[MUD-Dev] Sustainable Ecosystem

quzah at kanga.nu quzah at kanga.nu
Thu Jul 20 22:41:02 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

Note: This message was written via the list web archives.  There is
no guarantee that the claimed author is actually the author.
Original message: http://www.kanga.nu/archives/MUD-Dev-L/2000Q3/msg00244.php

Now I hope this doesn't screw up the message. I'm getting this in digest form
sent to kanga.nu, but I get it individual form via hotmail. (However, I can't
reply from hotmail because it is spammy.) Since this message hasn't yet been
indexed, I've replyed to the same thread, but a previous message by pasting the
body of the message I want to reply to. I'm sure you're all fascinated by this.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Matthew D. Fuller" <fullermd at over-yonder.net>
To: <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2000 19:28
Subject: Re: [MUD-Dev] Sustainable Ecosystem

> On Thu, Jul 20, 2000 at 12:31:11PM -0600 I heard the voice of
> jolson at micron.net, and lo! it spake thus:
> > 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.
> Exactly a problem I'm facing in some preliminary design for a similar
> system I'm working on now (unfortunately, only thinking about, as the
> press of Real Work (tm) has been keeping me from doing any actual WORK on
> it for several months, and may for several more).  I think a few
> considerations are in order to make it work, and that some of these take
> issue with some of the base ideas underlying the stereotypical 'MUD'.

Here is one thing everyone on the list has missed. Scale! Your standard mud has
how many rooms? Let's be giving, and say they have 50000 rooms. Most have 1/10th
that, but most of those admins don't hang out here, which is why I've upped the

Ok, we have a mud with 50K rooms, and how many active players? 50? 20? 100?
Split up your rooms among your players. At 50 active players, each player gets
1000 rooms. Now let's say they each play for 2 hours a day. (And what mudder
only plays for 2 hours?)

That means they have to walk through 500 rooms an hour. The typical mud day is
what, an hour real time? That means that if they cover their 500 rooms in an
hour, your world is barren in no time.

Given the time your creature needs to breed--in the off chance that they don't
stroll through all of their rooms, it should take a creature more than a DAY of
"mud time" to reproduce.

The problem becomes immediately obvious. You don't have nearly enough rooms.
Where are your creatures supposed to live?

Toss Joe-Hunter out in the middle of a forest. How many deer will he encounter
in a real life given day? How many miles can he cover? How many rabbits will he
see? Birds? Bear?

Sure you can have a working ecosystem. Your worlds are just WAY WAY WAY too

(Now I know KaVir is going to jump in here and say he has a few million rooms!
If not, he should!) There's a place I can actually see an ecosystem working.
He's got the rooms for it. (Granted, at last I checked, mobs weren't stored
while out of play (out of sight, out of mind) but that's beside the point.)

All you have to do is figure out how dense the typical piece of land is, and how
likely you are to discover wildlife.

> 1) Man (or 'players', but 'man' is easier to type) is NOT the top of the
> food chain.
> In fact, there IS no such thing as a food chain.  It's not a straight
> chain, or a pyramid, it's a circle.  Everything both benefits and
> detriments everything else.  Killing the fish doesn't just starve the
> sharks and increase the plankton, it increases the rate of shark
> waste buildup and decreases the rate of water flow that helps the
> plankton grow and spread.  Left alone, this system will flow toward a
> balance.  With players fscking with it, it'll flow toward utter
> chaos.  The only way to counteract that is to make 'bad' causes show
> 'bad' effects quickly, and have the system be able to recover quickly
> when left alone.  Also, it'll need to have some inherent checks
> against being put too far out of whack.  If you kill enough wolves,
> they get smart, run, and hide.  This also leads into:

Still, with a small world (standard mud) you will always (unless you're using
repops) risk extinction. Once the fish are gone, what do the sharks eat?
Eachother I guess. Maybe they try and eat squid. In the mean time, whatever the
fish used to eat are now more abundant. Now that they're more, whatever they eat
are less. When they begin to starve to death, that'll balance out.

The only way to curb this (ok, maybe not the ONLY way) is to have something like
plants. Plants eat the earth, and the sun, which will never run out. Whatever
eats plants will never die out by overpopulation, so long as you allow for the
chance that grass (plants) have a way to reappear.

Now with plants you can fake it and get away with it. Seeds are in the *ahem*
undigestables... of whatever has eaten them. Thus, they'll eventually be more
grass one way or another. (I keep typing grass instead of plants, so I'm going
to stop correcting myself from here on.)

You can't do that with "sentient" moving creatures. When all the cows die
because the farmers run out with pitchforks and gore them to death, they don't
come back from the by products of the fat farmers. It just doesn't work that

So, in the end, you end up with a bunch of grass eating farmers because the cows
are extinct. Grass never runs out, so farmers now eat grass and become skinny
again. Farmers then do what they should have in the first place, and plant
crops, but that's another story...

> 2) Man is not the only agressive, purposeful creature in the world
> In a traditional system, man goes out seeking beasts to kill.  But if
> you kill too many cows, the dragons are going to be kinda pissed at
> you.  They won't wait for you to come attack them, they won't attack
> you when they see you, they'll *SEEK YOU OUT* and annahilate you.
> Or, if you don't annoy them that much, they'll just set you on fire
> when you get too close to the remaining cows.  If you kill all the
> cows, the dragons won't have any other food source, so they'll have
> to eat all the sheep you're cultivating to sell the wool.

The dragon will just eat people. Adjust your lunch. You're assuming that the
dragon is a farmer at this point, keeping track of how many cows there are so
they can always have a food source.

> A number of other points could be brought up, but these two cover the
> essence.  With those adjusted perspectives under our belt, we can go on
> to develop a rather interesting world.  Of course, it's a world rather
> alien to the Joe Q. Mudder, so we have to consider how revolutionary we
> want to be.  But think of the possibilities!  Quests have always had a
> rather contrived feeling, very much busy-work.  Now, since the beasts
> already have a sense of purpose, and individual and group impetus, we'll
> have a REAL quest, wherein a number of warriors have to help defend a
> village from 25 strafing firedragons, not 'because I told you so', but
> 'because you killed all the !@*& sheep you moron, now you have to protect
> the rest of us from your folly'.  It provides a whole new level of
> indirect attack against 'rival' villages, not only by depleting their
> resources, but by turning the local wildlife against them.
> etc.

I like the idea, but again, the real fix is simply to scale up your world. You
get a new player? Great, generate another 10000 kilometers of land!
(100x100kilometers should be more than enough to keep Joe mudder happy, and even
if it isn't, he can go on Bob-socializer's plot because Bob never leaves the pub
;)  [but that's another thread]


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