[MUD-Dev] Design: Food in MMOs

cruise cruise at casual-tempest.net
Wed Feb 22 04:45:50 New Zealand Daylight Time 2006

Thus spake Lachek Butalek...
> My solution to the problem above would be to make player characters so
> utterly powerless against a "boss" monster that they would be more likely to
> flee from the spawn point than camp there. After all, this is a "boss"
> monster - why should a single character or small group be powerful enough to
> not merely easily destroy it, but be so confident that individuals and
> groups compete for the pleasure? Defeating a city-pillaging,
> maiden-kidnapping, countryside-ravaging beast should not be something you
> and your buds do on a lark, or to get phat drops. It should require communal
> efforts between multiple villages or towns, governmental/military
> involvment, logistics, support from a deity or perhaps a mage's council, etc
> - or be the result of some earth-shattering, epic, DM-led plot featuring a
> group of protagonists central to the game world's storyline. Anything less
> and the reputation of Hzzarath, Lord of the Fiery Pits of Doom will be
> seriously questioned.

Errrr....isn't that a "Raid" ?  Though yes, it might be nice if raids 
were GM-led, or one-off story-driven events. The cost->gain ratio on 
generating a one-off raid monster might be a little prohibitive in 
anything more than a text-based game however.

> What is inherently wrong with making player characters more vulnerable and
> helpless? Will it make the game less fun to play if you don't score a
> magical weapon after 30 minutes of play? Will it somehow break the fantasy
> genre mold to have the protagonists be any less than almighty? I seriously
> doubt it. In Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship was made up by the
> creme de la creme Middle Earth had to offer (and a few hungry Hobbits, too).
> Even so, Boromir - one of the most mighty fighters - was slain by some orcs
> by the end of the first book (and he couldn't even run back to his corpse to
> resurrect!). Orcs, you say? Why, they only have rusty short swords, causing
> 6 points of damage at best - and with my Fighter's armour class and damage
> reduction, they would have a hard time hitting me, much less cause any
> damage! The only reason I kill them is because their presence in number is a
> little too taxing for my video card to handle - or I'd just let them be!
> The traditional fantasy MMO/MUD suffers from inflation from the moment it
> goes into public beta - possibly before. In a tabletop session of D&D, the
> player characters are protagonists, with special abilities and skills that
> sets them apart from the common rabble. They are likely some of the most
> talented, skilled and all around powerful people in their corner of the
> world - or they will be right after they reappear from the newbie dungeon.
> The problem with MMO/MUDs is that there are literally thousands of these
> Nietzchean Ubermensch in the same province or even city, which is a major
> game balance and realism problem even before you start taking mudflation
> into account.

Agreed, this is a huge problem with the current crop of games. Which is 
why I feel some kind of partitioning of the world is necessary (through 
instancing or otherwise) - "Pah! You might be famous where you come 
from, but round 'ere we've never heard of ya!" - to recapture some of 
this feeling when aiming at this kind of playstyle.

> So if you're looking to alleviate this problem, what do you do? How would
> you cripple player characters in a way that still enables them to play the
> game - not just sit around waiting to be eaten by the next major foozle to
> come around? Again, look towards the real world - what was the most
> prevalent problem of Dark/Middle Ages Europe, which is when most fantasy
> settings are most similar to?
> Food.
> Access to an adequate amount of food was what separated the poor from the
> rich, and enabled the rich to pursue other pursuits - like knighthood,
> priesthood, or trading. In a realistic fantasy setting, a young adventurer
> who set out to the big city to sell her skill as a mercenary would be
> concerned with feeding herself. A cleric would concern himself with
> collecting the tithe from his congregation so he could feed himself, while
> ensuring his faithful still had enough for themselves. A powerful vassal
> knight would be concerned with the food production of his populous, because
> if there was a bad harvest there may be a revolt - and so forth. Similarly,
> a simple weaver or carpenter would perform their services in exchange for
> food (or coin for food), and a farmer could become one of the most powerful
> figures in a township if he played his cards right and had good luck.

Stripped down to mechanics, this seems to be yet another resource sink - 
fundementally not too different from item acquisition or repair - a 
constant drain on funds to remain effective.

> Food is consumed at a fantastic rate on a national scale, creating a
> perfectly realistic "sink" in the economy. Those with access to plenty of
> food will develop quicker both physically and mentally, and will be less
> likely to fall ill - a perfect complement stat to XP. If a person didn't
> have enough food, they would be crippled and unable to fulfill themselves in
> other ways. Food supply is an important factor to consider when travelling,
> as everyone who has played D&D or been on a roadtrip in AZ will know - a
> factor almost completely unutilized in MMO/MUDs, that nonetheless often
> feature extensive travelling.
> So, there's my RFC. How can food (supply and production) be implemented best
> in an MMO/MUD, to encourage realism and prevent all the problems associated
> with inflated stats, while still providing a fun and playable game? What
> games currently implement food, in what ways, and how successful are they?
> Are there any major problems with the whole concept of food in an MMO/MUD?

I've seen an implementation pretty much as you describe in a MUD - not 
eating made you more and more susceptible to disease, some of which were 
quite nasty - but really ended up rather annoying and pointless. Buy a 
big rucksack and as many loaves would fit in it, then whenever "You are 
hungry" came up on the screen, "get bread rucksack; eat bread". One 
macro later and what's the point?

To be worth putting in a game, each action or procedure the player is 
required to perform must require a genuine choice, the quality which 
defines our "interactive" medium. So what choices concerning food can we 
offer, above "eat or die" which isn't really a choice at all?

Offer different food stuffs that only bolster/prevent degredation of 
certain statistics? The more stats they affect, the more expensive the 
food. Gaming equivalent of junk food - cheap and makes the "You are 
hungry" messages go away for a long time, but detrimental to endurance 
and agility...

Again, however, how is this any different from equipment, apart from 
being a different branch on the skill tree? I suppose as form of "tax" 
on player gatherings it might be quite useful - if a guild has to supply 
all of its members then organising raids are made more difficult - but 
no more so than ensuring archers have arrows and mages have sufficient 
mana potions.

Thematically it makes a lot of sense, but from a mechanics point of few 
it doesn't seem to solve a problem that isn't already addressed by 
something else, and adds "yet more stuff" players would have to keep 
track of.

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