Well, having been asked to review what was said in the Great Discussion we had just before Christmas, and with time on my hands due to BT's sudden (albeit temporary) snaffling of the MUDbox, I thought I'd better do it. What follows is my own, personal assess,emt of the central issues, plus some ideas on what (if anything) can be done about it. WARNING: it is VERY LONG - over 600 lines!
People play MUD to have fun. The fun that mortals have is
different to that which wizzes have, and should be recognised as such.
For mortals, pleasure comes from two main sources: the game itself, and
the people who play the game. It is modified depending on whether the mortal
prefers doing things to or having things done to them by the pleasure
source. If we draw this as a graph, we get something like the following:
ACTIVE K | A | | | | PLAYERS -- -- -- -- -- + -- -- -- -- -- GAME | | | | S | E PASSIVEOn the above diagram, I've marked the traditional four categories of mortals:
A) Achievers are the players who set themselves game-related goals and rigouroursly set out to achieve them. This usually means swamping a lot of high-value treasure or cutting a swathe through hordes of mobiles. All is subserviant to this, an dthe ultimate goal of making wiz. Although some exploration and socialising may be necessary on the way, plus the occasional elimination of other players, the real fun comes from going up levels, and getting better and better as milking the game of all its goodies.
E) Explorers don't like doing things to the game, they delight in having it do things to them. They try progressively esoteric things in wild, out-of-the-way places, looking for bugs and figuring out how things work. Other players are seen merely as sources of information or as the only objects upon which certain classes of command can be tried. Swamping treasure may be required in order to gain the powers for your next phase of exploration, but it's tedious; killing is quicker, but causes too much hassle. The real fun only comes from discovery.
S) Socialisers are interested in people, and what they have to say. The game itself merely provides a context; common ground where things happen to players. Inter-player relationships are important; empathising with people, sympathising, joking, entertaining, listening. Some exploration may be necessary to understand what everyone is talking about, and points-scoring might be required to give access to some commands, as well as a certain status. The interesting thing isn't how to score points and kill hapless drips, it's getting to know people and forming friendships.
K) Killers get their kicks from causing distress to other players. Although PLAYER/ACTIVE mortals may just as easily get pleasure from helping others, rarely is this appreciated, and hence most of the mortals in the top left of the diagram are ones who relish destrictive interference in others' play. T-swamping is usally required to get to a level suitable for wreaking havoc, and exploration is necessary to keep up with the latest fighting techniques. They're just means to an end, though. Only the knowledge that someone, somewhere, is very upset by what you've just done and can do sod all about it, is there any real, juicy fun.
Players will rarely be totally one of the above extremes, and will tend to drift in different directions as their experience with the game increases. By knowing where on the graph someone lies, a wiz can judge how best to entertain them. Mortals near the top edge, for example, will respond to escaping from (real) danger, so long as it isn't something they have to do all the time. Those near the bottom edge like puzzling or amusing things done or said to them. Near the right edge they'll enjoy game-related quizzes and impromptu events. To the left, they will jump at any chance to role-play, to be someone or something different to their real-life self. Constantly treating a mortal in one quadrant as if they were in another (eg. chatting to a busy achiever) is a mistake made by many wizzes - try not to be one of them!
For wizzes, the graph is differemy, and for good reason. The primary way to reach wiz is to spend most of your time in the top, right-hand quadrant of the mortal graph. The more you know about the game, and the more ou make it work for you, the greater your chance of reaching the top. Yes, some people do reach wiz solely by killing, and there is the occasional bemused explorer who obtains the necessary points without really meaning to, but on the whole their numbers are swallowed up by those who went for treasure.
Now, once you've reached wiz, the option of getting fun from the
game itself all but disappears. You know all there is to know, or if you
don't you'll soon find out! Consequently, if you wish to play as a wiz
you can only derive enjoyment from the other players. The X axis of the
graph therefore disappears, as it's given that your fun will come from
(usually) mortals. I've replaced it with anpther that represents the
openness/aloofness of this relationship with the hoi palloi:
ACTIVE M | G | | | | CLOSED -- -- -- -- -- + -- -- -- -- -- OPEN | | | | S | O PASSIVEAgain, I've put in the four extremes of behaviour. I'll spend more time describing these, ad they won't be as familiar to you as the ones for mortals. See if you can fit yourself in somewhere:
G) Good Guys are those wizzes who like to be liked. To this end, they're always involved in the game, they know all the best mortals, and they actively interfere with play so as to "test" or "reward" them. They'll often go visible as soon as they enter, give a suitably chummy, hail-fellow-well-met shout, and endeavour to find out what's been going on in the minutes preceeding their arrival into the reset. They'll sometimes go invisible to shout unsubtle references to things they've done (like putting in some blanks, or chastising a naughty player), just to bring attention to their actions so that everyone knows the world is safe and decent only because of their unstinting efforts. They strive to be decent, popular, and "one of the lads". They tend to like achivement-oriented mortals, because a) they have the "right attitude" to become a wiz, and b) there are more of them. Good Guys are very pround of their status, and are concerned if either they, personally, or wizzes in general, look bad. Because of this, they devote their days to promoting the good things that they do, which consists of giving paternalistic advice, old-hat hints, constructive reprimands for minor infringements, and shoulder-to-cry-on compassion, all to a depressingly unwilling audience.
O) Oracles are the wizzes who think they know the game inside out. They've been everywhere, done everything, seen it all before, know all the answers. Life is boring, and they rarelu play except when they feel they have a duty to give the world the benefit of their expert knowledge (on every subject ranging from whether wiz X should have looked up the plural of 'coypu' before releasing 30 of them into The Land, to the steps mage Y should have taken prior to attacking the warrior that kept trying to steal his LS). Oracles don't do anything, they solely express their (usually morose) point of view to anyone who'll listen, or who can be forced to listen given the flimsiest of excuses. Although their concern with fellow players is usually restricted to moaning with or about other wizzes, their ideal is actually to be respected by mortals for their immense insight and contribution to the game. Given unlimited numbers of mortal acolytes, they would be permanently happy. Unfortunately, they are often reduced to the self-fulfilling role of Prophet Of Doom, because it's far easier to criticise than try to do something about it. Besides, if you do things, people may criticse YOU! They usually play visible, if they play at all, so awed mortals know whose Earth-shattering words are being uttered, and in whose stratospheric company they are privileged to be.
S) Snoopers are the TV addicts of the game. They are polite, keep themselves to themselves, mever play visible, and spend their time watching mortals. Their pleasure come from seeing how people behave in interesting situations, how they adapt, figuring out what kind of individuals they are, perhaps laughing at their mistakes, or feeling sad when circumstances get the better of them. There's also the secretive fun of the voyeur, in that the snoopees don't always know they're being watched. Snoopers rarely interfere in the game, but they may sometimes unlock a door without being observed, or dock some stamina off a belligerent mobile, so as to help the snoopee into a more challenging situation that they would have reached on their own anyway, given time. They are particularly fond of snooping explorer-mortals, because such players are usually far more imaginative than the wiz, and they find oodles of new and original ways to do things. Killers are also good snooping matter, because you get the thrill of the chase and the thrill of the kill without actually feeling you're condoning or participating in causing misery. Socialisers are boring after a while, because they never DO anything. Achievers are also boring, except in their final run for wiz. Snooper wizzes often play as nondescript mortals, because they like to feel humble. They may sometimes create blanks, but they are invariably groan-inducingly appalling.
M) Mystiquers are wizzes whose prime motivation is engendering an atmosphereic sense of awe and magic in the souls of mortals. They work like puppeteers, manipulating players and situations in subtle and inscrutable ways as a means to executing some complex plan of epic proportions. Players rarely suspect they're being directed, so light is the mystiquer's tocuh, but in the end they will have had a magical experience that will stay with them forever. If they completed it before the end of the rest, that is... Mystiquers like all mortals except killers, whom they regard as necessary evils who nevertheless can damage painfully-prepared plans merely by appearing on the QW list. Explorers are good for looking over grandiose complexes of blanked rooms that took 30 minutes to upload; Achievers are ideal for having carefully-crafted hazards place in their path, coaxing them to go in some non-T direction that ultimately they will find more rewarding; Socialisers are perfect for talking to as a secret mortal and spreading unlikely rumours that enhance the overall the mysterious, aloof, but ultimately benign players that are the wizzes. Mystiquers have a rosy view of how wizzes SHOULD be perceived, and invest their efforts in trying to make it a reality. They realise, however, that they are fighting a losing battle.
My apologies for the rather cynical attitude taken in the sketches above! It may make it harder to see youself in them than I first anticipated, but should facilitate the seeing of others!
As with the graph for mortals, where you are placed on it will affect what can be done to help you enjoy the ga,e. Near the left edge, there's nothing more fun than a brand new player to play with. For the right edge, it's the volume of players that matters, the more the merrier. Wizzes in the bottom half of the graph will take interest in a game which develops or matures over time in unexpected ways, whereas in the top half they like having the opportunity themselves to impose their own evolutionary direction on the game's personality.
We now have a categorisation of player, based on how they get theur enjoyment from the game. Doubtless there are alternative classifications which have greater merit, however the above is fairly non-controversial, and is therefore useful from the point of view of using it as a framework in discussing the game's problems.
For mortals, the game is self-balancing. As players come and go, the numbers in each quadrant in the graph will increase and decrease, but virtually all configurations eventually stabilise. The main conflict is usually between the killers and the achievers: whe nthe killers dominate, achievers will stop playing or revert to earlier incarnations as explorers or socialisers, leaving the killers with no victims but themselves. After a while, the number of killers will dwindle and the achievers will come out of the woodwork. If life gets especially easy, some achievers may regard their peers with horror, considering that were they ever to make wiz they would totally degrade the rank, thus making it less special. In such cases, the worried achiever may resort to offing the wimps so as to maintain the integrity of their goal. Of course, wizzes have a strong influence on the way things go, since they can bring on killers or build up mortals (to be used as killers later!) as required. In general, though, the period between predominances of hack-and-slay and sweetness-and-light is around 6 months.
For wizzes, the game is not self-balancing. The reason is that wizzes can't actually DO anything to other wizzes, they have no lever on them. If someone they really dislike is as wiz, there's nothing they can do but fume. Once a wiz gets entrenched in a position on the graph, they're likely to stay there for a long time (even if they blieve they are actually being flexible!). Battle lines are drawn up along age-old lines of tension, and the tussles are never resolved.
It's worth looking at the inter-relationships between the various categories of wiz, highlighting the main causes of anger. Some are worse than others, and if we can find ways to ease these particular ones, we'll go a long way to harmonising wiz/wiz relationships. Hence, I'll address each pairing of wiz types in turn, and make comments.
G v G Good Guys generally get on well with other Good Guys, and may even gossip with them about the latest events and occurrences in the game. Problems are usually one of two types: the 'accidental interference' kind, as in "oops, didn't realise you were DUBbing the box I just set fire to"; the 'great minds think alike' kind, as in "sorry, did you already drop a skelly on POORSOD the mage for stealing a wafer from that hero?". The only time Good Guys get uppity with other Good Guys is when they think one of their ideas has been ripped off, eg. they have the first quiz for 2 months, then the next reset some other Good Guy produces a better one; likewise, cleverly putting in a few blanks only to find some other Good Guy likes the idea and has immediately added more. Good Guys will houng any other wiz they suspect of cheating, including other Good Guys. However, they have a strict personal moral code, and will usually try and abide by it.
G v O Good Guys regard Oracles at best as egocentric layabouts, and at worst as destructive parasites. Oracles think that Good Guys are crass, overbearing, heavy-handed cheats. Oracles are always complaining that everything the Good Guys do is a backward step, taken for the wrong reasons to satisfy deeply suspicious motives. Only by following the advice of the Oracles can the game be put back on the right track to the extent that the Oracles will deign to play it. Good Guys appreciate that they sometimes make mistakes, but resent very much being told what to do by a bunch of hands-off know-it-alls who couldn't tell you the str/dex/sta of a G10 if their lives depended on it. Why don't they get off their backsides and DO something instead of moaning all the time? Conversely, the Oracles wish the Good Guys would STOP doing things, so the game can recover from the worst of their excesses.
G v S Good Guys have absolutely no complaints about Snoopers. Snoopers dislike being in the middle of eavesdropping on a secret conversation only for it to be stopped abruptly by the loud and brash appearance of a loud and brash Good Guy. However, the snoopers are generally too shy to say anything about it (although they will certainly kick a Good Guy who is down if the Good Guy has been systematically annoying them).
G v M Good Guys all labour under the misapprehension that they are actually Mystiquers. Oh yes, of course they do have to make their presence known from time to time in order to solve some problem or other, but they do it in such a way as to enhance the mortals' respect for wizzes. Real Mystiquers will cringe when presented with such excuses. To them, Good Guys are the main reason why the game is 'going downhill' (ie. there's at least some vestige of non-mystiqueness in it somewhere). Good Guys can't help but thrust their ego forward at every opportunity, whether it ruins hours of preparation or not, and they are so unsubtle they may as well postfix every player with "having a nice day" every time they log in. Worst of all, they wouldn't recognise mystique if a hooded, red-eyed figure shrouded in dank mist held out a boney hand and rubbed their nose in it. Good Guys treat all Mystiquers as if they were Good Guys, being unable to recognise the difference.
O v O The few Oracles who are constructive do things like write articles on the game and run bulletin boards. The majority, though, are destructive. They will form into cliques of like-minded (or, as some would say, like-mindlessed) friends, and systematically complain about whatever happens to take their fancy. Primal loyalties to the game, and fear of arch-wiz reaction, generally prevent them from criticising the game as a whole, but they have no qualms about attacking (verbally) mortals, other wizzes, arch-wizzes, or aspects of the game which they think should be changed (eg. fighting, spells, blanks, the parser, the speed, ie. anything except the complete package). Sometimes, and Oracle will come out with a genuinely well thought-out set of ideas, worked through in some detail and with impressive depth to it. Oracles in rival cliques, or non-Oracles who have been savaged in the past, will tear it to pieces despite its good overall contribution. Little wonder that all Oracles tend toward profound pessimism and depression about the game. Things ain't what they used to be!
O v S Although occasionally Snoopers will find themselves in the sights of Oracles' big guns, usually they're so innoccuous as to escape with little more than a mild character assassination. Those Snoopers who take any interest at all in what Oracles say will do so from the perspective of evaluating yet another apsect of the many-coloured tapestry of life and opinion that is MUD. They may at times suffer the same sense of annoyance as they do with Good Guys when an Oracle comes into the game, goes invisible, yells a few things about football matches, and thereby completely changes the whole character of play for the rest of the reset. However, Oracles don't play all that often, being utterly disillusioned with the game, so this is rarely a problem.
O v M Oracles admire Mystiquers in theory, but in practice they find them "old women" who carp on about trivial things. If I come into the game for a bit of a laugh, and I see my old mate X the mortal, why can't I go vis, give him a silly prefix and ask him what software he has available to drive a 2400bis modem I just put together from a kit? Nevertheless, Oracles will always back up Mystiquers when the latter complain about the game lacking a 'magical' quality, and they may even come up with some suggestions to facilitate movement in that direction. However, being pessimists, they know it'll never happen. Mystiquers regard Oracles as sharing certain ideals with them, based on the fact that these two groups of wizzes are the 'imaginative' ones, however they heave their shoulders and sigh that the Oracles don't actually do anything about it. Decretly, they are glad about that because when Oracles do accidentally enter the game all pretence of mystique evaporates in a hail of shouted inconsequential drivel.
S v S Snoopers get on very well with other Snoopers, and have no problems with them. They don't often communicate, but if they do it'll always be friendly and well-mannered. Sometimes, if there's someone playing who's real fun to snoop, they may mention the fact to other Snoopers, or, if they're extra-special, to non-Snoopers too, but they can easily play a whole reset without saying anything except "hello" and "goodbye" (often both abbreviated to WAVE).
S v M Snoopers have no complaints about Mystiquers, and Mystiquers have no complaints about Snoopers. Their activities are entirely disjoint, and if Mystiquers do interfere with play artificially, it'll normally be in a form which Snoopers approve of, and may even give them more pleasure than watching the mortal toddle around unmolested.
M v M Mystiquers share an intense desire that the game have a magical, mystical aura that they hankered for when they were mortals. They bond with like-minded people, and will reasily discuss with them ways to achieve these ends. Any problems that arise from their separate activities are resolved amicably, and can be characterised in two ways: subject overlap (we're both doing something to the same mortal/object); goal conflict (something I'm doing is undoing something you're doing). There's a certain amount of jealousy between Mystiquers, and if one uses another's idea without crediting them then the fur might fly, but their collective attitude is that they are the sole guardians of the game's culture, and must therefore stick together or the bland will inherit The Land.
The worst conflicts of those described tend to be G v O and O v O, because of the extrovert nature of the personalities involved. Problems involving Snoopers or Mystiquers don't get so vocal, because at least one party is going to back down rather than cause a scene. That doesn't, however, mean their complaints are any less important; if someone has had to back down too often, they'll be driven off the game permanently.
It's very tempting to suggest that all problems would go away if there wasn't a collection of moping, self-indulgent wizzes always ready to snipe at people and look on the black side all the time - the Oracles, in other words. This could be achieved fairly easily by making wizzes have to spend a certain minimum length of time in the game before they were allowed to use the mailing system! However, although Oracles are symptoms of an inter-wiz problem, they're not entuirely the cause - there's usually something deeper. Besides, without them the Good Guys would have free rein to pursue their form of atmosphere-shattering play and permanently wreck any hopes of ever having players who don't treat wizzes like children/labradors/pests/Hitler.
So what can we do about it? Well, the first thing is to ensure that
when conflicts do arise, they're not permanently damaging. This can be
achieved in part by having a set of guidelines that outline what are and
aren't acceptable things to say to a fellow wiz. I propose at least the
These are minimum standards of behaviour. I may have missed some out, so if you have any suggestions please let me know - likewise, if you have any objections. "Freedom of speech" will not be accepted as a defence - you can still make your point perfectly well without resorting to mindless vitriol. There will always be exceptions, eg. you swore at someone because they said you could, but the onus is on the transgressor to explain why the guidelines were ignored.
Of course, these guidelines are useless unless adhered to, so if they're adopted then we ought to come down hard on people who ignore them. If someone is wronged, but disregards the above huidelines, this should be treated as two separate incidents: the original event that caused the wiz to complain; the undesirable means used to complain.
Making communication more civil does not, of course, address the main issues - it merely prevents a conflict from escalating too far out of perspective. Even if people do keep within the guidelines, they will still disagree, although at least the argument will perhaps concern the actual game-related problem, rather than the form of words used.
The main issues are, I submit:
Point a) is fair enough; sometimes Good Guys really do over-help, over-punish, make-life-hell-for, and pester mortals. However, Oracles too readily jump to conclusions, and their willingness to assume the guilt of fellow wizzes is dominated by the grudges they harbour for them. Point a) would disappear if Good Guys were unable to play openly, because then they couldn't do things that the Oracles could scream "cheat" at.
Point b) would similarly go if Oracles didn't buttonhole mortals and poison their minds with forbodings of the End Of MUD As We Know It. Although the mortals consequently think worse of the wiz who has collared them than they do of the game, it nevertheless has a bad effect on morale, with no justification. The Good Guys have a point - instead of griping about it, do something! And I don't mean feel sorry for yourself while whimpering "I've tried, but the situation is too deep-rooted...".
Point c) is really awkward. It;s difficult to grab hold of someone who is stupid an dtell them that they are. Better that they were pushed into conforming to certain guidelines that made sure they didn't do anything totally catastrophic. Even stupid people can follow rules, if the rules are simple enough.
Point d) is contentious. Good Guys think they're Mystiquers, Oracles wish they were, but neither group will give up their "right" to swank into the game and be a wiz at people. If they won't give up voluntarily, perhaps they ought to be 'made' to do so?
What all this is leading up to is the suggestion, raised countless times at wiz meets, that what we want is mystique in the game. Wizzes all agree on that, which isn't surprising: Mystiquers and Good Guys think they're working towards that already, Oracles continually argue for it, and Snoopers agree that it would be a Jolly Good Thing. Having agreed, though, wizzes then go about doing exactly what they always did, and we never get anywhere.
I think the time is ripe to legislate, ie. lay down some guidelines (or even rules) that are designed to enforce a general atmosphere of mystique. I know that "yet more" regulations is something which many wizzes don't like, but other than dragging people kicking and screaming in the appropriate direction, is there anything else we can do?
We can't really influence the mystique in MUD at the moemnt, because the mortals have all got used to things the way they are, but "soon" we'll be on Prestel, with an unmissable opportunity to get things right with a whole host of brand new players. If we can get in with mystique at the outset, it could make the whole game a wondrous experience for all concerned.
OK, it's time to grasp the nettle. What I propose is tha open play,
ie. that on the right half of the graph for wizzes, be outlawed. Except in
very exceptional cases, wizzes should NOT go around visible, shouting,
making their presence known, creating silly blanks or ATTing to mobiles and
spoiling mortals' games. The following spring to mind:
I'm aware that some of the above conditions (eg. M11) might make the game intolerable for certain wizzes (eg. MYCROFT). I'm also aware that the list is incomplete (especially as I accidentally deleted a line and couldn't remember what it said!). However, I believe it's a good start, and that if people do find it totally restrictive then they ought to re-evaluate exactly what it is they want to get from the game, and let us know. Meanwhile, let's assume it can be used as a basis for a set of revised guidelines in future. What do you think?
The remaining clashed we get in the game are of the wiz v arch-wiz variety. Most of what happens is related to the normal wiz v wiz type of conflict, except one of the wizzes happens to be an arch-wiz and therefore has a stick with which to beat the non-arch-wiz wiz. It goes without saying that all arch-wizzes should generally follow the guidelines above, the same as wizzes do (with the possible exception of C3 if the arch-wiz is working on arch-wiz business, and can't, for reasons of security, immediately explain). Merely because the arch-wiz doesn't HAVE to explain, though, doesn't mean they SHOULDN'T do so.
Arch-wizzes need to be trusted. If a wiz complains about an
arch-wiz, there's a requirement that the way the complaint is handled is
recognisably fair, with no sweeiping under the carpet. We've always had the
following complaints procedure, but perhaps it's time that it was made more
There's another aspect of wiz/arch-wiz relationships, that of respect. I feel strongly that arch-wizzes should do all that is within their power tomaintain the confidence of wizzes. Using their rank to tell wizzes what to do, without any explanation, is a bad thing, and should be used only in an emergency or with a deliberately intransigent wiz. Although complaining about an arch-wiz isn't an offence, it shouldn't happen - if it does, something has gone wrong (and not necessarily with the arch-wiz). Arch-wizzes should remember that wizzes only respect the rank if wizzes respect the individuals who hold that rank, and that holding the rank doesn't imply respect is automatic. Wizzes should consider their relationship with mortals in a similar light. Arch-wizzes are not infallable, and shouldn't pretend that they are - they only look stupid when they next make a mistake.
Ideally, arch-wizzes are just ordinary wizzes who happen to be able to call on extra game-related and administrative powers to solve problems that arise. As with other long-standing, senior wizzes, their advice should be taken because they know what they're talking about, not simply because they outrank you. Similarly, they should give unsolicited advice to experienced wizzes about as often as those wizzes give advice to arch-wizzes: only very occasionally, in other words. Interference for interference's sake is just irritating, and achieves little. Most of the time, wizzes know what they're doing, and arch-wizzes should assume that. They should not leap in to deal with every problem that arises in the game, as their fellow wizzes are normally perfectly able to handle it themselves.
Wizzes are the servants of MUD. Arch-wizzes are just wizzes that have the additional responsibility of ensuring that wizzes really ARE the servants of MUD. In all other respects, they're the same as normal wizzes.
I appreciate that this section on arch-wiz/wiz problems is pretty vague. I throw it open to the wizzes to put forward a set of guidelines that they'd like the wizzes to adopt - and to the arch-wizzes to propose a set for the wizzes. If something suitable comes out, we can agree to use it.
At present, there is a Good Wiz Guide. This needs to be modified so as to incorporate the results of our deliberations. The is no Good Arch-Wiz Guide: there ought to be. I'll do one.
My apologies for taking so long to go through all this. Hopefully, there's something in there for everyone! In particular, I'd like to know whether the communication guidelines C1 to C9 are acceptable, and whether imposing constraints on wiz play so as to promote an atmospheric game is likely to work or not.
21st January 1999: summary.htm