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

John Robert Arras johna at wam.umd.edu
Thu Jan 9 09:37:31 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

On Wed, 8 Jan 2003, Michael Tresca wrote:
> John Robert Arras posted on Friday, January 03, 2003 10:29 AM
>> 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:

> Wow.  Everything you list as being "fun" I consider broken and
> considered these flaws to be issues we struggled long and hard to
> fix on RetroMUD.

As I said, it depends on how the mechanics are set up. I hated pkill
MUDs until I found one that worked for me (EmlenMUD). Then I
realized that the problem was in how people implemented things, not
the ideas.  Also, RetroMUD allows multiple characters and limited or
regulated pk. These ideas don't work if people can switch characters
or have the option of avoiding pk.

>>   - 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).

> This makes all the difference.  We have a "War" function where
> players can, at their option, join in a fight against other teams.
> We don't make it required.  It is not the full functionality of
> the game.

> Games that are constantly at war are more akin to a sport (like
> football) than a real MMORPG.  An important distinction for this
> discussion, because Star Wars isn't (near as I can tell) going to
> be about PKing the other guy.

I agree that most of the time pkill or racewar games are poorly
implemented. However, if they're done in the fashion of a Sojourn or
EmlenMUD, they seem to work for me. Characters aren't constantly
fighting other people, but there's always a small chance that you
will run into enemies wherever you go. The PKing comes in spurts,
but you never really know when it will come. It's much more intense
than a game where you have to consent to pk or you have to have a
guild declare war so everybody knows the war is coming or you only
have a safe zone where you can pk but it doesn't really count. Those
kinds of implementations bore me, and they don't give me a feeling
of accomplishment since I know going in that I have a decent chance
of winning since everything is so... "balanced" and safe.

I don't expect SWG to be this pk-intensive, but I will be shocked if
it's discouraged. There is a FAQ:


It looks as if pkill is optional, but I assume most players will
choose one side or another simply to join in on the action. Some
will remain neutral and only participate in safe pkill, but I can't
imagine myself being in the Star Wars universe without wanting to
join the war. How much fun would the movies have been if Luke had
gone immediately and mindwiped the droids?

>>   - 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.

> This is a huge problem because it encourages players to give hard
> earned equipment to newbies.  That is, the barrier to getting an
> item is time and effort.  Time and effort are in the hands of the
> player -- once the player gets the item, he can give it to
> whomever he wants.  We learned very quickly that making things
> almost impossible to get but then making them incredibly powerful
> is NOT a balancing factor.  Once it's in the game, it's in the
> game -- nothing should be so hard that it's ridiculously rare, and
> nothing should be so powerful that it has to be ridiculously hard.
> If you're creating such items, it's unbalancing.

Believe it or not, I agree with what you're saying here. I played on
many games where the equipment was overpowered until I saw something
that worked. There are two factors that can take care of this
problem.  (Oh no more factors. :))

First, the equipment can't be overpowered. If all equipment in the
world is ranked on a scale of 1 to 10, then at later stages of the
game, equipment in the 7 to 8 or 9 range has to be easily
attainable. The "10" equipment is rarer, and more powerful, but it
doesn't matter because of the second thing.

Skills and abilities trump equipment. The equipment is somewhat
important, but a more advanced, skilled player with good equipment
will beat a less advanced, less skilled player with the best

> When an item doesn't take into account power level, friends
> exchange equipment.  A newbie, by mere virtue of knowing the right
> guy, gets an item that seriously unbalances the odds in his favor.
> An established group can horde items and create a series of
> supersoldiers.  And this problem perpetuates itself, ensuring
> every new character who is part of that power group blows through
> levels at high speed.

This is true, but those supersoldiers can be killed at which point
they lose their equipment. If they truly are supersoldiers then it
will take a huge group to bring them down, and that will spread the
equipment out on the other side. Clans do try to hoard equipment
using cheater mules, but I can use discretion to enforce the spirit
of the rules. I once deleted an entire clan for using a legitimate
character as a mule.

>>   - 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.

> This is just a big leveling treadmill, making it really obvious
> you go nowhere.  I've played on these.  People get bored after the
> second or third remort.  It's only a "slight increase" -- so a 100
> level system is an illusion since you can remort and climb the
> levels again.  Woo, infinite treadmilling with just more piles of
> stuff.

> Result: people do not play these games for long.

It's a treadmill, but it gives people something to do. However,
player skill does play a big part. There are definitely people who
are easier or harder to kill based on player skill.  They are the
ones who can get killed, go find easy equipment for 10 minutes, then
go out and start fighting and winning again, even beating people who
have the "best" stuff.

The remorts do make it more interesting since it brings players back
to a lower level of power repeatedly so they can be killed more
easily. The games can last 4-5 years, but you're right, most don't
last more than a year or two.

>>   - 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.

> AAAGH.  If Third Edition D&D learned something (from MUDs, but I
> have no proof), it's that level of effort should be rewarded.  Fit
> the reward to the effort.  As much as possible, because
> goal-oriented players will look for maximum reward with minimal
> effort.

This isn't a problem. If you need 1000 exp to advance at level 1 and
1 billion at level 90, then it just doesn't matter. If lower levels
are getting powerlevelled, then they still require highlevels to
waste their time helping the lowlevels.

>>   - 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.

> See above.

It encourages grouping. It encourages people to reach out to new
people to fill out a group since there isn't any penalty. It's worth
it for those reasons.

> What you're proposing works well in sports-type games, wherein
> there is a score and everything resets at the end of a season.
> Perpetual treadmilling is everything we try to avoid, precisely
> because in the long term, your immersive virtual environment is
> wasted on short-timers who are not interested in being immersed.

I have seen it work for fairly long periods in MUDs, and I've been
drawn in to games like this. I think it has some advantages that
make it less of a treadmill than you might think. The best players
will come out on top. If someone who is a really good player starts
later in the game, they will be able to make a mark quickly because
of the player skill. The remorting and the fact that equipment isn't
so important mean that not everyone will be good. There will be
players who barely hang on and slowly build up their characters even
though they aren't very good at the game, but they won't ever be the
ones the people turn to when they need help.

> Somehow, I don't think the above is going to be Star Wars.  At
> least, I really hope not.

I don't think SWG will be like this, but I expect it will be more of
a treadmill than you think. It might be a "crafting" or "trading"
treadmill that lets people buy houses and own businesses, but it's
still a kind of treadmill.

-- John

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