[MUD-Dev] Do players enjoy farming? (was MUD-Dev Digest, Vol 7, Issue9)

Paul Schwanz pschwanz at comcast.net
Mon Jan 12 11:49:10 CET 2004

John Buehler wrote:
> Paul Schwanz writes:

>> When I talk about camping and farming, I'm referring to *any*
>> low-risk activity that produces predictable gains, not just the
>> normal paradigm for camping and farming monster spawns.  I think
>> players like these sorts of activities much more than what we
>> typically attribute to them.  They aren't always the adrenalin
>> junkies that we make them out to be.  The problem, as I see it,
>> is that monster-bashing is typically the only real route to
>> success, both for those who are looking for an adrenalin high as
>> well as for those who are looking for a low-risk, low
>> -committment, highly controlled activity.

>> So why not introduce something like real farming?  Those who are
>> interested in farming-like or even mining-like activities can be
>> the major producers of resources in the game.  When you add
>> monsters to this mix, you can get something very interesting.
>> The farmers don't want to be killed.  That's not really their
>> game.  However, the monsters have a nasty habit of ruining their
>> crops, killing their sheep, or otherwise making a nuisance of
>> themselves.  So, the farmers hire monster killers (those who like
>> high-risk activities) to help keep the nuisance to a minimum.  Or
>> maybe they hire builders to construct a better wall around their
>> property.

> Barrier alert.

Hehe.  I'm starting to think that what you call "barrier," I call

> You get an interesting result, but only for the monster killers.
> The farmers and miners receive the hassle that you didn't want for
> yourself.  I think that you're mixing different types of
> entertainment for the farmers and miners.  They want to farm and
> mine.  They don't want to have things that oppose their very
> ability to farm and mine.

That will likely depend on your definition of farming and mining, as
well as the context, I suppose.  For instance, dealing with wolves
would seem to be pretty much inherent in the very definition of
something like ranching.  So, when you are killing wolves, perhpas
you *are* ranching instead of dealing with things that oppose your
very ability to ranch.  Similarly, I'd think that farmers in a
fantasy-based world may have an expectation that dragons will
periodically threaten to burn their fields.  To me, that would be
pretty much an integral part of being a farmer in a world with

> I encountered this sort of thing with Ultima Online.  I wanted to
> run a ranger who wandered in the wilderness, living off the land.
> I was perfectly happy to dodge the occasional monster.  And I
> could do all that and be entertained by it.  Then the player
> killers found me.  And killed me.

> At that point, I had the opportunity to hire somebody to protect
> me.  Or work to be badder and tougher than they were.  I had zero
> interest in solving that problem.  The problem wasn't
> entertaining, and the solutions didn't hold any promise of being
> entertaining.

Yes, but does that mean it is impossible to have solutions to these
sorts of problems that are entertaining?  If you read my post
carefully, you'll see that I specifically talked about the fact that
it was the crops and not the farmers who were endangered by the
monsters.  I think this makes a subtle, but important, difference.
The monsters are not affecting the farmer's ability to farm.
Rather, they are affecting the production of his farm.

> Similarly, I don't believe that farmers want to spend time hiring
> people to defend their fields or to constructive defensive
> fortifications to protect them.  Although only a story, "The Seven
> Samurai" is the very scenario that you talk about.  Notice that
> the portrayal of the farmers is that as soon as they can, they get
> back to farming.  They don't want to be hiring samurai, fighting
> off raiders or any of that nonsense.  They want to be farming.

I imagine what real-life farmers want may be a bit different than
what game-playing farmers want.  No city planner or engineer wants
earthquakes, tornados, or other such disasters, yet people who play
Sim-City seem to enjoy these sorts of challenges.  And it may well
be that without the challenge of building a city that can endure
such natural disasters, you aren't really fully experiencing the
concept of planning and engineering a city.

Furthermore, I'm going to assume that you'd never have seen the
movie you reference if it was only about farmers farming.  The
conflict adds a necessary element for entertainment.

>> Best of all, you can evoke emotions that are much more in line
>> with how monsters should be viewed.  Not as something like corn
>> or wheat, but as big, scary, dangerous things that we love to
>> fear and love to hate.

> I certainly support the notion that monsters should be less about
> balance and more about being an entertaining experience.  In your
> terms: "big, scary, dangerous things".  And I also support the
> desire to eliminate the classic implementations of farming and
> camping.  But I think that you're taking the farming and camping
> barriers and moving them to somebody else's experience by having
> monsters attacking the folks who want to farm and mine.

Although I'm arguing against it, I think that your point is an
important one.  I do believe that you may be taking it to an
extreme, though.  Sometimes it comes across as, "Your game should
not have barriers," although I think you intend it to be, "You
should be careful with the barriers you erect."  As I've said
before, I think the art of game design is in the mingling.  One
major impetus behind what I've proposed here is the desire for
community.  I happen to believe that interdependence is an important
ingredient in building community, even though I do understand that,
poorly implemented, it can also be a barrier to entertainment.  But
I also believe that pointing out how poorly something can be
implemented proves little.

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