Multiplayer Competition Games

Let’s say I had a MUD with some interactive stories on it. Could I enter them in some of these IF competitions? And if so, would it be okay to let multiple players simultaneously coordinate their roles in the story, either cooperating toward a win, or in opposition to each other?

Basically I would just ‘submit’ a link and a guest password that is designed to connect players directly into the contest entry part of the MUD.

The traditional solution to this, at least in the IF Comp, has generally been to shoot allow everything and let God voters decide what counts. If enough people think it shouldn’t be in the comp and give it low votes in protest, it sinks in the ratings. Vox populi, vox arbitri.

In the XYZZYs things are a bit less well-tested, because you can’t downvote something in protest. In practice it hasn’t come up, for a number of reasons:

  • MUD people haven’t been interested in doing it, for whatever reason,
  • partly because MUD development cycles tend to be a bit more release-and-then-slowly-add-features-and-build-a-community-over-many-years, but you’re only eligible for a XYZZY in the year of your first full release. (This goes double for the Comp, obviously.)
  • MUDs tend to be more oriented towards things that don’t fit into the IF idiom (RPG combat, player-driven roleplay),
  • multiplayer efforts from within the IF community (e.g. Guncho) have either had rather muted receptions (Guncho) or been very clearly non-narrative (ifMUD toys like the Maze of Doom, Werewolf implementations, etc).

But I don’t see any inherent problem with multiplayer - Ex Nihilo is clearly eligible, for instance, although its multiplayerishness is confined to a single gimmick. Possibly one way that a line could be drawn would be about who’s mostly responsible for the narrative: is it mostly about interactions between the players (in which case it’s an RPG system; I love Fiasco, it’s certainly interactive, and it produces fictions, but it ain’t interactive fiction) or between the game and the players? (Of course, enjoying fucking about and disrupting neatly-drawn lines is a standard function of creatives, so I expect this would be horrible to arbitrate in practice.)

(I have spent some time fretting about this, largely because of StoryNexus. I do not have a good answer yet. My closest approximation is a TV-vs.-movies distinction: TV series aren’t eligible for Oscars, even though movies and TV series are basically the same stuff, and any distinction is purely an arbitrary matter of production and distribution patterns.)

Another point to bear in mind is that the community (or bits of it, anyway) values the ability to straightforwardly archive stuff; if the only place that a game is available is in your personal space, or reliant on a single-point service, they get edgy. Passwords, even open guest passwords, are likely to turn a number of people right off.

(Continuity is a valuable thing. “If this game wins this competition, and five or ten years from now I want to go back and replay all the comp-winning games, will I actually be able to do that?”)

Thanks maga for the thoughtful rundown on this. My private MUD’s been running for about fifteen years. I expect it’ll continue running for fifteen more, or until I disappear into a cloud of orange smoke. But I get that this probably isn’t good enough.

The guest password could be avoided by constructing a game-specific web portal, which as you say leads to the realisation that concerns about game preservation would be a problem with any web-server-based game. Ditto for the release-and-debug cycle (though I would avoid this for a comp submission).

I wasn’t really thinking of making it RPG-like, but I wouldn’t rule it out. If I did do that, it would be in addition to an interactive narrative, rather than as a replacement for.

I did actually start developing a multiplayer turn-based game (maybe it’ll appear in a future comp?), and I wasn’t aware if anyone had done it before. I’ll investigate this Guncho…

Multiplayer and turn-based: would that entail waiting for other people to make their moves? I didn’t get round to trying Guncho yet; don’t know if it’s turn-based.

Basically, you’d get two people to play (or, if I was up for the challenge, you could play single player against an AI). Each round you’d explore a town and do a limited amount of stuff (what stuff you could do and why would depend on what character you picked), and then the next person would explore and see the results of what you’d done. There’d be scope for deception, cat and mouse, mutual uncovering of mysteries and so on. The reason this sounds very vague is because although I wrote maybe five thousand words of code and descriptions, I haven’t really gotten far past the ideas stage.

So that’s interesting, though. By redefining what a ‘round’ means to include a lot more, that could open up an interesting realm of cooperation and interplay of a kind one doesn’t usually see. Sounds pretty cool.

Yeah, to clarify, each person’s go would be made up of a number of turns (possibly uncapped) where they have a limited about of special actions they can perform. Nominally, it was going to be a sort of urban exploration game where you can leave signs (like grafitti, cut fences, trampled overgrowth etc.) of your passage, that open up new possiblities for the other player(s). What exactly you’d be trying to achieve and why and exactly in what way I was still working on. The actual player swapping/successive rounds mechanic was very easy to implement.

On topic, anyone have guesses for definitet XYZZY winners? I wonder if all the games in the last year by very established authors might sway the awards away from newer efforts.

For established authors to sweep the XYZZYs, there’d have to be an XYZZY (hint hint)

But seriously, last year was very good for new and only-somewhat-established authors, so I doubt the Old Guard would really dominate (more than they would in any other year, anyway).