[MUD-Dev] Re: Character maintinence - expenditure of resources

Adam Wiggins adam at angel.com
Mon May 4 19:04:33 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Mon, 4 May 1998, Dan Shiovitz wrote:
> [Incidentally, this issue, plus some others, come up in roguelike
> games as well (ie, single-player, ASCII graphics, over-head,
> turn-based games like Nethack or ADOM or Rogue). There's a much better
> sig/noise ratio in the rec.games.roguelike.* hierarchy than there is
> in the rec.games.mud.* hierarchy .. if nothing else,
> rec.games.roguelike.misc is probably worth checking out (and
> rec.games.roguelike.development, once it's created)]

Used to read those groups quite a bit a few years back.  They were the
closest thing to pure signal I've ever seen on USENET.

I don't think they relate very closely due to those games being single
player.  Recently some multi-player efforts have gained momentum - I've
been on the MAngband mailing list for quite some time now, and I hear that
multiplayer nethack is not doing badly either.  However this stuff is
still pretty far from what you get in a mud, IMO.

Besides which, those games have the exact same problem.  At a certain
point you get enough money that it becomes useless.  For a single player
game that's fine.

> On Mon, 4 May 1998, Adam Wiggins wrote:
> > Although we've chatted about this before over the years, I'd like to take
> > this moment to start an official Thread(tm).  Generally we talk about what
> > the "best" way to try to keep player resources (for purposes of general
> > discussion, resources == money) in balance. Some of these include:
> > 
> >  - Rent, usually based on the "value" of each object the character owns.
> >  - Object wear and tea: swords get dull, armor gets singed or bent or
> >    broken, magic items run out of juice.
> >  - Resources required for specific actions: requiring certain ingredients
> >    to perform magic, purchasing training for the character's skills, etc.
> >  - Taxes: city taxes or guild dues.
> >  - Thieves in heavily populated areas lightening fat player purses.
> >  - Maintaining resource lists: limiting the amount of money that is
> >    "generated" based on how much is currently in existence.
> You missed one (well, maybe it falls under "resources required for
> actions"): one-shot items: potions, spells from NPCs, stuff like that.
> Even food, although this is more of a maintenance cost. 

That's what I meant by 'magic items run out of juice.'  Things like food
was what I was hoping to avoid - you could easily make the cost of living
astronomical by just requiring that players eat and then charging a huge
amount of money for a loaf of bread, but that doesn't seem like much fun
to me.

You're right that the rogue games have a much broader list of supplies
that you need.  In games with a town (Moria, Angband, Omega) going back to
town frequently is essential to get more flasks of oil, identify scrolls,
staves of teleport, potions of speed, scrolls of enchant weapon and armor,
etc etc.  This is certainly a good avenue to explore - make a lot of small
stuff which is both relatively cheap and not absolutely necessary to
gameplay, but which are useful enough that players will want to buy them
whenever they can.

> > every fight to keep it in good shape.  Thieves are a pretty good one I
> > think; Arctic relies heavily on this for redistribution of wealth.  A rich
> > high-level player dashes through Kendermore on her way to a high-level
> > zone, not bothering to bank her cash first.  Two dozen quick fingered
> > kender NPCs filch a bit of cash as she runs by.  Later on a low-to-mid
> > level player comes through to fight the kenders and finds a virtual
> > goldmine (well, except for the fact that Arctic doesn't use gold).
> Also, note that if the high-level player really wants to, they *can*
> spend the time to track down all the kenders and slaughter them to get
> the cash back.

Oh, of course - it's just that the kenders only steal a small amount of
what you're carrying.  What high level player is going to care that they
stole 300 coins when they were carrying 3,000?  Not many, certainly not
enough to go back and try to hunt them down, especially since they sneak
and hide, there's a whole bunch of them, and each one probably only got a
couple dozen coins.

> Essentially, it's a charge in gold that can also be
> paid in time/effort. I think the best kinds of charges are actually
> done this way: nominally charged with one resource but payable by
> another if the player wants. Another example of a cash/time tradeoff
> might be equipment damage, if a mud actually let players repair their
> own stuff. If your armor gets busted, you can fix it up yourself
> (assuming you've paid the skill points to learn how, another
> tradeoff), or you can spend the money to get it repaired faster. 

Yeah, although I don't really want to let them trade drugery for money.
(Many people do that all day long, they call it their job.)  Certainly a
repair skill is good (you can even charge other players to repair their
stuff), but I don't want players having a choice between paying some money
or sitting around for fifteen minutes watching their player repair
something.  This seems to favor people with more time on their hands, or
people that run bots; and aside from that, I'd like things to be set up so
that you never have to sit around doing nothing if you don't want to.

> > One good thing about mantinence costs, however, is that they tend to keep
> > the money flowing.  I like the idea of maintaining some sort of global
> > value for how much money is in the game world and limiting how much new
> > money is created based on that, but it seems to me that in a very short
> > time you will have several very, very rich players and the rest will be as
> > poor as dirt.  Ideally a good economy keeps the money moving, even for the
> > richest players; that is, a rich player is someone who can constantly get
> > more money, rather than someone who has heaps of treasure stashed away
> > somewhere.
> Yeah. Also, I like the concept of different levels of wealth. Ideally,
> at the start, you're scrabbling for enough coppers to buy a meal once
> in a while. Eventually you amass enough wealth that meals aren't a
> problem anymore, so you don't have to worry about them (maybe you buy
> a meal ticket at the local inn). Now your main worry is, say, rent
> (before you were so poor you were sleeping outside most of the time,
> so rent wasn't even an issue). Eventually you accumulate enough money
> to buy a house. Now you're no longer paying money for rent, but
> you're, say, running for lord (is lord an elected position? hmm.) and
> you have to pay money for campaign advertising. Once you get elected,
> that drain stops, but you have to figure out how to pay the castle
> guards. And so on.  

Definitely.  This is another area that the rogue games shine in.  Early on
you're worried about having enough torches, having enough food, and
avoiding traps in the floor.  Later on you've got a permenant light source
(a glowing sword or whatever), items that grant slow digestion or spells
that full your stomach, objects or spells that detect and destroy any
traps on the same screen as your character, and so forth - but now you're
worried about having the right kind of magic resistances, the right
balance of stat-gain items, and trying to get better detection devices to
allow you to see creatures from further away.  Towards the end of the game
you get armor that gives all the resistances you need, your stats all get
maxed out by potions, and you have ESP and clairvoyance that allows you to
see everything at all times.  Now you're only worried about defeating the
final enemy.  The game changes drastically as you progress - old worries
go away and new, more 'impressive' ones, arise.

This is definitely a good idea, but it's hard to stage in a non-linear,
multiplayer world like a mud.  If glowing swords are availible, then
newbies will end up getting their hands on them right away and the need to
worry about lightsources has essentially disappeared from the game.

> Ideally characters will always have to be paying money for something,
> but it'll be a *different* something each time, and once they get to a
> new wealth level, they no longer have to worry about their old
> expenditures. I haven't played anywhere that had this, but it seems
> like it would help get rid of that feeling of "running as fast as you
> can to stay in the same place."

Agreed.  I'm trying to figure out exactly what those things should be.


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