Powergaming (was RE: [MUD-Dev] How much is enough?)

Kwon Ekstrom justice at softhome.net
Sat May 4 04:01:43 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: "Jeff Cole" <jeff.cole at mindspring.com>
> From: Kwon Ekstrom

>> My solution to power gaming is complexity.  By increasing the
>> number of stats and attributes required to make the system work,
>> you make things more difficult to "power game" as such.

> Unfortunately, I also think you make it that much more difficult
> for the average player to get an intuitive feel for the game.
> Camelot tried this approach: obfuscating the data and creating
> pseudo-diversity among the classes/realms.  I think the game
> suffers greatly for it.

First off, I don't obfuscate anything.  There are simply alot more
options available to the player.  I don't know how Camelot did it,
but I've got about twice the attributes of what a standard text mud
has, but each attribute has a clear purpose.  I try to keep the
interface pretty simple.  If you want to get down to it, you can
live off playing with "hp, stamina, str, int, wis, dex, con, cha,
luck", although I have some stats that get generated like
encumberance and agility.

Additionally, equipment does very little to actually "improve" your
char...  you have to gain stats thru standard advancement.  What
stats and attributes the player gains is based on which stats and
attributes the player uses.  There are no classes, it's entirely up
to the player to decide what they end up with.  There aren't even
any "standard" progressions.

I use a knowledge system where each skill has a min knowledge and
you gain in the different knowledge spheres by using skills that are
based on that sphere.  Knowledge is a very complex (and the most
important) set of attributes in the game.

> I think a much better approach is to focus on a smaller set of
> stats/skills and design a system that allows for greater
> interaction

I like options, and options is what I have... there is a wide range
of possibilities.  And everything has pros and cons.  Whichever
strategy you use, more than likely there's a counter strategy.  If
there isn't an effective counter strategy, then I add something to
counter it to one of the knowledge sets.

> among the stat/skill set.  Freely give the players the information
> and create a system such that the information accurately and
> obviously corresponds to what they experience in the game.

The players determine their own skill path.  I don't publish
information about what skills come from where in any "help files"
although I have areas designated as libraries where the players can
look up information on some skills.  Not all skills are placed here.
It's just a way to encourage players to search.  Generally skill are
taught by mobs, and the mobs are spread throughout the realm.
Libraries are "hints" at where to find various skills.  Eventually
players pass information on where they found different things
around, but it's still a good place to do research.

> Also, let the powergamers run amok and crunch their numbers; with
> information freely available, there won't be much to crunch. And
> what they do crunch, will not provide them any substantial
> advantage over the non-crunchers.

Personally, I have no problems with people power gaming the system.
I encourage players to try to find better ways to handle things.  My
system is skills based, armor doesn't do much but absorb damage.  If
you can find a skill set and strategy that suit you fine, then go
for it.  As I mentioned earlier, there are pros and cons to any
setup you have.  Irregardless of what you try to do, it's next to
impossible to build a char that can do anything.  My system rewards
time and effort put into your char.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power.

> Consider an n-dimensional gamespace (theoretical, not to be
> confused with the "space" in which the game is played) that
> represents the potential interactive space for a given stat/skill
> set.  Ideally, players would be able to explore the whole space.
> To the extent

Truthfully, I would prefer to make it as difficult as possible for
any single player to have experienced everything in the game.  My
biggest problem with alot of games that I play is simply the fact
that I CAN explore everything in a relatively short period of time.
It grows boring shortly after I know more than 70% or so of a game.

> and/or to the extent that character development is irreversible
> your players will quickly come to resent that which is prohibted
> rather than appreciate that which is permitted.

A player in my system is never truely finished.  Your skill set is
based on what you've practiced.  If you switch the direction that
you develop your character and stop practicing your old skills, they
will eventually disappear.  It's a slow process.

>> Truthfully, my game is designed in such a way where balance isn't
>> possible.  There are simply too many separate routes that a
>> player can take, I don't really care if they choose a "lesser"
>> route.

> If you don't care if players take the "lesser" routes, then why
> are they ("lesser" routes) in your game?

There are certain interactions that are superior for certain things.
Depending on what the player does, it's entirely possible to create
a worthless char (although good skills are distributed widely enough
you'd have to work very hard to do so).  It'd also be possible to
create a mule char (although it'd be extremely difficult to maintain
since you lose skills you don't practice over time)

The system is designed to allow the player to choose their own path.
Nothing is set in stone so to speak.  You have a variety of
different knowledge spheres, and you increase/decrease in the
various areas based on which skills you use.  There is a relatively
small "core" set of knowledge spheres that all players start off
with... these act as a general purpose set of skills.  Over time
these spheres allow you to learn skills which give you more advanced
knowledge spheres.

Armor weighs alot, and creates an encumberance rating... certain
spells have a max encumberance or you can't cast them anymore
(forcing mages to wear lighter armor).  A higher encumberance rating
will also limit the number of attacks you have.

Each sphere has a set of "prime attributes" which gain as it
improves, and a set of "deficient attributes" which decrease as it
improves.  This allows players who concentrate on fighting to
improve physical attributes, and magically inclined chars improve
mental attributes.

Various other stats on a char are generated based on what your
attributes are.  Correlation between attributes is fairly obvious.
There's alot of other small factors involved which spice things up a
bit, and I make generous use of random modifiers.  Alot of the rolls
are relative to the "victim" for combat.

Overall, it creates a fairly easy to pick up system... just go out
and fight and use your skills, and your char improves.  On the other
hand... it takes alot to master.  Even so it's currently a work in
progress.  As I said, there is no form of enforced balance,
everything is relative.

-- Kwon J. Ekstrom

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