this note started as a reply on the thread about the relative strength of clerics but it quickly outgrew that context. Instead this could be considered a rant by someone who quite strongly disagrees with the direction the MUD has had for a while now, both within the playerbase and compared to the current official view as well, and finds himself to be in an even smaller minority than he initially expected. I'll quote things from several other threads with the purpose of trying to clarify the more general view of the MUD that I have and how I'd like things to be, rather than replying on the individual threads and topics, hoping that this way perhaps the sight of the forest is not lost for the trees. I don't know what the point of this thread really is, perhaps it is just a final rant before giving up and moving on.
Basically all the MMORPGs in existence follow the same basic gameplay formula. You start with basic equipment and very few skills, fighting against pretty basic monsters that match you and your current level. After getting some experience and thus new skills, somewhat better equipment you move to the next area with slightly harder opponents that match your new equipment and capabilities. It used to be that you'd need to do some grinding to get there but in modern ones you basically stay on course just by doing the quests thrown your way and everything progresses pretty much automatically. Everything more than a few levels below you is basically a joke and anything above is impossible. Everything in the world scales the same way with the initial sword having damage of 20, a few levels forward you get a damage 200 one, then 2000 etc. This is not a revolutionary concept in any way, with all the single player RPGs having followed more or less the same approach for decades before the MMORPGs became a thing. That's what MMORPGs generally are, single player games where you can run around seeing other people play their single player games in the same world. Of course you can have a few friends join you but it doesn't really matter as content is generally easy enough to breeze through solo and with some friends you can do the couple levels above you content in advance and have the same level of challenge. All the guilds/professions must therefore be pretty equal for this solo-content although there are great debates which build is best for leveling and what has 2% more DPS for end-game content.
MMORPGs in general also try to implement content that differs from this formula. Almost all now have some sort of PvP arenas where you can fight against other players and usually there is some mechanic to scale the players of different levels to match eachother. These game modes allow for some cooperation where you have your standard tanks/melees, dps, healer, misc roles. There also some cooperative multiplayer content which are often considered the "meat" of the MUD, usually going by the name "dungeon" or something similar. These are completely separate instances of some place where you join a group with a set number of players in which you fulfill one of the main roles. These are generally designed for characters of specific level. As these are separate game modes also the rewards are usually separate from the "main" game, and usually come as special currencies or tokens that you can use to buy things with from special stores.
The main differences between MMORPGs besides graphical etc things, the world-lore and quests (which are generally much worse than you'd expect from a proper game) are in the character builds, how they are created, how balanced they are for different game modes etc. The real challenge here of course is to make that pure healer role character playable also in solo-grind and for guilds to at least appear to be somehow different from eachother and still keeping them exactly as powerful.
The main element for getting players to stay in the game and play it is the feeling of continuous improvement and achievement. Much of it is illusion of course, you are still fighting the wolf you were fighting in the beginning except this time its fur is different colour, it has 30 times the hitpoints and a higher level showing nex to it, but luckily the awesome sword you just got has 30 times the damage the first one had and you have 30 times better armours. With the amount of competition (and money) between MMORPGs it is not surprising that in general they do this whole thing quite well and smoothly. This type of games also demand massive amounts of content, even if much of it is just copies of the same and nothing really holds any ingenuity.
A different group of very popular games that could be considered here are the (team-based?) PvP games. Instead of all the content being basically PvE these games consist of different arenas (or in some cases a large world) where the players fight eachother. Many have different RPG-elements, as they are called, in the form of skills and equipment. From balance and character build design point of view the challenge in these games is generally the opposite of MMORPGs. In MMORPGs you try to maintain the feeling that the world is at least somewhat realistic and balanced even though everything in the 10th city you enter costs 1000 times more than in the first one, the legendary lost sword you got just an hour ago is actually worse than the peasants have here and if one wolf got lost it could actually slaughter cities just a bit to the west. In PvP games you try instead to give the illusion of big improvement while, if everyone is fighting against eachother, you actually try to make any improvements as cosmetic as possible in practice. Again, the design challenge is often keeping everything equal in power while still introducing at least a couple of unique mechanics that people can use.
I am sure there was no new information to anyone in the overly long chapters above, I just felt that I should write it out anyway just to get a good baseline. Clearly with an agenda in mind, I am going to discuss a few other types of games as well although these are clearly not very common.
The best roleplaying MUD I've ever player was sometime in the late 90s. It was set in a fantasy world, there were the standard races (humans, elves, dwarves..) although the differences were downplayed to the limit of "are they actually different races at all". It consisted (as far as I know) of six rooms. There were barely any mechanics implemented. There were very simple items, but they didn't do anything. There was no combat, no skills, stats.. When you entered the MUD, you walked through the front door of an inn, located in a somewhat isolated part of the world between two nations in war. There was a second room that you could enter from the first and a staff/VIP room with restricted access. Additionally there were 3 rooms upstairs that you could rent for sleeping and other things. And it was absolutely brilliant. People would create magnificient characters with great backstories and stories in general about events they had just experienced outside of the inn. The best ones were usually the simpler ones, about how they had been at the lumberjack cottage higher up in the mountains and they saw a lynx in the morning, the morning after that and how its fur reflected light at the first rays of the sun against the snowy mountains and then in the next morning and the morning after that and how then it didn't come anymore but it didn't bother them because they were tough lumberjacks and thus they drank some more. This is also where I met the absolute best character/role-player I've met, she(?) played a prostitute and would just talk her way through anything. She was good enough for me to often log in, just to drink a beer or two in silence and listen to her. Of course all good things must come to an end, more and more people came who drew attention to themselves with overly dramatic stories with perfect or "misunderstood" characters, most annoying of which were the "I am a princess and I just lost my baby" types. Not only is that very much a clichee (in context), it is also very draining as it drowns out everything else and demands absolute attention. There's no room to talk about a lynx you saw next to that. And when there were three like that in the inn simultaneously it killed the game completely. After a prolonged absence of mine the MUD was just gone, no idea what happened to it.
What made the game so brilliant was the fact that there were no distractions. Everything was extremely contained, there was no chance of not meeting other people. Every player knew they had just entered an inn, there was no need to run anywhere else. The world was good enough to allow people to create all those stories, although, as mentioned, the best ones were actually quite universal.
There are roleplaying servers for several MMORPGs but I have not seen any that wasn't horribly bad. Even more than PvP or multiplayer content, which are their own game modes, roleplaying is a glued on thing that is not really supported by the system, and more importantly, is not supported by the world. You can try to go into an inn and explain to them how you just saw a lynx but a separate chat window or bad emote animations are a very bad medium for it and the absurdity of the world invalidates much of what you are trying to talk about even if you had found the one person who'd be willing to listen and the sheer size of the world makes all that pretty much impossible in my opinion. This idea that roleplaying is the glued on chatting that happens as a separate thing from the actual game leaks into Geas from time to time as well.
In both PvE and PvP games the content is pretty much pre-created and part of the game. There is potential for some stories to come out of how this game content played out and how things happened, but generally sharing that is not part of the game experience anymore, but rather for discussions with other players.
The roleplaying example is a lot less straightforward to define. There are of course some agreed on things, mainly the world in which the game happens, and that can be considered to be pre-created content that is part of the game. There's also the content that players create while in the game, such as getting into arguments with other people, plots and rumours they create against other characters etc. This creates stories also for other characters even while the people who started those events aren't currently present. But especially in case of the example given I would say that most of the content was created by players while they were not actually in the game. All the (best) events and stories had to be worked on already prior to logging in, as they often needed planning and preparations.
This leads to the fourth type of content creation, the type created by the players themselves as made possible by the game. In practice this often requires some type of roleplay to be enforced. There are of course possibilities (and games using it) of allowing players to trigger world events to other players without roleplay, but the content itself is still pretty much predefined.
I think in many ways this is the most challenging approach, but also the one I find most rewarding.
Without some type of a conflict there is no story. Without some kind of protagonist and antagonist there is no drama. Even in the lynx story, conflicts exist and they are what make it interesting, whether it is about the sudden disappearance, basically an invitation to create possible scenarios of what could have happened or the internal conflict of the lumberjack as to why he cares. "A hobbit had a powerful ring. Ringwraiths came over and had tea. Everyone was happy." Thus one could say that creation of stories and content in a game that relies on players to do it equals to players creating and playing out conflicts in the world. I think that is probably the main point of this whole note (one I've tried to make before) and I am sure there are plenty of people who disagree with it, but please do not reject it out of hand.
Geas has always had a bit of everything in it but to me the main point has always been the fourth. And while there has certainly been other considerations as well, I feel this has always been the most important one. And certainly when it comes to things like relative strengths of characters or guilds, design of guild features and such, it is by far the least obvious and straightforward one.
Aslak wrote:Never understood why the legion was disbanded anyways. Liked my old little Legioneer back then, if I would just recall his name.
I think this is a good example. I believe it was disbanded because it didn't fulfill its role which was to act as the antagonist to anyone or anything that was considered immoral, illegal and wrong by "the majority of the civilized world". The problem was that legionaires generally didn't care or if they did, they didn't actually act on it. And those who did had a hard time explaining their actions. "Why do you hate darkelves? They haven't done anything." And isn't that what people are requesting, a warrior guild without all those annoying responsibilities, rules and restrictions?
ferranifer wrote:Isn't the extreme polarization of the game world part of the problem here too? The world of Geas is basically run by religion and that is supported not only by player social constructs, but also by the actual guild designs and game mechanics. Isn't this discussion about precisely that? The basic arguing point is: are clerics too strong for the game world?
It is very tricky to define purposes for guilds without using the God method. Anything else can be overruled by "common sense" but if the God tells you that this is what you should be doing, it should be rather set in stone. People are generally lazy and have been taught that conflict is bad since they were children and thus the guilds always drift towards passiveness and general indifference unless there is some higher power keeping things in check. As I've understood it the clerics have always been powerful in Geas because they by design are the protagonists or the antagonist to several factions and groups of people in the MUD. The sathonys clerics are supposed to and need to be able to make things happen with low numbers, but allowing them to completely overrun the world creates an unsustainable situation. The taniels were supposed to be able to stand against the forces of evil, even if outnumbered, but without having the power to overrun everything else. Thus their powers are mostly directed against evil and quite limited in general combat. The asrals were designed as clerics of war who would use any excuse to create conflicts, thus the need for them to be able to almost wage a war alone. Legion had the fixed purpose, with the crusaders I would assume the goal was to have their previous purpose set in a less flexible way as well as make them natural allies for Taniels who had a ton of responsibilities.
There is a lot of instances of people saying that the clerical things happen instead of other things and if they had less power, more would actually happen. I call BS. For instance when the mages were created there were requests by wizzes on these forums to create some tensions with them, distrust and animosities. Absolutely nothing has happened. And as things are I don't think anything will ever happen unless one of the clerical instances gets a Godly order to act against them. The only reason why the clerical things are so dominating is the utter failure of us to create anything else. There are no rules not to create other content in the MUD. In fact there are tons of things in the game lore that should be creating tension constantly, like the treatment of Tshaharks for instance. Although I don't think the clerics have exactly been fulfilling their role recently either.
There are several recent threads in the forums about the relative strength of guilds and characters. They make me very sad as to me they all seem to be concentrating on making the game "fair" in different situations, in the MMORPG way. How about looking at it the other way around? Which are the groups of people who would need power in order to make things happen in this MUD? For several years now the MUD has been unbearably boring. I agree that the Asrals are completely overpowered as things are. Not as much because of whom they can or cannot beat in a fight but because they have power to start things and actually see it through but instead they are completely passive, act like the "real good guys" while sitting in Arborea (from where their guild was thrown out because it was used as an excuse to be passive). I completely agree that if they don't intent to actually fulfill the role, they shouldn't have the power either. Same applies to Taniels, Crussies and Sathos. If being a "goodie" feels too easy, it is probably because you are not being a "goodie". Like I've mentioned in some other threads, I think it is still easily the most demanding role there is. Trying to build a sandcastle and to protect it is much harder than trying to kick and break it. Are the crusader towers overpowered compared to Asral miracles? Is that really the question we should be asking, isn't it rather what do they need for the MUD to stay interesting and what is their role in that?
The problem with for instance mages and shaos is that they have no purpose in the world when it comes to creating content. They are passive guilds that would require players to create something. That happens extremely rarely and that is a problem with their design. Shouldn't there be a thread or two from mage chars somewhere asking for the wizzes to add things that force them to be evil every once in a while? Or to give them responsibilities and reasons to act either as protagonists or antagonists in some scenarios? With great power should come great responsibilities.
Yes, I agree that at times the clerical things go too much into the realm of PvP arenas rather than stories, but again, who can fix that other than those taking part?
Aslak wrote:I think Ewelyn is quite a bad example, as she failed to see IC realities and fell on her nose over and over because of that. Being an strict extremist does not mean everyone agrees with your path and at that time, even Taniel church did not agree about many things.
The way things usually work when the creation of content is left to the players is that there are creators and there are consumers. The creators have been and most likely will be a minority although Geas has been blessed with some good ones over the years. It is generally a thankless job where you put massive amounts of time and effort to create things for other players, at least a subset of whom misunderstand things, take everything opposing their character as an OOC insult and believe that any conflicts that exist in the game world were created by evil people who try to stop others from having fun in the MUD. The rest think that "they beat you" when the storyline comes to an end. And the in-game reward is usually that you get to create a new character. Basically the gameplay rewards passiveness. That's why for instance the quote above bothers me. I know this is not really the context in which Ewelyn was brought up, but the character is being discussed as if having failed at something or like the PO didn't know what she was doing. She created a big stir, a lot of discussions and events in the world and is being discussed years afterwards. Sounds like a sound success to me (no, it is not me). This is also why the threads about "how we should treat eachother" of which several exist at the moment bother me as well. Not that I would disagree with treating other players properly but because trying to create and play out things is already extremely challenging and time-consuming. With the constant flow of complaints about everything that happens in the game world nobody will want to start anything ever again. The last satho uprisings were already handled by OOCly whining on the forums instead of in the game, and it seems many of the instances mentioned also in these threads are overreactions to completely reasonable actions by other characters (no, I don't mean your case, but the other ones). A constant fear of accidentally doing something that someone can misunderstand, take out of context and personally is going to paralyze this MUD completely. Taking things happening to your character as anything more than as things happening to your character is usually not the right way.
So, what do I think should be done? As mentioned above, I think most of the ways people have suggested for the guilds to be balanced will lead to a game that is ultimately a PvE "kill goblins" game where you can chat afterwards. I am sorry but there are better games for killing goblins, most have graphics that are far superior. I find the "constant feeling of improvement" approach for old chars completely unsustainable for a MUD like this. There is absolutely no way to combine the MMORPG feeling of constant improvement with a MUD where you act together with newer characters in a sustainable way. Or at least like with guilds it should come with the responsibility of constantly creating events for the other players rather than acting as a passive force. Adding more and more areas, while it may sound like a good thing, is not something the playerbase can actually support if there is to be any roleplaying around. Neither does the required amount of grinding allow for interaction or characters designed to play out a story.
So, what was the point of all this? I don't know. All I know is that if I wanted to play a game where I can grind my character to be more powerful, I have several dozens to choose from. If I want to do PvP fighting, there are probably even more. If I want to do proper roleplaying or play out stories with other characters, there are very very few around. Maybe I'll just thank all the people who put in the effort to create events for us to play through and discuss about in the past and accept that this is a different MUD now.
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2428 Clerics, Too strong? (minor spoilers!)
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2370 What would make you come back to Geas?
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1901 Magic and Gods Revisited
viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2439 How should we treat eachother? and others