[MUD-Dev] Graphic MUDS/Ultima Online

Matt Chatterley root at mpc.dyn.ml.org
Wed Jul 30 07:44:19 New Zealand Standard Time 1997


On Tue, 29 Jul 1997, Koster, Raph wrote:

> On Monday, July 28, 1997 9:25 PM, Adam 
> Wiggins[SMTP:nightfall at user2.inficad.com] wrote:
> 
> Well, gosh, turn around and there you are discussing my game. :) Well, 
> mine and a bunch of other folks' anyway. Hopefully nothing I say in 
> this post will fall under our esteemed list-owner's rules about 
> commercial mud boosterism; I'm just trying to respond within the 
> context of the discussion, and self-critically as well.

Ooh. Now we get a good look from the *other* side of the graphical mud
thing. :)
 
> > [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.

I can certainly imagine all of this being somewhat predominant in the
'limitations' stake (although perhaps less so if you had a graphical
engine more than a tile set system.. ie something which could adjust
drawings on the fly. A lot more demanding though, one would imagine.)

I think the market for graphical games lies not so much within
enthusiastic textmudders, but within those who have not discovered muds,
or who found text an instant turn off (ie: me before I got some good
reading glasses!).

> > 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 
> 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.

Right. I think what Adam aimed at is that nowadays characters are more or
less static, although the world may reset - you keep your level, or
whatnot. There are probably still games where this does not apply,
somewhere! But on the whole it does, and it is this way with UOL too, is
it not? :) People like split playing sessions now, rather than
start-again-every-time games, it seems. There are very valid different
levels of persistancy, each involving different skews to game balance.
 
> 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 
> architecture muds (ROM, Merc, Envy, blah blah blah) which save 
> characters and equipment and the like, but do not save 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?

Not just early LPs - many LPs nowadays do not (even fairly new ones). Not
only did finding a tidy solution in LPC take some consideration, (thus,
someone with a less experienced team than me - I'm probably only the third
most experienced LPC coder in there, at least one has been at it for as
long as I've been mudding - would probably have not handled it at all
because its hard), but many mudlibs which were popular (perhaps are?) do
not support it, thus people didnt try to add it (Nightmare being a
particular example).

I think in terms of persistance we can define it as 'saving something that
affects gameplay from login to login'. Or perhaps not.
 
> Which is not, btw, to say that I disagree with the point made; simply 
> want to toss a few more variables in the equation. :)

Well, we have to define terms we use to make our definition if they are
unclear, otherwise the original definition is invalid. ;)
 
> > (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 
> systems for NPC repopulation. Even in the case of world-state-saving 
> models, such as MUSHes, the database is often static because of other 
> concerns (workload, for one!). TinyTIM is a marvel of interactivity, 
> but it does not change much once something is added. I don't know any 
> publicly released mud architectures that are not essentially static in 
> this manner.

Hmm. I'd suggest the social environment to be very relevant here - it
really does effect gameplay. While many MUSH servers may seem that way -
those which allow or encourage player creation of objects and/or rooms are
certainly not, several new things which influence gameplay could pop up at
apparently 'random'.

> 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, 
> the details of interactivity with objects, the evolution of "toys." 

I'm inclined to agree with this.

> 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.

Yes. One way I reach towards some sort of development is with a system of
'tribes' of monsters which behave like real population groups might. Not
enough time to go into depth now, though.
 
> >  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. 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.

No comment on dikus ;)
 
> > their
> > own character's skills, attributes, scars, and whatever else are all 
> saved.
> 
> Many pkill arena muds do not do this. :) They have periodic wipes to 
> set people at a level playing field for beginning the game again. Are 
> they muds? Good question.

I think these pkilling muds are probably less muddy than other very muddy
muds, but still slightly muddy and mud enough to count - going back to the
interactivity with environment concepts.

> > Characters age independant of play-time, but instead in terms of 
> game-time.
> > The difference boils down to, I think, that a 'game' is a 
> player-oriented
> > world, whereas a mud is just a world.  When any given player or set 
> of players
> > leaves, the world continues on its merry way.  When all players 
> leave a
> > 'normal' game, the game ceases.  This is simulated in D&D by having
> > the DM say, "Well, while you were gone..."  In a mud it's for real.
> 
> 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.

True - but really for 'revolutionary'.. not a very good word, itll do,
muds now (modern?) the concept of 'virtual world' rather than 'game' is a
far more desirable target.

> > > > 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.

At the risk of sounding like a Star Wreck extra: Combat is irrelevant.
You can be a mud with no combat system.
 
> [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...]

<g>

> 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. :)

Caffeine relies upon the state of limbs, damages all objects, handles
fatigue (among other things), relies on speed (using an experimental
coordinated system for maneuverable tactics), weight, range, and god knows
what else. The player gets relatively little control over many factors
though, which makes you wonder how worthwhile it is to have them. Direct
control, I should say.
 
> Hmm, don't mean to get up on a hobbyhorse of defending the system. I 
> 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. :(

True.
 
> > > > a detailed world full of lots of little "toys" to learn to play
> > > > with and manipulate and rpetty good charcter-customization 
> features.
> > I hardly think a combat system is necessary.  Perhaps a better 
> phrase
> > would be a world full of internaly consistant systems, the most
> > common of which are combat, spells, and guilds.  The 'toys' bit 
> strikes
> > upon a deeper point - level of interactivity.
> 
> You've missed two very important ones that are intrinsic to UO as a 
> world, and to my mind are intrinsic to future mud development into 
> virtual realities (which is, btw, where I think this genre is headed 
> in the future).

Hence the virtual world concept mentioned above - building a 'game' is no
longer a valid project, IMHO. Been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt
and lost the badge.
 
> UO has an economic system that goes from raw materials to finished 
> goods, and players can make any step of it.
> 
> UO also has an ecological system that handles creature repopulation, 
> behaviors, etc.
> 
> 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 
> that adding a simulation layer to muds is where the genre needs to 
> go.
> 
> 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.

It may be expensive - but it really fleshes out the world (no further
comments, want to send this before I go to work).
 
> >  Matt covered this (below)
> > anyhow, so I've not much more to add.  The last bit - character 
> customization
> > - is also important, although I'm not sure what a really solid 
> guideline
> > would be.  At the very least you need something where you can 
> choose
> > a lot of options to personalize your character, then have that 
> character
> > use those abilities to grow, change, and learn new abilities, all 
> of
> > which are 'remembered' by the game.  This can include anything
> > from your skill with long blades to scars to your character's 
> birthday.
> 
> 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.

Sounds a little like Nathan's system on the surface. We've hung onto some
old gaming concepts so far, although they seem to be being dissolved as we
develop.
 
> > > Well.. thats not what makes it a mud, IMHO. Its the level of 
> interactivity
> > > between players (and NPCs), as well as manipulation of static 
> objects -
> > > quake would be a mud, were it not that the scenery is only 'cover' 
> - you
> > > can only manipulate very, very limited parts of it, in absolutely 
> set
> > > ways. This is quite an interesting point to explore in a more 
> civilised
> > > environment than usenet.
> 
> 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 modify the environment semi-permanently on many games, and
temporarily on others. In Quake you can grab ammo, as far as I know, in a
mud you could pick up an object, do something with it, then put it
somewhere else, or give it to someone else.
 
> > 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.
> 
> 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 
> you can turn into D's with a potion. :( Now, if you truly made 
> Hack/Rogue/Moria as a mud, its feature set and capabilities would 
> certainly rock the world of hack n slash muds a lot. :) It's got a lot 
> more widgets than most ROMs.

Sadly the problems plaguing roguelike-realtime really kill the spirit of
the games.
 
> >  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.

<g>
 
> > > > How GOOD a MUD it is i wont address, but the goal abnd work was 
> clearly
> > > > fuocused on building a world ratehr then a game, whcih is why I 
> consider it
> > > > a MUD but not NWN or DSO.
> 
> Not sure what this last sentence means. Does it mean that NWN and DSO 
> are focused on being games?

I think thats what he implies.

> 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 
> 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?

I would expect UO to surpass many, many muds, and fall short of the best,
depending on *what you are looking for*. I currently play no muds, because
I haven't found one to hold my attention for more than a fortnight.
 
> UO is certainly focused on being a world first, and a game second. The 
> social aspects also fall secondary to this. Hence the lack of 
> easy-to-implement, obvious social enhancers such as long-distance 
> communication, embedded mail system, and global chat spaces. All of 
> these things are major social enhancers, but (usually) outside the 
> fiction and reductive of a game OR world experience.
> 
> One reason btw why we went with this approach was that a focus on 
> world tends to capture the "explorer" types as Bartle defines them, or 
> in Bettelheim's terms, encourages open-ended play. Or to put it in 
> other words, having a varied, evolving setting (even though it only 
> evolves in that "middle layer" of NPCs/creatures/economy) encourages 
> roleplay, encourages exploration, encourages alternate styles of 
> achievement, and rewards it with changed circumstances rather than 
> with a milestone.

The 'explorer' types are the main targets on Caffeine (more explanation on
request).

[Snip] I want to send this before I go - and just ran out of time.

Regards,
	-Matt Chatterley
	http://user.itl.net/~neddy/index.html
"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's
	mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them." -George Orwell




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