Friday, September 07, 2007

Does Not Play Well With Others

For many years, long before the great Karinthadillo emerged from the chaos of the shattered worlds and established hegemony over all that is right, just and bite-sized, I always thought I knew what roleplaying was about in this kind of MUD context. Roleplaying meant abandoning the out-of-character, focusing on your character and your character's aims and motivations, and playing from that viewpoint. Essentially trying to be your character, and doing what he or she would do.

Quite a while back though, I came across a situation where somebody got really quite upset with this and felt it was rude. They believed that roleplay was like a play script, to be shared amongst the actors ahead of time, and that it was antisocial to suddenly spring a negative scene on somebody. That, for example, if I had a character who was planning to overthrow the king, it would be impolite not to tell the king's player this plan before suddenly surprising both the character and the player with the attempt.

Personally, I don't buy that. While it might be proper for other genres and situations of roleplay, I believe that in our kind of MUD setting, the best way to avoid OOC influences is simply to avoid introducing them in the first place. That telling other players of future IC plans would simply encourage them to use this knowledge to thwart or otherwise influence them. That, in this example, if the king's player was informed, he would surely find one way or another to remove his character from that threatened position. Or, to pick a more benign example, roleplay would simply become the reading of a script, which while interesting for onlookers, would become static and boring for those actually taking part.

I feel that roleplay is best spontaneous and off-the-cuff, drawing on the players' skills at improvising, accepting that things are unlikely to go exactly according to their plan, and taking this in stride rather than demanding a do-over until they are satisfied. I believe that by having everyone come to a mutual understanding beforehand over what will happen in the end, removes the thrill and variability that make it worthwhile.

What do you think, though? Is it being antisocial to refuse to share these plans? Is it simply cynicism underlying this, that I don't trust the other players to keep this knowledge out of their in-character actions? Does any of it even matter?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Die Another Day

Another recent conversation on my new favourite discussion forum got me thinking: are games, specifically MUDs, specifically Karinth, too easy these days?

The story takes a nostalgic look at games that are long gone, where saving was difficult if not impossible, players regularly had to re-play the same level of the game over and over, or just start again from the beginning. Where the game was difficult, frustrating and completing each little section was a real triumph.

So, are we missing out? Is there something to be said for more severe consequences to one's actions, actually making things more enjoyable? Would people have more fun in the long run if there was a real danger that one false move could spell disaster? Clearly, it would make any achievement all the more special. Though, on the other hand, many would likely get frustrated and go play something else, if they could never get anywhere.

Personally, I kind of like things the way they are. I feel there are enough games that cater only to the superhuman player who has the best reflexes and tools and knows all the ins and outs. I like that any dedicated player can become someone on Karinth, without needing to be really much of a gamer at all. I especially like that we don't have permadeath - though there are successful games that do. I prefer a more relaxed style where the player can explore things at their own pace, without the pressures of knowing that each move could be their last.

But what do you think? Is recovering from death too easy? Could there be something in the thought that a more difficult game would be more rewarding in the end? Do we need more tension and risk? Leave comments!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

All Things in Moderation

In a surprising development, Top Mud Sites has become my preferred MUD forum hang-out as of late. After many years of The Mud Connector being the premiere gathering of the genre's great and good (and me), signs are pointing to this challenger having a legitimate chance of reaching those heights.


For me, personally, the change has been a result of the recent and noticeable increase in moderation there. The folks at TMS have been more visible, more hardworking and to be honest seem to care more. Of course, this may be an illusion: TMC's staff probably care just as much, but have decided to sit back and let everything pass in its own time. As a result, the moderated forum has become noticeably less full of trolling, flames, arguments and all of the other ills that seem to plague so many forums.

The trade-off, of course, is that some people don't like this: there isn't freedom, there's a perceived unfairness and of course those who find themselves at the wrong end of the stick do their best to stir this up and make themselves out to be victimised - similar to most parts of life, really. I've never been one to have a lot of sympathy for those who knowingly do things to upset those in charge, and then claim that the situation is unfair. There may be a place for crusaders for free speech, but I'd rather they found someplace else where it wasn't so obviously self-serving.

Of course, TMC has stayed the same as it always has been, which is excellent - those who can tolerate the back-and-forth quarrels (or even revel in them) can enjoy that atmosphere, whereas others who would quite happily trade a little enlightenment for a lot more civility, have such a place as well. I have found, though, that rather than stifling creativity in a web of censorship, the moderated forum has allowed more to voice their opinions, to take part in worthwhile discussions and share information, without fear of attacks either to them or to the train of thought in the threads.

It is often forgotten that all should have freedoms in equal measure, rather than the loudest individuals having them all.