[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

Sheela Caur'Lir dstgasey at webhiker.dk
Fri Dec 5 07:43:49 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

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

You cannot only discuss principle without considering possible
implementations or designs, since developing a game is generally an
iterative process, which means you will have to see your principle
in a practical light, like : - Is this even possible ? -

Never the less, the definition of "barrier" is awfully slippery - An
example :

  A wall in a dungeon is a barrier, it's not a challenge, it's
  simply a barrier in the basest sense of the word. If pure
  principle ruled, the wall would have to go.  But the first touch
  with Design will tell you that a completely freefloating really,
  really odd and Implementation says this world is awfully hard to
  make.  So we accept that a wall is useful, having something to
  walk on is good too.  Principle says that if there is a barrier,
  we ought to be able to see it.  Design says it should be a stone
  wall because dungeons = mideval.  Implementation says "ok we can
  do that" ... and so on, and so forth.

Now, back to the changing class example, the SWG developers
obviously thought "hey, classes are barriers, lets make it skill
based" and so they did.  I still think though, that if you could
change class instantly from one to another that people would be
leery at it to some point or simply regard all the classes as skills
and so we get back to a skill based system where every one can do
every thing at any time.

Tank mage syndrome.

>>> 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 agree that a barrier is only a barrier if everyone agree that it's
a barrier.  Not being able to connect to the game, is a barrier.  A
great big dragon is obviously not ... to some people.

An explorer would still like to saunter past it and map the terrain
behind the dragon, so for him, it's still a barrier.

> 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.

Yet I believe that the challenge lies in avoiding getting mezmerized
in the first place. If you manage to do that, the opponent is often
dead meat, if you don't, you are often dead meat.

Offcourse, in the case of mezmerization, it usually breaks when they
do damage to you, so all they really gained from it was a delay in
the fight.  (well, in most games at least)

Also, it can be countered. Bring a friend to hit you when you get
mezzed, your opponent most likely cannot mez both of you at once.

> 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.

Just because something is complex doesn't mean we should shy from it
or all we will be reduced to is the esimple problem, which is often
the easy ones. And I still think the Vex Thal key was a design /
implementation problem rather than anything else.

Had they let him drop no other loot than the Quest item, the players
would have gotten real tired of him, real quick and the blockade
would waver in a few weeks instead of after half a year.

> 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 stones.

Right, so we make a game, put every one into it and put a lot of
stones on the ground. What happens ?

People pick them up.  The more you have, the more potentially
powerful you are.  Achievers starts picking up ALL the stones.  A
clan / guild decides that THEY want to be the masters of all stones.

Shortly there are no stones left but the ones in your hand and the
ones in a bit harder to reach places. Places where you can
potentially go and pick up stones to throw.

So, in the eye of the developer, the money you payed are not
"wasted", they are just hard to get. Why should they add 30% more
rocky areas, if 50% of them haven't even been touched ?

Will you still throw your stones now ?  They ARE gonna pick them up
after you throw them, y'know.

It's kinda like openening Pandora's box, now that they know they can
do this in one game, they sure as hell are gonna do it in another,
no matter how much we want them to be saints to each other. Players
aint exactly like saints.

Umm ... I'm getting a bit sidetracked here, aint I ?

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