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

Martin Keegan martin at cam.sri.com
Tue Jun 10 17:35:55 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

On Sun, 8 Jun 1997 coder at ibm.net wrote:
> On 06/06/97 at 07:42 PM, Martin Keegan <martin at cam.sri.com> said:

> >Anyway, a few notes on Island, what I'm doing now, and miscellaneous
> >ideas of mine ...
> Will Island ever arise again?  It would be a great loss to have it
> dissappear.  It did too may things far too well to lose, (and enough
> things far too stupidly to tolerate its loss as an example).

"Oh no, not this chestnut again". I've already been swayed into bringing
it back - just trying to find a stable site for it. You probably
underestimate the amount of flak I *still* get from people who hated that
poor old game.

> >...Island did this through the
> >introduction of a harsh regime of compulsory quests. The quests
> >tended to be quite elaborate, and provoked fierce competition. It
> >took me more than six months to complete them all.
> And were for the uninitiated, utterly superb.  <I bow in their general
> direction>

They were not too much fun if you were doing them for the second time.

My favourite quest was the cipher quest. In the Wonderland area, many of
the mobiles spoke a weird cipher. Frequency analysis easily revealed what
most of the letters were, and writing the code out alphabetically yielded:


'pit four knaves' was the solution to the quest. By sheer fluke, the word
"head" (which the Queen of Hearts uses a bit ;) ) encodes as "kopf" -
German for "head". There is a Rcf after all!

> >Eventually, it became apparent that the quest-oriented nature of the
> >game was driving players away. Crucially, it was driving away the
> >idiots and powerlevellers. "Strong in Spades", is how Island was
> >described in the light of Bartle's HCDS paper. (Spades being the
> >"Explorer" types). Every year or so, the quests would be updated, and
> >made more numerous, and (we hoped) more intellectually challenging.
> <cheers>

Well, the truth is that the majority of people does not want to be
intellectually challenged, and the majority of people did not enjoy
Island. I don't share the pessimism of other Islanders who extended this
to "Most people crave badness with religious fervour", despite the
compelling statistical evidence.

> >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).

> How do you intend to scale the cost of construction?  I've been
> thinking about this one a lot and have yet to arrive at a decent
> model.  Best idea to date:

This is tricky and I haven't really worked it out yet. Basically, entities
will have a number of properties and values which will have associated

This system seems like a thought experiment but it's actually a reaction
against what I call "higher order imbalance" in many muds. In some muds,
powerful players can promote lowly players to high ranks, as much as they
want - they have limitless power. In a mud with levels, a level 100 player
could promote a level 10 player to level 80 - as many times as she wanted.
Really, she ought to use up sufficient power to *drop* 70 levels.

The rationale is of not getting "something for nothing". The more
powerful/valuable the object/mobile/room you're creating, desto it's
gonna set you back.

> >More interesting to the design people is that the system incorporates
> >a language called 'E', which looks a bit like Inform. 
> Would you describe in more detail?  Examples?

(will post separately - can't access home machine from here)

> >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. 
> Descriptions, definitions, or just names?

Such strong typing, Chris! :) The system isn't really aware of any
distinction between words and sentences. 
> >Named "EricGeneric", it has been described as
> >everything from "An invention more significant and useful than time
> >travel" to "Prolog for Poofters" (really!)
> I recall the thread (sound of binary digging).  Oh yeah -- got the
> macro file too.  But that was specific to building character names per
> a template of sorts.  Has it changed?

The thread was - the software isn't. There's little (read 'no') conceptual
difference between synthing words and synthing sentences. The software's
been used for generating fantasy names, Mystic Meg ramblings, British
postcodes, spammy mud messages, etc.

Sample output from various templates is available from
- warning, this was just created by running EG on each of the template
files in the directory, Lord only knows what they are! :)

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