[MUD-Dev] combat

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Mon Jan 25 14:19:19 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

I've renamed this thread as it no longer has anything to do with peerage.
On Mon, 25 Jan 1999, Andy Cink wrote:

> Actually, I think the problem is a lack of balance in the game systems. I've
> seen a lot of muds where the players are fairly well balanced against the
> mobs, but to make the players strong enough to kill the mobs, the players
> wind up being so strong they kill each other way too fast. This seems to
> lead to (in many cases) implementing some hack-ish solution that makes it
> so players only do half damage to other players. (See UO, just as a most
> notable example.. I've also seen it happen on muds)

With all due respect, your paragraph illustrates one of my major
complaints with combat on virtually every mud I've ever played. Why is
just doing damage so important? I find that very boring. In Achaea, for
example, player v. player combat is very oriented on what I call
"give-and-take." You give something hindering to your opponent, and he
tries to heal it. The combat system is too complicated to explain fully,
but as an example, if I were an Occultist in Achaea, and I were attacking,
say, someone of the monk class, the first thing I'd do is hit him with an
Aeon tarot card (which causes a 1 second lag on all commands entered by
the victim. If you enter a command before the 1 second was up, it would
clear the first command and there would be a 1 second delay before the
second one went through). Then I'd hit him with the hangedman tarot card,
which entangles the monk in rope. All the while, my Chaos Entities would
be doing various things to the poor monk (lightning bolts, setting him on
fire, etc). Then I would try to shrivel up his limbs in order to a) stop
him from walking out of the room and b) stop him from using his martial
arts. Only after I had incapacitated my opponent would I bother with

Now, naturally the monk isn't going to sit there taking this passively
(well, if he is any good of course). He's going to be healing the various
afflictions in the numerous methods used to heal things. He'd WRITHE out
of the hangedman tarot card (takes a few seconds to work). He'd eat a
pill of blessing to cure the aeon affliction, and he'd apply mending
salves to his limbs to cure them. The monk would be attempting to get a
mind lock on the occultist so that he could mess him up with his various
telepathic abilities, giving him perhaps paralysis, epilepsy, confusion,
pacification, maybe stick a mind clamp on him, etc. I know the effects of
most of these afflitions aren't known to you on the list, but I think you
get the general idea of my idea of good combat. The above was just a very
simplified version of how a particular combat might work. I left out lots
of things they could and would be doing for the sake of simplicity.

As a general rule in Achaea, I aim for combat to be much much m ore than
just doing damage. In fact, there are some abilities that players have
that can kill without doing any damage at all. An example is the Death
tarot card.  You rub it on your opponent 7 times (can only rub about once
every 2 seconds), and then toss it at your opponent. If he is still in the
room 7 seconds later, the grim reaper appears and lops off his head,
killing him instantly. It is fairly useless against any competent
opponent, as you'd not be able to contain a good opponent (ie one who
knows how to play defence and knows and is capable of healing afflictions
quickly) in the room for 7 seconds, especially when he knows you're trying
to rub him. 

> Maybe the problem isn't balanced PvP, but just general imbalance in the
> mud? My oldest and biggest mud pet peeve is that mobs can often do things
> that a player cannot do. I don't mind if I get my ass kicked if I'm simply
> outclassed. But if a mob kills me by doing something a player cannot do,
> then I get mad and feel cheated. My ultimate goal for my mud is to make
> it so players and mobiles are as equally balanced as possible; players
> and mobs should have the same capabilities, but there will be great
> differences in their individual skill levels as well as what skill sets
> they choose to develop.

I think that while it would be nice to have players and mobiles the same,
I haven't thought of a way to do it. Player vs. Player combat is so
complicated that I have not even bothered to try to make mobiles capable
of fighting in the same manner as players. With hundreds of seperate and
fairly unique abilities (most classes have, say, an average of 120
class-specific abilities, and of those very few involve actually doing
straight damage) and over a hundred different 'afflictions' (to me, an
affliction is anything that hinders a player, from a web spell, to
something like agoraphobia, to being on fire), coding a realistic AI for
mobiles seemed too daunting.

I guess I see combat that just involves casting fireballs or lightning
bolts, or whacking someone with a weapon as being very boring. It also
does not give truly skilled people (those who can think quickly and come
up with innovative combat strategies) the ability to excel as that sort of
system is easily mastered and tends to boil down to who has the best
abilities,t he best equipment, and the most xp. The end goal of any combat
system I design is to design it so that a player could be granted the
best equipment available to mortals, every ability accessible to that
class, and the highest player level achieveable, and still be easily
defeatable by someone with far fewer abilities/eq/level if the smaller
player is skilled and the bigger player is incompetent. 

This does have disadvantages of course. It means that most players will
simly never become good, as there are definitely natural aptitudes at
play. Just as I would never be as good as Michael Jordan at b-ball, no
matter who coached me and how much I practiced, most players will never be
able to touch the truly skilled combatants. I enjoy this system as an
admin because it provides goals for players (ie to become the best), and I
enjoy it as a player because it allows me to become the best, if I, as a
person, am capable of it, and if I'm willing to put in the time
practicing. It is much more rewarding for me to know that I can kick
player Xs rear because _I_ am good, than it does if I can kick player Xs
rear just because I've got a bunch of eq and experience, and have paid
hundreds of dollars to get the best abilities (we charge players to learn
abilities, though being online is free). Of course, it is much easier to
kick player Xs rear if I'm good AND I have the eq/experience/abilities, so
regardless of how useful they are, everyone wants all three of those

In summation, PvP combat, to me, should allow scope for individuals who
can think quickly and innovatively to win, providing they have certain
basic things (in my Occultist vs. Monk example, the monk would be dead
regardless of how good he was if he didn't have the necessary implements
to heal the afflictions he is receiving). 

Further, I think that contrary to one of Koster's laws (one which I do not
think is a proper law frankly), it should not be possible to automate a
good combat system without such an expenditure of effect as to dwarf the
possible benefits gained from doing so. I suppose if Deep Blue can be
programmed to beat Kasparov in chess, our combat system can be automated,
and while the effort required to do so would be less than what is required
to automate a chess program to the point that it is the best player in the
world, it would still be so high as to be out of reach. In short, I
predict that no one will ever successfully automate our combat system, and
thus that Koster's law on automation is not true. Aspects of the combat
system have been automated (for instance, specific cures to specific
afflictions) but, in an interesting twist, the best combatants are those
who use little to no automation (perhaps bedcause automation forces you to
do certain things in certain situations, which is very easy to take
advantage of as an attacker).

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