Friday, May 2, 2008

How Not to Draw a Picture of a Horse

Its funny how the maximum amount of people we can stand to play D&D with, and the maximize size of groups in MMOs, is pretty much the same.

Its not just some kinda convention, though.

We used to say that "eight" was the maximum number of players a DM could stand paying attention to before his head exploded from splitting his attention up too much.

And if you ever DM'd a large group of people you know that that junk actually wore you out pretty good, it was mentally exhausting to do it well and keep weaving everybody into the game.

Y'know, strong players tend to push weaker players out their way and then you gotta bring the weaker guys back into the game and make sure everybody feels like they're getting their fair share of your attention and stuff.

Meanwhile really strong players always actually help you DM by taking up some of the crowd control work and teaching the rest of 'em by example and stuff, so they can extend your capabilities a lot.

Anyways the thing about that that's interesting to me isn't the social garbage and whatever, its the sense that there's like this physical limit to the human brain for splitting its attention, like I can only do eight or so things at once (not including managing my split personalities heh).

Meanwhile there's people that can only do one thing at a time, y'know, and some that can't even hardly do that, so I don't feel too bad about my score, but still, its pretty bizarre when somebody tells you something really weird in a book like "your brain will start to crack and sizzle if you try to handle more than about eight players" and it turns out to be true.

Y'know, like, we figured out how many wires we had in our craniums by maxing ourselves out while playing D&D or something ahaha.

Anyways then there was this thing about maximum "community" size that I think I heard about from Raph.

Yah its not "ideal" community size, its "max" community size (I think "ideal" community size is way more subjective).

And it said that the maximum community size was around 200 people.

And that's about exactly the point where people start slipping through the cracks of my brain in my experience at work and in MMO communities and guilds and stuff, y'know, that's like the maximum number of people I can have around me in any one place where I feel like I know everybody and understand all the relationships everybody has with each other.

But that doesn't mean that you can't belong to more than one community, I can keep track of a lot of separate communities as long as they don't go much over the two hundred person limit in any one community.

So that's not really the limit that some people think it is.

Plus, thousands of people can feel like they know you and you might not feel like you know anybody, y'know, thanks to all this technology we got where the flow of information is one-to-many and only going one way, like on a blog or a forum or something heh.

But even if you are stuck with that kinda thing, you can still put offensive junk in your outgoing stream to whittle down the people that will say they can stand you to the kind of folks that you know you would like if you ever had to hang out with 'em, that's what I do ahaha.

Anyways that's another one of those weird physical brain limits, y'know, like eight full duplex streams of consciousness, and a maximum array size of two hundred and fifty-six or something.

Which are things that I've actually experienced multiple times and not just something that I heard of in a book.

Oh and the default group size is two, y'know, the scuba team buddy system, but anything between that and eight (or so) can still be one gang without folks feeling like they need to break into smaller subgroupings and stuff.

Although they might break into smaller groups anyways, 'cause the less connections there are, the more you can devote to any one individual connection, you can make a whole game out of balancing that quality-versus-quantity-of-connections stuff there.

That's a nice way of saying that some people can't handle as many connections as others ahaha.

Or mebbe they're using more than one stream for a connection to increase the bandwidth or something, I dunno, whatever.

The "default-group-of-two" number is important 'cause nobody makes friends with eight people at once, they always establish a connection to one person that's already connected to the other folks, and then they establish other connections afterwards.

Y'know, if you wanted to make a really intuitive system where a community could snowball into something huge from zero within a maze, it'd be good to start everybody out separate, and then bring two of 'em together, and then brings groups of two together, etc.

Anyways with the kinda tricks we can do with stuff like instancing and player-pathing, the two-eight-"groups of eight"-"something around 200"-"multiple communities of 200" stuff is the kinda thing you need to use to do the really good stuff, y'know?

Where everybody matters and nobody gets left out.

So I'm glad there's guys that are still thinking about that stuff.

Plus its a kinda handy thing to know for players, too, y'know?

That's why, like, when your guild gets up there into the 200s, folks start to drop out and form other things.

Or why the tenth guy might go and look for a smaller group of folks where he can matter more.

I dunno its just kinda cool and strange, it reminds me of the submarine psychology stuff where they try to get the most psychologically stable set up heh.

And there are things where people would want people not to matter, like when they just want a bunch of faceless shmucks to buy their junk on the auction house.

Its the more-I-don't-know-the-merrier when you create a situation like that, y'know, 'cause you actually wanna screw as many people as you can out of as much money as possible heh.

Ain't nothing really wrong with that as long as you know it ain't really the only way to do it, y'know?

You could be a crafter that worked for a king that made all the armor for your village or something like that where you knew the people who were wearing your junk and you cared about 'em (and the work that you put into making the people in your town tougher might be beneficial to you, too).

And people don't really need to matter if you just want people to prey on in pvp (I dunno how to say that in a way where it don't sound bad but a lot of my pvp-centric buddies don't just like to pvp against people they like, y'know, they wanna get in the middle of a bunch of dweebs and tear shit up Gorilla-Style and make people throw hissy-fits and stuff sometimes too ahaha).

But I know lots of pvp guys that are heroic community guys, too, as a matter of fact, pvp guys are kinda used to people mattering on a level that goes way the hell deeper than the average item-greedy solo guy or business-running crafting guy usually operates on, 'cause pvp guys gotta stand next to each other out there on the battefields and trust each other sometimes, and so pvp guys can actually be a lot less predatory ('cause you need people to pvp with and against heh) and more noble ('cause you don't wanna piss yer pals off and get backstabbed ahaha) than some of those I-hate-pvp-pvp folks, y'know?

Man, how did I end up talking about this stuff?


I'm not even gonna try to wrap this one up with something witty, you can just deal with it.

Well, I think you guys are old enough now to put up with my totally broken-ass jerking-halts-of-consciousness where my train of thought comes to a grinding stop with a never-ending squeal of metal on metal, y'know, without me needing to wrap it all up at the end in some tired-ass conceptual garbage-bag twist "in conclusion" ending for you, what're you guys gonna yell at me like a bunch of little kids 'cause I didn't tell the story exactly the same way every single time, I mean, c'mon, seriously ahaha.

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