[MUD-Dev] Re: Levelless MUDs

Koster Koster
Tue Jun 9 09:25:42 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	John Bertoglio [SMTP:alexb at internetcds.com]
> Sent:	Monday, June 08, 1998 10:32 PM
> To:	mud-dev at kanga.nu
> Subject:	[MUD-Dev] Re: Levelless MUDs
> From: Adam Wiggins <adam at angel.com>
> To: mud-dev at kanga.nu <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
> Date: Monday, June 08, 1998 6:57 PM
> >Right off the top of my head, the two completely level-less muds I'd
> check
> >out would be YaMUD (if it's still around, it goes up and down) and,
> of
> >course, Ultima Online.
> UO has levels. They are described by prose instead on numbers and are
> (as
> of this week) defined by a sophisticated two dimentional matrix...but
> they
> are still levels.
I assume you are referring to the grid of titles based on karma and
fame. (Under the new reputation system, UO gives "fame" as a metric of
character prowess, and "karma" as a measure of the way NPCs have
regarded character actions). UO measuring achievement in this manner is
in fact new; the previous method of measuring achievement was purely
skill-based, and was centered around displaying a title based on your
highest skill (grandmaster blacksmith). This other method still exists
of course. Character identities in UO look something like:

    Distinguished Lord Bubba, Grandmaster Blacksmith

Hmm. I think we need to clarify the definition of "level." Does it mean
providing a metric at all? Or does it mean providing a ladder which not
only measures your progress but AFFECTS it by opening up new

If the former, then our definition is certainly broader than the classic
one. If the latter, then UO doesn't really have levels, as you can
manage to make it to the highest points of fame and karma, and have a
sucky character who has not gained any additional capabilities. More
analogous to the traditional levels in UO are the thresholds in
individual skills (most especially crafting skills) where you obtain the
capability to make more difficult items. UO fuzzes these and actually
lets you try something very difficult even at 1% skill, though, so even
that is a bad example.

The traditional level is more a goal and a reward than a measure of
achievement. You play to reach the next milestone, and reaching it
grants additional powers. This is the case on Legend, which Adam
referenced below. In UO, that next milestone usually means diddly
(unless you count getting "Lord" in front of your name as meaningful).

> I am certain Raph will have something to say on the point so I will
> leave
> the subject. (BTW, the new rep system is UO appears to be
> working...looks
> like a winner).
I am not owed most of the credit; I conceived of the basic setup, but a
programmer handled most of the nitty-gritty ugly details of
implementation (which were many). But yes, it does seem to be a big
success, and we are pleased.

> >Muds very skill/spell/gold/eq-oriented to the point of rendering
> levels
> >almost moot include Legend and Arctic.  On Legend, levels are really
> only
> >practice points (one point per level). 
Actually, internally, Legend still uses levels for determining relative
creature power, etc. And levels do affect your combat capabilities and a
few other things. We have tried to weed most of those out (legacy of the
older systems that used to be there). In fact, Legend is about to go to
a system whereby there are 50 player levels from 1 to 50, and 160 mobile
levels (-10 to 150) because it will serve as a better tool for database
balancing and administration.

As anyone who's played Legend knows, the REAL name of the game is
advancement via equipment. In Legend, you are what you wear, and the
obtaining and retaining of equipment is the real advancement game. This
is because the principal way to gain stats (which are what give you most
new capability in Legend, as such as access to the nicer skills to spend
your points on) is by wearing special equipment. The other ways are few
and far between, and tied to questing,and Legend's quests are pretty
complex, as far as mud quests go. Players have actually organized things
like "naked mage clubs" which were made up of characters who could
actually use their spells without needing their special equipment--it's
quite a feat. The main function levels serve here is that there is a
limit on how much cool equipment you can have at a given level, which
sounds similar to Arctic's mechanic, in a way.

(Side note: if we didn't have a traditional faucet->drain economy on
Legend, we wouldn't have gone this route).

> >As both a player and an admin I despise levels.  I find it far easier
> to
> >design, code, and play a game without such kludges.
> >Be forewarned,
> >however, that it makes game *balance* far more difficult to tune.
> >
> Adam: Why would this be? Unless you are talking about things like
> players
> can only fight other players within 5 levels or other artifical
> stuff...those kind of meat axe tuning short cuts are clearly easy to
> tune
> but the results are usually a joke.
Because traditionally level adjusts your capabilities. If level ceases
to do so, then you are instead relying on something else: equipment (as
in Legend's case), or skills AND equipment, as in UO. And that means
many more variables to toss into the system, and hence it becomes harder
to balance. You end up with the sort of perennial questions that have
popped up on both games: "Is X proficiency too powerful?" "It's only
because it's so easy to get item Z which enhances X." "Why is it so
easy?" "Because there's a synergy between skills J and F that make it
easier to get good fast, and people use it to kill Buffy the Vampire,
who has item Z, and she's vulnerable to that particular tactic."

Mind you, this makes for a VERY rich game environment, lots of niches
and tactics to discover. Just a headache for the designers.


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