A Familiar Story

Once upon a time, there was a fellow who was tired of working for a living, so he decided to take up a life of adventure. He picked up some rudimentary training, and was now a first level adventurer in a large world, free to explore it and wrest its riches from the vile beasts patrolling it. The common folk he presumably left behind would solicit him to perform jobs and praise him as special, and he appreciated that, even though he knew his world was absolutely lousy with fellow adventurers like him who wouldn’t even give him the time of day.

He lived in a strange world, with strange physics about it. For example, behind each living being was a magical number, sometimes known only to themselves, and each time they sustained an injury these numbers would decrease. If these numbers reached zero, they would die… but death was only a mild annoyance at best. There was no such thing as a sword through the heart, merely one’s numbers being depleted, leading to a brief nap and transportation to where one is reborn.

Every hero was protected thusly. Though the commonfolk were supposedly not granted this accommodation, no one honestly cared enough to notice that no matter how many times they were killed or how hard their deaths were lamented they too were granted new life a few moments later. Even the lowest of villain, after being slain and spewing a lengthy monologue about his regrets in life, was allowed to continue their reign of terror after a minor trip, fresh off the points of adventurers’ swords, through the ethereal void and back.

So it was that “adventurer” took on a slightly different meaning. It was more of another kind of job. A shoe cobbler may wait about town, cobble broken shoes, and then wait around for the shoes to break so they could cobble them again. Adventurers would travel the land, kill evildoers, and wait about for them to come back from the dead to begin the process again. Just as a shoe cobber may always hope for a broken shoe, an adventurer would always hope for another evildoer to slay. Fortunately, the Gods had assured everyone had a job by providing an endless amount of work to do.

For the most part, what differentiated the Adventurer from the Commoner was a matter of imagination. Their goals were the same: to amass a considerable amount of gain – mostly in the form of gold and personal experience.

But then, gold was another mater of strange physics in this world. The merchants were permitted to fabricate it from thin air whenever they needed in order to always make sure the adventurers can sell any junk they find. The resulting inflation would soon render it useless… unless the Gods had perfectly balanced the world in such a way that costs were the same as gold accumulation… and most simply didn’t have that kind of time.

Even experience was largely an inconsequential drag that served only to limit the venues adventure may be found: killing for gold was the same whether one was a starting adventurer on the greatest. All that may have changed with experience was a little added sophistication in doing it. The Gods, ever afraid of scaring away the casual adventurer, assured that the challenge was never so great that it required one to think much. The adventurer’s challenge was largely one of persistence, that every adventurer may reach greatness no matter how poor they were at adventuring.

Eventually, our adventurer’s imagination ran dry. The life of adventure, without the delusions of grandeur, was merely a job. A job with pretty terrain and extravagant outfits, involving stabbing things that couldn’t care while enduring no consequences, but a job nonetheless. Our adventurer grew tired of this, hung up his adventuring hat, and looked about for a more interesting line of work. Perhaps, he mused, his next job should be one that actually paid him something of worth.

The End.

The moral of this story is that the whole premise of the typical MUD is fundamentally flawed. I’m bored of Warhammer Online, and it’s not because it’s a poorly made game: it’s actually a very well made MUD, though still “typical” along the lines of having these flaws.

(Not that I canceled Warhammer Online yet. It’s a long way until Fallout 3 and, even though the grind in WO:AR sucks and Realm Versus Realm is mostly a popularity contest, the PvP scenarios are fun in a First Person Shooter Deathmatch sort of way.)

It seems the main trouble is just the whole perpetuity of the thing. Developers are under obligation to keep a subscription game going, so nothing ever changes. They can’t produce content fast enough to have dead stuff stay dead, and they want to keep players under the illusion of accumulation so they allow the players to accumulate to the point where it loses all meaning. Apparently, anything that never ends is bound to lose its meaning…

Perhaps that can be resolved. I’m still mucking around with my BYOND work a bit, and am looking into ways to break the usual cycle of things. For example:

  • Hitpoints are being removed, if only because developers should have come up with a better system than copping Dungeons and Dragons by now.
  • I’m getting rid of unchecked accumulation, the building up of experience and gold for the sake of building experience and gold, and working on developing a system that simply rewards players for showing effort.
  • Permadeath is an option, provided it adds something. Without accumulation, where is death’s sting?
  • Players are being allowed to change the world in a meaningful way.  Rewarding them for changing the world in the “right” way is tricky business, however, as it stifles their creativity in whatever goal I choose.
  • Finally, it’s probably necessary to allow the game to end, if only because I doubt anything mankind can come up with can generate unlimited fun through all perpetuity.  (Learning is tricky that way.)  However, this is lack of perpetuity is okay if a proper end has been added.

It’s quite a grocery list, but I seem to be making progress now that my disillusion towards the typical 3D MUD has returned.

3 Responses

  1. So sayeth the solo’er.

  2. Hmm – it’s true, I do solo. However, I don’t only solo.

    I actually try to do grouping pretty often – doing a lot of scenario stuff and participate regularly in PQs. My primary character, an Archmage, is a very helpful fellow who regularly heals everybody he comes into contact with.

    Upon hitting tier 3, there’s actually not that many players out there to group with (at least when I last checked) on my server (Ostramark or somesuch). /who says there’s about 20-30 people in the zone, but it’s a big zone and hard to come across them. Checking the LFM party list shows everybody at least 10 minutes away, mostly in content I’ve already completed.

    But you’re right that if you frequently group it’s easy to overlook the fundamental MMORPG flaws. I guess that makes sense if I look at them at a perspective of being socialization engines, in which gold and experience are merely an excuse.

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