[MUD-Dev] Re: [DGN] The psychology of random numbers

Chanur Silvarian chanur at guildsite.com
Fri Jan 9 14:21:41 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004


From: Ammon Lauritzen <ammon at simud.org>
> On Mon, 5 Jan 2004, Ted L. Chen wrote:

>> Working on the loose assumption that displaying some sort of
>> measure is inevitable, is there some way we can better manage
>> player expectations?

> Well, the problem with using some sort of vague measurements is
> that people's understandings of words differ, and it becomes
> difficult to come up with a good range of descriptions for the
> values.

> Currently, there are 10 different phrases we use to describe a
> player's effective skill level (actual skill level modified by
> stats - which are some of the very few numbers that the player
> does actually see numerically).

> This seems to be a pretty good range for our current needs, but
> what in the event of expansion onto higher level abilities? Right
> now, we cap the description out at 'essentially perfect', but the
> phrasing leaves more than a little to be desired.

> Another problem we've encountered with the vague descriptions
> actually reared its ugly head a few hours ago when I was dealing
> with one of our players. He complained that one of his skill had
> dropped from 'excellent' back down to 'very good'. What had in
> fact happened was that his actual skill level was very near the
> border between the two descriptions and he donned a suit of
> platemail, severely dropping his dexterity, which modifies the
> skill.

> Even after explaining the situation, it seemed a very arbitrary
> sort of thing to him, to have received a downgrade by an entire
> category of skill ability. Especially since only the one skill
> showed the change (while in reality numerous abilities were
> affected as a result).

My take on this is somewhat radical (I guess that describes my take
on most gaming theories).  I don't believe there is any reason to
quantify, even in the abstracted sense, any of the numbers.  What I
am planning on is allowing my crafters to compare items, they can
tell you which is the better item in a wide number of categories.
That's it, that's all.  You know that in these categories (or all
categories) this sword or armor is better than that one.

I don't like the descriptions, such as "excellent" and "very good"
for just the reason that you described.  They are subjective, and if
the point of view from which that subjective measurement was made is
changed then the label is likely to change as well.  Hence your
problem, the player is using it as an absolute measurement while
your designers meant it as a subjective measurement.  If the
measurement were simply not given then the expectation of the player
for the measurement to remain absolute is not there.

I'm sure I'll have my own problems with not giving such
measurements, so once I start getting some feedback I'll let you
know what they are.  As I said, I plan to allow them to make
comparisons but the only comparison measurements will be better,
worse, or equal.

- Chanur Silvarian -
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