[MUD-Dev] Graphic MUDS/Ultima Online

Adam Wiggins nightfall at user1.inficad.com
Wed Jul 30 01:40:12 New Zealand Standard Time 1997


> On Monday, July 28, 1997 9:25 PM, Adam 
> Wiggins[SMTP:nightfall at user2.inficad.com] wrote:
> > [Matt C:]
> > > On Mon, 28 Jul 1997, Jeff Kesselman wrote:
> > > > >Ah, but is it a MUD? I've heard claims on newsgroups that 
> although it is
> > > > >very pretty, it doesn't make for a very good MUD, in terms of 
> the kind of
> > > > >flexibility, language input, etc. that people expect from MUDs. 
> Can you
> > > > >tell us anything about that?
> 
> Does it have the amount of language input? Absolutely not. It is also 
> far more lacking in environmental adaptability, because it's plain 
> harder to make a limited graphical tileset adapt to circumstance than 
> it is to make text do so. Those who are used to the flexibility, and 
> yes, greater options (certainly less man-hours per nifty effect), that 
> text provides will find it to be a shallower experience in that 
> sense.

Hell yeah.  My job is to write 'normal' (graphical) computer games, and
I am constantly frustrated by how much art holds us back from doing
what we really want to do.

> > The main point of the thread was asking whether Quake or Diablo 
> qualify
> > as muds.  I said no, because they are missing a very important 
> aspect
> > of a mud: permanency.
> 
> If you do not have a persistent world, you have no mud, is how I've 
> heard it said. Of course, persistence is relative. Are the 
> periodic-wipe-of-world-state-model muds not muds? PKMud? Heck, the 

Not to my mind.  We call them muds because they are based on mud engines,
but I never thought of PKMud, Tron, or any of those games to be muds.
Of course, they *do* usually save your name, level, and past kills which
already puts them a step ahead of the most popular pkill arenas like
Quake and Duke Nukem.  But I still class these 'muds' more with those
arenas than I do with what we are discussing as 'muds' here.

> original MUD? Let us not forget that many muds throughout the years 
> have been based around a periodic full-world reset, some even to the 
> extent of wiping character standings altogether.

Permenancy comes in many forms...(more below)

> While this sort of mud is far from as popular as the model which saves 
> some form of standing, let us not forget that there are still many 
> disparate approaches to "persistence" in muds today. Ex: early LPs 
> that saved character attributes but not equipment. Classic Diku 

Yes, which kept me from playing LPs for a long time.
Still, they save plenty of other things; for all practical purposes, your
character just drops everything they were carrying when they leave the
game.  That doesn't mean there's no permenancy, just that the spirit-sleep
(or however you want to think of it) enjoyed by your character while the
player is away can't bring material objects other than their own body
with them.

> architecture muds (ROM, Merc, Envy, blah blah blah) which save 
> characters and equipment and the like, but do not save world state. 

They do, just in limited ways.  The main method is via equipment limits:
"Argh!  Bubba has the sword Stormbringer, and there's only one in the
whole world!"  Although I don't generally like equipment limits the
way they are imlemented on Dikus, I do like this idea in general; other
characters affect the world instead of you just running through your own
private game and getting your own Stormbringer.
Examples of stuff that happens all the time on dikus via object limits:
most keys are limit one, so players get a key to (say) the dwarven kingdom
immediately on reboot and then hold a monopoly over anything found inside
until they rent or the mud crashes.  I've also seen things like spiteful
players throwing the keys to Mahn-Tor's keep into the ocean just to keep
other players out, for whatever reason.
Simple, yes, but I believe this still qualifies as a 'saved world state'.

> Evolved Diku models which save some elements of world state (say, add 
> player housing on a Merc). Full world-state saving a la 
> MUSH-derivatives, etc. What defines persistence?

Well, any good mud saves world states.  Saving location of objects and
player corpses is pretty standard on dikus now.  I added world-state-saving
to a diku I was working on a few years back, which was about a 20 line
function involving saving the location and basic state info (health,
position, equipment) of every mob and object on the mud, then another
function of the save size to load it all back up.  Not too tricky, and
makes crashes basically irrelevant, since everyone just starts out exactly
where they were during the last save.  (Also prevents object duping since
it's all saved at once.)

> Which is not, btw, to say that I disagree with the point made; simply 
> want to toss a few more variables in the equation. :)

*nod*...all good points but all things I've thought about.  My view is
that modern muds do all the things I'm speaking of in a very, very
limited way.  I like to think about all the things that could be done
by taking them much further.  Sort of like the Wright brothers fooling
with toy planes; they may not be impressive, but it *is* flight.
Now imagine if we took it a step further...

> > (The artificially low number of participants per
> > server is also a factor, IMO.)  What makes a mud a virtual world 
> instead of
> > 'just' a game is that there is an ever-changing world which the 
> player
> > can enter, interact with, and leave.
> 
> Many muds do not have a changing environment *save as a social 
> construct among players*. Their database is static. They use respawn 

The fact that they have a database at all implies that it is not totally
static.  Even Tron, which is about the simplest pk arena I can think of,
saves your character's name, kills, the messages they post, and so forth.
A normal (bleh) ROM saves all your skills, stats, equipment, inventory,
level, hitpoints, mana, birthday, clan affiliations, location of rent,
and plenty of other things that we hardly even think about.  If you're
refering to the database as in the 'world' stuff like room descs and
mobile locations, this stuff is usually under constant change, although
manual change, by the admin.  Definitely this is an area that needs
improvement, but none if it is really 'static'.

Note, also, that I consider crashes and reboots to be special cases.
If I drop an object on the ground somewhere, it stays there until someone
else picks it up.  Most muds don't save this over crashes and reboots
(and why, I'm not too sure) but since these are 'special cases'.  Maybe
I'm being a little too unrealistic, since I've yet to see a mud that
stays up for more than a couple weeks at a time, but we ARE speaking
hypothetically, so there you go.  I don't consider saving data over
these hiccups to be necessary to have world permenancy, just desirable.
(The comparison is something like Tron, where new game 'worlds' are
constantly being spawned, so regardless of the stability of the engine,
changes made to one areana will go away in the next showdown.)

> So there is a changing player environment. This will happen anytime 
> that you gather people together in a community, regardless of 
> interface or setting. There is changing environment itself. The rooms, 

Yes, although I don't think of this as having much to do with the engine,
which is my entire focus for the purpose of this definition.

> the details of interactivity with objects, the evolution of "toys." 
> These aren't done much by anyone far as I know. Then there's that 
> middle layer, of developing, changing, and evolving 
> storylines/creatures/etc. And this is quite within technological 
> reach, and has been for some years. Almost nobody does it, of course. 
> Boy, should they. I'd love to see more discussion of this on the 
> list.

Agreed.  This sort of thing interests me a whole lot more than
discussions of lockless databases.  (Huh, what the hell kind of
wacky programmer *am* I anyways?)

> >  When they return at a later time,
> > effects of their previous visit are still in place: things they 
> have
> > interacted with stayed that way until changed by another character; 
> 
> No Diku-architecture muds do this.

Again, I disagree.  Given what I said above, objects stay where you put
them until someone else moves them, or if you have some sort of
artificial object-decay to keep the litter under control.

> Are they less muds for it? I don't 
> think so. This is only common to full world-state saving engines, 
> which are far more expensive than a Diku-style mud for this reason, 
> among others.

Hum, I still think that saving stupid things like objects on the ground
is ridiculously easy.  I think the main reason it's not done is that
a reboot or crash is seen as a chance to 'clean up' the place a bit.
Saving stuff on the ground could actually cause problems, too, such as
a key getting saved behind the door it unlocks.  I see these as fundamental
problems with the engine as well, though, dilemas which any mud worth
its beans has long since overcome.  This, of course, allows for cool
things like running your hero decked out in the best artifacts to
be found in the game in on a dragon and getting slaughtered.  Now those
artifacts are essentially out of the game unless you feel like trying
to either take on the dragon or plunder its hoarde.  Simple mechanics with
a highly interesting result.

> > their
> > own character's skills, attributes, scars, and whatever else are all 
> saved.
> 
> Many pkill arena muds do not do this. :)

Which is why, as I've said, I don't consider them muds for the purposes
of this discussion.  In reality a mud is anything that we think looks
like a mud, and pk arenas certain do.  But they are not persistant and
customizable worlds, for the most part, leaving them out of the picture
for our purposes.

> Interesting. We ought to get into the Bruno 
> Bettelheim-Bartle-Costikyan-whoever-else-ya-wanna-drag-in debate here, 
> the one about "play" and about "gaming," about "competition" and about 
> "hobby" and about "dominance" versus "socialization." Many muds are 
> not "worlds" in this sense, they are merely settings, merely 
> environments. They acquire some degree of the social aspect 
> inevitably, but it is not their focus.

Well, a lot of talkers don't count as muds as far as I am concerned.
A MOO could, since you fool around with building your own toys - a
persistant and customizable world.  If it's just IRC with rooms, than
I also consider it outside this definition of mud.  This is neither
an insult nor a compliment, BTW, just a statement...would hate for anyone
to get riled up over being left out or (more likely knowing this crowd)
being tossed in the same bin with others not well thought of.

> > > > Let me just say this:  Its a game with a ver primitive and 
> simpel combat
> > > > system,
> 
> Well, lemme think. We've got a simple interface certainly, equivalent 
> to typing "kill X" and leaving the keyboard. We do not have the 
> "interventionary" style of combat. Latency is one reason why; graphics 
> is another.

Kinda wondered about this - is it like the combat systems in Ultimas 7 and
onwards?  If so - ick.  Course, it's probably not as bad controlling
a single character (more like Diablo?).  At least when Iolo shoots you
in the back you can turn and swear at a real person instead of a shoddy
AI.

> [An aside; since we do client-side prediction for a lot of stuff, we 
> can "swallow" latency up to around 500ms without visible effect except 
> when the prediction screws up. For those who have played, the lags 
> you're seeing are from other causes, mainly server-side load. Now back 
> to the topic...]

How much, if anything, is actually offloaded to the client?  Are we going
to be seeing Diablo or Shadow of Yserbius-style hacks before long to make
your characters superbuff?

> However, we have limb-based calculations, equipment damage, 
> health-fatigue relationships figured into speed, variable speed 
> attacks based on skill and weapons, weapon weight, range, etc etc. All 
> in all, it's about as sophisticated a system as most muds use. It's 
> just not really visible to you. You can feel the effects of it all 
> with experience, of course, and "grow" into the system through 
> experience. Can you lop off an arm in the midst of a fight? Nah, I 
> don't like limb-based health, it makes fights too quick and 
> contributes to "trophying" which I find repellant. :)

Sounds nice.  IMO lack of visiblity is a good thing.  Getting bogged down
in numbers is a problem many combat-oriented muds have these days.

> Hmm, don't mean to get up on a hobbyhorse of defending the system. I 

Didn't seem defensive to me.  We've all described various systems in
our projects at one time or another; they don't have to be a defence or
offense, just a list of facts about how things work, what works well
about it, and what you don't like about it.

> too wish that we had more interactivity in it, and more ways to see 
> feedback, information like "Grogan's blow hits your breastplate and 
> dents it deeply... you have trouble breathing now that your chest is 
> constricted, and a haze falls across your eyes as you are obliged to 
> gasp quickly and shallowly (increased fatigue from here forward, 
> penalty to hit, possible subsidiary damage to chest if fight goes on 
> too long)." But interface-wise, ugh. Not in a graphical system, not 
> easily, and not for the general public. :(

Yup.  I like my job, but one nice thing about working on my private mud
is that appeasing the masses is no issue.

> UO has an economic system that goes from raw materials to finished 
> goods, and players can make any step of it.

Awesome.  Few have tackled this; only Dartmud that I can think of right
off hand.  This is also one of the things that made the Ultima single-player
games so immersive.

> UO also has an ecological system that handles creature repopulation, 
> behaviors, etc.

Can you tell us more details about this, possibly internals such as the
messaging system, without infringing on your secrecy requirements?

> Both of these are intrinsic to the game, far more so than combat or 
> spells or guilds. They are the simulation layer under that, and 
> despite repeated calls for "mud evolution" not many take up the 
> gauntlet to work on this sort of thing further. Yet I remain convinced 

I agree with this very much, and having read this stuff early on about
it (I was playing Legend when the beta-test messages went up) I was
very encouraged that Origin had the right idea from the start with this
thing -something I can't say for any other commercial endevour I've seen
so far.

> that adding a simulation layer to muds is where the genre needs to 
> go.

Agreed.  I like to think in turns of making building blocks which come
together to form more combinations and possibilities than can be 'hard-coded'
by a team of builders coming up with special-case situations and
softcode chunks.  See recent threads of herbalism/alchemy.

> Now, I know the arguments against it; it's expensive (man hours, 
> money, computation, space, etc). You can trick the player into 
> thinking it is there when it really isn't, far more cheaply. (And in 
> fact, we have used "cheats" many places where portions of the model 
> were deemed less important to actually simulate, but we needed the 
> appearance). But having a solid sim layer enables so much... and it 
> renders future growth possible. For one thing, the next direction 
> which I would like to take it is towards conquering that last barrier 
> of "staticness"--changing the setting based on simulated environmental 
> factors. Given a good model, there is no reason why roads could not be 
> formed by players as they walk on the grass repeatedly and kill it. 
> And so on.

Yup.  There was an excellent thread in r.g.m.a quite a while back about
this.  Someone (likely someone from this list) posted an example involving
a player clan which is rich and powerful, builds a big clanhouse full of
their accumulated treasure, then traps it thoroughly to keep out unwanted
guests.  Some catastrophy occurs; clan falls out of power, members are
scattered, possibly a natural disaster changes the face of the landscape
around the clanhouse.  Roads are obscured as grass grows back; eventually
it is nearly forgotten, until someone (possibly an ex-member) discovers one
of the ancient magic totems which works as a compass always pointed
towards the clan's keep.  Now a set of brave adventurers must loot
the now decript ruins, trying to avoid the traps and other nasty things
that have taken up residence there, in an attempt to retrieve the ancient
artifacts long since lost to the world.  Your game starts to build itself.

> We use a classless, levelless system. Skills atrophy from disuse. It's 
> not to everyone's taste. It seems to be working, so far. Whether it 
> will retain the totally goal-oriented players is yet to be seen, since 
> it does not provide a long string of milestones, but rather obliges 
> the player to create milestones for themselves at intervals.

Yeah - people always like to say that this will never work, but IMO it's
just what people are used to.  Get them used to skill based systems and
people will be unable to stand level-based systems anymore.  I know
that's what happened to me...

> You can't modify the environment on MOST muds. :P You can manipulate 
> some objects in limited fashions. They tend to go back where you got 
> them from, or reappear there as a duplicate. In general, environment 
> modification requires "immortal"/"wizard" capability and is a slow and 
> tedious process. At best you can move a few objects around, like in 
> Quake, only the objects are more varied.

You can move objects around in Quake?

> > Yeah.  I'm tempted to say, "Many muds aren't much better than 
> Diablo.."
> > but actually that's not really true.  Even stock ROM has a lot more
> > widgets to tug on than that.
> 
> Ah yes, but they are still widgets. :) None of those actually turn a 
> more significant knob.

Yes, and I've been crusading on this very fact for not fewer than about
two years now.

> Many have compared Diablo to Gauntlet, but what it really is is 
> Hack/Rogue/Moria, with a lot fewer random factors and features. No d's 

No kidding.  I played it briefly to see what all the hoopla was about, and
ended up beating it inside of eight hours of play.  Of course, since I've
logged hundreds of hours playing Angband, Larn, nethack, and others, it
was basically just re-applying the same old strategies to a much easier
version.
On the other hand, those guys at Blizzard are pretty smart - taking a tried
and true game design and slapping some graphics and marketing on it, then
dumbing it down enough to allow 'normal' folks to play it.  They deserve
their success.

> >  Ultima Online I've yet to actually play, but
> > I've heard very good things and of course I have every confidence in 
> our
> > friend Ptah, since he was the creator of one of the best muds to 
> ever
> > grace the internet.  (IMO, of course..)
> 
> Well, thank you. :) LegendMUD is still around, by the way 
> (telnet://mud.aus.sig.net:9999 and http://mud.aus.sig.net), and we're 
> still working on its goofy Diku-becoming-an-LP sort of system, though 
> I have a heck of a lot less time to devote to it. For the record, 
> Sadist aka Wyrd Dragon aka Rick Delashmit, lead programmer on Legend, 
> is also a lead programmer on UO; and my wife, Kaige aka Kristen 
> Koster, is also a designer on UO.

Wow!  No wonder it's turning out so well.
I was impressed with Legend from the very first time I played it, which
was quite a while ago - not sure how long you had been up at the time,
but usually the only other folks online when my mudding buddies and I
logged on were immorts.  I since haven't really had time to mud, but my
friends have continued to play it on and off over the years, and I'm
constantly impressed by the continued improvements; I continued to read
Legendary Times long after I had stopped playing there.  I always
liked seeing what the new combat system was on a given week...:)

> As far as it being a good mud... well, it's I suspect, up to par with 
> run-of-the-mill muds in most ways. In other ways it's a heck of a lot 

I'd say it kicks the crap out of run-of-the-mill muds, but that's
not necessarily saying a lot.

> more ambitious. Bt then, doing ambitious stuff is why I came here 
> where the funding is. ;) In other traditional areas of "mud 
> measurement" it's gonna fall way way short. A discussion of what 
> exactly the metrics are for something like this would be quite 
> interesting. How do we evaluate and judge muds?

*shrug* I basically rate on a lot of different factors - consistency,
feel/mood, fun factor, immersiveness, dynamicness (hmm, don't think
that's a word), social environment, originality, and so on.  These may or
may not overlap.  For instance, I consider AnotherMUD (r.i.p.) one of the
funest muds I've ever played, because the mechanics were good, the
players were folks I got along well with, and the imms were the
best I've ever seen.  On the other hand, the whole mud had terrible
grammar and spelling, was fairly buggy, had some of the WORST areas
I've ever seen as well as completely unrealistic and inconsistant combat,
etc etc etc.
The very best mud scores high in all of these categories - Arctic, Legend,
Lost Souls, MUME, Ancient Anguish, and so forth.  But still I think that
all of these fall short compared to what really *could* be done.  (Then
again, when isn't that the case...)

> UO is certainly focused on being a world first, and a game second. The 

Excellent!  That's always been my view...

> social aspects also fall secondary to this. Hence the lack of 

I think of social aspects as being 'on top of' the game (==world) proper.
Obviously things like socialization and fun factor are very important
and should always be in the forefront of one's mind while designing the
world, but a good world will simple facilitate those things instead of
starting with elements from those issues and working 'downwards' to the
world itself.

[more stuff I agree with snipped]
> > > The goal of 'building a
> > > world/environment' is something that appears to have evolved 
> amongst the
> > > readership here (not that its a bad thing by any means! Its a 
> huge
> > > conceptual step forwards, IMHO).
> 
> It's also a really old conceptual leap forward. :) I'm glad to see 
> that this list is embracing it, but I remember arguing with Orion 
> Henry and Mike Sellers (who did Meridian 59 and is now freelance I 
> think) and others about it on the newsgroups a LONG time ago. Like, 

Heh, yeah...that was back when I was posting out of Orion's account.
We also exchanged email for a while, I think about the quest-system
on Legend, but I can't remember exactly what we were talking about.
At the time you were all excited about getting hired by Origin :)

> over two years. "What is the MUD State of the Art?" I think is the 
> question I posed back then... it is STILL a valid question to ask, 
> because I suspect that if the mud community gathers as it has on this 
> list, and actually manages to make all the disparate great ideas come 
> together, we'll see some mud evolution.

Yes, certainly...which is why I post here.  I'm lucky enough to have
a creative partner that I work well with, as well as a large number of RL
friends that mud.  It's easy for us to get together and start chatting
and come up with wild ideas that are far beyond the capabilties of any
existing codebase...but I recognize that many (most?) folks don't have
this opportunity, and thus never even get the chance to get thinking
about these sorts of things.  This is the main reason why I post here,
to the r.g.m.* groups (although I haven't been keeping up there for
quite a while), and exchange email with folks who I think are going in
a similar direction to the one we were two years ago.

> That vision is exactly what I wanted to bring to UO. And lemme tell 
> ya, on a personal note, it's great for me to log into this game and 
> try to go make a living as a tailor who wants to be a bard, have the 
> character respected and in demand for the character's skills 
> (everybody wants to look special, so everyone wants custom dyed 
> clothes), be frustrated because there's a shortage of dyes in town, 
> ponder getting backing to bring a trade caravan into Trinsic to see if 
> I can make a killing on dye pots, and go kill a bear in the woods that 
> I KNOW won't be there tomorrow. There's something oddly liberating 

Man, that's great.  And that's part of the reason I like the
mud that we are currently working on - I know that I'll be able to play
it and actually have fun, since the thing is so open-ended.  Playing
a ROM that you've created is rarely much fun, since you've already 'seen'
everything before.  There's nothing quite as awesome as having your
own game present you with situations and experiences you never imagined
happening.  The creation growing beyond its creator?  Scary...in a good
way!

> about how different it feels to take for granted sim-based design 
> rather than static environments. How many of you are working on this 
> sort of thing in a text environment, where it could be pushed so much 
> further than in graphics? (The possibilities boggle the mind there)... 
> I'm curious, because I'd love to see what designs you come up with.

I should say you'll love our mud...if we can ever get the damn thing
finished *growl*

[snip good stuff]
> graphics are coming *and will dominate*, it's not worth fighting 
> over), and psychology and sociology... Game designers today generally 
> do not know even the short history of computer game design; we must as 
> a community educate ourselves and each other if we want the community 
> and its art and craft to grow.

The fact that there *is* a community that can generate the kind of dialog
that appears on this list is, IMO, a good sign.  You have to admit - it's
been a bunch of bored college kids typing D&D saving throw tables into
their computers and running online campagins with people in other countries
for far too long.  Not that there's something wrong with that, but
I doubt that sort of thing would ever lead to the incredibly ambitious
things we are now discussing on this list.




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