DemonScape

clawrenc at cup.hp.com clawrenc at cup.hp.com
Wed Aug 13 13:46:27 New Zealand Standard Time 1997


Referenced recently on r.g.m.*.  One of the few pre-implementation
design documents I've seen for a MUD, even if long on generalities and
intendeds:

http://www.iastate.edu/~pchild/dscape/designdoc.html

    Design Document for Demonscape MUD

          written by Brian Green.

  Ideas by Brian Green, Al Welle, Eric Kastengren
              and a wide host of others.

  Copyright (C) 1997 by Brian Green, Al Welle and
        Eric Kastengren. All Rights Reserved.

...contents table deletia...

             Purpose of this Document

This document is a record of the development of the Demonscape MUD.
This document is intended to have a dual purpose. First, we desire to
keep a record of how we arrived at certain design decisions and to
have an accurate perspective when changing or modifying some aspect of
the MUD. Second, we hope this will serve as a guide to others to help
with the process of designing MUDs and increase the thought put into
the design of MUDs. Currently, this design document contains on the
basic conceptual ideas from the Demonscape development team, but will
expand dynamically (via updates to this document) as we develop more
of the game. Although this document is currently sparse, it will
expand to fully describe the dynamic environment of Demonscape MUD.

                     Background

Here is my attempt to give some information about the Demonscape Team
and MUDs in general. Excessive detailed discussion has been avoided as
not to bore those already familiar with the subjects.

History:

Demonscape is the ambitious MUD design project undertaken by Brian
Green, Al Welle, and Eric Kastengren. We are the primary creators and
initiators of the MUD. Each of us has contributed various aspects
ideas to the MUD and have worked hard at creating what we hope will be
an interesting and fun MUD. Since we are all very busy, this project
progresses very slowly but very surely. As of the current writing of
this document on March 6, 1997, we have been designing different
aspects of Demonscape for about one to one and a half years. As a
note, all "we" references in this document refer to these three people
in particular and quite a few others that have contributed suggestions
as we have developed Demonscape.

Environment:

Demonscape is MUD, a multi-user text-based game on the Internet. For
the benefit of the uninitiated, there will be a bit of explanation
about a few aspects of MUDs that are important when considering the
design of Demonscape.

There are several different types of multi-user domains available on
the Internet. Most are referred to by the term "MUD". The overall
definition of a MUD is: a text-based form of virtual reality where one
can meet and interact with other people. Demonscape is specifically a
game MUD, a type commonly called an "LP-MUD".

Most LP-MUDs are similar to traditional tabletop role-playing games
(RPGs for short) where people use a system of mechanics to play a
character that interacts with a game environment. Typically MUDs are
based loosely on rules from TSR's Dungeons & Dragons, however the
specific mechanics can vary from MUD to MUD.

As a note, when the word "MUD" is used in this document, it refers to
traditional LP-MUDs and other related games (such as Diku, Circle,
etc.) and do not include other games and virtual environments such as
MOOs, MUSEs, MUSHes, etc. which are often referred to as "MUDs" in a
general sense. These other games have their own interesting dynamics
which we have not studied as closely. We are more interested in
designing a new LP-MUD than the ultimate "generic MUD". The
generalizations about "MUDs" contained in this document refer
specifically to LP-MUDs and other on-line games of the type explained
above. And as always, remember what generalizations really are. There
are obviously counterexamples to many of the generalizations in this
document; however, they are often not as wide-spread as they should be
or, in our honest opinion, not implemented to the degree they should
be.

Most MUDs are fantasy-based where players are in a world similar to
the historical Middle Ages, except that wizardry and divine
intervention are powerful forces in the world. Players can pick
characters that take up weapons and skills to bravely defend
themselves from attacks from evil monsters. The goal of some LP-MUDs
is to advance "levels" (a general measurement of advancement) until
the players reach maximum level and can become part of the
organization that adds to the world the players interact with.

One of the most important aspects of MUDs in the opinions of the
designers is the dynamic environment that it allows. MUDs can always
change and add more to the existing world. That is why they are more
interesting than traditional, static computer games. This dynamic
environment allows multiple users to come on and interact with others
in a game that is like a paper role-playing game in respect to
interaction, but also like a computer game for it's ordered rules and
use of computation to run the game mechanics.

One of the most important things to remember about MUDs is that people
(usually) are not playing all the time. Everyone must sleep and do
other important activities in real life. Therefore, there must be
"down time" for the character when the player logs out of the game. It
is important to remember that international players and other players
with different schedules play at different times of the day. Although
the dynamic environment changes with or without them, most players
also do not want their characters affected unless they have at least
some slight control over it. Therefore, it is important that the
character's "down time" isn't counter-productive to the goals of the
player, such as having the character be vulnerable to attacks (and
able to be killed) when the player is not logged in.

LP-MUDs have changed in the last few years. More MUDs are becoming
more complex and breaking away from the traditional standards thus
becoming diverse. New ideas are becoming more commonplace and people
are taking more interest in the design of the games. Although many
current MUDs have dealt with the issues of computer decision of
mechanics, few have successfully tackled issues of human interaction,
specifically the area of "role-playing" or the taking up of a specific
role of a citizen in the world and playing it out which is commonly
present in traditional RPGs. Many people have tackled this issue and
have tried to implement a stronger sense of role-playing into the
game.

Another problem with many current MUDs is the inability to break the
assumptions and paradigms that are common in the community. Many MUD
administrators (the ones that start and often design the MUD) do not
use any new ideas to enhance their world; instead, they take old ideas
and give them "new coats of paint" to make them look more interesting
on the surface. This leads to many MUDs sharing similar
characteristics, none being particularly interesting or original.
Often administrators do little if anything to change the starting
appearance of a MUD, thus creating what is known as a "stock MUD".
These MUDs often appeal to people for reasons of familiarity. Of
course, different stock MUDs are subtly different due to the different
players to interact with; however, for a player who likes a rich world
to interact with, these MUDs are sadly lacking. This is not to say
that some MUDs do not have interesting ideas that break common
perceptions but that few dare develop new ideas outside the paradigm
in order to stay "popular".

One of the driving forces behind Demonscape is to keep the positive
aspects of MUDs (the dynamic environment, the use of a computer to run
the mechanics, the player interaction) while introducing new ideas to
break old, outdated perceptions and ways of doing things. Our goal was
to create an original game using our game world to be enjoyed by other
players. We hope that our MUD will give players the opportunity to
play in a unique and exciting environment.

          Demonscape Mission Statement

Demonscape was started with the purpose of expressing our vision of a
dynamic fantasy world in a concrete game in which other players may
participate. We want to create a MUD for the satisfaction of creating
a fun game and to introduce new and unique ideas to the MUD community.

                 Basic Game Design

We set about designing various aspects of the game, deciding the most
important and far-reaching aspects first, then working on more
specific areas as necessary. Below are the overriding design decisions
that we made relating to specific goals we had for the MUD. They are
generally prioritized with the first ones being more important than
the following goals, helping us to make a decision when an element
conflicts with two or more of the following goals.

Fun:

Our first and foremost goal was to make a fun game. If the game is not
fun then people will take no interest in it and we will not be happy
with it. Everything we have done is to ensure that the people
interested in our MUD will have fun playing the game and interacting
with the environment. This is our primary goal.

But some ask, what is fun? Different people have different definitions
of fun. To put it in general terms, a game is fun if it provides
entertainment and challenge to the player. A good environment and good
role-playing will entertain the player the same way a good book or
movie entertains a viewer. The game mechanics will challenge the
player allowing him or her to develop a character within the game and
have a feeling of accomplishment. Of course, these two elements must
work together to keep the player interested in the game. MUDs thrive
on players who regularly play the game and know the system well. This
will provide the "fun" that we desire.

Role-Playing:

We also decided that the game should encourage the role-playing of a
character. Therefore, all choices we make will hopefully increase the
interaction between players and increase the importance of playing a
role within the game instead of playing a character with various
combat abilities. Although this seems to be a common goal to many MUD
designers and administrators, we have tried hard to make this an
important aspect of our game.

Theme:

An important priority before even picking a name for the MUD was to
choose a suitable theme to agree with our intentions of promoting fun
and role-playing. Our interests have always been in the realm of
Swords and Sorcery, also known as High Fantasy. We are all fans of
Tolkien, have played on several fantasy-based MUDs and like a good
game of AD&D (or another fantasy-based RPG) every once in a while. So,
we decided we had the most knowledge and expertise in this area and
decided to use it as a basic theme.

Next, we chose some other aspects to include, such as gothic horror.
The heroic stories, the pure good vs. the terrible evil in High
Fantasy with the dark, brooding personal horror of a gothic setting
makes a great story line and setting. If the basically "good" players
worked against a basically "evil" environment, this would lead to some
good role-playing and give the MUD the necessary feel. Choosing a
theme and including these other aspects helped to define much of the
specific descriptions we wanted to include in the MUD.

Originality:

We decided we wanted to be original, but not at the sake of being
completely unfamiliar to players. We decided a good way to include
both originality and familiarity would be to present familiar concepts
in new ways and with new names. For example, our races follow along
the lines of those found in traditional fantasy yet are a bit
different and have original names. We approached designing the
"planet" the game is set on in the same manner, using natural elements
such as mountain ranges and rivers, but giving them unique names. More
detailed examples can be found in the World Description found below.

Dynamic Environment:

As is expected, we wanted to take advantage of all the resources we
had. MUDs are dynamic by nature and much more interesting than static
computer games because of the human-interaction and social
possibilities on the MUD. We wanted to have the game change through
time, and allow players to make meaningful changes to the world as
they interact with it. Therefore, we made plans for players to design
and construct cities (at great cost) to expand into known territories.
We also wanted a dynamic system of leadership to allow players to run
the governments and other major organizations within the world.
Although all actions are not possible in a MUD world, we wanted to
allow for various possibilities and not hinder player creativity.

                 Basic World Design

Next we set about designing the world the characters will exist in,
Kaerth. It is very important that we provide a logical, consistent
world for the players to interact with in order to provide good
role-playing opportunities. One should note that this is a dynamic
process. Although we may not make major changes, specific changes will
always occur within the world. Also, in order to maintain a sense of
originality we are allowing different people to design different
aspects. In many cases, a single person designing multiple creative
aspects of a game tends to design things that become repetitive and
uninteresting.

The focus of world design is "How will the player understand and use
this in the game?" A real and detailed world is important if we are to
provide a suitable background for players to interact in. Every aspect
of the world design must keep players in mind since it will affect
them in every way possible.

Origin:

We first wrote a basic story of creation for the world. This is
important, because it helps create the proper mood and enforce our
chosen theme in the world.

The basic story is as follows: The original inhabitant in the universe
was Time. Time had an image of the World, and set about creating it.
Using available resources, he allowed other Powers to come and help to
create a perfect world. However, one of the Powers was corrupted by
Darkness. It sought to create the world in another form, one more
suitable to this Dark Power. Time saw this and bound the Dark Power
into the creation, thus introducing flaws into the perfect world. Time
then went about ensuring that the Mortals of the world would be able
to fight against the Dark Power (now called Demons) that inhabited the
world. Thus, the Good Races were empowered with the ability to fight
the Demons.

This story reinforces our basic Theme decisions (Good vs. Evil,
Mortals vs. Demons). It also gives a better sense for the background
we want to provide for the players. Using this story, we can then
logically decide what aspects of the world we should add.

Races:

Next, we focused upon the good races that will be played by the
players. These are the forces of good that exist on the world of
Demonscape. They will fight against the Demons who will try to corrupt
or destroy them.

In designing these races, we took familiar concepts from traditional
fantasy races and made them more unique. We also used original names
in order to avoid player stereotyping based upon names. For example,
players assume from experience from other games that a "Dwarf" is a
good fighting race that makes excellent Warriors and Priests, but poor
Thieves and Mages. However, we want to eliminate this stereotyping and
allow any race to be whatever they want to in terms of profession. It
is true that some races will have a natural affinity for certain
skills, but this can help a player's character to succeed at skills
they may learn that fall outside their primary profession.

Racial Descriptions

Kaerthan are often called "Humans" in other worlds. Kaerthan are one
of the most numerous of the good races and have been the organizers in
the fight against the encroaching Evil. They are probably the most
civilized, having a great ability to organize efficiently. Kaerthan
can excel at any ability they choose to learn, often versatile enough
to learn more skills than expected. Although they are all about
moderate size, the Kaerthan seem to have no limit on their variation
of appearance.

Lelra are called "Elves" on other worlds. They are the spirits of the
trees that have taken physical form in order to fight the Evil that is
corrupting the forests. They are magical beings, being the stuff of
starlight and forests. Adept at the magical arts, the Lelra make some
of the greatest magic-users the good races have ever known. They are
extremely aware of what is happening to the world and the corruption
of the forests. A typical Lelra is a moderate sized biped with
greenish plant-like hair and rough bark-like skin.

Korodan are known as "Dwarves" to inhabitants of other worlds. They
are rather small compared to the other good races, but no less able to
fight against the Demons. In fact, they are some of the mightiest
warriors that the good races have ever seen, rivaling even the
Mauletta. They are believed by other races to be the spirits of the
mountains and rocks in living form. Although the Korodan have no
history of this transformation from rock to living being, the belief
is reinforced by their gray-tinted skin with crystalline highlights
and amazing resistance to damage that increases with age.

Mauletta are large feline bipeds. Preferring to use their natural
weaponry, claws and fangs, they are some of the fiercest hunters and
most accurate warriors for the good races. They seem to be the most
tribal of all the good races, relying on a large community for the
growth of the young instead of building a large, organized, permanent
settlement like the other races. Mauletta tower over most of the other
good races with their huge, muscular frame. They are not to be trifled
with easily.

Schalar are often mistaken for the "Centaurs" of other worlds at first
glance. Although they share the features of both equines and
humanoids, they are quite different than the other horse-men. Their
four powerful, muscular legs support their large body and allow much
more stability and maneuverability at the expense of speed. A
Schalar's agility is nothing short of amazing, making them very
graceful creatures to watch in action. They will never take a rider on
their back, however, since it is a taboo in their culture that shows
the Schalar has lost his or her freedom. Additionally, carrying too
much weight (such as a rider) on their back can damage their backbone
which is very near to the skin.

Racial Abilities

The races are rated in general terms in their efficiency in five major
areas. These areas are fighting ability, physical ability, mental
ability, magical ability and faith ability. Fighting ability describes
the general ability of the race to use weapons and armor, although a
lack of this ability does not indicate a complete inability. Physical
ability describes the race's general ability to perform physical
tasks, including stealth, crafts, etc. Mental ability shows the
relative intelligence of the race as a whole, affecting social and
knowledge skills. Magical and faith ability show the race's affinity
with each of these powers. These areas are rated on a scale of ++, +,
0, -. A ++ indicates a generally exceptional ability of the race
excels at and a - indicates a skill the race will have to put more
dedication into in order to achieve the highest levels.

          Fighting Physical Mental Magical Faith
  Kaerthan   0        0       +        0     +
  Korodan   ++        -       0        -     +
  Lelra      -        0       +       ++     0
  Mauletta  ++        +       -        0     -
  Schalar    0        +       0        +     0


So, according to this chart, a Korodan would have little problems
learning various fighting skills, but would have to dedicate much time
and effort into learning physical or magical abilities. Faith
abilities would come naturally while purely mental abilities would be
average for the Korodan.

Professions:

Another important aspect that determines what a player is like are the
professions. Often referred to as "classes" on other MUDs, they
determine what skills a player may learn and what path they will
follow. Each profession has its own hierarchy of leaders that help
guide and organize the characters.

Why limit characters in their choices of character with an artificial
concept of a "profession"? We feel this is the best way to make
characters unique and to easily balance the skills. If all skills were
available to all characters, players would generally learn the "best"
skills available. This would decrease the amount of variety in
characters and lead to every character being exactly the same. In
addition, professions will give each character a focus for character
development as well as allow him or her to participate in a
specialized organization in order to meet others interested in similar
character development and to share wisdom with younger and older
members of the character's profession.

We decided to use the traditional "basic" four classes, but to give
them a new twist. The primary profession for a player will determine
what skills he or she may learn as offered by their organization.
Players may also learn skills from other professions to customize
their character. More on this can be found in the Gameplay discussion
below under the heading Customization.

One way we broke with the traditional was to rename and redefine the
"Thieves". On other MUDs, the Thieves are usually played by people who
want to choose an "evil" role in the game. They often take things from
other players in order to advance their own standing and material
possessions. Since all characters are to represent the "good" side of
the war, we want to eliminate this aspect.

Therefore, the Thieves were renamed "Hunters", referring to the name
given to Bounty Hunters, Treasure Hunters, Woodland Hunters, etc.
Although they still have a focus on stealth and critical attacks, they
use these for the advancement of the good races. Although stealing
from players will be available (we will code the option), there will
be various coded and role-playing restrictions on this activity.

Descriptions of Professions

Warriors are the followers of the path of war. They are the type that
learn how to use heavy weapons and armor in order to better fight the
evil using steel and strength. Some Warriors do focus on the unarmed
martial arts, learning how to strike an opponent without the extra
encumbrance of weapons and armor. Skills typical to a Warrior are
weapon and armor forging, combat movement and dodging, knowledge of
critical strikes, animal riding, survival skills, and the exceptional
ability to ignore damage. Warriors will have a pool of points to
assign to different combat aspects in order to excel at battle. This
will simulate different fighting stances (full offensive, defensive,
etc.) and make the Warriors the best in hand-to-hand combat.

Hunters are the stealthy forces for good. They are the bounty hunters,
the treasure hunters, the woodland hunters that stalk their prey and
bring it back for the good of everyone. They focus on hiding and
sneaking, making them invaluable scouts for the good races. They can
also take things unnoticed from others so that they may take from the
evil races to aid the good races. Skills of a typical Hunter would
include stealth, critical strikes, weapon abilities, social abilities,
knowledge of the area and history, and a heightened awareness of their
surroundings. Hunters will have extensive resources to find out new
information and to gain goods at a considerable discount.

Priests are the powers of good embodied in flesh. They draw upon the
good of the community to use defensive and protective powers. Although
they can use offensive powers in the name of good, they are far better
at protecting others. They can create various healing and utility
items to help others. Skills of a typical Priest would include skills
that enhance their ability to use beneficial powers. Priests will have
a pool of divine power to draw upon to add additional effect to their
powers. This will make them the masters of defensive abilities.

Mages are the practitioners of the arts of Magic. They are the masters
of attack spells that harm foes. They are also the users of mystic
powers to make the much sought-after magical items that help others in
battles against the evil. Mages are masters of all things magical, but
lack the strong defensive ability of the priests. Mages have skills
that will increase their ability to cast spells and to create magical
items. Mages will have a reserve of mystic energy to give their spells
additional power. They will therefore be the masters of the arcane
arts.

Organization of Professions

Players will be under the leadership of others that are more senior to
them. Apprentice Mages will have to learn from the Archmages and other
masters. These systems must be developed in order to provide a
structure for the player to participate in. However, our designs have
not reached depth of detail, and specific organizations are still
being developed. Some aspects of this topic will be determined by
gameplay decisions that are not yet made.

Topology:

The physical world must also be designed in order to give the players
a world to interact in. We wish to have a world with various natural
features for the characters to live and travel in. However, our design
has not reached this level of detail, and the specific topology of the
world is still being discussed.

               Basic Gameplay Design

After designing the world that the players will interact with, we then
decided to determine how the specific mechanics of the game will work.
This is obviously an important aspect of the game and it is critical
that we design this without major flaws so that our work in designing
a dynamic world will not be misinterpreted or totally wasted.

Abstractions:

One of the most debated topics in MUDs today is the question of
"realism". Some advocate that the best way to create a game world that
will have the necessary logic and consistency to appeal to players is
to eliminate abstractions from the game and model "real world"
occurrences in the game. Some have coded simulations of real world
occurrences into their MUDs using the known laws of physics,
economics, and other sciences.

However, we advocate that abstractions are a necessary part of the
game due to player expectations. If one perfectly models the
mechanical nature of the game using real world physics, then the
player expects that it will work according to what they know. If there
is an error, this harms the suspension of disbelief necessary to play
a role within the game. In addition, if there is an unfitting
abstraction in another area (for example, if the languages are not
very developed), the person who has high expectations due to another
highly developed area will be rather disappointed.

In our opinion, the best way to handle this is to provide consistent,
logical abstractions of the occurrences. If someone floods the market
with weapons they find by killing monsters, the shopkeeper is not
going to want to buy them all if he cannot sell them. One does not
have to read through economic texts in order to find an equation to
adjust the price when the supply of one item is too high. One can
simulate this by offering/having the shopkeeper offer a slightly lower
price for an item if he already has some of the item in stock. The
shopkeeper will probably offer more to buy the first longsword he is
offered, while he will most likely offer much less for the tenth if
the product is not selling. Likewise, he might ask for a higher price
of a buyer if he has only one sword as opposed to having 10 he needs
to get rid of. Although these rules aren't precisely modeled on exact
economic equations, it is something the player can understand and come
to expect.

Another reason to use universal abstractions instead of specific real
world models is that most MUD developers who do this for a hobby (such
as ourselves) rarely have the resources to consult with physicists,
economists, sociologists, and a whole range of scientists to make sure
their world is consistent with the real world. Rarely will all the
disciplines necessary be represented by the developers of a world,
either. Therefore, some aspects of the game will have to be
abstracted.

Exploration:

We want the world to be interesting to explore, but easy to navigate.
Too often MUDs seem to be massive jungles of spaghetti-like paths that
lead to some distant area to kill a monster. We want to avoid people
getting lost in pointless, winding wilderness paths but still have the
fun of exploring the world.

To do this, we have designed a system that has two scopes: a local and
a global scope for the game. The local scope is what you normally see
on a MUD. When you go "north" from the doorway of one shop and arrive
next to the doorway of another shop, you are moving in the local
scope. This scope will allow people to move rather fast without much
resistance. This will be the scope used for towns, areas, specific
locations, etc.

When one exits a the local scope (exits a town, for example) one
enters the global scope. This is the scope for moving long distances,
from one city to the next. This is to simulate a sense of real
distance and direction. So, one might describe the Kobold caverns as
"a bit east of Proto, the main city" instead of "12 east, 5 north, up,
10 east, 3 north, 5 east, 2 south from the center of Proto" just like
someone would describe Denver, CO as "quite a distance west and up the
mountains from Des Moines, IA" instead of "354 west..." etc.

It is our goal that people will be able to find areas faster (or, at
least, spend much less tedious time finding them) and spend more time
exploring the areas that are coded. Tougher monsters with the "best
equipment" should not be found quickly in order to make the better
equipment rarer. Extensive areas with good descriptions that avoid
excessive, pointless detail will be the standard on Demonscape. With
high standards for area coding, we hope that the areas will become the
interesting aspect of the MUD. Hopefully, people will spend more time
in the creative areas and less time blundering around a confusing town
or countryside with repetitive, meaningless and boring descriptions.

Skills:

We are designing a skill system to represent the knowledge a player
has about the skills within their profession. With greater levels of
skill the character is able to do more impressive things with that
skill.

Players will be limited as to the total amount of skills they will be
able to learn. The system we are favoring currently would give a
player of a certain level a limited number of skill "slots". These
slots can be used to learn a new skill, or to continue advanced
training on an already known skill (mastery). These slots are spent
only on specific skills at the lowest end of the tier (see the follow
explanation).

The skill system is planned to be tiered in which a broad skill has
several skills related to it which in turn have several specific
skills related to them. For example, a Mage is primarily interested in
the broad skill of Magic. Under magic, they might want to learn how to
control Elemental effects. Perhaps they wish to learn how to cast fire
spells under Elemental effects. A mage's actual skill at casting Fire
spells would be his or her Fire skill with modifiers determined by
Magic and Elemental skills, profession and race.

A character will be able to train every skill level. However, since an
increase in broader skills will result in a greater overall increase
to ability, they will be harder and more expensive to train. Every
level of a skill will have a limit to how high it can reach normally.
So, a Mage cannot become proficient at every Magic sub-skill by merely
training Magic. The character must still spend skill slots on
acquiring specific skills.

This system will allow people to train general categories to a high
level of competency while allowing them to specialize in specific
areas. A Warrior might learn the broad skill of Combat to high levels
in order to be reasonably able to handle any combat situation, but
might focus on learning the specific skill of Grappling under Unarmed
in order to become a renown wrestler.

Customization:

We want the player to have an active role in the world, and we want
each character to be unique. Too many times on other MUDs, one Dwarven
Fighter is very similar to another. The only meaningful difference
between the two characters is the name or relative level of power. Or
worse, on some MUDs there is a "correct" way to build the best
character, and those that do not follow this way are doomed in the end
to have a weaker character than the others. In addition, the input and
creativity of players is largely ignored on traditional MUDs. The
additions of players are usually small and insignificant in the
overall gameplay of the MUD.

We have tried to correct these problems, as we see them. Players
should be unique and should have an impact on the MUD. We have
developed some ways that we feel correct these problems.

Customizing Characters

First, we have made all character and profession combinations possible
and attractive. A particular race may not be as adept in a primary
profession as another, but their unique abilities will help them to
compensate for a lower natural ability. For example, a Korodan may not
have the bonuses to magical skill that the Lelra do, but their
resistance to damage is something that make the physically weak Lelra
very jealous. Although the Lelra Mage may be able to cast bigger
spells faster, they are at the mercy of their attacker if they should
be damaged. A Korodan is less likely to be damaged and incapacitated,
allowing them to cast their relatively weaker spells for a longer
time.

In addition, the Korodan may have an affinity for weapons. So, they
will be more adept at using the weapons available to a Mage, or may be
able to learn the use of heavier weapons than the Lelra is able to.
This will compensate (and perhaps in some people's opinions even
surpass) the magical bonuses the Lelra receive.

So, what will make the Korodan Mage different from the Korodan Warrior
if both have the same affinity and may learn similar skills? The
Korodan Mage will have bonuses to spell casting while the Korodan
Warrior will have bonuses to combat as described in the Professions
section above. Also, each profession will have certain unique skills
that are only available to the most disciplined. These skills will
never be available to those outside the profession, making those that
have the skill important to others. These aspects will make these two
characters unique and varied.

Another way we seek to customize the characters is to allow them to
learn skills outside their professions, within certain limits. All of
the basic professional organizations will offer training in
lower-level skills for payment up to a certain adjustable maximum. The
adjustments will be made by the leaders of each organization and will
depend on how the other organizations interact with them. For example,
the Warriors may offer the Mages more training on the wielding of
heavy swords if the Mages teach the Warriors how to cast simple fire
spells. Thus, characters may learn skills outside their primary
profession.

However, there is a limit on what one may learn from another
profession. Higher-level powers that require more discipline in the
profession (such as high-level spells for Mages, greater divine power
for Priests, advanced weapons and weapon-styles for Warriors, etc.)
will only be available to the members of that profession. This will
allow each profession to keep some skills to make them unique and
needed by others.

Another way to learn additional skills is to find a character that is
master of the skill you want to learn that will teach you. If a
Warrior desires to expand his magical knowledge, he or she may find a
higher-level Mage to teach the inner mysteries of magic. This will
require time and effort to learn higher levels of a skill, but it will
be worth it for anyone who desires additional, special abilities for
their character to be unique.

In addition, a system of random abilities will be assigned to a
character without the player's knowledge. So, a player might find out
that the character is "magically talented" or perhaps "magically
inept", able to learn increased amounts of magic or little magic at
all. Perhaps the player finds that the character can read minds, or
can master an unknown power called "psionics". Some of these abilities
will materialize at higher levels, avoiding the practice of generating
a character until it has the best benefits and fewest penalties.

One goal of this whole complex system is for people to truly customize
their characters without having to have everything coded for them. If
someone wishes to be a holy Paladin, a warrior who has dedicated his
or her life to the divine forces, then it is possible under our
system. That person can become a Warrior, then learn as many Priest
spells as possible to show their dedication to the divine arts. What
if someone thinks that it would be better to be a priest with some
weapons skills instead? Then, they can do that. No one is limited by
the vision of a "guild coder", they are only limited by their ability
to find a suitable teacher.

Customizing Player Contribution

It will be very important for players to contribute to the dynamic
world we are building. This will give them the sense that they are
able to contribute to the world and have a significant impact.
Therefore, there will be some mechanics in place to allow players to
contribute to the development of Demonscape.

One such mechanic will be player-developed cities. New players will
start in the various racial cities and will be cared for by others of
their own race. They will be able to learn from the professional
organizations established in each city and will grow through training.
However, what happens when they grow as much as possible in their
city, and desire to learn more? Then, these experienced players will
go out and build cities on land claimed from the evil Demons. They
will have to run the city, taking care to maintain it against the
advancing evil and protecting the citizens from harm.

A person might even use a city to focus a group of people on a certain
goal. For example, a Warrior might create a city using funds from his
or her adventures. That Warrior might then call upon Priests to teach
and other Warriors to learn the divine arts. Likewise, this Warrior
might have higher-level Warriors (such as him or herself) teach these
priests some of the martial skills necessary to fight for purity and
good. The leader of this city has therefore created a monastery for
Paladins who roam the lands and eliminate the evil. This will allow
more customization of professions and allow players to make decisions
about how a profession should be created.

Interaction:

The basis of good role-playing is interaction. Therefore, we have
designed various methods for characters to interact with other
characters within the environment.

Interaction Through Player Killing

One important area is the realm of player killing (called PK for
short). PK is a very important topic because it has some vital and
far-reaching consequences. Often it is an abused aspect of other MUDs,
where people use killing to harass other players for their personal
pleasure. Included in this topic is the subject of Player Stealing, or
the taking of objects by characters from other characters. We
discussed this topic and how it would influence the game in great
depth.

Since we wanted the players to be the force of good in the world, we
obviously did not want the players to be fighting against themselves
while ignoring the "true" threat of the Demons. However, we wanted
there to be a way to punish and eliminate the "rogues" that do not
fully understand the cooperation that should exist between the good
races. Also, in the course of the game, perhaps a champion of good
will start to be corrupted by unknown powers. It is up to the others
to make this character see the error of his or her ways. If they
cannot be reasoned with, obviously the source of evil should be
eliminated.

Therefore, we decided to allow PK. It will be (generally) unrestricted
due to the wild nature of the world. However, the generally neutral
administrators will keep a careful eye on the activities of known
player killers to make sure they themselves do not fall under the
control of evil while advocating the name of "justice".

One problem that most MUDs experience that player vs. player attacks
tend to be tremendously damaging. Monsters are given a large amount of
hit points due to their relative inability to defend themselves
intelligently. Therefore, damages from weapons and skills must be
enough to do significant damage to monsters. However, this amount is
sometimes enough to seriously cripple if not kill a player character
outright. This is obviously not desired.

Our idea is to have weapons and other sources of damage do a percent
of total damage to players. Therefore, a sword will take as many hits
to kill an experienced character as a weaker one. A magic user will
have to cast the same number of spells to kill a battle veteran as to
kill a new trainee. This is to give all players a fighting chance
against those who might chose to take their lives. A high-level player
will be less likely to slay newbies for fun if he or she realizes the
newbie could do a considerable amount of damage. Of course, this
system will still favor the higher-level player with more ability and
skills, but it will not immediately eliminate the lower-level people
from a combat.

Interaction with the Administration

As this author has written in a comment in the January 1997 issue of
the Journal of MUD Research, the interactions between player and
administrator are important so that the administration of a MUD do not
lose touch. It is important for the administrators to have a practical
and real experience with the game that they design. This means they
must interact with players frequently on the level of the player in
order to remain "in touch" with the game.

In addition, it is important to control the "killer" aspects of the
player base. (The definition of "killers" is explained in the article
"Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs" by Richard
Bartle from the June 1996 issue of the Journal of MUD Research) Since
every other group is related to the amount of killers in the MUD, we
decided it would be a good idea to actively control the number of
killers. We have done this by eliminating the need for players that
are "killers" and have replaced them with the higher-level
administrators that will act as the human-controlled antagonists, the
"Demons". This will not only provide a way to limit the amount of
"killers" in the game, but will provide the "Human as a DM/referee"
that people seem to want in a game.

Therefore, the Demons as played by the administrators will be the
"killers" that the players will have to work against. Although
administrators will generally be neutral and will work to keep the
game in balance, they can take up the role of an evil Demon to
interact with the players. This will allow administrators to control
the "killer" population while allowing much needed
administrator-player interaction. It is important to have opponents
with human cunning in order to entertain those players that seek more
than mindless slaying of "stupid" computer monsters. The role of the
Demons will be to be the traditional tempters of evil; they will seek
to destroy the good races by tempting their heroes and corrupting
their souls. This will be part of a regulated system where Demons
offer power to the players in exchange for certain services. The
Demons must expend personal power to empower the player with an
ability or an object, but will get power when the player completes a
task. A general strategy is to gain the trust of the character by
offering moderate power for low cost. The character will then begin to
depend on the power in exchange for services done to the Demon.
Eventually, their soul will be corrupted, leading to various
disadvantages (healing spells being less effective, players shunning
or wanting to kill them, holy relics rejecting their touch, etc.).

There are two important aspects of this interaction that will add some
excitement to it. Obviously a player won't want to work with a Demon
if "bad things" will happen. So, we will not allow the player to
directly know to what level his or her soul has been corrupted. There
will be no "corruption" statistic that the player can keep track of.
This information will only be available by the player noticing various
"disadvantages" that start to appear with the character. A second
aspect will be the hiding of the Demons true motives. Was that Elven
Bard who gave me a magical sword for the spell components I stole a
nice NPC or...? This will keep players "playing the game" of
corruption with Demons.

As explained before, there must be strict controls over this
interaction. A Demon should not be able to "cut good deals" with
people they like and should not be able to violate the rules of
interaction by simply killing the player. Another reason to control
this is because it will create players as killers that work against
other players. These roles should be limited to those that can truly
role-play, not just use the power to harass others. These would be
detrimental to role-playing instead of adding to it.

Standardization:

We have always been advocates of standardization on MUDs. It seems
silly to have a weapon from one part of a MUD to be vastly different
in terms of power from another similar weapon from another part. Why
should a normal longsword from a monster be twice as good as a similar
longsword of the same material from a town guard? One would expect
that the town guard would probably have weapons of better quality.

In addition, it is hard to simulate the knowledge of quality in a
text-based MUD environment. In general, players rarely know what
weapon is better than another unless they learn the information from
other players or from their friends that are coders on the MUD. This
seems to ruin some of the believability of the game when players can't
figure out which weapon is superior to another.

So, we have established a system of standardization. We have made it
so all weapons of a type will be roughly equivalent in terms of
ability and power. This standardization extends to all of the objects
that a player will interact with on the MUD, including armor, spells,
skills, etc. No one single skill will have a significant advantage
over others. The differences will be in execution of the skill. For
example, one skill might do more damage, but would require a special
object or cost more "energy" to use. Differences for items will be
accounted for by a standardized system of quality and magical
enhancements. Therefore, differences between the two long swords
described above will include sharpness or dullness (quality of the
blade) and magical enchantments placed upon the weapon.

            Programming Requirements

There are several technical aspects we still need to complete in order
to make Demonscape a fully functional game world. We must code the
mechanics in order to allow characters to interact with the world
without constant human intervention. Listed in this section are some
of the necessary programming requirements we need to fulfill before
opening Demonscape up to the full public.

Driver and Library:

We are still in the process of making a firm decision on which MUD
driver and Library to use. A driver and library are the software that
the MUD needs to run. The driver handles basic machine-level duties
while a library (also called a "lib") defines the more specific
details of the game visible to a player while interacting with the
computer through the driver. Our current choice for driver is DGD,
which provides a nice, clean driver without a lot of backwards
compatible baggage to weigh the game down. We are also using the
Melville library currently for development. We are waiting for the
release of a DGD-compatible library called Bogolib from Robert Jones
(robertjo at scf-fs.usc.edu). Robert is a skilled programmer that has a
very keen interest in the aspects of MUD library development. By
considering our input, he is coding a library that will be in all
respects more functional than the Melville library.

Inheritables:

LP-MUDs have an very good way of allowing different versions of a
similar item to exist. For example, a bronze sword from a monster will
have some of the same functionality as a steel sword created by a
player. Although these swords may have different in-game aspects (such
as relative damage power), they will both have similar function from a
programming point-of-view (wieldable in the hand, used during combat,
stores values relating to the condition of the sword, stores values
relating to the power of the sword, etc.)

This is accomplished by inheriting objects, an extremely
object-orientated concept. All objects inheriting the primary object
will have the same functions, but will be an independent object. So, a
bronze sword from a monster is merely an object that inherited a
general weapon object, then had certain variables set to describe it
as such.

One primary goal is to write all these inheritables. The inheritables
will be what people use to construct the areas and items that will be
part of the world. This will also determine how objects such as
players will interact with the environment and will allow us to set
the standards.

Currently, we are working to "prototype" the functions within these
inheritables. Since we are looking at other possible drivers and
libraries, the specific implementation of these functions will change.
However, the names can be determined so that coders can begin to
construct areas even if they cannot load the objects into the game
with any functionality.

Areas:

We are also in need of areas for players to explore and conquer. This
is a highly creative endeavor. One problem is that while this is quite
a bit of work the coder can expect little except recognition for their
work after coding an area. We are not a commercial MUD and are unable
to gather resources to pay people for their creative time and effort.
Luckily, there are others that think our vision is exciting enough to
contribute code to.

Areas will have to fit under our strict Fantasy theme. Areas will also
have to achieve a certain level of quality in order to contribute to
the believability of the world instead of taking away from it.
Although this may reduce the number of areas and area coders we have,
it will keep the game interesting and fun for the players.

  Current Status of Demonscape and Mileposts

We are currently finishing up the core design of different aspects of
the world. Next we will divide these aspects between different
creative people to add detail and other specifics. For example, we
have one person not from the core group of developers expanding upon
the Lelra and Schalar races, allowing her to develop different aspects
of the race such as specific restrictions on appearance, the general
hierarchy and organization of the races, etc.

We are also working on balance of different game factors. We are
currently planning out specific skills that each profession will have
and how each profession balances out due to these considerations.
Balance is important so that players can have fun no matter what
character they choose. A lack of balance forces people to pick a
limited number of races or professions in order to compete against
others for resources.

After the design team has developed the world, then it is time to
translate the design into mechanics that can be coded into the game.
Using the design and considering balance, we will code the specific
implementation so that the computer can handle the mechanics. This
will automate the game and allow the administration to handle player
to player interaction issues. Of course, the mechanics will have to be
updated and fixed should they become outdated or otherwise broken.

Another major project is setting down restrictions and regulations for
area coders. Prototyping of the functions found in the inheritables
will allow coders to begin coding areas even if they cannot be
currently used in the game. The regulations will guide the coders and
help them make good areas. We want areas to be interesting, not mere
killing fields for the slaughtering of NPC monsters. By setting down
good regulations, we will ensure that more areas are of the quality we
wish to see.

As always, a current project will be to update the on-line version of
this design document. It will catalogue our progress as we turn our
ideas about MUD development and playing into the reality we call
"Demonscape".

Mileposts:

Note that these milestones will not necessarily be completed in this
order. Generally, later milestones do depend on various aspects
included in previous milestones in order to have a foundation to work
with. Many milestones will be worked on simultaneously, depending on
availability of labor and necessities of cooperation.

Milestone 1 will be the completion of basic conceptual design. These
concepts will include general descriptions of theme, history, basic
game elements and the player view of the game. This milestone assumes
that we find necessary resources to facilitate development and depends
on the creative talents as well as the available time of the core
Demonscape development team. Milestone 1 will be completed once the
initial draft of the dynamic design document is completed. Completed
on March 10, 1997.

Milestone 2 will be the completion of advanced conceptual design.
These concepts will include specific descriptions of how the player
interacts with the basic environment given in Milestone 1 including
player interaction via organizations, player interaction with
administration, player development of alterations to the game world,
more detailed descriptions of game elements (like races and their
cultures), and other detailed game elements from the player's point of
view. This milestone assumes that the basic design has been completed
from Milestone 1 and will depend on the availability of creative
talent. Milestone 2 will be completed once the initial draft of this
design document has been extended fully to include any new
developments.

Milestone 3 will be the completion of specific numeric balance within
the game. Along with the descriptive standards from Milestone 1,
numeric representations and estimations will be attached to each game
element to ensure the game is balance primarily from the player's
point of view. This milestone assumes that the various elements may be
quantitatively described and depends on the completion of the first
and second milestone. Milestone 3 will be completed after the numbers
are recorded and incorporated into the design document.

Milestone 4 will be the completion of basic MUD library elements.
These basic elements include the implementation of inheritable
objects, the implementation of various mechanics into the library such
as combat and NPC interaction and the implementation of extended
player commands to interact with the game environment. This milestone
assumes that we have a basic lib to work with and expand and depends
on the existence of this lib and the completion of Milestone 1.
Milestone 4 will be completed after the code has been implemented and
incorporated into the basic library with no errors.

Milestone 5 will be the completion of advanced elements of the MUD
library. This will include extended player commands to increase how
the player is able to interact with the game world, incorporating the
advanced concepts form Milestone 2. The code will be necessary to
allow and enhance the extended amount of interaction we desire from
players. This milestone assumes that the advanced topics have been
sufficiently developed and depends on the completion of Milestone 2
and error-free implementation of ideas from Milestone 4. Milestone 5
will be completed after the code has been implemented and incorporated
into the mud library with no errors.

Milestone 6 will be the development of areas. This will be the focus
of player interaction within the game not relying on other humans.
This code will come from various creative people from outside the core
development team. This milestones assumes that the basic design
decisions, basic lib development, and balance issues are completed and
therefore depends on Milestones 1, 3, and 4. Milestone 6 will be
completed once Demonscape opens to the public as a fully functional
game and will continue using the dynamic environment of the MUD.

         General Comments About Design

While working on Demonscape, it has almost always been a team project.
Honestly, this is the best way to tackle a project of this caliber.
When one person designs the whole game the various aspects sometimes
become repetitive and uninteresting when he or she runs out of
creativity. In addition, one sometimes get attached to his or her pet
ideas. With at least one other person to discuss the consequences of
the idea, it is easier to either discard concepts that appear good but
will ruin the game or to change them enough to enhance the game more.
The creativity of several people (although they may argue and try to
preserve the original idea) is often more potent than just one.

We think that more MUD development should be done as a close group
instead of as an individual. When an individual works on a project in
order to preserve his or her pure idea, there is often not enough
thought and development dedicated to it other than the original
concept and the implementation. One would be better advised to work
with a small group in order to think through all possibilities. Yet,
one should be wary of working in a group that is too large which makes
agreeing on specific aspects difficult if not impossible.

In retrospect, it is doubtful Demonscape would reach its full
potential without the creative work of each of us. If any one of us
works on this project individually without the support and creativity
of the others, Demonscape will probably never reach completion.


Brian Green,
pchild at iastate.edu.

--
J C Lawrence                           Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                           Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------------(*)               Internet: clawrenc at cup.hp.com
...Honorary Member Clan McFUD -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...




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