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

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Sun Jun 26 15:14:04 New Zealand Standard Time 2005

"Damien Neil" <damien.neil at gmail.com> wrote:

> And a "real" combat system would involve picking up a sword or
> reasonable facsimile thereof and swinging it at the foe.

Pshaw, I say. Combat is a completely tactical system, beginning to
end. At no point during the entire process is there any leeway for
other types of decision making. You can make it more tactical or
less tactical, but as of yet, you can't actually talk to your
enemies or use mind games to throw off their morale. So combat,
"real" or not, has none of the abstract steps removed, simplified,
or made for you. For what it is, it is complete.

> One reason people like combat in games is that they can be a
> mighty warrior without needing any of the skills a real warrior
> would require.  Or be a wizard, which is a tad difficult in the
> real world.  Or be a crafter without knowing how to craft.

Again, pshaw. I would be honestly surprised if ANYONE, in the entire
world, said anything like that other than as an excuse. Games are
about abstract decision making (ie checkers), not escapist self
esteem fantasies (ie furries). You CAN play games for the latter,
but I'd say that it is a very, very, very rare thing (and also the
reason why senators are so very afraid of Grand Theft Auto). We need
to be sure to separate the metaphor from the decisions when we talk
about why people play what they play.

> It's certainly a fine and good thing to make a game where crafting
> allows the application of player creativity.  This is not the
> be-all and end-all of MMORPG crafting, however.

ALL games allow the application of player creativity - that's what
games are for. It's about making decisions, and different people
make different decisions in different ways. How is someone who
min-maxes a grinding pattern to yield the highest xp gain per hour
NOT exercising player creativity?  What player design is, however,
is a more specific and slightly rarer version of player creativity
that requires players creating structure, not working within a
narrowly defined one.

And I'm pretty sure that the be-all and end-all MMORPG crafting
would absolutely require player design. Absolutely. End of
story. How could something be the end-all if it lacks part of the
bigger picture?

> It might make sense to distinguish between player-created content
> (artworks, puzzles, and other things made by the player), and
> player crafting (game objects created by the player's avatar).

There is no distinction. They are different steps in the same
process. I personally think that we can't talk about player crafting
unless we include discussions about advertising, market shares, and
monopolistic business practices. Crafting is not just the middle two
steps (design, gather, build, sell).

I'm sure you like MMORPG crafting (I wish I did), but there are
invisible steps that are typically ignored or downplayed. We can't
just decide that crafting exists in two parts - the parts you like
to do and the parts that you feel are so optional that they don't
matter. Just admitting that those invisible steps exist would be a
triumph, in my opinion. Only when we start noticing the entire
structure can we seek to understand it.

Sean Howard
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