[MUD-Dev] Re: MUD-Dev digest, Vol 1 #142 - 4 msgs

Par Winzell zell at alyx.com
Mon Aug 16 19:17:53 CEST 1999

Dr. Cat writes:

 > > From: Par Winzell <zell at alyx.com>
 > >
 > > I'd love to see a resurrection of a thread dealing with these old dreams.
 > > It seems to me the gaming world is well aware of the allure of background
 > > simulation in presented virtual worlds -- the idea of a world larger than
 > > the player, cookin' away oblivious to whatever the player's fiddling with
 > > at any given moment... this is alluded to in advertisements constantly.
 > > It's strange to me that more isn't happening in this direction. Could it
 > > be that it's a somewhat adult theme? Perhaps the Average Teenager is less
 > > interested in a real world -- unless they can shoot it up?
 > Sorry to sound cynical, but I try to be a realist about these things...
 > My personal take on this sort of work is that it's actually primarily 
 > for the enterainment of the programmers making and/or administrating it,
 > not for the fun of the players.  But they convince themselves it will be
 > great fun for the players, which would certainly justify doing the stuff 
 > they're so looking forward to the pleasure of tinkering with.

Don't worry about cynical; I have no urge to live a dream. Also, in general
I would agree with your observation on degrees of honesty in what motivates
programmers. However, in this specifically I believe you are wrong. I think
there is bone-deep fascination with virtual worlds where something actually
happens, both in programmers and players. Of course, if the implementations
fail to actually work, the effect you describe will occur... But they don't
have to fail. The fact that a lot of pipe-dreams lie this way does not mean
there aren't any number of ways of doing it properly.

 > ... to date, such efforts generally fail to produce 
 > the large amounts of fun the programmers expected.  Either they generate
 > a tiny quantity of fun, or none, or sometimes their simulation breaks 
 > down entirely.

Do you have some examples? I don't doubt you, but I'm not sure what kind of
game or game system you're thinking of... and perhaps you are responding to
my note as proposing hideously complex simulations. I have no urge to model
behaviours observed in reality to any precision... nor is the simulation in
any way supposed to be in competition with player-to-player interaction.

Quite the reverse, infact! I've never been terribly interested in all these
Muds laden down with badly glued-together single-player quests -- if I want
to explore lost worlds on my own at 3 AM I play an Infocom game. Muds exist
to provide interesting background for player-to-player interaction -- which
is precisely when you want simulation, not scripted stories, to provide the
plots (unless you've got human referees and game masters).

I also believe you over-estimate how complex a simulation needs to be to be
interesting. You mention M.U.L.E; one of my all-time favourite games... but
another favourite is Elite, where a major part of the game is spent zipping
from one place to another, making a profit buying cheap and selling dear.

I don't think Elite had a terribly complex system for simulating supply and
demand, but it worked well and I bet it'd scale to multi-player with little

Yet another golden oldie is Melbourne House's 'The Hobbit' in which Gandalf
along with a bunch of other NPC's saunter amiably about Middle Earth, where
they occasionally encounter each other with various effects. Once, I'd gone
about half-way through the game when suddenly I find the corpse of Gandalf,
slain by a wolf. I had to start over, but I absolutely loved that... it was
such a simple example of background simulation, but it doubled my enjoyment
of that game.

Neither ecology nor economy should glitter. Making these simulations stable
is not terribly difficult; the main point of my posting was that it's scale
that makes it work, not really super-tuning the wolf-eats-deer equations.

 > I'm perfectly content to "work backwards", starting at the outrageous and 
 > socially unacceptable point of "what type of end results in 'gameworld 
 > behavior' do I think would generate fun for the players?"  And once I 
 > think I have an answer to that question, I'll just design and program the 
 > absolutely most simple and bulletproof algorithms to generate those types 
 > of behavior.

I don't want to lessen the lonely grandeur of your position here, but, yes,
of course! I submit that a well-written simulation is the -essence- of what
you describe, whereas what you call a bulletproof algorithm may be the most
prone to mechanical abuse, unless it's thoroughly trivial in which case the
'fun' part of your criteria might come in question... :)

 > Let me pick 4 random 
 > days...  Got it.  Every other day I'll vary the price of this item up and 
 > down with statistical white noise, and on those days I'll make some big 
 > dramatic changes."

I don't see how this adds any fun to a game. How can anybody be a trader if
white noise governs his profession?


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