[MUD-Dev] RE:

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Fri Nov 23 21:42:27 CET 2001

In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Sun 18 Nov, John Buehler wrote:
> Marian Griffith writes:

>> Yes, that is the difference between narrative and interactive.
>> It is also why I feel that inevitably games will evolve into a
>> new artform, separate from the classical storytelling that at
>> this moment dominates the field (in many guises). The one thing
>> that comes nearest that I know of is more of an exercise than a
>> from of art, improvisational acting, where a group of actors or
>> students more likely is brought together and without a script or
>> director is given a subject to (re)act on. Jam sessions have
>> something in common as well I guess.

> As a simpler example, how about real life?  Your life, my life,
> anybody's life.  We have a context in which we operate and we
> react in that context.  I don't think of these things as 'games'
> in the same way that I think about chess or checkers or even
> Quake.  I think about them as theme parks where I can go and
> experience things that I normally wouldn't.  It's not about
> winning.  It's just about doing things.  Personal bias there, of
> course.

Theme parks are an apt analogy for what games will start to evolve
into as they become more powerful and more entwined with everyday
online life.  However, even themeparks are passive entertainment,
and the unique strong point of games that they are active. They do
allow the player to become part of the cast, rather than a guest who
is along for the ride but ultimately not part of it.

>>> Only through the extensive use of NPCs who DO react according to
>>> the director's wishes can we up the ante.  That, and/or making
>>> player characters which have a certain autonomy to them -
>>> regardless of how terrible this may seem to some players.  In
>>> Camelot, I can walk in on the queen and dance in front of her,
>>> draw my weapon in front of her, etc.  Guards don't do anything
>>> in reaction, and the queen doesn't do anything in reaction.  The
>>> social code of 'respect royalty' simply isn't present.  If
>>> player characters enforced (or assisted in enforcing) the social
>>> norms of the society that they lived in, then there would be a
>>> greater sense of what you've asked for.

>> It does not require other players to enforce the game's social
>> rules, not neccesarily anyway.
> I don't believe I said anything about that.

I may have been mistaken but you did say "If player characters en-
forced (or assisted in enforcing) the social norms".  I thought it
meant that you think it requires the players to do the enforcing.  I
did not agree with that assumption.  Sufficiently rich interaction
between players and computer characters allows for the same effect.

> The treatment that I'm talking about is having the software
> enforce the social norms or any other 'enforced' behaviors in
> order to maintain the pretext of a specific culture or society.
> As a slightly silly example, consider if there was an automatic
> translator for everything that my character said.  I type "Do you
> know where the main town is?" and it comes out of my character's
> mouth as "D' ye know where the main town is, boyo?"  Trivial
> alteration, but it ensures that I cannot say "you" because
> characters of my social group don't say that.  That's the software
> enforcing a rule.  In the case of royalty, my character would
> automatically stop and bow whenever it sees the queen.  That's the
> default.  I can alter that, but altering it is a conscious act
> that can have all sorts of warnings and implications that are
> communicated to the player.  When the queen comes by and my
> character doesn't bow, other non-player characters will take note
> of it and be less inclined to interact with my character.

Obviously I misinterpreted your intention. I do agree with you that
game worlds should provide this kind of low level control over the
player's characters. If you want to make game worlds that do have a
*true* feeling over them.  It would make sense on some future ver-
sion of Legends, but not on Quake.

> Actually, I'm at the other end of the spectrum.  I *want* the
> fairly autonomous character that I get to watch do its thing,
> while I issue commands that more broadly direct it.

> As for being in control and having an alternate identity, I
> suspect that it is quite difficult to adopt an alternate identity
> without having control.

Adopt a new identity perhaps, but is that really necessary for most
games, or gamers for that matter? You do not adopt a new personali-
ty while reading a book, even if you intensely identify with the
main character.  A fair while back there was a discussion of
different types of role playing and immersion into the game. I
forgot who, but somebody did come up with a variety of approaches
ranging from essentially moving a token around a board to totally
adopting and internalising your game character (becoming that
character for the duration of a game session).  There is a lot of
room between these extremes for a game to position itself in. Also,
the amount of control you do have over the *character* is not
necessarily the same as the amount of control you have over the
*game* (either directly or through the character). Again The Longest
Journey is a good example of this.

> You may find that to be true, but I doubt if that's typically the
> case.  The game may be predicated on the notion, but I wonder how
> intensely that identity is adopted.

I may be the exception, but I rather doubt so.  It seems to depend
on the game as well as on the character of the players it attracts.
Myst and The Longest Journey are quite different games in this res-
pect even though they're both (somewhat crudely) labelled adventure
games. Do you care about April Ryan?  I certainly did, more so than
I cared about the vast majority of my mud characters, but less so
than I cared about some of my pernmush characters. Control does not
seem a good way to measure how intensely an identity is adopted by
the player.

> This may be related to gender-specific perceptions.

This may very well be the case, but not one I am able to judge.  I
do not know enough girls who play games to make any kind of educa-
ted guess, and besides, the current style of games is strongly ske-
wed to cater for a niche market of hack and slash games.  Neither
the boys nor the girls who play these games are representative for
the people who potentially could play games. Or so it seems to me.

Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

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