[MUD-Dev] Re: PK and my "Mobless MUD" idea

Adam Wiggins adam at angel.com
Fri May 1 17:41:29 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Fri, 1 May 1998, Dr. Cat wrote:
> > One of the common complaints (probably about 3th or 4th after free PK)
> > I've read in my brief web reading on UOL is that early players managed
> > to acquire stats, possessions (eg castles), and positions with some
> > ease (due to being there at the beginning) which are no extremely
> > difficult to acquire.  The complaint is that this temporal inequity is
> > somehoe "unfair".
> >From my reading, it's not merely a case of the earlier players having had 
> less competition, or stocks of treasure not having become as depleted, or 
> anything like that.  It's that Origin made major changes to the game 
> mechanics and prices because they realized people were building up far 
> faster than they intended.  So the rate at which skills increase through 
> use was cut WAY down, prices of buildings were doubled twice in one 
> month, etc.
> One could argue "inflation" for the latter, I suppose, and claim that 
> overall the phenomena of newcomers having a challenge to get started and 
> catch up with established old-timers is true in most human societies.  
> (Though I might point out in return, that in most human societies, the 
> rich people with "old money" won't take advantage of it to MURDER you.)

The way I see it, it all balances out in the end.  The people that came
first were the trailblazers, the pioneers.  They put up with just as many
bugs that screwed up their equipment or killed them out right as that
helped them.  They figured out the system, explored places no one had ever
been before, and so on.  The people who came afterwards had the immense
benefit of help and information from the old-timers: how to solve certain
puzzles, what the best skills are, what creatures give the most
exp/money/skills/whatever you're after, and so on.

This argument is akin to me complaining that it's not fair that the
settlers that first came over the mountains and into California had unfair
advantages, got to take whatever land they wanted, etc.  They put up with
a lot of hardship to get that "free" land (issues about natives already
living there aside).

> But I'm sick of this "if it's like reality it's ok" or "if it's like 
> reality it's a good thing" bullshit.  I've seen it in computer game 
> development my whole career, I've always been sick of it, and I'm still 
> sick of it.

I should think the view is more like "this is a better and more coherent
way for the system to work."  People mistakenly use the term "realistic"
to relate to it, when in fact there's nothing very realistic about
fire-breathing, magic-wielding dragons at all.  It's about the internal
consistency of your world.  Here the game designers clearly decided that
the amount of resources required to reach a certain end was insufficient
given the terms of the game world.  They just fooled with some equasions.

> Look, if you say "Well, the act of swinging a sword towards a monster 
> will either lead to your sword hitting the monster, being blocked by the 
> monster's weapon, or the monster narrowly dodging.  We decided to go with 
> these results rather than your sword turning into a singing dolphin and 
> spraying you with magic rainbow beams that teleport you to the top of the 
> empire state building and give you a craving for donuts.  Because the way 
> we decided to do it seems more realistic."  Well, then I'm all for it.

Now *that* sounds like a fun game.  Where can I play that?

Hmmm, now that I think of it, that's a real design/programming challenge.
Make a game based on Douglas Adam's Improbability Theory.  (For those that
are unfamiliar with this theory, it states that as the probability of
something occuring approaches zero, the chances of it actually happen
drastically increase.)  So all you'd need to do was have the program
algorithmically determine what is the least probable thing that could
happen at any given point in time.  Okay, so maybe it wouldn't be very
playable...but add some nice 3D graphics and it might be fun anyways :)

> If you say "In this game you're going to have to go use the bathroom 
> twice a day.  Though you can get by with once sometimes, and sometimes 
> [snip]

Yes, yes.  We've gone over the bathroom argument before.  This is an
extreme to which I doubt few realism-lovers would go.

> "More realistic" is clearly not something that "always makes a game 
> better" or "never makes a game better".  It's a "source of potential 
> ideas, some of which are good ones and some of which are bad ones".  Each 
> must be evaluated on its own merits.

This is correct.  More importantly, they should be evaluated within the
context of the game.  People don't much like having unexpected things
happen to them, except in very certain situations.  Thus a piece of
software which is designed to entertain should attempt to surprise them as
little as possible.  So if I'm playing Ultima Online and I find out that
I've spent the last two weeks building a house using my carpentry skills
and I find out that you can have one built in a day for the cost of three
gold coins, I'm going to be pretty pissed.  This is an inconsitancy
(resources requied versus reward) which does not add to the game.  It
doesn't meant that charging three gold coins for a house is inherently a
bad game design.

You mentioned the stones in Ultima VI (of which I have many fond childhood
memories :)).  This is a component that didn't add to the game, because it
had no use.  (I don't think it detracted, either, it just didn't do much.)
Weight *does* become quite important if you have some sort of
physics/collision modeling, where hurling a fifty pound rock at a door is
going to have a much higher chance of breaking it down than a ten pound
rock.  It also matters if you have doors which weight a certain amount,
meaning that you have to get other people to help you open them, or get
some strength spells cast on you, or cast "change wood to paper" on the
door so that it's light enough you can open it, etc.  This actually opens
up gameplay options and adds to the game as a whole.  (Whether you think
these things are fun or not are, of course, another matter.)


MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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