Nov 222013

Here is the full video of my talk at EVA13, entitled “El mundo de sistemas” (the world of systems). It’s in Spanish, and it’s an hour and a half long!

Sorry, no translated subtitles or anything. The talk starts out talking about systems and games, how there are many sorts of games but that a large proportion of them have what I call ludic systems underlying them. I talked a little bit about what some of the implications of systems are, how we learn from them and what sort of lessons they teach. And, of course, also how flaws in systems (or even emergent properties) can cause systems to really run amok, or enable players to really break everything.

That then leads to some anecdotes and postmortem thoughts from Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies. Most of these are probably ones that many of you have heard about before:

  • How young we were when we did UO.
  • How we wanted to create a virtual world with UO, not just replicate Diku mechanics… probably before there was enough tech power to actually do it. Like, could we ship on a CD? I mean, we needed one hundred megs of art, which was insane. Could we exceed the 14.4 modems that most people had and require a 28.8?
  • How we started out basing the game on an artificial life simulation.
  • All the exploits that detailed systems and sims led to, including the death of Lord British at the hands of Rainz, protests, guilds, player governments, etc.
  • Controlling playerkilling, and all the systems we tried for it, such as the bounty system — which led to exactly the opposite sort of behavior that we wanted.
  • The mooning at Moonglow
  • How we foolishly originally thought we would do four continents, and how we transplanted some of the design work from the other continents to the main UO map (which is where the extra islands came from).
  • Where Green Acres came from.
  • The story of making Second Age when I was the only original team member left.
  • 8×8 tracking on “chunk eggs” and what the eventual consequences were: 8×8 macroing, bots on ships, etc.
  • The origin of rares, which may haveled to free to play… and was an accident.
  • The Star Wars Galaxies dynamic terrain system, which I really should write up for the historical record. (There is a nice article on the Wayback Machine from the pre-launch days…) And of course, all the issues we then had with pathfinding, graphics performance, collision, AI, and so on. Not to mention how hard it was for the artists to use.
  • The dynamic point-of-interest system.
  • How players built cities to “claim” static content areas.
  • The range of professions and how the economy hung together (or not).
  • How we put in boring stuff on purpose in order to drive social interaction
  • Social professions, such as the musicians (and touring bands and beauty pageants and entertainment impresarios and film companies)
  • The Jedi Holocron disaster
  • So… if we have SO MANY HOLES when we make these sorts of systems, what makes us think we can do gamification? Why are we surprised to hear about things like LIBOR fixing?

Which leads to ending with the thoughts I have expressed elsewhere before: that through happenstance, we are the ones educating children, the ones who have been training ourselves in creating large-scale systems… and how qualified are we? Possibly more so than legislators. But probably not qualified enough. What sort of future are we creating?

Then some fun questions from the audience…

  • How did we handle dealing with exploits — more robust sims, or hacking the sim away (we started with the former, and evolved towards the latter). Talked here about house break-ins and the Carpenter’s Siege of Trinsic.
  • A question about PvP and competition, and what lessons players take away, which leads to a retelling of the baby-and-burning-building joke from A Theory of Fun, and the ways in which we learn from systems.
  • My favorite question: “In fifteen years we’ll be able to reproduce all the connections of the human brain in a computer, and in 50 years, store all knowledge too. So in theory, we could reproduce our universe in the computer. So, we might be living in a simulation. What do you think?” My answer: “I think I don’t have root access.”
  • Was it tech limits? What are the limits we face now? Which leads to my saying it’s about ambition. We could build a virtual world where we simulate down to the chemical reaction level right now, and allow players to invent gunpowder. It’s not technology that is the limit here: it’s imagination, and will, and ambition.

Thanks to Paul Dahuach, who apparently was filming from the audience. 🙂

  4 Responses to “EVA13: Video of “El mundo de sistemas””

  1. Thanks, will make for an interesting watch!

  2. Raph, games have no part in “teaching” to the extent of LIBOR fixing and such. Those things would have happened with or without games. You could be more apt to say that it’s the rest of the world that brought cheating to game. It’s just part of the human condition.

    However, you as game makers (all of you) do teach in that sense you are making. You are teaching something already in the real world though. And that is a heavy responsibility. One I fear has been failing.

    The big issue to me seems to be that, while games can teach real life related “how it’s done”, more often than not flowing in the direction of bad behavior since “it’s just a game” and players play to win, what’s lacking is the consequences. (Something sorely lacking in real life these days too.)

  3. I wasn’t saying that games had anything to do with LIBOR fixing; rather, that we shouldn’t be surprised when we see complex systems end up with loopholes. After all, we haven’t managed to successfully make complex systems exploit-free even in games, much less in policy.

  4. I guess the “we educate children” part confused me. But even as I think about it in the sense of a reply, I’m seeing what you might mean by that. Hard to say though.

    As far as the rest of your post, it sure makes me miss the idea of a new UO type of game.

    Systems will always be exploited. Your experience, and that of others, in that area is invaluable. But there will always be something, just like the financial world.

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