[MUD-Dev] Balance... RPG or Role-Playing Game?

Gabriel gjsfaun at hotmail.com
Wed Jul 26 16:23:57 New Zealand Standard Time 2000

From: "Patrick Dughi"
> There has been alot of talk recently on this list about how we
> ought to not stratify the players, make them all nearly equal in
> or lower the effective range of abilities.  Sure, this is great for
> encouraging the casual gamer, for many reasons which have been
> However, it discourages the concept of a Hero.  When everyone is
> the same, you end up with a world which has the same difficulty for
> everyone.  In a system where everyone wants to strive to be a hero,
> hard for static, alike characters to differentate themselves.  If in
> end you kill a dragon, there's not much to stop your friend from
> a dragon, and so on.  You're not a hero, you're a regular.  Then it
> boring.

I don't think it prevents "Heros" so much as it prevents power-gamers
from feeling satisfied. For those players that get their gratification
from the numbers, this sort of system wouldn't suite them. Hero's on
the other hand can be regular people doing something that is beyond
what everyone else might do - putting themselves in the path of that
dragon so that the others might escape, knowing that it will mean a
permanent death. How many players are willing or could make the
decision in the time alloted, to sacrafice their character to save the

> Maybe this is one reason quake and other games (AD&D) where the
> ranking is immediately obvious are popular.  People can see who's
> best, and in some cases, by how much.  People like being
competitive, they
> like striving for goals as long as they're attainable, and they're
> entertained with an earned victory than a given - well, some people.

I'm one of those power-gamers that likes to be god. I want the power,
I want the respect, I want to be in the top ten percent (combat wise)
in the game. The recent posts are suggesting that people like me are
really in the minority, that there is a greater number of people out
there that don't feel the same way. It's hard for me to grasp, but I'm
willing to consider it in my game design.

> Of all though, online gamers _really_ enjoy respect and attention.
> I don't have to give examples for this; you've seen it in any
> game you've ever seen.  Everyone wants to be known, and usually they
> your friendship, admiration, or your fear.  Of course, it's hard to
> respected for being a near-clone in a crowd of clones.

There are different kinds of respect that can be shown:
 - The respect of ones peers for your willingness to contribute to the
community (helping newbies, writing histories, fleshing out the
stories, role-playing)
 - The respect for ones ability to crush others (skills and levels
being the main indicator)

I've been playing a MUD now for close to five years. I spent a great
amount of that time helping newbies, fleshing out the story line,
role-playing and otherwise doing things other than trying to advance
(which was quite slow and required dedication).

As a result, I went from being top ten in the combat classes to fairly
average. It is now impossible for my character to even compete with
those others - there is no way she could catch up. But she still gets
their respect, not for her combat abilities but because she was the
one that spent the time training others and themselves on how to
survive in the game and make it to the top. Her sacrafice lent it's
own respect.

Could this have existed if everyone started the game with decent
abilities and stayed that way?  I don't think so, at least not in the
same way. The respect would still be there, but the reasons for it
might not be the same.

> Basically, I'm saying that a good step for a mud is to make a
> division between your regular, and your hero.  Make it so it takes
> than playing time to be a hero - perhaps a characters max abilities
> set at generation.

I don't think that someone who could take on a dragon without a
scratch is a hero, they are simply power-players. A regular who
couldn't take on that hero, but did it anyway and sacraficed part of
himself in the process I would consider a hero (or a fool).

The concept itself I prefer over leaving everyone the same. I still
think there needs to be advancement possible in a game in order for it
to be successful.  There has to be a sense of accomplishment in
fulfilling a quest or fighting a dragon, or improving a character.
Otherwise players get disheartened (at least those of us that enjoy
this sort of thing) and leave.

I do think there are problems with the sort of models that exist
today, in particular when character advancement becomes the sole goal
and it becomes more of a second job than fun. It's a common symptom I
see in large games where advancement is everything. There has to be
other alternatives, and the top people can never be omnipotent. A
commoner with a dagger should still be able to seriously cramp the
style of the highest level fighter by sticking a that dagger between
his shoulder blades or into his gut. This could be difficult to do for
a fighter who is ready for it, but easy to do for someone that is
completely taken by surprise.

It's one of the reasons I like the idea of ShadowRun's skill testing.
You get a number of dice to roll and each die that exceeds a
difficulty factor is a success. The difficulty factor goes up and down
based on the circumstances, the number of dice is determined by skills
and stats. The number of success' directly effects the effects.
Something like climbing the number of success' determines how far the
character can climb from that skill roll.

This system, with some modification, gives everyone a chance to do
things successfully so long as the difficult factor isn't too high.
Everyone can basically climb, but those trained in it will be able to
climb further and faster. Everyone could jab a dagger at someone, but
someone trained in it will be able to cause more damage (sticking it
in someone's eye to pierce the brain for example).

I've never seen this system used except in MUXs but I think it lends a
lot to both schools of thought - those that like advancement for the
sake of advancement and those that want people to start off with some
amount of power and be able to do things.

> Returning to our original problem, now it doesn't hurt then, to
> make your dragons of heroic proportions.  Only the heros could
tackle it.
> PjD

In summary, I don't think a character who is trained to tackle the
dragon is nessisarily a hero. He's just a character trained to take on
dragons. He could be a hero depending on what happened while taking on
the dragon - if there was a damsel tied to a stake and the hero dove
inbetween the dragon and the damsel regardless of his own saftey,
saving the damsel (he could still live to tell the tale) then he could
be a hero.

The key factor I think is in how to please both the casual gamers and
the power-players (and role-players, etc). A system which can do both
successfully should give the gaming community something to talk about.
They may be out there already, and if so then those of us that haven't
experienced them should spend some time to see how successful they are
and where the problems lie so that we can avoid the problems in our
own game designs.


Gabriel Schuyler

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