[MUD-Dev] Sustainable Ecosystem

jolson at micron.net jolson at micron.net
Thu Jul 20 12:31:11 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

From: "Mordengaard" <mordengaard at redhotant.com>
> ...
> As a couple of people have already said when replying to your 
> post, the
> problem comes when you introduce the human element.  Even a small 
> populationof players can clear a whole area out of wolves (leaving 
> the pigs to grow
> unchecked until more wolves move in) and/or pigs (leaving the 
> wolves to
> starve to death, or depopulating the area totally). 

More likely, they'll kill all the pigs AND all the wolves, and then 
start hunting the dragon.  It's not that players unbalance a virtual 
ecosystem; they decimate it.

> Since the Real World (TM) hasn't come up with a solution to this 
> problemthat doesn't involve "player" intervention (and I'm damn 
> sure I'm not going
> to get a player-run GreenPeace guild on my MUD), I'm toying with 
> the idea of
> adding an "artificial" element, namely "ecobots".  These basically 
> monitorany given area and "seed" it if the ecology of the area 
> collapses.  The
> "seed" will be presented as a small number of "pigs" moving into 
> the area to
> take the place of the old (presumably slaughtered) inhabitants.  If
> necessary, once the "pigs" are settled in, a "wolf" population 
> will also be
> seeded.

If a simulated ecosystem is what you're after, I don't think that will 
work very well as long as players are around.  

Natural ecosystems operate on a sort of supply and demand system.  
Animals only consume food as long as they're hungry (or in some cases 
storing it for later).  When food demand exceeds supply, they die or 
relocate.  This causes natural local population fluctuation, but I 
can't think of a instance in nature where a population is completely 
annihilated on a routine basis.  But that's precisely what players do; 
they kill and kill until there's nothing left to kill.  Players observe 
no limits; theirs is a hunger that cannot be sated.  Artificially 
repopulating the "pigs" (aka respawn, from a player POV) doesn't re-
establish the ecosystem; it just starts the slaughter again.

It might be necessary to remove or diminish players' incentives for 
killing members of a virtual ecosystem in order for that ecosystem to 
be viable.  If there was nothing to gain but a carcass from killing an 
animal, maybe players would stop once they had what they needed.

Or maybe what's needed is a better simulation of reality, at the 
expense of playability.  I'm fairly sure that if I ran after a herd of 
deer while waving a sword around, every one of them would easily escape 
me.  Very few animals will stand and fight a group of humans under 
normal circumstances if they have a choice in the matter.  If players 
are forced to use realistic means to kill animals (stealth, traps, 
large-group hunting tactics), maybe the animal populations would have a 
more realistic chance at survival.

-Josh Olson

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