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Mar 29, 2005



I think the sort of expansion your are talking about is of the same order of house rules for games. Each group may develop a radically different set depending on their own history of conversations. Those discussions then tend to be uprooted and reworked when "offical" continuity intervenes to upset them.

As an example another group might have determined according to their consistancy that polymorphed creatures aren't capable of having offspring at all.

Online worlds exist in a state of uncertainty until someone actually fills in a rule for that detail. In that way I think they are far less permissive of expansion than a fictional world is.



Please, please use "do" not "does" in your lists. I forced myself not to say anything after your last post. But two "does" in a row are (not is!) making my eyes bleed.



That's it! I'm with Lee. If everyone on this site doesn't start using perfect grammer I am not going to grace you with my presence any more. Also, as fair notice, I'm going to publicly correct your grammer so that I'm not bogged down by that thing called "courtesy". Hey, if I can't bash the guy who is being nice enough to host and run this little wasteland of ideas, then this just isn't the kind of high-brow place I'm looking for.


Well, now we know, what kinds of things makes Lee's eye's bleed.




Even though I'm a professional writer I force myself to put up with the semi-literacy of the internet in general. But this is an "academic" blog, featuring "scholarship" as the About TN section states. I expect a higher standard from the "authors," if not from the commentors. My apologies for highjacking the thread, but my objection stands.



Heh, Mike. You've witnessed my eyes bleed on several occasions I think, though I don't remember that you were ever the cause!



Lee - thanks! I made the changes. Always grateful for the diligent eyes of readers. Should anyone encounter other issues such as this, drop a note by mail.

terranova (at) roaringshrimp (dot) com

Or the author individually.



g-r-a-m-m-a-r not g-r-a-m-m-e-r

And I haven't seen that spelling of "hijacking" in years. :)

Anyway, ObOnTopic comment: of course elaborations, annotations, and apocrypha take time to develop. I think a more interesting question is, what sorts of elaborations do different types of worlds develop? A user-content world has its elaborations made concrete. A world like UO develops myths and legends surrounding things like PKing. A theme-parky world develops mostly annotations and cheats, perhaps?



But somebody better break out the OED... ;-)

Btw -- I can't believe Lee was a writer for so many shows before moving on to videogames (e.g. Cagney & Lacey and Otherworld). Neat resume, Lee.


Thanks, Nathan. My next hawklike swoop will be less public. My apologies!

And thanks, greglas, but that's the wrong Otherworld. Mine was a few years earlier, although with a somewhat similar premise (ours was tied to Atari 2600 vid games.), and the catchy name. Damn, I've been hijacking this thread so much I feel like a hiwayman.



I think this comes down to a level of detail discussion as covered by the honourable Dr Bartle in his book.

Given a human [GD]M, levels of detail can pan and zoom dramatically. One minute players can be concerned with global politics, the next the details of polymorph repercussions. As long as the [GD]M can think on their feet then the content can be generated at any level of detail to suit the current situation. CRPGs don't have this luxury of on the fly adaptability and so, according to the accepted wisdom, they should go with a uniform level of detail across the board.

I remember a fantasic D&D session where we all decided that wishes granted by Djinni's weren't to be trusted and so spent the entire afternoon editing all ambiguity out of the text of out wish before issuing it. The DM went along with our madness and converted what would have been a momentary encounter in to an improvised court room drama. I'd love to see that adaptability in CRPGs, but can't see it happening in the near future.


Given a human [GD]M, levels of detail can pan and zoom dramatically. One minute players can be concerned with global politics, the next the details of polymorph repercussions. As long as the [GD]M can think on their feet then the content can be generated at any level of detail to suit the current situation.

I think drilling-in on the level-of-detail is half of the issue (glory?) here. The other half is extending to a "rule/knowledge space" beyond the current boundaries. I believe these extensions necessarily need to be "non-monotonic" (ie. rules can be drawn and undone and rescoped in the light of new decisions/info). Unfortunately this is the sort of structure that is most unfriendly to CRPG "coding/design/engineering" today: hard to undo code, esp. on the fly.


I think a more interesting question is, what sorts of elaborations do different types of worlds develop?

Dovetails nicely with the Game Design Atoms threads: what are the primitives and where are they "clustered" (in terms some abstract space of game design). As I imagine it, different games (types) have different clusters.

Then here is the theory question. Do elaborations by and large occur near their cluster or can they occur willy-nilly anywhere in that space? (I think you've suggested the former from your examples)

Then if so, why?


I remember fondly how some PnP playmates used to speculate on the implications of what they could see, then actively went out looking for more information in order to 'establish the truth'.
What struck me at the time was how strangely similar these proto-scientific endeavors were to some models used to describe the inception of primitive sets of beliefs and religions - aka 'magic thinking'.
No doubt, Raph would trace this back to our natural affinity for patterns and the matching thereof, so I'll ack, write it three times right now, and be done with that for the rest of this post: pattern, pattern, patterns. ;)

Moving on.
Being a strong supporter of the 'Live & Learn' school of thought, I usually played along as a GM (provided the player-built models displayed some level of consistency) yet with the twist that - much like Newtonian physics - their apparent accuracy was usually an illusion, holding only so long as the level of granularity wouldn't break the metaphor.
Probably the most interesting effect was how 'exceptions' were handled by players. While said exceptions were usually just places where the metaphor (set of beliefs) didn't hold well, players were extremely prompt an ingenuous in devising extensions, or 'special case rules' that would allow the model to somehow cope with 'aberrations' instead of questioning the validity of their common wisdom.

Obviously there is a solid argument to be made that nearly all our sets of beliefs (religious, scientific or otherwise) are just magic thinking that go more or less smoothly along with empirical evidence as time goes by, but sticking to the implications in game design is more than enough for me to chew on.
Besides, most people are likely to be more open-minded in questioning 'common wisdom' (an euphemism for 'widely shared beliefs') within the frame of a game - classic 'what if' enabler.

Already, many game worlds have achieved critical mass in content and interaction to see players share lore, tips and beliefs among the userbase, effectively painting over the game back-story to flesh out the community cultural backdrop.
Just throwing a few easter eggs to hint that there _might_ be more can suffice for players to take the quantum leap and go out and seek answers - and dream up some if none are to be found by conventional means.

At a meta level (both IG and OOG), MMORPG players already are at work trying to figure what's behind the curtain, effectively drawing a larger - if less clear-cut - magic circle around their hobby.
By this take, powergamers and even griefers play by player-extended rules, that - for conflicting as they may be with the game makers intents - are constrained within the realm of what the game allows (no out of game hack will allow scuba-fishing in a fish-less game to impact the game state).
[The same is true of PnP, where nobody can stop players from trying to outwit or social-engineer GM and/or playmates to elaborate on established rules for self-serving purposes, but where players remain limited by how far they can push the envelope of meta gaming before it breaks.]

Now, the holist skeptic in me (most of me actually) can see a strong connection between procedural content, sandbox models, and enabling experience-driven beliefs elaboration in CRPGs (especially MMOGs, where consolidation of beliefs can much more easily take place), but the itching question is: can/should designers organize/foster this ?

If yes, how ?

Just to get the ball rolling...

Introducing some level of prediction-defying randomness in the world is a sure fire way to find players building all sorts of rules and theories - driven both by curiosity and impulse to be in control - that are unlikely to get (dis)proved with any certainty, hence should sustain the test of time.
...but randomness has its drawbacks and can't make up for the lack of consistency and actual unifying principles ruling the game world.

Another possibility is to do away with consistency (High-fantasy settings are notoriously prone to this) and drop in baited hooks that stimulate both the players' urge to figure it all out (be in control), and encourage magic thinking by connecting game features otherwise unrelated into a grand unifying scheme (planned meta-gaming of sorts).
[The amount of speculation about ways to unlock the FrogLocks race in WoW is a good example of how well this trick can work.]

-- Yaka.

/me looks back and wonders whether this wouldn't be more on-topic on MUD-Dev. Reader's call.



Checked the OED. Sorry, no listing whatsoever for "highjack." Apologies for derailing the thread further. :)


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