[MUD-Dev] Re: MURKLE: Wot it is

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Tue May 19 11:21:10 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On Fri, 15 May 1998 08:07:02 -0700 
Mike Sellers<mike at bignetwork.com> wrote:

> At 01:13 PM 5/14/98 -0700, J C Lawrence wrote:

>> On Fri, 08 May 1998 17:54:27 -0700 J C
>> Lawrence<claw at under.engr.sgi.com> wrote:

>>> The largest failure of MUDs is that they have generally never, and
>>> never stably, been able to assemble large simultaneous
>>> populations.  What is "large" in this context?  I would start at
>>> 500 as still being on the verges of small.
>>> Raph, Sellers: Can you provide context from UOL and M59 here?

> One difficulty here is the perennial disagreement of the definition
> of "MUD."  Lots of muds or mud-like games get 500 or more
> simultaneous users.  Gemstone and LambdaMOO have both done this or
> come close to it, and I'm sure there are lots of others.


> OTOH, I'd say a "large" simultaneous population may start somewhere
> below 500 users, and mostly depends on the size and nature of the
> game.  In M59, 100-150 people starts to feel pretty large (but not
> exactly metropolitan); in Everquest (if their world size estimates
> are accurate), this will be nothing.

Its a social dynamics question, or to rephrase into list parlance: How 
high is the pressure in the pressure cooker, and how tightly are the
fruit flies packed?  We have a small group in this list, of say 25
actively posting members (I haven't counted).  Yes, the list has very
definitely evolved its own internal culture and expectations.

25 is smaller than 500.

However, the list is not a fair comparison in several ways, two of
which seem key:

  1) The list exists against a background of Usenet and other mailing
lists.  MUD populations typically don't.  There is very little
__active__ cross-pollination between MUDs.  

  2) The list is persistant -- events, communication, etc are
timeless.  They persist and can be reviewed, reacted to, and discussed
long after their inception.  MUD events, even with fully persistant
worlds are not timeless.  Bubba hits Boffo.  Boffo gets hurt.  10
minutes later what of it?  The most that is left is memories.  (This
is yet another big reason I want time travel)

>> I would be interested in a genetic comparison here in particular.
>> What is the minimum population required to supply sufficient
>> genetic diversity to be considered "viable"?  Yes, I know that this
>> is highly dependant on the range of genetic diversity in the
>> subject species, as well as its rate of internal divergence and
>> other factors, however the same principle seems to underlie.

> Oh man, it's been way too long since I looked at this kind of
> question, and I'm not about to haul out those old texts. :-) I think
> there *is* some psycho-social analog to genetic diversity in muds,
> but unless your PCs are exchanging complex genetic material I
> wouldn't worry about directly.

I would argue that social engineering on the player level is directly
analagous to "exchanging complex genetic material".

>>> Project name: MURKLE
>> Now to expand on my earlier, tired-outta-my-gourd exposition.
>> The world is, of course, persistant.  There are no resets.  There
>> are no re-pops.  There are no little figures in white coats putting
>> things back the way they were (cf MirrorWorld).

> I agree that this is a good way to go... but you're going to have to
> have *some* kind of repop, or otherwise you're going to run out of
> things pretty fast.  

True.  I use what I term "organic systems" to re-establish known
states.  Most typically however they system will tend to any of a
number of known states, or a progression of states, by using any of a
potentially large number of in-game active agents to effect it.

> We've talked in the past about monsters that regenerate along
> plausible lines (e.g., spider queens that lay eggs that grow to
> adults that comprise the giant spider population -- where the rate
> of egg-laying depends on the amount the queen is able to eat).  I
> think you need this sort of plausible repop at several levels to
> keep the game world viable.

True.  Lotsa lotsa very very simple feedback systems which then
interact in interesting ways and maintain a changing landscape.  Heck
I've got mobile migration already (see archives) to ensure that areas
don't become fully depopulated, the breeder structure (ala Orcs) to
ensure species don't become extinct, and a semi-structure for mobile
squads and seargents to enable adaptive group tactics by mobiles (see

I really don't care any more about the door being locked and requiring
a key to get thru, or the door now being open and remaining open for
evermore.  I've come to the view that those sorts of puzzles have
little place outside of single-player adventures (as fun as they
are), and almost no place in a persistent world.  

>> Currently slated is to attempt a graphical interface.  I'm not a
>> graphics person, either from the artistry or the DP sides.  Dunno
>> how I'm going to approach this.  My preference would be for a very
>> very cheap dynamic rendering system.  (AlphaWorlds?  Are they still
>> a going proposition?)

> ActiveWorlds is still around, mostly run by Circle of Fire Studios I
> believe.  But I don't think their rendering system is appropriate
> for a game like this.  At this point, I don't know of a cheap
> solution to creating a graphical interface, whether first or third
> person: no matter how you go, the art is voluminous and expensive.

Yeah.  I've been digging into the area lightly over the last days.
Ouch.  Ouch.  Ouch.

>>> Combat: Yes, I have perma-death.  Combat is intended to be fatal,
>>> messy, and highly risky even to the experts.  The underdog is
>>> expected to win or do serious damage an appreciable percentage of
>>> the time.

>> ...  Passive death caused by the world (eg fell down a cliff and
>> died, walked along and a tree fell on you) is not __always__
>> permanently fatal.  Death caused by other players or NPCs (eg
>> combat), or overt acts of the game world is __usually__ permanent.
>> The rules will be deliberately foggy and vague.  Its not intended
>> to be fair.  It is intended to be capricious, but with known
>> tendencies.

> This may sound interesting, but it's also the express lane to losing
> players.  You're going to need some way of giving players an
> incentive --across lives-- to stick around.  Otherwise, particularly
> after a death that they see as useless/unfair/capricious, they are
> likely to either leave (if you're lucky) or turn into bitter
> game-wreckers.

This seems a matter of presentation.  Consider:

  > l
  You are standing on a high cliff.  It is very windy.
  Suddenly the ground crumbles beneath you!  You jump, grab, slip, and 

  SPLAT!  You have died.
  A deity deigns to notice you.  You sense your life being examined;
  every action, every utterance, every minor thought, every nervous
  twitch, misdeed and helping hand offered is being picked apart and
  dissected.  The skeins of your lifelines are unwound and held before
  the glaring light of immortal scrutiny.  Its not fun.

  A decision is made.  Massive dice thunder across the firmament.  
  The gods do play dice with the universe.  

  The dice stop.  There is silence, a silence of the soul that has no

  You will live (or die).

Now in truth the system will examine the method of death and attempt
to divine a first order cause.  Did you die because the sea has been
eating at the cliff for weeks and it finally collapsed, or did you die 
because Bubba has been undermining the cliff in attempt to kill
wanderers such as you, or was Bubba merely mining for valuables in the 
cliff face?  If the cause binds directly with seeming intention to a
player, then your death will likely be permanent.  If it doesn't
resolve to a player, then you will likely be resurrected.  However
this level of mechanics is not presented to the players, and there is
enough slop left in the calculations to make divination of the
mechanics unprofitable.

Does your point still hold in such a case?

Then again there's always Wiggin's approach:

  Life is short, fast, hard, and glorious.  Nobody lives long.  You
can however live with panache.

J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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