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Aug 15, 2004



Doesn't matter to me, as long as it's consistent with the rest of the game world. It only becomes an issue when I can't suspend disbelief.


Having always been a big Fantasy/Sci-Fi junkie, I'm particularly drawn to areas with "magical" sights. In the case of a forest: giant trees that reach far into the skies, with cities build around the trunks, and particals of light falling down from the unseen branches high above. That kind of stuff. The towns folk themselves? I actually prefer normal characters I can relate to. Children running across the long rope bridges that connect the city sections trunk by trunk. Its been my impression that these sorts of environments make people far more receptive to roleplaying (and generally just socializing and being friendly) than "real world" areas.

Case in point: Final Fantasy XI. The San d'Oria South zone contains a large Auction House at the core of the area. Being the most easily accessible area in Sandy, its also the most popular one. People are always there forming parties, asking for teleports, and (obviously) carrying out their commerce. However, the attitude in the zone is down right stressful, everyone running about like ants to gete their tasks finished; and no one is all too eager to help you out. On the other side the coin, there's Selbina. A small, back alley fishing town located adjacent to the Valkurm Dunes. It's really a beautiful sight, with peaceful scottish-inspired background music, and a glorious ferry that stops by dropping off and accepting passangers every 10 minutes for transport to Mhaura. A lot of people just sit there, watching the sunsets, chatting with friends and strangers. Some enjoy the excellent fishing there, and take the oppertunity to sell their wares to passerbys (at costs usually considerably less than the Auction Houses). So the question is - would Selbina be as peaceful and sociable if as many people were crammed in there as South? Is the fact that Selbinas environment is so pleasant the reason why everyone is so much more friendlier? Do people consider socializing a place of commerce "taboo"? Its questions I've wondered frequently.


hmm i wrote a little paper on this that may or may not be completely innapropriate:


julian oliver


ok and another one just to troll the feed (being really interested in this stuff ;). in this paper i was looking sepcifically at how constructions of wild and city in an MMORPG operate within gameplay to make for a very busy social life. attempts an answer to nathans question in many respects.

"Are these choices equally accessible by this medium - or are there biasing influences (e.g., the need for socialization)?"

"Proxy Life and Public Space in the MMORPG"


(this paper largely came from research done in in AO's Rubi Ka)


Virtual world landscapes should be magical and special, for purposes of virtual tourism. A traveler should be able to discover wonderful sights and places, if he likes exploring. Make the world ordinary, or even worse, uniform (which often happens due to it being randomly created by software), and you lose a lot of sense of adventure.

Forests should be "larger-than-life" in what sights they offer, but not actual larger than life in square miles. You want a world that is big enough so players can experience solitude, but small enough for socialization. Having population centers with surrounding wilderness is the usual approach, and it works reasonably well.

But a problem in how people experience "place" is methods of travel. Teleports by whatever name destroy the impression that A is some distance away from B. Better ways of travel would be like the horses in Dark Age of Camelot, which get you to your destination reasonably fast, but let you experience all the way between A and B in fast-forward mode.


To the extent MMORPGs are based on recreating the experiences of sci-fi and fantasy, they should partake in the basic Campbellian hero's journey monomyth. The journey almost always starts with the conventional and ordinary and quickly moves to the non-conventional and extraordinary. In this way, the protaganist of the story stands in the place of the reader, as the reader encounters and experiences the new and altered reality in the same way that the protaganist does. The intrusion of fantasy can take place in one of two ways -- the homespun and familiar hero goes on a journey to a new and different time or place (see, e.g., The Time Machine, Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland, the Odyssey, the Matrix, the Hobbit, etc., etc.) or the fantasy can intrude on the conventional world (Totoro, Mary Poppins). The latter is actually more typical of the horror genre (think of the X-files, the Twilight Zone).

Miyazaki's films follow the monomyth very neatly -- and Totoro and Mononoke are more similar than different, imho. Remember that in Totoro, the family *move into* the old haunted (rural) house in the opening scene of the film -- the whole landscape seems very strange and unfamiliar to the children. And they also discover Totoro's shimewa-adorned tree, which is a very strange and fantastic place. In Mononoke, the infected boar enters a familiar and ordinary village. Only after destroying it, does the hero venture out of the ordinary landscape to meet Mononoke Hime and understand why the curse of the Animal Gods has infected him.

Narrative thread computer games partake freely of the monomyth structure (think ADVENT, Zork, King's Quest or Syberia). Regarding the application to MMOGs, I know Richard is a big fan of the monomyth structure, but as he has said, there's a flaw in current MMOGs if you think that type of structure should apply -- because the current MMOGs never end.


Btw -- on the topic of King's Quest, check out the game "Peasant Quest" on this site. And thanks to Jay Bibby for finding it and a constant stream of other flash goodies.


I just saw Collateral. After reading this thread and thinking about the film, I can see how Michael Mann, the director, transforms an ordinary LA by night into the unordinary. I can identify a night in LA as deplicted in the film with my late night drive through downtown LA last year.

It's the beauty within the ordinary that has greater personal impact: the secret garden metaphor or the closet into another world.

Our computers are now the object of that metaphor. We step off our daily grind, the ordinary world and step into an unordinary world.



I see it the same way greglas and magicback have described it -- to fully appreciate the extraordinary requires experiencing the ordinary.

William Morris is credited with inventing the the modern fairy-story, which featured a young man leaving his village to find the World's End. But it was Lord Dunsany who described this journey to wonder as traveling "beyond the fields we know." The door to Elfland may be just on the other side of the old forest outside of town, but to get to Elfland -- and to appreciate its features -- we need to begin in a familiar, even humdrum setting, then travel through the dark forest. Only then are we ready to appreciate what Elfland means. And equally important, it is only after having seen Elfland that we fully appreciate what we left behind at home.

This is the view that the ordinary and extraordinary are two vastly different things, and that the extraordinary is not easily found or achieved. The other approach -- seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary -- tells lesser stories because it blurs the distinction between the ordinary and the extraordinary. And it does this in two typical ways.

One way is to use the extraordinary as a way to cricitize something the author doesn't like about ordinary life -- in other words, social commentary. At that point, however, the story is no longer about experiencing wonder, but rather about the author letting off some political steam. It may be an interesting political discussion; it may even be well-written; but it's not a wonder story -- the extraordinary is being used to make a point about the ordinary, and not the other way around. Peter S. Beagle's _The Last Unicorn_ is typical of this mindset.

The other ill to which "seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary" is heir is what has been called "preciousness." Apparently due to feeling that humans either can't or shouldn't enjoy the truly wonderful, these authors shrink wonderful things down to commonplace representations -- elves become pixies and sprites riding bumblebees and using rose-thorns as lances; that sort of thing. George MacDonald and Andrew Lang share some blame for trivializing wonder stories in this way, but they were far from alone in the intensely practical Victorian era.

It fell to Dunsany and to Tolkien to revive the appreciation for the authentic, full-blooded wonder story that Morris invented. Tolkien in particular realized that appreciating the high and noble requires some experience with the common and mundane. _The Lord of the Rings_ wasn't about a king of Men or an Elf from dreamlike Rivendell -- it was about a well-to-do hobbit from the pastoral Shire. For that matter, it would not be possible to fully understand the Elves in _The Silmarillion_ without the coming of Men.

The power of this approach lies in valuing both the ordinary and the extraordinary. To devalue the ordinary turns you into a social critic; to devalue the extraordinary is to deny the possibility of beauty. An honest wonder story respects both the high and the low; each is necessary to give meaning to the other.

MMOGs that want to be more than a mere game, that aspire to letting players experience that sense of wonder beyond words, need this journey from the ordinary to the extraordinary and back again.



from: http://selectparks.net/polygon.htm (julian oliver).

The avatars body is direct expression of their environment, written into the gamescape as a capacity for it's distances.

It seems we have come back to Bergson's body of intervals, from which we project possible courses of action in the gamescape. Looking at Lara in action we can see just how much an avatar can contain the geometry of the world in it's very intervals. Each movement fulfills a dimension in the gamescape.


But though the avatar is so very much part of the gameworld in these ways, a body and a place tend to present themselves as particular; eg my body in this place. The body of the avatar is claimed by the gamer as an extension of this assertion. and so by way of this relation the gamer is equally frustrated by the avatar's containment. This dynamic exchange of real and representative sensitivies in the frustrations and competitions of gameplay facilitates an exchange that oscillates in and out of awareness of the iconographic individuations of avatars like Link or Lara - we sway between roleplay and becoming.

This reminds me of the immediate and instinctive certitude of players in virtual worlds when their avatar "gets stuck" behind a rock (etc), that its stuck because of the virtual world geometry (nasty polygons and collision logic) vs. some shift in the gamescape (rules changed). Or in your terms, a change in place = a change in "cartesion" reflex.

Digressing a little, but you also see a bit of this in level designing AI. How a level designer "quantizes" space via path nodes (etc) reflects back upon how that NPC entity fills its space and time.

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