[MUD-Dev] The Virtual Ecology

Adam Wiggins adam at angel.com
Fri Jul 23 14:11:41 New Zealand Standard Time 1999


On Fri, 23 Jul 1999, Tony Wilkinson wrote:
> I'm interested to hear your views on how important or interesting you feel
> a virtual ecology is with respect to multi-player on-line games. Although
> I'm writing this from a massive, persistent world point of view (i.e. UO) I
> see no reason why similar principles couldn't be applied to other formats.
> It's an area I feel is still in infancy but I'm sure that it could play an
> important role in the future of these types of games.
> 
> I am specifically talking about animal/monster species (and individuals)
> having particular attributes which when applied to an ecosystem, allowing
> the individual animals to behave in an intelligent manner whether they are
> interacting with a human player or not. I've written a number of
> simulations which focus on giving the species and the individual animals a
> multitude of attributes including things such as bravery, food level,
> eyesight, friendliness to their own species, friendliness to specific other
> species etc (you really can create a lot of attributes if you think about
> it a while :).

As a mud designer and programmer, all this stuff is quite interesting to
me.  However, as a player, I really don't care.  Stuff with far-reaching
implications like this is rarely aparent to the player who is seeing it
from a "ground-level" point of view, similar to an ant looking
the grooves in the tire of a car and wondering what it all means.

The important thing to me, as a player, is that the mud be dynamic.  Too
many have fixed locations where it's always a certain time (night or
day), weather, certain mobiles loading here and doing nothing, etc.
Which makes it predictable and boring after a few runs.  My favorite areas
have always been those that are highly dynamic; the creatures in them
wander a long ways, often with specific tasks.  For example, the Roo hunters
on Shadowdale (not sure if this is part of stock SillyMUD or not):
there were two mobiles, the roo hunter, who wandered around attacking the
roos and skinning them, and then the roos themself, who tried to gang up
on the hunter.  They played a constant game of cat-and-mouse whether or
not players were around.  On your first visit to the area, this wasn't
very aparent, but after a few visits (or if you took the time to observe
careful on your first visit), you saw what was going on.  Very simple, but
at the same time dynamic and challenging.

If you can achieve this kind of effect with an ecology, then great.  But if
you're doing it just for the sake of academic "coolness", without any
thought to how it contributes to the overall enjoyment and atmosphere of the
game, I think it's rather a lot of work for not much of an effect, except
for a very difficult to balance gameworld.

Adam W.





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