[MUD-Dev] Re: Levels versus Skills

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Fri Jan 15 22:15:28 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

On Fri 15 Jan, J C Lawrence wrote:
> On Wed, 13 Jan 1999 17:32:35 -0600 

> Koster, Raph<rkoster at origin.ea.com> wrote:

> >> From: Marian Griffith

> Without atrophy (deflation), there is only endless inflation (the
> descreasing value of the advancement).  Once someone is level 10,
> what is the value left in levels 1 thru 9?  

Which leaves us with the question of the value of levels if it is
a measure of ability. On any game there is a limit to ability and
if that is how levels are measured, there is a necessary limit to
levels as well.  Things get worse if the amount of ability gained
is so extreme as on most muds  (though players would hate  to see
it reduced to minor differences).

> There are two approaches:

>   1) Keep growing the game so that there is always room for the
> inflationary sprial to grow into.  This means that the requirements
> for the top levels of advancement must recede (become more
> difficult) for the base player base at the same rate that the base
> player base approaches them.

If I understand what you are saying then I think this is *most*
unkind to new players.

>   2) Something must devalue accumulated value (levels etc) such that 
> players ever fall down the ladder and thus retain something to
> climb.

Would it not be possible to shift players individually up and
down the ladder, rather than all players at the same time, or
is that what you are saying?
Any way, I think it would be a good thing if levels and power
are not the same thing on a mud.  For one thing it allows for
other goals than acquiring experience points.

> Comments on zero-sum games etc are apt and welcome.

> The problem with both of course is that they are demoralising.
> There is no winning, you can only stand still or fall behind.  We
> can cover up this flaw in #1 by repainting it as "re-inventing" or
> other cute terms.  The principle remains the same however, the game
> is regeared to put everybody back at ground zero -- just without
> making them feel that they've lost in the process (concentrate on
> the new race/game instead of what is lost).

Do not most muds already do just this every time they add new
features, races, classes, areas?  They up the levels  in some
way by increasing the power level acheivable to players.

> The problem from a game design viewpoint is that #2 is horribly
> expensive.  It means that you can't just put a game on maintenance,
> but you have to actually re-write and re-design and re-do the whole
> damn thing with fair frequency,

I am fairly sure I do not understand at all why this must be so.

> What's the key problem?  The very concept of the advancement scale.
> It just doesn't work over the long term.  It is an evolutionary dead
> end.  Why?  Because you can't maintain the process that drives the
> advancement scale.  No matter how hard you try to make and keep the
> game open ended (which is really what I am talking about), sooner or
> later, and likely far sooner than later, burnout beckons.  You
> *have* to divert to softer more organic realms where
> non-deterministic development is more important than direct
> comparison and ranking and linear genetalia measuring is no longer
> your stock in trade.

> Even then atrophy isn't really a solution.  All it really does is
> make the scale longer.  Now, instead of being able to climb from 1
> to 100 in simple fashion, you're now walking uphill against
> "atrophy".

True, though if you manage to separate the power level from the
player level  it should be more manageable I think.  Instead of
concentrating on ways to make characters weaker you can concen-
trate on  handling the more socially oriented aspect  of player

> Expressive fertility seems like the real key here.  Have a look at
> the Walled City in Gibson's Idoru.  Look at the general handling of
> virtual reality in the same book.  There's a *LOT* of careful,
> detailed, highly imaginative and really really engrossing (to the
> people who created those things) expresiveness in there.  look at
> the construction and details of the shrine/hut (I'm working on
> memory here) where she first meat the Japanese fan club contingent.

The problem of course is getting the players to go along with it,
especially  if there is a ready way for them to prove their worth
through combat.

> Advancement scales are fun.  That's great, but you have to get
> people off that bandwagon and into more interesting and less
> deterministic affairs before they realise that the ladder ends and
> that there is nowhere to go from there.

> How to do that?  Make things other than advancement more and more
> enticing.  You don't want it (non-advancement) TOO enticing too
> quickly, as the presence of the scale is important.  It gets people
> playing the game and knowledgable about the game and game world.  

Not to certain this is possible,  nor that it is at all important.
You describe something of the average mush where combat mechanisms
are absent or rudimentary at best. Players are interested in those
games and the apparent lack of advancement does not seem to disap-
point them in the least.  If the game offers  many other things to
do  then you should not be surprised that they actually go out and
do them, nor should you feel that is somehow inferior.  Combat and
levels need not be the by all and end all of a game.

Yes - at last - You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours - and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

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