[MUD-Dev] Character Restraint & Capture (bounty hunting)

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Thu Mar 4 11:32:46 CET 2004

Matt Mihaly writes:
> On Tue, 2 Mar 2004, John Buehler wrote:

>>  The code of law> decides the appropriate punishment.  In a game,
>>  the software knows> what's going on, and the actions of the
>>  player characters can be> examined to determine exact
>>  infractions of the game's "laws".  The> 'code of law' can
>>  become, quite literally, the code of the law> system in the game
>>  world.

> I have to say, I don't think software knows much at all about
> what's going on in the virtual world it runs. It is capable of
> knowing the individual actions but falls flat on its face when it
> comes to the context of those actions or the intentions of those
> involved in the actions. Without taking those into account, you
> cannot approach anything that essentially everyone considers
> justice (I assume you're still talking about the idea of justice
> systems, not just PK systems.)

I was primarily considering assault and murder.  That was the
context of the post to which I was replying.

As for justice systems in general, I start from the basic
supposition that the software defines the justice system.  If the
software cannot be structured to handle a topic of justice, that
topic will not be explorable by player characters.

So if I were to pursue Achaea's notion of justice such that an
insult can lead to a player character murder, I would give the
players tools to roleplay the insult process all they want, knowing
that they are "just roleplaying".  When the insulter decided that he
want to get into a legalistic exchange, he uses the "Insult" game
mechanism and issues an official insult to the other guy.  At that
point, the insultee has options according to the legal system; the
software knows what's going on.

>> It would take more than "I was killed by K" data to make many
>> judgements, of course.  Each action that can be interpreted as an
>> aggressive action must be incorporated into the ruling system.
>> The archer attack that you describe can easily be interpreted as
>> a murder by three individuals based on simultaneous attacks by
>> them.  If one of them made an attack an hour beforehand, and the
>> victim was completely healed prior to the archer attack by the
>> other two, there would be no ruling against the first guy - other
>> than assault, perhaps.  You can go by the American code of
>> justice in large part.  Assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated
>> assault, murder, and so on.

> I'm not sure what you're trying to solve here. It's not the
> "justice" thing, because justice has as much to do with context as
> it does with actions. Extreme example: person A kills a guy in a
> war and to many (most?) people who are on his side, he's a hero,
> because he was ordered to do it by what they view as an authority
> (the government) who has the moral authority to condone and
> perpetrate violence against group X. The context of the
> killing/murder validates it as a moral action to many (most?)
> people, while person X killing the same guy outside the context of
> war would not be acceptable.

To continue with the above, a formal declaration of war would be
made by one side.  People would then establish themselves as
combatants or civilians per that declaration.  Assuming that the
game administrators want to permit war, that is.

The goal of this is to ensure that the software can be presented to
the players as the final arbiter of the game's notion of justice.
They will understand that it is at least uniform, even if they're
not necessarily in love with the rules.

If it is implicit in your statements that governing players should
control the definition of "justice", then hand over a toolset to the
governing players so that they can truly "codify" their justice
system.  I'm not particularly interested in player governance, so
I'm content to theorize about a single composition of the code of
law and to then declare that "just".  Subject to tweaking.

> Similarly, the game is incapable of telling the difference between
> someone hitting the wrong button and someone intentionally
> screwing with someone.

Hitting the wrong button can be addressed.  I'm not sure what
"intentionally screwing with someone" means in this context.  It
sounds like a griefing issue.

> It's also incapable of telling the difference between someone
> provoked or lured into attacking to someone who set out to
> attack. These nuances are absolutely key elements of all accepted
> physical world justice systems.

Unless the players declare these circumstances to the game.  And
that will happen when the players are just roleplaying.  It won't
happen when players are truly upset at each other.  I want the
former, but not the latter.  The latter is a customer support issue.

> Anyway, to summarize:

>   1. What players sense as real 'justice' requires context and
>   intention to be taken into account.

>   2. Software does a terrible job of taking into account both of
>   those.  (Humans hardly do a perfect job but they are orders of
>   magnitude better at it.)

>   3. Unfortunately, having humans do it requires lots of time to
>   research the issue.

>   4. The solution? I have no idea. We have some pretty interesting
>   stabs at it in our games but they are all very far from being
>   great ones. The best that can be said for them is that they're
>   run by humans, and humans are, so far, the only things capable
>   of even approaching justice.  Fundamentally, this is why most
>   games either pitch themselves as PK games (Shadowbane) so as to
>   ensure its whole playerbase is essentially consenting or put
>   sweeping coded restrictions on PK (EQ, DAoC, SW:G, etc.) that
>   almost utterly obliterate context or force a limited context
>   (like DAoC's RvR stuff) on PK. Human judge admins don't scale so
>   easily.

I happen to favor the limited context approach.  Just give the
players enough game features to cover the most common issues of
justice and you've gone a long way to providing for a lot of
entertainment at the legal level.

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