[MUD-Dev] Wilderness

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Sat Aug 4 21:54:47 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

On Thursday 02 August 2001 06:57 pm, John Buehler wrote:
> Ola Fosheim Grostad writes:
>> "Nathan F. Yospe" wrote:
>>> John Buehler <johnbue at msn.com> said:

>>>> The same with the wildlife.  Run a simulator to produce an
>>>> expansionist empire that then collapses and leaves ruins here
>>>> and there.  Run batch generators to produce individual features
>>>> that fit into the world terrain matrix, like caves, ruins and
>>>> such.

>>> Sorry for the second reply, but this has gotten me started
>>> again.  There are those on this list who may remember me for
>>> exactly this kind of wild design...  and even some who have
>>> accused me of blue-sky naivite.

>> The problem is more like: why do it?  Designers want control, and
>> quite frankly designers are going to produce more interesting
>> areas than any general algorithm can produce.

> I disagree.  I don't find hand-built content all that intriguing.
> It's limited and it tends to be arbitrary.  This works, that
> doesn't.  There's a pin in the corner of this room, but that table
> won't move.  Hand-built content tends to be interacted with in the
> generally-linear structure that the designers have in mind.

This doesn't seem to me to be an issue of hand-built vs. generated,
though: it's an issue of the quality and consistency of what's
created.  A generator could put in text descriptions of things
without allowing them to be interacted with, and a hand-built area
could allow everything to be interacted with.

Traditional mud hand-building depends on writing a description for
the area (or "room", in traditional mud parlance), then setting up
things so that certain features of the description can be interacted
with.  This naturally leads to the sorts of things John is
describing.  However, there's no reason why hand-building *has* to
work this way.

An alternative method for hand-building would be a "set dressing"
model -- that is, the mud has a library of "props" and "sets".  Sets
are pre-built areas, already filled with props.  Props are objects
that can be placed into a set.  A set's description is generated
based on a few variables of the set, and on the props that are in
the set.

  Example: Let's say I want to create an evil wizard's workroom.
  Here's how building it goes:

  Traditional Model: I start by deciding what significant stuff will
  be in the room.  Then I write a room description, making sure to
  mention all the significant things, and likely mentioning other
  things for "atmosphere".  Having done that, I write messages for
  the various "look at X" things that I think players might do.  I
  write code to handle the results of commands that I think players
  are likely to try -- e.g., "search desk", or "get Necronomicon
  from bookself".  Lastly, I go back over everything and make sure
  that I haven't accidentally added something that needs to be
  described in the room description, or to have a "look at" set, or
  would require some more commands to be added.

  Set-dressing Model: I look in the the set library, find a
  "wizard's workroom", and pull it up.  I decide to change a few
  cosmetic variables -- e.g., change the walls to be rough-hewn
  black stone instead of the default of smooth white walls.

  Next, I check the inventory of props.  It's got a table, several
  alchemical instruments on the table, a bookshelf randomly stocked
  with books from the "wizard's books" list, a writing desk, two
  chairs, and several candles.  Ok.  I remove a couple of the
  candles and add a hand of glory in their place.  I put a human
  skull on the desk.  I remove the default alchemical stuff from the
  table, and replace it with a setup for creating a homonculus.  I
  create a few papers for the wizard to be working on and have them
  randomly strewn on the desk.  I have the system randomly generate
  books for the bookshelf, throw out a few I don't think are
  appropriate, and then add the Necronomicon.  I create a small note
  and stick it in one of the books, barely sticking out.  I take a
  couple of the books from the shelf and set them on the desk,
  putting one of them open to a random page.  Lastly, I put a
  pentagram with candle stubs at the tips on the floor.

With the set-dressing model, I've hand-built the room, but I built
it up from pre-existing components.  Each of those components is an
object with behaviors of its own, so things can be set on or under
the table, put in the desk drawers, the candles can be lit and
snuffed, everything can be moved around, and so on.

On the flip side of things, an automatic terrain generator doesn't
have to lay down objects that can be interacted with -- it could
just set up a description or background graphics.  Thus, a generator
laying down ruins could put down a static "ruin object" that isn't
subdivided -- so that one can't actually go into the doors that show
on the ruins, can't pick up any of the rocks of the ruins, and can't
write graffiti on them.  The generator might put down objects that
look like trees, but can't be climbed, cut down with an axe, or be
carved into with a knife.

(Now, I'll readily admit that someone going to the trouble of
setting up a terrain generator is likely to subdivide things into
smaller objets and provide reasonable behavior for those objects.
I'm just trying to point out that there's nothing that *requires* a
terrain generator to do that.)

> I suppose it all depends on your expectations.  I like the idea of
> getting into a world and fooling around in it, using my
> imagination to come up with entertaining things to do.  As opposed
> to trying to figure out what the designers' imaginations came up
> with as entertaining things to do.

But there's no reason you can't have both.  With the set-dressing
example, for example, someone might take the chemicals that are in
the homonculus setup and be able to use them to make a potion that
the area builder hadn't realized they could be used to make.  If the
default objects are set up to allow it, they can carve their
initials into the legs of the table, glue a holy symbol to the
underside of the table to mess up the wizard's demon-summoning
spells, substitute one of the candles that makes up the pentagram
with a different kind of candle, and do all sorts of other things
that the area builder might not have imagined.

That's part of what I love about GMing paper RPGs -- even though
I've created everything around the players, they still manage to use
it all in ways I didn't expect.

       |\      _,,,---,,_     Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-' 
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_) 

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