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Old 07-23-2002, 05:49 AM   #1
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A common problem on many muds seems to be game balance, or lack thereof.  Particularly building mobs and objects at hero levels can get out of control, along the lines of this type of reasoning:

1. Hero gets his mitts on all the best equipment in the game, easily kills most things, gets bored with nothing better to do.

2. Builder invents more powerful mobs to keep it challenging.

3. Hero finds the mobs, kills them, gets their equipment which is disappointing, thinks items should be more powerful than what he has, otherwise what's the point of killing the mobs as tough as they are?

4. Builder enhances stats on items to make them worthwhile to acquire.

5. Hero gets this eventually, ends back up at square 1...

And so on.  Eventually this sort of circular reasoning can blow things way out of proportion, so you have heroes and mobs that hit for 1000+ damage and have stats like hitpoints in ridiculous numbers.  But is the solution to make things more and more powerful or keep them relatively balanced?  The range of possible items, mobs and statistics seems to be wide enough to allow for variation without continuing to inflate everything.  Usually item and mob stats are left to the judgment of the builder (though particularly when builders have seasoned mortal characters, this judgment can be rather hazy).

So I'm wondering how this is handled on other muds - particularly when the code is customized, levels increased, etc.  Do you set firm limits on how much damage mobs and weapons should do at certain levels or leave it up to the builders?  We have a "pricing" system for clan equipment that ensures it doesn't get out of proportion, but so far this hasn't been extended to the rest of the MUD.  Are there any resources out there for this sort of thing (beyond what standard codebases tend to provide)?

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Old 07-23-2002, 07:17 AM   #2
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Personally I am a firm believer in setting a max on 'good' equipment built into the game. Max damages for weapons and mobs, limitations on stats to ensure game balance. Only way to do that is set the standards and abide by them. Check builder areas before they're put into the game and limit access to completed areas so things aren't altered.

How to keep a player's interest once they've maxed their goals without stepping over the bounds you set for game balance? Easy, entertain them! There are numerous ways to keep players interested in the game by building mini-quests into areas, interlink several areas for a mud-wide quest via mprogs or use players in place of the mobs for it We recently held a similar quest that consisted of players receiving a clue where to find the first guy and from there they had to locate him, retrieve something he wanted in return for information he was holding and voila, they were sent to someone else. A few of our most recognized explorers really enjoyed it, they found some stuff in the game they didn't know about before! The players that acted as the clue keepers had a blast, they role played it out globally and individually with people.

The idea is to find out what your players would enjoy without having to compromise game balance. Invade a city with swarms of mobs in varying levels so everyone can participate. When it comes to building the areas, throw in some secret passages, passwords, rewards for finding out tricks to the area or send them across the world to fetch something before they can enter a secret section of the area.

Ask players for feedback on what they would like to see done area wise. Several of our players are very active in creating our world, and they don't even have a builder! But many have great ideas
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Old 07-23-2002, 10:05 AM   #3
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I'm a balance nazi as it were. If it's not balanced, it doesn't go into the mud. However, being a balance freak doesn't do much for people like top level heroes.

Kyrene mentioned a lot of good ways of keeping heroes occupied, the only one I could add to it are more areas that don't contain necessarily harder mobs and more crazy eq, but that have little tricks and other things hidden in them. If the hero is lazy they won't go explore the area, but a good area should keep them busy for a while. One way to slow down characters is to make the mud harder, but there's a balance to be stuck there: too hard and you lose people, not hard enough and you have a bunch of top level people sitting around bitching because they're bored.

I think part of the reason that balance gets thrown out of whack on a mud is because no one wants to say the same, everyone wants to be more powerful. So if warrior A thinks his fighting abilities aren't as strong as sorcerer B, he'll complain, and either he'll get beefed up or the sorcerer will get weakened, and in that case the sorcerer then complains they are weaker than thief C, and the cycle begins again. If the creators of the areas feed into this cycle, and start making stronger equipment for the stronger players, then it keeps going.

As a builder I feel the only way to keep the cycle from repeating over and over and over is to make sure my areas don't have stronger eq or things that will upset the balance, and to work as closely as possible with the other staff to make sure everyone makes an effort to not fall into the cycle. It's not always easy, and doesn't always work, but I try.
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Old 07-23-2002, 09:05 PM   #4
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I'm constantly searching for new ways to increase the toughness of certain mobs. I have the particular problem where we deal with a double remort system that in effect allows 300 levels of players while only 125 levels of mobs exist. A tough cookie at times especially when trying to entertain and challenge the buffest remort (they tend to cause trouble when inactive).

A set standard for eq is really a must, but it also has to be flexible enough to allow for that "special" stuff that requires even the buffest to "group" to get. I find rarity of an item combined with decent stats "tease" them into trying for it and we've incorporated seriously low load limits along with "fakes" that load more often but turn to offal when taken. I know, it's evil, but it works. Hmm, I should mention those buff items typically are really fragile and tend to break in battle.

I think a bigger enemy than balance is being too static. We constantly have to be on our toes watching balance, tweaking, compensating for "techno-mudders," expanding quest and challenges etc. Slow change is a good thing and keeps the players interested. The whole thing is like a chess game to me where I'm the mobs and the opponent is the player.
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Old 07-30-2002, 06:58 AM   #5
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We too have gone to great lengths to keep the equipment balanced. Max Ac for instance is restricted for different wear_locs, and we use a system with max allowed points for addaffects, where each +5 to move, mana and hp equals 1 point, +1 to stat (str/int/wis/dex/con/cha) equals 2 points and each +1 to hit- and damroll equals 3 points. We also have a max for the weapon damage, although it can be raised a bit with the TINKER skill. (Of course, tinkered weapons break after a given time, and not all weapons can be tinkered in the first place). Most of the top equipment also is not loaded normally in the game, but used as Quest rewards, meaning that the players have to use their brains a bit to get it.

As for the top mobs, we constantly have to use new tricks to keep them powerful enough, since the players keep ganging up on them, keep getting stronger with each remort, and since new skills and spells sometimes rock the balance a bit. For instance a new spell, which allows mages to call forth 'elementals' to their aid, tended to be a bit too good, because the elementals are used for tanking. So we added a script to some of the top mobs, which makes them grab the elementals by the scruff of their neck and devour them. Very effective, and pretty annoying for the players, hehe.

So far the players usually manage to kill every mob in the game sooner or later, however hard we make them, by figuring out their weaknesses. But we do have a couple of mobs that are virtually unkillable, because they have a script that makes them regen at each hit. This is of course extremely frustrating for the players, so it should be used with caution. The only reason we use it at all is, that some mobs are Quest mobs and needed to be available all the time for the players who wants to do the Quests.

There is one that has a script saying something like: 'You cannot kill Herbie, unless you set fire to the entire planet!' One of our top players spent over a week trying to figure out how to set fire to the planet, before he finally asked me about it, and I put him out of his misery by telling the truth. But this of course started me thinking about how one could make a script for setting fire to the forest, and I might actually add it one day, Quest mob or no Quest mob… Like Illuvatar says, it gets to be like a chess game between the Creator and the top players, where both parties are constantly trying to outsmart each other. And this is mainly what keeps the interest up on both sides - not tougher and tougher mobs, but tougher and tougher Quests and puzzles.

It's pretty easy to keep the SMART players occupied by adding new tricky zones and hard puzzles. But there is another type of heroes, who use nothing but brawn to get to their position. They are too lazy to really explore, and too dumb to solve the puzzles, and they BUY most of their equipment from better players. They advance by being on line all day, constantly killing a ton of mobs, as powerful as they can handle. This is usually the type that ends up sitting at Recall and bitching about being bored. Since they don't show much inclination to leave, in spite of their alleged boredom, we occasionally run Quests that requires nothing but strength. For instance we have a PK Tournament called Knight of the Year, and a Gladiator Arena, where you get thrown into a pit naked, to fight lions and wolves - and/or other players. And occasionally we run some invasion or threat to the main cities that calls for a lot of strong heroes to defend it. In these Quests some of the smarter players usually take charge, so all the others have to do is to tag along behind them and tank in the occasional battles…

Still… you cannot run these major Quests too often either, or the players will get jaded and stop participating. The main thing with a 'major event' is that it occurs very rarely, otherwise it just becomes mainstream like everything else. The same thing goes for artifacts actually. The more seldom an item loads, the more treasured it gets by the players. We even have items with no stats at all, which some players collect, for the sole reason of their rarity.

One more thing we use to keep the interest up for exploring is the Zone Flag. This is loaded in the heart of a zone, and the players collect them either for themselves or for their Clan. The first flag to get reported is reset in the Clan HQ, and having many Zone flags of course raises the prestige of the Clan.
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Old 08-03-2002, 12:00 PM   #6
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We decided on our MUD, since we all had horrible experiences on a previous MUD, that we weren't going to have objects with stats. Those that did have stats would be extremelly rare items such as religious items, etc.

I can't see a tunic giving +1 con or a jeweled necklace giving +2 dex. But these were the types of things we dealt with on our previous MUD. EVERYONE knew what equipment to get a character creation and cheated their asses off to get it. They planned sessions where their friend with a stronger alt would go and get them for him, without their characters having ever previously meeting.

And then of course there's all the powerful stuff in the game that everyone wants, which I won't even get into.

So we took everything out. I'm worried it may seem a little boring, but we're hoping to make up for it in other areas. Plus not having all of this object balance to worry about, seems to cut down on a lot of the mob balance too.
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Old 08-04-2002, 04:03 AM   #7
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I understand that view on object stats totally, Nameless One and unless you are designing a totally roleplay environment only with other methods of mort vs mort comparison, that will probably fail to draw players.

Morts play and enjoy themselves and deem their value relative to each other. Who is the buffest, who is the smartest, who roleplays the best, who has the coolest eq, who fights the best are always the chosen elements for them to determine worth of themselves. If you remove the magical component of +con or +dam etc, you lose eq as the focus but you have to replace it with some cumulative comparative value that makes one mort superior to another. Choose what's easiest to balance or what you have the most time for.

I've seen people try and design levelless systems, temporary powers for Imms that is removed when task is finished, statless eq and a whole bunch of innovative ideas. My point is all need to realize that we are human and there needs to be a psychological method of progressive ego gratification designed into the system somewhere. If you can't establish that, the players will get bored and go somewhere else to meet their needs.
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