[MUD-Dev] Balancing Melee vs Ranged Combat in Games Which Model Space

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Wed Apr 11 00:37:20 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

Travis Casey writes:

> Monday, April 09, 2001, 4:25:16 AM, John Buehler <johnbue at msn.com> wrote:

> Alternatively, if your goal is to provide maximum entertainment, you
> could implement what's the common practice among many paper gaming
> groups: players having a stable of characters.  If I want to feel
> like a powerful wielder of magic, I can pull out my mage character
> and play it.  If I feel like thinking my way around obstacles, I can
> play my thief character.  If I've had a bad day and want to smash
> things and go "ug" a lot, I can play my troll barbarian.

> If you abandon the idea of the game being a quest for players to
> build a more powerful character, with things like character death
> being setbacks on that path, and you're not worried about whether or
> not people are really "roleplaying", then why not allow players to
> create multiple characters and use them as they see fit?

The attitude of a player and the environment in which he or she plays
when playing a paper game is dramatically different from that of a
computer game.  It's possible to have that attitude and environment
duplicated, but it's very dependent on the colocation of the players,
and not on anything that the game itself does.  Paper games are
inherently social because of the colocation aspect.

All I see happening as a result of having many characters at my beck
and call is that I feel more self-sufficient.  I'm a firm believer in
dragging players, kicking and screaming if need be, into interactions
with other players.  I don't want players running around in my game
with a total heads-down attitude.  Just as Achaea's players rely on
PvP interactions to derive their entertainment, I would want to have
my players rely on cooperative interactions (preferably against the
environment or against the gamemasters) to derive their entertainment
from the game.

> Thus, Ars Magica not only allows players to play different
> characters at different times, but has situations where a player can
> play multiple characters at once.

Thanks for the lengthy explanation, but I really do believe that the
fact that the players are in the same room, joking, talking and eating
pizza together, makes the most fundamental rules of gameplay
different.  It almost doesn't matter what the players do while they're
together.  The game is simply a complex interaction that they get to
share in.  They could just as easily be telling stories.

> In a situation like I'm describing, choices are irrevocable for a
> particular character, but a player can choose to create a new
> character.  A player doing so isn't required to start over, but can
> instead start the new character at a level of power comparable to
> that of their old character.  (Of course, they can also have the
> option of starting at a lower power level, which can be good if
> you're making a drastic change in character type, into a type that
> you have no experience playing yet.)

And what do we do with all of the character items, knowledge, faction
and other skills unrelated to the old character?  Paper games are kept
simple because they are usually managed by people.  That means that
they stick to the basics.  Not so a software game, where there can be
lots of ancillary information.

I find it far simpler to have a flexible character, especially because
of the fact that computer games don't require colocation of the
players.  When you fire up your new character, I don't know that it's
you.  The assumption there is that I knew your old character.  Back
when I was playing D&D, we really didn't care a whole lot about the
characters we were running.  Most of the entertainment was at the
player-to-player level.  The characters were just a pretext to get
together and have fun adventuring with them.

> I'll note as well that in most modern paper RPGs, things are done on
> a skill or semi-skill basis.  Even in D&D, which still has classes,
> a Ranger could choose to start picking up levels in the Druid class,
> and would still know all the skills, languages, etc. that he/she
> already knows.

Well, I haven't played D&D since about 1979, so I'm afraid I'm a
little out of date :)

>> But where do we draw the line on what sort of a game the players
>> get to play?  Should it only be the 'disruption' yardstick?  I
>> despise linear games, but I certainly want self-consistency and
>> depth to the game experience.  That sense of self-consistency
>> covers the case of the highly specialized druid not being effective
>> in his skills while underground.

> Allowing multiple characters lets you have it both ways, IMHO.  Each
> individual character remains consistent, but the *player* can choose
> to experience a different aspect of the game at any time.  > Now,
> please note that I'm not saying that this idea is an immediate
> cure-all -- allowing players to have multiple characters is going to
> carry its own set of problems, especially if you allow them to play
> multiple characters at once.  I'm simply saying that it's something
> to think about.  Just because present muds almost all try to enforce
> one character per player doesn't mean that it's necessary to any
> type of mud that one might create.

I wish you'd said this at the beginning :) I think that the multiple
character approach would work, given the right game experience to back
it up.  It would be a delicate balance to avoid the negative
psychological implications that go along with multiple characters
(e.g. a sense of self-sufficiency) while at the same time providing
good entertainment.

Perhaps if the game were campaign based, for a smaller number of
characters.  Is it Shadowbane that's running things this way?  If
there was a logical ending point for use of a character, and that
everyone understood that characters could be rebuilt based on some
total value mechanism at the end of a campaign, this sort of thing
might work quite well.  In a continuous play game, I have difficulty
seeing it work.  That may only be my shortsightedness.


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