[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Tue Dec 9 11:39:56 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


[I'm assuming that the >>> attributed portions are also from Jens.]

Jens L. Nielsen writes:
> From: "John Buehler" <johnbue at msn.com>

>>> 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.

They're not different at a fundamental level of entertainment
experiences.  They are different in the type of entertainment they
provide, but they are still both about entertainment.  It is this
level that I am looking at gaming.

FPS games provide one type of entertainment, and everyone who plays
that game understands that he or she is going to be getting that one
type of entertainment.  There can be no barriers because there are
no prerequisites to getting to any of the content.  Players jump
into the game and are immediately blasting away.

In games designed for a mix of PvE and PvP, the barriers are back.
In Dark Age of Camelot, before I can engage in PvP, I have to engage
in PvE.  For PvP players, that is a barrier.  In order to engage in
the most complete form of PvP, I have to do a LOT of PvE.  PvE is a
prerequisite to PvP.

> 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.

In my lexicon, barriers are not challenges.  Your statement here
seems to suggest that they are.

>> 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.

ENFORCED downtime is a barrier.  The opportunity for downtime is a
different animal.

> 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 ?

If players are asking "Why does it take so long for me to kill this
thing?"  then the game has problems.  The game is having players do
things that they don't find entertaining.  Why AREN'T long fights
fun and entertaining?  If only short fights are entertaining, then
the game should be structured for that.

>>> 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".

That's because game designers are currently using a very broad
brush.  They're just assembling some content and presenting it to
the players.  The stuff that entertains enough players stays.  The
stuff that players uniformly dislike goes.

The entire purpose of my posts has been to suggest that there is an
incremental step that designers can take to structure their
entertainment with a finer brush.  My original 'gripes' about
accessing entertainment are a statement that designers are putting
things into their games that are in fundamental opposition to the
very entertainment that attracts their players.

If a noteworthy portion of the player base wants to skip a chunk of
a story, then that story should not be viewed as one atom of
entertainment.  Because it's not entertaining to some percentage of
the player population.  It should be broken up.  Variations should
be added.  Something should be done about it.

>> 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.

You're starting with an unrealistic assumption: that tailors hunt
bears.  Tailors make tailored goods.  They don't hunt.  Tailors
having to go hunt bears is a barrier to entertainment.  The
entertainment to a tailor is tailoring.  Having to hunt bears has
nothing to do with tailoring, so it is a likely barrier.

> 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.

Why do I feel like I'm repeating myself?  That guy doesn't walk past
the dragon.  Nobody walks past the dragon.  If you want to get past
the dragon, you have to fight the dragon.  That's why the dragon is
there.  It is a killer/achiever form of entertainment.  As a result,
whatever lies beyond the dragon must also be killer/achiever
entertainment.  If an explorer is interested in the killer/achiever
entertainment that lies beyond the dragon, he or she will be
interested in the killer/achiever entertainment of killing the
dragon.

> 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.

And this is the greatest fallacy of these games, persistent virtual
worlds or whatever you want to call them: that their purpose is
anything other than entertainment.  Consequences are fine in the
sense of cause and effect.  Emotional reactions can be fine as well.
But having to endure elements of gameplay that players do not enjoy
is not an acceptable consequence.  That's because the purpose of the
games is to entertain.  It is not enough to simply set up a
persistent virtual world with consequences and declare it
entertaining.


> 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"

Tell me why buildings five stories high are entertaining in the game
that you're postulating.  If they don't contribute to the
entertainment experience for those found on the 5th floor and
wanting to leave, then they are a barrier.

> 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.

Fine, so have levitation in the game because levitation is fun to
do.  What about the people who don't get levitation?  I can recall
the annoyance of having to deal with this nonsense in Everquest.
Vast tracts of water and the fastest way to get from point A to
point B was to combine levitate and run speed spells.  But not
everyone could do that.  So for a chunk of the player population,
the travel was a serious barrier.  And in the case of levitation and
speed, after I'd done it a few times it was no longer inherently
entertaining.  So the water was a minor barrier.

> 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.

As soon as you put in an 'if', consider the condition and the
result.  If the two are not of the same type of entertainment, then
that is a barrier.  You're talking about becoming strong and
powerful (a likely achiever form of entertainment) so that I can
travel (a likely explorer form of entertainment).

> The thing is to figure out when something is a pure barrier with
> no reason to be there, or a challenge.

I would generally agree.  The problem is that my only reason for
having something in a game at all is that it adds to the
entertainment value of the game.

> 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.

Bingo.  Now you're on the path that I started on.

Enforced downtime shouldn't be part of the achiever's entertainment.
The opportunity for downtime should be.

Similarly, enforced achievement shouldn't be part of the
socializer's entertainment.  The opportunity for achievement should
be.

I brought up the topic of enforced downtime because it was debated
at length without any clear answer.  The view of prerequisites in
entertainment gives a clear answer to the question.

> 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.

Right.  So the dragon is available entertainment to those who desire
it, and not involved in gameplay for those who don't.

> 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.

But we do worry about them.  When entertainment that my character is
trying to get to is inaccessible to me because of gravity, walls,
breathing under water, etc prevents it, then those things are
barriers.  When those things contribute substantially to the
entertainment of the game, they are not barriers.

I wonder about walls for players such as achievers.  Do achievers
find any entertainment in dodging walls on their way to killing
stuff?  If they could skip the walls, tunnels and scenery, would
they?  Why would taking out the walls and such (and redesigning the
game around that notion) be so terrible?

When walls are PART of the entertainment, they should stay.  In an
FPS, hiding behind a wall is a significant contributor to the
entertainment of the game.  In a game where the monsters don't hide
behind walls, but stay at stationary locations, walls don't really
add to the entertainment.  Instead of going into a dungeon and
driving my character around, perhaps engaging monsters in an open
field of battle would be more entertaining and barrier-free.

> 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.

Why is being dead entertaining?  I'm not talking about corpse
recoveries and things like that.  I mean being dead itself.  It is
not entertaining.  If a game wants to have some kind of recovery
process, then it can make it voluntary and avoid overtly
handicapping a player's character.

"But what about consequences?", you ask.  Well, if we want true
consequences, then when your character dies, it stays dead.  That
would be 'true' consequences.  But that's a barrier to
entertainment.  It takes away everything that the player has
achieved to that point, and it certainly interferes with the
player's ability to do anything more with the game's entertainment.
That's why most people don't go for permadeath.  Regardless of
pedantic arguments about how permanent it really is.

>>> 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 ?

They can, but that is again a barrier to entertainment.

If a crafter is interested in crafting, running out of materials,
having hoodlums destroy his workplace and a number of other actions
that interfere with his ability to craft are barriers to
entertainment.  There may be crafters there who enjoy the challenge
of such realistic things, but they should be optional.  There can be
more dangerous places in which to craft.  And players won't craft
goods in those places because they gain advantages in crafting, but
because they find it more entertaining to have the challenges.
That's because crafting is not axiomatically about achieving.  It is
about crafting.

JB
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