[MUD-Dev] Do players enjoy farming? (was MUD-Dev Digest, Vol7, Issue9)

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Mon Jan 12 19:24:42 CET 2004

Paul Schwanz writes:
> John Buehler wrote:
>> Paul Schwanz writes:

>> 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 dragons.

If ranching and farming that way is something that people would find
entertaining, then it would be a good construct.  I just don't see
it being a big draw to people who would be typically attracted to
the process of raising animals or crops.

>> 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?

It will only be possible for players who aren't trying to pursue
some goal.  For players who are game to have stuff thrown at them
and they then react to it, I'm sure it would be fairly easy to find
an entertaining solution.  As for me, I like to pursue goals that I
choose.  I don't care for games that foil my plans.

> 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.

To me, those are one and the same.  If I have no crops I cannot
deliver them to a market.  And that delivery is the next step in my
being a farmer.  So my ability to farm is obviously affected.  I
have to wait until the next crop cycle before I can experience the
entertainment of taking crops to market.

I see monster invasions as largely uninteresting to a farmer because
they don't augment his experience.  They simply oppose it.  Instead
of doing what he was doing, he must now be entertained by a
completely new type of entertainment.  Whether he wants to be or

>> 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.

Ah.  You see, when I play a city-builder simulation, I very much
dislike the distraction of natural disasters.  The only thing they
accomplish is that I have to scramble to deal with them, then once I
have things under control, I can get back to whatever it was that I
was doing.

Maybe the fundamental point here is that I have a plan in a game.
I'm making strides towards certain goals because I can see how I'm
going to enjoy the process of achieving each such goal.  Every time
the 'reality' that the game designers came up with pops up at me, I
have to deal with it, and THEN continue.  Perhaps obviously, I don't
find the little doses of reality particularly entertaining.  This
may simply be a personality thing.  I don't change gears that fast.
I had expectations set up and I don't care for it when the game
messes with them.

Note that if I didn't want to set any expectations, I'd pursue a
form of entertainment that was clearly structured that way.  Walking
into a city of cutthroats and murderers probably means that I have
to stay on my toes.  That's great - so long as I get to choose it as
the entertainment I'm after.  If the cutthroats and murderers show
up on my farm, it's just not going to be entertaining.

> 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.

For MY entertainment as a viewer, yes.  But the farmers didn't find
it particularly entertaining.  MY entertainment was derived from
THEIR anguish and fear.  If I was the farmr, I wouldn't find it
entertaining.  I assume I'd just get anguish and fear from an
immersive game.

>>> 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."

Actually, I just completely screwed up by using the term 'barrier'.
People continue to equate it with 'challenge', which was never my
intention.  And I really do believe that all barriers to
entertainment are inherently bad.  Challenge, as one form of
entertainment among many, is a useful tool.

I'd be interested in hearing an example of a non-trivial barrier
that was a positive force in a game design.

> 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.

And I certainly applaud those efforts.  You have some of the most
innovative approaches to game design that I've heard.

> 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.

I don't use my examples as a means of demonstrating how poorly
something can be implemented.  I use them as a way of pointing out
flaws in basic design principles.  In this case, the very substance
of farm entertainment has nothing at all to do with the substance of
monster-slaying entertainment.  They are very different kinds of
entertainment.  Consequently, I believe they shouldn't be mixed.

More fundamentally, I believe that interdependence is a valuable
community building technique for the strongest of bonds.  However, I
don't believe that attempting to create bonds that strong are
appropriate to a purely online community.

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