[MUD-Dev] Hard Sci-fi Muds was Character Evolution

Travis Casey efindel at io.com
Sat Aug 30 17:05:46 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

Brian Price <blprice at bedford.net> wrote:
> "Travis Casey" <efindel at io.com> wrote:
> > Brian Price <blprice at bedford.net> wrote:
> Sounds like you have a very well thought out overall plot.  I wanted 
> to have the option of asteroid mining, off-world colonies, habitats, and 
> exploration, however... I'm going to have to develop a tech model 
> that supports rapid interplanetary travel in order to do it.  I doubt 
> a player would want to spend hours or even days wandering around 
> in a couple of  rooms which comprised the ship during the game-weeks 
> long voyage between planets.  

Quick note:  rapid *interplanetary* travel is a very different beast
from rapid *interstellar* travel.  The latter pretty much requires FTL,
since even at .99c, it's going to take years to travel between stars...
and for extra fun, trying to simulate time dilation in a mud would be
*really* fun.

Interplanetary travel, though, involves far smaller distances.  Even
a speed of .25c will get you from Earth to Pluto in about a day at
near-opposition.  If you confine things to, say, the area from Venus 
to Saturn, no trip will take more than about 8 hours at .25c.  Further,
the time dilation factor during such a trip is only 15:16... not enough
to really worry about.

Muds typically ignore travel times... how many fantasy muds are set up
so that it takes hours to travel between villages?  A 10 mile walk
(16km for those more comfortable with metric) takes about three hours
to walk on foot... and even in medieval times, villages were rarely
much closer together than that.  Considering that the 8 hour figure 
quoted above is for a trip from Jupiter to Saturn at near-opposition,
most interplanetary trips would take an average of about 2 hours 
(remember, the inner planets are more closely spaced than the outer).
Thus, you're not really doing any worse than a typical fantasy mud
in this case.

One method that might help make it seem longer without boring players
to death would be to set up the "standard routes" so that there are
layovers if you take an indirect route... that is, if you've just
arrived on a planet, you won't be able to get a ship to somewhere else
unless you either spend a lot of money for a charter, or wait a half-hour
or so for the next regularly-scheduled trip.  This would prevent any
but super-rich characters from hopping over to another planet for just
a few minutes... people will only travel to other planets when they have
something significant to do there.  While players still have to wait
this way, at least they have a whole world to wander around on while 
they wait.  :-)

Between Venus, Earth, the Moon, Mars, the asteroid belt, and the moons
of Jupiter and Saturn, there's plenty of room for action and exotic
situations.  If you throw in advanced genetic engineering, nanotech, 
and plenty of time for societies to evolve, you can have "aliens" that
were developed from humans, but are as alien as anything you'll find in
99% of SF.

Of course, this isn't to say that you *shouldn't* have FTL travel...
just to offer another idea.

> > Something along these lines on a fantasy mud is the way Dartmud handles
> > outdoor areas -- with a hex map that shows different terrain types that
> > the character moves around on.  This gives a more realistic world, in
> > that the "outdoors" isn't just a series of paths between towns and
> > dungeons, but at the cost of making outdoor movement more abstract.
> That may be an interesting approach for modeling unihabited areas in 
> a sci-fi mud, though it almost seems that you'd need a custom client. 
> However, you could model those same areas using a few rooms 
> that where cloned as necessary, a simplified offshoot of the virtual 
> room idea.  I'd also like to use random encounters in wilderness 
> areas.  

Dartmud uses ASCII graphics to show the type of area you're in... for
star systems, you could do something like this:

System summary:  G2 star, 10 planets (4 gas giants, one double planet,
  1 planet habitable by humans, 1 terraformable), asteroid belt,
  starfaring civilization present.
0. sol (G2 star)
1. mercury (small planet, no moons, no atmosphere)
2. venus (medium planet, no moons, corrosive atmosphere)
3a. earth (medium planet, no moons, oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, inhabited)
3b. "moon" (small planet, no moons, no atmosphere, inhabited) 
4. mars (small planet, two moons, oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere, inhabited)
5. asteroid belt
6. jupiter (large gas giant, ...)

(Obviously, this is an SF version of our own solar system.  Science
note:  technically, the moon is *not* a satellite of the Earth... the
sun exerts a greater gravitational pull on the moon than the Earth
does, so it's a satellite of the sun, whose orbit happens to be 
strongly influenced by the Earth.)

You could, if you wished, use symbols, abbreviations, and a standard
format.  And, of course, players would be able to ask for more information
about any planet, referencing them by number.  In an unexplored system,
the summary might look like this:

System summary:  G2 star, 8 planets (3 gas giants, 1 planet apparently
  inhabited (species unknown), 2 possibly terraformable), technological
  civilization present.

0. Catalog # 432896 (G2 star)
1. unnamed (small planet, 2 moons detected, no data on atmosphere)
2. unnamed (medium planet, no moons detected, no data on atmosphere,
      radio signals indicate tech 7 civilization)

(all above data made up on the spot, of course)
       |\      _,,,---,,_        Travis S. Casey  <efindel at io.com>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'        rec.games.design FAQ:  
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