[MUD-Dev] Character development [was Re: ]

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Mon Apr 13 12:48:38 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Sun 12 Apr, s001gmu at nova.wright.edu wrote:

> On Sat, 11 Apr 1998, Marian Griffith wrote:

> > On Thu 09 Apr, Travis Casey wrote:
> > > On Thursday, 9 April 98, Vadim wrote:

> > > > Travis S. Casey wrote:

> > > >> Some paper RPers prefer to develop characters in play rather than
> > > >> generating them at the start.  The idea is that the player may not
> > > >> know enough about the gameworld when the game starts to be able to
> > > >> generate exactly the kind of character he/she would want.  Thus,
> > > >> some aspects of character generation are delayed.

> > I think the best solution to this  would be to make players decide on
> > the aptitude of their characters before they start playing, but other
> > than that nothing should be decided. So a player can decide on an ap-
> > titude for the arcane. This does not garantuee that their character's
> > going to be a mage, much less a strong mage, but when the numbers for
> > a character are being determined by the game the ones that have to do
> > with magic will be somewhat higher on average than the ones for other
> > aptitudes. Of course the player can still end up with a character who
> > has no real ability of magic at all, but that's only fair ;)  Numbers
> > of course have to be fairly immutable and largely hidden from players
> > for this to work of course.

> All this does is lengthen the time between creation and the player
> deciding whether to keep the character or not.  I've played on a couple
> muds where they put a pretty hefty length of time before you found the
> real strength of the character and all it did was irk people.

It does,  if those numbers are poorly hidden or play an obviously essential
role in the game. If on the other hand there is no clear way to distinguish
strong from weak stats  then players may not notice much.  All they know is
that their characters are fairly good at some things and worse at others.
Obviously  on traditional muds this would not work  as a character needs to
maximise all stats to be considered strong.  On alternative games this need
not be the case however.

> I have come
> to the conclusion that if you put numbers in a game, people will play the
> numbers, no matter how hard you try to hide them.  You may as well just
> give them the numbers and let them be happy from the getgo.

This to a large extent depends on what type of game you are trying to get.
If gameplay and objectives places an emphasis on 'playing by numbers' then
that is what players will do,  and hiding the numbers will only change the
atmosphere of the game, but not the gameplay. But it is not that difficult
to think of a game where numbers play less of a role, and where players do
not perceive the numbers behind the game.

> > This should solve the problems associated with roling for the maximal
> > stats that can be found on many muds,  and also reduce the problem of
> > having to make some fairly far reaching decisions  about your charac-
> > ter before you even start playing.

> I don't see how it solves the "rolling endlessly" problem.  All it does is
> lengthen the amount of time between when the player rolls and when they
> find out how the rolls turned out.  Removing the rolling entirely is
> really the only way to prevent the "endless rolling."

Well, if players can't affect their stats inside of the game and are not
told their stats beforehand,  they obviously will not be rolling endless
characters to get 'just the right one'.  Ditching a character after many
hours of gameplay because you finally figured out that it isn't the best
possible fighter... well it may happen and it may irritate some players.
But I think that you wouldn't need those players in the kind of game you
have just set up.  If the game does not play by numbers  then you do not
need players in it who only want to play by numbers.  Not that either is
inherently better or worse, but the two styles of play don't suffer each
other well. Creating a game for one playing style more or less means you
exclude players who favour the other style.

> > You just inform the game what kind
> > of jobs your character would preferably be good at (or at least some-
> > what better than the average). There is no reason why you can not get
> > to a different profession during the game.  You could choose a higher
> > ability at life energies,  find out during the game that your charac-
> > ter is not going to be a top rank healer  and join the warriors guild
> > instead to create a fighter character with some extra abilities.

> Again, I see no reason to tie rolling stats and minimal creation together.
> True, the "aptitude" approach would minimize the chore of creation, but I
> see no reason to assume a hidden roll needs to be made anywhere.  Just
> have the "aptitude" weight the cost of attaining certain skill sets once
> in the game.

It does not, but either way you have effectively roled numbers for new
characters anyway by adding the changes caused by an aptitude. Rolling
for numbers serves to create characters with unique abilities and only
makes sense  if those numbers can not be changed from inside the game.
How many players are going to appreciate a game where their stupid orc
is going to remain stupid  even if it reaches the highest level  is an
open question of course.

> > Personally I am not too certain that things like stats ought to able
> > to be changed at all. Modified by magical or skills to a certain ex-
> > tent is fine,  but not permanently.  Otherwise you build a mechanism
> > into the game that encourages all characters to become identical and
> > with similar playing styles

> It only encourages all characters to become identical if all parts of the
> game require the same skill/stat sets.  By making some parts of the game
> require strength, and others dexterity (or whatever), you will get a
> variety of skill/stat sets, based on what part of the game each player is
> currently tackling.  Being able to change on the fly allows the player to
> optimize their character for the task at hand.  If you make both (or all)
> of the parts equally as interesting, and equally valid roads to power, I'd
> bet that you'll get a wide variety of characters.

What you will not be able to prevent  is players working (very) hard to
maximise all stats for their characters.  With all stats at 18 (as in a
typical mud) it does not matter if a task currently needs high strength
or high dexterity.  It is this type of identical characters  that I was
refering to.  Add to it the magical equipment  and you will end up with
the 'cookie cutter character' problem that many muds suffer from.  Each
character must have maximal stats and the same stat modifying equipment
to maximise their numbers. While this type of game pleases many players
I was thinking about other styles of gameplay  that discourage this em-
phasis on numbers  and actually force players to create characters with
strenths and weaknesses  according the style and personal character  of
the player.  The aptitude approach may not be a particularly good idea,
but I hope it is a step in the right direction.

Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

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