[MUD-Dev] Depth of realism

Travis S. Casey efindel at io.com
Fri Nov 19 11:05:59 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

On Thu, 18 Nov 1999, Joe Kingry wrote:

> Most modern M*'s strive towards some greater achievement of realism then
> their predecessors.  There are arguments to what is the "right" degree of
> realism.  Too much realism gets in the way of what one would think (I at
> least anyhow) MUD's purpose were, that as a source of escapist
> entertainment/mental exploration etc.

As others have mentioned, "realism" is a word that gets used to mean a lot
of different things by game developers.  In general, I suggest avoiding
using it at all -- it can make for a great deal of confusion when you use
it for one meaning, but a reader sees it and thinks of a different

> I mean if the time on a said MUD progresses at 30 times faster then RL, then
> one couldn't expect players to log on for 4 hours everyday to make the cross
> oceanic journey they are on.  Well feasibly this could be dealt with by
> allowing characters to persist after a player logs out.  But to take another
> example, what of sleep? Characters hardly ever sleep while being played and
> then, only when wounded, totally regardless to the time of day it is. How
> does one deal with this?

Why do you want to?  Seriously -- a 30:1 timescale is fairly insane, I'd
say.  At that rate, a person who's logged in for an hour has been playing
their character for more that 24 hours of game time.  A year of real time
is 30 years of game time -- which means that having human characters who
stay active for more than at most a couple of years makes no sense.
Further, it means that if someone is away for a couple of weeks on
vacation, their character has been out of action for more than a year of
game time!

If you move to a more reasonable time scale, anyone but the most dedicated
mud fanatics isn't likely to stretch believability.  Personally, when I
use a fixed timescale at all, I like 4:1.  Few players regularly play for
more than 8 hours or so at a time -- that becomes 32 hours of game time,
which is vaguely believable.  A two-week vacation becomes about two months
of game time that the character is out of action.

Sleeping when wounded is easy to fix -- get rid of sleeping as a way to
heal wounds, and use other things instead.  Assume the sleeping is done by
the character while the player is logged off.

For long journeys, I can see a few ways to handle things:  first, you can
just avoid them.  Have the game set in a small, isolated valley or
such.  Second, provide some quick means of transportation, if that's
appropriate to the setting (e.g., suborbital jets in a near-future game,
or teleport gates in a fantasy setting).  Third, allow travel to happen
during downtime (which doesn't have to involve having the characters
persist -- the system can just keep track of where the character is
supposed to be without actually keeping the character loaded).  Fourth,
ignore it.  Yes, it's unrealistic, but there are always going to be *some*
compromises that have to be made.

> Then there are the question of resources and a real economic system.  If a
> player has to chop wood, then feasibly the forest could be depleted at some
> point.  Though it is a given that forests in medieval settings tend to
> greatly outstrip the land area used up by civilisation.  As some one pointed
> out though, if the level of detail is there in which a player could farm for
> instance then there should be also the option to join legions of the army
> etc.

Except that in a true medieval setting, there is no army to join -- at
best there may be mercenary companies about.  A medieval army consists
pretty much of knights and levies -- the levies being untrained peasants
who are basically drafted when needed.  The idea of the modern
"standing army" didn't come about until later.  You could have mercenary
groups as alternatives to "guilds" or "clans," though -- in the real world
medieval mercenaries who couldn't get work often made a living as bandits.
In a fantasy world, they'd probably adventure.

> Which got me to thinking, can a MUD really handle a battle on the scale of
> two armies?  I don't just mean in pure processing time, but in the
> organisation and handling of multiple groups and units etc.  It would seem
> almost an entirely different system. Which is what I suppose most people
> would argue with the modern movement of M*'s seems to be away from the
> heavily combat reliant DIKU base. Large scale battles are not the realm of
> M*'s.  For example, AD&D really isn't designed for large scale battle, and
> it survives myriad adventures without it.

I think you're confusing realism and detail here.  A battle doesn't have
to be handled on a per-person basis -- it could be handled with "units" of
each army instead of individuals.  The battle becomes more abstract in
this way, but the results may still be realistic.

Also, on a medieval mud, medieval army sizes should be used.  Until the
late part of the medieval period, few battles involved more than a few
hundred people total.  You can break those up into units of 10 or so, and
have only 10 to 50 units to handle for most battles.

The PC-level portion of AD&D isn't designed for large-scale battles, but
there have been several different AD&D systems for handling large-scale
battles by grouping NPCs into units.

For that matter, it also depends on your purpose.  Do you want the PCs to
be generals?  If so, a more abstract system may work better.  You may even
want to handle battles through a mechanism divorced from the mud, such as
a matrix game with one of the admins as a referee.  Do you want the PCs to
be soldiers in an army?  Give them orders, run things on the "unit" level,
but break up the units in any area where the PCs are into individuals.
Most of the battle gets handled on the unit level, but the players don't
see that.

> But then, isn't this a limitation of scale? Isn't that saying, at such and
> such size of a thing, it's not feasible or practical to include in a virtual
> world.  So should we then have anything else in our world that is on that
> scale? If we can't have a working army then should we have working kingdoms?
> Should we have a geographical area which would suggest kingdoms/provinces?

Things at different scales can be handled through different mechanisms, if
necessary.  Ultimately, it depends on what you and your players want --
most people will recognize that some things simply have to be "fudged" to
make a playable game.  If something annoys you, find a way around it.

       |\      _,,,---,,_        Travis S. Casey  <efindel at io.com>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
     '---''(_/--'  `-'_) 

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