[MUD-Dev] The quandry of mob combat in MUDs

Ammon Lauritzen ammon at simud.org
Sat Apr 27 21:39:40 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

On Sat, 27 Apr 2002, William Murdick wrote:
> Peter Tyson said on Friday, April 26, 2002

>> So while I very much enjoy tackling the risky creatures, (where
>> perhaps a variety of combat techniques have to be employed) I
>> really can't afford to do this unless I want to be dying far more
>> frequently than is acceptble.  Instead I bash the same weaker
>> creatures over and over for smaller reward and quite a lot less
>> fun.

>> I see this as being a fundamental problem of the whole idea of
>> mobs in games to date. It only gets better if you are doing
>> things in groups but even then the same principles do apply.

>> Some might argue that the fun comes from the risk of death, but
>> I'd disagree. The fun comes from applying new and various
>> techniques to the combat, stretching those tactical muscles which
>> lesser creatures never challenge.

Innane monster bopping can be fun, but... agreed, it does get old
quite fast. I just spent this morning killing slimes in Dragon
Warrior. I now remember why I never got around to beating the game
the first several times I picked it up...

> The biggest problem with MUDs is the whole solo thing. Very few
> adventure games were designed to be played by a single
> person. Even single-player modes on PC RPGs let you pick up lots
> of NPCs to assist you.

> The goal, therefore, should be to encourage players to band
> together and fight more challenging monsters and tackle harder
> quests.

The concept of group vs group battles is implemented on a fairly
basic level in most rpg's. Combat usually consists of two groups
squaring off against each other, however, the size of the groups is
almost always limited (for reasons of memory or sanity or whatever)
to some manageably low number, 4 or 6 or 9.

Muds potentially have no cap on the number of enemies that you ever
face at a time. However, I have encountered only two types of fights
involving sizeable quantities of mobs. They are either a horde of
ravenous nastiness with enough soul-crunching power between them to
...  well, make it pointless to try a fight with them; or, the
fights involve rooms full of pointlessly aggressive bunnies that
hurl themselves onto your sword.

Muds have no problem putting players into battles against multiple
opponants. They do, however, seem to have a problem with designing
mobs that are meant to fight against/with a group. The problem with
the bunnies and the soul-crunchers is that the soul-cruncher was
originally intended to be something that you fought by itself, and
the bunnies were intended to give newbies something to practice on.

The combat algorythms are too linear. If one kobold is unable to
scratch the paint on your armour, thirty kobolds at the same time
will have much the same effect.

> The one thing that many muds neglect is that team concept for the
> mobs. For example, you find out there is a goblin cave not far
> from town. You wander out there and there are goblins around and
> you can fight a room of them at a time. None cry for help or run
> get help or even come to the source of the fighting to help. But
> is this realistic? No way! If you attacked a goblin cave then all
> of the able-bodied goblins would come to the front of the cave to
> stop you to keep you from getting further in. Very quickly (or as
> quickly as goblins could arrive) you would be facing large numbers
> of goblins.

This requires that some sort of alliegance and communication system
be set up between groups of mobiles. Imagine the difference between
the standard scenereo and one where the goblin scouts actually shout
for help when attacked and rush back from their advanced positions
to the cave entrance (the predetermined emergency meetingplace) when
trouble is brewing (intelligently deciding that their screaming
colleague is already dead and not worth sacrificing themselves to

It is a simple strategy and other than improving communication
between mobs and giving them a basic knowledge of the room layout
around their normal locations, it would be fairly trivial to

Most systems where I have seen mobs 'assist' each other, their range
of communication is limited to the current room. This means that if
you can manage to invisibly make your way through the cave into the
goblin king's bedroom and attack him, the guards outside won't rush
in when they hear the violence.

Groups of monsters who are aligned together might be given a sort of
chat daemon by which they communicate. We don't want the scouts in
the trees outside of the cave to know that the king is under attack,
and we don't want to simply limit them to hearing their friends who
are in the same 'zone' in the event that some trouble erupts on the
border between two areas.

Given that the mobs know the map of their surroundings (and are able
to find a path between their current location and another location
on their mental map), the signal that might be raised could be as
simple as the location of the problem and an indicator of the
urgency. If the problem is occuring outside of their radius of
communication, they will ignore it. If while on their way to
investigate a problem, another, more urgent problem arises within
their current radius of communication, they should turn to
investigate that one (unless of course they are programmed not to
know). Urgency might also be diminished as distance from the
incident increases.

> Now, if you were a single individual you would be hopelessly
> outnumbered even if you were high level (think Dragon Mountain
> campaign for AD&D 2nd edition - 100s of Kobolds vs a party of 10
> to 13th lvl characters). The reward for killing a single goblin
> might be miniscule, but the reward for killing a BUNCH of goblins
> might be much greater. And, maybe the mud could be written to give
> greater awards for the challenge of the situation itself.

I'm tempted to quote Kipling right now, but will refrain. The
potential damage an individual kobold can inflict upon a person
should increase with the size of his war-party. If you get into a
fight where you are outnumbered 4 to 1, the problem is not usually
that you have to avoid being injured by four people, the problem is
that you have to avoid being grabbed by three people and pummelled
by the fourth. Gulliver had this problem.

Whether mobs get some sort of moralle bonus for having friends in
the room or some sort of tactical advantage is given, the bonus
should be big enough that players notice. Apply the same sort of
bonuses to parties of players.

Then, don't assess 'xp' or rewards as a simple sum of what you would
have gotten for defeating each of the monsters individually. Compare
their group's relative strength (after tactical bonuses have been
applied) with that of your own group.

Ammon Lauritzen

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