[MUD-Dev] Request for ideas

Patrick Dughi dughi at imaxx.net
Fri Oct 5 18:24:49 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

On Thu, 4 Oct 2001, Ian Collyer wrote:
> holding99 at mindspring.com wrote:
>> One concept I would like to see challenged is that a closed
>> ecosystem cannot be created such that players will not destroy
>> said ecosystem by killing anything that moves.
> There are two problems which prevent a closed ecosystem from
> working in a MUD environment.
>   Scenario 1. Players cannot interact in a meaningful way with the
>   ecosystem
>     This basically a closed simulation with the players as mere
>     passive observers, great if that is what your players like but
>     it reduces the significance of the ecosystem to little more
>     than eye candy.
>   Scenario 2. The players' characters are part of the ecosystem
>     Much more interesting but inherently unstable.  The root
>     problem here is that your ecosystem is no longer closed,
>     players login and logout and new players join the MUD.  The
>     fluctuating number of concurrent characters in the game make
>     it impossible for any sort of equilibrium to be reached.  

Actually, in a given brainstorming session, this idea actually came
under alot of attention, and I attempted to draw up a model for this
in a gaming system which never quite seemed to get all the way off
the ground.  However, it did give rise to a third scenario type:

  Scenario 3.  Players are shown that they can interact with the
  environment but the fact that they're incapable of destroying it
  is hidden from them.

How could this be accomplished?  Well, I took the pragmatic
approach.  Let's face it, it's difficult to create an ecological
model, much less an interactive model which operates under artifical
constraints in a manner sensible to both those interacting with it,
and those enforcing the constraints.

Matter of fact, I think if you aim at this goal, you're guarenteed
to fail.  Instead, lets focus on artifice: what the player
experiences.  Who cares if the model isn't modeled on real life
behavior so long as it seems like it is from a players perspective.

I don't want to copy an article I wrote on this (at


so I'll just point out some key factors.  The title of the article,
btw, is 'Creating a viable virtual ecosystem'.  It's pointed at
getting a working (and workable) system quickly, potentially by
those who are not yet into full scale simulations.

  - Weather is an important factor in an ecosystem, and it is
  primarily affected by the terrain (Assumption: ignore the fact
  that the relationship goes both ways, any local changes to weather
  are NOT far reaching ..important if you have weather-affecting
  spells! )

  - mineral resources exist at fixed locations, and regenerate at a
  slow rate (allowing an area to be mined out on a temporary, but
  not permanant basis). Resources have a maximum limit on a per-area

  - vegetable (trees, etc) resources are partially randomly
  determined, and interact with each other in minor ways, and also
  refresh like mineral resources, but at a comparatively faster
  rate.  Types and rates are modified by terrain and weather.

  - animals (acted upon in some aspects as resources) have a
  regeneration rate based on population of a group in an area.  They
  also are based upon vegetation and (in the case of carnivores)
  food animals in the area.

  - a certain percentage of animals will never be exposed to
  players.  These insure a given regeneration rate.  Likewise, a
  given creature will never exist over a given quantity.

The end result should be some quasi-dynamic system where
over-culling of an areas' resources is noticable, but given time (or
direct intervention) it will be restored to its starting state.
Modify this with the traditional 'bolted on' addition system - like
animal borne diseases, animal vs. animal struggles, earthquakes or
typhoons, tracking of specific animals, or even sim-like aspects
such as farming and community govenership (that'd give those maxed
out characters something to do; colonize the wilderness!)  The
hardest part is still tying 'natural' circumstances into the daily
activities of NPCs.  Bakers should produce bread based on the amount
of wheat in the area (and modified by farmers?  maybe you just hide
that stat).  Blacksmiths would have problems working without metals,
and tanners need animal hides to do their job.  Maybe the
overabundance of sugar cane leads to cheap rum in the area?

> An interesting question is how one could model evolution and
> natural selection in such an environment.

I think that - again - these are details best left to an arbitrary
mathematical formula as per the article.  Player's characters do not
have the ability to percieve evolution, and players do not have the
attention span.  Focus on what the players will see and perceive.
They'll notice if the baker has no bread, but they won't notice that
the wolf pack has a new leader (they may not even notice it's spring
until they realize the wolf pack has many pups!).


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