[MUD-Dev] Continuous versus Discrete Functions

Koster Koster
Wed Dec 19 07:44:33 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001

> -----Original Message-----
> From: John Buehler

> Something that frequently surprises - and disappoints - me is the
> practice of the use of discrete functions when applied to
> character abilities.  I'm thinking primarily of the big graphical
> games, as those are the ones that I've played the most.

There's a variety of reasons, not the least of which is simply not
thinking outside of the box.

> Another element of cast spells would be the amount of magic
> resources they require to cast.  Always uniform.  If a spell has a
> maximum potency, why am I unable to use the spell for a lessened
> potency

In this case, a good reason not to do it is because it introduces an
additional interface you have to manipulate before you can cast the
spell. I am sure there's a clever UI method to make it work, but
given the crude spellcasting interfaces in the current MMORPGs,
you're looking at either command line parameters or a dialog box to
set the spell strength. :P

> and a lessened consumption of resources (mana, power,
> concentration, etc).  Perhaps multiple casters can cooperate to
> cast a spell of intensified potency through a shared increased
> cost, etc.

The multiple casters idea has come up many many times in MMOs that I
know of. In UO, it was cut for time. [snip my extended rant on how
MMOs really should not be attempted in less than three years of
development time].
> This doesn't apply only to spell casting.  It applies to all of
> the either/or outcomes in action systems.  In EverQuest, all
> failures of a trade attempt consumed all components of the
> attempt.  Dark Age of Camelot goes beyond this with a function
> that permits failures with varying degrees of loss.  But that
> continuous function demonstrates its rather discrete
> characteristic when doing something like assembling a weapon.  A
> weapon assembly attempt might use a sword blade and a sword hilt.
> The continuous function is very step-wise in that either the
> entire hilt or blade is lost or not lost.  There is no notion of
> returning a damaged hilt or blade that can be reworked or itself
> disassembled for its component materials.

Well, for example, disassembly into component materials is
non-trivial. It's not that it's complex in conception, but that you
have to worry about a lot of factors. How does a partially damaged
crystal contribute to the effectiveness of a jeweled hilt sword? Can
you melt down the blade? If so, are you tracking materials for every
item? If all you are trying to do is make a game that can be out for
the Christmas holidays, such niceties may simply take too long to
figure out.

> This pattern is fairly common and I'm stumped as to why the
> discrete function (apparently implemented as tables or cascading
> conditionals) is the function of choice for system designers.  My
> time on flight simulators showed me the power of continuous
> functions - especially when multiple continuous functions are
> contributing to the outcome of any activity.

In flight simulators, your audience has come to expect and demand
such things. The MMO audience is barely at the point where they
demand monsters that can pathfind. :)

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