[MUD-Dev] Hard Sci-fi muds was Character evolution

Brandon J. Rickman ashes at pc4.zennet.com
Sun Sep 21 23:51:41 New Zealand Standard Time 1997

On Fri, 19 Sep 1997, clawrenc at cup.hp.com (no alias on file) wrote:
>In <199709180303.UAA32639 at pc4.zennet.com>, on 09/17/97 
>   at 08:16 PM, "Brandon J. Rickman" <ashes at pc4.zennet.com> said:
>>Carrion consumers are on the edge of funny physics.  "Junk" consumers
>>are very funny physics.  I suppose a good definition of funny physics
>>would be things that cause observably strange behavior...
>What do you define as "strange"?

I trailed off there because I was avoiding any further definition.
Strange depends on the rules for the world.  In a realistic world,
corpses that decay in five minutes and eventually turn to dust are
"strange", but in an lp mud this isn't so strange.  I'm assuming for
the purposes of this discussion that, since we are talking about all
sorts of little things (the details), the gross obliteration of 
details is counter to our design goals.  Hence the notion of a
carrion consumer creates strange behavior if it doesn't take 
"detail physics" into account.  In other words, this is strange:

The is a dead bunny here.
A small scavenger appears and carries off the corpse of the dead bunny.
> kill scavenger
There is no scavenger here!

and this is the real problem:

> kill scavenger
There is a dead bunny and a dead scavenger here.
A vulture has arrived.
> kill vulture

We eventually arrive at the room containing a thousand corpses
(from a post not quoted here).

[meta: This whole thing has resulted from a type of discussion where
the proposed situation was absently denied as "unlikely".  I will
admit it takes work to justify a situation that was completely
contrived as the above, but we were not talking about the merits of
the situation, rather the consequences.

This is different from a poorly grounded situation, such as:
 Magical glass cannot be destroyed.
 Magical acid can destroy anything (even magical glass).
 How can we model this in a mud?
Either the glass can be destroyed or it can't, something has to
give.  Very rarely do these situations get proposed, but very
frequently it is argued that some situation "can't happen because
of X" where X is some canon mud rule that implies a

I will now openly admit to this list that I am
interested in breaking some very sacred rules.  I am very
thankful that I can do this here, considering recent rgm.admin
topics seem to be about maintaining the purity of the mud
environment.  All this is to say that maybe rule X should change.
But in that case I can't be held liable for your job security!]

>I haven't done a scale test with my server for a while.  I'm in no
>shape to do one now alas -- my last three redesigns and re-writes of
>the DB layer all had severse performance/bottleneck problems.  Once I
>get things back running (now working on dsign #9) I'll try them out on
>my standard 20 million room DB.  I don't expect them to be troublesome
>as they are quite efficiently implemented.

>>[-- clip out and save --]
>>The Big Universe (alpha definition): An average creature can explore/
>>experience an area of size K in an average day.  In a Big Universe we
>>must maintain a reasonable amount of persistence in an area that is
>>several magnitudes larger than K for each active creature.
>>Most muds (lpmuds, MOOs, ...) keep track of an area that is roughly 
>>10xK per creature.  Single users CRPGs might keep track of 100xK. A
>>Big Universe would be 1000xK or more.
>>[-- clip out and save --]

(Quick amendment: I should replace "average" and "active" creatures
with "creatures that have memory", because these are the creatures
to whom the persistence of details actually makes a difference.)

>Simple translation:  The world is so large that no single player will
>ever see the majority of it.

I hope it is more subtle than that.  No single player, and no combined
group of players will see the majority of it.

You have a 20 million room db.  A good number, I would say.  No one
really has a chance of ever mapping the whole thing out.

If a "remembering" creature visits 200 locations a day, and there are 
1000 such creatures, you have 1000 times more rooms than all the 
creatures can explore in a day.  It might take three years for every
room to be explored, which is a pretty good amount of time.  Your
20M room db might be on the lowest end of Big Universes.  But I
think my calculations are very conservative.  And if you were to ask
me how many rooms were in my dream db I would say I don't know, somewhere
between 10 and 100,000.  But it would be a Big Universe.

>I've been very resistant to your espoused devolution of game artifacts
>to probability states.  (There is an X here because it is probable
>that there is an X here)  You are beginning to get me to severely
>re-examine some assumptions, if not convince me.

>  Boffo finds a beached whale.
>  Might not the Great Sword of GooGoo be found in its stomache?
>Probability/quantum mechanics on a macro scale.

I was once playing on an lpmud in an area I didn't know very well.
It was a beach with waves washing in and out.  As I was standing there,
a pile of coins unexpectedly washed ashore.  I felt as if the game
universe had suddenly expanded a million times, or at least that the
zone designer was a misunderstood genius.

Then some moron came in and said "hey, did you pick up a pile of
gold?  The water sprite just killed me and it is mine."

It is possible that the guy was just pulling a scam, but according
to the plastic truth of the mud world it was his money.

The truth was less compelling than the invisible lie.  And so now
I wander the earth, preaching my sermon against honesty in 
storytelling.  Well, maybe...

>>>  Time passes.
>>>  The grass grows.
>>>  The path dissappears.

>>Yes, I like the idea.  Will anyone ever notice?

>Does it really matter?

If it is an important part of the simulation, no.  The grass should
grow even if no one notices.  It is easy to justify the
resources.  Going back to the 20M room db, the resources used by the
db are justified if the world has an expected life span of some
three years (forgive the repetition of these contrived figures).
And according to overpaid pundits and CEOs the costs of these
resources will continue to fall and processing power will double
every X years through the next century.  Someone will eventually
design a graphical world with ten billion rooms, an ecology, macro
and micro economies, and 72 varieties of homemade lemon bars.
And, sadly, no one will ever notice.

>Because the definition of "interesting" and "uninteresting" is both
>subjective and hidesously variant.  In the general case I don't see
>that it can be safely determined by the game on a macro scale, only on
>a micro scale.

Right, there is no guarantee that any detail will prove to be
interesting.  So we have to keep track of an enormous amount of
potentially useful information that determine the probabilities of 
something "interesting" happening.  But we already keep track of, and
spend a lot of time figuring out how to get rid of, an amazing
amount of junk (rabbit corpses, empty bottles, stomped-on patches
of grass). The long range solution (it really isn't good for short range 
problems, you'll still have to manage a giant db of dead bodies,
candy wrappers, etc) is to keep track of artifacts on some
level of pure probability.

Here's another test case I've been thinking of, more closely tied
to the real/non-fantastic world:

One day, you decide to find and collect all the old postage stamps lying
around your house.  You probably do this by locating any known collections
of letters you may have, plus a scattered collection of more recent
mail.  Say you locate 100 stamps pretty quickly.  It is almost certain
(unless you live out of a suitcase) that there are a few more stamps
somewhere in the house, but you'll really have to tear things up to
find them.  And no matter how much you search you will always have 
the sense that there is another stamp hidden somewhere.

I can think of two interesting side effects of this exercise.  First,
you end up not only with a small pile of stamps, but also a larger pile
of stamp-less envelopes.  And second, you probably came across some
other forgotten items, related to and unrelated to stamps,
during the search.

So now your house is slightly more organized - you found some missing
things and threw away those useless envelopes.  You now have two
courses of action: continue to collect new stamps as they arrive in
the mail, or go back to the old habits.  To continue to
collect stamps is to deny being able to do any 
impromptu stamp searching in the future, including the loss of
any of the side effects.

Compare this exercise with the junk scavenger situation.  If all
corpses are automatically consumed/collected/organized you will
never _accidentally find_ a corpse lying around.  And the
consequence: if you ever *do* discover an old but unscavanged
corpse you will assume it has been artifically
placed there (as a puzzle, part of a quest).
(I am reminded of the Daggerfall quest where you must retrieve some
lich dust from a dungeon, but it can't just be any old lich dust,
it has to be the quest item with a special border.)

- Brandon Rickman - ashes at zennet.com -
While I have never previously found a need for a .sig, this
may be considered one for the purposes of this list

More information about the MUD-Dev mailing list