[MUD-Dev] Character Perceptions

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Wed Jan 21 22:58:35 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004

Derek Licciardi writes:

> 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.

Suppose you think of it as your view of the world being enhanced by
your perceptions.  I'm talking about adding to the information that
players receive from the world through their character, not reducing

Will they be receiving a subset of all known information?  Sure.
Will this cause them to be concerned over the need to know more
information?  Only if the game is structured to encourage them to be
concerned over it.  I think that problem lies outside of the
inclusion of a perceptions mechanism into a game.

There are any number of experiences in current games that are
already partitioned along class lines.  I'm only offering more
information unique to a set of skills (analagous to a class).

> 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.

In a game focused on achievement, I'd assume that your statements
would be right on target.  This perceptions thing fits into a larger
game design - my own mythical game is primarily about experiencing
the game content and not in advancement.  So if you want to go kill
orcs, go kill 'em.  The entertainment is in the process of killing
them, not in having killed them.

Given that approach to entertainment, my theory is that partitioning
the perceptions is simply a way of presenting the game entertainment
in a number of different ways.  And by removing the leveling
treadmill, players simply choose the skill level they want in a
broad range of skills (by allocating a fixed pool of skill points)
and, over a period of time, their character reforms to attain those
skills.  This means that players can easily pursue the skills and
attendant perceptions that they want.

Achievement entertainment would be incorporated only into select
elements of gameplay and would tend to be orthogonal to the rest of
the game.  For example, PvP bouts, duels, scrimmages and such.  Use
your chosen combination of skills and perceptions to take on other
players.  Other achievements would focus on in-fiction goals.
Opening your own shop in the city instead of running a little shop
in a remote village.  Winning the PvE battle for some town, etc.

> 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.

I'm assuming that players will, in fact, transfer information
between characters.  So far, I've restricted such transfers to
common perceptions with different experiences.  As an example,
orienteering.  Everyone knows how to get from point A to point B
(common perceptions), but not everyone knows how to get to my house
(different experiences).  So my character should be able to describe
directions to another character, along the lines that you've

Another form of that is describing an individual or an object to
somebody else.  That clasp that the enemy guild wears can be
described to your character so that you can help me to keep an eye
out for them in town.

But I draw the line at my blacksmith character telling your mage
character about good iron and poor iron so that your mage character
can go into an ironyard and pick out some iron for my blacksmith.
That's specific to the perceptions of a blacksmith.  If you want to
help, you would allocate some points to blacksmithing skills and
pick up those perceptions.

Anyway, that's how I see it being handled.

I can't see managing the large body of instance data that would
result from characters transferring bits and pieces of knowledge to
each other.  Just the orienteering and item recognition stuff would
end up being pretty hardcore.

Of course, just having the perceptions stuff itself would require
some hardcore development :)

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