[MUD-Dev] Sustainable Ecosystem

Michael Tresca talien at toast.net
Fri Jul 21 20:01:47 New Zealand Standard Time 2000


Timothy Dang wrote:

> I think this is an important distinction to consider. I'm fairly certain
> folks creating just simulations have created viable simulated
> ecologies. That can be done. Whether and how the ecology can survive
> contact with players is a different matter.

Creating viable ecologies is a little too vague of a question for
multiplayer game purposes.  It's more along the lines of "creating an
interactive ecology."  It's one thing to program an ecology which interacts
within itself and develops on its own.  It's another entirely to have what
is basically a hostile force whose sole purpose is to eradicate the resident
population.

This is what makes dungeon ecologies so silly, because creatures end up
existing in isolated pockets with no viable means of sustaining themselves
without preying on each other.  One workaround is to create a military
environment instead, where the intelligent creatures are living in barracks,
armed to the teeth, and ready for a fight.

This is the only ecology that I've seen actually work in a "mass murder"
paradigm, which applies to most MUDs.  Players are essentially top
predators, everything else is a predator that attempts to destroy them, and
usually loses.  In no time, the more intelligent player characters increase
in numbers, use their numbers to dominate more powerful predators, and
ultimately, wipe out everything in the game. The artifical means of dealing
with this issue is to simply have an endless supply of prey that never run
out (through reloading).

This is why I believe strongly in "bringing the monster to the player."  If
players are not to be the top of the food chain, the must be invaded,
attacked, and harassed. In other words, they need to be put in the monster's
position of prey.

Yes, perhaps dragons are more powerful predators than high level warriors.
But if the dragon sits in his lair and sleeps all day, he's not much of a
predator.  In comparison, the warrior (and his buddies) probably murder
other beings in large quantities, and worse, since they're not attacking
things to sustain themselves physically (in other words, they're not eating
the meat of everything they destroy) they're even more dangerous --
theoretically, there is no means of satiating their destructive appetites.

One way to change this comfortable zone of supremacy is to bring the
monsters to the players.  We have a variety of events in which monsters
attack the players -- who then often run and hide, holing themselves up (as
best they can) in their castles.

Random events are a great means of avoiding the static nature of
hack-and-slash MUDs and introducing an element of uncertainty into normal
seek and destroy missions.  It also motivates players to do something as a
community.  Rather than pursue their own independent goals, indifferent to
the plight of player characters, they gather together to fight the forces
that are hunting them for protection and preservation. Suddenly, the dungeon
crawl is reversed, the monsters are adventuring, the players are laying in
wait, and the game gets more interesting...

or annoying, depending on your perspective. Random events are loathed by
most players, who resent the instrusion when they were just about to kill
something else.  Unlike monsters, players don't reload as quickly or as
predictably, so the monster raid method must be used with care.

This Meta-ecology is a very simple but effective means of preventing players
from becoming the supreme predators on a multi-player game.  While there may
be some merit to having the dragons kill the sheep who kill the Grass
Monsters, player characters will kill everything -- including the Soil
Monsters that the Grass Monsters feed on.

So here's the question: Is it really valuable to create perfect ecologies
(dragons feeding on sheep), or is the "War Ecology" the only one that can be
applied to a game that's all about violence?  Would a very fast,
self-replenshing ecology make a difference, or would players even care about
the big picture?

Michael "Talien" Tresca
RetroMUD Administrator
http://www.retromud.org
telnet://retromud.org 3000







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