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Old 03-19-2003, 05:14 AM   #1
Maia
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In my journeying through the wonderful world of MUDs, I've noticed that not only are good RPI environments rare and precious things, they are fragile and prone to besiegement from maurading hordes of twinks.

I'd like to ask all those who run or play RPI MUDs (I suspect that MUSHes are inherently more twink-proof):

How did you establish an atmosphere condusive to good roleplay?  How do you maintain it?  What do you do with those who seem unwilling or unable to "get with the programme"?


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Old 03-19-2003, 12:34 PM   #2
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I play at ArmageddonMud, and there are is a surprisingly small amount of twinks. The few I have seen have been dealt with without even the need of Immortal assistance.

If making themselves a nuisance, most players would take thier stupidity, and think up a reason to kill them, leave the area, call the Militia, etc.

Most Twinkish players are sorted and discarded during the application process, or soon after. Our playerbase is very mature, and very dedicated, so the ones who try to ruin our fun are usually VERY short-lived.

I love Armageddon because I know that it is a mature, ruthless environment, and the playerbase takes care of its own. And if we can't take care of it, then we have a star-studded roster of Immortals who #### sure will.

Just my own meaningless comments, albeit thoroughly tainted by the voices in my head.
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Old 03-19-2003, 06:50 PM   #3
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I too play Armageddon and consider myself an 'Armaddict'. What makes this... Id consider... a successful RPI is the following:

*Great staff- The game is over a decade old and over the time has achieved a great, helpful and interactive staff. They have regular get togethers (in-person! And thus can work well without fear of trust issues and the like. Questions are answered quickly, emails responded quickly, and they actually monitor and give feedback to their characters. Overall increasing the rp atmosphere of the world by pointing out places you can improve and warning you when your being a twink. The next part regarding them is that they go unseen. You will not see one in game. No 'restores', no gifts, etc.

*Application process- Characters have to go through an application process. Characters are written up and reviewed within in 24 hours. So that you will never see a jedi-robot wandering around.

*Not skill based really- Skill precentages, levels, numbers are all gone. You have a skill list and a score list. Thats it. No precentages telling you how much more to spam til you increase, none of that. You still improve, but realistically. You cant sit at a dummy for two hours and be 'maxxed out' in your fighting skills. Spamming in general is looked down upon and the staff will even adjust your skills downward should you be doing things that your character wouldnt. (i.e. ungodly amounts of training with no rest, crafting hoards of stones with no rest, etc etc.)

*A harsh world- A five minute old warrior wont have to worry about 'where to kill things'. More likely where not to die The world is harsh enough to prevent the hack and slash environment off the bat. You cant just go kill hoards of people/mobs because... why would your character do that?

*Lotsa documentation and background. 100s of pages of documentation flesh out this world almost completely, making the environment rich around a character before they even get in.

*Emote system. The great emote system makes every kind of action possible.

I dont know... just all this together makes the RPI successful. The major thing is people who come here WANT to role-play. Id say the average player is 18+, you dont get the normal phrases like - Wot lvl r u? because people here know how awful that sounds and want to avoid it. Characters like thatd probably not even pass the application process, sadly.

Come check it out... dont have to play if you dont want to, but its alot easier then trying to explain.

(EDIT) ALSO!!!! a big also. is permanent death. I can not take role-playing seriously in most games where I can kill someone and they will be walking the streets within the minute. Part of the Role-play intensive genre that makes it good is EVERYONE is PK, and EVERYONE can die. People cant hide behind this shield of invulnerability, people pay for their actions one way or another. But conversely there arnt super characters and eminent death isnt a big problem. the strongest person will still not be able to murder everyone with giant IC consequences, and probably OOC ones too. There are guards, militia, and then staff to figure out exactly why you slaughtered 100 people you've never met.
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Old 03-19-2003, 08:10 PM   #4
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Maia,

It's an excellent question and one that is rooted in the game design, both on a thematic and coded level. KaVir has presented several arguments in the past on administrative forums, proving how code can be utilized to enforce rules. As an example, an environment that wanted to make sure that newbie players were not PKed, could simply code in a no-kill flag that would be set on players who have played less than ten hours.

It is entirely possible for the development administration of an RPI to structure their code in such a fashion that it will weed out the majority of players looking for a quick-fix of interesting combat code. An application-based character creation system is one of the most proven methods of doing such, but there are a multitude of other options as well.

The trick of the RPI developer is to ensure that both their theme and code promotes interactivity between players. If it's neccessary to socialize in order to learn skills, advance in combat proficiency, and gain status or wealth, the enforcement of roleplaying suddenly is placed in the hands of the players. Essentially, it creates an upward spiral.

Take for example a simple organization/faction structure:

Player T(wink) wants to become a battle-master.
Player T must interact to find out that the city guard faction is one of the best places to learn battle skills.
Player T must meet with Player V(eteran) to join the city guard.
Player V provides an example of the RP requisite, through V's own roleplaying. If Player T adapts to this, he will be accepted into the guard. If T does not, he won't be.
T, not accepted into the city guard, is left with two options: learn the thematic information and make an effort to roleplay, or find another game.

Either way - you've solved your problem.

Thematic structure (in conjunction with code) also can play a major role. If, for example, Player T decided to run through the streets of a medieval city shouting about UFO's and Fox Mulder, the city guard should have the grounds to imprison T for lunacy. Player T learns from this, or he quits.

As Wes Platt once told me, "You won't be able to appeal to the hard-core RPers and think that you can cultivate the twinkish players at the same time."

There will be players who initially join the realm hopped up on ideas of mythic heroism promoted by pulp fantasy novels or video games. If they're willing to adapt to the environment and learn techniques to create believable characters and tell stories, they'll ask for help and follow the examples of other players. If they aren't interested, they'll leave. And this, though it sounds apathetic, is a very good thing.

As a final note, there will always be situations that require administrative involvement - if the world and code are developed correctly, however, this will be rare in an RPI, rather than essential.

Hope this helps!

Best,
Edward
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Old 03-20-2003, 02:04 PM   #5
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It's all well and good to weed out the twinks, but you won't have many players left if you don't also attract the heavy roleplayers.
To do this you need to have the features that enable good roleplaying: a flexible emote system, descriptions, player governed world, customization of well as much as possible. Also get rid of the things that discourage rp: channels, numbers, classes.
The theme is also very important. A harsh world seems to work for Armageddon, but it is a two-edged sword. When people have to fight for survival, that encourages power-playing. Getting your skills up is a necessity, and all too easy to put above roleplaying. A good theme will enchant the players, make them want to immerse themselves in the world. Also, it will provide niches for roleplayers. For example, when there are groups at war, and people are forced to take sides (or play one against the other). Or an oppressed township, fodder for the goody hero type to save.
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Old 03-20-2003, 02:33 PM   #6
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Kallekins writes:
Quote:
Originally Posted by
To do this you need to have the features that enable good roleplaying: a flexible emote system, descriptions, player governed world, customization of well as much as possible.
So in other words:
I wrote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by
The trick of the RPI developer is to ensure that both their theme and code promotes interactivity between players.
Good points, however.
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Old 03-20-2003, 04:22 PM   #7
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Oh, embarrasing! I didn't mean to just reiterate you. There is a difference in what I wrote (how I meant it) and my interpretation of what you wrote. I'll try to explain more clearly.
I don't believe that code can make people roleplay. People either want to, or they don't, or they sometimes do. The only thing that can get people who don't, or sometimes do, to want to roleplay is to see other people doing it in such a way that they want to be part of it. So what the code needs to do is get those people out there who love roleplay to come to your game. And you do that by giving them more and better tools for roleplay. As an example, if I log on a mud and it doesn't have directed emotes or any of the goodies I'm used to, even if they claim to be rp encouraged or mandatory, I leave.
Promoting interactivity just makes the game more social, friendly. It isn't necessarily good roleplay interaction.
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Old 03-21-2003, 08:10 AM   #8
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The theme is also very important. A harsh world seems to work for Armageddon, but it is a two-edged sword. When people have to fight for survival, that encourages power-playing. Getting your skills up is a necessity, and all too easy to put above roleplaying.
Just as an FYI and also pertinent to the topic, it is not essential to max skills in Arm, and in fact it isn't even essential to USE coded skills in Arm, in ordered to survive.

My first character was meant to be a throw-away, just so I could log into the game and check it out. I assumed she'd die within a day or two. I set her up as a burglar, because the combat system documentation intimidated me and I figured picking locks would be less stressful on my brain.

Within the first two days of game play I became an Aide to a Templar, which set me above other "commoners" in rank and social status. I hadn't used a single coded skill to get this position. I used my roleplaying abilities and earned the right to serve the Templarate through them.

While I don't consider myself a stellar roleplayer (so many players in Arm impress the #### outta me!, I've attempted to maintain some consistency in my RP and provide other players with realistic RP of how my characters would react in most situations. This first character of mine had the skills list which would enable her to break into buildings, steal from others, attack people and mobs, protect herself against being attacked, and a plethora of other damned nice things.

In the three months I played her, I used only two skills with any regularity: the ability to eavesdrop on private conversations ("Listen"), and the ability to contact and send messages psionically (the Way).

I affirm that roleplay begets roleplay. In a harsh world, people must resort to all sorts of wild schemes to survive. Violence doesn't necessarily have to be one of them. Sometimes a quick wit, or a pretty toy offered to the right person, or claim of loyalty and faith to the right entity is all you need.
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Old 03-22-2003, 05:22 AM   #9
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The theme is also very important. A harsh world seems to work for Armageddon,but it is a two-edged sword. When people have to fight for survival, that encourages power-playing. Getting your skills up is a necessity, and all too easy to put above roleplaying.
I agree that having a harsh theme is a double-edged sword and edges sword in that it makes people THINK they need to max their skills, however as Jazuela skills AREN'T important in Armageddon. The harshness in Armageddon doesn't limit itself to how hard mobs are to kill. The main harshness is society and how it views certain groups of people and the living conditions.

Sure if you want to go scrab hunting then your going to need to be powerful, but Armageddon provides ways to become powerful in a realistic manner.

Quote:
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I don't believe that code can make people roleplay.
I disagree. Sure code can't be the sole thing that makes people roleplay,but it is very important to have code that supports roleplay. An example is the law system. If your code allows people to go into a city and go around killing NPCs and PCs then depending on the type of city it is, it probably isn't realistic. So when you first attack someone then policemen should probably try to stop you. IMO the code should also treat NPCs and PCs exactly the same. The reason is PCs are expected to treat VNPCs and NPCs exactly the same, so therefore the code should.

Quote:
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How did you establish an atmosphere condusive to good roleplay?
I agree with most of what's already been said. Another important issue (and sorry if someone has already said it) is having a realistic world. This doesn't mean you can't have magick. What it means is that you create a history for the world,and explain why everything is the way it is. If everyone hates elves, then create a reason for it, don't just create it as some random fact. Does most of the population live in cities? Why do they live in cities? Historically people live in hunter and gatherer cultures. The reason people began to live in cities is because the population levels were becomming to great for the hunter and gathering societies, so they had to learn how to manage their resources better. You don't have to tell your players why everything is the way it is, but it's best to have it even if it's only accessible to staff members, so you can think out the world better and make it more realistic.

Another important issue is having the world treat players realistically. Roleplay is essentially controlling your character in a realistic manner. Having a world that treats players realistically helps encourage players to treat the world realistic.

Another important thing is to limit the amount of people who play the exception to the rule (which can be done by having people submit bios).  If you have every player playing the exception to the rule, then the rule becomes the exception and it makes the world become a bit more unrealistic.  The reason the world becomes unrealistic is because often people don't provide good reasons for playing the exception.

When Armageddon was a H&S mud people often ignored what the documentation said and always played the exception. When Armageddon became an RPI this was changed. From what I've read it was done by staff members allocating powerful roles to good roleplayers so they could help stop players from doing unrealistic things (such as spam picking a lock).

Another method that was put in place was creating staff-ran clans for the problem areas. An example is Armageddon cannon stipulates that elves see riding animals as a sign of weakness and would never admit to doing such a thing. Well EVERY elf would ride animals, so a staff member created an elven clan and got everyone in the clan to roleplay elves properly. Then when people's characters died and they made elves outside of the clan, they continued to roleplay elves properly, and eventually all elves stopped riding mounts.

IMO one of the most important methods of establishing a roleplaying environment is by stopping player's from gaining OOC knowledge about things their characters wouldn't know. There are a variety of ways to stop this, such as by getting rid of global channels in the game and by stopping people from posting IC knowledge on the message board. While you can't stop people from talking on chat programs and spreading OOC knowledge that way, you can ask them not too.

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How do you maintain it?
Armageddon keeps it's roleplaying environment by the staff constantly making changes and helping the players run the world. The staff is _constantly_ updating the documentation,because the world changes either by staff-made changes (such as the introduction of a new race) or player-made changes (such as starting a war). The staff's job is never finished. And by keeping the world dynamic and changing the documentation and code to deal with changes, it keeps the world more realistic and therefore helps encourage roleplay to continue.

Armageddon's player's are also constantly changing. People go away for a break (sometimes permanently) and new people come. The most important method of keeping the roleplay environment IMO is by teaching the newbies about the game and how to roleplay.

One method is to encourage newbies from H&S to join the T'zai Byn which is a mercenary clan. It gives the players an IC reason to spar and fight so they don't become bored, but it also gives them an opportunity to learn about how the world works and lets them see seasoned players roleplay.

Another method is allowing newbies to ask questions easily. This is done on Armageddon by having a section on the discussion board devoted to newbies, as well as having a list of experienced and trusted players that the newbies can e-mail and ask questions about the game.

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What do you do with those who seem unwilling or unable to "get with the programme"?
Everyone else has answered how this is handled on Armageddon. And unless you have your really bad bug-abusers and code-abusers, staff invovlement isn't neccessary. Players just treat them realistically. If someone came up to you in a club and said "Yo dude, want to spar or something dude? I need to get my skills up" what would you think and do? You'd probably think they're insane and ignore them and move away. If they started punching you, then the bouncer would stop them and call the cops. This is what happens in Armageddon. People just roleplay around those unwilling to roleplay and they get sick of it.

If the person is particularly bad and doesn't go away, then the players e-mail the staff with logs and let them know what's going on. But AFAIK this rarely ever happens.
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Old 03-22-2003, 03:33 PM   #10
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I disagree. Sure code can't be the sole thing that makes people roleplay,but it is very important to have code that supports roleplay.
What needs to be established is that there is a difference between the quality and quantity of coded systems. There are many foyers for interactive roleplaying on the Internet that range from freeform IRC channels to MUSHes to RPI MUDs. In the instance of freeform RP channels, the 'players' are given the bare-bones neccessities for roleplaying - sockets and connection, a method of entering text as either verbal communication or actions and a group of players that go about creating a world and story on the fly.

MUSH and MUX codebases - nearly always focused on roleplaying - usually have very little in the way of in-depth coded systems when compared to even stock DIKU derivatives. Granted, some MUSHes (such as Wes Platt's OtherSpace and Join The Saga campaigns) do have a variety of programmed systems, but the usual method of approaching code is as a roleplaying prop rather than an essential feature needed to establish atmosphere.

I can see where you're coming from - Arm is, if I'm not mistaken, heavily modified from DIKU and thus a great deal of code needed to be altered to create a greater roleplaying environment than the stock code allowed.

It may be best to view these comments with the analogy of the theatre, where the script is created through improvisational acting by players and staff. The code would be the set pieces, the props, the lighting. You're going to have players who want to take part in a Broadway caliber production and others who would prefer the intimacy of a black box performance.

In the end, as far as the specific ability to roleplay is concerned, it is not the amount of code in a game that establishes the quality of the environment. Rather, it is how fully developed and beneficial the code is that is added.

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The reason people began to live in cities is because the population levels were becomming to great for the hunter and gathering societies, so they had to learn how to manage their resources better.
This isn't neccessarily true. In fact, a majority of agrarian or horitcultural societies arose from other factors that range from natural disasters and changes in weather patterns to protection from other states or civilizations. Furthermore, evidence of agricultural civilizations is in direct correlation to individuals within hunter/gatherer or pastoral societies claiming power, prestige or other elements of stratification over others.

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You don't have to tell your players why everything is the way it is, but it's best to have it even if it's only accessible to staff members, so you can think out the world better and make it more realistic.
Well said.

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Another important issue is having the world treat players realistically.
As you noted earlier in your post, we need to be really careful when using the word 'realistic' when referring to fantasy environments. The more common (and appropriate, I'd argue) term would be 'internal consistency'.

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Another method that was put in place was creating staff-ran clans for the problem areas. An example is Armageddon cannon stipulates that elves see riding animals as a sign of weakness and would never admit to doing such a thing. Well EVERY elf would ride animals
I think that the staff solution you provided is a good one - though there are certainly other methods that you could look at to deal with this problem - ones that might prove much more interesting to the players. Wes and I had a conversation several months ago about utilizing any action a player (or group of players) does and creating IC consequences as a result of them.

Instead of simply creating a staff-run clan (though kudos, as it seems to have worked) you could instead have created an entire storyline regarding the animal treatment. Elven NPCs could begin holding summits to discuss the problem - any benefits given to the elven race (such as animal affinity?) could begin to dissapear. A fire could rage through the elvish homelands, causing religious or secular leaders to claim that it stemmed from the animal treatment.

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IMO one of the most important methods of establishing a roleplaying environment is by stopping player's from gaining OOC knowledge about things their characters wouldn't know.
I couldn't agree more. Good post, John.
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