[MUD-Dev] Encouraging groups without grouping

Brian 'Psychochild' Green brian at psychochild.org
Fri May 3 21:20:50 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

I've been meaning to write up a nice post about Meridian 59 from the
inside.  Funny how the pragmatic issues of running the game keep me from
waxing philosophical about it. :)

I did want to at least throw out a little nugget gleaned from my work.

One of the biggest weaknesses of Meridian 59, in my opinion, was a
complete lack of a grouping mechanic.  Unfortunately, the core mechanics
were designed in such a way that a real grouping system wouldn't really
be all that useful. Meridian 59 uses a "use-based" system for improving
skills and spells.  Hit points are gained through killing monsters. 
Given these base mechanics, slapping a "grouping" system on the game
seemed foolish.

One solution to this problem originated from a player suggestion: When
more people are in an area, increase the spawn rate of monsters.  This
increase in spawn rate provided more targets for people to fight.

This has resulted in interesting dynamics.  For example, some people use
"mules" to go to popular hunting areas to carry away heavier treasure
items and sell them.  Often players wish to spend an extended period of
time building their character and don't want to load up on the heavier
items to sell.  These mules, however, increase the spawn rate with their
presence and create a symbiotic relationship with the players fighting
in the area.

In addition, it has made additional players a valuable resource. While
playing a mortal character, I find myself willing to help other players
with beneficial spells in order to keep them in the area.  Not only do
they fight the monsters I am not interested in fighting, they also
increase the rate at which monsters I do want to fight do appear.

I find this very interesting, because it has mildly changed some of the
dynamics of the game.  Before, hunting in an area with another person
was just painful.  People fought over the spawns and viewed other people
as competitors.  Now they feel more willing to work together.

This is helpful especially due to the overcrowding of popular hunting
areas during the initial flood of new players.  Although there were a
lot of complaints about "kill stealing" (a complaint I never heard much
of while I worked on Meridian 59 at 3DO), most people were able to hunt
with each other peacefully.  Of course, many of those kill stealers were
put on personal lists to be revisited when they had gained some power
and were looking to kill other players....

Of course, this change has resulted in some problems.  Due to technical
and hard-coded limitations, the increase spawn rate has increased the
amount of clutter on the ground leading to some problems.  Too many
items on the ground causes some items to not be rendered, such as the
monster beating on you.  As players spread out, this limitation has
caused less problems.

In addition, some players have been unwilling or unable to adjust to the
new mechanics.  For example, a lucrative and way to practice the "mend"
spell is to go to a popular hunting area to pick up the damaged long
swords that some skeleton monsters drop.  By mending these swords you
can practice your skill and bring the newly reformed swords back to town
to sell for a tidy profit.  While some people have taken advantage of
this change due to increased spawn rates, some players insist on
advancing the skill through tried-and-true methods from before and
subsequently complain when other players have higher skill and profit in
less time.

In all, however, I thought it was a good solution for a game with
mechanics that aren't exactly group friendly.  The changes have been
mostly positive and have provided for a definite change in the social
atmosphere while hunting.

"And I now wait / to shake the hand of fate...."  -"Defender", Manowar
       Brian Green, brian at psychochild.org  aka  Psychochild
      |\      _,,,---,,_      *=* Morpheus, my kitten, says "Hi!" *=*
ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_               Meridian 59
     |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-' http://meridian59.neardeathstudios.com/
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