[MUD-Dev] Re: Levelless MUDs

Matt Chatterley matt at mpc.dyn.ml.org
Sun Jun 21 15:19:13 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


On 15-Jun-98 Holly Sommer wrote:
> On Fri, 12 Jun 1998, Matt Chatterley wrote:
>> I suppose the key things to look at are *exactly* what is influenced by
>> levels, and how else you might handle it. Swap in other things which make
>> more 'sense' (for instance, apply a strength stat to damage instead of
>> level, and so forth).
> After going over it with some who have played in this environment, and 
> others who have written code for it, the following things have been 
> highlighted:
>    o We'll have to move from a %based skill proficiency system, to one
>      which has no artificial ceiling (100% is max... hey, is anyone 
>      perfect at ANYTHING?) where you have skill bonuses and penalties
>      (+8 on pick lock) and that each skill has a counterskill (working
>      on a -5 difficulty lock, for a net effectiveness of +3) while
>      throwing in some luck (so roll a 3d6 and get <= net effectiveness,
>      where 18 is always a fail, and 3 is always a win)

This is one of those 'whatever works for you' things. We use ranges of 1-1000
for skills, with associated difficulties, and some logarithmic formulae for
'effectiveness', and also for 'training' and 'decay' of skills.
>    o Remove the level restrictions on eq. This is what the builders
>      objected to the most (see below). I am of the mindset that levels
>      could still be left in place for deciding relative "power" of the
>      eq (and the goodies/bonuses/penalties/etc. which go along with
>      the more desirable eq), but that if player characters no longer have
>      player levels, then there is no level check for using eq: you 
>      found it, you can use it.

Yup. Or, transpose the level restrictions. Set a rough skill level for
effective use of the kit. 'This is a skill level 30 sword.' - You can use it at
any skill level, but the further below 30 skill you are, the bigger a penalty
you get with it (conversely, this might increase your skill faster or slower,
depending on your view of skill increases, and any other factors you want to
drop in).
>    o Other means of identifying the experienced bravados from the
>      well-equipped newbie. Obviously, this is in the skill bonuses/penalties
>      realm. You can outfit Bubba the Well-Travelled Adventurer and 
>      Boffo the Brand New Player the same, but Bubba knows the game better,
>      and has spent time LEARNING things, which will be to his advantage,
>      should he and Boffo ever be in the arena together against one another.

Yeah. Bubba would mop up with Boffo (assuming that new players are relatively
unskilled). If they both had some training, it might be far closer. The main
way to gain physical power in my game is to run about, learn spells, learn
skills, and practise them, as well as accumulating or making good kit (the
definition of good varies - it may not be 'high damage' but 'long lifetime' ie
kit which is reasonably effective but very sturdy). You can tone up physically
too, but leaving out magical aid, you'll never be /phenomenonally/ better off
>    o Give players who wish to not killkillkill something else to do, which
>      represents well-spent time. Player houses, quests, let them run a
>      city, RP, etc.

Aye. This brings the 'alternative rewards and goals' thing into play.
> Essentially, levels are being used for two things:
>    1. Determining when you can learn a skill
>    2. Determining when you can use eq

Right. Once you identify this, you can phase it out, making levels redundant.
Note that if you have designers, coders or staffers highly opposed to dropping
levels, you can prove it will work by showing their redundancy.
> We have considered using skilltrees - sets of prerequisites - for skills. 
> This removes the artificialness of "sorry, you can't learn dodge, it's a 
> level 20 skill in THIS game, and you're only level 3), and of using 
> rune-based magic, so that you don't have situations where "fireball is 
> just a level 30 version of magic missile).

Very neat, and a good approach. Also, consider allowing attempts to /learn/
spells whenever (spell being any sort of applied skill), but vary successful
learning and applicatoin (as well as effectiveness) on skills.

If you luck out with very little skill, you can learn
doublebackfliptwistingdeathnogginchop from Master Ping, but, you're very
unskilled and 99/100 times that you try to apply it, you screw up and land on
your backside.
> It would also be easy and popular with players to promote our eq as 
> "having no level restrictions! You find it, you use it!"

Yup. It seems to be a big selling point. 'Equipment saved!' too. ;)
> For some reason, however, if you use precise language and say "levels are 
> being removed," those who are accustomed to them absolutely flip out. 
> It's very very strange. I guess people assume that eq which would have 
> been known as "level 50 eq" will just be lying around the newbie area, 
> and will seriously unbalance the game. If that IS the case, it's not so 
> much a problem of system design, as it is of poor AREA (builder) design.

Yes; because 'levels are being removed' is a very incomplete statement - better
to say 'levels are being replaced by a new, better mechanism'. People will jump
on you very fast in this business. :)
>> Converting from level based to levelless is certainly an interesting
>> notion - what are your initial thoughts on how to approach it? 
> Well, my initial thoughts were "toss it out on the table and let people 
> (the staff) pick at it, and make suggestions on how to possibly make a 
> transition. I never envisioned the mayhem that a mere suggestion would cause.

Heh. Should have warned you, really. :P
>> How do you expect the playerbase to react?
> If it's anything at all like the staff members I've merely MENTIONED this 
> to, as a possible *consideration* - with great bouts of gnashing of 
> teeth, and with feelings of betrayal. And that's without even speculating 
> aloud, what a change like removing levels would entail. Bleah.

Ayup. Better not to tell them. Do your work in the background, then swap it in.
If they don't like it, they can leave. At least, thats my philosophy.
> We decided it best to just go ahead and start work on an experimental 
> server, and leave everyone else out of it while we work on it. Too much 
> strife, and too many cooks with their fingers in the pot, if we involve 
> player and builder feedback during the construction phase. It'll be a 
> coder's endeavor, initially.

The best way to develop. :) We even use a 'developmental' mud although we
aren't open - it's for back-end (lib/server) code changes, which are moved onto
the 'creational' mud every once in a while (when complete and tested). The
latter mud is used by area creators for higher level work.

- -- 
        -Matt Chatterley
"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.." -John Lennon (Imagine)

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