Imaginary Realities 2001 February Edition

Summary of February 2001 issue of Imaginary Realities. Imaginary Realities was an ezine dedicated to MUDs.

Summary of "Case for Multiple Experience Games" by John Buehler

Most games provide one "experience". That might be combat, or city construction, or something else. But, only one experience is available.

When a player gets bored of the one experience (maybe because they finished that experience's available story line, they look for another experience in the same game, but usually don't find a second well-developed experience, and have to move on to another game to get a new, fresh experience.

In fact, most game designers intentionally create a new game around one experience, because they won't make more sales from having more work from creating a multi-experience game "Instead of developing multiple games with a single experience each, companies should also be pursuing games that provide multiple experiences. When organizing multiple experiences into a single game environment, there is the issue of how to present the overall package. One such presentation is that of a virtual environment, where different experiences can be presented largely as they are in the real world. For example, if presenting the experience of auto racing, the player visits the racetrack. If presenting the experience of amusement park design and construction, the player visits a certain tract of land. This suggests that there exists a virtual world where the player can interact with and affect a number of objects in the world, permitting the player to experience various activities."

In a multi-experience game, players don't have to learn new controllers. Additionally, the following occur.

  • Experiential depth - experiencing the same game from different angles requires less work to obtain suspension of disbelief. Players are more easily drawn in.
  • Built-in demonstrations - The world itself is the demo.
  • Development tools - Making tools for designing your game become cost effective, because the will be reused creating new experiences within the game.
  • Retention of player investment - Character development transfers between experiences, so the player doesn't need to start completely over with a new experience.
  • Community development - community springs up, and players leaving the game lose their community

There are some challenges to multi-experience games for the game designers.

  • Keeping up with technology (computers/APIs/etc) is a real challenge.
  • Understanding the multi-experience game concept continues to evolve, making original design obsolete.
  • Merging in new experiences to an existing platform is tricky, and if done wrong, can destroy the revenue stream.
  • Some players prefer the single player experience.

Transitions between game experiences must new interfere with suspension of disbelief. Having all experiences be from the perspective of one player works. Also, being in control of a city that has several venues you can enjoy is another approach.

Separate the experiences by distance. This is similar to real life, and readily accepted by players.

The game experiences can be separated by discreet steps, or a spectrum. For example, city guards protect a city, but not outside the walls, so that is a quick step outside the city gate to get a combat experience. However, if the guards became less and less frequent the further you moved from a city, then the combat options would slowly become more common (on a spectrum) rather than instantly outside the city gate.

In multi-player games, all players are interested in only their own entertainment. Admins, however, can only be interested in the entertainment of their players.

In PvP style games, some players may not want to have the challenge of combat with another players. The experiences of the players are in conflict. "A very straightforward approach to ensuring that conflicting experiences do not get mixed is to ensure that the experiences cannot be mixed, period. Geographically separate them, or separate them based on time of day or age of the player or a token held by the character. For example, only if the leader of the race is carrying the "Intrigue" card can he be interacted with by the "Deus Ex" character. Or only night races are subject to infiltration by a "Deus Ex" character, and so on."

This naturally brings us to a discussion of Justice Systems. Justice Systems discourage players from imposing their experience on reluctant players who are pursuing a different game experience. Penalties could be in-game or a real world penalty, such as degraded game performance. Real-world penalties should be reserved for griefers.

"Justice systems are useful for maintaining separation of game experiences by declaring that if an interaction between two players' experiences are unsatisfying to one or the other, that there is a defined way to pursue a reasonable penalty for the transgressor. A 'reasonable' penalty is one that ensures that actions that are inconsistent with a victim's experience are made to be unreasonably difficult for potential transgressors."

The purpose of the justice system in a multi-experience game is to keep players' experiences distinct unless there is desired mingling of experiences. For example, in a game that allows PvP combat, the players could be required to agree to PvP before any other player can attack or steal from them. Essentially, they would turn on PvP for their character.

Summarizer's Note: At the time of this summary, Hypixel would be a great example of a multi-experience game.

Summary of "Developing a Storyline" by Wes Platt

Wex Platt (AKA Brody) is the creator of OtherSpace MUSH.

Story line (or story arc) is the key to player retention. The story can't end. It must be ongoing to keep players coming back.

"Many of you are probably familiar with the concept of a TinyPlot, or TP. These are often short-term events and often self-contained. A story arc is nothing more, in the simplest context, than a series of related TinyPlots woven together to form a cohesive story line".

Story arc is not a script, but an outline. First, you need to know in a general sense how the story arc ends, but not necessarily how the players will get there. Plan a series of events as the players progress toward the ending. Each event should open possibilities for the players to explore, but not dictate what they will do, or how they will act.

You create major events that are important to the characters pursuing the story arc goal. However, add in some less serious event that are related but just for fun.

Plan out a final event as a grand finale. This event should wrap up the story arc and lead into the next one.

Summary of "I Want to Bake Bread." by Sie Ming

Originally published as an editorial for Stratics.

There is a whole untapped niche market for crafters. These gamers want to create, not kill. Almost no games tap this market.

Here is a list of requirements for crafters to find your game interesting.

  • Crafted items should be items other professions want to purchase due to utility or beauty.
  • Similar ranks, status, and wealth as other professions should be achievable, though maybe slower because of less risk.
  • Crafters should have some utility when partied with other classes.
  • All items should degrade with use and time, for a healthy economy.
  • It should easy for players to buy items from crafters
  • It doesn't have to be complex to make the items like bread. (Selling is part of the fun.) It should also not be tedious.
  • Researching crafting recipes can be a fun sub-game, but should be optional. Make recipes tradable or sellable to those who hate research.
  • The economy must have good enough balance that new bakers can sell to customers because your shelves occasionally run out of items.
  • Make cost of rare or hard-to-make items expensive enough that many players can't afford them.
  • Allow crafters to specialize, so they aren't all making the same things.
  • NPC crafters should not compete directly with player crafters. Quality or better price should be the hallmark of the player crafter.
  • Trading and haggling with real players is a must. Don't sent NPCs to buy the crafters' goods.
  • Provide ways to increase crafters levels other than flooding the market with unwanted goods.
  • Don't make crafters able to produce more low level items as they advance, or they will price out new crafters by directly competing with them.
  • "The amount of time it takes us to bake a few cakes should not depend on how quickly we can click our mouse button. It should not depend on how fast our connection to your game is It should not depend on how advanced our macro program is. Characters with the same traits, abilities, equipment and raw materials should take the same amount of time to whip up some cakes. Let the mechanics of your game determine how quickly we produce items. Please do not make us into 'twitch bakers'"
  • Don't forget to keep expanding the game for crafters, too. They don't have to be large changes, just don't forget us.
  • Market the game to us, so we know there is a crafting class we'll enjoy.

Summarizers Note: This article came out before Minecraft made crafting and sandbox games cool.

Summary of "Losing Players to Responsibility" by Chad Elwartowski

Chad Elwartowski was the admin for The Four Lands MUD.

Giving more responsibility to a player often results in them playing less, or even avoiding your MUD.

"Whether it is a sense of...I beat this game. Or maybe, you are more restricted because you are sorta looked upon to be an example for others and you can not just swing this way or that when it comes to your moods since your position is pretty much set in stone."

You hire a player to be an Immortal and they go from three hours a day of play to too busy to play within a couple of weeks. People who are leaders in real life, do well, but other players come into the position of responsibility with no real understanding of how much work it is, so stop playing, because the responsibility isn't as fun as it seemed to the uninitiated.

If you find players that are already doing leader type things in the game even before they are given an official leadership position, then the new role will be less overwhelming, and even fun for them.

Summary of "The Aedon Attribute and Rule System" by Federico Di Gregorio

The author gives a brief overview of creating a MUD in Python. The overview is less than you'd understand after reading one beginner's Python book or Python class.

Summarizer's Note: If interested in getting familiar with writing a MUD in Python, checkout Evennia MUD/MU*.

Summary of "Zen and the Art of Spiral-Carved, Green Marble Incense Burners" by Sanvean

Sanvean was an admin on Armageddon MUD.

Moving away from an economy based off killing required the introduction of crafting our MUD. Foraging, butchering, and skinning systems were introduced first. Foraging introduced resources such as salt, wood, roots and other biome-based crafting items.

As a joke, basket weaving was the first craft introduced, but it turned out to be a good way to test the whole crafting system.

Crafting was added to the Magic Users skill set for magic based crafts. Some crafting skills, like cooking, everyone got.

Planning out the whole system in advance would have made it easier to implement.

Some great ideas came from players.

Fitting crafting into an economic system needs to be watched and tweaked carefully and often, so prices are reasonable, and items don't become too plentiful.

Dyes add another dimension to crafting. Items can be custom ordered with a guild's colors, for instance.