[MUD-Dev] Nation of shopkeepers

Adam Wiggins nightfall at user2.inficad.com
Tue Aug 5 01:27:32 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

> > Do you always have to "save up" to get power in the game? 
> This I believe is an excellent point.  But what I was aiming at was that
> it should be impossible for a player to acquire so much money  that they
> never need to worry about it again. And not everybody needs to get at it

Indeed.  Many like to point out, 'But millionaires never worry about money!'
Of course, that's completely untrue; they worry about money more than
anymore else.  In my experience, the more money you have, the more
you worry about it.  This carries over to muds already, as it is - if
you're wielding a newbie sword and wearing a leather jacket, you don't
worry much.  When you're wielding Stormbringer and wearing the Ancient
Armor of Wizardry, you must constantly worry about them.

On side note to this: I definitily like the idea that you could *not*
worry about money by circumventing economy-related stuff all the time.
Ie, you're a ranger who much prefers 'living off the land' to buying
stale city-food and paying exhorbent prices to stay at inns.  Or you're
a wandering wizard who has much higher goals than the simple gathering
of a little wealth.

> at the same route. Money itself isn't the subject of the game. Just like
> experience points aren't the subject of the traditional mud. If it is it
> seems to me that there's something wrong with the game design.

Naturally.  Game designers, particularly of more traditional games, tend
forget that most of these superficial elements are only there to
contribute to the final purpose(s) of the game, and they are *not* the
goal of the game themselves.

> > 2) Map the axes in 2 directions.  Why is always having "more" money the
> > goal?  One could concoct scenarios where having "more" money is good for
> > some things, but "less" money is good for others.  Then the player becomes
> > caught in the tradeoff of whether to have more or less money at any given
> > time.  The system becomes a dynamic balance between the forces of "more" or
> > "less" money, rather than ever-expanding gaseous vacuum towards more money.
> True. Acquiring more money isn't going to make an interesting game. Just
> as acquiring more experience points or more equipment  is not fun in the
> long run on on traditional muds.  At some point you have reached a prac-
> tical limit and then getting more is just the same old.
> A better system would require you to risk you money  in order to be able
> to keep it. I.e. a farmer must invest most of her money in seeds and can
> only hope that, come harvest,  there is enough to pay all debts and then
> have some left to safe. Shops run much in the same way, they must invest
> in getting stocks and then sell them at enough of a profit.

Right.  Model wealth well enough and players can't just get a whole bunch
of cash somehow then stash it away and never worry again.  If they have
to worry about where and how to store it (security, etc), inflation (although
this is something that exists on muds already anyhow), and so forth,
it's difficult to just stash it away somewhere and forget about it except
when you need it.

> The big problem I see here is that this alone isn't going to spark inte-
> rest in players.  The system must either be as varied as the combat  (or
> better still: more varied),  or it must be a minor sideline to the game.

Sure, and I've argued this particular point for ages in the r.g.m.*
groups.  In order for something to be interesting, there needs to be a
lot to it.

> > 3) Make distinct points or regions of the axis qualitatively significant. 
> > In this view it isn't important to have "more" or "less" money, but rather
> > to have "the right amount of money" within some tolerance value.  This
> > destroys the notion of accumulation.  If you've got the right amount of
> > money, then there's no incentive to accumulate.  Unless you want to "hop"
> > to a different "island" of money, so as to experience a different "quality"
> > in the universe.  Which isn't really about accumulation, since you're only
> > going to hop a known, finite distance to another island.  Although if you
> > wanted to make it more challenging, you wouldn't tell anyone where the
> > islands are.  Then the game becomes a matter of iterative research, with
> > people wondering "hmm, I'm hanging out pretty good at 26, but I wonder what
> > happens if I move to 63?"  One could metaphorize this to "tuning the
> > channel on a radio."
> I think I understand what you're trying to get at,  but I fail to see how
> something like this could ever be incorporated in a game. At least not in
> a way that would make sense to the player. I feel that the entire concept
> of having too much of something would not sit well with them.

Another favorite point of mine - making attributes neither 'good' nor
'bad', but just attributes which affect you in many ways.  Money is
probably a bad example, actually, because it's one of the few things
where you can almost always say 'more is better'.

A few attributes which fit into this category:
- Reputation.  Having a reputation for being a murdering pirate is great
when you're trying to intimidate people, but not so great when you're
trying to run for mayor.  In some cases, being well-known is good (again,
if you're running for a political office), in other cases, bad - like if
you're a thief.  It's hard to be sneaky when everyone knows you.
- Size.  Being big makes you strong, able to see further, able to step
over higher bariers, and have more leverage in close combat (wrestling).
You have longer legs so you can walk further in a given amount of steps.
It's also good for intimidation.  Being small lets you fit into
tight places, move faster, hide or move about stealthily more easily,
and so forth.  Plus, being light has its advantages - I've had characters
bleed to death on the battlefield before because my buddies couldn't
get up enough strength to drag my 800 lb body more than three feet.
And don't forget simple things like trying to hang out someplace where
the inhabitents are a vastly different size from you - if you're too small
you can't drag open their doors, and if you're too big you can't fit through
the doorframes.  And never mind trying to get some clothes or a suit
of chainmail from the local tailor/smithy unless you're willing to pay
a huge fee for custom made stuff..
- Friends.  Being a well-known friend of the Drow is great when you're 
hanging out in the Underdark.  It's not so great when you inadvertantly
wander into a camp of High Elves.

> Even in a traditional mud something like this must be used to prevent a
> rampant inflation as players keep pouring equipment into the shops.  It

We thought about this a bit when we first started on our (at the time,
rather uninspired) mud, and decided to resolve it later.  This problem
went away as we changed basic design premises throughout the game.
Mainly: you can't carry very many breastplates with out being bogged
down.  Actually, you'd not want to carry any more than the one you're
wearing while in any sort of combat situation, unless you're Jackie
Chan and can somehow use it as a weapon.  All shops work on a sliding
scale of supply and demand - if everyone wants mithril weapons, that
mithril sword you have with fetch a high price.  If the shop already has
five mithril swords and none of them have sold recently, they probably
won't even want the one you have.  Lastly, since killing someone just
to take their possessions is hardly worthwhile in terms of risk, and
since killing is not at all required to do much of anything in the game
and in fact doesn't get you much of anywhere, people aren't going to be
'looting corpses' left and right.

> can make an interesting sub-game,  though I do not feel it is something
> that would be suited for a game  that has more than a faint resemblance
> to a mud. Player expectations would work against the necessary critical
> mass needed to get such a sub-game working.

Well, it's as you said - if there's a set of elements in the game which
are both fun and profitable (which is a very subjective term) to pursue,
players will do it.  If it's set up right, though, it should be that if
*everyone* is pursuing the exact same thing, a market flood occurs, making
that particular endevor no longer profitable.  In the meantime, a
clever player notices that everyone has been ignoring *this* particular
industry, and goes after it...and ends up making a killing.  A nice real
life example of this is commerical games on the PC - someone writes a
good 1st person shooter, makes a ton of money, everyone else jumps on
the bandwagon, most of whom loose out because of the market flood.  Two
years later someone writes a good real-time strategy game, so everyone...
well, you get the picture.
This should work with any mud systems that are set up correctly.  Three
rangers can live of the land just fine.  Twenty in the same area may
exhaust the hunting supply.  Three inns in one town can do well; twenty
will cause all but three to go out of business.  This works the other
way, too - there's no inns in the town, so someone sets on up at great
personal expense but ends up making a killing.  Economies based
on supply and demand should be more or less self-balancing, but other
things require special care.  One of my favorites in our mud is the
deity stuff - each deity only has so much 'power' and time to devote
to their followers.  Thus if every cleric on the mud follows Ra, he's
gonna be pretty tired out most of the time and not too desirous of taking
on new followers (it's difficult to rise in his esteem with so many
devotees already in his grace).  On the other hand poor Set is sitting
over there with no worshippers...so you shop up and pay hommage, and in
no time at all you're his favorite, and since he's devoting all his power
and attention to you alone, you can walk around with the complete power
of a god behind you.  Of course, players aren't stupid, so eventually it
will end up that most gods have about the same number of followers..

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