[MUD-Dev] Star Wars Galaxies: 1 character per server

John Robert Arras johna at wam.umd.edu
Fri Jan 3 10:29:15 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003


On Wed, 1 Jan 2003, Marc Fielding wrote:
> [Rayzam]
 
>> Temporal Cost -
  
<powerlevel description>
  
>>   Temporal cost for parallel-levelling in an single player game
>>   world is high. Take 2 players and there's no such
>>   restriction. And thus, guild mules are born.

> Do you know *boring* it is to parallel-level someone? It's great
> fun for the levelee but not the levelor. Casual players might try
> it a few times, but the level of effort required to keep your
> mules in sync with your mains gets pretty old after a while. Only
> the dedicated will pursue this route.

I think it's a question of how the game is set up. I have played and
run MUDs where powerlevelling is fun and worthwhile. The problem is
setting up the mechanics correctly. The system I've seen has
following:

  - The game is a racewar/pkill/kingdoms at war game with a few
  sides that fight each other. You are friends with your side and
  can do whatever you want to the other side(s).

  - Objects are not level-based or power-based. If you are a newbie
  and you get the Ultimate Sword of Doom, you can pick it up and use
  it.

  - There is a remort system. Players who get to high levels can
  choose to remort and go back to level 1 with slightly more
  power. This system is skill-based so one of the things you get is
  a slight increase in the number of skills you can learn. There are
  also several remorts so the players will constantly be going back
  down to low levels.

  - When you kill monsters for XP and loot, you get the same XP
  regardless of whether or to you're level 1 or high level.

  - The XP you get from a monster kill is the same per player for
  groups of up to G players. The G I've seen that works well is
  about 4-5.

  The two previous mechanics mean that if a solo level 1 character
  gets 100 XP for killing a monster, then a group of 5 level 90
  characters get 100 XP each for killing the same monster. It's just
  that 100 XP means much less at level 90.

The result of all of these mechanics is that you have advanced and
newbie players interacting more, and powerlevelling is fun. It's fun
even if you don't know the people being powerlevelled. I have to
admit that I've seen this done on small MUDs only, so there are
probably issues involving larger groups of players and guilds that I
haven't considered, but it works very well in smaller games.

Here's what happens.

First, the XP for larger groups means that people are almost always
in groups of size G. There's simply not much of a point in soloing
or being antisocial. It also means that people will reach out to
people they don't know and ask them to join a not-quite-full group
since there isn't any penalty for letting someone else, and heck,
one more sword/spellcaster/healer can only make things go
faster. This also means that separate groups will get to know each
other since one day that lone person from group A goes out with a
bunch of group B and then groups A and B start to know each
other. Again this runs into problems with people being able to
handle and deal with larger social groups, but it does encourage
cross-pollination of all the little cliques within a game.

Second, since the kinds of players that play pkill MUDs are obsessed
with being "the best", and since the remorting ability lets them
build up their characters, it recycles the highlevel players. This
makes the highlevel players more vulnerable for a while, although
not nearly as much as a newbie just starting out. Because the
equipment isn't level-based, remorts will always keep their
equipment, so you can get lucky if you find a group of remorts with
phat eq and keel them. :) Then make fun of them. =D On top of that,
because the players keep and use their equipment when they remort,
remorting is much less of a hurdle, and seems less painful, thereby
encouraging it.

Third, since each player can get several remorts, there will be a
constant dribble of lowlevel remorts running around. People time
their remorts to help each other so a side doesn't lose everybody
good too quickly.

Fourth, since you're in a racewar/pkill MUD, it is always good to
have more soldiers on your side. This means that there is an
incentive to help your newbies. They are much more useful to you at
high levels than low levels.

So, putting all of this together you get the following happening:

Players start out and have to strugle to high levels at first, but
then once people start remorting, the powerlevel train begins. What
happens is that people are constantly remorting and being
powerlevelled by highlevels on their side. Because of the group XP
rules, it makes no sense to powerlevel just one person. The result
is that as newbies log on, they get asked to join groups that have
lowlevel remorts and other newbies and they get levels. Groups of
lowlevels go out following a couple of highlevels and watch as the
highlevels almost kill monsters then let the lowlevels get the
kiling blow and the gobs of XP.

People can talk about "balance" and "being too easy" and so forth,
but the point of this is the pkill. The killing monsters is the
boring part, so why not make it fun and encourage people to help out
the newbies. It's also important in the later stages of the game as
people find that they can't "catch up" to the first players. These
mechanics encourage people to bring newbies up to speed since it's
less painful.

The way I view pkill MUDs is that your are in "pkill fun range" when
you are one of the more/most powerful people within the game. If the
mechanics are set up so that it takes 5 months to get to 3 remorts
no matter what, then people who start 5 months in will never catch
up to the first players. Since after the next 5 months when the
newbies get to 3 remorts, the original players are up to 5 remorts
and the newbies are still behind.

Using mechanics like this allows players to get to the "bleeding
edge" of power within the game fairly quickly, but it's hard for
those on the bleeding edge to make progress since nobody more
powerful is there to help them. The incentives to help newbies mean
that the newbies who start late get close to the bleeding edge much
more quickly. They get engaged and they don't feel like there's no
point in playing since they can't "catch up".

To conclude, given the right mechanics,powerlevelling can be fun.  A
side effect of making powerlevelling fun is that some problems from
encouraging grouping, to recycling equipment, to letting newer
players "catch up" can be solved or mitigated given the right
mechanics.

-- John


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