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Punishment and Reward

Lupine00

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I originally thought I'd write about ideas for punishing or rewarding the player, but the question of what a "player reward" looks like turns out to be complicated.

 

Recently, in a long post on the SexLab Survival forum, addressing amputation mechanics, I alluded to an "iceberg" that amputation mechanics were the tip of, but I never explained what iceberg I had in mind. The broader topic of punishment and reward mechanics was what I was referring to.

 

On reflection calling it an iceberg doesn't do it justice.

 

For brevity in future, we need a jargon term to describe the general class of mods I'm talking about. Some can probably guess right away: slavery mods, combat defeat outcomes, "sexist" mods that create continual penalties and hazards on female characters, with an emphasis on the sex part, and other disparity mods that try to create varying experiences for the PC, from pregnancy to running a brothel. The PC doesn't have to be female, but usually is. There's also usually some kind of intentional conflict between a submissive role being imposed on them, and the tasks that vanilla Skyrim makes available (or requires to progress).

 

I'm going to call this very broad category "oppressive" mods. Oppressive mods all have significant capacity to punish the PC.

 

 

 

Punishment and reward are at the heart of so many LL mods, particularly those with an emphasis on slavery, combat defeat, or bondage games.

In short, oppressive mods are about punishment and reward.

 

Punishment and reward are also at the heart of why so many of these mods don't work well together and why authors aren't inspired to make them work well together.

I will present an argument for why this is so.

 

I suspect that conflicts between punishment and reward are also the underlying reason for many players ultimately getting tired of this kind of mod and turning away from it. They're certainly the cause of many frustrations.

I will also try to argue why this is not simply an arbitrary claim.

 

 

Bondage and slavery mechanics add new and exciting ways to punish and reward the PC. Isn't that fun?

You may ask, "Why is there a problem?"

 

 

 

Let's take a step back...

Player character punishments and rewards are NOT player punishments and rewards

 

 

There are two ways of looking at punishment and reward, we can look at them impacting the PC - the character - or we can look at how they impact the player. The two are different things; potentially a world apart and often in direct conflict with each other.

 

For example, the player fails at combat and the PC is defeated. DCL combat defeat is enabled. The PC is raped (brutal punishment for the PC, but amusement for the player) and then gear may be taken (punishment for both PC and player), and the character may be teleported to some annoying place (punishment for both PC and player), and they may be left wearing devices (punishment mainly for the PC, because the player might enjoy this quite a bit).

 

 

In oppressive mods, there are many events that take place that are horrible for the PC, but amusing for the player. The kennel in SexLab Survival is a good example of the contrast, the conflict, and the confusion. It's typically an amusing event for the player, but it may well be awful for the poor PC. Unless she is deep into SLS cum-addiction, there is no upside for the PC to be raped by the kennel-keeper or his pets, and she probably isn't going to get a good night's sleep.

 

SLS is a great example of how things get complicated and ambiguous. Is being forced to drink cum a good thing or a bad thing? In SLS, is shifts from one to the other as the addiction increases and it becomes necessary to satisfy it. The player has limited options to prevent the onset of the addiction. Self-gagging might help a little, but it comes with numerous down-sides. The player's reaction to cum-addiction may vary considerably with where they are in their game. At early stages they may seek it out, but at later stages it may start to become a tiresome annoyance.

 

Not only do different mods have different ideas of what events are good or bad for the PC, but the same mod may change its idea as play progresses.

 

The player's idea of what is entertaining remains relatively constant, unless they're over-exposed to a repetitive event that turns what was once amusing into fatiguing boredom. Even this isn't a solid rule. As noted above, the player tends to start to drift away from the oppressive content as their character levels up, and clearing vanilla content (or vanilla-like content) often becomes more of a priority.

 

One thing that's deeply lacking in the majority of mods is any kind of alignment between PC and player punishment and reward. Combat defeat mods are supposed to be punishing the player, but often what they're offering is a lot of sex scenes - which players may find rewarding unless they grow boring - and it's only the character that is getting punished. Even when the PC's items are taken away, the player suffers a great deal less than the PC.

 

And what is the point of putting mechanics into mods that are intentionally boring? Even in a combat defeat mod? There is limited scope to punish the player, and such an approach needs to be used sparingly if players are not to grow disinterested. A certain amount of peril increases excitement, but inevitable failure and punishment are simply annoying and frustrating.

 

 

To what extent are modders thinking about their mechanics in these terms? Are they considering the difference between PC punishment/reward vs player punishment/reward?

 

Some may be doing this, but I suspect that most have not crystallized that distinction clearly in their minds (until reading this?) There's no doubt that modders are trying to create mechanics that are consistently fun for the player, but the design of existing mods and the way that their authors write about them suggests that they conflate almost everything their mod does with an attempt to deliver player reward, even if it's indirectly. For example, SLS amputations are, to in part, an attempt simply to deliver more excuses for kinky animal sex with a kind of sexual frisson from the underlying reluctance.

 

Only combat defeat mods have reason to seriously consider the topic of player punishment, which they deliver via a very limited toolkit: item theft, disruptive teleportation, and various other annoyances that amount to time-sinks. SD+, if considered as a combat defeat outcome, consists almost entirely of extremely tiresome time-sinking.

 

SexLab Adventures (seems to evidence thinking that the bounties for doing forbidden things are a punishment for both the player and the PC, but in practice they punish the PC far more than they punish the player. The player doesn't set up punishing bounties unless they think they are going to be fun somehow.

 

Loss of time is really the only punishment that can be inflicted on the player, and all other punishments are just indirect routes to this.

 

The things that are lost can almost always be regained with sufficient effort. Whether the PC is being robbed, fined, sent to an inconvenient location, locked in a cell, or chain-raped for two real hours straight, it's all just something that soaks up the player's time in a way that doesn't seem to offer any kind of satisfying progress. In some extreme cases, the punishment takes away from past progress. To what extent the player is genuinely troubled is another matter. After all, they are installing these mods because they like them, and as often as not, they rather enjoy having PoP suck up hours of play while their character is dragged around the countryside on a leash by NPCs who path badly and frequently get stuck.

 

Even when things the player has struggled for are taken away - fancy armors, money, titles, reputation, NPC relationships, levels or skills - it usually comes down to a measurement of time invested that was lost. The things themselves can always be replaced with other things, given more time.

 

 

What is Player Character Reward or Punishment?

 

How can a collection of data in your computer be punished or rewarded? Is it punishment when her simulation values are modified in a non-advantageous way? I don't believe so. That sort of thinking is nonsense with no reference point or connection to any meaningful context. Reducing the PC's health value is a negative simulation outcome, but without assigning a meaning to it, it is neither punishment or reward.

 

Only the player can assign meaning to these events. Does that mean that there's no such thing as PC punishment or reward?

 

The reference for what is a punishment for the PC is always the story of the PC. There are events that she, as a story character, is supposed to enjoy, and events she is supposed to hate. The player (whether they intend to or not) to some extent cannot help but have some empathy with the human-looking graphic on their screen. She is not just there to create a pornographic visual; if that were the aim then why play Skyrim at all? You could just run SexLab animations in a loop, and a SexLab theater would be the most popular mod around. Instead, there is only modest interest in such mods, and most of that is from people who really are only interested in screen archery - and many of those are still telling stories!

 

However, player empathy with the PC doesn't mean that they player feels misery when the PC is imagined to feel it. Often the PC relishes the horrors inflicted upon their character. There are many reasons for this, but they are topics applicable to media in general, and not Skyrim oppression mods in general.

 

Nevertheless, the determinant of PC punishment or reward is simply the resulting story that the player creates in their head to explain the events and how the character reacts to them.

 

 

So what's the problem with any of that?

 

The lack of alignment between PC and player punishment and reward leads to a weak and uninvolving experience, shallow immersion, and incoherent story events.

 

Take an example of the PC developing a sex-addiction. This might be simulated as a constantly high arousal value which either doesn't decrease after sex, or doesn't decrease much, and can only be reduced by extreme sexual encounters, or a fast increase in arousal whenever it's low, or both these approaches. In addition, one or more mods may impose stat or XP penalties for this continuing high arousal state. Such additions are generally seen as improving the simulation.

 

In addition, the constant sex events may lead to Wear&Tear on the PC, with additional penalties as a result, again this is seen as an improvement in the simulation.

 

XP penalties are supposed to be a punishment for the player, but they are an ineffectual one because leveling in Skyrim is not terribly important for the player.

The stat penalties are inconvenient, and quite likely to involve movement speed or something else that mildly irritates the player, but in many cases may not even be noticed, and may very likely be drowned out by some other mod doing something completely unrelated (needs mod tiredness, for example).

 

 

The issue here is that a sex-addicted PC is supposed to long for orgasms, but getting them makes almost no difference to the PC or to the player.

 

There is no alignment between the supposed situation - the story you're creating in your head - and the game events. Instead we have a questionable simulation of sex-addiction, with mechanics that are inspired by the simulation concepts. Various conflicting outcomes follow from the simulation, which itself is the product of multiple mods that were not written to produce any single clear outcome or with any special intent - they are essentially simulation rules - they are devoid of any compelling story.

 

We're supposed to believe that the PC is constantly distracted by her desire, leading to impaired learning. If there's a Wear&Tear mod, we are also (probably) supposed to understand that the PC is physically (and magically) impaired by pain resulting from past sexual activities and abuse.

 

None of this simulation exists, or makes any sense in the context of vanilla Skyrim, where healing spells and potions cure sword cuts and simple praying cures diseases.

 

Some players struggle with the contradictions, and add more mods in an attempt to resolve them: needs mods with harsh diseases, limitations on potions, or potion consumption, limitations on healing capacity and PC recovery, wounds mods that create lasting effects for combat injuries that can't simply be healed away. It's more complexity and more mods to solve a problem that was created by the original mod setting up a questionable simulation that was at odds with vanilla Skyrim.

 

 

Players typically take the position that vanilla Skyrim is inadequate to support and enhance their fantasies for the PC, so they impose extra perils and dangers upon her. She needs warm clothes and fires, she needs to eat and drink, she needs to get a good night's sleep, she needs to pee (and fart!)... it doesn't stop there... she needs to sleep in comfy clothes, she she needs to eat good food, she gets tired of camping, and she gets hurt and penalized by ... just about everything. Players add mods where the PC can get pregnant, or seems to easily submit to forced sex, mods where she can resist forced sex up to a point, they add mods where everyone wants to enslave and sell her, mods where she can be auctioned, mods where she is hurt by sex, and mods where she becomes addicted to it, or to sex with animals. There are even mods where you can become inseminated with GEMS by animals and give birth to ROCKS! And of course they add mods that tie her up. Lots and lots of those. I could digress into a discussion of what this means about the female gender role in society, but that sounds hazardously close to politics. 

 

The point is that the simulation rules we apply to the PC get ever more complex and perilous. They are profoundly weighted in favor of punishing, humiliating and terrorizing the poor PC. If there is something she is ever allowed to enjoy, you can be almost certain that it's some kind of destructive addiction or submissive mental break.

 

This is where player frustration can set in. A player initially believes that modding can deliver new and surprising experiences in their game. As time goes by, modding becomes more of a struggle to balance the conflicting ideas of reward and punishment in the web of mods that they've installed, or simply to get some beloved feature to work as they want it to. Frustration and exhaustion, combined with a loss of belief in the idea that oppressive punishment-oriented mods can deliver any substantially new content leads them to look to other genres, or to abandon the undertaking completely.

 

There's a real shortage of mods that emphasize PC enjoyment, fun or satisfaction. There is no mod where eating cakes gives the PC more happiness. There is no mod where she will pay a fortune to taste chocolate but not be addicted to it like a drug. There is no mod where she enjoys a smile from a child. I guess the majority of players don't want these things in their game for some reason. This isn't some political comment. It's just that game design has conventionally always been about peril and punishment, with the reward being from overcoming those hazards ... but there are games (like Candy Crush) that are composed only of rewards, albeit weak ones.

 

Problematic conflicts arise because each mod is trying to guess how their user-base feels about a certain scenario, and to provide events that are titillating. Each one envisages a slightly different scenario for the PC, then (usually) tries to produce it indirectly through simulation rules. Mods that are direct about the outcomes they want are less common, but the root conflicts begin with the stories. As the intended outcomes (stories) conflict, the simulation rules also interact at cross-purposes. There's no clear direction. Even if these mods can interoperate what would that interoperation look like when they have disparate concepts of a proper outcome?

 

Players tweak mods, put mods in, take mods out, and post on forums, over and over, seeking changes of one kind or another, so that they can get the outcome they imagine as perfect. However, for every modder there are numerous players (even for unpopular mods) who all have slightly different ideas in their heads. With only one modder and all those players, any mod can only please each player a certain amount, and the modder may not be pleased with what they delivered either. (I know I am never satisfied with what I make). Even among the most eager fans of a mod, there are different story expectations.

 

 

Conflicts Everywhere

 

The conflicts are not only between the mods and vanilla, but between each mod. These conflicts flow directly from different concepts of what is a player or PC punishment or reward. It's inevitably the case that two mods get in a fight over some stat that they both want to change in opposing ways, or some situation or scenario that they want to resolve in profoundly different ways.

 

Superficially, Estrus Chaurus (EC+) appears to be punishing the PC for sex with chaurus monsters, or from picking flowers, or (if you have certain patches or extensions) from collecting chaurus eggs. Of course that's not its true purpose. Its core reason for existence is to amuse the player with tentacle-sex and violation fantasies, then to pile a body-modification fetish on top of it, allowing the player to view their character distorted with huge breasts and belly due to a foul "pregnancy", a parasite infestation that can easily end in a horrid mess of skittering creatures.

 

EC+ punishes the PC but rewards the player. Its pregnancies conflict awkwardly with other pregnancy mods (which have equally complex internal intentions), including combat defeat mods. The EC+ encumbered PC is weakened in combat, suffers additional defeats, and additional indignities, but we're now slipping into territory where the player is ostensibly to be punished for letting their character become inflated with alien eggs to the point that she can barely waddle along.

 

This is a recurring pattern. A mod that offers player entertainment also adds penalties to the PC, and other mods interpret those penalties as an intent to punish the player. And in some cases, they act on that intent, amplifying the "punishment", or attempting to counteract of moderate it. The different mods had different outcomes in mind. EC+ seems to think that the pregnancy is more or less the end of the problem, but don't get caught too often or you'll end up inflated for good. OTOH, DiD thinks that tentacle-sex is both a way to lose trauma and also to gain it. I can't figure out what DiD's overall expected outcome is, but it's clearly different to the original intent of EC+ otherwise it wouldn't need to add any new simulation rules.

 

The first problem is that mod X has no way to tell whether the things mod Y were done to amuse the PC, or are supposed to be some kind of disincentive.

The second problem is that mod X and mod Y almost certainly have a different outcome in mind, even given the same set of preconditions.

 

Returning to the EC+ example, the mod itself is also internally conflicted. It does things that please the player, while also doing things to annoy them (such adding little scuttling creatures to areas). Of course, the player can control some of these decisions, but the player was always controlling them, from the very point that they installed EC+ they were superficially in control. However, because mods rarely deliver a coherent experience to the player, we see, again and again, the addition of more and more mods trying to resolve a nest of conflicts that can only grow as a result of this approach - and I don't mean script or ESP conflicts, but gameplay experience and immersion conflicts - it's a way of modding that creates an endless appetite for more and more mods and features.

 

Another conflict is that players wish to surrender control, while at the same time exercising it. They choose to add a mod that does things to the PC, but want to feel that the outcomes are beyond their control, or at least beyond the PC's control. They want the story of helplessness, or struggle. They want story events to take them by surprise ... but not too much surprise. They chose the mods they put in their game, and chose how to configure them, but then they want to play within the limits they've created for themselves, with the perils they have so carefully prepared.

 

This is a conflict over control rather than reward and punishment, but it manifests as reward and punishment. When mods go off the rails and break the game, or simply send it in an unwanted direction, the player (as well as the PC) is punished. Often enough, total success for the PC ends up being seen as failure by the player. Again, the mods didn't do the intended job.

 

 

Is Coherence Possible? (And would we want it?)

 

Is it even technically possible to create coherence between the PC experience and the player experience? Would this be better or worse?

It is possible for mods to agree on the nature of an experience, so they all augment it, instead of breaking it?

 

Now we're into more difficult territory. It took until now to crystallize the true nature of this problem, and I imagine that many readers are still not at all convinced there's anything here but a confusing web of points that they feel they have easy counter-arguments to. It's not easy to explain the network of ideas and realizations that have brought me to write this, and it will be a journey of its own for me to learn how to express those ideas clearly and succinctly. For now, the ideas are present, but they're still new. There's scope to improve and refine them, and even more scope to improve how to describe them.

 

But returning to the question at hand, I can offer some examples.

 

In the case of sex addiction, what if the player received increasing rewards for orgasms? The more extreme the addiction, or the longer the period of denial, the greater the player reward would be. Pay attention here, I'm talking about player reward, not PC reward. This could be applied to any addiction mechanic, but its most notable for sex-addiction, because orgasms are rarely a reward, even for the PC (not the player); instead loss of arousal is the reward, if it's even granted, and who that reward is aimed at is ambiguous. Is it the player, who is happy that her character is now better able to function? Or is it the PC, who is supposed to relish the reduction in danger that the sexual-satisfaction leads to? Or (as I suspect) some combination of the two. 

 

In the case of combat defeat, can we genuinely punish the player for losing? 

 

In the case of being caught without a license in SexLab Survival (SLS), there's a conflicted message. The player is supposed to be punished by losing access to items and abilities, but they may also be enjoying the peril that their character has been placed into. They may well get considerable enjoyment from their character being placed in punishment devices that are clearly intended to be a (story) punishment for the PC.

 

What if the sexist problems imposed by SLS were entirely punishing for the player, and overcoming them entirely rewarding? Is that even possible?

 

One thing is for sure, a mod that has an alignment between PC reward and player reward would be unlike the majority of mods we see, which have almost no consideration of PC reward, and are composed almost entirely of PC punishment.

 

 

Would alignment in PC and player reward help align mods together? I think it would, up to a point, because it immediately becomes clear what is supposed to be a player reward or punishment. In current mods, two mods that disagree are both trying to deliver player reward (and PC punishment).

 

It's impossible to intuit which player punishments are supposed to be producing player enjoyment, and which are trying to be player punishments.

 

But if the punishment and reward are simplistically objective, it's easier to get alignment between mods.

 

For example, Deviously Enchanted Chests likes to put the PC into bondage gear.

While this is somewhat a reward for the player, it's substantially supposed to be a punishment.

The goal is (ostensibly) to get out of the bondage gear as quickly as possible and return to business as usual.

 

Devious Training tries to mitigate the penalties of being in bondage gear long-term, while adding extra visual rewards (for body modification fetishists anyway).

It's a given you won't install DT unless you like the modification part, but the penalty mitigation is a bonus player reward.

 

DT is at odds with DEC in some areas, aligned in others.

 

However, if we have an objective way to know whether the PC likes being bound ... if the PC's rewards are aligned with the player's, then we also know whether the player wants the PC to be bound.

 

Given this data, a bondage mod no longer needs to guess what to do. The player wants mechanics that make being bound rewarding.

 

 

So, there's a light at the end of the tunnel ... we can potentially solve some problems by using data about the PC, or the player, and if we put the two into alignment we can create novel experiences, align mods together better, and store less data.



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This is an interesting blog entry, Lupine00, but while you talk of light at the end of the tunnel, I am more pessimistic... I don't see how you have shown that the discrepancy between player & PC rewards can ever be reconciled, for certain types of fetish & play, at least.

 

My confusion can perhaps best be addressed by considering one of your last paragraphs:

 

Quote

However, if we have an objective way to know whether the PC likes being bound ... if the PC's rewards are aligned with the player's, then we also know whether the player wants the PC to be bound.

I know there are mods (you mention DT for instance) that provide PC rewards (as well as player rewards) for being bound.  Buffs in DCL do this too.  But these don't really get to the heart of whether the PC, story-wise, is rewarded for being in bondage.  The PC may fight better in bondage, making the player's achieving of other goals easier, and making it easier for the player to continue with the PC in bondage, with the player enjoying the view presumably.  But that doesn't mean the PC, story-wise, wants to be Super Bondage Fighter.  It's just better than being bound and dead, I suppose.

 

I think many mods provide an experience that introduces an inevitable a conflict between player & PC rewards, and that is deliberate - not in the sense of resulting from as much deliberation as you've put in here, but that the player is gaining enjoyment from the PCs increased difficulties.  For example, in the story they are playing out, perhaps the player roleplays the PC as striving to maintain dignity, modesty, to be law-abiding, and to adhere to classic heroic ideals as they overcome challenges and progress through the vanilla quests.  The mods may or may not interfere with the progression (a goal the player & PC probably share), but they are absolutely intended to oppose those other PC goals, to the enjoyment of the player as the PC faces new struggles and failures.  RP penalties, in other words, which may also be gameplay penalties.

 

So, although I can see the advantage of considering (and developing) more mods that work toward common goals shared by PC & player, how does this in any way help when creating mods designed to deliver an experience where the "fun" comes from the RP difficulties (even if purely "story" and not affecting game mechanics) added on to the poor PC?

 

A PC Happiness/mood stat or set of stats would certainly be interesting for RP purposes (and I've love that to be increased by eating cakes).  You don't pursue this, and I have the impression this isn't central to your point, but maybe it should be.  I could see using such a stat to assign victory/defeat conditions in the game - so a player wins if their PC remains happy, in addition to completing other shared goals.  Happiness wouldn't have to have game-mechanic effects, other than being a way to keep "score", to decide if a game really was a victory or not.  Any sort of mod-imposed effect could affect this stat, based on the PC's preferences.  Though maybe the player actually wants the PC to be unhappy, which throws away the alignment again.  But leaving that aside...

 

Of course, there is no "score" in Skyrim, and vanilla winning is, basically, completing the main quest series I suppose.  And an obvious problem is that engaging in events the player presumably likes since they've installed the mods - like spanking! - should reduce PC happiness if that suits the design of the character.  So we're still in a situation where mod events punish the PC and reward the player... the change is that, since the player is presumably interested in "score", we are attempting to align the player's goals with the PC's.  Is that what you are thinking of, as a solution?  That the player should share the PC's goals (rather than vice-versa, which is what DT tries to do)?  I'm not sure that's really possible or desirable.  But I suppose there might be a place where the player tries to prevent this "score" from dipping too low, while still enjoying various PC-punishing events - a moderating influence that would then start to make the player want to avoid an excess of PC-punishment, and would feel "punished" themselves when they fail in that new goal.  I have no idea, however, how to cause this re-alignment.  "Achievements"?  They don't matter to me, and wouldn't influence me.  But needing some threshold score to prevent an in-game loss - perhaps with some checkpoints where prolonged low happiness leads to the PC quitting... well, that might do it.  Or I might just console around it, but I'm willing to set aside cheating, for the purposes of discussion.

 

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Honestly the more I've realized I don't need 'hardcore' mechanics in Skyrim, the more enjoyment and the more I've been able to chew through other content. Biggest example was for my recent attempt to understand Vortex, I skipped out on iNeeds and it almost feels liberating to be able to run around without a care in the world across the land again. While it has made inns and ingame food basically useless again, it's added greatly to my own personal enjoyment as I don't have to spend ages at a cooking pot doing inventory management or going to inns and spending a few IRL minutes sleeping. I suppose that could also go to when I was doing lewd load orders in the past too, where using iNeeds atop of Deviously Cursed Loot quickly drained the fun of the bondage experiences because it'd combo with the survival mechanics, making being lost in the wilderness basically a near-certain defeat. I'll probably try DCL sometime in the future again, but I expect I'll crank down certain hardcore events to near-zero experience to remove the fatigue issues.

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20 hours ago, legraf said:

This is an interesting blog entry, Lupine00, but while you talk of light at the end of the tunnel, I am more pessimistic... I don't see how you have shown that the discrepancy between player & PC rewards can ever be reconciled, for certain types of fetish & play, at least.

 

I believe the root of the problem is that most of the mods have never even tried to address any particular fetish. They are macguffin-centric instead.

 

Here is this magical yoke that locks onto you. Great. We all love yokes for their powerful aesthetics - sign me up. But bondage fetish has never been about restraints* - it's about people. And we get Skyrim NPCs that will try to rape you every now and then but otherwise remain completely oblivious to what you wear.

 

Or chastity devices. The underlying fetish is called Tease & Denial. But in the game we get questionable denial and no tease whatsoever.

 

And don't even get me started on ponyplay.

 

--------------------

* Okay, it is about restraints, but not in the way reproducible in a game. At least not until we have full body VR sets on the market.

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On 8/2/2020 at 7:28 AM, legraf said:

Of course, there is no "score" in Skyrim, and vanilla winning is, basically, completing the main quest series I suppose.  And an obvious problem is that engaging in events the player presumably likes since they've installed the mods - like spanking! - should reduce PC happiness if that suits the design of the character.  So we're still in a situation where mod events punish the PC and reward the player... the change is that, since the player is presumably interested in "score", we are attempting to align the player's goals with the PC's.  Is that what you are thinking of, as a solution?  That the player should share the PC's goals (rather than vice-versa, which is what DT tries to do)?  I'm not sure that's really possible or desirable.  But I suppose there might be a place where the player tries to prevent this "score" from dipping too low, while still enjoying various PC-punishing events - a moderating influence that would then start to make the player want to avoid an excess of PC-punishment, and would feel "punished" themselves when they fail in that new goal.  I have no idea, however, how to cause this re-alignment.  "Achievements"?  They don't matter to me, and wouldn't influence me.  But needing some threshold score to prevent an in-game loss - perhaps with some checkpoints where prolonged low happiness leads to the PC quitting... well, that might do it.  Or I might just console around it, but I'm willing to set aside cheating, for the purposes of discussion.

 

Now that you've said this, I'm starting to think that Sexlab_Disparity-style mod about the Player Character's character is a nice idea. A number of integrations with the other mods and the player gets the ability to define what actions and events are actually punishments and rewards for the PC. There are mods that work with addictions that "gradually modify" what the PC likes and dislikes but there is no such mod that puts it all in one place (like Disparity does with body changes), nor there is a framework that would store all the data, conserning the player's vision of the PC's character, for it to be used by the game to do something.

We can already do all this in our heads via RP but isn't it more fun when our RP is assigned numbers to it and when the game is given access to it too? (not only the player is given the access)  (or it is just my obsession with numbers interacting with each other that is a result of years of 4X and deciding to devote my life to physics...)

 

That would be difficult to implement but in the result the player would be able to modify the punishment/reward balance to their liking (maybe override similar systems from the other mods due to being superior), thus the mod will be able to please everyone through giving control.

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On 8/2/2020 at 2:28 PM, legraf said:

I don't see how you have shown that the discrepancy between player & PC rewards can ever be reconciled, for certain types of fetish & play, at least.

I understand your uncertainty. I don't believe I showed more than a vague possibility that there might be ways to address these problems. However, I think that if we try to solve these problems, and also develop mods that tend to create them less in the first place, more satisfying modes of play will emerge.

 

The first issue is finding a way to express the problem so that reasoning about it can lead to a solution. I'm still working towards that, but recognizing that disconnect between player expectation and what is happening to the PC at least starts us examining when that produces good outcomes and when they are bad - and gives us some new ways to judge those outcomes.

 

I've found that time and time again I'm playing Skyrim, and something terrible happens to my PC. It's usually the sort of events that would leave somebody reliving the trauma for the rest of their life, if they can keep on living. It's easy to come up with examples...

 

The PC falls into the hands of evil Falmer. They use her as a sex toy, then a chaurus breeding beast, then package her up and transport her to an underground city where evil elves and Falmer "as we know them" are living together. That's just the beginning of the horrors. There are situations where the PC is harvesting parts of other dead slaves to make food, and if she doesn't harvest fast enough she will be killed and eaten. There are situations where she is used as a cow, or again, as a chaurus breeder, or threatened with transformation into some hideous monster. There is no hope of escape. She is trapped, surrounded by monsters, unarmed and unarmored, and with no idea where she is or how to get out. Other slaves are broken and defeated, while some others have joined the monsters and become complicit in their schemes.

 

So how does the PC struggle from one scene to the next? As a player "who imagines" I cannot help but imagine what she might feel as a result of these experiences. How can I reconcile that with my own enjoyment of the experience at a remove, while also understanding that were it happening to a real person it would a terrible nightmare?

 

This uneasy feeling of disconnect troubled me on many occasions, and still continues to do so. There is a kind of cognitive dissonance. You end up feeling that because the game didn't reflect the PC's mindstate - in any way - that something was missing. These things happen, and the PC remains an obedient puppet. She shuffles from one indignity to another for my amusement, silently and obediently. There's no indication that her internal state is changing. The only way that can change is for me to imagine it. But what should I imagine? Who could possibly guess what would go through the mind of somebody subjected to all that? Should I make her act according to that instead of playing my game? Presumably, she would just lie in a corner and shiver. I would quickly be bored by that. The cycle of thoughts leads to more dissonance.

 

It's tempting to try and simulate the results of these things on the PC, just like DF willpower... But there is the catch, DF willpower isn't anything to do with willpower, it's a simple gameplay mechanic, not a simulation of a complex thinking person's mind-state.

 

As I already intimated, any effective simulation would be as likely to generate plausible outcomes much like the ones I already imagined, where the PC does nothing because she is too broken, or simply to sore, to move. So, any useful outcome has to do with the PC enduring, struggling on regardless ... never totally being defeated. Again, it's not in the simulation; it's simply not considered.

 

There is no mod called "Never give up", that makes the PC's ability to endure anything explicit and turns it into some kind of game or entertainment in itself. But there could be. Would it be fun? I would at least not be wondering why my PC can endure so much.

 

Returning to the experiences in my Things in the Dark game, once the PC had been through the transformation into a "Pure Falmer" and joined the dark-side (so to speak), all the conflicts started to disappear. The PC was sent out to do evil in various ways, and I had no problem rationalizing it after what had happened to her. Unable to take revenge on the creatures that had destroyed her previous "self", she could at least take revenge on the world that had failed to prepare her for the truth. And when things went wrong, and bandits raped her, or some joker NPC managed to get restraints onto her, she endured it easily, because those little inconveniences were nothing compared to her experiences in Ibn.

 

I'm not sure that the improved ability to rationalize everything improved matters greatly, but it did remove a constant uneasy feeling that something was missing. Instead of wishing for the PC to be better simulated, I instead found myself wishing for the NPCs to be better simulated, and that is something that is actually achievable in a practical way. A meaningful simulation of the PC would remove all player control, but simulation of NPCs is what the game should be doing, up to a point.

 

There was still an issue of wondering to what extent simulation was useful, vs pure gameplay mechanics, or totally scripted outcomes, but there was a qualitative difference there.

 

 

When I moved onto playing Trapped in Rubber, the dissonance returned worse than ever. TiR did a terrible job of convincing me that the PC was growing to lover rubber, or her new mistress. The worst point was the trial/initiation, where the mistress says that she will know if you're lying, and you can only finish the scenario by picking a dialog option, where you pledge your love and allegiance to the mistress and her rubber, and do not lie... It's that last part that broke it. Of course the PC might agree to the demands of this unhinged menace, but she would never really wish to be enslaved, or trapped in rubber.

 

There could have been story events that made a change of heart on those topics more convincing, and that was something that Captured Dreams pulled of (to some extent). Trapped in Rubber did not, so I was left disappointed and frustrated about having the PC's deepest mind-state decided by a story event that wasn't much more than a silly joke.

 

The experience convinced me that while it was possible to make a mod that persuaded the player that the PC's reality made sense, it would be difficult. I'm not saying that modders should give up on that path, but it's a hard road to follow and do well.

 

 

Another example is Troubles of Heroine. The basic assumption of the mod is that the PC is self-hating masochist who positively delights in humiliation. (Almost) every NPC acts that way. You have dialog options that allow the PC to act that way. You really can't make sense of playing the mod unless you accept that viewpoint, but it doesn't force you to agree that it's the truth explicitly. It just puts it out there and leaves it to the player to pick it up. There is also a rationale that the PC is doing this stuff out of self-sacrifice. That is also a possibility, though much less supported by the mod overall.

 

This option of leaving the player to choose how they think the PC rationalizes, is less annoying, but the PC often has to rationalize some fairly strange behavior to keep the mod moving, and that passes the problem onto the player. It's better than the Trapped in Rubber approach, but it ends up feeling like you're just going along with things to see the content. It's never entirely convincing that the PC does these things, and there's never a time it feels completely natural. It feels like you, as the player, are a malicious devil, conspiring with the mod to inflict mischief and tortures upon the hapless PC who tries to do and be good but is constantly thwarted by an evil puppeteer. It is an experience, but it feels a little cheap. One feels sorry for the PC for doing these things to her, but if you don't, your Skyrim is rather boring.

 

 

So, however it's addressed, it's always easier when the PC and the player are in alignment. It is still only as good as the events that occur; still only as interesting as the robotic dialog-factory-NPCs of Skyrim, but you don't feel responsible for purposely torturing a non-existent computer graphic that some part of your brain is mistaking for a person.

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2 hours ago, AlphaAndOmega said:

Now that you've said this, I'm starting to think that Sexlab_Disparity-style mod about the Player Character's character is a nice idea. A number of integrations with the other mods and the player gets the ability to define what actions and events are actually punishments and rewards for the PC. There are mods that work with addictions that "gradually modify" what the PC likes and dislikes but there is no such mod that puts it all in one place (like Disparity does with body changes), nor there is a framework that would store all the data, conserning the player's vision of the PC's character, for it to be used by the game to do something.

That was pretty close to what all the factions in SLAX were for. And I started out to make that, but it was too much of a big-bang approach and I abandoned it.

 

The way forward, if there is one, is a little bit at a time.

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I now recall this obscure game from the 1980s that actually punished its players by wiping their disks clean. It did not fare particularly well.

 

At the risk of turning this thread into a PHD thesis on narrative morphology let's enumerate (not unlike The 7 Basic Plots) the basic fetishes. Off the top of my head I can name two:

 

1. Corruption of the innocent (bimbofication / sex addiction scenarions and stuff)

2. Fall of the mighty  - enslavement and other loss of power scenarios. (It is by the way loss of power that the players want to experience, not loss of control. The difference is that in a loss of power scenario you don't get to say "no", but control-wise you still have plenty of options: from enthusiastic cooperation to passive-aggressive resistance to covert sabotage with the intent to turn the tables on them.)

 

Now let's take one mod for example. This is not a critical review - I believe the author did what he could with the limited toolset at his disposal. So let us pretend we don't know which mod I am talking about.

 

Unlike many others this is a fetish-centric mod rather than macguffin-centered. It tries to deliver what you usually look up on your favorite porn site under ENF (embarrassed naked female) tag. Interestingly, the objective fact of not having an object in slot 32 can be a part of either basic plot above, but now we clearly deal with a corruption of the innocent scenario.

 

For this scenario to work we need two elements. First, the innocent. With the immediate implication that women of Skyrim do not normally run around naked. And a hooker is not the only employment option for them. Secondly, define "corruption". The simulationist approach dictates that a woman regularly stripped would eventually become jaded, and this is a self-defeating move - that E in ENF is there for a reason. So the correct move would be to keep the Dragonborn ENF forever, but turn her into an adrenaline junkie streaker on top of that. Unfortunately the author here fell into the trap of LL Mandatory Addiction Development Mechanics instead.

 

4 hours ago, Lupine00 said:

I've found that time and time again I'm playing Skyrim, and something terrible happens to my PC. It's usually the sort of events that would leave somebody reliving the trauma for the rest of their life, if they can keep on living.

 

And now we see how Adversity Hyperinflation is yet another root cause of the problem. Normally the issue women have with being naked is twofold.  First, there is that vulnerability feeling. We all know that if you run around naked you will likely get catcalled, groped, arrested and maybe raped by the police (if you decided to streak in Uzbekistan or similar place). However, in the world where they repeatedly rape you no matter what - why would you care about being naked? It doesn't make you any more vulnerable. Come to think of that, why would you care about being naked in the world where a trip to the next village is a death march? Decency has no place in a basic physiological survival situation.

 

Second part is the social implication - public shaming, reputational loss etc.

5 hours ago, Lupine00 said:

Instead of wishing for the PC to be better simulated, I instead found myself wishing for the NPCs to be better simulated,

Exactly. Both on the individual level (unreactive NPCs just kill the mood) and as a whole. If you want your fetish to have a meaningful social dimension (as many fetishes do IRL) you need a society first. And the society as portrayed by the superposition of currently available mods is not even Gorean - it is unhinged and dysfunctional beyond belief.

 

And then there is this whole issue with the game being an interactive form of art. Our favorite mod did not really offer all that much for the player to do. It could have been a kind of "sneak around until you steal some clothes" simulator, or "run across the town without getting caught"... Instead we've got this forced mental breakdown animation. But that is another can of worms really.

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4 hours ago, cat013 said:

At the risk of turning this thread into a PHD thesis on narrative morphology let's enumerate (not unlike The 7 Basic Plots) the basic fetishes. Off the top of my head I can name two:

Some "media studies" type jargon is raised here :) 

I think those topics are worthy of discussion in their own place and time:

  • "the basic fetishes"
  • "LL Mandatory Addiction Development Mechanics"
  • "Adversity Hyperinflation"
  • "society as portrayed by the superposition of currently available mods is not even Gorean - it is unhinged and dysfunctional beyond belief"
  • "the game being an interactive form"

 

Each one of these is enough to deserve a whole topic of its own.

 

They've all been touched on during "Weak Girl" discussions, or elsewhere (or both), but have never been split out and examined properly.

OTOH, the fetishes have been discussed in terms of the erotic genre on writing forums, etc.

 

Despite how interesting these topics are, I felt that insights on the topic of reward and punishment - player or PC - were more fundamental.

 

When we deal with problems piecemeal, like "adversity inflation" (I think we can drop the "hyper"), the solutions can only end up as recipes for "don't do that".

While admonitions not to generate content that promotes adversity inflation, or even suggestions on how to do that, are somewhat useful, they solve a part of the problem while leaving the bigger issues untouched.

 

It's a bit like setting out to tidy your house, but ending up fixated on just one room. You can have a broadly tidy house with one messy room, but cleaning one room cannot clean the house.

 

Or to paraphrase Douglas Adams, it's the realization that it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy...

 

We could never care about all those issues in the list above, and still improve player satisfaction if the mods the player has are uniformly aligned. That alignment gives us something we can assess for a game as a whole, and we can move to the specific and pick out parts that are particularly misaligned and remove or reconfigure them - or re-interpret them.

 

 

For example, if your problem is adversity inflation relating to nakedness spoiling your "ENF" scenario, we first have to ask how ENF aligns with the game overall.

1) We know the player likes ENF. They enjoy it, it is rewarding.

2) We are not sure how the PC feels about it, but as they are "embarrassed" probably they are not supposed to like it.

 

If the PC is aligned with the player, they will like the naked experience, and perhaps the PC could even relish the embarrassment component of it, while still remaining "embarrassed". This requires a humiliation-seeking PC.

 

There is a mountain of erotic fiction that deals with this, and the protagonists are typically highly aroused by the experience, even if they do not understand that arousal. In fact, their coming to understand that arousal and attraction to humiliating experiences if often a major character arc.

 

So, in written fiction, it would be commonplace for the reader and the protagonist to be aligned. However, because written fiction is able to explicitly address the experience of the fictional character in a way that Skyrim cannot easily manage, there's more freedom there. All the elements are assembled so they work together (or aren't, depending on the quality of fiction) but Skyrim cannot vary as many factors without undermining interactivity and player agency.

 

 

So, assuming we have a humiliation-seeking PC, does it make anything better? Or is it worse?

It obviates the need for an addiction mechanic, because the PC starts off being rewarded for nakedness and embarrassment.

It doesn't add much adversity, because the PC no longer perceives it as such.

It doesn't require any lore explanation because it originates from the PC.

And in terms of interaction, what the player does directly advances both the cause of the PC and the puppeteer player; there's less dissonance.

 

But... These things don't just happen, and we do need to ensure there are no conflicting addiction mechanics messing things up.

 

The harder question here is whether there is any need for explicit mechanics to reward (or punish) either the player or the PC.

That's going to vary with player preference.

 

What this dictates, is that we don't have a PC who genuinely hates the ENF scenario. The PC's state of mind is assumed; it's a given that follows from the decision to present the scenario at all.

 

 

To raise an alternative example, consider Slaverun. I won't try and disguise the mod, there' s no need to be coy about it.

 

Slaverun puts forward a narrative that all (or almost all) women are repressed sex-addicts, and their greatest and most complete satisfaction in life will come from realizing this and becoming cock-hungry sex-toys, devoid of all agency. In theory, though they may resist, the ultimate achievement for any female is to total dissolution of ego into the role of serving the male masters, to the extent that even agonizing physical torture or death become an ecstatic experience if it pleases the masters. It is extreme to the point of being satirical.

 

However, Slaverun is inconsistent on this position. Sometimes it lets the player choose responses or actions that outright contradict it, and there are places where it's simply ambiguous. It's possible to play Slaverun with the position that the PC is essentially unwilling throughout their slavery experience. Slaverun has no window into the PC's soul, only the player knows whether they are lying when they answer one way or the other, and only the PC can know the true subconscious desires of the PC. There are some problems here that I'll get to...

 

It would be nice to believe that Slaverun's inconsistency is entirely derived from pursuit or humor, irony and the creation of satirical scenarios, but it's not that simple. Slaverun just doesn't have a clear position. It doesn't care about coherency or consistency, but it does consider player-PC alignment; it is not blind to that topic, which warrants examination, and makes Slaverun particularly interesting as an example.

 

The lack of a coherent (or aligned) viewpoint underlies many player complaints about the Slaverun narrative. While players may occasionally complain about the scenarios, mostly they are extremely satisfied with the wide range or events and the hardcore aspects ... until we reach the point where the PC is scheduled to be killed ... players have considerably less satisfaction with that part of the narrative. Some players just don't want to engage with that extreme fetish, and feel cheated when it's dropped on them after so many hours of play and investment.

 

What would need to be changed to make Slaverun well-aligned?

 

A player who chooses to follow the slavery path (which was the only path originally), should accept that the PC agrees with the core philosophy put forward by the masters - even if it is nonsensical, for the PC it is true, even if it's only unconsciously true. Just like the naked character from before can be aroused by humiliation, and pretend that she dislikes it, there is no question that does like it. This would require the ambiguity or counter-slavery options to be stripped out for slave characters. They could remain for characters who basically do not want to be slaves, in games where the slavery path exists only as a punishment.

 

There are mechanics in Slaverun that try to make it adaptive to this sort of thinking. Slaverun makes difficulties for itself by trying to cover every base.

Here are just a few of the scenarios it allows:

PC hates being enslaved, constantly works against it, even when compelled to progress it, eventually ends slavery.

PC hates being enslaved, constantly works against it, even when compelled to progress it, eventually gives up and submits.

PC comes to love being enslaved, works against it but gives in somewhere in the mid-point, falls in love with her enslavers, eagerly hands her family to them too.

PC loves being enslaved from the start and cannot do enough to please the masters.

PC hates being enslaved, escapes from slavery and becomes a slaver, forcing slavery on others.

PC likes being enslaved, but escapes from slavery anyway and becomes a slaver so she can force slavery on others.

And it goes on and on...

 

So much effort is - arguably - wasted on supporting scenarios that are misaligned, and poorly supported by the dialog.

There's insufficient nuance in the discussions between slaves, but there is a lot of ambiguity. They could be lying about almost everything they "admit".

However... Slaverun has a mechanic that measures submissiveness, and another that measures "love" for Bellamy.

 

It is very, very easy to increase submissiveness. The PC can never simply play lip-service to masters, she must always actively resist.

It is quite easy to increase Bellamy love. Many things that do not justify it increase it, and anything apart from overt hatred for Bellamy tends to increase it.

 

The conclusion I draw from this, is that the author of Slaverun supports the submission and Bellamy-love viewpoints implicitly as "truth". Those are the default states and the preferred scenario. Funnily enough, those are the best aligned positions. The values gate some content, so player may feel compelled to push them to extremes to get the most out of the mod.

 

The biggest problem is if the player has a lack of alignment and wants to play a resisting PC. In that case, they have to pick crude options of confrontational resistance, that usually lead to punishments, or lack of access to content (or death for the PC). The player cannot choose options that are lies and have Slaverun treat them as lies.

 

In short, it has the exact immersion-shattering defect of Trapped in Rubber: it forces you to pick a position you didn't want, while initially appearing to allow resistance.

 

While Slaverun would be diminished in some ways by taking a clear position that its nutso thesis is actually true, at least for the PC, it would smooth away a lot of player discontent.

 

Instead of having to invent a weak justification for why the PC goes along with things despite being unwilling, we can see that even the weakest reason is enough because the PC wants all of this from the start. From hereon, the PC's actions make sense. It's logical that she eagerly helps enslave the rest of Skyrim, it's logical that she loves Bellamy, and it's logical that she enslaves her family. It would also allow for a more coherent banquet scenario, where she is saved simply because Bellamy asks for it. It's always problematic because the whole "failure" scenario with the escaped slaves is ridiculously contrived and just doesn't make sense. Cruel as Pike may be, he seems smart enough to figure out that a slave that has been unceasingly loyal and obedient, shouldn't be disposed of for silly reasons - but TBH that is supposed to be comedy - it just isn't that funny.

 

Could we still support a resistant PC option and retain alignment?

Yes, we can, as long as there are aligned rewards (and punishments) and the choices are logical.

 

Instead of having the PC make ambiguous choices through selecting dialog, and attempting to infer the player's real intent, allow the player to decide whether the PC is resisting or not. Dialog can then be interpreted correctly in the light of that. The mod now knows whether the PC is lying and won't increase Bellamy love just because you begged him to fuck your boobs. It can reliably infer that your intent is to put him off-guard so you can murder the disgusting-piece-of-shit later.

 

What we don't have good support for, and probably can't ever make work well, is a scenario where the player goes along making arbitrary choices, and a PC mind-set or position just "falls out" of it. You can't start of with "Hey I'll resist a bit" and then have the slavers break down the PC "by surprise". Such attempts to make a sandbox where the PC-mind is separate from the player's intent, and the outcomes are rewards or punishments for managing highly-related game-mechanics are doomed to fail. That is the land of "adversity inflation" and "mandatory addiction development mechanics".

 

How do we know those things can't work?

The existing state of Skyrim LL mods, particularly oppressive mods, is clear evidence. You just have to look.

 

 

We can tie game mechanics into these things, and make the outcomes a game, but it requires understanding alignment first.

 

If you add (say) an addiction mechanic, and bind it to actions that are basically unavoidable, or highly necessary for the player, it's mandatory addiction, especially if the addiction is self-reinforcing.

 

If you add an addiction mechanic, and make it a clear player choice, that they must actively choose to become addicted, and may do so to get some clear and genuine benefit, then it can work. At the very least, if your PC ends up addicted, you got the benefit in return, instead of simply getting your game hijacked for nothing.

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On 8/3/2020 at 10:58 AM, cat013 said:

I believe the root of the problem is that most of the mods have never even tried to address any particular fetish. They are macguffin-centric instead.

If you look at my Slaverun example, you'll be reminded that it's not maguffin-centric. It has lots of maguffins, but the core of Slaverun is extreme indulgence of fetish - over the top, hardcore indulgence.

 

It is a counter example. It's not maguffin-oriented, but it suffers significantly from misalignment problems.

The misalignment causes the following issues:

  • wasted dialog
  • scenes that diminish the impact of other scenes
  • pointless choices that aren't choices and achieve nothing
  • implausible scenarios
  • lack of relevant choices for some paths in many scenarios
  • lack of clarity as to what is intentional humor and what is most diplomatically described as unintentional humor
  • diminished characterization
  • unlikable NPCs
  • crudely forced/poorly-measured PC mind-states (Bellamy love)
  • failed PC character arc
  • player disconnect with contrived plot developments

These things aren't caused by yokes, or Zap furniture, or the branding machine animation, they're caused by the confused ideas around how the PC and player are reacting to the philosophy of slavery, as proposed by Pike and his cronies, that somehow convinces almost everyone in Skyrim to follow the same path and ultimately wins.

 

Convincing everyone makes a lot more sense if the mod simply accepts that the mod exists in a fantasy world where that absurd position is objectively true.

 

The daedric influence excuse is so flimsy that it never holds up, even when you're destroying slavery. In fact, it's at its worst then, because it's so easy to defeat the dremora.

That excuse only exists because the Pike philosophy is incorrect in the context of the setting. Which is odd, because the PC has so much dialog, and has so many scenes and experiences that appear to validate it.

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3 hours ago, Lupine00 said:

If the PC is aligned with the player, they will like the naked experience, and perhaps the PC could even relish the embarrassment component of it, while still remaining "embarrassed". This requires a humiliation-seeking PC.

 

There is a mountain of erotic fiction that deals with this, and the protagonists are typically highly aroused by the experience, even if they do not understand that arousal. In fact, their coming to understand that arousal and attraction to humiliating experiences if often a major character arc

Yes, I was afraid this was where it was going.  My main question from the start was what to do about situations where the player & the PC's desires can't be aligned, where the player wants to see their PC in situations that the PC's mindset (as created by the player) does not desire these situations.  And it sounds like your advice is to avoid them.

 

I'm not an expert on the ENF "scene", but when I do enjoy the scenario of a character publicly exposed and embarrassed, making the character seek this out - even unconsciously - would not align with my own fetish.  I'm not interested in the character secretly enjoying the situation, and I, too, could pull up a (maybe smaller) mountain of erotic fiction that aligns with that position.  I already ignore various mods that are jarring because they force my character to take positions that contrast not with my own position, but with what I want the PC's position to be.  That is a fundamental problem for everyone, I think, regardless of (mis)alignment.

 

So I'm getting the feeling that your solution, such as it is, is to focus on mods that require player/PC alignment, because as you say:

3 hours ago, Lupine00 said:

Such attempts to make a sandbox where the PC-mind is separate from the player's intent, and the outcomes are rewards or punishments for managing highly-related game-mechanics are doomed to fail. That is the land of "adversity inflation" and "mandatory addiction development mechanics".

 

How do we know those things can't work?

The existing state of Skyrim LL mods, particularly oppressive mods, is clear evidence. You just have to look.

 

I concede that this is a problem for how you roleplay.  And perhaps for the majority or our little minority fetishist community here.  But I think that in your ideal world, where people take your advice to work more on mods that support such alignment, I would be worse off at least for those of my fetishes that absolutely, 100%, depend on misalignment between the PC's mindset and my own.  You make it sound like ... no, you explicitly state that these are doomed to fail.  I disagree, but making them work better is surely not easy, and probably would call for different solutions than those that work for scenarios with good PC/player alignment.  But what we have actually does work quite well for me, overall.

 

Do I think the hodge-podge of current mods work super-well together to give a great experience?  Not particularly, though they are still pretty amazing compared to absolutely anything else out there IMHO.  And of course, the complete inability of generic NPCs to respond appropriately to non-vanilla situations is a killer.  This is the #1 problem with immersion overall for nearly everyone, I think, but this has nothing to do with misalignment.

 

I do agree, however, that there's a lot to be said for working on stronger mods that explicitly require one or two PC mindsets, instead of trying to be all things to all people (and characters).  And I also agree that "punishment and reward" mechanics can be done far more cleanly in the game when PC & player mindset are assumed to align.  That just won't do me any good.  I don't want a nudity-ashamed character that (even unconsciously) seeks out the thrill of nudity, or a strong-but-yielding character that deliberately puts themselves in harm's way for the very risk of being assaulted.  A character that puts themselves at risk despite the danger for some higher purpose, absolutely.  One who repeatedly falls victim to whatever trouble ("punishment") because of incompetence, foolishness, curses, shadow conspiracies, sabotage, or just bad luck, oh yes.  But as soon as the PC starts choosing trouble for trouble's sake, fun evaporates.

 

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4 hours ago, legraf said:

I already ignore various mods that are jarring because they force my character to take positions that contrast not with my own position, but with what I want the PC's position to be.  That is a fundamental problem for everyone, I think, regardless of (mis)alignment.

This is the most salient point here. There are a whole class of experiences that work like this, and they are not excluded by the concept of alignment in reward and punishment, even if they are not "roleplay aligned" or whatever you want to call it.

 

The problem with misalignment in reward and punishment (which was where I started with on this) is that we do not want to punish the player for the things the player enjoys. Unless (perversely) the player happens to want to be punished, but that's just splitting hairs because the player isn't really being punished if they "like" it.

 

As for PC punishment, that's another matter; but it's clear that punishing the PC is frequently pleasing to the player.

 

4 hours ago, legraf said:

You make it sound like ... no, you explicitly state that these are doomed to fail.

I think that may be overstatement by excision of context. It's a turn of phrase rather than a grim prophecy. What sort of fail do we expect to see? Burning computers and weeping players? Probably not that. Possibly, an endless cycle of feature requests. Just one more feature/MCM option and it will all be perfect...

 

I'm not that certain myself. I'm open to be convinced.

I believe that pattern has mostly not worked well, but many people have enjoyed the results, to an extent. As was suggested, yes, it's an improvement over no mods at all.

 

In any case, I'm not proposing that no mods be made where the PC suffers for the player's amusement, what I'm advising is that you don't make a mod where the scenario is ambiguous, without giving the player a way to signal to the mod what it is about it they enjoy. That would prevent somebody making a ENF mod that ruins the experience for you half the time by doing stuff that suggests the PC is secretly into all this nakedness, and then the other half of the time does the opposite - leaving you with a mod that is only half as much fun for you as it otherwise might have been.

 

My intent was to claim that the true sandbox experience of emergent fetish experiences fails due to misaligned conflicting mods, and to some extent due to dissonance. There are mods that do well, but they have created simple gameplay mechanics that work as reliable ways to get rewarded or punished for something other than oppressive mod nonsense, and there are others that succeed due to restrictive narrative rails. SLS is almost a pure sandbox, but it has turned certain aspects into a game mechanics, rather than being purely simulationist. Slaverun adds narrative limitations. DCL was verging on a pure sandbox if you wanted it to be, yet some of those features have been stripped, and others are so random as to be annoying. It didn't hang together as a whole, and even as a walled garden, the beds were not planned out artistically, despite some delightful shrubs. SL Adventures provided some sandbox type features, very much in the style of DCL, but with even more options. The problem was that this just led to requests for more and more options as each user tried to make it aligned just for their own purposes. I guess if you eventually put enough options in there, you could always customize it to suit, but it's certainly an activity with diminishing returns.

 

To backtrack a little, this isn't a completely finished philosophy, and it might well be that the idea of reward and punishment alignment is just another layer of the onion and there are more universal measures that lead to better suggestions. Also, I don't think we can measure failure or success as a binary, or at least that it's useful to try.

 

What I think we should be looking at is player satisfaction vs player dismay.

 

 

But reward, punishment and alignment aren't rules, or a recipe, they're a tool for describing and analyzing problems with mods that (I believe) were previously nebulous and difficult to pin down.

 

Though I may use them to argue that certain kinds of misaligned mods are problem-prone it hardly means that such a mod will never be made again, or that all the ones that exist will simply go away. I don't think we're going to see a craze for "aligned" mods in the near future. I'm not that influential. It might be that a couple of people will use it to talk about a mod sometime.

 

4 hours ago, legraf said:

But as soon as the PC starts choosing trouble for trouble's sake, fun evaporates.

I have no difficulty understanding this viewpoint, for a wide range of fetishes. One might say that for many scenarios the accidental or unwilling part is the fetish. But we already have a lot of mods for fetishes like that. What about other ideas? Ideas that discard attempts at simulation and instead have a mix of pure gameplay and rewards for doing what the player wanted to do anyway ... like vanilla Skyrim, where you want to go places, do quests and fight enemies, and you get stuff for doing it. Vanilla Skyrim doesn't turn you a little more into a draugr for every draugr you kill, but some oppressive mods have mechanics a lot like that.

 

 

It would be silly to suggest that all rape mods must only work for a PC that has secret rape fantasies. It's not even relevant. But if you're writing a complex narrative like Slaverun, simplifying may benefit you greatly.

 

For something like a simple rape mod, the key is reward and punishment. Assuming the player doesn't really enjoy their character being rendered effectively unplayable for the next real hour or so, what they don't want it rape plus a ton of crippling extra consequences. There are going to be some players who, absolutely, get their fun from the idea of the extra peril the PC is now placed in. But we have to explicitly appreciate their expectation.

 

So I'm not saying there can't be mods that satisfy you, but that mods that happen to satisfy you by accident are going to be few, and you're going to have more problems with them than a player who is aligned with the rewards and punishments of that mod.

 

 

Returning to rape mods - which are probably the baseline for LL oppressive modding - each takes a distinct approach, but there's a common theme.

  • DCL - can add extra consequences in the form of devices.
  • DEC - can add extra consequences in the form of devices, or possibly enslavement. 
  • SLAV - will punish you for not being a "virgin", for values of virginity == intentional nonsense. Punishments can be quite complex.
  • DF - will punish you with willpower loss, aggressively so if you are wearing devices, also handles theft (gold only)
  • SLS - only rapes in the kennel, it's not really a basic rape mod.
  • SLD - configure your own punishment, or reward.
  • SLAdv - offers a wide range of punishment options, including theft and worse
  • HHx - this is the only mod I use, because if doesn't do proximity rapes, you have to bump
  • EC+ - certainty of an extreme form of pregnancy

And if you use Apropos or Wear&Tear, then you'll get extra penalties on top of that.

And if your PC gets pregnant, there will be more penalties from that too.

 

What is odd is that it seems common enough for players to add W&T or Apropos and not really like the effects.

I suspect that may be more because they drag on to the point that they're boring. The players are seeking extra consequences, and possibly increased PC vulnerability, but that lingering damage isn't delivering that for them.

 

So, it's reasonable to conclude that players are expecting not only the PC to be raped, but for it to come with additional penalties, such as theft, lingering debuffs, and pregnancy with body shape modification and additional debuffs. In the case of the latter, it's going to seriously impair their game.

 

 

Nevertheless, players are choosing to install these mods over and over again. They aren't just looking for sex animations, they're looking for a kind of horror experience, but the price of this is often that their game is substantially hijacked. This leads to adding more mods to fix the problem, to create things they can do while they are as big as a whale or bleeding from the anus.

 

Mods like SGO reward the player for the pregnancy, albeit, it's usually a small reward, but the player does get something.

 

Used by themselves, these mods are aligned to the point that the deliver something the player wants, and the player can usually disable any penalties or punishments that they don't want. Things get less satisfactory as more mods are added to the game. We see the aforementioned issues of adversity inflation, mandatory addiction that punishes the PC, and so on.

 

While the mandatory addiction may initially tickle the player's tastes for similar reasons that other things inflicted on the PC do - some sense of helplessness or similar - it tends to only last for a short time and after it wears off the player is left with a largely dysfunctional game.

 

 

The benefit of broad alignment is that after the party is over, you're still somewhere you wanted to be, very much so.

 

 

So, for something like EC+, where the PC is horribly punished, but the player enjoys it, maybe there is value in mitigating the punishment for the PC. Not in the immediate "body horror" sense, that the fetish relies on, but in terms of practical game playability. In effect, could there be something that the PC and player both get that makes the experience worthwhile, beyond the tentacle rape itself? Something to offset the practical downsides of the event, without negating them entirely.

 

For example, if the eggs that come out of the PC are actually very valuable, or useful, it's a benefit to the PC and player that might offset the problems. But perhaps not. Perhaps the player's problem is that waiting around for days so the eggs can finish is the problem - and they configured their game like that - and yet they still don't like it. They feel that "punishment" is necessary to create the feel of the fetish. They have configured their own misalignment, and they feel it's necessary, but they also dislike it. It's another case of dissonance.

 

How can we create a fetish like that without a player-punishment experience?

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9 hours ago, legraf said:

I'm not an expert on the ENF "scene", but when I do enjoy the scenario of a character publicly exposed and embarrassed, making the character seek this out - even unconsciously - would not align with my own fetish.  I'm not interested in the character secretly enjoying the situation, and I, too, could pull up a (maybe smaller) mountain of erotic fiction that aligns with that position.  I already ignore various mods that are jarring because they force my character to take positions that contrast not with my own position, but with what I want the PC's position to be.  That is a fundamental problem for everyone, I think, regardless of (mis)alignment

 

But this is really not a problem. Yes, some players want PC to secretly enjoy nudity while being in denial whereas others want her to genuinely suffer. But she can do neither, for "she" is in fact just a stream of ones and zeros. It is however entirely possible to have a gameplay that would - in the same mod - sell either narrative to the players based on their own ingame choices. As long as the fetish-service deliverables are consciously designed.

 

Overall it looks like we're having some miscommunication here. Maybe "reward" and "punishment" are too ambiguous to be productive in a fetish-serving game design discussion.

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8 hours ago, Lupine00 said:

How can we create a fetish like that without a player-punishment experience?

I guess we start by clearly defining what the player is being punished for? IIRC EC+ punishes the player for excessive resource gathering. In the way that is disruptive for the gameplay, but pleasing fetish-wise - so that the players gladly accept this kind of punishment.  In other words, it is Yet Another Artificial Scarcity Mechanism.

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12 hours ago, cat013 said:

I guess we start by clearly defining what the player is being punished for?

Having conscious clarity about all these punishment/reward decisions is beneficial to identifying later problem points.

 

With EC+, is the intent really to punish the player for resource collection?

Or was that just the best excuse that could be found to start the scenario?

 

It can also trigger from Chaurus spit, so I don't think the resource decision was considered a priority. 

That it punished the player for eager harvesting - particularly plants that could yield DCL keys - was likely considered a bonus, but not the primary intent.

 

Once you focus on the reward/punishment duality of EC+, and isolate what is reward and what is punishment - and who it dispensed to, it becomes clear how any changes to that would play out.

 

Player Rewards:

  • Tentacle/slime sex animation
  • Body modification
  • Parasite fetish
  • Pregnancy fetish
  • Milk fetish (excessive milk animation)
  • Birthing fetish
  • Free eggs

 

Player Punishments:

  • Combat impairment (mild in default EC+)

 

PC Rewards:

  • Free eggs

 

PC Punishments:

  • Tentacle rape
  • Horrible violation
  • Unwanted(?) dramatic body modification
  • Unwanted pregnancy
  • Combat impairment
  • Critter infestation
  • Residual boob growth

 

Almost everything that is a player reward is a PC punishment.

PC rewards are all but non-existent.

 

If it weren't for the minor pregnancy debuffs, there's no downside for the player.

It's highly satisfying for the player (and a popular mod).

 

However, the dissonance is notable, and the player is often left with the feeling that EC+ has something lacking or missing... something hard to describe.

 

Suggestions/requests that EC+ support addiction or stiffer penalties are not uncommon.

DiD's addictions added an EC+ addiction.

 

The player likely senses the powerful imbalance, and wants to level things out by reflecting the PC punishments with lasting consequences.

 

 

However, making things even worse for the PC and also punishing the player reduces the dissonance (now the player gets punished too), but it's just added more punishment to a mod that already punished the PC fiercely (and the player almost not at all).

 

With the obvious "improvement to simulation" change, the player and PC are punished further.

 

It might be reasonable to provide a PC reward instead of adding punishments to both sides of the scales.

 

If, for example, the eggs were valuable enough to easily offset the lost income from the pregnancy downtime, the PC could profit from EC+ pregnancies, and the player would probably stop feeling such a need to fix an imbalance that they didn't analyze carefully enough.

 

Lingering post pregnancy effects that have up and down sides would also be reasonable, especially if the up sides dominate and the down sides are plausible.

 

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Let's try out some definitions first.

 

For the player punishment is a negative effect - usually in the form of diminished plot advancement capacity - imposed with the specific intent to dissuade the player from certain behavior that is deemed wrong for some reason. E.g. "thou shalt not attack NPCs way above thine paygrade". Reward conversely is meant to encourage "good" (whatever that is) behavior. Usually in form of enhanced plot advancement capacity or fetish service. And I don't think service denial is a workable strategy as a punishment, so this is already asymmetrical. On top of that fetish service is often employed as sugar-coating for some crippling (gameplay-wise) punishment.

 

For the PC punishment is... meaningless, really. First, she doesn't have any behavior of her own (and we both agree that forced rudimentary behavior such as addicted drug stealing is a bad idea). Worse yet, even the basic notions of negative/positive reinforcement are completely subject to the narrative that is currently sold to the player. So at best we can talk about "pretend behavior acknowledgement story points" or something less mouthful. E.g. every player knows that public flogging is meant to punish, and at the same time they clearly see how it might not work that way for a masochist PC.

 

8 hours ago, Lupine00 said:

With EC+, is the intent really to punish the player for resource collection?

Or was that just the best excuse that could be found to start the scenario?

Well, I remember in the DCL thread various people observed that it did modify their looting behavior. Even if it wasn't the original intent, it is what they delivered. I presume it works the same way with EC. I think it is important to bear in mind that the player's behavior targeted - intentionally or inadvertently - by the mod may lie well outside its narrative scope.

 

 

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1 hour ago, cat013 said:

I don't think service denial is a workable strategy as a punishment

It's not used much as an idea, that is for sure.

Various mods put chastity on the PC, but, of course, what they're trying to achieve with that is largely denial fetish.

I don't think it's totally unworkable as a concept, but in practice it's close to technically impossible, especially if you consider "service" broadly (as I think you intend), instead of just sex.

 

1 hour ago, cat013 said:

For the PC punishment is... meaningless, really.

I disagree. It can be meaningful.

 

Of course, it only exists in the player's head. This is a topic I address repeatedly, but the player cannot help constructing the PC's internal mind state, and when that dramatically differs from the PC's internal mind state it creates a sensation of dissonance, puzzlement, or a strange kind of lack of fulfillment. It isn't necessarily immediate, but can be delayed until some point that the player is free to reflect on the events.

 

I think this follows from it interrupting an identification with the PC. For players that simply have no identification with the PC, this effect may not manifest, but in that case they probably don't get most of the fetish thrills either, unless they are purely sadistic and externalized. The theory could be somewhat confirmed by seeing whether this prediction holds.

 

Legraf raised the issue of a case where the PC is punished and (the player imagines that she) hates it, and the player is then entertained by the specific idea of the PC hating it. That can't work unless the player models the PC's mind state. Though people don't do it consciously, humans instinctively model other humans, and the PC looks a bit like a human to the player.

 

Another issue, which you raise yourself is:

1 hour ago, cat013 said:

forced rudimentary behavior

Despite your cursory dismissal, it's in quite a few mods, and players continue to ask for more of it.

SLD's tripping is a forced rudimentary behavior, but an externalized kind, in that it's not about the PC's mind but their body.

DiD's sex-addiction 'rub up against' behavior is an internalized kind, in that it's about their mind as an aspect of their body.

 

Simply dismissing the appeal of these mechanics will not stop them from being added in mods, and doesn't explain what makes them so bad (in your opinion). I'm somewhat undecided whether they are good or bad - I think like other things, we need tools to measure how much they work or fail, and its inevitable that some work or fail more than others.

 

If we think of this as a range of interference, even the vanilla game interferes. Viewed objectively, health points or stamina are nothing more than forced rudimentary behavior. When the behavior is part of a game system, it becomes acceptable because it obeys the rules of the game, and in that way the player can influence it. The issue in this case is likely the quality of the game. Even DiD sex-addiction has a game aspect to it, but it's not an interesting game, and the levers the PC has to pull barely do anything.

 

Finally, on EC+, I don't think we have any meaningful disagreement, but I was questioning the design intent being so clear-cut and deliberate as was suggested. Whether or not it prevents harvesting does depend a lot on how much you want to watch the tentacle rape, and to what extent the pregnancy will derail what else you're doing in the game at the time.

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1 hour ago, Lupine00 said:

Viewed objectively, health points or stamina are nothing more than forced rudimentary behavior.

Maybe in some abstract sense, just like astronomers talk about celestial body behavior. But it's way too broad to be practical. I propose we use more specific terminology:

 

- external effects, such as being hit with a sword or tripping over

- spontaneous motions and knee-jerk reactions, such as rubbing oneself "down there" on high arousal

- behaviors properly speaking

 

Effects as a general rule are outside of player's control and there is no expectation that PC should be able to control it either. Motions are primitive and largely inconsequential. It can be argued that some of those in certain situations should be (with great effort) controllable by the PC and by extension by the player. That slave posture trainer we recently discussed would have to deal with many "improper" (in narrative sense) motions, for example. Now, with respect to complex and usually consequential behaviors there is arguably unjustified but well established expectation of player's prerogative over those.

 

So, there is a big difference between, say, PC being unable to jump (effect), PC jumping up and down in excitement (motion) and PC jumping off a cliff because some mod author decided that it is the proper reaction to some bad news in the story (behavior).

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9 hours ago, cat013 said:

So, there is a big difference between, say, PC being unable to jump (effect), PC jumping up and down in excitement (motion) and PC jumping off a cliff because some mod author decided that it is the proper reaction to some bad news in the story (behavior).

Of course. And I think we all understood that at the beginning. 

But if we're going to talk about "forced behaviors" the goal should be to improve our ability to understand why some are "fun", and some are annoying and intrusive.

(I removed "rudimentary" here as its meaning made sense in the earlier context but it starts to become confusing). 

 

I'd guess that the ones that are the worst are immersion breaking rather than immersion enhancing.

If the PC stops to play an animation, it can be irritating, and might rarely cause a serious problem, but is usually safe and sufficiently appropriate.

 

When the PC starts demanding sex, or to drink cum, it matters much more when it happens, and who she does it with.

This is where these feature fall apart: inappropriate triggering.

 

You to go talk to a guard to pay a small bounty, but you get the "rub up" dialog.

Sometimes that action just doesn't make sense. Even a sex addict has some grasp of when and where it's appropriate.

Similarly, the NPC responses make a difference, and when they're off-base it seems stupid.

 

It's this kind of problem that makes DCL's "consequences" mostly unusable.

They're amusing for a bit, but then you get past the novelty...

They fire indiscriminately and the (totally) random outcomes are rarely ever appropriate to the circumstances.

 

Because it's so hard to get the analysis of the circumstances right in Skyrim this is a consistent problem for all modders trying to develop anything like it.

Spoiler

 

Apropos almost never gets it right, despite a lot of effort.

SLS gets it right about one in three, if you're lucky.

SexLab Approach gets it right about one in four... if you discount the naked problem.

The number of times I've had a helpful "approach" NPC appear to offer me clothes when my follower won't let me wear any, or when I can't put them on due to an armbinder, or when I can't put the clothes on for some other reason ... it amounts to about 99% of cases where the PC was naked. I can't recall a single case where Approach offered me clothes and it was useful. MWA was the "best" for this, as the NPC would give me an outfit that didn't fit.

 

It's a broad class of interactions that players ask for, and modders see working well in a narrow range of test circumstances, but which often break badly or hilariously, once mixed with a real game and a lot of other mods.

 

In most cases, just using it a lot more sparingly would improve it considerably. If DiD's "rub up" was only a blocking dialog in a few narrow cases, but appeared as an option in others, it would be more immersive. Some choice of action beyond the one single "rub up" would have improved it too.

 

Sometimes the sheer repetitive nature of seeing the exact same dialog over and over renders it absurd or tiresome; one grows sick of it.

 

The DF "slut" dialog definitely falls in this category, and it actually has quite a few variations.

 

 

Probably my thoughts in the spoiler are way off the topic, and is really its own subject.

 

 

It's evident that forced behaviors are a tool for "punishing" the player; an excess of "Hand on your shoulder..." or "Rub up" blocking dialogs is certainly discouraging to the player, in various senses. It's way more effective if it isn't simply time-wasting, and has some emotional impact though.

 

If the PC stops and does the "feel herself up" animation due to DD, the emotional impact is nil.

That animation may as well not exist.

 

Not only do you see it so often that you effectively stop noticing it, it doesn't have a clear meaning, and it has no emotional impact or punishment value. It doesn't hurt the player much, so they can ignore it. It doesn't say much about the PC, so another reason to ignore it. Its fetish value is low, so again, it's ignored.  Currently, it only adds to dissonance, because the player senses it's supposed to indicate a strong emotion in the PC, but the player feels nothing.

 

If that animation created a potentially meaningful reaction in NPCs, and if the player had some ability to prevent it, it would start to become a game mechanic with real reward and punishment, and players would care.

 

So, I'd argue that we can apply the reward/punishment measures to forced actions, and where dissonance is obvious, I think we'll find that players either ignore the events, or prefer to disable them, or complain about them frequently, even when the events aren't actively blowing up their game.

 

 

The usual reaction to dissonance is to look for fixes. Player look in their MCM, tweak sliders and change options, trying to fix something they may not even have clearly identified. In other cases they identify a specific problem and focus on that, though the root causes are deeper. They go on forums, propose ideas and ask for fixes that are being driven by an urge to fix the disconnect between what they expected to happen and what happened. Because this revolves around expectations, players (and modders) often come up with simulation based improvements. Such improvements resolve emotion and dissonance-based issues only by chance in most cases. Features get added, mods get made, but the same problems seem to remain as three or four years ago.

 

The player-driven urge to fix problems with more simulation leads to new mods getting made. Those players become modders and create "stuff", but that stuff ends up disappointing them, because it doesn't do what they set out to do, and they struggle to identify why. Usually the answer is the same as before, "not enough simulation", "Skyrim not responsive enough", "development too slow, want more options".

 

Very few mods add a well-developed game-play mechanic. They are either about a maguffin, or about simulation. The simulation often leads to woeful game design. It's really, really hard not to add simulation based ideas that ultimately bring no value.

 

Players and modders imagine a scenario (often a fetish scenario) and try to recreate it in game. The first go-to approaches for this are the maguffin or trying to simulate the events around the fetish. If thought is given to how this will impact reward and punishment, the thinking is often incomplete. It reasons one step ahead, but not two, or five.

 

The five "whys" of kaizen demand five steps of investigation and reasoning into a problem.

For deep design, we could replace whys with "what is the consequence of" questions.

Clearly, it's not that important exactly what question wording you have, as long as you force deeper inquiry and reasoning at each step.

Some mod designs had only a single "what" or "why", and two is often the limit.

SLS, for example, went deeper than one or two questions, eventually, for the topic of cum swallowing.

 

e.g.

Why is there cum swallowing in SLS?

Because ... blowjob fetish! cum fetish! inflation fetish!

 

Why is it addictive?

Because ... addiction fetish! loss of control fetish!

 

What is the benefit of cum?

Heals amputations (sometimes).

 

What are the downsides of cum?

Sex W&T, reduced reputation, increasing addiction, cum compulsions (putting on pony devices)

 

What if the player doesn't like the downsides?

Erm... (This was never well addressed, it's an all or nothing feature).

 

How can you reliably obtain cum?

Erm...  (And then we got creature fondling).

 

 

Now, admittedly, this isn't "fault finding" as such, which kaizen is for, but the common principle is forcing deeper inquiry to find the roots.

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2 hours ago, Lupine00 said:

But if we're going to talk about "forced behaviors" the goal should be to improve our ability to understand why some are "fun", and some are annoying and intrusive.

Oh. I knew those media studies were useful for something other than fastfood employment.  "Fun", simply put, are activities that play into the innate human ability to recognize patterns and solve puzzles.

 

So let me reiterate what I said earlier: punishment targets - if unwittingly - certain behavior that you can presumably abstain from (but do not want to). In other words, its most essential characteristic is that it is avoidable. Add some ways to rig the table and you're golden. "How can I get away with X?" is indeed the most exciting game out there. Many people become invested in it IRL and make millions. Or do twenty to life.

 

If however some negative effect is administered randomly or based on some convoluted logic that a typical player fails to decypher - it is annoying. And I still cannot decide which one is more annoying: the one that gets me into some undeserved trouble or the one that is pure waste of time.

 

2 hours ago, Lupine00 said:

and if the player had some ability to prevent it, it would start to become a game mechanic with real reward and punishment, and players would care.

And here you are saying basically the same. Looks like we've largely nailed it.

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1 hour ago, cat013 said:

Oh. I knew those media studies were useful for something other than fastfood employment.  "Fun", simply put, are activities that play into the innate human ability to recognize patterns and solve puzzles.

Your definition appears excessively narrow, but we're close enough on the same page to make digging into that unnecessary.

The goal is domain language that maps to useful abstractions.

 

I suspect that the majority of players and modders have some understanding that mechanics that punish, confuse or frustrate the player are undesirable for the most part, and when the negative results occur at random, or are unavoidable, or practically unavoidable, the negative response is amplified.

 

But there are spots where people will announce that some unpleasant outcome was desired.

 

PoP for example: some players complain that it takes too long, or it lacks any interaction. Others are completely happy to sit back and watch the PoP movie and resist any suggestion that it gain meaningful interactions. The author is also in that camp, so that's where PoP is going to stay, no matter what.

 

Dagonar adds a lot of interactivity, and there's very little "forced behavior" in it, but you still can't leave, so it is a prison. You must still do the tasks too. If you don't do them, the entire thing just ... doesn't progress.

 

Dagonar would be a better simulation if each task had a time-limit, and if you don't do it in time, you get punished. It seems like maybe it was designed with that in mind, but then the time-limits were removed. Adding the ability to fail in Dagonar would at least give it more of a game mechanic. I suspect the ability to fail was (effectively) removed because playing against time limits turned out to be frustrating and felt random, especially for players who were inattentive to their time-scale setting.

 

I can see how that might have been offset by offering some reliable way to influence the punishment for failure and maybe integrating time-scale control into the whole process. No point going deeper into that as Kimy will likely never read this, and just as likely wouldn't agree anyway.

 

Mods like DEC and Skooma Whore both add troublesome events that the player may not be able to control. Forced feeding in Skooma Whore seems like it would make things more fun, but SW is a mod troubled by conflicts between player and PC. The player may initially be curious to explore addiction, but will soon realize there's very little content there, so addiction is somewhat boring and intrusive. It also has dissonance issues, because the player never feels anything much about the addiction beyond irritation at the high debuffs and frustrating skooma confiscations that are always happening. The gap between the player's perception and the PC's is too big.

 

In my SW replacer design, there was no forced feeding mechanic, but the drugs were overall far more beneficial. You'd really be silly not to use them. Later on, the addiction might pose some problems, and the issue of obtaining a reliable supply was made into a game.

 

DEC takes a simulation approach. Wear devices? Get raped or put in more devices. Possibly, get raped or put in more devices even if you don't wear any. The latter part made it unusable for me. It was random punishment.  The former part isn't really "fair", because devices are rarely added as part of a proper game. DCL is very random, you can't keep arousal down reliably, etc. Most other mods that add devices do so randomly. DF less so, and the player can choose whether deals make things worse or better. You can configure it to be a slippery slope, or something that offers you help when things are getting hard.

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Regarding the Legraf paradox, it became clear to me yesterday how there is no paradox there after all.

 

To recap...

 

Some players particularly enjoy a situation where the PC suffers genuine distress, which I argued ought to generate dissonance and lead to feelings of disatisfaction.

 

While we can see that some players would like this because of a sadistic tendency, that was not what Legraf described. The specific fetish was for a forced negative experience.

 

This is a common enough fetish pattern, in games, or otherwise. What makes this a non-paradox, is that the conflict is already resolved in the player's head. For them to enjoy it, they have to share the PC's imagined sense of distress.

 

Quite simply, for this fetish to work, the player has to vicariously experience and share in the PC's distress. They have to be aligned for it to work. It's actually a highly aligned scenario.

 

That the player enjoys this distress in some way is a contradiction in the player that the player has learned to resolve for themselves, regardless of whether it's a game mechanic, a sexy story, or a fantasy purely of their own making. The contradiction is part of the fetish. You could dig into that as a topic of its own, but I think however that is analyzed, it's still the case that the PC and player must be highly aligned at some level, for the fetish to even trigger.

 

This doesn't mean that all fetishes have a negative part to them.

If you, as a player, like rubber, and the PC is wearing rubber, there's just no negative to that, it's all good ... unless some tiresome game mechanic comes along and starts punishing you for wearing rubber in some way. It's exactly that sort of needless punishment that I see interfering in the enjoyment of mods on a too frequent basis, and it proceeds directly from simulation-based thinking. For example, reasoning that concludes that rubber cannot be as good to wear as ebony armor, when you are fighting draugr.

 

Whenever those cases come up, a chance to introduce a game was missed.

Maybe my rubber outfit is better than ebony ... if ... I do some quest, or reliably obtain some item, or have a certain skill at playing the game?

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There are some excellent thoughts bouncing around here, thanks to Lupine00 & cat013.  The conversation is too fast for me to add much, but I'll pull out a few comments (OK, many) - and I'll note I agree with much more than I disagree.

 

I think perhaps most of my disagreement boils down to this: You've identified universal problems which need correcting, and universal principles which can help with better mod development.  You've also identified non-universal problems and packaged them together with the former - that is where I put the PC/player goal misalignment.  And of course I'm just raising arguments and trying to make points, I don't actually think "Lupine00 is coming to take away my lewd mods".  It's more correct to say that by bundling things together, you are developing a fix "philosophy" that only helps mods targeting one type of experience, when I think the basic ideas could have much wider scope.

 

Edited, to add: obviously I had this written and posted before I saw Lupine00's latest post, about the non-paradox.  That sounds like you've perfectly worked it out, Lupine00, and renders moot my concerns about too much focus on misalignment.  This is interesting, and calls for some more introspection on my part.  But at first glance, I think I will entirely agree.  I do still have some other points of disagreement or (I think) amplification, so I'll leave this post here for now.

Edited again: no, I'm going to remove some of the stuff that is now pointless, since I'm agreeing more and more with Lupine00's thoughts.  This post will still be too long even so.

 

 

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what I'm advising is that you don't make a mod where the scenario is ambiguous, without giving the player a way to signal to the mod what it is about it they enjoy.

This is excellent, and I think it's a point of agreement with cat013 also.  The modder should consider, and be clear about, what the player is actually hoping for.

 

Pointing out that vanilla Skyrim has good alignment between player goals and PC goals, though, is a strong argument.  It does make sense to keep this in mind, as it does work well, and rewards and punishments are generally logical, or can be.  So in cases where this alignment is possible (and clearly intended)... this thread provides some good base thinking on how to improve player experience.  And for others...

 

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For something like a simple rape mod, the key is reward and punishment. Assuming the player doesn't really enjoy their character being rendered effectively unplayable for the next real hour or so, what they don't want it rape plus a ton of crippling extra consequences. There are going to be some players who, absolutely, get their fun from the idea of the extra peril the PC is now placed in. But we have to explicitly appreciate their expectation.

This sounds perfectly sensible.  Understanding the intent, working consciously toward that intent.  And to some extent we have this, with rape mods that provide optional consequence, and also with entirely separate consequence mods.  It would probably make more sense to separate the rape mods from the consequence mods entirely, so they could (in modular fashion!) be combined, like linking to SS.   To your list I'd add Defeat and defeat-alternatives that add rape as a consequence.  But these do follow your pattern, since they often come with optional additional consequences like robbery, lingering debuffs, and slavery.

 

 

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What is odd is that it seems common enough for players to add W&T or Apropos and not really like the effects.

I suspect that may be more because they drag on to the point that they're boring. The players are seeking extra consequences, and possibly increased PC vulnerability, but that lingering damage isn't delivering that for them.

This has been mentioned elsewhere, by you among others I think, but in my opinion one of the reasons for dissatisfaction with consequence mods is that much of the consequence comes in the form of tweaking of invisible numbers, with no immersive feedback (an hour later) on why the PC is still hitting so poorly or tiring so quickly - which is exacerbated when the player has a complicated mess of mods trying to tweak their experience of course!  I know you talked about higher ambitions for SLD, but for now this remains mostly the case - though the MCM at least provides good diagnostics.  The visible effects of Apropos do what they should (and are an example of PC-punishing but not player-punishing effects), but greater use of (especially) auditory cues or yet more periodic  PC comments could help.  This relates to the broad general complaint that the NPCs and the environment aren't properly responsive to mod-driven changes ... the fact is, the PC often isn't either, except invisibly.

 

 

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Nevertheless, players are choosing to install these mods over and over again. They aren't just looking for sex animations, they're looking for a kind of horror experience, but the price of this is often that their game is substantially hijacked. This leads to adding more mods to fix the problem, to create things they can do while they are as big as a whale or bleeding from the anus.

I think the main issue here, though I speak for nobody but myself, is that the player has to crank up the consequences far enough that they are obvious, and that definitely does hijack the game.  So this fits with the previous comment - in order to even be aware of the PC "punishment", the player has to turn the dials up to 11, and that often leads to a player-punishing experience.  It gets worse when the mod prevents resting from diminishing debuffs, tying them to real time instead of game-time.  That really is player-punishing.  So is preventing fast travel - much better when fast travel is available but causes time to pass properly, with PC-punishing consequences.

 

 

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While the mandatory addiction may initially tickle the player's tastes for similar reasons that other things inflicted on the PC do - some sense of helplessness or similar - it tends to only last for a short time and after it wears off the player is left with a largely dysfunctional game.

I don't deny that this seems to affect a number of players - and those are the ones we hear from - but this is another example of what I consider throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  It's not the mandatory addiction which is the problem, it's the absurdities and excesses that must be curbed, and that there often isn't enough feedback so the player becomes tempted to overcrank all the stat consequences.  There should also be an immersive escape, probably, so that the addiction can be a part of gameplay, and one which can be overcome if that is the player's priority.

 

 

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How can we create a fetish like that without a player-punishment experience?

Awfully good question.

 

On 8/4/2020 at 10:19 AM, cat013 said:

But this is really not a problem. Yes, some players want PC to secretly enjoy nudity while being in denial whereas others want her to genuinely suffer. But she can do neither, for "she" is in fact just a stream of ones and zeros. It is however entirely possible to have a gameplay that would - in the same mod - sell either narrative to the players based on their own ingame choices. As long as the fetish-service deliverables are consciously designed.

It is clear that through PC dialogue, and less commonly through other feedback, the mod is going to sell one narrative or another.  Consciously choosing one in mod design, or generously allowing the player to choose what narrative will be picked and then providing appropriate alternate dialogue throughout, are choices the modder should make.  Aligning the narrative with the player's desires rewards the player for playing with the mod active, while pretending to punish or reward the of-course-fictitious PC.

 

Perhaps here is an appropriate place to insert: I do not think that PC debuffs, scarcity, or any other "hijacking" effects are necessarily player-punishing.  Even this can vary, since player goals vary so greatly - though no doubt the majority do want PC "progression" and to complete some vanilla quests.  But we can't be all things to all people.

 

On 8/4/2020 at 11:34 PM, Lupine00 said:

...focus on the reward/punishment duality of EC+, and isolate what is reward and what is punishment - and who it dispensed to, it becomes clear how any changes to that would play out. ...

 

If it weren't for the minor pregnancy debuffs, there's no downside for the player.

It's highly satisfying for the player (and a popular mod).

 

However, the dissonance is notable, and the player is often left with the feeling that EC+ has something lacking or missing... something hard to describe.

I would suggest that this is a good example of my point - this dissonance is not really that important for many players.  EC+ does its thing quite well because it avoids "player punishment" I agree... that's the important bit.  I wouldn't put so much stock in the relatively few EC+ users asking for stiffer "player" punishment, or for addiction mechanics - and in the latter case they are not necessarily trying to make up for a missing component, but enthusiastically pushing for ever-more as people often do when they like something.

 

I could be wrong, but I'm not yet sold that this is the only, or the best, explanation:

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The player likely senses the powerful imbalance, and wants to level things out by reflecting the PC punishments with lasting consequences.

 

 

16 hours ago, cat013 said:

For the PC punishment is... meaningless, really. First, she doesn't have any behavior of her own (and we both agree that forced rudimentary behavior such as addicted drug stealing is a bad idea). Worse yet, even the basic notions of negative/positive reinforcement are completely subject to the narrative that is currently sold to the player. So at best we can talk about "pretend behavior acknowledgement story points" or something less mouthful. E.g. every player knows that public flogging is meant to punish, and at the same time they clearly see how it might not work that way for a masochist PC.

Yes, those "less mouthful" expressions could be "PC punishment" and "PC reward".  I don't think they are being used inconsistently by anyone in this thread ... but I do think there is a fundamental disagreement between cat013 and Lupine00 (and me agreeing with Lupine00) on those being extremely meaningful to the player.  Or course it's part of the narrative - for me, and surely for many, the narrative is the most important part of the game.

 

Where I break from Lupine00 is here:

 

15 hours ago, Lupine00 said:

... but the player cannot help constructing the PC's internal mind state, and when that dramatically differs from the PC's internal mind state it creates a sensation of dissonance, puzzlement, or a strange kind of lack of fulfillment. It isn't necessarily immediate, but can be delayed until some point that the player is free to reflect on the events.

 

I think this follows from it interrupting an identification with the PC. For players that simply have no identification with the PC, this effect may not manifest, but in that case they probably don't get most of the fetish thrills either, unless they are purely sadistic and externalized. The theory could be somewhat confirmed by seeing whether this prediction holds.

Perhaps I'm unique in not having any difficulty feeling close identification with the PC in most senses, yet absolutely enjoying game events that the PC I am "being" does not enjoy.  I don't think it's sadism exactly, though maybe I'm fooling myself.  I suppose maybe I do "pop out" of the PC a little during such events.  But I don't feel truly disconnected, and it doesn't interfere with my inhabiting the PC going forward, including dealing with the consequences of the event.  I wonder if this relates to my dreams, in which I am often not a participant.  No idea if that is rare or commonplace.

 

In any event, I don't think it's proven that this dissonance is the main, or even a widespread, problem with "punishing" mods.  I wonder how one could determine this?  General dissatisfaction with existing mods doesn't cut it, but comparing mods with and without this dissonance possibly could - except that there may be other differences.  Mods without this dissonance might be easier to get right in other ways, because they align better with standard vanilla mechanics for instance.  And again, using EC+ as an example, I'd suggest that the mod's popularity might be (though merely one point) evidence to the contrary.

 

On the other hand, NPCs that don't respond to mod effects, dialogue that doesn't align with the player's conception of their PC, and mod events that fire inappropriately, are all universal, serious immersion-breaking problems that have been brought up in this thread.

 

While I'm at it, and without quoting yet more here, I'll just add that I tend to enjoy some forced behaviour (using cat013's definition), preferably when it is rare (with some random component) and where the player understands what is driving it.  But like everyone, I don't enjoy when it fires inappropriately and breaks things, obviously.  The problem isn't the behaviour overall, it's that doing it right is perhaps impossible.  But in this imperfect world, I accept the risks because sometimes their effect is rather good.

 

However, a fix for me need not make the behaviours something I can avoid, so a minigame of sorts.  They just need to be more "meaningful" and appropriate in time and effect.

 

3 hours ago, cat013 said:

Oh. I knew those media studies were useful for something other than fastfood employment.  "Fun", simply put, are activities that play into the innate human ability to recognize patterns and solve puzzles.

 

So let me reiterate what I said earlier: punishment targets - if unwittingly - certain behavior that you can presumably abstain from (but do not want to). In other words, its most essential characteristic is that it is avoidable. Add some ways to rig the table and you're golden. "Can I get away with X?" is indeed the most exciting game out there. Many people become invested in it IRL and make millions. Or do twenty to life.

 

If however some negative effect is administered randomly or based on some convoluted logic that a typical player fails to decypher - it is annoying. And I still cannot decide which one is more annoying: the one that gets me into some undeserved trouble or the one that is pure waste of time.

I don't think I could disagree more.  Going paragraph by paragraph: I don't know what to do with that definition of fun - I admit that one can consider sex to be a puzzle-solving exercise, but I'm not convinced that this aspect is necessary for sex to be considered fun.  An activity that brings pleasure is surely fun, no?  I'm sure some guy that receives a free blowjob out of the blue will answer "yes" if asked if he's having fun half-way through.  As long as the pollster then gets back to it.  (Polester?  Hah!)

 

"Can I get away with X" doesn't hold any appeal to me that I can see.  I know it excites some.  But such sweeping statements, aside from making me wonder if I'm an alien unwittingly planted in human skin, seem trivially easy to falsify.  OK, maybe as Lupine00 said, using the word "punishment" confuses the issue by getting into conditioning.  But surely we can accept that "reward"/"punishment" in this thread is simple shorthand for "good things happening to x" and "bad things happening to x", where x is either the PC (granting them for the sake of argument an existence even though we know they are player-constructs) or the player herself.  And by this definition, reward and punishment do NOT have to be targeting behaviour and trying to change it.  They may do so as a side-effect however, as you noted about DCL and looting.  But oddly, you earlier said this: 

16 hours ago, cat013 said:

On top of that fetish service is often employed as sugar-coating for some crippling (gameplay-wise) punishment.

When clearly what is mainly being talked about here are fetish service as the main goal, with punishment (or rarely reward) sometimes employed to reinforce that fetish service.  Cart before the horse... but again I think maybe that's because of disagreement about terminology.

 

And finally: events outside the player's, and the PC's ability to avoid can be fun, not annoying - if one likes that sort of thing, and I do.  (Of course it's in the player's control in terms of installing mods, but let's get past that).  A random bandit attack that kidnaps the PC's spouse?  That's fantastic, and entirely undeserved.  5% of the time having that untied "bound girl" turn around and toss restraints on the player?  Unfair, and a punishment for an act that is usually rewarded.  Riding in a cart that gets ambushed and the PC gets humiliated (in the narrative, natch)?  Wonderful.  Having the PC sold into slavery at the end of that event?  Well, it's a risk - I'd want it to be a rare risk because it certainly will sometimes be more disruption than its worth.  But in my roleplay-based game, I will probably enjoy it.  And even if I don't, all the rest of the time, I do enjoy the thrill of the risk.

 

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42 minutes ago, legraf said:

 I admit that one can consider sex to be a puzzle-solving exercise,

 

Let's try not to conflate somatic and mental activities. This looks like trolling, really.

44 minutes ago, legraf said:

And by this definition, reward and punishment do NOT have to be targeting behaviour and trying to change it.  They may do so as a side-effect however, as you noted about DCL and looting.  But oddly, you earlier said this:

Except it doesn't look at all like the definition I provided specifically to facilitate understanding, so I take no responsibility for any perceived oddity.

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39 minutes ago, cat013 said:

Let's try not to conflate somatic and mental activities. This looks like trolling, really.

And I thought I was being harsh.  This makes me feel better, I guess.

 

But now that I understand your point - I think - I still see no reason to accept your definition of "fun mental activities" (added that tacit qualifier for you, is this what you meant?) as being confined to solving puzzles and recognizing patterns.  Reminiscing about happy events is something I consider "fun".  Isn't it?  What basis do you have for defining "fun" so narrowly?  Or would you rather qualify which activities were intended within the scope of your definition, to rule out recollection as well?

 

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Except it doesn't look at all like the definition I provided specifically to facilitate understanding, so I take no responsibility for any perceived oddity.

Yes, you're correct - there's no inconsistency.  You're just not talking about what anyone else was talking about, in that particular instance, putting the punishment as the goal and the fetish-service or other "colour" mod event as the side-effect.  That's what made it seem peculiar to me.

 

If trying to facilitate understanding, I'd think trying for a shared definition consistent with what has come before it in this thread would be better than trying to impose a definition that looks - to me - inconsistent with how the terms are being used in the thread's title.  And that, as you point out, can't possibly be correct when talking about character reward or punishment as is repeatedly done in this thread, with obvious intent.  But if that doesn't work for you, what would be a better term to represent what your interlocutors clearly seem to be intending by "reward" and "punishment"?  I already proposed "good/bad things happening to x", since the behaviour-change aspect is not a necessary element, but that's unworkable for ongoing discussion.

 

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3 hours ago, legraf said:

I know you talked about higher ambitions for SLD, but for now this remains mostly the case - though the MCM at least provides good diagnostics.

I was deeply unhappy with mods that just change invisible numbers. So I made one...

 

Actually, SLD wasn't built to do that. I made it with the intent of being able to replace DD hobble-dress and slave-boot slow-down mechanics with stumbling, tripping and falling that could cause health and stamina damage. Those are entirely visual effects.

 

The other stuff was just something I did on the way. There are some screen effects you can use to convey other information, but largely SLD is full of invisible numbers.

I use it a lot to negate other mods that inflict invisible numbers on me.

 

I also used to use it to create certain nasty penalties that would take my character out of adventuring for days at a stretch, so that DF had more chance to catch me out.

With the new cash mechanics for DF, I don't find I need that because it's easier to set proportionate expense levels.

 

I'd like to add more visual thing, blood, dirt, blackouts, even node changes (though this has problems) and more animations that it can play - that the player can choose and configure - but that's all basically sky-pie for now, as I'm bogged down doing half an hour at DF every other night, chipping away at the way that deal mechanics and dialogs are excessively bound together. I want to get it so that all deals function nice, and in a consistent way, modular or classic. The new deals are all done except for keys and milking. But I digress...

 

 

I think legraf raises a good point about the problem with punishments that lack obvious impact getting turned up to eleven, as he put it. It is a phenomena. However, I don't think it explains away everything I attribute to dissonance. Many mods lack much in the way of adjustment for those things, so it's not like the player even has a Spinal Tap knob that goes up to eleven in a great many cases. SLD might let you overcome that limitation by providing a whole mixing panel of knobs numbered up to eleven (or 2000), but I don't believe it's used all that much, so it isn't giving most players that facility, only a few.

 

 

I'm not claiming anything about dissonance is "proved". It's a tentative theory, and it needs refinement, and then predictions made with it need to be tested. It will never be proven, but it might remain not disproven.

 

3 hours ago, legraf said:

I would suggest that this is a good example of my point - this dissonance is not really that important for many players.  EC+ does its thing quite well because it avoids "player punishment" I agree... that's the important bit.  I wouldn't put so much stock in the relatively few EC+ users asking for stiffer "player" punishment, or for addiction mechanics - and in the latter case they are not necessarily trying to make up for a missing component, but enthusiastically pushing for ever-more as people often do when they like something.

We could attempt to survey EC+ users and find out what they think, but the questions would need to be very carefully worded :) Maybe we can skip that for now... When you're watching the PC being raped by tentacles (again, and it's not the first time by any means) what are you feeling?

 

Not that much at all probably. You've seen this before, and after all, it's just a computer cartoon. But if you happen to stop for a moment and think "how does my character feel right now", you cannot suppose the sensation is anything other than intense. 

 

Even if the PC has been raped on several occasions, it's not something that can simply be coped with and moved past. We know from victim reports that people who are serially abused tend to shut down all emotional response as a kind of survival strategy. Some kill themselves eventually, but many manage to go on, haunted by what occurred, and they are most troubled when they find themselves reliving the traumatic experiences in flashbacks they cannot prevent.

 

Which is a long-winded way of saying, you know your PC ought to suffer some impact from this.  You don't need to read about how people respond to trauma and violence to know this. But you also know that after the stat-cycle has played out, all the PC will be left with is slightly larger boobs unless you choose to play them differently. Even if you aren't thinking this consciously, some part of your brain is processing it, and doing something with the information.

 

Vanilla Skyrim is a sequence of triumphs and successes, punctuated by the occasional reload. There is no trauma, no experience that you don't immediately put in its place as just another prelude to your inevitable victory.

 

Skyrim with oppressive mods is not necessarily like that. It creates complications that aren't easily resolved. Players seek resolution through various means. Some will go on a forum and ask for a new slider, others will remove the mod, and others will be disappointed when the next plant harvesting spree doesn't achieve tentacle-based results. That's no single way people will respond to it, if they respond at all.

 

It's precisely because players aren't drawing attention to the dissonance issue that it bears further examination. Horror novels may achieve similar effects on purpose. People choose to read them anyway, not in spite of this, but because of it. But the thing with a horror novel is that you don't write one without realizing its a horror novel.

 

You set out to create genre fiction and you do it with the intent of reaching an audience based on their genre selection.

 

If a player thought they were getting "funny hentai manga tentacle sex" and then they got "extreme violence devil-man tentacle sex" they will be unhappy, but the mod might not make that difference clear.

 

Reader of novels and watchers of movies have well established language to describe the kinds of product they like, and why they didn't like them. Gamers less so, and players of extremely-niche fantasy sex games, even less so. Dissonance is the squirm factor you get when you find the game presenting you with situations where two contradictory things appear to be true. This happens often when a mod is giving us stuff we like, but making the PC pay for it in ways that may also irritate the player, by simulating some ill-effect.

 

I'm not denying that there are other powerful factors that lead to player dissatisfaction, such as bad dialogue, inappropriate events, implausible scenarios, bugs, visual glitches, and so on. Of course these things spoil the game, but players had no problems identifying and decribing these things.

 

 

3 hours ago, legraf said:

Perhaps I'm unique in not having any difficulty feeling close identification with the PC in most senses, yet absolutely enjoying game events that the PC I am "being" does not enjoy.  I don't think it's sadism exactly, though maybe I'm fooling myself.  I suppose maybe I do "pop out" of the PC a little during such events.  But I don't feel truly disconnected, and it doesn't interfere with my inhabiting the PC going forward, including dealing with the consequences of the event.

You probably wouldn't be examining this if it wasn't for the dissonance discussion though. If you keep examining it, maybe your ideas will evolve?

 

4 hours ago, legraf said:

nd finally: events outside the player's, and the PC's ability to avoid can be fun, not annoying - if one likes that sort of thing, and I do.  (Of course it's in the player's control in terms of installing mods, but let's get past that).  A random bandit attack that kidnaps the PC's spouse?  That's fantastic, and entirely undeserved.  5% of the time having that untied "bound girl" turn around and toss restraints on the player?  Unfair, and a punishment for an act that is usually rewarded.  Riding in a cart that gets ambushed and the PC gets humiliated (in the narrative, natch)?  Wonderful.  Having the PC sold into slavery at the end of that event?  Well, it's a risk - I'd want it to be a rare risk because it certainly will sometimes be more disruption than its worth.  But in my roleplay-based game, I will probably enjoy it.  And even if I don't, all the rest of the time, I do enjoy the thrill of the risk.

This is a validation of novelty being fun. But if the things you describe happen repetitively, they aren't surprises or novel.

 

Largely, you won't see these rare events in Skyrim because mod authors do not have time to create things that nobody will see. They build for the commonplace because it delivers value for effort. It's not that they are unwanted by modders or players, so to raise something that is all too rare in Skyrim makes this point all about rarity and surprise, not routine disconnects. Due to rarity and actual appropriateness, all those things take on a reward characteristic, and because the severity of the events is presumably commonplace and in line with events that could also occur routinely, it's more likely to be the common occurrences that cause the most player dissatisfaction if they have something wrong with them.

 

To put it another way, you might take a while to decide there is something a little off with that mod that steals your clothes then has the town population spout insults at you for it. Maybe the problem is that it leaves you with this lingering "hurt feels" debuff that takes ten off your speech and seems to never, ever go away, or maybe it's that some NPCs refer to you as an alchemist when you aren't, or that you really wanted an option for the NPCs to hold you down and grope you? There could be a dozen problems with that imaginary mod, some technical, some because of bad translation, or lack of options you wanted, but it might also be that the overall experience is just a bit wrong somehow, in some difficult to define way.

 

The original title was reward and punishment, so just thinking about how those impact the PC differently from the player helps clarifying thinking around them, but I think the dissonance effect is also something that may occur and lead to something like a spoiled fetish experience. It's like you're eating a nice piece of chocolate, and then somebody starts complaining that children are enslaved and beaten to harvest the ingredients.

 

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