[MUD-Dev] Request for ideas

Vincent Archer archer at frmug.org
Mon Oct 1 15:21:31 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


On Mon, Sep 24, 2001 at 10:44:08AM -0500, Eli Stevens wrote:

> Specifically, I would like pointers to past Good Ideas that
> haven't been explored enough, or are implemented poorly, or are
> just under-represented in general.  We are not looking to just
> make a Diku clone, although combat will be a feature.  We want to
> push the edge a bit.

I'd suggest an aspect that is traditional of all RPGs, yet poorly
implemented in all multi-players games of the genre:

Questing.

Almost every single questing system I've seen so far is based off
static quests, for which you merely have to go to a spoiler site
(for a sufficiently large game), or ask somebody who's already
"done" that quest for detailed steps, then follow the guide.

The few attempts for dynamic quests have all ended up as a basic:
"random roll of half a dozen mission types, random roll the reward,
random roll the item to find/repair/mob to slay". I haven't seen any
system that is more sophisticated than that (Daggerfall, anyone?)...

A reliable system for the generation of random, story-backed, quests
can be a lot of fun, a real challenge, *and* maybe give ideas to
MMORPG creators out there.

I've worked on and off on such a system, but it requires far more
efforts than I can put in on my not-so-copious spare time. The best
model I made was a kind of directed, cyclic graph of "steps" where,
at each node (a step that is completed), you'd pick the next arc at
random, subject to constraints (is the quest shaping to be a solo or
group effort, is the quest geared toward pseudo-investigation, or
heads-on, what kind of mobs are we killing so far). People start
their quest at some pre-determined nodes, then traverse the graph
until the reach an end point (quest "finished").

The trick is to determine all useful nodes and arcs, put the
constraints in (never more than three "I sign the letter and you
give it to the next guy" steps in a row), and then synthetise a kind
of back-story to drive the quest. There are plenty of steps that can
be atypical (like, you're slaying a lot of wolves in that quest, so
one step involves recruiting a specialist; the system looking which
of the on-line people has the most headcount for wolves and
suggesting him, and so on), fill a story, and give great relief (as
opposed as "give this token to NPC X for your reward").

Synthetising explanation texts at each node (which need to take into
account what arc you came thru, what arc you're scheduled for the
next quest step, what factions the quest imparts) is also a good
research topic, since you're going to mix and match sentence parts,
and build a grammatically correct sentence/paragraph from it.

It's not a novel feature, but it's an area that's never been done
right as far as I know. Combines graph theory, a little AI,
automated text generation, a bit of linguistics, everything for
everyone.

(my own estimation is 6-10 man-months of work at least, which is on
the big side for a team student project).

--
	Vincent Archer			Email:	archer at frmug.org

All men are mortal.  Socrates was mortal.  Therefore, all men are Socrates.
							(Woody Allen)
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