[MUD-Dev] The grass is always greener in the other field

Travis Casey efindel at io.com
Mon Dec 27 15:23:25 New Zealand Daylight Time 1999

On Thursday, December 23, 1999, Adam Wiggins wrote:
> On Thu, 23 Dec 1999, Travis Casey wrote:

>> Combine multiple values in levels displayed to players.  E.g., a mud
>> might internally use a linear system in which attributes average 50
>> and range up to 200 for some attributes, but range up to 500 for
>> others -- but remap all of them to show 5 as "average" to players and
>> 10 as "maximum".

> This seems more confusing to the implementors than anything else.
> I don't see the point in obfuscating things at the implementation level.

The point of having different scales isn't obfuscation; it's simply to
reflect the fact that in reality, different "attributes" have
different ranges.  Take strength and size, for example.  If we measure
both in terms of weight, we'll find that the strongest people in the
world are about four to five times as strong as an average person.
However, the heaviest people in the world weigh more than 10 times as
much as an average person.

Thus, if we make 50 average for all attributes and use a linear scale,
the human maximum for strength should be in the area of 200 to 250,
while the maximum for size should be in the area of 500 or so.

Other examples can be given, but the basic idea is that you could use
this not only to obfuscate attributes some for players, but also to
show all attributes to players on, say, a 0 to 10 scale with 5 being
average while using different scales for different attributes

(For that matter, you could use actual values for attributes that can
be measure that way -- you might measure strength in terms of maximum
weight the character can easily lift, while keeping size in terms of
actual weight.  This can simplify comparisons in the mud.

In fact, you might want to keep some attributes on "reverse" scales,
with lower values being better -- e.g., a reaction time attribute.
You could still remap such attributes to show "normally" to players.)

>> Another way of doing this might be to display compound attributes --
>> e.g., the old Star Frontiers roleplaying game had pairs of related
>> abilities:  Strength/Stamina, Dexterity/Reaction Speed,
>> Intuition/Logic, and one other pair I can't recall.  The two abilities
>> within a pair had to initially be within a certain distance of each
>> other.  A mud might use such pairs internally, but show each pair to
>> players as being a single ability.

> Very nice.  I'm not too sure why something like this isn't standard
> in RPG stat systems.

Well, in paper RPGs it can be somewhat of a pain.  I'm not sure why it
hasn't been done more in computer RPGs.

>> The system might either lie about attribute values or might "scale"
>> them differently for different characters.  For example, a mud using
>> textual descriptions might describe a human's strength as being
>> "excellent" -- but that might be weaker than an ogre with "fair"
>> strength, because the descriptions are scaled by race.

> We've discussed this before: I believe JC gave an interesting example
> where a character based their perceptions of their own stats entirely
> upon what other character they have seen recently.  Thus, if they witness
> a great feat of strength, their strength display drops from (say) "good"
> to (say) "average".

> Although this makes sense both from a realism and from a number-hiding
> viewpoint, as a player I dislike it.  Whether I'm a roleplayer trying
> to see how my character fits into the world or whether I'm a GoPer
> trying to get the best character stats, I find it unsatisfying as a player
> to have the stat display so "soft".  Players need a frame of reference,
> and I think this denies it to them.

I don't like JC's idea much, for a single reason -- it implicitly
presumes that the experiences we "see" the character having are all
the experiences the character has.  On most muds, characters start out
as young adults -- so they should have accumulated a lot of data on
just how strong, smart, etc. they are relative to other people in the
years they've been growing up.  How much depends on where they've
lived -- for example, growing up in a small town of about 10,000
people, I didn't know many people who were as smart as I was
growing up.  My first year in college, though, I was in the honors
dorm of a university with almost 30,000 students; there, I met many
people who were smarter than I was.  If I had come from a larger
community, my experience probably would have been different.

>> This could all be presented to players as being a single action -- the
>> casting of a spell.  Since multiple die rolls are involved, skills and
>> attributes are used multiple times, different environmental factors
>> affect the different stages, and stage 2 may or may not come into
>> play, this could be a difficult knot to untangle.

> *nod*  Well, look back at my formulas in the lockpicking thread.
> I simply make it practice to take into account four or five different
> variables on both the person commiting the action as well as the victim
> (person, object, or location).  Formula obscurity is only a pleasant
> side-effect of this practice; I do it because I like the complexity.

To me, this is the best aspect of a mud -- you can throw in dozens of
modifiers to things, with no fear that people running the system will
forget about them, and little worry about them slowing things down.
Where paper RPGs tend to have "binary" rules like "you can't pick a
lock without lockpicks", a computer RPG can more easily have
distinctions about what kind of locks you can or can't pick.

In a paper RPG, the GM can always adjust for the situation or make up
a rule on the spot.  Computer RPGs don't have that flexibility, so to
achieve anything like the richness that a paper RPG with a good GM can
give, you have to "pre-set" many modifiers and rules.

> In fact, when I first began mudding, I assumed that that is the way that
> it *did* work.  I worried about my mage's dexterity (since I assumed
> that it helped spellcasting), or the types of armor worn by my thief
> (since I assumed that anything with metal or brightly colored would
> adversely affect sneaking and hiding), or my wariror's charisma (since
> I assumed it would affect how well I could lead a large group).

Me too -- simply because I would take those things into account as a

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