[MUD-Dev] DESIGN: The game with a thousand faces

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Fri Apr 1 04:36:45 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

Mike Rozak writes:

> In other words, Ogre Island has the same basic features as most
> MMORPGs and MUDs. A typical MMORG/MUD has characters, classes
> (usually fighter, wizard, cleric, thief), races (usually human,
> elf, dwarf, halfling), combat, guilds, cooking, mining, magic,
> mounts, land ownership, quests, etc. The differences between the
> games lie in the specifics, quality, and quantity of
> implimentation, and the amount/type of eye candy.

> Only a handful of MMORPGs, like Second Life, ATITD, Uru,
> etc. break the mold, and they don't seem to attract large
> audiences.

> Does this strike anyone else as being disturbing?

> Can all the uniformity really be blamed on "my venture-capitalist
> made me do it"? Is there a single, deep local minima in the human
> psyche that causes almost all VWs to be fundamentally identical?
> Or are we so blind that we can't see/predict other local minimas
> without stumbling into them?

I'd say that there is a deep local minima in the human psyche of
those that are drawn to experiencing anything for long periods of
time through the computer.  Said another way, the people who are
designing virtual worlds are people who like the idea of sitting at
a computer for 8 hours at a stretch, typing on a keyboard, using a
mouse, watching a monitor and listening to speakers as a form of
entertainment.  It suffices for them.  Such people apparently like
achievement-oriented games.

People whose senses are not sated by that experience don't go to
such an environment and so don't become designers of games for that
environment.  They're more likely to design something in the
environment that they like to visit.

Change the internet experience and you change the group of people
who will spend time with the medium.  THEY will design completely
new experiences based on what they believe to be entertaining.  If
they represent a large enough group of people who will actually go
to the internet, they'll have a hit.

Implement robust audio communication to eliminate all the typing and
you're appealing to a new group.  You might very well have every
woman on the planet online, talking away in a world of romance and
adventure.  They may not even be any virtual characters.  Just
floating voices.

Implement workable eyephones to produce greater immersion and you're
appealing to a new group.  Now the people who are into the
adrenaline rush of BASE jumping have something online to eappeal to
them.  They'll only go online for an hour at a time, but they may be
inspired to pay a buck for each hour instead of the current schedule
that encourages people to be online more than they're offline.

Implement accurate newtonian physics and you've now got educational
institutions interested in taking students into a world where they
can play with physical effects.  Extend it to chemistry and you've
got even more students visiting in order to experiment.  Think of
all the failure modes you could explore.

In short, change the givens and you change the outcomes.  With the
givens that we have, a certain type of individual is drawn to be in
and around the medium of the game.  And a tiny subset of those
people will have the will, creativity and drive to actually create
an experience in that medium.

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