FW: [MUD-Dev] Advancement considered harmful (long)

John Buehler johnbue at email.msn.com
Tue May 30 16:37:37 CEST 2000

J C Lawrence posted on Monday, May 29, 2000 12:46 PM

>The counter assumption is that by letting players create and define
>their own games via community you change both the players
>themselves, and their view of your game.  The goal is that the
>players sufficiently create and involve themselves in their social
>meta-game that it in itself becomes ideally tailored to them, and
>evolves with them over time.
>The problem with this assumption is that it requires significant
>time investments from the players to reach that level.  Some players
>have the idea that they need to "have a life" outside of their

  My take on this is that the game world progresses at a certain
macro level regardless of the activities of the players.  That's the
goal, anyway.  So the world plot continues no matter how the players
attempt to confound things in the world.  This is an important
concession to quality of service to the players of the world.  If
a game is to be marketed in any concrete way, the image of the game
world must be maintained by the game experience itself.  Certainly
the game could be marketed as being wide open and controlled by the
players - as is the case with Dark Zion.  While I wish them well in
what I consider a grand experiment, I would not financially back
such a venture.  If these virtual game worlds are ever to become
mainstream, they will have to permit casual visits that are both
engaging and permit a player to retain a certain sense of continuity
across those casual visits.

  I think that the most valuable model of gameplay is to accomodate
players who play for an hour every other day, and perhaps three hours
for one weekend day.  It becomes a hobby for the players.  In such an
environment, there's little possibility that these players - which I
assume will constitute the lion's share of players - will expend the
massive amounts of time that it takes to organize and plan activities
in the virtual world.  While there are certainly players who DO spend
that amount of time, I believe that it is fundamentally flawed to
believe that players will provide a consistent quality of service to
the masses of players in the game world.  That is, by definition, the
responsibility of the game designers and the official drivers of the
game world - the gamemasters.

  So to get back to the notion of the game world progressing regard-
less of player activity, it is the gamemasters who ensure that a
cohesive world exists.  It cannot be torn down by the players.  'Torn
down' means that players cannot derail whatever the macro plans of
the gamemasters are.  It does not mean preventing a physical tearing
down of the virtual world.  The technique that gamemasters would then
rely on would be 'sandboxing'.  This technique says that players get
to do whatever they want with the tools that they have available, and
that the net result is that they are unable to affect the gamemaster's
plans at the macro level.

  For many players and, I'm assuming, many on this list this premise
is fundamentally problematic.  Players expect to be able to become
kings, lords and mighty warriors that dominate the world's activities.
In short, they expect to become powerful.  Power implies control over
others, and that is anathema to quality of service.  'Control over
others' to me means control over other players.  The greater the
control one player has in a game world, the more that player becomes
a gamemaster, producing a problem where lack of cohesion in the macro
activity of the world results.

  To drag one more point into this post, consider PvP activities in
these games.  One big problem with PvP is that newbies typically are
trivial prey for more experienced players.  Why?  Because of a vast
differential in personal power in characters.  This is something that
must change as far as I'm concerned.  As characters advance, their
personal power cannot be increased significantly.  That's PERSONAL
power.  A first way that personal power can be constrainted is by
eliminating or drastically reining-in the increase of damage that a
character can withstand.  In EverQuest, a 50th level character has
roughly 50 times the damage resistance of a 1st level character -
50 times as many hit points.  This is simply not viable if we're to
pursue more realistic social interactions.  But the point here is
not to talk about hit points, but to show how personal character
power levels are a problem because of how they permit one character
to control others.  They impact the quality of service in the
existing game environments to the point where players will walk away
from the game because the advertised game experience is not the game
experience that they get.

  In summary, keep the power in the hands of the gamemasters through
the NPCs and game systems that they control, while permitting the
players to do interesting things within the honeycomb of sandboxes
that they create.  Please don't go too physical with this metaphor.
It is intended to be a metaphor for control in the game world.

MUD-Dev mailing list
MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

More information about the mud-dev-archive mailing list