[MUD-Dev] Re: Levelless MUDs

Holly Sommer hsommer at micro.ti.com
Wed Jun 17 11:56:02 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


On Tue, 16 Jun 1998, J C Lawrence wrote:

> What is the definition of a "levelless MUD"?  

Not to sound circular, but:
  "A MUD without levels" is my answer.

To be less obtuse:
  A MUD where player levels are not measuring sticks which determine
  when and where you may perform whatever action.

So, what is a level?
  In the Merc-world definition, a level is a reflection of how much
  exp you have amassed at a given point. Some Mercs will advance your
  level automatically, as you reach the proper amount of exp, others
  will require you to seek out a trainer mob, and do something in order
  to advance (ie: type "gain" or "level", etc.)

In otherwords: within the normal Merc-family-tree of MUDs, exp is used 
pretty much ONLY as micro-units of a level. Sort of like redemption coupons.

> Much more simply: What is the definition and expression of
> "advancement" in your game?  Does your game even have a concept of
> advancement?  Does your game ___need___ a concept of advancement?  (If
> so, why?)

Uh, what game doesn't have a concept of advancement? Even in a purely 
social talker type setting, I'd think that character personae enrichment 
and deepening is a form of advancement. Otherwise, if you're just there 
shooting the breeze, all you've got is a souped-up IRC (aka: 
underutilized MUD).

> Consider: If the game has a concept of advancement, no matter how
> covoluted, fractious, or multiplexed, then it implicitly has a concept
> of "levels" even if its not explicitly stated.  If A is more advanced
> than B in some regard, then A is at a higher level than B.

I disagree with this. If you are in an RP game, can you say that 
someone's character who may have just started within the game, but who 
has a long history from elsewhere (another MUD, paper RPG, etc.) is "of a 
higher level" than someone's character who's been around the MUD for a 
month, but hasn't put as much forethought into it? By all "measurable" 
definitions, character B has more time-experience within the MUD, 
probably has gone through a few sets of clothing, has simply *done* more 
within the MUD, than character A, the "newbie."

Levels are only really useful and useable when applied to measurable 
things. If there's a scale for "character richness," then I'd like to see 
it :)

> Consider: If you game has a single (or other small number) of goals
> (accumulate XP, be the biggest bad arse warrior, become King, get the
> Egg, save the world, give birth to Tiamat's babies, whatever), and the
> ability of characters to accomplish those goal(s) can vary over time,
> then you implicitly have a concept of advancement in your game.

Ah, but what about games where the player determines their own goals, 
rather than having the server determine them?

> >> What metrics of progress are used to replace "levels"?
> 
> Rephrase: What metrics of progress are used to obfuscate "levels"?

In using the definition of level which I described before, I'll stick to 
my original question regarding replacement. Another way of phrasing it:

"How do you let players know, explicitly, that they have accomplished 
something, other than talking and running up their online bill, other 
than posting their `level` as determined by accumulated exp?"

> If you start with that view, viewing the boundaries of the task
> becomes simpler.

Well, if I'm going to "remove" a "level", then the act of obfuscation 
seems like "settling" for something, rather than accomplishing the 
goal which was intended.

> > I tend to think of it the other way around.  They accept something
> > as dull as a 'level' as a substitute for a more accurate
> > representation of their character's abilities.  Anyhow, if your mud
> > is similar to most others, the real metric isn't levels anyhow -
> > it's how many hitpoints you have, how many fireballs you can cast in
> > a row, and how much +dam you are wearing.

I've played on multiclass Mercs where a [10 10 10 10] player had 450 hps. 
This was often more than a player who had reached level 20 in their 
primary class. The level 20 was FAR more likely to acquire more exp than 
the level 10, because the level 20 could WEAR the better eq, which is 
restricted by level. The building guidelines usually specified how many 
and how potent the goodies on eq are, based on the eq's level. So, level 
is the foremost determining factor in metrics, in those types of games, IMO.

> >> How do you handle things like spells, where caster vs.  target
> >> level is what determines effectiveness?
> 
> > Lots and lots of skills.  Ie: Biffy's fireball at Bubba is a roll of
> > Biffy's spellcasting skill, Biffy's fire-realm skill, Bubba's
> > spellcraft knowledge skill, Bubba's dodge skill, Bubba's agility,
> > Biffy's intelligence, Biffy's agility, and Bubba's resistance to
> > fire.  You can see already how this is more difficult to balance,
> > due to so many more parameters.  But IMO this makes the game more
> > fun to work on (from an admin's point of view), and more fun to play
> > (from a player's point of view).  

This doesn't address what I should have asked more specifically:
"What do you do about spells whose effectiveness is determined by a 
comparison of levels between target and caster."

The answer which sounds the best so far is:
  spell bonuses/penalties in a spell/counter(spell|skill) matchu, plus
  resistances/immunities

> The only effective solutiuon I've found to this is expensive: Set up a
> whole bunch of nested loops, one each per factor, and permute.  Plot
> the results.  See if the results really look the way you want them to.
> 
> Yes, you could probably do the same thing with Mathmatica or similar.
> It doesn't vary the basic approach, just the expression.

*blink* Why make it THAT complex?

> Appropriate use of a few moderately good skills can be far more
> effective that bumbling use of a mix of extremely good and bad skills.

Which is what we are trying to create a supportive atmosphere for - to 
get away from cookie-cutter players, who merely follow a formula, and end 
up with the same sets of skills, and the same outfits.

Respectfully (disagreeing with a few things),
Holly




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