20 February 2008

The 15 Most Annoying Video Game Characters of All-Time

In honor of this week's Game Developer's Conference, some characters that should have stayed undeveloped. Of course They missed some.

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16 February 2008

Gender treatment - originally posted on the Mud Connector

Ok I keep hearing about how females are treated better on MUDS by players than males so I conducted a little experiment. THe idea was to prove my male friend who keeps telling me I get more help than he does wrong. I hit a few MUDs and MUSHES and had some interesting results. No MUDS will be named. I do not wish to start a flame war just to let owners and players know what happened so they can perhaps keep an eye out for the negatives and encourage the positives.

First the set up

From home I created a female character newbie (called Mary below) fighter or rogue type
From another location I created a male character newbie. (called Fred below) Fighter or rogue type

I kept race, class and stats the same or as close as I could except in cases where the MUD engine made adjustments for gender. Characters were created about a week apart.

Here is what happened:

On muds that were mainly hack n slash (fighter types with same stats and race)

Mary got a lot of help initially, mainly from male characters and female helpers. She received a lot of attention and then when I refused to talk about myself personally, interest from the male players waned.

Fred was ignored except for being 'checked on' or when I asked for help directly with things such as corpse retrieval or directions to an area or mob. When it became apparent he was going to stay and was not going to be a nuisance. (I tried not to be a nuisance) (levels 5 - 10) He was accepted as one of the guys and invited into groups more often than Mary by other players.

NOTE: One MUD with a particularly low number of players online at the time I would log in, treated both characters the same. Lots of help from everyone and interest in how the characters were coming along.

OK my friend was right. Females do get more help starting.

RP enforced MUD's

I did not 'test' any MUD that required clearance for RP by sample posts or logs sent prior to being permitted to play. I attempted 2 of those, did not receive an accept or deny in what I considered a timely manner (3 days) so crossed them off my lists.

Mary received about same initial help as Fred in stat/level building on most. Only difference I found here was Mary was walked through or to places a bit more and received less explanation of how things worked or the nuances of the IC politics and situation than Fred.

Mary's RPs seemed to be centered around romance or dating more than Fred's. Most RP offers came from males. Attempts to RP with females tended to degenerate into more OOC chatter than RP. Refusal to divulge personal information was accepted by females in most cases, by males in a few cases it was immediately assumed I was a male playing a female character. IC RP topics religion, backgrounds, business plans, confidence games and romance. Many with other females seemed to degenerate into catfights for the amusement of others on the MUD.

Fred recieved more offers to RP from females and males than Mary. The female characters were more forward with sexual innuendo and suggestions to Fred than males were to Mary. At times I felt like I was being swarmed by the women characters on the MUDs. OOC chatter with females made me uncomfortable (most likely because I am not male - they wanted to know more about ME than my character). Refusal to divulge personal information caused some to stop speaking to me, others would not stop trying to find out OOC things. IC RP topics included power struggles, conspiracies, religous arguments, confidence games, competitions and romance.

Fred spent more time overall in RP than Mary and the topics inpacted the overall story more than Mary's did.

OK We were both right. Initially the female got more more RP, but the male got more significant RP and his invitations went up, as hers went down.

PK Muds (non rp enforced)

Mary was assisted much more in gaining eq and levels, but was attacked less overall and largely ignored. Mostly IMMS older players and long time players offered her advice and warned of PK tricks used by other players.

Fred was assisted somewhat and immediately drawn into PK. Almost all characters had an IC reason or RPed out something before attempting PK. I died a lot. (I am lousy at PK) When it became apparent I was not a challenge, most attempted to assist me in becoming better. Some of the unethical tricks Mary was warned of were used on Fred with no warning.

What I found interesting.
Back in the day there were few female gamers. We tended to hide behind male characters to keep from being swarmed by the guys, that position seems to have reversed. There are more female players these days and there were times I felt overwhelmed by offers to RP. On most MUDs with xsocials invitations to use them were many when I played Fred. When I was running Mary it might be mentioned once or twice by a male character, BUT I had some female characters coming on to me as strongly as males and for orgy type situations.

Possible explantions:
Fear of accusations of harrasment? Fear of my being underage IRL? Those fears do not seem to apply to the women when approaching Fred but they were brought up when I was playing Mary. This is a sad reflection on our society in general.

Fred was privy to more female's opinions of other female chacters than Mary was to info about other males. In one case Fred was told by a female admin that she wanted to run Mary off the MUD because she got too much attention from the guys.

Females DO get preferential treatment initially. It continues to a lesser extent in questing, Mob killing, etc, but NOT in grouping in general.

Males are ignored more intially and generally viewed with more suspicion.

Some suggestions:

*Most SWR MUD and MUSHES have players or IMMS that understand annoyance hunger/thirst/tired spam causes in RP. On almost everyone I was on (6) I received money to have a cyber implant to stop that. No other RP MUD seems to have caught onto that.

SUGGESTION: If you run an RP enforced or strongly suggested mud disable that code, increase the waits or create an item that suspends it. (Or get really fancy and find a way to suspend it when RP mode is on.)

If you have an RP enforced MUD, check periodically that everyone is getting the level of RP and type that they want.

Discourage OOC chatter it breaks a player's concentration Or set up a RL OOC channel and a META GAME OOC channel. Allow only game chatter in the META. OR create an OOC zone lounge that players can enter and sit and chat about rl for a while.

Do not ever assume that any player is the same sex as their character. I was accused of being a male playing a female more often than female playing a male. What is interesting is that the females spotted me as a female player whereas not a single male suggested I was a female playing a male.

Forgot to add this On PK MUds I played a fighter type and on RP I played a rogue type. What can I say I like my thieves and assassins.

OK You were right, Kutter and Whistler.

15 February 2008

More Ideas to KEEP new players - Game Economy

So with any RPG be it multiplayer or not there is a definite progression and one that makes sense to an extent. It deals with making money and finding objects. As a new character in any game you are poor and lost. In an offline RPG you have to spend time wandering around finding things. It used to be you usually got 3 to 5 lives then it was game over. But let's face it what gamer did not save at multiple points in case of such an occurance?

Now for difference with a MUD and that is how such saves as as a consequence such character development is handled.

First there are the MUDs that basically have infinite lives. The Mud I play mainly, Valhalla, is of this sort. You die you sit at Odin, you lose experience and you repopulate in a central spot. Then off you go to find your corpse (Player corpses hang about for about 3 days real time if things are in them). You regain your stuff off your corpse and mutter a lot about lost exp and go on with the game. Now this mud does have a final death due to age. BUT one can remake the character using the same name after deleting the dead one or if you catch it early enough rebirth the
character along a new path. Each have advantages and disadvantages and let a player build a character.

Then there are permadeath Muds. You die, you recreate. Some are even set so that you cannot recreate using the same character name for a period of time at least. These are most realistic and tend to be more RP oriented or use the MUSH engine. Some are types of RPGs that reset every so often to allow all players an even playing field. These are probably the most frustrating for a new mudder.

Then there are the hybrids. SWRs tend to be of this nature. They seem to have originally been developed as permadeath but somewhere along the versions copies were permitted (clones, memory saves, magical copies). So your character is frozen in time as it were at he point that you last chose to save, like a stand alone rpg. Usually there is an in game cost associated with this from incredibly high to very reasonable depending on the game.

Most online games have a group of people who are designated to help new players. Many of these are just long time players of a game, some are IMM level, some are that dubious halfway between IMM and player. The good guides sort of mentor the newbie and keep close to them telling them where not to go what not to touch and let them wander on their own. This actually works for all three types of games. HOWEVER, money is where the problem starts.

You see it takes money to make money on all of these games. Now back in the day when muds ruled you would get 40 people on and lots of help offered and received. Lots of things in the donation rooms, things that help a newbie start out. EXPENSIVE things, hard to get items from hard to kill mobs. These days muds have fewer players. Yet the case still holds that the big players have the cash and the power and the new ones are learning.

So, my suggestion is this - make newbie shops and vendors. Characters can buy from them until level whatever you mud decides is avatar (50,60,100). On games where one needs components for spells or skills, sell those things cheaply. limit sale to a character per rl timing (say 5 or 10 of an item every 2 hours). The price could either rise according to the character's level or once the character hits the designated level they can no longer use that vendor or the prices change to come in line with the rest of the MUD economy. Which should be EXPENSIVE.

The way most muds are now, the players that need the it the least have access to the most inexpensive required items because they have played there the longest and know everything. Yet it is the newer players that need encouragement to stay and build. So, make it gradually more difficult so that your long time players with big characters are not sitting on all the money and the little ones get discouraged and leave.

Second suggestion: allow a donation bonus to the big boys. If a character donates newbie gear or items to a donation area that has a level limit set on it they get bonus points of some sort. Som many points and they get a special item. THat would also stimulate game economy. Make the big boys spend their cash and help the little ones become big ones. It is hard enough getting exp and training stats since training costs money. The big characters usually have trained everything. let them 'endow' a newbie. This might give the old timers a fresh look at the game through a newbie's eyes and ease the workload of guides. It would also encourage older players to make friends with newer ones or even with older ones they might not have interact with much. Set up a locale where oldbies can adopt a newbie. Randomly assign the two players. At first, sort of keep them apart, letting the old player know of his newbie's progress then say around level 10 have them meet. Now only some of this can be done via code, but it might lend to some interesting new player and character relations. Imagine a trandoshan newbie on an SWR Mud finding out his mentor is a Wookie. That would set up an interesting roleplay situation.

If any of you have other ideas go for it. Post them in the comments.