[MUD-Dev] Character evolution

clawrenc at cup.hp.com clawrenc at cup.hp.com
Thu Sep 4 14:55:50 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

In <199708312049.3500100 at bedford.net>, on 08/31/97 
   at 04:06 PM, "Brian Price" <blprice at bedford.net> said:

>I have at various times toyed with the idea of a hard Sci-Fi mud 
>(sans psi aka magic) borrowing heavily from the Traveller rpg for the
> overall game system.  I would like to implement such an mud if I 
>could get around a few nagging problems such as:

>   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
>B. use a plot mechanism which justifies a finite univerese 
>C. use a random area generator

I'd note that B is a superset of A.  Consider:

  Starship travel is only accomplished by hitching rides on alien
space ships.  Human/player travellers have no control over
destination, have no understanding of the technology used, and more or
less hop on and hope.  

This could be taken as a direct extension of the old, "Of Mice and
Men" where 120' aliens have taken over the earth, never noticing Homo
Sap's prior occupation or their spirited defence via nukes etc.  Homo
Sap. now lives the insulation inside the walls of their buildings, and
is treated much the way we now treat cockroaches living in our walls
(poison, bug spray, bug bombs etc).  Homo Sap. escapes Earth by
hitching rides on alien space ships as vermin in the walls, plants,
packing cases, etc.

  Startship travel is currently only possible between known defined
locations.  Various models come to mind:

    Wormhole variation -- there are various "special" points in space,
the distance between which can be travelled  in some special manner in
very little time.  Specific points are linked to specific other
points.  As such the set of visitable areas is lmited by the
pre-defined network of point relations.

    Beacon/echo variations -- FTL travel is accomplished via matter
casting between a sation and a remote receiver.  The receiver
re-assembles the transmission into the original objects.  This is
largely a variation on a wormhole method with the addendum that you
can require the remote receving station to have to be sent their by
sub-light means.

    Hitchhiking -- see vermin scenario above, this is a variation. 
Man has sub-light space travel.  A species of space faring beast is
discovered ala Niven's Slaver StageTrees which migrates by some
unknown FTL method between multiple star systems.  (A complex
interstellar breeding pattern could be the key, or an interstellar
seeding pattern ala StageTrees could also do).  Homo Sap. then hitches
rides with the animals/plants/whatever when they go inter-stellar.

    Pet -- Homo Sap is conveyed about a limited section of the galaxy
by friendly aliens.  All travel is by alien ships which are controlled
by aliens.  All attempts to mess with aliens results in spacing.  This
is a variation on Hitchiking except for presentation.  

These are all plot mechanisms at the base.  More simply the question
to me derives to a choice between unrestricted interstellar travel,
and restricted (predefined or limited) destinations.

Note that this is not unique to an SF MUD.  Consider the case of a
standard fantasy MUD which attempts to define the entire surface of a
planet.  Who the is going to write areas, topologies, etc for an
entire planet?  Going to use invisible barriers, "You can't go that
way," when they hit an undefined area?  The problem is scale, not

>Choice A could lead to a very viable game, perhaps along the lines of
> an aftermath scenario.. ie. starships don't exist.  However this is 
>personally unsatisfying as part of the lure for me of sci-fi is the 
>device of travelling between the stars.

I don't see (as above) that not doing A precludes hainve interstellar

>Choice B could be done by assuming a wormhole or jumpgate style of 
>interstellar flight.  While this works, it undermines the ability of 
>pcs to move between differing political entities since system 
>entry/exit points are easily defended/controlled.

Not necessarily.  If the control point is not locational (cf the above
StageTree example), then the resource is a lot tougher to
control/limit.  Consider the case of the family which has a large
secret grove of StageTrees hidden off in the boondocks...

>Choice C seems at first to merely be a design problem, but assuming 
>you solve the design problem of generating 'realistic' worlds/systems
> randomly, you now have a storage problem...  your universe file will
> become _HUGE_.

Use predetermined seeds for your random number generator.  The
standard method is to have the seed derived from the coordiantes.  A
standard extension is to have an overlay sparse array which provides
weightings to the seed deriving function such that you make
artificially make, say, class M stars guaranteed more populous in one
area, or higher oxygen counts ...etc.

>Even assuming you manage to solve the problems associated with one of
>the above choices in a logically consistant yet interesting manner, 
>you are still left with huge game design problems (from a mud 
>standpoint).   The plot device of magic easily sidesteps many 
>problems that a hard sci-fi mud would need to deal with logically.

What difficulties would you see with the humans as vermin or StageTree

>I think the task of creating an enjoyable and realistic semi-hard 
>sci-fi mud is doable but it would seem to be a _very_ difficult task 
>to do it well.   

I suspect that the real work is in the scenario definition, not the
implementation.  High magic worlds typically are balanced the other
way -- the work is in the implemenation, and the definition is

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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