[MUD-Dev] Scripting Languages and Magic

Patrick Dughi dughi at austin.rr.com
Tue Oct 7 16:22:10 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

Edward Glowacki wrote at some point in time:
> Simon Fairfax wrote at some other point in time:

>> I am attempting to write a new MUD codebase, and I was wondering
>> what people have done as far as magic systems. Specifically, I
>> was thinking of letting the players define spells in a custom
>> scripting language so that new spells could be created on the fly

> I've considered this a bit as well, and I really like the idea.
> But I'm not sure how easy it would be to pull off.  One of the
> things that would probably be the most difficult with this system
> is balance.

I had a discussion about this the other day, though in the end I
disagreed that players should have access to such a system.  In
brief, I thought it was too complex for enjoyment.  Balance issues
aside, it is difficult and awkward for a player to learn a scripting
language sufficiently complex to describe the possibilities of
'magic' for all but supremely limited systems.  If a player is
intended to be a mage in a fantasy world, he should be casting
fireballs or calling lightning, not asking the CSR's if they can
help him debug scripts.

When I'm asked to consider a feature change, I always run through a
set of questions in my mind:

  1) Will this change make the game more enjoyable for the players?

  2) Will this change be useful for the content creators?  (Balance,
  creation tools,etc)

  3) Is there a system design/architecture/programming/technology
  barrier that will be corrected and/or improved?

  4) Will this allow my CSR's to operate more effectively to ensure
  player enjoyment?  and last,

  5) Is the time and effort required worth it?

I took a look at a magic scripting system with these questions in
mind, and though my opinions may differ from yours, I thought that a
magic scripting system would be an excellent choice not for players,
but for my content creators.  The impact of a scripted-spell system
for players would be minimal; few may struggle through the learning
phase, and as was noted, getting metrics on random scripts to insure
balance can be difficult, though it could be done.  In the end
though, it doesn't seem worth the massive effort it would require.

However, content creators could be insured to keep a balanced
system, while giving them the ability to create wildly unique
content.  As they're already privy to the system internals, they
will have a shorter learning curve, and can be expected to have
direct access to superiors or developers in the case of perceived
errors.  This seems like it would be a very worthwhile project.

If you had to have some sort of dynamic spell system for players, I
recommend that you stick with a mix-n-match spell creation system,
with simple drop-down menus and toggles.  It will allow you to
assign cost to the spell (in casting time, 'spell points' or
whatever metric you use) so that you can ensure balance, while still
letting players create their own customized magics.  The Elder
Scrolls trilogy from Besthesda Softworks has examples of these
systems, though I found it a bit too mechanical to fully enjoy it.
You may want to pick up a copy of Morrowind and take a look.

I'd prefer a system that was well integrated into the roleplaying
environment, such as having a given effect not added by simply
double clicking on a list, but perhaps by saying "use this specific
magic stone" or "cast with this rune".  It would also provide yet
another goal for players; collection of items required to develop
'really cool' spells.

Of course, I can see situations when scripting languages for players
are useful, but just for convenience's sake, I'll post that in a
separate message so I don't get bounced for a long message.

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