[MUD-Dev] "Mud-school", character-gen and role-playing

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Sat Jul 8 13:54:36 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


On Sunday, July 09, 2000, Tim Vernum wrote:

> What does these three have in common?

> Well, a few discussions here prompted me to think about some
>  matters, and this is what I came up with.

> I'm thinking about a situation in which the character generation
>  process, is a simulation, similar to the game. In my case I'm
>  thinking in terms of text-games, but I don't see why it can't
>  apply to graphical games.

> Imagine that when a user decides to create a character (either
>  a new user logs on, or an existing user creates a 2ndry char
>  [if you mud allows it]). They start off nameless, sexless,
>  raceless and statless.

> You then allow them to move through a simulation, where various
>  situations are put before them. How they react to these
>  situations defines who their character is. At the end of the
>  simulation, all the initial details of their character are
>  formed, based upon the choices they made in those situations.

> At its simplest you can have.
> "You are in a small dark room. A single light hangs from the
>  ceiling. The light makes visible a small stone table against
>  the eastern wall. On the table is an apple, a dagger and a
>  book. You can see no means of exit"

> Now, based on whether the player takes the apple, the dagger
>  or the book, you know something about how their character
>  behaves. If you're doing this simply, then you might
>  categorise them into explorer/fighter/magic-user based on
>  that.

> But there's a lot more you can measure.
> Do they look at the items before picking them up?
> Do they try and take all the items at once?
> If a door opens after they take the book, do they exit
>  immediately or stay and take the dagger too?

> The idea is that you give the player an intro to the mud.
> You tell them that they should make their choices in line
>  with the style of character they wish to play, and then
>  you analyse this to determine the game defined features
>  of the player.
> This would appear to work particularly well in games where
>  there is little/no stat changes after creation.

> Has anyone done anything like that?

I understand that some of the Ultima games used something like that;
in that case, I think it was used just to establish the character's
personality, but I may be mistaken.

Personally, I don't think it's a good idea.  I see two problems with
it:

1 - It's a form of guessing game.  The player has to guess what any
    particular set of choices is supposed to be determining, and also
    has to guess how the game's creator was thinking.

2 - Such a system seems like it's almost going to have to deal in
    stereotypes.  If a player tries to create a character who doesn't
    fit the stereotypes, chances are high that he/she won't get the
    character he/she wants.

For example, let's take the room above with the apple, book, and
dagger.  If you know it's going to determine a character class in a
fantasy game, it seems fairly obvious what the dagger and book are
likely to be (though the apple is much less obvious -- I was thinking
"thief" rather than "explorer", from the tradition that thieves come
from poor backgrounds and get their start stealing food).

However, if you don't know that, it becomes much less obvious.  They
could represent motivation:  apple = survival, book = curiosity,
dagger = power.  They could represent sex:  dagger = male, apple =
female, book = indeterminate as yet (of course, in this one, it could
also well be apple = indeterminate, book = female, following the idea
that women are more interested in literary pursuits).

And, of course, all of these examples rely heavily on stereotypes.
What if someone wants to play a fighter who's interested in learning?
Or a mage who wishes he could be a fighter, but doesn't have the
physique for it?  Or just a character who's always hungry?  Any of
these personality choices would be likely to result in the character
picking up the "wrong" item in the original example, thereby
preventing the player from actually following the instructions and
winding up with the character he/she thought of.  (My two examples
also rely heavily on stereotypes -- someone interested in survival
might pick up the dagger first, thinking there might be danger around.
Someone who believes "knowledge is power" might think the book
represents power.)

Even the stereotypes presented are a rather narrow array.  Many men
are more interested in books than weapons, and many women more
interested in weapons than books.  If you use a test of "who does the
player look more closely at -- men or women?", you run into problems
with vain characters, who may well be more likely to compare
themselves to others of the same sex.  Not to mention problems with
homosexual characters.

Ok... enough criticizing.  Here's some thoughts:

If you're interested in getting players to think about their
characters and what they're like, a life-path system might be a more
useful way to do that.  In such a system, the player makes a series of
choices that are about the character's history.  For example:

Was your character raised by:
 - Nobles
 - Merchants
 - Workers
 - Peasants
 - Slaves
 - Nobody

Some such systems present the same choice many times, to allow for the
fact that a character might have gone through many experiences in
his/her life.  For example, the question might be:

Who raised your character from birth to age 4?

instead, with "from age 4 to age 8" coming later, and so on.

Another possibility is combining a more limited version of your above
idea with another character creation system.  For example, you might
use your system to get a version of a character's personality, a
life-path system for basic starting skills, a series of choices for
things like sex, race, etc., and a point distribution system for
finalizing the character.

Such a complex system would probably better be done through a set of
web forms than on the mud itself, but IMHO, that's true of any
moderately complex method for character generation.

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





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