[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Sun Dec 7 18:00:34 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

Jens L. Nielsen writes:
> 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 ? -

My point here is that I don't want to get into "tank/mage" arguments
and why that is a good or bad thing.  I don't want to get into
whether the word "barrier" is inclusive of physical (virtual) walls
in dungeons.  This list is rampant with legal wranglings over how
many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and I have no appetite
for such discussions.  They arise from one person saying that X is
true because Y is an observable manifestation of the phenomenon -
with another person jumping in and saying that Y is actually
something else.  At that point, the list is off to the races.

I'd prefer to focus on the notion of games that have features that
actually are in opposition or are detrimental to players accessing
or enjoying the very entertainment that the game professes to
provide.  I call these features 'barriers'.

>>>> 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.

Exactly.  So don't put exploration experiences beyond the dragon.
This is the very point of game design that I'm trying to pursue.
That if we *ignore* the notion that an entire game is only one type
of entertainment, then there must be a mix of entertainment types in
that game.  If that is true, and if players tend to focus on one
entertainment type at a time, then I assume the following:

Given an experience X which is contingent on a prerequisite
experience Y, X and Y should be of the same entertainment type.
Exploration leads to exploration.  Achievement leads to achievement.
To do otherwise is to manufacture barriers.  Barriers that may be
overcome, but that may not necessarily ADD to the delight of the

Frequently, for the purpose of realism, game continuity, roleplaying
or some such thing, decisions are made without considering the
nature of the experience.  For example, boat travel.  If it is
simply a process of the character standing on the boat's deck,
waiting for it to arrive, it is essentially no entertainment at all.
To make that as a prerequisite to achievement entertainment is a bad
idea.  Killing the dockmaster in order to reach the other side would
be more like it, strangely enough.

>> 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.

Yes, I know all these things.  Would you ever predicate a game on
the ability to be mesmerized?  Mesmerization is inherently not
entertaining.  It is the lack of entertainment.  The only thing that
anyone has presented as entertainment related to mesmerization is
the obligation to work to avoid it.  Prior obligatory acts in games
that do not contain inherent entertainment value get eliminated from
games.  As evidence, corpse retrieval, or a death penalty in

>> 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.

WE should shy away from it because this venue stinks at breaking
down complex topics and staying focused on the original point.

>> 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.

What power?  There is no power in this game.  Nobody can pick up all
the stones because there is an unlimited supply.  There is no
competition built into the game structure.

Am I the only person on the planet who ever skipped stones for the
sheer joy of it without having to compete with somebody else about

> 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.

There is always a stone ready to hand.  Why am I running out of
stones in a game predicating its entertainment in skipping stones?
This is precisely the sort of design mistakes that I think game
designers are making.  They put in entertainment, then incrementally
put in barriers to letting the players get to it.  (Note that
leveling in an achievement-based game is not the sort of barrier
that I'm talking about)

> 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.

You designed that game.  Mine just involves skipping stones because
skipping stones is inherently entertaining.

> 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 ?

Nah.  We don't get sidetracked on MUD-Dev.

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