[MUD-Dev] Geometric content generation

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Wed Oct 3 19:41:17 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

Brian Hook writes:
> At 12:04 PM 10/2/01 +0200, Hans Henrik Stærfeldt wrote:

>> The problems that might arise from 'single, flexible character'
>> design is that every character in the game ends up exactly the
>> same.

> This is a very legitimate concern.  The key is that you need to
> avoid "convenient generalization".  I'm fine with characters with
> similar skill sets, so another differentiating factor needs to be
> present -- ideally, one with a high cost (in time or resources) of
> change.  In our case, the character's spaceship is going to be
> this differentiating factor.  Changing spaceships will not be a
> convenient or cost-effective operation, however it isn't so high
> as to be impossible.

> In addition, we're toying with the idea of having some skills
> selectively degrade, because my only real concern is that everyone
> will power up all skills in all dimensions and then just change
> "careers" whenever they feel like it.  There is a cost to this,
> but it may not be enough to dissuade players from doing it
> nonetheless.

My current take on this is to have a hierarchical skill set which
characters can fill in as they discover masters, or books, etc, that
teach or describe skills to the player's character.  All characters
have a fixed number of skill points that they can allocate between
the various skills that they have encountered or learned.  Their
maximum achievement in a skill is an operation dependent on how well
they were taught by the master or by the book.

Skills have a kind of inertia to them, and only advance at a given
pace.  So even though a newbie character has the same 1000 skill
points to allocate among all known skills as a character that has
been around for a year, the newbie will not have had time to push
the skill points into its known skills.  In truth, the newbie may
not have a place to put all 1000 skill points because it hasn't
learned enough skills.  [I'm of the opinion that newbie characters
should be perfectly capable of many useful skills.  Newbie 'babe'
characters are just plain silly.]

If we consider the one year old character, with many skills known
and all 1000 skill points allocated, we find that the character
knows many more skills than it is currently capable of using
competently.  The character learned blacksmithing at one time, but
at some point, the player decided to move those skill points out of
blacksmithing and into tracking.  As with the initial disposition of
skill points, this process has inertia to it.  Points can only be
reallocated slowly, so as to avoid realtime issues of players
swapping skill around.

The summary is that there are many skills that can be learned, that
competency comes for free once the basic skill has been learned (no
advancement through use, nor atrophy of unused skills), and that
skill competency reallocation may be started at any time.  In such a
system, the advancement of skill is no longer the game.  Instead, it
becomes one of use and acquisition of the skills in the first place.
Player characters can obtain skills from other player characters in
addition to NPCs and books, but only to the degree that the teaching
character has the skill currently trained.  So players who want to
know juggling at the master level will have to find somebody who is
currently a master in juggling, not just somebody who once was a

To make the learning process more involved, there is an inertia to
learning as well.  A character can only learn so much about new
skills in a given period of time.  So in order to gain a master's
understanding of a single skill may require three or four 'pulses'
of learning over a period of time (e.g. a day or two).

>> (who want to be a barge pilot, if you can be a crack-shot fighter
>> ace?).

> Who wants to be a cleric when you can make the fireball slinging
> mage?  Obviously, not everyone, but those styles of play
> definitely appeal to many.

Well, given that the games are developed by people who want to be
fireball slinging mages, it's not very surprising that we're in the
predicament that we are.


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