DGN: Emergent Behaviors spawned from - Re: [MUD-Dev] SOC: Will company sanctioned cheating hurt theMMOcommunity?

Paul Schwanz pschwanz at bellsouth.net
Tue May 31 15:47:40 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

J C Lawrence wrote:
> On Wed, 25 May 2005 14:17:21 -0400
> Otis Viles <otis.viles at gmail.com>  wrote:

>> As a geeky coder since the age of 13 and a MUD coder for the past
>> decade, the idea sounds awesome to me and the kind of project I
>> might like to tackle if I had a bit more free time on my
>> hands. I'm not convinced it would make any difference to players,
>> however, for the reason stated above; players are really going to
>> just see the end result (unless they're a very special kind of
>> player that most games don't support) so the mechanics might as
>> well be a random die roll against a table of "what kind of orc
>> band do I encounter?"

> Many of these very cool ideas require an awareness of a larger
> picture by the player.  They require that the player understand a
> context and a set of fairly complex and subtle inter-relations
> that is far larger than they can fit on their screen at any one
> time.

That's a pretty good summation of one of the things I find most
thrilling about games.  Subtle inter-relations sound wonderfully
interesting.  To be honest, though, the described mechanics for
roaming Orcs didn't sound either complex or subtle.  But it still
managed to sound much more interesting than a random die roll.

> That's hard, most especially since it generally doesn't support a
> positive value feedback loop for any but a tiny percentage of
> players.

If current online offerings don't directly educate gamers to have a
kill-anything-that-moves mentality, they certainly seem to be
reinforcing that mindset.  How much enjoyment roaming Orc bands and
their captains add to the game will largely depend on many factors
involving the game's design.  While it may be true that such
mechanics add little to the sort of design where players seek out
creatures to kill as a means of farming experience points and
accumulating wealth, I still believe that alternative approaches may
make a lot more sense in addition to being much more interesting.
If you flip things around so that creatures, instead of being the
main source of game resources like experience and wealth, are the
monstrous beings that interfere with the normal accumulation of
these things, I think things become much more dynamic and
entertaining.  In other words, don't gamers log on and try to kill
as many creatures as they can to maximize experience gain (often
ignoring all else) precisely because that's the positive value
feedback loop that the design has set up for them?

What if a MUD's game design borrowed heavily from something like the
way you build up an empire in your typical RTS as the main pathway
to nice things for the MUD's players and their communities?  What if
Orcs and other creatures were the obstacles?  In an RTS, there is
certainly a positive value feedback loop tied to keeping track of
enemy growth and movement.  If RTS games were not designed the way
they are, but instead revolved around the
kill-anything-that-moves-for-XP paradigm, doubtless this loop would
cease to exist.  Tracking enemy progress in an RTS doesn't require a
budding Jane Goodall (as another poster put it) in order to be
entertaining.  Instead of relying on the characteristics of a tiny
percentage of players to support its feedback loop, the game is
designed in such a manner that the feedback loop seems quite natural
for the vast majority.  I think that if you incorporated the same
sort of approach into a MUD, the life and times of roaming Orc bands
will not be nearly as meaningless to the players as is supposed.

Paul "Phinehas" Schwanz
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