[MUD-Dev] "short" Introductory Message (fwd)

Chris Gray cg at ami-cg.GraySage.Edmonton.AB.CA
Sat Jun 7 09:47:25 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

[Martin K:]


Sounds like my kind of place! Well, except for the complex combat.

:At the moment I'm writing a mud (from scratch, unsurprisingly) which
:allows building at a proportional cost to the player, rather than being
:based on rank. (Or letting everyone build, or no-one at all).

Can you elaborate on that "proportional cost to the player"? Sounds like
something we could steal!

:More interesting to the design people is that the system incorporates a
:language called 'E', which looks a bit like Inform. I've had a look at
:many mud languages, and didn't like any. 'Mud languages' sums these up
:very well. Muds, as far as I'm concerned, are "virtual worlds", and the
:languages used to describe them tend to be modelled on general programming
:languages rather than reflecting virtual worlds in their design.  LPC, the
:best known "mud language", I found to be way too general: you can write
:webservers in it; it's not a world description language but a general
:programming language with Mud-flavoured knobs on. (****)
:E works as a series of definitions of entities within a model world.
:Entities can inherit features of other entities. That's basically all
:there is to it, and such concepts will doubtless be familiar to most
:people on this list. The interpreter enforces very little in the way of
:type or sanity checking. Not only are objects, doors, monsters and rooms
:described in E, but the grammar and syntax of the language used to access
:the mud (the parser, effectively) are also defined.

Out of curiousity, is that 'E' related to the programming language 'E'
which has been a hit on Amigas in the last few years?

I made a deliberate choice to make my MUD language fairly general, for a
few reasons:

    - I didn't want to get stuck wanting to do something that I either
	couldn't do or that was unnecessarily cumbersome to do

    - since I knew that I would be the big user of it, I saw no reason
	not to make a language I would be comfortable with

    - I've provided alternatives to it that allow people to do a fair
	amount of building, including some simple scripts, without
	having to use the main MUD language

The issue of strong typing has been discussed in this list before. I seem
to be pretty much alone in desiring the safety and execution speed of
compile-time type checking, versus some (unneeded and unwanted by me!)
supposed advantages of sloppy typing. :-)

:In text-based muds, we use languages to communicate between human players
:and the computer-controlled game. The "suspension of disbelief" upon which
:immersive experiences (and other fiction, whether interactive or
:otherwise) like mudding depends can be impaired if the user's attention is
:distracted from the content by the interface. If the text of a mud is
:ungrammatical, dull, poorly spelt, offensive, repetitive or just plain
:boring, then the spell can be broken, and the experience spoilt.
:Similarly, the parser must attempt to accept as broad a subset of natural
:English (or whatever language the mud is in) as possible; having to
:wrestle with a commandline parser is not conducive to enjoyment of a mud.
:To the end of making sure the text is not repetitive, I've designed a
:system for randomised generation of non-boring text, which got an airing
:in rec.games.mud.admin in a thread about creating consistent names for
:newborn NPCs. Named "EricGeneric", it has been described as everything
:from "An invention more significant and useful than time travel" to
:"Prolog for Poofters" (really!)

Strongly agree! I haven't done anything to make changing output, but I've
gone to a lot of trouble to make output that is as close to correct as I
can get. The junk that comes out of many MUDs just drives me away. My
newsfeed has been very bad for nearly all of this year, so I think I've
missed most of your discussions on this. Can you summarize here?

Here's a question for you, which is one that continues to bug me in my
own system: How do you handle 'a' versus 'the' for NPC's? Some of my
NPC's are unique, and so marked by a flag. When they do something, no
article is used, e.g.:

    Packrat picks up the pen.

However, for non-unique NPC's, I usually use:

    An orc picks up a rock.

but there are situations where this isn't appropriate. From the English
language point of view, one of those is when there is only one orc present,
but that can be a costly thing to have to determine whenever an orc
does something. Another situation is when the orc's action is a direct
result of an action by another character, which has in some way selected
that orc as temporarily special. Many systems punt on this by just never
using an article, and get:

    Orc picks up a rock.

but I really don't like that. Even worse is:

    orc takes rock


[Of course, 'a rock' should sometimes be 'the rock', but I don't try to
handle that one either!]

Chris Gray   cg at ami-cg.GraySage.Edmonton.AB.CA

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