The Discussion Hat


        Well, thank you to everyone who has contributed to the "presentation" part of this discussion. Almost every active wiz has said something in reply to SKIFF's original mail, and invested a good deal of thought and care in it. The points were raised in an orderly and sensible fashion; the excellent overall response and the considered replies given by everyon involved serve to emphasise how inportant you all think these issues are.

        There now follows my summary of the various points and arguments. I'll flag in [square brackets] the names of people who explicitly mentioned something I've paraphrased; sorry if I miss out or misattribute anyone! I'll enclose in {squiggly brackets} any comments of my own that might help open up the discussion.

        First, in order to give an idea of what people like about MUD, I'll go over the "good points" people raised. This will help highlight why some of the "bad points" really are bad!

        There seem to be 7 different reasons people like the game:

Mortals like being in danger [CRYSANIA], so long as it's not a permanent feature of their existence. They also like to hunt after other mortals [MATTYGROVE, SHERLOCK] with a view to attacking them. Mortals may not like being chased all the time, but a rough ride to wiz is desirable [WABIT, HARLEQUIN].
{Why? From whose point of view?}
Having goals and achieving them is a good feeling, and one which can be a powerful incentive to play MUD. Solving puzzles [MATTYGROVE, CRYSANIA], going up levels [VISHNU] and winning fights are examples of this. The ultimate incentive is to make wiz [MATTYGROVE, FARAMIR]. There are no goals beyond that at all, which could be part of the overall problem [HARLEQUIN].
{Should there be competitive, GODS-style goals for wizzes?}
Amusing things seen, heard and done by other players are a good reason to play [MATTYGROVE, DEXTRUS]. Maintaining friendships forged in the game is also something many players cherish [MATTYGROVE, CRYSANIA, SELENE].
{Being amused by other players - is it a two-way thing, or do you give nothing for their entertaining you?}
MUD is always being played, will continue to be played whether you are there or not [MATTYGROVE], and therefore should, in principle, always offer something new. Part of the fun as a wiz is being a constructive influence on the game's evolution [SHERLOCK]. Different players come and go, and different social groupings develop [MATTYGROVE]. Watching players enjoying puzzles you enhoyed as a mortal, sharing their emotions, and observing them mature over a period of time can be very satisfying [MATTYGROVE, CRYSANIA].
Occasional, impromptu events to break the monotony can be a welcome distraction, if properly organised [HARLEQUIN].
{What about constantly adding new features? Is it good, or does it undermine the experience of higher-level mortals when new stuff is added?}
Trying out different aspects of the game, "debugging" it, can be enjoyable. This includes making definitive maps [SELENE] and creating good, satisfying blanks [SELENE, DEXTRUS].
{Do you get more pleasure from creating blanks than mortals do using them?}
"In MUD, you can be whoever you want to be" (Copyright © 1980, R. Bartle). Many people play MUD to get into a world of fantasy completely different from the outside world, where they can relax and have fun [SKIFF, VISHNU, REVELATION, SELENE, DEXTRUS]. The real world is somewhere out there, MUD is independent of it, and that's why some players enjoy it [FARAMIR]. If you really want to be someone else, you can create a secret account so absolutely no-one knows who you are [SELENE].
{Is any hint of the real world in MUD therefore bad? PANTHER used to hate red-node events, and even the Christmas additions!}

        OK, well that's listed the good things. Anything which spoils any of the above can therefore be assumed to be "bad" in some sense, unless in so doing it compensates by helping along some other aspect proportionately more.

        The above is a loose framework to which we can refer in discussing the points that people thought were bad about MUD in its present state. I've categorised what was said on this subject into three broad classes: COMMUNICATION, TOLERANCE and INTERFERENCE. All three are fairly big! COMMUNICATION covers aspects of basic civility inter-wiz respect; TOLERANCE covers reaction to other wizzes; INTERFERENCE is how one person's actions in the game affect those of another player.

The wiz community is the engine which drives MUD. Without wizzes, there would be little innovation and no overall goal for mortals. {But most of the reasons why people play would still be valid - are wizzes strictly necessary?} It is therefore important that wizzes communicate with one another, to ensure the engine ticks over. A lack of communication leads to all sorts of problems [SKIFF, CRYSANIA, SHERLOCK], most of which are entirely unnecessary. So does a slow or non-existent response from mail to official sources, such as MUSE [MYCROFT, SHERLOCK].
The most important point is that personal attacks and character assassinations are completely unproductive, and only make situations worse, never better [MATTYGROVE, GOMUKU, CRYSANIA, SKIFF, SELENE, VISHNU].
{How do we stop it? Remove VMS privs from offenders?}
However, rudeness takes many forms - another is reluctance to say sorry when you've made a mistake (arch-wizzes are sometimes guilty of this on the grounds of projecting infallability! [WABIT, FARAMIR]). When people ignore you, it can be very frustrating. Sometimes, this is open, like the wiz who won't answer when you say hello [GOMUKU], or won't reply to a polite request for an explanation of what they've just done [FARAMIR, SKIFF]. Other times, people don't even know who's ignoring them: INVIS'3 arch-wizzes who make no attempt to disguise the fact that they're playing, yet ignore messages and questions, are being rude as well as over-aloof [WABIT, MATTYGROVE, HARLEQUIN, CRYSANIA, VISHNU]. Likewise, INVIS'2 wizzes who mess around with mortals yet won't answer their wishes, or worse still leave visible wizzes to take the flak, are both uncivil and plain wrong [MATTYGROVE, MYCROFT, HARLEQUIN, SKIFF], although in some cases with pesky mortals INVIS'2 reprimands can make the situation easier to deal with [DECUS, HARLEQUIN].
{It looks like we could come to some arrangement on standard practices at INVIS'2.}
It's just a fact that some players have a better feel for the game than others. All wizzes are equal, but new ones are foolish if they ignore more experienced ones [WABIT], or obtain arch-wiz sanction for something and then overdo it [WABIT]. Perhaps a "mentor" system, like BL's "big brother/sister" arrangement might be appropriate [MYCROFT]? There is also a lack of respect for some arch-wizzes by wizzes, which is due in part to a perceived lack of impartiality [CRYSANIA, MYCROFT]. It may also be because some wizzes think they could fo a better job as an arch-wiz [SKIFF], or just sour grapes. The rank of arch-wiz is well established, and wizzes have to accept that there's a level above them whether they like it or not [SKIFF]. It is also bad for morale and the whole structure of the game if MUSE is openly criticised [SKIFF, SHERLOCK].
{But if MUSE isn't criticised, how is it to gauge the strength of public opinion, and stop it festering in private?}
Many of the mails that wizzes send are of the "partisan" type, where one wiz will say something and then other wizzes just say "I agree with X", without adding to the discussion at all [WABIT, SKIFF]. These supportive mails reduce the argument to a supporters-count, which is fine in a democracy but MUD isn't a democracy.
Wizzes have to live together, and they have to appreciate that the game was not built for them alone as their personal playground [GOMUKU, MATTYGROVE, DEXTRUS]. Wizzes should not use their powers selfishly for personal gain at the expense of the overall game - we all have to share the same space [MATTYGROVE, SKIFF, SELENE]. Everyone has their own reasons for playing, and trying to convert others to your style (eg. by constantly subjecting an "explorer" to "socialiser" chit-chat) should not be pursued once it's clear you're wasting your time [REVELATION].
There is a point of conflict between two different styles of play. One side has the "open" type of wiz, who breezes in, says hi to everyone, and starts making an immediate impact on play [WABIT, HARLEQUIN]. The other has wizzes sitting in the background, watching the game develop, setting up carefully-arranged plans which are ruined when some crass, loud wiz bulldozes into the game and throws everything to pot [FARAMIR, CRYSANIA, MYCROFT, VISHNU, SHERLOCK]. WHereas it's clear that it can be intensely annoying for someone to have their best-laid plans ruined by the actions of a wiz with no consideration for others [FARAMIR], likewise it can be infuriating to hold back dumping a zombie on a bullying mage just so some other player doesn't twig there's a wiz playing.
{I think we ought to discuss this in more detail, try and formulate some guidelines.}
Sometimes, when someone has a good idea, the game is spoiled when everyone else jumps onto the bandwagon. If one wiz produces some blanks, it often inspires other to swamp the game with them [WABIT, SHERLOCK]. Likewise, although occasional, sudden spectaculars add interest [HARLEQUIN], it's not good if they happen too often and go on for too long [WABIT, CRYSANIA, MYCROFT]. Even complaining about something, such as sorcerised events, can lead to a bandwagon effect where everyone joins in [SHERLOCK]. A related thing is where wizzes bleat for some new idea to be implemented, and then don't use it more than a couple of times once the novelty has worn off [MATTYGROVE, REVELATION].
If you deliberately do something to affect the play of another player, that's interference. It is inevitable that people higher up in a hierarchy will seek to control those lower down, and is not necessarily a bad thing per se.
Arch-wizzes are often too keen to throw their weight around, and give unsolicited advice/instructions when it's not really appropriate [WABIT, HARLEQUIN, CRYSANIA]. Their sanction is sometimes used by new wizzes as an excuse to do something they didn't intend to permit [MYCROFT]. Part of the problem is because there are too many arch-wizzes [HARLEQUIN] (we have the present excess because when they were appointed we were expecting to have the MUDbox on Prestel during the summer, however SIMON's suicide cocked that up somewhat).
Wizzes are there to interfere in the game, it makes life for mortals more interesting and challenging, and gives them a glimpse of wiz power. Done properly, interference can be entertaining for both wiz and mortal [HARLEQUIN]; however, too many wizzes are lazy, and use their powers gratuitously with neither consideration nor forethought [FARAMIR, HARLEQUIN, MATTYGROVE]. Wizzes also often fail to appreciate that what some people find fun, others dislike, eg. sudden, game-dominating spectaculars [WABIT, CRYSANIA, MYCROFT]. The worst case is when a wiz over-interferes at INVIS'2, and refuses to listen to the complaints of the mortals, leaving a vis wiz to handle it instead by default [MATTYGROVE, MYCROFT, SKIFF, HARLEQUIN].
{What would happen if wizzes didn't interfere "for fun"?}
There is no excuse for a wiz interfering with a mortal being played by another wiz [SHERLOCK] without that other wiz's consent.
MUD's escapism depends in part on its divorce from reality. This is at odds with the socialising aspect of the game, sometimes. However, there's no excuse for non-MUD PROOFs, blanks and POSTFIXes that everyone can see [FARAMIR, REVELATION]. Nor doe sit help if PROOFs, blanks etc. are sloppy, misspelled, badly punctuated or badly typed [FARAMIR, MATTYGROVE, CRYSANIA, MYCROFT, SKIFF, VISHNU]. Worst of all are the morose moans from intoxicated, depressed wizzes that do themselves, the game and wizzes in general no good whatsoever [SHERLOCK]. Mortals today don't have the same values and attitudes they once had, with fighting ability considered the best way of estimating a player's quality [MATTYGROVE], and less emphasis on imagination, reputation and so on [DEXTRUS, SHERLOCK].
{To what extent is that because wizzes quash any spark of originality whenever they see it? Is it true anyway? People said in DEXTRUS' day exactly what she is saying now!}
Subtle help is a good thing, nurturing players though a problem so they don't feel they've been given the solution [GOMUKU]. Too many wizzes have mortal friends, however, and help them too much [WABIT, HARLEQUIN, GOMUKU], deliberately. They may simply turn a blind eye to their friends' misdoings [SKIFF], or, more seriously, actively leak wiz information, which goes against almost all the "good" points in favour of playing the game [MATTYGROVE, GOMUKU, SKIFF, SELENE, VISHNU]. Sometimes, the problem is that wizzes want to enhance their own personal kudos by showing off. They do this by being over-explicit in their explanations and/or help [FARAMIR, GOMUKU, CRYSANIA, SKIFF, VISHNU]. More often than not, they will end up being regarded as saps rather than mega-wiz beings [FARAMIR].
{How do we stop this ego-boost kind of leak? Should we?}

        That concludes the specific points wizzes mentioned as being bad. Now for some mor egeneral issues. The first point is whether there is a problem at all! Could it be that the game is perfectly OK, and wizzes have merely talked themselves into believing there's a problem [REVELATION]? Many of the "big issues" are due to unfounded beliefs arising from a lack of communication [SHERLOCK]. People also tend to harbour grudges over the most trivial of things [SHERLOCK], and cannot point to specific reasons for their dislike of someone when questionned about it. The trouble is, enough people believe there is a problem with wizdome that only by assuming the problem is real can any headway be made. Hence, we may as well treat it as real, even if it's not.

        There are a number of trends which come out of the above points. At least two have been discussed before: the need for mystique [FARAMIR] and atmosphere [DEXTRUS]; the desirablility of people making wiz without having any short-cuts available [GOMUKU]. Also something everyone agrees on but which they rarelu adhere to is consideration for others [MATTYGROVE, SHERLOCK] - for some people, making friends is more important than making wiz, and their views as mortals should be respected. Unfortunately, "consideration" all too often means "consideration of me by others".

        What hasn't cropped up before is this whole idea of wiz goals. Although we'll always lose wizzes through attrition, where he find other interests and stop playing [GOMUKU], those wizzes who do stay need something to do. With no game-directed goals [MATTYGROVE, HARLEQUIN], theu instead make goals of their own, sometimes directed at ruining the credibility of someone else [MATTYGROVE]. Perhaps by having some formal, explicit activity for wizzes, some of this competitive tension could be directed into the game, rather than at their fellows [HARLEQUIN]. {What form would this take?} At present, all that holds the wiz community together is the "wizzes are the servants of MUD" idea [VISHNU], ie. they're striving to make the game good. However, if they disagree on how to do that, or allow mortal-type goals such as socialising to get in the way of their wiz-level goals, it causes friction. Would training new wizzes make any difference [MYCROFT]?

        We also have to decide what we want at the end of all this. I certainly think we have enoigh to rewrite the GWG, but not everything is concrete yet. It's important that we don't have too many rules [SNOWY, DEXTRUS]. Are there any "destructive attitudes" we can identify and weedle out? In BL, wizzes can do anything; they use the GWG for guidance, but arch-wizzes ar emuch stricter over what they allow - wizzes are regularly banned, temporarily or permanently, but those who don't abuse their powers can enrich the game immensely.

        Anyway, I think that's enough, I'm on line 305 so that should be sufficient for everyone to find something to talk about! The debate is now open! Don't forget to send your mail to everyone, so we can all see it and make our comments. The rules are that you can talk about whatever you like, but if I ask you to drop a subject for a while so we can concentrate on another, or because you're harping on about some personal point that no-one else could care less about, then you do stop!

        If you're at a loss where to start, how about with the contrast between open/chummy and closed/aloof styles of play?


Copyright © Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: discuss.htm