[MUD-Dev] DGN: Lords, Vassals, Serfs and the Clergy

Paul Schwanz pschwanz at bellsouth.net
Tue May 24 17:36:48 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

Jaycen Rigger wrote:
> Paul Schwanz <pschwanz at bellsouth.net>   wrote:

>> That's why I think you got it right when it comes to (some of)
>> the rules.  You are recognizing that one size (your particular
>> size) doesn't fit all, so you are giving the players the ability
>> to set their own rules while also coding a design that will
>> automatically select for "good" rules and against "dumbass" ones
>> as defined by the players.  To me, that just seems at odds with
>> your stance on the governmental system (which could be
>> implemented based on pretty much the exact same concepts), and
>> especially at odds with the tone of your last paragraph here.

> I don't understand you, completely.  To me, it is you who are
> making contradictory statements.

Like what?  I can't clarify if I don't know what you find

> I don't totally agree with your concept of role-playing, but the
> gist is close.  If I don't forge the system to work the way it
> works, that is, if it doesn't enforce the governmental system I've
> created, then I'm not creating anything...

Actually, giving additional choices requires more creativity, not
less.  I'm not suggesting that you don't enforce any governmental
system, nor am I suggesting that you don't create any of the
elements of governmental systems.  I'm suggesting that you create
the building blocks for a number of different governmental systems
and allow your players to put those building blocks together into
various governments of their own design.  As before, this isn't
really much different than what you've already done with the rules.
When success is based on population, the most successful governments
will be those with the best governmental design and the best rules,
as defined by the players, who are deciding where to invest their
citizenship.  Poor governmental designs with poor rules will be
marginalized to insignificance precisely because players will want
to become citizens elsewhere.  In a sense, this creates a sort of
free market in which players invest their citizenship.  In this free
market, "good" governments win out over "poor" governments because
the players choose the government they think is best.  I think this
sort of system has advantages over one in which there is only one
governmental offering (yours) and the only choice players have
regarding a governmental system is whether to buy into yours or
leave the game.

> Leaving things in the players hands takes me back to square one,
> or worse, it only partially addresses what I see as a plethora of
> social and economic issues within MMORPGs.  Personally, I find it
> frustrating when someone ALMOST comes up with a great way to
> handle these problems, but refuses (for whatever reason) to go all
> the way toward implementing what I see as a logical conclusion.

I suppose that monarchs of the past waged a similar internal battle
over leaving important decisions in the hands of their subjects.
Nevertheless, democracies are not nearly as unpleasant as they might
have imagined.  What about what others see as a plethora of social
and economic issues within MMORPGs?  If you take upon yourself the
responsibility for totally and completely addressing these issues,
there will always be those who think that you've not done enough,
that you've done too much, that you've addressed the wrong things,
or that you've done it all wrong.  Wouldn't it be great if they
could take a crack at doing it better themselves?

> Specifically, I don't understand what you'd have me "leave open to
> players".  Can you give me an example of what you'd do differently
> that would allow players to have the freedom you're describing,
> without upsetting the balance of such a system?

I'd allow players to have a republic with senatorial representatives
if they desired.  I'd allow them to create oligarchies,
plutocracies, theocracies, or just about any other sort of
government I could imagine and implement into the design.  As for
balancing such a system, I'd balance it the same way one balances a
free market economy: by allowing choice.  I have a view of balance
that is a bit different.  I think that players complain about
balance when there are dynamics in the game which are out of their
control.  One way to address such imbalances is to hard code the
choices out of the system until it is static.  This is a typical,
top-down, designer dictates to the player sort of approach.  It'll
work to a degree, but players will complain about how static your
world seems and how little freedom they have.  In the end, static is
boring.  The other approach is a bottom-up one where players are
empowered to address imbalances themselves.  So, what exactly is
imbalanced about a system where the players can implement their own
ideas about how the checks and balances should work in their in-game
government?  If one group "screws up" their governmental system,
what does it hurt?  Another group will get it "right," and players
will flock to that system.  In fact, they are likely to come up with
something that works "better" than anything you or I can prescribe.
(I'm using quotes here because all of these evaluations are
completely subjective.)  By giving choices of governmental systems,
you allow for the possibility that different people want different
things from their government.  Some players will have had bad
experiences with a domineering guild leader and will prefer a
democratic approach so that no one gets too much power over their
gaming experience.  Other players will have had bad experiences with
guilds that languished under the weight of their own beauracracy and
will prefer a government where power is centralized so that things
get done.  If you offer just one governmental system that you've
"balanced" to what you think is perfection, I *guarantee* that a
large group of players will not be happy with the way you've done
it.  Why not give them a chance to implement a system that works for
them instead of giving them a choice between a government they don't
like or deleting their account?

See, you are agonizing over how a ruler should be deposed, what sort
of power the Mage can wield, and how religion and monarchs should
interact, but you don't need to agonize over these things.  Bundle
together the various approaches to these issues that you think are
reasonable, and offer the choice to the player.  So, player, in this
government that you are putting together, how will rulers be
deposed?  Will their term expire after a certain ammount of time?
How long?  Or is it based on being killed while in your castle?
Some players might decide they want ultimate power in their
government so that they can never be deposed, but so what?  Will
players want to submit to such a ruler or not?  If so, then the
players are obviously happy, and that's a Good Thing.  If not, then
the ruler's choice of government will result in them having ultimate
power over no one at all, since most players will choose to invest
their citizenship elsewhere.  If these poor designers of governments
have no citizens, then their communities will not advance.  Instead,
they will remain small, backward outposts or villages, insignificant
and having little impact on the game.  Again, so what?  As long as
there is strong incentive to attract citizens and make them happy so
that acommunity grows in population and advances, someone will
figure out a method for deposing rulers that has interest and
stability in just the right amounts to please a large portion of the
game population, and the game mechanics will reward them for it.  In
the end, you should end up with something like a natural
distribution of governments and population sizes.  Not everyone will
agree that one government is the best, but one will certainly be the
most popular, and no doubt its citizens will think it is the best
even as other players think their own particular implementation is
better, though less popular.

--Paul "Phinehas" Schwanz
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