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Old 03-10-2007, 09:57 PM   #41
Ide
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Originally Posted by (Malifax @ Mar. 10 2007,2:17)
If you have a game full of players adding content to your world, you're going to get lots of bad writing, whether its authors think it's bad or not. There have to be standards, and substandard writing will be substandard, no matter of how it's distributed. If I have to spend time "managing" player-written content I might as well write the stuff myself.


That doesn't mean anyone's an idiot or a bad person. Just not everyone can write well enough that I'd want them painting my world. I probably set the bar higher than most, but regardless of standards, if the player population is adding text to a game a lot of it isn't going to measure up.
No, you're missing the point. Substandard writing will not be distributed. That's the idea behind managed distribution, and perhaps managed is the wrong term if you think you need to spend a great deal of time on it. You write a system so that the players 'manage' the distribution of the content according to your rules.

Also, who's to say what's substandard and what's not? If you want to write everything yourself, fine. If you want to write with a team where everyone writes to the same standard, fine again. But there's nothing that says a player-generated world must result in 'a lot' of really bad writing. You're looking at the situation too simply.
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Old 03-11-2007, 12:58 AM   #42
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Drealoth:
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But is that because nobody's managed to break free from that model yet?
No idea, but the same could be said for every single idea that doesn't violate the basic laws of physics.

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World of Warcraft has the advantage of being able to look at a decade of previous MMORPGs that were essentially the same (Meridian, Everquest, etc). I think what has made Blizzard's game so great is that they took what was already a popular genre and cleaned it up, giving it mass appeal.
Meridian 59 bears little to no relationship to the DIKU line actually, or to EQ or WoW. Everquest and WoW are clearly descended from the DIKU concept though.

If you don't like WoW as an example, let's present some others, all of which absolutely dwarf Second Life, and all of which are developer created and most of which do not come from any sort of long-standing text MUD tradition)
* FlyforFun
* Neopets
* Runescape
* Maple Story
* Club Penguin
* Lineage
* Lineage 2
* MU Online
* Ragnarok Online
* Habbo
* etc etc

These all have user-generated content to one extent or another of course (simply saying something is user-generated content after all) but it's sort of a 95-5 kind of ratio, at best.

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Second Life went off into uncharted waters, and although it may not have been a sleeper hit, it has generated enough buzz that I wouldn't call it a failure either.
What if I said to you that to me, Second Life is LambdaMoo with graphics and real-money transactions added on?

As far as whether it's a failure or not, it's still not profitable, after years, so from the perspective of the company and its backers it has yet to really prove its success. On the other hand, it has a good revenue flow (if not profit) and they've recently hired a CFO who contributes nothing to their core business except for the fact that he's led several companies through acquisitions.

I think that ultimately what will happen is either:
1. Linden will get bought by some clueless media organization wanting to appear hip/savvy. Possibly Viacom, though their MTV division has been pretty savvy about virtual worlds thus far. The Linden boys will all get very rich and Second Life will die a slow death under the hand of an organization that has no idea what it's really bought. Unfortunately, I think this is the most likely scenario and it's pretty clear that Linden is aiming hard for a liquidity event.

2. Linden will not get purchased. It will go bankrupt, and its assets will be sold off and purchased by a group of patent attorneys who won't put the service back up but will instead spend all their time suing anyone trying to do what Second Life tried. (I'm only half-joking though!

3. A capable competitor will emerge and simply put SL out of business as users flee to a service that offers the same fundamental experience without the horrible interface and technology problems SL has. Whatever service that is will have some directed activity at the beginning too rather than just dropping users into a big sandbox of a world.

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I wouldn't discredit the genre of social MMORPGs just yet, as I think only now it's starting to get some steam.
I don't discredit it at all. Social virtual worlds are massive. That genre is not led by Second Life though. It's led by social worlds like Habbo, which has about 30x the regular users of SL.

I'm just discrediting SL, which I think is the most over-hyped virtual world ever.

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Look at Sony's recently announced 'Home' software, for example.
Yep, I was present when Phil Harrison made the announcement.

I have to say: I don't want to have to enter a 3d 'world' just to hook up with my friends to play online. Paint me dubious about 'Home.'

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And Matt, look at your games for example. I would argue that the Iron Realms games have perhaps the most well developed player run politics of any games out there, and I also think that without it your games would not be nearly as popular as they are. I know that's a far stretch from player defined classes and other roles, but it's at least a few steps in that direction.
Oh sure, I agree, but I consider this to be different, and actually more important in the long-run, than user-generated content (UGC). I'd call that "user-generated activity" (UGA).

I'm noticing designers from leading virtual world companies are starting to finally recognize that it's UGA that's important. Many text MUDs have known it all along of course (including far before I founded Iron Realms 10 years ago), but text MUDs have always been ahead of the curve.

For instance, I gave a lecture at GDC yesterday along with Sulka Haro, Habbo's lead designer, and he did a great job of illustrating how implementing even minor systems that unlock the potential for UGA can lead to considerable growth.

If you ask me, that's the future of text MUDs. We are better at verbs (activity/actions) than graphical games are but I think they're better at nouns (content).

Yes, we can do user-created content and it's certainly worth doing some but I sure wouldn't try to base a gamey-world around it, and I'm sorry to say, but if the future of text MUDs is convincing people that it's nicer to read about a tree than see a picture of it, we're screwed.

What we want to do is create underlying games (which are largely independent of the content you lay on top of them) that enable a wide range of actions/verbs such that graphical games cannot effectively emulate them due to cost.

Just my opinion, of course.
--matt
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Old 03-11-2007, 09:59 AM   #43
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Malifax @ Mar. 10 2007,8:17)
If you have a game full of players adding content to your world, you're going to get lots of bad writing, whether its authors think it's bad or not. There have to be standards, and substandard writing will be substandard, no matter of how it's distributed. If I have to spend time "managing" player-written content I might as well write the stuff myself.
Player-added content doesn't necessarily mean freeform writing.  Implement the appropriate rules for managing the content, then you can work on something else while the players use your tools to expand the game.

As an example: I allow players to set their own descriptions, but they may only do so through configurable options, not by writing their descriptions manually.  This ensures that they cannot write what I would personally consider to be a 'bad' description (i.e., descriptions don't have spelling mistakes, bad grammar or incorrect information).

Admittedly the above example doesn't actually help expand the game, but it does save me the effort of verifying people's descriptions for quality and consistency.  The only other two alternatives I can think of would be to (1) spend administrative time and effort verifying/validating player descriptions, or (2) allow players to write what I consider 'bad' descriptions. My approach sacrifices flexibility, but it's a price I'm more willing to pay than the alternatives.
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Old 03-11-2007, 11:25 AM   #44
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Originally Posted by (Drealoth @ Mar. 10 2007,2:41)
Malifax, what if you had a system that was designed to increase the average quality of descriptions?

Take, for example the act of designing the description for a room. You could have a collection of say 1000 (or however many) base sentences, from which the room designer gets to choose 5 - 8. Each of these sentences has customizable adjectives, allowing for a greater amount of customization. With the restriction of using premade sentences, nobody with a base level of intelligence can make a description that is too bad. Now, of course, even with thousands of sentences from which to choose you limit flexibility and eventually you'll get repetition, so you can then look at people with say 100 rooms built, look at the quality and flow of their areas, and slowly give them more and more rights - the ability to write their own complete descriptions in the end. If you created an out of character praise/report system allowing for people to anonymously praise descriptions that they enjoy, and report ones that they don't, it'd further ease the job of quality control.

To clarify on the sentence collection, you could have for example a file with a list of sentences as follows:

In the centre of the [adj] room sits a [adj] table.
From here, the player could create something like:
In the centre of the smelly room sits a giant table.

Obviously, it would rely on a creative person to create the tagged sentences to begin with (can you tell I'm not a writer?). In any case, I'm sure such a system would require more thought than what I've just given it, but it seems like a good starting point.
I like that idea, Drealoth. It's actually something I've thought about a lot because in Shadowfall I'm including skills for building houses and ships, smithing weapons and armor, creating clothing, jewelry, etc, and describing it all. We had a system coded in Inferno where you could rent a room or suite in a hotel and completely customize furnishings, layouts and some other stuff. But Shadowfall skills are being designed with the goal of making player ability count at least as much as character skill, so I see no reason why building and item creation should be any different. Being good in combat means you type fast, have quick reflexes and are a good strategist. Being a good carpenter, shipwright, weaponsmith, tailor or jeweler means you're creative and write fairly well. Everybody can't be good at everything.
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Old 03-11-2007, 12:24 PM   #45
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Player-added content doesn't necessarily mean freeform writing. Implement the appropriate rules for managing the content, then you can work on something else while the players use your tools to expand the game.
I agree for the most part with KaVir. I think for the most part players should be able to change the environment they play in, even if they aren't adding 'new' content per say, they're still changing things up for other the players, keeping each adventure new and exciting. I think MMO games could do the same thing, but its a lot easier to create more permutations in text without the expensive overhead of paying artists and designers. In this regard a MUD is more or less a continuous system where as a MMO is discrete, we can fill in the gaps because of the flexibility of text that MMO games cant.

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Old 03-11-2007, 12:24 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by (Ide @ Mar. 10 2007,9:57)
 No, you're missing the point. Substandard writing will not be distributed. That's the idea behind managed distribution, and perhaps managed is the wrong term if you think you need to spend a great deal of time on it. You write a system so that the players 'manage' the distribution of the content according to your rules.

Also, who's to say what's substandard and what's not? If you want to write everything yourself, fine. If you want to write with a team where everyone writes to the same standard, fine again. But there's nothing that says a player-generated world must result in 'a lot' of really bad writing. You're looking at the situation too simply.
Players managing content distribution according to my rules...

I guess I don't see how that's effective unless "my rules" means pre-written stuff that can be mixed and matched by players. If you have players approving writing according to standard guidelines, I think you're wasting your time. As far as who is to say what's substandard, I am. And maybe my standards are too high. I just know that I've entered some games with the intention to play them and been really turned off by not just a little mispelling and incorrect grammar, but really bad writing. And that's what I'm afraid of.

When it comes to creating the game world, I will definitely be doing the writing myself, along with a team of writers. But there will be mechanics in the game that allows players to build houses, shops, etc, and I definitely don't want the perpetual job of writing all those descs. I've been there and done that. All it leads to is writer burnout and unhappy players who end up waiting a really long time for their buildings. In the end it was way more headache than it was worth.

And I really do understand mechanics that allow players to create custom descriptions by combining pre-written pieces. Characters in Inferno come out of the creator with custom four-line descriptions. Later on, if a player waants to write a desc from scratch, we'll look at it, fix it if necessary and stick it on. Treating room descs the same way will end up with player-created constructions looking very canned after a while. I want more flexibility than that, so I'm searching for some middle ground. My initial idea is to have people apply for admission to architecture school by submitting a sample building plan (sample room descs) in-game.
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Old 03-11-2007, 05:01 PM   #47
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3. A capable competitor will emerge and simply put SL out of business as users flee to a service that offers the same fundamental experience without the horrible interface and technology problems SL has. Whatever service that is will have some directed activity at the beginning too rather than just dropping users into a big sandbox of a world.
Not necessarilly. They recently open sourced their client. They know they have bad interface design, so they are going to see if the thousands of people using it can fix it. Good bet they can. By contrast, games like EQ and EQ2, WoW, etc. have fixed, non-adjustable interfaces. Even when you add a hack, like the one I recently added to EQ2, to give you more points of interest on the maps you can navigate to (and so you can fracking find things at all sometimes), you still can't re-scale the map to focus in on specific points, the maps don't always line up 100% with where you are in the world and other glitches. The maps in EQ didn't look as pretty, but the new ones suck in some critical ways and you *can't* fix them, since the client's interfaces don't let you make the changes you need to correct the problems.

By contrast, text parsing is only non-trivial if someone intentionally designs areas that are nearly impossible to map, but the mapping can be done using several existing systems, or you can build entirely new ones, which someone did for a Battletech based mud a while back.

As for muds being better at actions... Maybe... If you mean you could "write" three paragraphs about what a monster is doing in a room, instead of having it animate it. But part of designing muds tends to be small and concise room descriptions, small and concise object descriptions and lots of very short descriptions for how you hit, kick, zap, etc. the mobs (or them you). There are really only a few "actions" muds deal with combat wise - DOT, heal over time, heal, hitting. Everything else is a label. Do muds do a better and easier job of "labelling" things? Sure. But so what. You spend almost as much time trying to avoid attack A from looking too much like attack B, C and D in three other guilds as you would changing the color of a cloud of sparks or gluing a different handle to an axe, so attacking with it doesn't look the same.

But.. How about Emotes/Souls? Well, a lot of them are now animation scripted in 3D games. But, you have the same problem with non-scripted ones there are you do in muds. A Muds mechanics don't generally allow you to do an emote that "automatically" corrects for gender pronouns or other issues, neither do they do so in 3D environments. The only *gain* you get from the text environment is that its not 3D, so you can do, "Shadowfyr hops on one leg.", and not worry about the fact that the character model just stands there. Gosh! lol

Seriously, 3D environments do action as well as muds do, and they get better all the time at it. Its probably not going to be too long before someone tries building a "magic" physics engine in one that defines internally how spells *work*, and not just manually script every spell individually. There will still be limits, but adding one effect that is missing is going to be a lot easier than animating 100% of the entire sequence. I wouldn't be suprised if some of that is already going on. The gag animation in EQ2 is also used for most plague type spells, just with some other stuff thrown on.

Put simply, muds could write chapters for the "big" details, but no one wants to play the text equivalent to a Hemmingway novel, so they write what is paragraphs for main descriptions and mere sentences for the details, when you look at them. 3D systems don't need to "write" the novel, they just need to show it, so even the smallest object of real interest, if transformed into part of a book, would take a whole page. And that includes actions, which if described in sufficient detail would be so horibbly spammy you wouldn't be able to tell what was even happening in the fight.

I am not sure the argument that muds do action better is anything more than, "We have more labels and they can be pasted on the jars faster than if you tried to paint them on instead." Certainly a valid argument, if you don't mind all the labels to be nothing but strips of paper with a word printed on them, while the guy down the streat is drawing pictures on theirs. Even more relevant an argument if you can draw pictures, but not quite the same as the guy the next block over doing glass etching, and so on. More generic doesn't mean "better", just easier and faster. And that only remains valid so long as it remains easier and faster to do it. The day the guy on the next block over can take "any" label and "print" it through an etching machine.... you're hosed. lol

So, the entire argument about "better at actions", really is just a statement of *for now*, with the additional caveat of, "but not with as big of a gap as there used to be."

---

I do agree that some sort of QC control needs to be placed on things. Perhaps that would be one grounds for guilds and societies. To make one you might be required to have one or more people "in" the group that is good at writing the descriptions. Or failing that, maybe those that "do" write well might even make a builders guild, which would take less time to build you your castle than if you submitted it to the games own staff. I.e., using local contractors, instead of hiring the experts from some far off kingdom. The later might do a better job, but they might also have so many other projects that it would take years to get to yours. Better to hire the local builders guild, whose work has already been vetted and approved "by" those distant experts.
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Old 03-11-2007, 10:39 PM   #48
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Shadowfyr wrote:

Not necessarilly. They recently open sourced their client.

Yep, which is a step in the right direction but doesn't fix their crappy and stupidly expensive technology (they can support approximately 4 simultaneous players/server).


They know they have bad interface design, so they are going to see if the thousands of people using it can fix it. Good bet they can. By contrast, games like EQ and EQ2, WoW, etc. have fixed, non-adjustable interfaces.

Have you never seen Insomniac for WoW? It's a compilation of dozens of interface alternations. Runescape fans have also reverse engineered the client and made a completely custom client (which Runescape doesn't like).

Allowing users to play with the client is nothing new and is quickly going to become fairly standard. In EE, we plan on opening up the client to users after it's stable, for instance.


But part of designing muds tends to be small and concise room descriptions, small and concise object descriptions and lots of very short descriptions for how you hit, kick, zap, etc. the mobs (or them you). There are really only a few "actions" muds deal with combat wise - DOT, heal over time, heal, hitting.


Combat is one system in many MUDs, but just one of many. Perhaps one of the most important, but saying that a MUD only deals with a few actions combat-wise is true, but also misses the fact that the actions in combat are just a small set of the overall actions available.



Everything else is a label. Do muds do a better and easier job of "labelling" things? Sure. But so what. You spend almost as much time trying to avoid attack A from looking too much like attack B, C and D in three other guilds as you would changing the color of a cloud of sparks or gluing a different handle to an axe, so attacking with it doesn't look the same.

The labels are content/nouns, not actions/verbs.


But.. How about Emotes/Souls? Well, a lot of them are now animation scripted in 3D games. But, you have the same problem with non-scripted ones there are you do in muds. A Muds mechanics don't generally allow you to do an emote that "automatically" corrects for gender pronouns or other issues, neither do they do so in 3D environments.

There are certainly text MUDs that do that. Achaea does it for instance. I don't care what "most MUDs" do, as most MUDs are just people screwing around in their spare time, just like most graphical MUDs (few of which you or I have ever heard of as they have few to no players) are people screwing around in their spare time. I don't think there's much to gain by defining the potential of MUDs by the lowest common demoninators.


The only *gain* you get from the text environment is that its not 3D, so you can do, "Shadowfyr hops on one leg.", and not worry about the fact that the character model just stands there. Gosh! lol

As the classic example (courtesy of Raph Koster I believe) goes, try doing this in a graphical MUD: "You bow ironically."

And try doing custom animations at all in any gamey-environment (WoW, Runescape, etc etc). Second Life lets you but it's that very pupeetering system that has helped ensure that they are still not profitable.



I am not sure the argument that muds do action better is anything more than, "We have more labels and they can be pasted on the jars faster than if you tried to paint them on instead."

Well, again, those labels are content/nouns not action/verbs and are not what I'm talking about.

--matt
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Old 03-12-2007, 05:10 PM   #49
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Then perhaps, like Socrates when confronting someone over the precise definition of piety, I should ask, "What then is it that you *do* mean?" But be prepared to have the ground on which your foundation is set walk away from you.
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Old 07-04-2007, 06:33 PM   #50
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Re: The future of text-based gaming?

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Originally Posted by the_logos View Post
I don't care what "most MUDs" do, as most MUDs are just people screwing around in their spare time, just like most graphical MUDs (few of which you or I have ever heard of as they have few to no players) are people screwing around in their spare time. I don't think there's much to gain by defining the potential of MUDs by the lowest common demoninators.
I think a lot of cool stuff could come from hobbyists rather than from companies. As a hobbyist you can focus on what you enjoy and try out new concepts that a company might not be as willing to attempt. I have seen good MUDs made by hobbyists. The issue though is that you usually don't know about these MUDs as to discover them requires you to play the game a while. There seems to be gems in the stack of MUDs.

One MUD I visited *really* impressed me. Oddly enough it had 0 players ;-).
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