[MUD-Dev] Alright... IF your gonan do DESIESE...

Adam Wiggins nightfall at user1.inficad.com
Sun May 25 03:21:53 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

[Chris L:]
> Its been too long since we've had any decent size posts.  This list
> used to be rife with 30K signal filled chunks.  

Yeah, but back then we were getting ~5 messages a day.  Now we're seeing
like 40...don't even have time to read them all, unfortunately.  Unlike
the newsgroups they are almost 100% signal, so I can't just depend on
skipping past 90% of it...

> On 24/05/97 at 07:57 PM, caliban at darklock.com (Caliban Tiresias
> Darklock) said:
> >Something I've discussed with some people is the idea that when a
> >player dies in a game with permanent death, it's terribly
> >demoralising to start over at ground zero. One thing I have
> >considered doing is allowing them to take some credit for previous
> >accomplishments in the form of benefits and artificial advancement
> >for the next character. For example, in an AD&D game, I'd give them
> >some form of starting experience and equipment that allows them to
> >hold their own in the party; in a White Wolf game, I'd give them some
> >portion of the experience their previous character had earned to buy
> >skills and whatnot; in a Cyberpunk game, I'd probably let them start
> >with a greater budget for cybernetic enhancements. 
> Bartle raises the point that on a goal/level oriented game, that
> without permanent death, a mediocre or even flat out incompetent
> player can have utter certainty that they will make Wiz or top level
> if they merely persist in their plodding way for long enough.  His
> contention, and I agree, is that this is a Bad Thing.  The problem

Well...yes, although this doesn't necessarily bother me so much.  What
does bother me are all the little problems that arise without permenant
death (corpse retreival, how to handle exp loss, loss of RP).  Worst of
all, I feel that death not being permenant basically cheapens the entire
experience.  Death is now an annoyance, not something to be feared.

> however with the strict interpretation of this view is that it
> discourages players from investigation and experimentation with their
> world.  Few will willingly risk the total anihilation of their
> character, hard built over several weeks if not months, just to see
> what happens when they do a cossack dance on the ultra-fragile and
> quivering crystal bridge in front of the glowering pantaloon-clad
> fairy preventing their further crossing (Hey!  He might join in and
> let you across!  Nothing else you've tried has worked, and you never
> know...).  This is also a Bad Thing.  

I agree here, but again - this is a very large problem on non-permadeath
muds too.  It's something we refer to as the "Storm Giants in the Trees
Effect" (phrase coined by Mr. Henry)...basically, you walk outside of town,
and you immediately expect storm giants to coming jumping out of the trees.
This in itself is fine - if you walked outside of town and all you ever
saw was lots of trees, the mud would be a bit boring.  On the other hand,
I dislike the tendancy for muds to place incredible powerful mobiles several
steps outside of town without a bit of warning.
The first diku mud I played I went to the newbie area and quickly made a
couple levels.  Since that quickly grew boring, I decided to go explore.
I died and lost everything within five minutes.  So, I went back to the
newbie area and made a few more levels.  This time I went somewhere different,
died again (although it was more like 10 minutes that time), and returned
to the newbie area to make more levels.
The lesson I learned from this, which has served me well ever since, is:
DON'T EXPLORE.  Or at the very least, explore with a newbie character that
you don't care if they die; if you find something worthwhile, then log on
your 'real' character.  The best advancement is made by sitting in one place
and mindlessly doing the same thing over and over again.  Ugh.
Of course, I rarely heed this lesson, since I *like* to explore.  So I just
die a lot.  Even when you're high level, it seems to make no difference
(except for those muds where the players are more powerful than any mobile).
For example, I recently went exploring with my high-level mage on a mud
that I otherwise hold in high esteem.  Several steps south of one town I
found a new area had been added; the room descriptions were things like "You
are entering a beautiful valley, flowers surround you, you're at peace" etc
etc.  So...I stupidly walked in, thinking that, as I was a powerful mage
who was invisible, automatically sneaking, etc etc I'd be able to handle
whatever.  It went something like this:

The Valley
> scan
You see no one nearby.
A red dragon arrives from the south.
A red dragon appears to be tracking someone.
A red dragon crashes into you in a thundering collision!
> cast 'cone of cold'
You're lying on the ground!  You can't do anything!
A red dragon massacres you with his bite.
A red dragon massacres you with his bite.
A red dragon massacres you with his bite.
A red dragon massacres you with his bite.
> stand
You attempt to clamber to your feet, but fail!
A red dragon massacres you with his bite.
A red dragon massacres you with his bite.
A red dragon massacres you with his bite.
A red dragon massacres you with his bite.
You are dead!
You lose a level..

The dumbfounded look on my face must have been priceless, I'm sure.
There's nothing quite like feeling totally helpless to do anything, even
after having invested dozens of hours in a character trying to make them
nearly invulnerable.

Aside from simple world design that makes it difficult to just wander
into a disgustingly nasty situation without any warning (not realistic, I
know, but who cares), there's plenty of ways to remedy this.

Our two main ways of avoiding this are both related to 'giving warning'.
Sure, it's a dangerous world - but if you get in over your head, you have
a moment or two that you can retreat (in most situations, anyhow).
For starters, we don't have any conception of "aggressive" - that is, things
that attack you the moment they see you.  Most of the places you go you
will find creatures that want to interact with you in some way or another,
but if they don't like you they'll usually just tell you to get lost or
whatever.  Animals are an exception, of course, but they are only out
to kill if they are hungry - and in most cases, they have better things to
hunt than you.  Secondly, our combat isn't so instantaneous - even though
it's quickly paced, you get messages like:

An elven guardian says, 'I told you to leave.  Now I see I will have to remove
 you by force.'
An elven guardian draws his sword.
You draw your sword.
The elven guardian begins to circle you, scanning for an opening.

At this point you can take off running.  And, in most cases, mobs aren't
out for your blood.  By default, combat stops when one of the combatents
falls unconscious; if someone REALLY wants you dead, they can cut your
throat at that point, of whatever.  More likely they wont' bother (there's
certainly no reward for death), and will instead just relieve you of any
valuables you may have on your person.

> I don't have a pat answer.  I believe that the discouragement to
> experimentation is less of a Bad Thing than the knowledge that mere
> persistance will always win the day.  I also really dislike the idea
> that a player will lose his character because he got hit by net lag at
> just the wrong time (I've seen fights on Shades start and finish all
> in the time one player was waiting on net lag -- he (me) was unhappy
> about that).  As such I believe that a player should be able to
> largely protect himself against permanent death. 

I'm not so worried about this, actually.  What I dislike about strategic
muds as they exist these days is that you spend *so* long building up your
character.  Sure, if I had invested 60 hours (not at all uncommon) in a
character and one bit of net lag could destroy it all in the blink of an
eye, I'd consider that a pretty unplayable game.

Our solution is to make it 'easy come, easy go.'  If you want to be someone
who fights for a living, fine - you'll probably find that most of your
skills are pretty easy to advance.  It's just that death can come quickly
and unexpectedly - attacking lots of people is a good way to make enemies,
certainly.  Thus fighter-types will tend to be 'live fast, die young.'
We decided this was viable because this is how they do it in a lot of the
roguelike games (moria, nethack, angband) and it works just fine.  When
your character dies, you go, 'Hum.  Well, that was fun.  Maybe I'll try a
half-troll cleric...'  Instead of, 'DAMN!  All that work, DOWN THE DRAIN!!'
(Of course, this is also related to those games being fun from the minute
you start them, instead of only once you get high-level.)  If you had a savegame
feature in these games, you'd be able to beat them in no time at all.
If you don't want to die - don't throw yourself into danger!  You can have
a perfectly good time playing cards, learning blacksmithing or sewing,
scouring the forests for herbs and preparing concoctions, studying thaumaturgy
and searching the land for new spells, or whatever.

I guess the main solution is just that there's very little that is overtly
aggressive.  You really have to look for trouble to find it.  (No doubt
many players will indeed look for trouble, which is fine...they'll get
what they want.)

> I've attempted to solve this in a round-about way, mostly via
> side-effects of other design decisions.

Yeah.  I think this falls into the 'irrelevant' bin.  Once you go back
and fix other fundamental flaws with the AD&D/powermud style game design,
the symptoms which we are discussion kind of fade away.  We've found
that almost everything works that way...if there's some sort of problem
in the design, you don't fix it by saying, "Okay, we'll just not let
players do this..." or "Okay, we'll just hack this right here..." since
you just end up with more and more contrieved systems and strange
side-effects.  You have to go back and re-examine your initial assumptions
and find what's wrong *there*.

> This probably easiest to explain from two viewpoints: the world model,
> and the login process.  Dealing with the login process a typical user
> might see something as follows (here's to wishing I had a runnable
> server right now):
>   $ telnet blah 1234
>   Welcome to Blah world intro screen.
>   Account: Joekovaks
>   Password: ........
>   Welcome Aaron Voight!  Your available characters are:
>     1) Bernie (Boffo, Buster, Guffa)
>     2) Bubba (Bubba)
>     3) Folly (Fardol, Grinchallo, Mulliwipe, Wayland, Wittenho)
>     4) Throgmorton (Murgatroyd)
>     5) Twerp (Thwacker, Tink, Twak) 
>     6) Zigfield (Zigfield, Zeotrope)
>     0) Query character specifics
>   Which characters would you like to play? 1,4

This is very close to what we have.  Only we have a lot more options
from account mode - there's the message boards (I hate having these
in-game, unless they are something like a town message board or something
for in-game concerns), a chat system (crude irc sorta), configuration
(alises, color levels, screen width and height, paging options), and so
forth.  The main option begin log in a character, of course.

>   Password for Bernie: ........
>   Password for Murgatroyd: ........

Hmmm, why do you need different passwords for each character?  I thought
this was one of the advantages of doing the account bit.

> endurance, size, etc.  The character stats are all the touchy-feelie
> stats like magic ability, will power, etc.  The account stats are a

Will power - I thought you didn't like modeling mental stats, Chris?

> l me
You are awfully handsome.
There is an arrow stuck in your leg.
> pull out arrow
You start pulling, but it hurts too much, so you stop.
> pull out arrow, you fucking pussy!
You renew your efforts, but it's just too painful for you.
> grumble

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