repetition

We saw Louis Malle’s Humain, trop humain last night, a 75 minute narration-less doc of a 1970s Citroen factory (with a detour into a car show).

Parts of the film are quite beautiful, but:

HUMAN, TOO HUMAN begins as a celebration of the skill and teamwork of the assembly line but then begins to find the routine and environment alienating and uncomfortable. The repetition of production is juxtaposed with the fanatic delight of potential buyers seeing the finished cars at the Paris auto show.[NWFF]

Watching it made me think, “I never want to buy, sell, endorse, or design a product made in a large factory. Repetition is evil…this was filmed in the 70s, but even with those big shiny new assembly line robots there must be more factories and more enslaved workers today. Why I am I spending my time thinking about games and reading novels? We must overthrow the capitalist state!”

Of course if it wasn’t for a work of art (the documentary) I wouldn’t in that moment have had those thoughts at all, so it is valuable to make and experience films, novels, and yes, maybe even games if they reach that level of social commentary, or even if they do not — some games are made so that other games can be made.

But I’m getting sidetracked, what I want to talk about is repetition.

The Grind is always an issue especially with muds. Notwithstanding that some people enjoy killing the same mob over and over (or scripting a bot to do so) I don’t think that most players would make that choice if they had other options. The trouble is that nearly all mud systems — combat, crafting and economy, quests, among others — include repetition as a core element. The only system that doesn’t rely on repetition is the social system, and this is usually paid the least attention by coders. How many muds have evolved their social systems past say, emote, tell, com channels, and guilds? Not too many, and when they do, they usually don’t go beyond a simplistic reputation system, maybe some player-run justice.

I see the development of coded social systems as a better path than the alternative, which would be one-time quests and one-way story arcs, the content of which must continually be hand-written, at least until some mud coder deep in the Estonian countryside writes the first procedurally generated mud story-quest engine. Of course a coded social system can devolve into repetition as easily as a combat system, so there’s your first challenge.

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