[MUD-Dev] Problems with current RPGs

Koster Koster
Mon Jan 26 18:35:17 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004


From: Björn Morén
> From: "Koster, Raph" <rkoster at soe.sony.com>

>> Long term, I remain convinced that the future lies in
>> simulationist approaches.

> While I understand that different flavours of MMORPGs will always
> exist, my opinion is that the really successfull ones will be
> simulations.

They aren't yet, and there isn't any evidence right now that they
ever will be. I say that even though I am on *your* side on this
issue. :)

> Today we of course have limitied ways of providing such an
> experience (just as you point out), but I feel that designers
> aren't even trying to accomplish something in that direction.

Hmm, I'd certainly disagree there. At least, I am. :) I see many
gestures towards it all over the place--sometimes less directly
useful than might be desired (to pick on UO2--before they were
cancelled, they spent time on a sky system whereby the position of
the stars based on season, so that you could actually stargaze a
simulated sky).

The commoner complaint is that we haven't made sort of simulationist
leap yet.

BTW, I found echoes of this discussion in the whole Looking
Glass/Ion Storm/Doug Church crowd, under the terms "Simulation vs
Emulation."

> MMORPGs are very complex games. Players will reject complex games
> if they do not operate in a way that feels naturally intuitive

I think it's debatable whether certain aspects of simulation are
more intuitive than certain game conventions. Consider a game system
whereby everyone is born with stats that are assigned basically
randomly, and where there is no cap on advancement except the
randomly assigned stats and a lot of luck, vs a system where there's
classes and levels. Most players would grasp the classes and levels
more intuitively, even though the other is the real world.

> I think you are contradicting yourself a bit when you line up the
> cons of simulations. The statements about player creativeness,
> archetypes and clear rules/stagecraft, are so generally written
> that I get impression that you believe they can never be solved in
> simulation MMORPGs. If that is the case, I dont agree. I think
> they are legacy opinions, thoughts of habit. They are the
> side-effects from bad game designs, not actual truths about player
> psychology.

You mistake me; I am quite the simulationist at heart. I've just
been tilting at the windmills long enough to want to sound a few
notes of caution. Anyone pursuing a simulationist approach would do
well to heed the warnings, and to recognize the many dangers in the
approach. When it works, it works beautifully, but the carcasses of
failed attempts are many and litter the road.

> The real problem is actually that no game lets players create
> anything else than noise clouds. No game has reached the level of
> real world resemblence that will make player creativity work to an
> advantage to the whole game system.

I would disagree pretty strongly, and I would also assert that we
have seen wonderful things arise from user-created content in the
text muds.  User-scriptable environments have given users pretty
much all the tools they'd need to make all sorts of stuff. Even with
extremely high degrees of freedom afforded by MOOs, however, we
haven't seen the paradise you depict arising. With new freedoms come
new issues.

> Put in a simplified way (for sake of illustration) the world
> should only consist of physical rules (physics) enforced as game
> mechanics, acting on a rich and engaging world. Designers shall
> not interfere with players' motivations, morale, justice,
> interaction, lifestyles, roles, quests, etc, they should only
> provide tools to help players automate tideous tasks and enforcing
> player created "concepts".

This way lies anarchy, and I say that because I've been there
personally.  There are enough differences between the real world and
the virtual that the world you get is not what you'd really
want--and certainly not what retains players.

My belief is that even in a fully simulationist environment (if such
a thing is attainable) you will still need to compensate for the
nature of the virtual and for the fact that the environment is
constructed with entertainment as a core premise or goal.

> I would like to see the future MMORPG more like a tool, than a
> finished product.

Me too.

-Raph
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