[MUD-Dev] Dynamic Descriptions

Peter Keeler scion at divineright.org
Fri Apr 1 17:01:59 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

Quoting Bernard Graham <bernardgraham at gmail.com>:

> I totally agree with you on the fact that creating space just for
> the sake of "space" is a waste of space.  This basically touches
> on the reason why I am actually interested in creating such
> dynamic descriptions.  When you have a world that is described to
> you based completely on is properties - *that* is a dynamic world.
> When someone changes those properties, it is automatically
> reflected in its description.  So when I have a whole lot of
> forest which are initially just *forest*, and as the game
> progresses, people do things in the forest that would change it -
> for example, druids may start to live in the trees.  This would
> cause the forest floor to change over time, giving hints to the
> locations of these druids (due to the fact that as the owner
> repeatedly go in and out of his/her treehouse, the forest floor
> may be worn down and start to look like a path).

*snipped lots of compelling examples of dynamic content*

Having worked on a project like this somewhat halfheartedly for
awhile now, I can tell you that to me the easy part was figuring out
the generic framework for how the engine would work. If you're using
an object oriented language, you can just ask each object in a
location to contribute its piece of the description, do some clever
filtering based on size, importance, the player's set of skills and
in-game ability to percieve information, and voila... you have a
description of the location tailored for the individual player.

Making it appear well written is somewhat more difficult, and left
as an excercise for the reader.

The real problem I've had is that to create a believable appearance
of reality you have to tell the game engine about all kinds of
everyday things. It would be cool to have paths appear after
somebody has walked over some ground repeatedly. How does the engine
know to call that a "path"? When does it become a "road"? Might it
be a "trail" instead? What about rivers/streams/creeks?
Bogs/marshes/cesspools? Do you hard code everything?

The downside to using a text based engine is that the engine needs a
large vocabulary in order to generate interesting text, and it's
hard to tell it what all those words mean. It seems to me that you
need some kind of a database for the engine to look up the next
biggest or smallest kind of thing in the progression and the
conditions that must be met to progress to the next thing.  Then you
have to populate that database with data about everything that
exists.  Certainly not impossible, but it could easily become a
very, very large project.


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