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

Brian Price blprice at bedford.net
Sun Aug 31 23:05:33 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

I moved this reply to the Hard Sci-fi Mud thread as it fits in with 
the current universe complexity discussion.

> Date:          Sun, 31 Aug 1997 17:32:09 PST8PDT
> From:          "Travis Casey" <efindel at io.com>
> Brian Price <blprice at bedford.net> wrote:
> >    If players have access to starships you _rapidly_ 
> > run out of areas.  This leaves you with three basic choices:
> > A. do not allow players access to starships 
Note: should have been no access to interstellar transport.

> > B. use a plot mechanism which justifies a finite univerese
> > C. use a random area generator
Note: ie to generate an 'infinite' universe as required.

> There are ways of limiting access to starships other than eliminating
> them... for example:
>  - Starships cost huge amounts of money... the equivalent of millions
>    or even billions of dollars today.  Thus, while they exist, PCs
>    don't own them.  There might be "starship lines" which provide
>    transport to the more populous worlds, and the possibility of
>    chartering ships to worlds that aren't served by the normal lines.
>  - Only one or two races have the technology to build starships...
>    and the PCs can't be members of that race, and they don't sell
>    ships to other races.  This creates the same situation as in the
>    first idea.

Both of the above are good suggestions for choice B, in that they are 
plot devices which serve to help limit universe size.  Fundamentally 
there is no difference between wormhole/jumpgate travel restriction 
and travel restriction due to passenger line routes/charter policy.

> I'm planning on using both for my mud... Earth won't have the tech
> to build starships, and PCs wouldn't be able to afford them if they
> did.  That still leaves room for us to build other worlds and have
> PCs be able to get to them, but we can easily limit where they can
> go.

This certainly allows you to cut down on the number of systems which 
much be modeled, however it sounds as if you may be restricting 
access to non-starship vessels as well.  Is this correct?

> However, there is another way to think about it... just don't worry
> about it, and let suspension of disbelief handle it.  After all, even
> in a medieval mud, you can't build all the places that the PCs could
> get to if they wanted to in any reasonable amount of time... people
> regularly made pilgrimages from England to as far away as Jerusalem.
> Thus, it's really just an enlargement of something that already exists,
> not a new problem.

Suspension of disbelief requires a universe model that supports it in 
a fairly logical manner.  We can get away with modeling a city with 
what amounts to a small village.  Fantasy muds are easily restrictable 
as to travel since transport technology is practically nil.  Fantasy 
muds can also easily justify the 'a magical barrier prevents your 
entry' sort of roadblock.  The problem as I see it in a hard sci-fi 
setting is that, while you can easily downsize many features, it's 
harder to justify artificial limits.  

> On SWmud, we started out with about five worlds that players could go
> to, and we're now up to about 25.  Even though we allow PCs to have 
> ships, no one's ever complained about the universe feeling too small,
> to my knowledge.

Again I strongly suspect you are modeling habitable worlds only, not 
star systems.  Unless you have a plot device which limits inter-planetary 
travel, your game universe is more to the 'soft' side of sci-fi rather than the 
'hard'.  (No critism intended).   Still, while I find five to be too low of a number 
in this instance, your experience may suggest a reasonable target number 
(ie. 25) for a choice B. universe.  This still leaves me with a bit of a problem 
since in a hard sci-fi universe it requires 25 star-systems each with 
a complexity of many worlds.

Perhaps 25 is too large a number for a workable hard sci-fi approach. 
This line of inquiry begets a number of questions:
1.  How many zones/rooms would be required to model a habitable 
2.  How many rooms to model an orbital habitat or station?
3.  How many zones/rooms to model an uninhabitable world  with and 
with out colonies (such as a future Mars)?
4.  How many zones/rooms to model a gas giant with its moons?
5.  How to represent an asteroid belt?
6.  How many of the above features can minimally represent a star 
system (assuming pc inter-planetary travel)?
7.  How many zones/rooms can an average builder generate in a years 

Brian Price aka Delver <blprice at bedford.net>

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