Simulation versus Shoot-em-up
Letters to the editor
Top Ten Reasons you are coding on the Wrong Mud
- Michael Thompson
Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit Muds
- Richard Bartle
- Wes Platt
Spatial Representation of a Virtual World
- Raph Koster
Cartoon - The Mud Singer
- Rebecca Handcock
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Simulation versus Shoot-em-up
A key aim of the staff of Armageddon MUD (Arm) is to encourage players
to role-play intensively and realistically. One principle I have found
useful in doing this is to get players to 'think of the game as a
simulation, not as a shoot-em-up.' By simulation, I refer to flight
simulations that involve significant preparation to be able to play
well (e.g., reading a detailed manual). By shoot-em-up, I refer to
Space Invaders-type games, where players control vehicles and try to
blow things up. The aim is not to suggest that one is better than the
other, but to examine differences between them, draw analogies with
muds, and formulate recommendations for enjoying role-play intensive
The ultimate shoot-em-up.
Key differences between simulations and shoot-em-ups are:
Simulations are usually more complex than shoot-em-ups, using a
detailed model of the environment. Shoot-em-ups generally use
simple models that allow for faster action.
Simulations take longer to master than shoot-em-ups. Players who
want to master a simulation should not expect to do well from the
outset. In contrast, shoot-em-ups are designed to be learned easily
so that players can get into the action quickly.
To truly appreciate and enjoy a simulation, a player should impose
limits on him/herself. In a flight simulation, it may be far more
appropriate to take off during the day. While the game does not
stop the player from taking off at night, he/she can impose that
limitation on him/herself so as to be more fully immersed in the
game. In shoot-em-ups, the player can focus on the action without
worrying about other things.
A sense of accomplishment usually comes later on in a simulation
than in a shoot-em-up. Detailed scenarios can take a long time to
play through, and the 'action' may be very short. In contrast,
shoot-em-ups provide quick gratification, with never a dull moment
as enemies explode across the screen.
Success is usually more vaguely defined in simulations. The aim of
a mission might be to bomb a bridge, but other factors will affect
the feeling of success (e.g., number of friendly aircraft lost).
Shoot-em-ups usually have clear measures of success, in terms of
points accumulated or levels completed.
Both types of games can be enjoyable, and both can be played well or
poorly, but they take different frames of mind to be best appreciated.
Playing a simulation with a shoot-em-up attitude, or a shoot-em-up
with a simulation attitude, will likely have the same result (crashing
and burning), even if it may be for different reasons. Similarly,
enjoying a role-play intensive mud to the fullest takes a certain
frame of mind. How might we apply this thought?
As a player, you will probably enjoy role-play intensive muds more if
Pay a lot of attention to the details of the game. Read the room,
item, and NPC descriptions carefully, and try to imagine how things
would actually look, sound, and smell.
Be prepared to invest more time in playing the game. You should
expect to take longer to learn how to play well and to come to
appreciate its depth.
Learn to impose limitations on your play. Ask yourself if an action
is appropriate for that character in that specific situation in the
game, rather than doing it just because you (the player) feel like
it. This is probably one of the hardest things to do, but the
reward is greater immersion in the game world.
Be prepared to have a major sense of achievement only after you
have worked at something for a while; do not expect instant
success. There will be quiet times, just as in real life.
Try to measure your character's success, and your own enjoyment of
the game, in qualitative terms. Rather than worrying about coins or
experience points, try to think about what information the
character has gained, what relationships he/she has developed, and
As a staff member, you can encourage your players towards a role-play
intensive style of play if you:
Put a lot of effort into fleshing out the game world. Every bit of
effort you put into making the world more detailed now will pay off
in the long run. On Arm, we are very rigorous with both coding and
Stress that it takes _everyone_ a long time to learn how to best
appreciate the game. One way to address this situation is by having
a list of helpers--people who are experienced with the game and can
give good advice and encouragement to new players.
Encourage players to go 'beyond the code' and not to do things just
because the code lets them. Stress in the game documentation that
setting limits for themselves can make the game more fun, not less
fun. Ultimately, this can only be done by the players; getting good
players (e.g., helpers as above) to lead by example is one option.
Delayed gratification means many people can lose interest if it
takes too long. Encourage players to think of the big picture of
their characters' lives, but give them small rewards along the way.
On Arm, most of the staff are charged with making 'little things'
happen in the game, such as animating NPCs or running impromptu
Within reason, take away as many of the quantitative measures of
success as you can. This does not mean they need to be eradicated
completely, but they need not be visible to the players. Hiding
skill percentages, for example, helps to get players away from
thinking about game mechanics too much.
Thinking of role-play intensive muds as simulations rather than as
shoot-em-ups can help players to focus on role-playing intensively and
realistically. The recommendations above, based on this simple idea,
should lead everyone to enjoy role-play intensive muds more. It is not
the only way to achieve this goal, but I have found it useful and I
hope that others will, too.
May 2001 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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