[MUD-Dev] Striving for originality

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Sat Jun 8 11:01:37 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

Matt Mihaly writes:
> On Fri, 7 Jun 2002, John Buehler wrote:
>> Matt Mihaly writes:

>>> Ugh. This illustrates what is, to me, the singlest ugliest trend
>>> in MUDs (whether graphical or text), which is the idea that
>>> thing <X> -should- work like Y. To me, saying that something
>>> like magic, which doesn't exist in the physical world, should
>>> have properties Z and effects A, B, and C screams
>>> box-thinking. Surely magic can be whatever a designer designs it
>>> to be. There's nothing inherently good nor bad about magic doing
>>> damage, or not doing damage. It's all dependent on your specific
>>> design. We have enough people who can't or won't think beyond
>>> D&D as it is. Let's not create new boxes.

>> There are implications to the introduction of any capability,
>> whether 'magic' or based in some activity that uses a traditional
>> prop, such as a sword.  Or a chair, a tree, a bucket or anything
>> else you can name.  As software designers, we can make any player
>> action through the keyboard do anything that we want.  This is a
>> given.  Should objects that appear to be swords be used by
>> characters for actions that swords were traditionally used for?
>> I assume that they should.  How can magic go into such an
>> environment?  Should magic be permitted to supplant any of these
>> items while they are still in the game environment?  I assume
>> that they should not.  Therefore, I assume that magic is best
>> relegated to actions orthogonal to whatever I already have props
>> for.

> Well that's my point. You assume that these things should be used
> in specific ways. I'm not sure why you're willing to cast aside a
> whole range of game designs that might do it differently.

> I don't see any reason why a fun game couldn't be designed in
> which swords were primarly used to plant trees. Perhaps the Gods
> have determined that violence is bad, and that weapons are now
> able to be planted and grown into a forest of lovely
> trees. Shrug. Stupid example maybe. I just see no reason to impose
> arbitrary rules like that on a game designer. There's so much
> box-thinking already.

I'm not imposing anything on anyone.  If somebody wants to put props
into their game that look like swords and say that they're only
useable as shovels, that's their business.  I'm theorizing that the
bulk of players won't respond well to that treatment, making it
appealing to a niche market at best.  I believe that players are
looking for an environment where the props are recognizable and
operate in a way that they expect and/or that is historically

>> If magic can be implemented such that it is no more effective at
>> doing what the prominent props of the world are capable of doing,
>> with appropriate checks and balances, then I could see magic
>> providing the same functionality as those props.  For example, if
>> a warrior walks up to me with a sword, intent on lopping my head
>> off (I know magic), then when he gets close enough, I can reach
>> out and touch him, casting a spell that knocks him back twenty
>> feet.  And I must have some corresponding alteration to
>> discourage my excessive use of the ability - lest I supplant some
>> other conventional social convention or prop ability.

> So you supplant some other social convention or prop ability. I'm
> not sure what the problem with that is. I don't see a problem with
> the above scenario, in and of itself, either.

The issue of props is one of coherence.  The set of props that are
in the game must make sense in relation to each other.

If you put something into the game world that looks like a sword,
and then put in all the trappings that go into their construction,
sale and maintenance, then further put in a skill system for people
who carry a sword, the expectation has been set that swords are a
useful tool.  The skills set the expectations of how the tool will
be used.

Then that sword wielding character comes across a character skilled
in magic, finds it impossible to close for combat and dies.  The
sword wielding character has been supplanted, but the props and
social conventions of a society that values swords are still in
place.  That's a bad thing.

If you want to supplant swords, do it before you ship your game.

As for the example, I was attempting to describe a reasonable
balancing act between magic and melee.  It was off the top of my
head and isn't the way that I'd attempt it for real.  But an
important element of the exchange is that the magic skill involved
touching the warrior.  So just as the warrior has to touch an
opponent, the user of magic had to do the same.  This helps to avoid
supplanting swords - if swords are going to be in the game.

I don't care if somebody wants to have magic in their game.  Or
astral plane transportation systems.  Just make sure that the props
and social conventions of the game world match the natural evolution
that would take place as a result of the introduction of such
things.  Don't learn by having your players go through that

In the end, if you want to do damage, get a sword.  The prop and the
social conventions relating to it are knowable quantities because we
have had societies that got a sword if they wanted to do damage.  I
then assume that magic should be orthogonal to the conventions of
that society so as not to interfere with them.  Naturally, there
will be some impact, but the hope is that the impact can be either
understood in advance (the true test of whether we understand human
nature) or the players can deal with the evolution of learning what
it means to have magic in such-and-such a fantasy world.  I want to
limit the amount of misleading advertising that I do.

>> I always get a kick out of how I can write paragraph after
>> paragraph, attempting to be eloquent about a topic, and seemingly
>> have it all get ignored.  But as soon as I drop in a one-liner
>> that says anything the least bit controversial, I can get traffic
>> on it.  :)

> It's because many posts (everybody's) are easily boiled down to
> one line. We, as a group, aren't very good at getting to the
> point.

Or one-liners are rife with misunderstandings, so they're fun to
jump on.


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