[MUD-Dev] Reward system for social gaming?

Sean Howard squidi at squidi.net
Wed Oct 19 04:10:01 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


"Alex McGivern" <alex at aeonofdiscord.co.uk> wrote:

> It's a game. Participation is voluntary, players can drop out at
> any time, and the things that happen to your avatar aren't
> happening to you.  I can't quite fathom what you mean by "the
> results are dangerous".

Ah, the classic catch all excuse - and it is an excuse. If you do
any reading on this subject, you'll find that it is frequently
described as a community, virtual world, or even second life. "My
Tiny Life" is a good example of when people stop playing games and
start being real.

Social connections are not and can not be games. Even if the world
is fictional, those interpersonal relationships are very much
real. I even think that it's a mistake to think of them as online
games, as I believe the community aspect trumps everything else.

> If all participants were made fully aware of the server contract,
> how would you feel about the idea then?

I'm okay with it. When you enter a new community with the rules up
front, it is far easier to assimilate yourself without feeling
personally slighted at every turn. It's still not a perfect
situation, as there is no way to completely control interaction, so
even on a PvP server, there are still behaviors which are implicitly
considered bad. But it's certainly a lot better.

>> Did you read that article about EVE Online? The one where a group
>> of assassins spent nearly a year infiltrating a rival guild,
>> earning their trust, and then backstabbing them and stealing all
>> the guild assets?

> That's really cool, in theory - I'd love to play in a game that
> fully supported that style of play.

You'd be okay with having the wealth amassed over years of dedicated
playing to be taken away in a heartbeat because your trusted friends
turned on you? Either you are okay with a virtual community based on
mistrust, betrayal, and paranoia, or you just think the idea is
nifty "in theory". I think it's cool that it happened, but I also
think that virtual property shouldn't be considered throwaway. It
has value, and as that guy in Korea demonstrated, it can be worth
killing over to some people.

> which makes a successful coup like the one you describe rather
> hollow.

Just out of curiosity, what would you suggest would be a less hollow
coup?

> Bleurgh. This is the kind of nonsense that puts me off Warcraft,
> not because it's oppressive (I like playing the underdog), but
> because it's metagaming (which I believe is allowed under
> Blizzard's definition of PvP).

I've got a drawer filled with ideas about how to ruin a mmorpg's
community through such metagaming. Things like manipulating
economies, ruining other player's gaming experiences, controlling
social spheres, dismantling developer credibility, and stuff like
that. I could never bring myself to engage in such manipulative
behavior, but the fact that I could come up with these things (just
by observing the SWG forums, ironically) has taught me to never
underestimate players and never, ever overestimate the gaming
restrictions.

> Tangentially, it sounds like the tactic only works because the
> Alliance can prevent enemy PCs gaining XP: I'm generally of the
> opinion that PvP (and roleplaying) don't coexist well with
> treadmill-oriented games.

PvP, in general, can be controlled quite easily as long as one side
is willing to coordinate their side towards a specific goal. Most
games have specific criteria for what it means to "win" and "lose"
and much of the gameplay devices are centered around these
concepts. If you throw them out and define your own version of
victory, it turns out that there isn't a whole lot the game can do
to influence or stop you.

For instance, in the original Unreal Tournament, we once did an
internet game where all my friends played as the war cow and we kept
running around screaming MOO. Even though it was free for all
deathmatch, we ganged up on whomever took that last available slot
(easily spotted - not a warcow). We timed how long it took before
they'd leave the server in disgust. Not the game that the developers
had in mind, I'm sure.

- Sean
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