Player-generated content woes
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:50 am    Post subject: Player-generated content woes Reply with quote

Following a recent discussion on TMC, I've been thinking some more about player-generated content - in particular, how to come up with a solution that requires minimal administrative effort once it's been set up.

To think end, I've been trying to think of what sort of problems such a system might create, and how those problems could be solved. Any feedback or additions would be more than welcome - this is pretty much an open-ended brainstorming session, not a finalised idea.

Some players will write stupid or inappropriate descriptions

I think the only solution for this is to generate the descriptions. The players should have a fair degree of freedom to design their zones, mobs and objects, but the descriptions should all be generated by the mud.

This would place creative restrictions on what the players can do, of course. They could take a base sword type, choose a material for it, choose a colour, etc, but they couldn't invent their own weapons.

I'm not sure how best to handle mobs. Generating their descriptions wouldn't be so hard, but providing names would be more difficult. For example the player might design a drider-like creature by specifying a humanoid upper body and a spider-like lower body, and that anatomy could be used to generate both the description and abilities of the new creature - but how would you decide on a name for the creature?

Perhaps a short description would suffice, so that it might be described as an "young arachnitaur warrior", with the first keyword coming from its level, the second keyword coming from its key feature (lower body of a spider) and the third based on the fact that most of its abilities fall into the 'warrior' skill group.

Some players will make their content really easy

This is the problem that City of Heroes had - players would create extremely easy missions, some of which involved little more than walking around picking up loot. You can try and place restrictions on the content creation, but you'll still have some players making it as easy as they can within the confines of your system.

Thus I think a better approach is to give the players an incentive to make their content challenging. Perhaps even reward them for every player who fails, or who is killed by their content. In effect, the content generation becomes a sort of Dungeon Keeper style minigame, similar to what was discussed here.

The danger then is that it could go too far in the opposite direction, with players trying to create the most difficult quests possible. However I must admit that I'd find that preferable to having the content too easy.

Players make super items as treasure

This shouldn't be too hard to deal with. Many muds already place restrictions on maximum bonuses for items, and a randomly generated magic item system (like those discussed here) should already have a built-in mechanism for controlling the power level of equipment. The player-generated items could therefore either have randomised bonuses, or the player could configure the bonuses, but either way the items would be balanced against existing equipment in the game.
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ide



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 6:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Some players will make their content really easy


Besides adding an incentive not to do that, you can control this to an extent by providing a content budget which has to be spent before the content is finished. You still run into the problem of a player making everything really easy except for one killer mob or item, but you might be able to enforce a smoother distribution as well (like, the player selects the instance/task/dungeon as having 1 boss, 3 mini-bosses, 7 henchmen, 3 items, and 1 rare item, then those prototypes are created with points that must be spent appropriately before the content is done).

Then you let the player choose the budget they want (easy/weak, normal, hard/strong), and add incentives to encourage a healthy distribution of budget types.
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could still end up with situations in which some players put their 'tough' mob into a far (possibly even inaccessable) corner of their dungeon, where it can be safely ignored - or maybe they give it a blatant Achilles heel, allowing it to be easily defeated despite technically being a powerful opponent.

Of course you could solve those issues, but more would spring up, and each solution would remove some more of the flexibility. I just think it would be easier if players had a strong incentive from the start to make their content challenging.
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KGZotU



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Some players will make their content really easy


Rather than scaling a creator reward based on the empirical difficulty of the content, you could use empirical difficulty to scale the loot: creators give the MOBs 'gold' or put 'a sword' in a chest, and the difficulty you measure--however you do that--determines how much gold, or how good of a sword.
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ide



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PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Making things too difficult could be alleviated by diminishing returns on a difficult dungeon -- so players will seek to strike a balance between making it difficult to get kills, but not too difficult such that their rewards decrease (and if it's that hard, no one will attempt the dungeon). Much like an area builder would do anyway.
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shasarak



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:20 am    Post subject: Re: Player-generated content woes Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
I think the only solution for this is to generate the descriptions.

I think if you do that then you'll alienate just about everybody who might otherwise be interested in making content. You've got two sets of people you might appeal to, here - wannabe builders and wannabe coders. If you put heavy restrictions on the behaviour of objects then you alienate the coders; if you don't allow free composition of descriptions then you alienate the builders - and I suspect there are probably a lot more of them.

Doing this entirely eliminates every possible trace of artistry or creativity from the construction process and dooms every player-built zone to be an insufferably dull, identikit area that has no individuality or atmosphere.

I accept that players writing daft descriptions is a problem, but if you never allow the builders to build what they want, even in terms of cosmetics, then why bother having player-generated content? Having lots of boring player-generated content is not a desirable goal.

There are plenty of other possibilities. One is to have someone whose job it is to audit content before it is connected to the MUD. (Someone will probably already do this for staff-built zones). You could (as I suggested over in the TMC thread) have an automated mechanism which generates a dump of every room, mob and object in a zone, so you can quickly cast your eye over every description and find the problematic ones. Another possibility would be to introduce thematic elements to the game which cause apparently disjointed content to actually make sense within the game universe; if each player-built area is actually being constructed by a deity in his home plane, or by the soul of a human that has been set free to roam in an un-formed, sub-matter realm that can be shaped into temporary reality by dreaming minds, then it's entirely reasonable that you would have some truly bizarre, capricious content which bears no resemblance to anything else in the game, is wildly anachronistic, etc.

KaVir wrote:
Some players will make their content really easy

One solution to that, as already laid down, is resource-rationing. You could also potentially inist on rules like making an enforced connection between the class of a weapon and the level of the monster carrying or guarding it (so the more powerful a weapon is, the tougher the monster you have to kill to get it).

My preferred solution, as outlined in the TMC thread, is to make each player-built zone isolated from the main game. So, nothing that happens within that zone can have any influence at all on anything outside it. When you enter the zone the state of your character is stored (both inventory and scores like total XP); while you operate within that zone you acquire equipment, skills, XP, etc; when you leave the zone, the state of your character within the zone is stored (or, more precisely, the difference between its state now and its state when you entered is stored, so you hold number of XP gained in the zone rather than number of XP) and your character is then restored back to the state it was in when you entered; if you later go back to the zone then your new external status is stored again, and the objects and points and abilities that you acquired while in the zone last time round are restored to you for the duration of your visit.

Thus, equipment from inside a player zone cannot be removed from it, XP earned within that zone has no impact outside it, new skills and spells acquired work only within the zone and vanish when you leave, etc.

This means it simply doesn't matter any more whether the zone is balanced or not - no matter how unbalanced it is, the only impact will be inside the zone itself, and it can't have any influence on the rest of the game.

Potentially some player-built zones could eventually become "official"game zones, and lose their isolated status, but only after a detailed audit process has confimed that they are suitable.

A compromise is to have two different building processes - a heavily controlled one (where all items have to be based on predefined templates) which produces zones which are candidates for "official" status, and a more free-form process, which allows more flexibility but which prevents the zone from ever acquiring official status.
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Player-generated content woes Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:
Doing this entirely eliminates every possible trace of artistry or creativity from the construction process and dooms every player-built zone to be an insufferably dull, identikit area that has no individuality or atmosphere.

I'm not discussing randomly generated descriptions - as I stated in the second paragraph of that section, the builder would be able to configure different attributes for each item, and the description would be generated from those attributes. Should additional attributes be requested, they could be added if deemed appropriate.

Note that I've already tested this approach and it's proven both very popular and highly effective. Like every mud design decision it won't appeal to everyone, but it's definitely a viable solution, and it neatly addresses one of my major concerns with player-generated content.

shasarak wrote:
KaVir wrote:
Some players will make their content really easy

One solution to that, as already laid down, is resource-rationing. You could also potentially inist on rules like making an enforced connection between the class of a weapon and the level of the monster carrying or guarding it (so the more powerful a weapon is, the tougher the monster you have to kill to get it).

You could, but as I mentioned earlier, you could well end up with players giving their monsters a blatant Achilles heel. Likewise, no matter how you ration the resources, as long as the players have an incentive to make the content easy that's exactly what they'll do.

shasarak wrote:
One is to have someone whose job it is to audit content before it is connected to the MUD.

shasarak wrote:
Potentially some player-built zones could eventually become "official"game zones, and lose their isolated status, but only after a detailed audit process has confimed that they are suitable.

In my opinion, reliance on staff undermines much of the value of player-generated content, and should therefore be kept to a minimum whenever possible. In particular, actively blocking content until it can be approved is likely to be counter-productive.

shasarak wrote:
A compromise is to have two different building processes - a heavily controlled one (where all items have to be based on predefined templates) which produces zones which are candidates for "official" status, and a more free-form process, which allows more flexibility but which prevents the zone from ever acquiring official status.

There's no reason why you couldn't apply both to the same zone, requiring the free-form options to be authorised before they appear visible to other players. Thus if you really want players to be able to write their own descriptions, the default might still be displayed until an admin had authorised their hand-written one - but the content will still be fully available regardless.

Thus all zones would be "official", it's just that some would still have pending options that required admin approval before they took effect.
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shasarak



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 1:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Player-generated content woes Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
shasarak wrote:
Doing this entirely eliminates every possible trace of artistry or creativity from the construction process and dooms every player-built zone to be an insufferably dull, identikit area that has no individuality or atmosphere.

I'm not discussing randomly generated descriptions - as I stated in the second paragraph of that section, the builder would be able to configure different attributes for each item, and the description would be generated from those attributes. Should additional attributes be requested, they could be added if deemed appropriate.

Random descriptions would, if anything, be preferable. If there were an element of randomness then two different bronze longswords might at least not look the same as each other some of the time. A deterministic system means that every bronze longsword will look exactly the same as every other bronze longsword. Obviously you can add more attributes to the system besides material and weapon type, but it still means that every description is being assembled from a set of pre-rendered parts, any two objects with the same set of parts will look the same, and any two objects with similar parts will look similar.

If you want your bronze longsword to have a pommel made from a single, especially sparkly, topaz then you can't do that unless the templates are flexible enough for longswords to have a "topaz pommel" attribute - which they won't be, unless you actually add new template attributes so often that you lose the point of having template attributes in the first place.

KaVir wrote:
Note that I've already tested this approach and it's proven both very popular and highly effective.

If I'm understanding your system correctly then this is impossible - which presumably means I don't understand your system correctly. Smile Perhaps you could elaborate a little on how it works?

KaVir wrote:
You could, but as I mentioned earlier, you could well end up with players giving their monsters a blatant Achilles heel. Likewise, no matter how you ration the resources, as long as the players have an incentive to make the content easy that's exactly what they'll do.

Well, that's why you need the isolated-zone approach I outlined in my last post - with that system in place it makes no difference whether the zone is easy or not. Any other system you put in place will inevitably get "gamed" by ingenious players. It's easy enough to push them away from one particular extreme - if, for example, you don't want easy zones then just the penalise the player's personal gold reserves every time anyone successfully removes an item of treasure from his zone - that gives him a strong incentive to make the zone as lethal as possible. But there's no way you can force players to make a balanced zone - "balanced" is far too detailed and subjective a concept to be enforced by an automated system, and any scheme you come up with will always have loopholes somewhere which will always eventually be exploited. The only viable approaches are either a human auditing the zone before it goes live, or arranging things in such a way that even if it isn't balanced it doesn't matter.
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:
If you want your bronze longsword to have a pommel made from a single, especially sparkly, topaz then you can't do that unless the templates are flexible enough for longswords to have a "topaz pommel" attribute - which they won't be, unless you actually add new template attributes so often that you lose the point of having template attributes in the first place.

It would be simple enough to add new attributes, and the point is that you maintain control of the descriptions.

To provide a comparison, imagine content creation for a graphical mud that used a monster builder similar to that of the game Spore. You have a great deal of creative freedom, even though you can't literally upload your own graphics, and the quality of the end result is far better than the majority of people could have managed on their own.

What I'm talking about is applying the same sort of principle to text. People won't be able to describe things in their own way, but they'll still be able to create an accurate description of whatever it is they envision. The creativity therefore doesn't lie in your writing skills, but rather in your overall zone design skills.

shasarak wrote:
KaVir wrote:
Note that I've already tested this approach and it's proven both very popular and highly effective.

If I'm understanding your system correctly then this is impossible - which presumably means I don't understand your system correctly. Perhaps you could elaborate a little on how it works?

Not really much more to add that I've not already said - descriptions are generated from attributes. I currently use this approach for the 'short descriptions' of objects and for the 'look at' descriptions of players, and feedback has been almost invariably positive. As with all mud design decisions there will certainly be those who hate it, but I've found it works very well for my target audience, and I therefore consider it a viable solution to the problem at hand - at least for some styles of mud.

shasarak wrote:
Well, that's why you need the isolated-zone approach I outlined in my last post - with that system in place it makes no difference whether the zone is easy or not. Any other system you put in place will inevitably get "gamed" by ingenious players.

I don't think "gaming" the system is necessarily bad, as long as the system is designed to be part of the game - thus my Dungeon Keeper example. Making content creation part of the game also strikes me as a better way of encouraging participation, rather than just having it as some random thing you can do if you're bored.
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shasarak



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2009 9:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think there are thematic problems with an incentive system. Your "Dungeon Keeper" thread lays it down quite well: the dungeon itself needs to generate income for the player, while the existence of more dangerous mobs or traps within it needs to have a resource cost; thus, players have an incentive to put enough guards on the dungeon to keep the resources safe, without going so over the top that the costs outweigh the benefits.

The problem, though, is why, in game universe terms, the player would set up such a dungeon, and why other players would be motivated to raid it. If you think about the actual Dungeon Keeper game, the player plays an evil sorceror bent on world domination. Mistreating his minions is practically an end in itself; his thirst for power motivates him to engage with and destroy other dungeon keepers; the local goodie-goodie heroes are going to attack him no matter what, and he needs to build up his dungeon to defend against that. But if you're not an evil subterranean sorceror bent on world domination, it's harder to see why anyone would create something like a dungeon. It makes no sense for someone to put a whole bunch of treasures together in an underground tunnel system purely so that other people can try to break in and steal them. It might make sense to build tunnels and tell people they contained treasure without actually putting any treasure in, so the whole thing is merely an elaborate trap - but that wouldn't make for enjoyable game content!

Also, you couldn't actually achieve any Dungeon Keeper-like goals - you couldn't permanently take over another player's home plane or even entirely destroy it, because, like any part of the game, it has to reset for future adventurers. And, if you don't build a dungeon, there's no reason for other players to attack you in your home plane in the first place, so you don't have to build up a dungeon for defensive purposes.

One idea I've been kicking around for many years is introducing elements of resource-management sims into a MUD. Low level players could be miners, charcoal burners, or apprentice shop-keepers with NPC bosses. Mid-level players would own their own shops, potentially a whole chain, and hire NPC shopkeepers to staff them, or run iron smelting works with NPCs working the blast furnaces, mercenaries to guard the iron ore convoys, and renewable contracts with the local miners. (A key element to all of this is that any given job could potentially be done by either a player or an NPC, and there would learnable skills such as iron-ore prospecting, blast-furnace operation, book-keeping, etc. as well as the opportunity for warriors to earn money as mercenaries). High level players could run entire towns, setting taxation levels, hiring soldiers to guard the fields against attack from bandits, deciding what crops to plant, etc. and have their own mansion or castle built to order within the towns.

A related idea I had was for players to own their own sailing ships and go on trade missions (not unlike a space-trader sim); there would be plenty of opportunity for attacks by pirates (or a passing kraken) in mid-ocean, with large-scale battles, ships ramming each other, etc. Individual ships could be built to order, with different internal rooms, decks for galley slaves, on-board catapults and ballistae, etc. Players would have a choice between supervising the building process themselves (if they have the necessary ship-building skills) or contracting the work out to NPCs at a higher cost.

Either of the above would provide thematic justification for player-built zones, whether ships or castles, but you still wouldn't end up with something like a dungeon, because players would be building their castles or ships for utility rather than in ways which made them enjoyable areas for other players to game in.

One possibility might be if you insist that players have to drop all equipment when they quit. That way you can't store all your equipment using alternate characters, you have to find a physical location in the MUD to hold all of your loot when you're not using it. If players actually had to store their own equipment and money in their dungeons, that would provide a very powerful incentive to make sure it's all well-guarded (and if you also impose a cost on guardian monsters and traps, then you get a sort of balance, as too many guards are so expensive there's no point in holding onto the loot anyway). That would, however, lead to major problems with high-level griefers who decided it was funny to steal all of a low-level character's treasure and slaughter all of his guards while he was logged off.

Another possibility might be the need to impress NPC dignitaries. If, as a merchant with a whole fleet of NPC-controlled ships under your command, you want to negotiate favourable trading terms with some local potentate, it might be necessary to invite him to dinner on board your flagship (or even at your castle if he is visiting you). If he isn't sufficiently impressed with the quality of the tapestries, paintings and gold crockery, or with the sumptuousness of the banquet prepared by your NPC cooks, then he won't be in a good mood, and won't agree to the trading deal that you're after. Something like this would provide a valid thematic justification and also player-driven incentive to make player-built structures expensive and full of treasure.
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:
I think there are thematic problems with an incentive system. Your "Dungeon Keeper" thread lays it down quite well: the dungeon itself needs to generate income for the player, while the existence of more dangerous mobs or traps within it needs to have a resource cost; thus, players have an incentive to put enough guards on the dungeon to keep the resources safe, without going so over the top that the costs outweigh the benefits.

The problem, though, is why, in game universe terms, the player would set up such a dungeon, and why other players would be motivated to raid it.

Well I covered that in the "Dungeon Keeper" thread as well - a finite number of income generators scattered around the mud, you claim one as yours and build a dungeon on top of it to prevent other players from stealing your income. If you don't build a dungeon, then other players can simply walk in and help themselves.

shasarak wrote:
Also, you couldn't actually achieve any Dungeon Keeper-like goals - you couldn't permanently take over another player's home plane or even entirely destroy it, because, like any part of the game, it has to reset for future adventurers.

The concept I discussed in the original thread would indeed allow you to permanently take over someone else's income generator - at which point you'd presumably want to build a dungeon of your own. However that could really suck if players had spent a lot of time designing their dungeon, so you might want to have something a bit more static.

There's a roleplaying game called Exalted that has a concept a bit like this. Scattered around the world are various "demesne" - natural nodes of powerful magic. A skilled individual can build a "manse" (usually designed as a fortress or temple) on the demesne to harness its geomantic power. The manse then creates a crystallised nodule of pure essence called a "hearthstone", which allows the bearer to draw magical energy from the manse at a distance. These hearthstones can also be inserted into magical weapons or armour, providing the owner with some extremely potent bonuses.

The hearthstones are obviously really valuable, but the drawback is that they're fuelled by the demesne, which focuses the energy through the manse. Although other people can't reattune your hearthstone unless they first kill you, they could still weaken you by destroying your manse (although this is very difficult).

With a few thematic and mechanical changes, this approach could provide pretty good justification and incentive to build trapped and defended structures - the dungeons would protect the magical nodes that fuelled the strongest magical items. The 'treasure' could represent magical residue gathered as part of the process, possibly imbued into the weapons and armour of the guards as a radiation-like side-effect of spending so much time in a strongly magical area.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 9:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
The concept I discussed in the original thread would indeed allow you to permanently take over someone else's income generator - at which point you'd presumably want to build a dungeon of your own. However that could really suck if players had spent a lot of time designing their dungeon, so you might want to have something a bit more static.

Well, indeed. It's problematic either way. If it's not possible for other players to permanently capture the source of power/income then there is no incentive to build a dungeon to defend it. If it is possible to permanently capture it, then a player could put in an enormous amount of work on a massive dungeon only to have it all turn out to be worth absolutely nothing when it gets taken away permanently by a powerful griefer. There's also likely to be a game balance problem. If the income/power is too weak there's no incentive to try to grab it; but if it's powerful enough to be worth chasing after, then you'll probably end up with one player (or one clique) controlling every source of power in the entire MUD after a while, because once they capture a few of them the power boost they gain will make them unstoppable - it's an inherently unstable system rather than a system which automatically stabilises itself.

You really need player dungeons to work like normal dungeons, in that they contain valuable items which are of benefit to someone who steals them, but which regenerate regularly so as to be of interest to fresh thieves (and which preferably have a limited lifespan when stolen). But that gets you back to the problem of having an incentive for players to build something challenging.

Maybe you should just make building an entirely OOC activity, and have league tables of which dungeons have succeeded in killing the largest number of invaders that week? That gives players an incentive (via sheer bragging rights) to build dungeons that are both rich in treasures (to entice people in) and also as lethal as possible. If you do make it an OOC activity then obviously it gets hard to justify players receiving IC benefits from building.

I think a good compromise would be to give players IC benefits from other people being killed in their dungeons (the dungeon captures the primal energy of the fallen). The whole dungeon remains under the builder's ownership at all times, but its function is to act as an elaborate trap. The player has to put valuable treasure in it to act as bait (there probably needs to be some cheat-proof mechanism for other players to assess approximately how much treasure is actually available in the dungeon). But he also has an incentive to make the place as dangerous as possble (but has to spend some resource on each guard or trap, so there's also a practical point at which making the dungeon more dangerous becomes too expensive).

This system would only work on a MUD which has fairly mild penalties for dying, I think - otherwise people would be too careful to die in dungeons. (Maybe you could reward the dungeon owner even for wounding people, not just for killing them).
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:
If it's not possible for other players to permanently capture the source of power/income then there is no incentive to build a dungeon to defend it.

Even skimming the dungeon builder's profits could be enough incentive. Imagine a setup like this:

Scattered around the world are various 'essence nodes', each of which has a strength value indicating the rate at which it accumulates essence. While standing on an essence node, any player may drain it.

So far so good - we've got a simple resource gathering mechanism. You can walk around the world gathering resource from the various nodes, and using those resources to give yourself various benefits. The problem is that other people can do the same thing, and it takes time for the node to replenish its essence.

But now we add the concept of dungeons. Building a dungeon over an essence node has an expensive initial cost, but it provides two benefits: Firstly, once the essence node has reached its maximum quota, any additional essence points it accumulates are automatically transferred to the dungeon owner, even when the owner is offline. Secondly, it guards the essence node from other players who might otherwise drain it.

The incentive for building a dungeon, therefore, is that you no longer have to share the essence node with other players (unless they're able to overcome the defences you've put in place).

shasarak wrote:
If it is possible to permanently capture it, then a player could put in an enormous amount of work on a massive dungeon only to have it all turn out to be worth absolutely nothing when it gets taken away permanently by a powerful griefer.

One solution would be to let players design their dungeons in private, so that building a dungeon simply connects your existing dungeon to the world, while a destroyed dungeon would be disconnected again (until such time as you could reconnect it, perhaps elsewhere).

shasarak wrote:
There's also likely to be a game balance problem. If the income/power is too weak there's no incentive to try to grab it; but if it's powerful enough to be worth chasing after, then you'll probably end up with one player (or one clique) controlling every source of power in the entire MUD after a while, because once they capture a few of them the power boost they gain will make them unstoppable - it's an inherently unstable system rather than a system which automatically stabilises itself.

You could just restrict how many a player can own. I was even thinking of having a maximum of one per clan - with a finite number of nodes available in the mud, this could provide a good way to discourage everyone from creating their own clan. That would greatly restrict who could create their own content though, so perhaps it would be better off handled as an extension to the regular system.

shasarak wrote:
You really need player dungeons to work like normal dungeons, in that they contain valuable items which are of benefit to someone who steals them, but which regenerate regularly so as to be of interest to fresh thieves (and which preferably have a limited lifespan when stolen). But that gets you back to the problem of having an incentive for players to build something challenging.

I'm not convinced that it's necessary to explicitly add treasure (beyond the 'essence node' goal of the dungeon) - I think it would be enough to have magic items as random loot, generated based on the guards and traps.

shasarak wrote:
Maybe you should just make building an entirely OOC activity, and have league tables of which dungeons have succeeded in killing the largest number of invaders that week? That gives players an incentive (via sheer bragging rights) to build dungeons that are both rich in treasures (to entice people in) and also as lethal as possible. If you do make it an OOC activity then obviously it gets hard to justify players receiving IC benefits from building.

A league table would be nice, but I don't see why you couldn't have it as well as the other incentives.

shasarak wrote:
I think a good compromise would be to give players IC benefits from other people being killed in their dungeons (the dungeon captures the primal energy of the fallen). The whole dungeon remains under the builder's ownership at all times, but its function is to act as an elaborate trap. The player has to put valuable treasure in it to act as bait (there probably needs to be some cheat-proof mechanism for other players to assess approximately how much treasure is actually available in the dungeon). But he also has an incentive to make the place as dangerous as possble (but has to spend some resource on each guard or trap, so there's also a practical point at which making the dungeon more dangerous becomes too expensive).

I quite like that idea too, although I'd prefer a more direct incentive to build a dungeon. What you're describing above feels more like a PK minigame.
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shasarak



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 2:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Possibly it would be healthy to take a step back at this point and review what it is we're trying to achieve. I suspect that both of us are actually talking about two different, mutually incompatible things.

Back when I made my original suggestion about insulating player-built worlds from the rest of the MUD, the motivation behind that was to allow players to perform almost the full set of functions normally performed by staff builders. What player-builders do in that scenario is create new areas in the MUD which are enjoyable for other players to adventure through. The problem is that there aren't enough people doing that job; a solution is to allow regular players to perform builder functions if they want to. If you do that in an uncontrolled way, all hell breaks loose (because of the issues raised at the beginning of the thread); a way of nullifying most of the problems (and preventing ill-conceived player-built zones from destroying the game balance) is the insulation mechanism I talked about - nothing that happens inside a player zone can affect anything outside it.

So, the aim is to allow player-builders - to allow players to build the same kind of zones that builders normally would. The purpose of the exercise is to provide new game zones that are fun to play through (creative, twisty, unsual, full of unexpected twists, atmospheric, artistic), and the personal goal of the player-builder is simply the artistic satisfaction in the act of creation, and the altruistic pleasure gained from making something that other people enjoy - the same reason a regular staff builder does what he does.

Since then we've moved on to talking about two different (related) approaches. There was my castle/ship suggestion, which is basically an extrapolation of player houses or clan halls; and then there was the notion of constructing a dungeon around a valuable resource to guard it from other players. The latter could certainly make for an enjoyable sort of PvP mini-game, but what it will not do is result in the creation of dungeons that are atmospheric, artistically interesting, or particularly enjoyable to adventure in - because that is not what you are motivating players to produce. The player's motivation in producing a dungeon like this is selfish and practical: he wants to guard his resource and prevent other players from stealing it. The end result will be a dungeon intended purely to protect the resource - it will not be a dungeon that is intended to provide an enjoyable experience for other players. All this talk of incentives misses the point that you can't make "creating an area of the game that is atmospheric and enjoyable to play in" an incentive, because the machine has no way of measuring whether it has been achieved.

To take a random example, a regular zone might feature a lizard-man settlement. This would consist of a number of yurts filled with families and domestic clutter, a blacksmith's forge, an infirmary, two or three different shops, a hatchery full of lizard-man eggs and hatchlings, an armory, a food-store, a hut for the chieftain, an observatory for the priest, and a central space where the inhabitants re-enact famous lizard-man battles. What would be the point of creating any of this in a dungeon whose purpose is to defend a strategic resource? There'd be no benefit to any of the rooms or to most of the mobs from a strategic perspective. In fact, there would be a strong incentive not to include areas like this, because you'd have to spend valuable resource points that could otherwise be spent on dangerous mobs and traps; to remain competitive you'd have to actively avoid putting in anything which didn't directly contribute to making the dungeon more dangerous to invaders. Similarly, there'd be no point in the player-builder implementing quests, or even interesting mobprogs.

So, if you want players to create dungeons full of traps and monsters intended to protect resources and nothing else, that's fine; it will certainly provide additional mini-game-like aspects to the MUD. But what it will not, and cannot, do is create well-built MUD areas. And the more practical, IC incentives you offer players for constructing dungeons, the further away you will move from the original goal of providing MUD areas that are fun for other people to play through.

Some of the other suggestions you've made in this thread (not allowing builders to edit the descriptions of rooms or objects, allowing the placement of treasures only as a randomised process based on a trap or mob) would also work to push us further away from the creation of proper MUD zones, and further towards the creation of purely functional, repetitive, cookie-cutter dungeons which serve no function other than to act as an obstacle between a player and his strategic goal, and provide a bit more grinding. Essentially you're removing any chance of creativity or artistry or even variety. That's not necessarily an undesirable thing - it still makes for an enjoyable sort of mini-game - but I think it's very different from what we started off thinking about (or what I started off thinking about, anyway) when using the phrase "player-created content". (And randomly-generated content would probably be almost as enjoyable).
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2009 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:
Possibly it would be healthy to take a step back at this point and review what it is we're trying to achieve. I suspect that both of us are actually talking about two different, mutually incompatible things.

It seems so. I very much get the impression that you're judging creativity in terms of typical Diku-style area building, where the builder creates their 30-100 rooms with static hand-written descriptions, links them up, creates a bunch of mobs and objects, adds resets, and then connects the area to the mud. In short you seem to be viewing this in terms of creating an idiot-proof OLC.

That's really not what I've got in mind though. I want to provide players with the tools and incentive to add content to the game, but I also want the creative process to be part of the game itself (or at the very least a minigame). I'm not interested in creative writing skills, I'm interested in creative level-design skills.

Look at the many computer games out there that provide tools for creating your own maps and levels. You might argue that they result in cookie-cutter maps if they don't allow players to design their own graphics and animations - but in terms of map and level design, they do still allow a great deal of creativity, and in such a way that they are far more accessable to the majority of would-be designers. That's the sort of thing I'm aiming for.
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