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

Paul Schwanz pschwanz at comcast.net
Wed Jan 14 12:07:29 CET 2004

John Buehler wrote:
> Paul Schwanz writes:

>> 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.

I do recognize this as a legitimate desire.  That's probably why
Sim-City allows you to dial down the disasters if you want.  I think
a good game design would allow the farmer to choose locations that
were more or less vulnerable to monsters, depending upon their own
tastes.  It seems to me that one intuitive method for doing this
would be to allow players to come together in communities and
provide for some sort of common defense.  To provide balance,
though, the additional protection might be offset by the community's
tax structure which might be needed to help build and maintain the

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

Whether or not it was a positive force in the game design is going
to be highly subjective.  A lot of players will say that the
aforementioned natural disasters in Sim-City were non-trivial
barriers that were a positive force in the game's design.  You would
obviously disagree.  They'll say that the disasters *were*
entertaining, while you would probably view them as barriers to

>> 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.

Yeah, that came across a bit more accusatory than I intended it.  I
apologize for that.

I still think you may be looking at the art a bit too closely.
Sure, there are those who prefer farm entertainment and those who
prefer monster-slaying entertainment, but I think I may be designing
for those who enjoy living-in-a-medieval-world entertainment.  For
these people, the entertainment is in how the other elements mingle
together into something believable and immersive.  I like the idea
of having sub-games, but I don't want them to be so isolated that
the experience comes across as playing parallel single-player games
instead of one large whole.  So I believe that they should indeed be
mixed, but certainly they should be mixed skillfully and carefully.

> 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.

I'm not really sure there is such a thing as a purely online
community any more than there is such a thing as a purely
on-the-telephone community.

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