[MUD-Dev] How much is enough?

Sean Middleditch elanthis at awesomeplay.com
Wed Apr 24 09:31:38 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

On Tue, 2002-04-23 at 09:45, Justin Coleman wrote:

> I'm really enjoying the threads on addiction and ownership, lots
> of good ideas there, but they've sparked something of a resonant
> chord in me. The addiction thread in particular made me wonder -
> considering the mindset of some people, notably those who have
> lots of free time and few social obligations (those who usually
> rabidly follow the Achiever / Killer archetype), how much
> information is enough?
> For example, in a MMORPG, do players really *need* to see their
> characters' stats? Do they need to see *exactly* how many points
> of damage a weapon does, how many HP that monster has, or how many
> more foobobs they have to kill before they gain a level?

Lots of games have tried to do without this.  For example, using
descriptions in place of numbers ("You are very strong." vs. "You
have 76 STR").

> I envision a system in which all numbers are relayed to the player
> in an inexact format - HP and mana are displayed as a percentage
> bar, skill levels and damage are given in verbal approximates (low
> skill, average skill, high skill, etc), and experience from kills
> is something that just "happens". (In my ideal world there's no
> need for experience of the DND variety, but that's another topic.) 
> Given sufficiently fine granularity of these verbal and visual
> approximates, players could still have a reasonable sense of
> accomplishment given to them as reward for desired behavior.=20

That is the key point - accomplishment.  Most of the games that
avoided the numbers so far left the player without a feeling of
accomplishment. They got better over time, but never was there a
moment of "Wow, I made my goal!"

For example, in my MUD, there are no classes or levels - just
skills. However, I'm working on a psuedo-class system.  In it,
classes are defined by skills, and the importance of the skills.
(I.e., a fighter has high importance for combat skill, small
importance for riding skill, no importance for cooking skill.)
Then, the skills of a player are added and averaged and weighted
according to those psuedo-class definitions, and a "level" is
determined for each class.  The best class for that player (or maybe
best 3 - I haven't determined yet) is used as the class for the
player.  So, when the players' skills have reached a high enough
level to "level up" in their class, they'd get the reward, perhaps a
higher title ("You are now a Journeyman Wizard!") and so on.

With the class, there are no hard numbers, that the player sees.
I'm debating whether the engine will show numbers or descriptions
for skills (perhaps make it an option...)

The problem with things like Health and such is that numbers are
needed.  You need to see how much damage you can take, how much
you/monsters are dishing out in damage, and so on.  You can replace
that with a percentage, but that gets annoying.  You are still
showing the players numbers (i.e., the goblin causes 5% health
damage), but now, when the players health gets larger, they lose
indication of how much damage they can take.  For example, a giant
used to cause 60% damage. Now that the player is much stronger, can
he handle the giant?  All he'll know is that the giant will cause
less damage, but not how much - and it may be deadly trying to find

That would be annoying.  it's one of those realism vs. fun things.

> My opinion, possibly ill-informed, is that a system like this
> would be less susceptible to being "gamed" by those people
> obsessed with being numerically "the best" at any given
> system. The lack of exact feedback would make it harder, if not
> impossible to determine which of two similar items was best - say
> you have two swords, but one of them does one percent more damage
> than the other one. In most current systems, you can see the
> numbers plain as day, and you instantly know which one is better,
> encouraging comparison and min-maxing.

That is mostly a problem with combat systems.  For example, many
games have different amount of damages for, say, a longsword and a
shortsword.  I'll tell you right now, I can kill you just as easily
with either of them.  The difference is in two things - who/what I'm
fighting, and my skills.  A longsword is weighted for slashing,
while shortswords (depending on their origin) are generally for
stabing/parrying.  If I'm used to slashing, I'll misuse the
shortsword, and not cause as much damage.  Also, if I'm fighting a
larger opponent (say, a big troll) the shortsword has less potential
for damage. However, fighting a quicker opponent (say, a small
sprite) and longsword would be too heavy and clumsy, whereas the
shortsword would be easier to attack with.

To fix the maximizing of weapons/armor, you need to pull out as much
of the numbers from the items asyou can, and put them in the system.
When a character has used a longsword his whole life, then finds a
magical shortsword, that longsword may continue to be better for
him, because he is very usnkilled with the shortsword.  It ceases to
be which item is more powerful, but which item the character would

> Is this really a good thing? Wouldn't it be better to be a little
> uncertain? I know I would rather play in a world where people are
> more about community and working together than who has the biggest
> sword, but it's not easy to attract the Achiever / Killer types to
> a purely social world. Wouldn't a world with more balance between
> all four archetypes be more fun for almost everyone? Today's games
> (EQ, UO, AO, DAoC, etc) all seem far more oriented towards hack
> and slash than any other style of gameplay, but does it always
> have to be this way?
> How far can we shift the balance point back towards realism /
> non-powergami ng, while still keeping a good amount of fun?

I think one thing you must realize is, you'll never please
everyone. While I love socializin, for example, I have a constant
urge to be a Big Bad-Ass(tm).  Thus, a game that had little
opportunity for me to Achieve or Kill will bore me.  Likewise, games
like EQ also bore me, because all you do is run around and kill
things while the other players talk about cars.  However, my boss,
for example, doesn't like socializing, and thinks it a waste of
time.  He wants to explore and make maps and sell them, or help lay
waste to small evil villages.  You aren't going to design a game
that satisfies everyone.

Your best bet it to design the perfect game for you.  There are lots
of others who would enjoy that game, and would be thrilled to play
it. Those that don't share your opinions will simply play something
else. ^,^
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