[MUD-Dev] Character Perceptions

Derek Licciardi kressilac at insightbb.com
Tue Jan 20 23:40:14 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004


From: John Buehler

> There seems to be a significant opportunity to greatly magnify the
> entertainment value of MMORPGs by basing what the players see on
> the skills and abilities of the characters that they run.

> If a warrior character looks at a mage, that warrior character
> will see a poor warrior.  The rendition of that might be to show a
> weak 'warrior halo' around the character.  Or display the
> character as having toothpick-thin limbs.  It would be whatever
> rendition the player might be able to coax out of the client.

> If a warrior character looks at another skilled warrior, that
> skilled warrior might be depicted with a strong 'warrior halo'
> around the character, or be shown with Hulk-like bulging muscles.

> The goal here is to make the game experience visually very
> different for each player, according to the character that they
> are playing.  If decision-making is an important element of
> gamplay, then having the right cross-section of information about
> the world would have a significant role to play.

> This simple perception mechanism can extend to active judgement
> calls.  A mountain climber might see a clear path up a mountain
> face that a character unskilled in mountain climbing would not
> see.  An archer might be shown the probable flight path of a fired
> arrow, permitting the player to see why a certain shot could or
> could not be made.  A jump across a chasm could be actively and
> *graphically* judged by a character before making the jump.  The
> graphical element might be showing a ghosted version of the
> character making the jump.  And missing.  Note that I'm relegating
> 'jumping' to a character skill here, not a player skill of timing
> a button press or mouse click.

> Now imagine being a horse trainer and a group of riders comes by.
> As the player of the horse trainer, you can see the quality of the
> horseflesh before you, while others will see the horses rather
> uniformly.  A poor man on a high quality horse is something to pay
> attention to.  Imagine being a thief and seeing golden sparkles
> around characters that are richly dressed and adorned.  Imagine
> being a cleric and seeing light and dark halos around characters
> according to their alignment with the cleric's faith.

While I think the idea of perception altering the view of the world
that the client presents to the player is a good thing, I also
believe that more needs to be added to such a system.  If my view of
the world is limited by my perception skill, and I know that my
perception skill is not complete, I then know my view of the world
is also not complete.  This will generally frustrate a player.  It
won't be long before third party software is developed to ferret out
the differences by connecting three or four computers together and
aggregating the group's perception of the game.  I'd bet it takes
less than a month for something like this to happen.

  (It happened with GPS in the real world.  GPS companies wanted
  better than the 50' accuracy (intentionally dumbed down for
  national security/military concerns) that was being delivered by
  US satellites.  They triangulated the more accurate Russian
  satellites into their service because they did not have the
  "skewed" view of the map and went around US signals.)

To get around this and still keep it interesting, I'd be tempted to
give players the ability to tag, annotate, and define their world in
addition to the values given to them by perception tests.  I'd also
figure a way for them to identify parts of the world that they have
identified correctly.  Lastly, I'd give them a way to share and
trade this information between each other so that the socializing
game could be used to increase one's perceived knowledge of the
world.  When three people tell you that the tree is blue, you begin
to accept the fact that it is actually blue and despite knowing that
your skill set is lacking, you feel confident that the group of you
isn't lacking and therefore the tree is blue.  (Regardless of the
truth of the statement) What I'm trying to get at is that you need
to be careful from a psychological standpoint on the effects that
such a system might have on player's behaviors.

Derek
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