[MUD-Dev] Fair/Unfair? Scenarios (fwd)

Matthew Mihaly diablo at best.com
Mon Dec 6 16:16:49 CET 1999

On Mon, 6 Dec 1999, J C Lawrence wrote:

> You imply that there is a social contract between the game designer
> and the player.  I don't disagree, but I see the central argument as
> more philosphical than one of contracts and (naive?) expectations:
>   Are we as game designers responsible for taking (or at least
> offering ans semi-signposting) our guests (players) on a
> disney-esque tour of our game world, all sound and fury but with no
> (or few) actual threats, or do we offer an environment which may
> contain dangers, and then let the players excercise Darwinian
> mechanics in working thru it?
> Tour tour-guide or sink-or-swim?

Personally, I edge more towards a restricted sink-or-swim approach. I have
absolutely no problem with places that players ARE going to walk into and
die, becuase frankly, that's life. I'm interested in, as much as possible,
creating a world that feels real, and feels serious. Most muds do not feel
serious in my opinion. They protect their players far too much and thus
rob the game of the serious feeling that makes for a world that players
will take, well, seriously.

> The idea that the game world (or game designer for that matter) is
> going to come up to me prior to every "dangerous" section and warn
> me off (however subtlely), or ensure that I can never trap myself
> without a means of escape is somehow deeply offensive.

Preach on, brother JC. This is especially true in a game wthout permadeath
(I think an argument can be made that things like this in a permadeath
game are a different matter and probably shouldn't exist.)

> I just watched a chap play thru Quake II.  The fact that the game
> loaded the player up with health, armour, and weaponry immediately
> prior to almost every tough opponents was more than annoying.  It
> killed all surprise.  All shock.  All sense of actual concern for
> what the game world might wreak.

Yes, quite right. Yawn.

> "Life isn't always fair.  Deal with it."  We've all heard the line.
> How true is that for our players?  At what point does our role as
> world designers change from hand-holding tour guide to protagonist?

I've found that while some players do expect to be warned of unexpected
fatal risks, often times, when someone takes the time to explain to them
that this isn't some trivial game they are playing, but a real world, and
that in the real world (achaea being the real world in this context) bad
stuff happens sometimes. It's just the way of things. The good majority of
the time, it's been my experience that the player understands that, and
comes away from the discussion with a sense of renewed seriousness about
the world and life in it. 

> Again, is the game there to provide a carefully guaged and vicarious
> tour for the player, or is it there to provide a logically
> consistent reality for the player to deduce and seduce into
> survivability?

Perhaps in games with an ending, the former, but those are games. In a
_world_ I think definitely the latter.


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