[MUD-Dev] Blog about GDC implies changes to MMORPG population

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Wed Jun 8 02:22:01 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

Kyle Leithoff writes:
> Raph Koster writes:

[misattribution - I wrote the following in response to Raph]

>> The difficulty with the Piles of Junk model is that it assumes
>> that crafters are factories.  That's why crafters don't have
>> inherently entertaining activities.  Push a button and blammo - a
>> shirt.  Push a button and blammo - a house.  I doubt that it's
>> possible to have time-consuming and entertaining tasks for
>> crafters and also crank out goods for the masses so that they can
>> have their piles (unless producers massively outnumber the
>> consumers).

>> Out of a desire to broaden the entertainment experience of the
>> genre, I'm theorizing that slowing the rate of production to a
>> trickle makes accumulating items a sidebar to the mainstream game
>> experiences of whatever.  Part of the whatever is the slow
>> crafting of items.  I look to a crafting experience such as is
>> found in colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and its crafters.  They
>> make items at a trickle pace.  *I* find that experience
>> fascinating, as do the many visitors there.  Whether or not that
>> experience is viable in a game setting is a speculative guess.

> I'm not sure if it's something you have looked at it recently, but
> A Tale in the Desert currently has a system similar to what you
> describe for crafting. As far as I know, there's only three areas,
> blacksmithing, gem cutting, and glass blowing.  But in each, you
> start out with a pure raw material, which then from hitting the
> block in the right spots for blacksmithing, changing the angle and
> depth of cut, or rotating and blowing the glass blob, you try to
> match your object up to an ideal.  The closer to the ideal, which
> you can toggle back and forth between, and your object generates
> the quality.  For certain fragile objects, there's a time limit
> before the glass falls into the flame, or how many whacks you can
> put on the metal before it becomes worthless and brittle.

Yes, that sounds like a great step in the right direction.  I wasn't
aware that Tale in the Desert had such a system.  I'll have to
revisit it and see what it's like.  My brief foray into the game
didn't suggest anything so involved.  The 'crafting to an ideal' is
a clever approach to crafting.

> However, it is a very time consuming system to produce items in,
> as almost every step in the chain from gathering the raw materials
> to final production is a sort of mini-game.

And 'mini-game' is exactly the level at which I believe combat,
crafting, politics, publishing, travel and any number of other forms
of entertainment should be implemented.  They should each be
completely engaging.  They SHOULD be time-consuming, and that time
should be well-spent.  If I spent my time sitting in front of the
computer waiting for the next crafting step to complete by watching
a timer, then clearly it would be time-consuming, but certainly not
time well-spent.

> It's also the sole focus of the game, so I'm not sure how such a
> system would integrate into one with a focus more on combat and
> leveling.

Combat and leveling are not necessary brothers.  Combat can happen
without levels - any number of combat games, single player or
multi-player, have demonstrated that.  Current games in this genre
have hit on the recipe of combat and leveling as a way of keeping
players attracted, if not downright addicted, to them.  Just as I
wouldn't propagate the experience of leveling into crafting (though
that has been done), I don't believe that advancement is a necessary
part of combat.

To integrate combat, crafting, politics and many other experiences
as forms of entertainment, place them into the same virtual world.
There are natural points of contact between all the experiences.
The experiences need not be locked together in an iron embrace.
Perhaps 10% of crafted items might go to those involved in combat.
Perhaps 10% of combat results in new opportunities for crafters
(deposits of raw materials becoming accessible, etc.).  Much of
crafting may involve making items for prominent NPCs, who would be
more interested in items that are fun to make but which have no
entertaining use.

I could go on, but that's the general idea of how to integrate
diverse experiences - they will naturally overlap.

> I must admit that I got frustrated rather easy with both systems,
> though I knew people who would hammer at the same object for 2 or
> 3 days to get it perfect.  So in such a world, quality crafters
> would definitely find themselves in a position of value and
> regard, and those that just wanted to do the factory works still
> could, as any average joe could spit out mediocre objects with
> almost a minimal effort.

Such a system appears to be for crafting afficianados, which is my
metric for any form of entertainment.  Combat should be for combat
afficianados.  It should not involve rolling a die to decide if my
character wins or loses.  I should be involved because I enjoy
combat decisions and actions.  So it must be with any form of
entertainment.  Afficianados of that form of entertainment should be
catered to.

Too often, games structure entertainment only as an achievement.  Do
something that you're not interested in that somehow mimics a
variation on some real world experience and achieve the result - and
achieving the result is what gets the player through it.  The actual
process is quite uninteresting - to both players and designers.  But
afficianados want to enjoy the experience.

Some people want to get from point A to point B so they can do
something at point B.  They are not afficianados of travel.  Some
people just like being on the road.  They're the afficianados.
They're the ones that travel should be created for.  Ideally, the
first group, that just wants to get to point B, should not be
burdened with travel in order to achieve their goals.

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