Back to index

The copyright situation for this article is unclear. It does not belong to the author of this site. Please see the copyright notice. If you have information about the copyright contact me!

Simulation versus Shoot-em-up

by Krrx

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 muds more.
Hard Boiled - Chow Yun Fat

The ultimate shoot-em-up.

Key differences between simulations and shoot-em-ups are:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 you:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 so on.

      As a staff member, you can encourage your players towards a role-play intensive style of play if you:

      1. 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 building.

      2. 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.

      3. 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.

      4. 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 quests.

      5. 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.