[MUD-Dev] Questing (was: Request for ideas)

Eli Stevens listsub at wickedgrey.com
Tue Oct 2 02:56:31 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


----- Original Message -----
From: "Vincent Archer" <archer at frmug.org>

> 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").

Would the system pick the next arc, or would the player?  I could
see it working either way...  One way would be akin to the choose
your own adventure model, the other would be like having a choose
your own adventure book read to you by someone else, without knowing
about the choices explicitly (just choosing and continuing).  Do you
have an example?  I am curious to see how the randomness would work
out in practice.

> 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").

I like the specialist idea, especially how it ties in with PCs
online at the time.  I wonder what else could be done with ideas
like that...

Hmm.  Could it be taken out a few levels of scope?  What if we made
one for the state of an entire guild or kingdom, and did not give
any starting or ending points?  We just let it run...

Nodes and edges (I am using five effectivenesses of resisting
invaders, no, little, moderate, effective, crushing):
 
  A- The Dwarven clans are not unified, and are at peace
     to B: Attacks by X are met with moderate to effective resistance
     to C: Attacks by X are met with little to no resistance
  
  B- The Dwarven clans are not unified, and are at war with X
     to A: Attacks by X are crushed
     to A: X retreats
     to C: Attacks by X are met with little to no resistance
     to D: A leader wins effective to crushing battles against X
  
  C- The Dwarven clans are oppressed under the rule of X
     to A: X becomes weary of or distracted from exploiting the Dwarves
     to D: A leader wins crushing battles against X
  
  D- The Dwarven clans are unified under a strong Thane, and are at war with X
     to B: The Thane is killed by X
     to C: Attacks by X are met with no resistance
     to E: Attacks by X are met with effective to crushing resistance
  
  E- The Dwarven clans are unified under a strong Thane, and are at peace
     to A: The Thane's support weakens
     to D: Attacks by X are met with moderate to no resistance

Now tie economic productivity to the state of the clans, as well as
the NPC that spawn in the mountains, their IA scripts, the room
descriptions of places like guard towers and the Mountain Throne
where the Thane sits.  And yes, it was intentional that just the
presence of a Thane means the Dwarves are less likely to lose.  And
that a Dwarven Thane can only come to power in times of war.  It
would be horrible if a player used this information and manipulated
the Dwarven people for the benefit of one of his or her
characters...  >;)

With enough races, guilds, states, etc. and enough nodes for each,
the world state could be fairly dynamic.  Somewhere, some guild
would be upsetting the status quo.

> 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).

Ouch.  :) It would also make content creation harder, as quest
writers would have to basically construct choose your own adventure
books for each one.  Unless you were thinking that each of the nodes
would be generic, and would could show up in any quest?

Interesting stuff.  We will probably try and have something along
these lines in there, but it may have to be stripped down.  :/
Again, if you have any examples (real or synthetic), I would love to
see them on the list.  :)

Thanks!
Eli

--
Never use brute force in fighting an exponential.
      -- Andrei Alexandrescu, "Modern C++ Design"


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