[MUD-Dev] The Virtual Ecology

Tony Wilkinson tony.wilkinson at dial.pipex.com
Fri Jul 23 19:45:50 New Zealand Standard Time 1999

Hi guys, I'm new to the list so if you have discussed this before, please
let me know (and perhaps point me to the relevant place in the archives).

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 :).

The food level attribute in particular is very interesting. As an animal,
or pack of animals (meat eating or not) is forced to hunt for food you can
get some interesting curves in population densities. Also, if the numbers
of rabbits are running low, the foxes will begin to starve, and so they
must leave their preferred place of habitat in search of food. This allows
the rabbit population to begin to increase again.

Add to that the abilities for some species to band together when attacked
(try attacking 1 wolf in a pack) or when attacking while others run in
every direction, and you can very quickly see seemingly intelligent
behaviours coming out of the model.

What do we gain from all this?
Well, the ability to persuade the player that he is in a living, breathing
place and that the whole world doesn't just revolve around him. He also
will have the ability to perhaps alter the equilibrium. Over fishing the
salmon streams will cause those bears to go looking for other food and
those pet dogs and cats look mighty tasty :)

Fun stuff.

Comments and criticisms more than welcome


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