[MUD-Dev] Value

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Sat Feb 4 05:32:12 New Zealand Daylight Time 2006

Jaycen Rigger writes:

> "Brian \"Ayavaron\" Ross" <ayavaron at gmail.com> wrote:
> > ...why should some games require work before you can start
> > enjoying them. That just isn't cool.


> For us old school guys, what you call "requiring work", we call
> "part of the experience".  Contextually, it makes sense that your
> character should endure certain "trials of life" before gaining all
> the goodies.  It's kind of an old timey nutty concept - work for
> things and get rewarded.

You're talking about delayed gratification.  In life, I'm a big fan of
delayed gratification because it is a sign of self-mastery, of
impulse-control - a key to the development of personal character.  However,
games ARE the gratification.  As soon as a player enters the game, he or she
should be gratified by the experience.  Modestly, but constantly.

Why modestly?  Because of the situation.  Disney charges an arm and a leg to
enter their parks, the logistics of getting to a park can be daunting, and
the experience in the park is quite intense.  Sony charges a pittance to
enter their parks, the logistics of getting there are trivial, and the
experience is highly variable.  It is the variable nature that keeps players
going back.  "Hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer entertainment"
might be the best summary of it.

Players are trying to get those moments of sheer entertainment out of the
games.  Yet they're elusive, so the players keep plugging away.  When a
player like Brian Ross comes up for air, he realizes that he sure is working
hard to get his little pulses of entertainment (thus the constant mentions
of Pavlov and Skinner).

Instead of working within the game for occasional entertainment, consider a
game that provides near-constant entertainment at a modest level.  Players
come into the game for a period of time, have some fun, then leave sated
until the next time.  That is the formula that MMORPGs never found.
Tabletop games have it, and old-time D&D sessions had it.  D&D sessions were
more like a visit to Disneyland than an MMORPG.  MMORPGs need to be like
tabletop games: easy to get into, modestly entertaining, and easy to put
down again.

Consider a game that is incredibly entertaining, yet has little entry cost
and few logistical barriers to reaching it.  It would be a moral and ethical
disaster for the communities impacted because people would never stop
playing the game.  Much like the drug problem in America.

I seem to be arguing in favor of the notion of work being an integral part
of any experience.  In life, yes.  In entertainment, no.  Variability in
entertainment doesn't build character, it builds addiction.  To inhibit
addiction, entertainment must provide a level of delight that is appropriate
to the means of access to the entertainment.  Intense entertainment must be
difficult to obtain.  (In a capitalist society, this tends to happen
automatically; the better the entertainment, the more that can be charged
for it)  Lower-intensity entertainment can be more easily obtained.

Ultimately, MMORPGs should be providing a modest level of entertainment that
is maintained, not variable.  The current recipe of variability is wasting
publisher resources as well as the time of their customers.  That
variability is perceived by players as a mix of work and entertainment.

The clearest example of the pattern is levels, which Raph Koster expounds on
at great length in a current posting. Long periods of killing monsters,
punctuated by moments of thrill when the next level is reached.  To moderate
that pattern would be to make killing monsters more entertaining, and
achieving the next level (if any) less significant.  In that venue, players
play the game to kill monsters, and stop playing when they've killed enough.
That, as opposed to playing until the wee hours of the morning so that they
can get their next level with the awesome group and/or awesome farming spot
that they found.


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