[MUD-Dev] It's About Time Department (Mule Characters)

Koster Koster
Tue Jun 18 08:44:36 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: John A. Bertoglio

> The recently released RPG from Microsoft has an unusual solution
> to "mule" characters. They allow you to add a real mule to your
> party! This the first time I have seen this in a game.

UO had pack animals back in 1997. :) I'd be surprised if there
weren't text muds with the feature...?

Anyway, the way they worked was independent of the grouping system
(when UO launched, it didn't HAVE a grouping system), unlike Dungeon
Siege, the game you reference. They used the standard pet system;
just the pets happened to have a container you could fill up (though
not remove). I've noticed that many muds seem to term simple
charmies to be "pets," so here's a brief explanation of how they
worked in UO:

Every creature in the game has a difficulty rating, and you can use
your Taming Skill on the creature. Taming requires you to use the
skill on the creature, then remain near it for a while doing
repeated skill rolls, whilst your avatar automatically says things
like "Nice <critter name>. I've always wanted a <critter> like
you."--a source of great amusement to players, and something which
has become a minor catchphrase in MMOG circles.

Alternatively, you could walk up to an NPC hireling and give them
money to become your hireling. They used the exact same code as

Taming simply attached a "pet" script to the object. This script
provided an API to the commands for the pet, tracked loyalty and did
similar housekeeping, and disabled most AI.

Once tamed, a creature has a loyalty value. Every command you give
tests against the loyalty value with a simple random roll. Loyalty
decays slowly over time. Giving the creature appropriate food pushes
the loyalty to max instantly. Every successful command also
reinforces loyalty by a small amount. Many commands were weighted;
eg, the attack command assesses the target you told the pet to
attack, and the tougher the target is, the more likely the command
was to fail.

If loyalty reached zero, the pet would run away (detaching the pet
script and re-enabling the AI). However, its difficulty was set to
zero thereafter for any subsequent taming, in order to prevent
people from practicing the skill by repeatedly taming, releasing,
and re-taming a pet.

Pets advance in skills by usage of them, just like any player. So
keeping a pet for a while leads to a more powerful pet, though each
sort of creature has natural caps on its advancement. Most players,
however, found this to be invisible to them, so they treated pets as
disposable tanks. I'd strongly advise giving blatant "level up"
feedback to players when their pet advances.

Anything a pet did was considered to be the responsibility of the
owner of the pet, so if a pet murdered another player, the person
giving the command was considered responsible.

Among the pet commands you could give:

  - follow <target>. If the pet had multiple targets to follow, it
  would patrol between them until one of tem was too far away.

  - guard <target>. Attacks whoever attacks the guarded
  individual. You could also set them to guard objects, in which
  case they would warn off and then attack those who approached and
  then attempted to pick up an object.

  - a patrol. Turned on and off a patrol path among all guarded
  objects. In theory you could set a hireling to walk patrol around
  your castle, but I never saw anyone do that.

  - come. (self-explanatory)

  - friend <target). This made the friend effectively a co-owner of
  the pet; the pet would then obey that person's orders.

  - stop. Stopped following and patrol paths.

  - release. Let the pet go loose.

You were also able to rename the pet to anything you chose. Given
the terrible interface we had for all this (typing in "<pet name>
<command>"--if there was a target, it brought up a targeting
cursor), most pets were named "a" for the sake of rapid typing.

Pets did not log off with you, so they were often locked up in
houses (where if neglected, they might starve to death). Eventually,
we added stablemasters, who would keep a pet for you while you were
logged off, for a flat fee. This proved so popular that on the very
first day, every stablemaster in the game was full.

This form of persistent pets proved to be extremely popular,
attracting a lot of female players, and a lot of players period. It
was also a little too powerful. Dragons, for example, originally had
unpredictable AI on them, so taming them was extremely challenging,
and they were liable to fry people even when tamed. Later on, the
unpredictable AI was removed, and pretty much every tamer started
walking around with dragons all the time.

Another problem was that creatures were too clearly on a graduated
scale; there really wasn't much advantage to having anything other
than the most powerful pet you could get.

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