes a barrier ?
An achiever thinks that downtime constitutes a barrier, a socializer
thinks that downtime is a chance to socialize with others.

A killer see's an opponent in that dragon yonder there.  An explorer
notes the color and form of it and makes note on the lore about it
The Achiever probably see's loot falling out of it's ass (pardon my
french).  The socializer yawns and thinks this will be a huge
barrier to his next 2 hours of listening to people whining about how
hard this silly thing is, as if the wedding ceremony wasn't that
much more important.

Also, some barriers are there without us acknowledging them
... gravity, walls, breathing under the water ... etc. etc. ... yet
we don't worry about those. Are they really barriers then ? I mean,
they are not challenges 99.999% of the time, even though you might
get a lump on your head by banging it on the wall.

Yet, I'm sure most of us would agree that you should die from a 5
story fall.  I think barriers can indeed be part of the
entertainment without being a challenge in themselves.

>> 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.

> Indeed.  Realism seems to be a driving design principle in games
> these days, and the crafter example is a good one.  It illustrates
> how orthogonal types of entertainment are dependent upon each
> other.  I'm not particularly concerned with roleplaying.  I'm more
> concerned that if roleplaying is a gameplay experience, that the
> designer support roleplaying by not injecting experiences which
> are counter to the enjoyment of roleplaying.

Calling upon the crafter example, it should occur to most players
that they can hire a killer to go and get those materials for
them. Y'know, the whole hunter- gathered thingamajig that humans did
in the iceage ?

I guess MMO's are still in that period of time, will be interesting
to see the next age come around and perhaps have a finger in the
evolution of them.

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