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

Martin Keegan martin at cam.sri.com
Fri Jun 20 13:37:07 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

On Sat, 7 Jun 1997, Chris Gray wrote:

> [Martin K:]
> :Island:
> [...]
> 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!

Well, the normal way this is handled is "Let anyone build as much as they
want" (where building is permitted). Obviously, it's not difficult to get
a balanced game with this rule - if you can get a "game" at all - many
TinyMUDs would treat being called a mere "game" as some sort of slur.

GODS (ancient 80s commercial Brit MUD) had the notion of gods acquiring
powers with which to build things, and building things consumed power.
What I'm trying to do - when I get the rest of my computer back(!), 

> 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?

See other post about generating fantasy names.
> 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.:

Ok - every object should get a flag saying what article it takes. In
English, this flag can take five values, for definite, indefinite, vocalic
indefinite, none, and partitive. Another flag is needed for number -
singular or plural.

	normal		demonstrative	normal		demonstrative
def	the		the		the		the
indef	a		the		----		----
v indef	an		the		----		----
part	some		the		the		the

whether the nominative or demonstrative form is used depends on context.

definite articles are used for special, unique objects. No article is used
for names; it's just Bubba, not the/a/some Bubba. Partitive is for
"mass-nouns" - milk, bread, cheese, water ... things you can't count (one
milk, two milks? I think not)

There is *some* bread here.
> g br
You pick up *the* bread.

Most stockmuds don't support this well, generally because they don't
store objects with sufficient flags to do this, and determining the
determinant for each object/mobile/door would take too long. This is why
you find yourself buying 'an armour' on Circles, and atrocious problems
with "a glass of beer" etc.

>     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.

Most of the ones I've seen do "an orc picks up a rock", and, most
annoyingly, you attack "an orc" rather than "the" orc. Even if there's
more than one orc in the room, the one you're attacking is "THE orc", as
you've selected that one to kill. In acts of hubris which strike heaven on
the face, I've seen players claim that muds which handle this better than
their preferred muds are wrong, simply because these players have been
desensitised through having seen the incorrect forms so much.

Attempts to discuss ways of improving this sort of thing generally result
in these players claiming that grammar is a matter of personal choice, and
that their muds are magically exempt. They seem to think that grammar is
based on some language like Latin, rather than the way people speak
English, which is scary. Well may people use so-called "non-standard" verb
forms, but no native speaker EVER says or writes using the bizarre article
choices you will see in some muds every day. 
> but I really don't like that. Even worse is:
>     orc takes rock
> Ick!
> [Of course, 'a rock' should sometimes be 'the rock', but I don't try to
> handle that one either!]

Once you have non-unique objects in your database, then it gets tricky,
yes. It's probably best to use a compromise solution as we did on Island
(though we had the advantage of not having generic objects)


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