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10:19am on Friday, 22nd September, 2006:

Laughing heartily


I was interviewed yesterday by Matt Mihaly. Now there's a man who, if anyone deserves to succeed with their virtual worlds, it's him.

The interview is slightly edited because we went off on a tangent at one point talking about things that are commercially sensitive. Also removed were some lines where I started asking Matt about Achaea (where the interview took place), ie. I was interviewing him rather than he interviewing me.

The thing was, whenever Matt's character issued a nod command, I was informed Matt nods emphatically.. Well, it wasn't Matt, it was another name, but I don't know if he wants it keeping quiet so I won't reveal it. Only, the command was just nod, not nod emphatically. The game was putting some intention into the character's actions that wasn't there.

This is something that seems quite the standard these days. Type bow in World of Warcraft and you get the response, You bow down graciously..

But that's not how I was bowing! I was bowing obsequiously, or sarcastically, or flippantly, or rudely, or ...

When I typed wave in Achaea, I was told You wave goodbye.. What if I was waving hello? What if I was waving to attract their attention? What if I was waving because there was a fly buzzing round me?

In MUD2, if you type nod then you just get Richard nods. or whatever. If you want to nod emphatically, you type nod emphatically. If you want to nod with a wry smile and a wink, you type nod with a wry smile and a wink. How hard is that?

(Actually, it would report nod with a wry smile and a wink. as Richard the arch-wizard nods, with a smile and a wink., just in case you try it and call foul).

MUD2 has lots of ways of communicating in freeform that I'd have hoped would become mainstream by now (not because they were in MUD2, but because they're so obvious, effective and yet fairly trivial to implement).

Some examples:

These aren't hard to implement, they give players much more expressive capability, they don't jar, and they don't make your character behave in a way you didn't ask for it to behave (thereby breaking your immersion).

When I said this to Matt, his response was that it was part of the Achaea culture now so he couldn't take it out, which is a fair point. If people associate nod with nods emphatically then making them type the emphatically is going to annoy them. For a new game, though, why add the unnecessary and intruding adjectives? Let the players create their own.

Blimey, a post on game design for once!

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).