[MUD-Dev] Level abstractions - Realism vs Game Issues

Matt Chatterley root at mpc.dyn.ml.org
Wed Jul 2 16:39:09 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

On Tue, 1 Jul 1997, Nathan Yospe wrote:
> On Sun, 29 Jun 1997, Jon A. Lambert wrote:
> :> From: Caliban Tiresias Darklock <caliban at darklock.com>
> :> Subject: [MUD-Dev] Level abstractions - Realism vs Game Issues
> :> 
> :> On Fri, 27 Jun 1997 22:07:31 PST8PDT, "Jon A. Lambert"
> :> <jlsysinc at ix.netcom.com> wrote:
> :> 
> :> I like the idea of doing away with levels entirely, and instead using an
> :> array of skills. I also like these skills to increase with practice, but
> :> through experience points. In other words:
> :
> :I understand.  You subdivide the global XP total into XP counters for each
> :skill and assign points when the skill is exercised.
> Hmmm. Crude, still. A start, though.

I can see where you get "crude" from - if the entire concept in mind here
is "skill based" with some form of realistic advancement, advancement
should be out of the players hands - an "XP" context is really not
required in the physical, useable sense, only as internal counters.
> :> 	You use a skill: you get an XP. 
> :> 	You succeed: you get another XP.
> :I assign XP for failure also.
> I use a bell curve assignment. Failure teaches a highly skilled person,
> where sucess teaches a skilless person (actually, it is a LOT more
> complicated than that, as sucess factors into maintainance of a high
> skill, and failure increases short term chances on a poor skill
> [desparation points])

I can see where you get the overall idea from though - I like it! I learnt
far more about capacitors once I knew how they worked, and was
experimenting with alchoholic di-electrics, than when I did when I learnt
that E=1/2(QV^2), etc, and I learnt it all by making horrendous mistakes.
> :> 	That XP is applied to that skill.
> :
> :Right. I prefer to keep the abstraction and put it all of it in a global 
> :pool for some of the game reasons I mentioned earlier.  Your method
> :comes closer to "realism".
> And a bit closer to mine, but still a bit off...

I think the "skill web" ideas which were bouncing around some time ago
illustrate this best. If you have interlinked skills:

Combat, attack, knife, stealth.. etc, might all be linked together, so
getting better at combat will improve those below it in the web, and
getting better at knife will make it easier to improve in those above it.
Or something of the order.
> :> 	When the XP applied to a skill is equal to the skill's level,
> :> 		the skill goes up by one point.
> :> 	When the skill is at its maximum level, the XP instead goes into
> :> 		a surplus XP pool.
> :> 	The surplus XP pool is used to buy new skills that one does not
> :> 		have, as well as to increase base statistics. 
> :Nathan has some interesting ideas about how increases in certain skills
> :will pull along other skills.  For instance, activity improving a 
> :"writing" skill will affect the "reading" skill.  Its sort of like
> :related skill categories/groups.  
> :Hint: Why don't you repost some of your skill-net goodies, Nathan?
> Yeah, yeah (what is this, the fourth hint I've gotten?)

<g> I expect more than fourth.
> OK, this is on the fly, as I don't have access to my earlier notes right
> now.

Well, it's probably more suitable to this exact case than something done
from notes. ;)
> Each player has an array of values coresponding to a set of existing
> skills and attributes. A given skill has its own list of dependancies,
> including physical and equiptmental dependancies...

I think I follow..
> An example linkage in the global net:
> Attribute
> muscular strength
> muscular endurance
> reflexive speed
> muscular control
> manual dexterity
> visual clarity (day)
> visual clarity (night)
> visual perception
> visual range (fixed stat for humans)
> olfactory sensitivity
> olfactory granularity
> olfactory perception
> ... and so on ad nauseum ...

> then we have skills, with dependancies, weighted two ways... input
> weighting must total 100, output weighting _should_ range around the same,
> and except in special cases, should not differ at all from input.
> I simplify the following skill for clarity
> long jump 1
>   muscular precision (i 50, o 50)
>   muscular strength  (i 50, o 50)
>   2 front coupled legs (humans and tre'laeci possess these.)

Definitely the best way of tackling something of this order (and
magnitude) that I've seen yet.
> Modifications of both skills and attributes are ordered in terms of
> chronology. A skill update immediately output updates its attributes.
> Calling a skill moves it to the top, chronologically, after checking for
> attribute improvements on its dependancies *more recent* than the last
> skill call. This only causes any serious strain to the CPU when the skill
> has not been used by this particular character in the recent past. Skills
> do decay, over time... a skill takes penalty for its position on the list
> below a certain depth. Attributes similarly take penalty. This may also be
> the result of overload strain - too many skills employed too rapidly. As
> you can see above, there are a tremendous number of attributes. Most
> skills call on at least 10 attributes, often as many as 50. Some have
> output weighting that totals over 3000. A good example of this is the
> (automatic) skill associated with dodging multiple oncoming projectiles,
> especially if there are complexities to the maneuvering of the
> projectiles. A lot of my skills are automatic. The relexive drop, crouch,
> roll type of thing, the series of skills called when picking a lock (there
> are about six of them), the extras called when running goes beyond a
> simple racetrack. The real longjump1 (the human version) is only the
> launching skill. Landing is another matter altogether. A character could
> become a great commando, using only about 60 skills. And a half dozen or
> so commands. Of course, most great commandoes are so honored post mortem.

Egad. This is a staggeringly good simulation of things, I can't really
comment at this juncture.
> :I do have 2 classes of skills when it comes time for a character to
> :do development.  Skill categories and individual skills.  Spending
> :points to improve "one-handed edged weapons", a category, will provide
> :a small improvement in all of these weapons.  Spending points on a single
> :skill "short sword" will provide greater improvement, but only in the 
> :specific case.
> As I don't have points to spend, that particular point is moot. As for the
> distribution... why not both? Practice a shortsword, and you improve the
> kinds of dexterity and strength attributes (I have them much further
> subdivided than in my above example... fast chopping is a special
> attribute in itself) that you need for any one handed edged weapon... but
> you won't be instantly AS practiced with a one handed axe.

Yeah. It's certain that in skill based systems of this order, some sort of
linkage between skills is really required, even if only in a basic sense
(ie the better you are at combat overall, the better you are at all
sub-skills of combat).
> :> Someone may point out, what about hit points or mana? These concepts, I
> :> feel, are not specifically relevant (I have other ideas on them), but
> :> they can also be increased like any other statistic when a player uses
> :> surplus XP.
> :
> :They may be relevant if the assumption is they automatically increase 
> :in a levels implementation.  Hit pts. and mana pts. figure into the power 
> :equation because they are often tied to it.
> I don't have character mana, and wouldn't even if I had mana. What I do
> have is the ability to carry bateries, power generators... this would
> carry well into magic.

Yeah, it would. I view magic as being a form of energy, in leakage
(something like electricity propagating by radiation), and those who use
it as a form of capacitor for magical energy. This is not an uncommon
view, I believe.
> Hit points are another story. I have always hated them. I allow direct
> damage of various kinds to be applied to physical objects. This does not
> mean that I keep a damage counter. I make fundamental changes. An arm,
> made of meat with a bone core, gets COOKED by heat damage, and is often
> unrepairable. It has mechanisms, on the other hand, to actually start
> repairing shear and compression damage immediately. However, a torn arm is
> not capable of outputting the same strength as a whole arm, which has
> serious consequences for use in that manner. (I have considered removing
> those physical attributes from the primary skill net altogether, leaving
> them in the age counter, and putting a set of them to each body part.)

Yipes, savage. Do you have some way of keeping track of the overall
situation? For instance, if you've almost lost an arm, blacking out, etc?
> :> However, let me point out the following ideas about mana and
> :> hit points:
> :> 
> :> 	Hit points are static. You have X hit points plus your usual
> :> 	constitution bonus, period. Your additional ability to survive 
> :> 	comes purely from skills like dodge, parry, and increased damage
> :
> :   We are pretty close on this, I suspect. I have a species maximum for 
> :base hit points.  For most of the humanoid-size species its around 100.  
> :The wild boar that was mentioned in another thread has a species max of 180 
> :hps. Hit points are actually an abstraction of concussion damage and are 
> :tied to creature size/fortitude.  Thus while the boar is half a humanoid's
> :size, it's fortitude is incredible.  How they relate to combat is probably 
> :unrelated to this discussion.  Let me just say that "wounding" figures more 
> :into it than concussion points.
> Interesting. I do have a "three steps forward, two steps back" pain
> threshhold concept that may serve comparably... players, however, can
> fight through force of will to remain alive, to a point. After a certain
> point, if no one is coming to save you, you might end up better off
> recreating.

Heh. I have something along the lines of a similar concept, in that when
the "die" function is called in something, it may suffer a negative
effect, or actually die. This allows for all severe hits after a point
(potentially dangerous injuries which could cause fatality), and after
hitpoints begin to fall below a reasonable threshold.
> :   Players may start with as many hit points as they wish.  That is I 
> :implement hit points as a skill, body development.  For every skill 
> :rank purchased in this skill you get about 5-10 hit points.  Again the
> :gain is species dependent and maximums cannot be exceeded (through natural
> :means).
> :   So upon creating a character I can develop 5 ranks of body development 
> :skill to give me some starting hit points.  Upon attaining level 2 I need
> :not develop this skill at all, so hit points would remain unchanged.
> :   Power points or mana have their own skill categories and are quite
> :similarly done.  These also have species maximums but these are tied
> :to other things, not size/fortitude.
> Hmmm. Interesting. A bit better than the old method, at least.

I don't think it's really hard to break the mould on this one. ;)
> :> 	from weapon skills and multiple attacks.
> :> 
> :> 	Mana is irrelevant. You cast a spell, and that spell's skill
> :> 	drops to 0. Depending on the difficulty of the spell, it can
> :> 	regain power quickly or slowly, sort of a spell level. As a
> :> 	rough guideline, every X seconds (X being the level the spell
> :> 	is currently gained at) you regain your intelligence or wisdom
> :> 	rating in the skill for that spell. 
> :
> :   Interesting.  I use the method of spending of mana (power points) when
> :a spell is cast.  Healing and Power recovery in my system is very slow
> :and might be "unfun". :(  I have yet to test this out.  We are talking
> :mud-weeks here for certain wounds (broken bones, etc.)  Mana isn't as
> :bad around 3 points per hour of sleep.  This is species dependent also.
> :There are magical/herbal means to speed this up.
> As I don't have magic, this really isn't relevant... but I _really_ like
> the idea of specific spells having recharge times, and concurent known
> spells being limited by some capacity value.

You and me both. Magic is one of the writers most powerful, and most often
abused tools in fantasy literature - it's also like a sword; double edged.

	-Matt Chatterley
"He can't stop us, we're on a mission from Glod!" - Soul Music (Pratchett)

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