[MUD-Dev] Removing access to entertainment

Paul Schwanz pschwanz at comcast.net
Tue Dec 9 19:08:23 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

John Buehler wrote:
> Jeff Crane writes:
>> From: John Buehler

>>> 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.

>> So you're suggesting that if a designer wished to implement
>> leveling as a measure of success or power, it should be trivial to
>> improve (no barrier to entertainment).

> I quote: "I'm not attempting to eliminate challenges AS
> entertainment."

> I find it ironic to read posts like this because I'm arguing FOR
> games that predicate their entertainment on killing 10,000 monsters
> in the virtual rise to 'power'.  I'm trying to argue against things
> that get in the way of your ability to kill those 10,000 monsters.
> And I don't mean by turning all 10,000 into bunnies.  I'm not trying
> to get you to level 50 faster.  I'm trying to let you experience
> getting to level 50 instead of staring at a spellbook for 30 minutes
> out of every 8 hours.  I want to remove the shackles the are
> preventing you from even engaging those 10,000 orcs, dragons and
> super sneaky ninjas.

For me, entertainment is as much about avoiding things as it is about
doing things.  Whether you are talking about Mario Bros. or the Jedi
Knight series, the entertainment inherent in jumping (little though it
may be) cannot be seperated from the entertainment inherent in avoiding
a fall.  If there is no fall to avoid, jumping becomes routine and
meaningless, losing its entertainment value.  This is why I don't really
enjoy playing games in god mode, though I understand that many do.  In
general, I'd say that those who enjoy playing a game in god mode
probably tend toward the explorer, while those who think god modes
diminish the fun probably tend more toward the achiever.

That's why, speaking as an achiever-more-than-explorer, it isn't quite
correct to say that I enjoy games that predicate their entertainment on
killing 10,000 monsters in the virtual rise to 'power.'  (For the
moment, I'm setting aside the fact that I'm an achiever that happens to
detest treadmills in the first place.)  I don't want to just consume
those 10,000 monsters.  Rather, I want to interact with them in a
specific way.  I want to conquer them by using my mind and other
game-playing skills.  To do so, I enjoy discerning a winning strategy or
pattern, mastering that winning strategy or pattern to defeat the
monster, and then moving on to a new challenge.  (Unfortunately, 10,000
monsters doesn't equate to 10,000 new challenges of this type, which is
why I don't enjoy treadmills.)  I want to beat the monsters, but just as
importantly, I want to avoid the monsters beating me.  If there is no
possibility that the monster can beat me, then the victory seems
meaningless to me.  In other words, for me, positive outcomes are not as
fun if negative outcomes are not possible.

I think you probably understand all of this, but here is where I'm going
to turn this into an argument in favor of mez.  As I battle a monster, I
want to avoid getting killed.  Getting killed is a negative outcome that
I enjoy avoiding.  However, it isn't the only one.  Within the battle
are nested negative outcomes that I can also enjoy avoiding.  For
instance, I enjoy avoiding the loss of hit points.  Every time I avoid
getting hit, it is a small victory within the larger battle.  (One I
wish didn't rely so heavily on an RNG, since that affects the
significance of the victory.)  But I'm very grateful that when I fail to
avoid getting hit it doesn't also mean that I automatically lose the
larger battle.  (Getting killed with one hit doesn't seem like as much
fun, although I think this is highly dependant upon the mechanics that
are or are not in place for avoiding that one hit.  After all, it only
takes one check-mate to lose in chess.)  Similarly, I can enjoy avoiding
a mez while appreciating that even if I fail to avoid it, the negative
outcome for that failure can be something less than death.

And this is where I'm going to turn back around and basically agree with
you.  Perhaps mez would benefit from some method of recovery involving
interaction.  In PnP, at least you get to summon up hope, attempt a
saving throw, and experience the encouragement or comiseration of your
fellow players so that it doesn't feel like you've stopped playing the
game.  An RNG doing this for you as it cycles through some game loop,
though very convenient, isn't nearly as entertaining.  Which suggests
that the issue isn't convenience so much as it is interaction.

So what principles come out of this?

  1) I believe there is good convenience and bad convenience.  Good
  convenience is a developer avoiding for me those things that I
  cannot enjoy avoiding on my own.  Bad convenience is when a
  developer avoids for me something that I do want to avoid, but
  does so by fiat instead of putting together an interesting
  interactive method that would challenge me to avoid it on my own
  and have fun doing so.

  2) I believe that it is a good idea to have smaller opportunities
  for victories or defeats nested inside larger ones.

  3) I believe that it is a bad idea to have some unseen RNG be
  solely deterministic in the outcome of these smaller
  opportunities, although I do appreciate the value of having an RNG
  add a degree of uncertinty.

  4) I believe that as you drill down into the nested opportunities,
  the severity of consequences should be appropriate to the level of
  nesting as well as to the likelihood of failure.

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