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Old 02-19-2004, 10:33 PM   #1
Eldorian
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For many years I was a player of a MUD, and I was very interested about how the actual formulas worked. I even took about 600 ticks' worth of mana regen to figure out how mana regen worked, as well as over 1000 rounds of combat to figure out how often the attacks come out. This is true of pretty much any game I've played. Diablo 2 for instance, when it first came out, I was one of the people who worked on trying to figure out the formulas that Blizzard used for various things, and thus mathematically deduce the best strategy.

Of course, back when I was a player on the MUD, the Immortals wouldn't tell me what the formulas were -- just said to read the helpfile, for example, or test it out. And Blizzard never gave out formulas, leaving us to figure out it out by testing and/or by cracking the .mpq files to find the values. Of course, this led to more sophisticated ways of encryption, which leads to more sophisticated methods of decryption, ad nauseam.

As a player, I resented this thing about hiding how things worked. Age of Empires made a big impact on me because I asked in a forum about how the formula for trading worked, and one of them gave me the formula straight up. That really encouraged me to play, to know that its creators are freely willing to discuss the formulas. Similarly, I still play Blizzard's Starcraft, partly because it's fun, but also partly because I didn't burn myself out of the game trying to figure out the formulas -- they gave all the values and explained all the game mechanics that I needed to know.

Now however I am an Immortal on a MUD, particularly working with and modelling how combat works, and how various spells affect combat. My job basically is to translate the code into Excel simulations, usually with a pretty graph that helps to visualize what's happening as the variables change. I also recommend various formulas, based on how the head Implementors want things to be affected by other things. Now being on "this side" of a game though, I now also have a natural aversion to telling players specifics of a code. The formulas, once decided on and playtested, are easy to copy, and they represent much more than simply numbers and mathematical operators -- they represent what we understand about what makes a good game work, about balance, fairness, and good strategy.

Yet now, having been on both sides, I wonder: How much should a game's creators reveal about the inner workings of that game? Reveal too much and your competitors copy your formulas, especially if your mud is popular. Yet reveal too little and your players waste time just figuring things out, rather than coming up with interesting and new strategies. So where do you draw the line in terms of reveal how the game mechanics work?

For that matter I might as well as start with us: For us, we will generally reveal what factors matter, as well as the direction they matter (i.e. makes it better or worse); we do not reveal by exactly how much however, nor which formulas we use. But I'm curious as to how other people view the formulas they work with in making a good game.
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Old 02-21-2004, 05:00 PM   #2
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Back in the days of tabletop games, hoarding the formulas simply was not an option. I think knowing the formulas is necessary to feel that you have not somehow been cheated into playing a character that is badly mis-designed. We all know the games are modeled on SOMETHING, and we all want our fair crack at designing our characters to most closely resemble in mathematical fact what we concieved about them in the fiction of the world.

You'd be just shocked at all the different permutations and computations used for all these things. One mud I worked on for a little bit I was looking up the hardness scales for rocks and such and we were trying to figure out how those things would translate to weapons damaging one another and armor in combat. Some people can just never get enough of this stuff!!!

But, for my money, yes I tend to want to know all the math, and understand, even though you have worked hard on getting all those formulas, it is as likely as not that the next person to come along won't like them for this and that reason and will start up their own research for new formulas! So you are not so much risking "losing" your formulas as you are publicising how yours work to attract people who like your design style.

My 2 cents...
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Old 02-21-2004, 06:00 PM   #3
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This is a question to the RPers out there that read this:

Do you think it "breaks" RP to offer this kind of information on a game that is supposed to be RP encouraged (or whatever the buzz word is for this week)?  I am trying to decide this question, as well as a few others (like offering a command to toggle on/off #'s in prompts and in the "score" screen).  But I am worried it might work against encouraging people to RP and FORGET about the #'s.

Any thoughts?
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Old 02-21-2004, 06:47 PM   #4
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Exclamation

Being a Game Master myself in an online MUD, the only way I can explain this is that alot of a games information is protected by an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) which most Game Masters agree to and sign before they are hired. It basically protects the game and prevents the new hire GM from being able to go and tell everyone especially potential competition how things are done. It covers alot of other things as well.
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Old 02-21-2004, 06:53 PM   #5
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Hey,

I guess it really depends on the environment you're trying to create, and the sort of player you'd like to cater to.

The system I've designed over on my own project is completely numberless, at least from a player's perspective. Everything is based on prose descriptions and prompts, from skill levels to the wounds-based representation of combat damage we use.

Our combat system is also quite brutal - just like in real life, a single good shot with a longsword when you aren't properly outfitted can pretty much spell the end of your character. This, of course, raises a few interesting issues.

When you hide the workings of the mechanics from your players, the price you pay is that the system has fewer eyes able to review it, and hence has a correspondingly higher chance of containing some flaws. While I've got a lot of faith in my own sense of judgment, and in that of the other staffers I run a lot of these changes by, and although I can honestly say I'm quite happy with the way our system has turned out, I'm sure that if we allowed our players to see all the underpinnings and accepted their feedback it would be even more balanced than it already is.

This is probably where the sort of player you're looking to cater to comes in. Personally, the few times I've played the game with a mortal PC and engaged in combat, I found my adrenaline level through the roof. Permadeath, combined with the fact that one lucky shot on either side could spell the end, tends to create that sort of a rush. The system is balanced to the point where such "lucky shots" between opponents with significantly differing levels of skill are quite rare, but just like real life, they do in fact happen - a weak, cowardly goblin with a rusty shortsword just might get in a lucky jab, slip between the overlapping plates on a knight's coat, and cause serious damage.

On the other hand, if your average player is looking more for maxing out a character mathematically, exploring all the different strategic avenues of combat, and in general is focused more on the code than on the sense of immersion and roleplay, I have a feeling that giving them access to the mathematical underpinnings would be the more productive route to take.

Just some ramblings. Hope they help.


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T.
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Old 02-22-2004, 01:03 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Lanthum @ Feb. 21 2004,18:00)
This is a question to the RPers out there that read this:

Do you think it "breaks" RP to offer this kind of information on a game that is supposed to be RP encouraged (or whatever the buzz word is for this week)?  I am trying to decide this question, as well as a few others (like offering a command to toggle on/off #'s in prompts and in the "score" screen).  But I am worried it might work against encouraging people to RP and FORGET about the #'s.

Any thoughts?
If you, for example, have one of these systems as was just mentioned where all the stats are described rather than numerical, the immersion in thye game is rather complete. This does not mean that a help file that shows numeric equivilents and how combat is calculated will destroy that though.

To me, it is easier to lose myself in the rp once I know that I am able to work towards my ic goals and how to go about that. Once I know what I am doing, then I can ignore the numbers and just have fun. If the numbers are all hidden you end up spending time experimenting with things and while that is all well and good, to me that detracts from the rp atmosphere of the early play easily just as much as a system where you have all the numbers spat at you wityh a "score" command.

One way or the other, the number crunching personality type is GOING to find out not necessarily the exact formulas you use, but at least to an extent the overall design of how the system operates. Why not make it up front so people can relax about it?

Obviously, in situations where there is a contract forbidding that, someone else has made this judgement call and taken the decision out of your hands. No biggy.

Bottom line I can have fun with either type of system, but I always feel like the GM is trying to pull one over on me when they hide underlying mechanics. Just is not my favorite way to go about things.
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Old 02-22-2004, 05:22 AM   #7
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Personal opinion: Get all the numbers out to the player. Having played a whole lot of both tabletop and computer "RPG" as well a a bunch of muds, I've found it to be distracting that you can't readily in some games see whether you're playing optimally. Obscuring the numbers with text needs to be done on with high detail to be useful, and is hard to decipher fast - which is best 'above average' or 'quite good' ?

Of course, I'm a gamer. I play the game, in order to advance, while hanging out with likeminded people. You wont see me on a mud with no hitpoints in the prompt, at least not for very long. A Mud is, to me, an online game, before it is a personal stage. Beating the game, becoming a well-known (if not always well-liked, heh) player is more important than being IC constantly. I find it easier to get a status through a number (35/75 hitpoints) than through text (You're moderately injured (how can one be 'moderately' injured anyway ?).

As an admin I must say that generally I'm for that (almost) all information is disclosed to the player. The exception would be the 'luck' factor, if you have such a thing. In short, I mean that the traditional RPG approach with telling the player all the rules, and how the dice are calculated in, how much damage a specific attack will do, is the right way to go, especially when dealing with a combat intensive system.

While doing this may certainly lead to having a couple (or more) players playing to get the right items, spells and skills, it's just a sign you've made a game worth besting. As a side note, I like to have multiple ways of being the 'best player'. Through combat, trade and personal development, or perhaps a personal choice of which tradeoff I'm making between the three.

Well, as I wrote in another thread a couple of days ago, I've had lengthy discussions on this matter with fellow players as well as fellow admin, and I've yet to find very many likeminded people. Well, I guess the others are just being quiet
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Old 02-24-2004, 06:22 AM   #8
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It's all about powergaming.

One school of thought says that, if you give your players all the figures, they will work out how to arrange their characters so that they are the most effective against whatever your mud throws at them.

Another school of thought is that, if you don't give your players all the figures, they'll work them out and then do the above.

The best solution, I believe, is to provide enough choice and complexity to your mud that it can't be powergamed, or that powergaming has a lesser impact. The challenge is making such a game fun, as well.
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Old 02-26-2004, 12:10 PM   #9
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I have to agree with Kasta that it's a double edged sword issue and bites both ways if swung. Mu*s should be about options and choices that a player takes to create or develop their own unique personality, not about number crunching to be the best.

We find hiding the formulas is the best policy because it challenges even the most talented techno-mudding power leveler to figure it out, and when they do we might change it with impunity. Maximum flexibility is a good rule in all things I think and leads to fewer whines when change is predictable. If I disclosed how good or bad a race or class was in comparison to others, few would ever choose the 'challenged' race or class because of human nature wanting to be the best in a competitive world. I actually tease some and toss monkey wrenches into their hard earned formulas just to mess with a few heads.

Keep your inner workings a secret, let the curious test and re-test, let the lesser mortals work out their own shortcomings. Either way, they have 'fun,' you earn their presence in your world and it's a win/win situation.
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Old 02-26-2004, 02:14 PM   #10
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Mu*s should be about options and choices that a player takes to create or develop their own unique personality, not about number crunching to be the best.
Surely that depends on the type of mud in question? Because on the mud I currently run, it is indeed all about "number crunching to be the best". And for a pure PK mud which focuses on player skill and strategy, I consider it a perfectly viable approach.
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Old 02-26-2004, 02:56 PM   #11
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I agree with KaVir, coming from the opposite end of the spectrum. The question was posed to RPers (as opposed to non-RPers), and I fall into that category.

I have some experience with both types of games (RP and non-RP, or more specifically, RP-Intensive and RP "allowed") .

In the game that "encourage" RP, numbers were visible, and you could tell just by looking at a person whether or not you could beat them in a PK war. If they were holding a vultite sword, then they were at least level 10. If they cast a certain spell, then they were at least level 30. The game was very plainly level based. If you wanted to find out if the weapon you had was enchanted to +35, there were methods to do this.

By knowing all these things about weapons and combat and being able to see damage numbers and such, it took all the mystery out of the game. You knew you didn't have to fear that really well-played wizard who proclaimed himself the Emporer of the Isle, because you knew you were 20 levels above him and could kick his butt. You knew that no matter how "important" this or that character was in a plotline, your little newbie could take him out because YOU had the ultimate broadsword of deth and destruktion. You didn't have to worry about RPing your character as significant, because you knew that your doomslayer would do all the work for you - because you knew its stats.

You also know that if you create a new character, because you can't stand Lord Fussbunny and want to lop his head off, that you need to place your stats in a certain order, with nothing less than a 90 for this or that attribute, roll up a specific race and "profession," and power-hunt your way up to level 31. Give yourself three weeks and Lord Fussbunny's a goner because you know that his stats suck and he insists on wearing +10 robes instead of +0 brig, which EVERYONE knows has a higher +damage factor even though it isn't the +10.

If you are trying to immerse yourself in serious RP, the numbers (in my opinion) just get in the way. I don't like seeing them in combat with mobs, I don't like seeing them on items, or skill "ranks" or levels, I don't like seeing them much at all, except to measure my own character's overall health. HPs, fatigue, that kind of thing. I don't wanna know about anyone else's numbers either.

In a game where acquiring "phat lewt" is a good thing, or where the whole point of the game is to be the best in combat - then I can see how numbers would be very important. But in a game where the point is to RP, and getting loot and getting into combat is only one small optional part of RPing, I don't think the numbers can help at all.
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Old 02-26-2004, 03:29 PM   #12
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The question was posed to RPers (as opposed to non-RPers), and I fall into that category.
Not the original question - it was a later poster who brought up displaying numbers in RP muds.

Quote:
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In the game that "encourage" RP, numbers were visible, and you could tell just by looking at a person whether or not you could beat them in a PK war. If they were holding a vultite sword, then they were at least level 10. If they cast a certain spell, then they were at least level 30. The game was very plainly level based.
To be honest it sounds the problem there was more related to the level system than the revealing of numbers; even if you'd hidden the level, the same conclusions could have been reached with little extra effort.

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If you are trying to immerse yourself in serious RP, the numbers (in my opinion) just get in the way. I don't like seeing them in combat with mobs, I don't like seeing them on items, or skill "ranks" or levels, I don't like seeing them much at all, except to measure my own character's overall health. HPs, fatigue, that kind of thing. I don't wanna know about anyone else's numbers either.
I dislike seeing numbers in combat as well, regardless of whether or not it's an RP mud. The same applies (to a lesser extent) to showing other peoples numbers. But as others have said it's really a personal thing - I know some people who dislike even showing HP and suchlike, prefering to just give a description of injuries.

However providing the stats for equipment can be very useful if you're trying to provide an element of strategy (something which RP muds can also benefit from). This doesn't have to be just about big magical powers - it could be things like encumbrance, weapon reach, reload speeds, swing times, protection percentages verses different damage types, etc. I also like to display tables with available combat techniques, and I think it would be just too overwhelming to provide the player with descriptions of each of the 1000+ fighting techniques.

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in a game where the point is to RP, and getting loot and getting into combat is only one small optional part of RPing, I don't think the numbers can help at all
I suppose if your combat system is very basic, it wouldn't really matter that much.
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Old 02-26-2004, 10:33 PM   #13
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Numbers numbers numbers... Little pains in the arse.

Okay, first, I'd like to say that both approaches work in different circumstances (which, hopefully, everyone's already gleaned from the ramblings before my own). A lot of it comes down to the effect you want to achieve...

Strategy can be achieved both ways. With numbers and formulae, you can get a lot of precision, and very clear conceptualizations of what's going on, what's the best bet, etc... Without numbers, but with a fairly logical system, you can get a similar long term effect, emphasizing instead creative thinking over numerical effects (rather than emphasizing that weapon x does y damage, emphasize that weapon x sets things on fire too, and weapon z makes them really cold, etc).

RP-encouraged/enforced can be achieved both ways. With numbers, people can more easily control where they're going, character-wise, and thus end up more along the lines of what they want to RP, with more of what they want in terms of character development (for example, one could avoid such wonderful mishaps as reading a book, thinking it would improve intelligence, and instead finding yourself stronger than King Kong). Without numbers, and, in this case, definitely without formulae, you increase immersion and, if you enforce roleplay closely enough, can dramatically cut down on hack'n'slash tendencies ("Hey, running the giants for the thirty-eighth time, trying to max experience gain, even though they're your guild's allies? Smite.")

Etc...

It really comes down to a) what you like, b) what your players like, and c) what your target players like. You can make things work either way.
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Old 02-27-2004, 09:09 PM   #14
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First a short history on myself: I started online gaming, both MUD and RTS about 8 years ago. The RTS was Age of Empires and its later generations. What I loved most about the Age games was the documentation and formulas already worked out on the Shai'tan clan website and the Mr Fixit Online website. I later was even an online multiplayer beta tester for the Star Wars Battlegrounds RTS. This information I was able to get online helped me develop my skills more rapidly than I would have been able to on my own otherwise. I am a very busy person as many are and when faced with time issues some things suffer and spending hundreds of hours playtesting in scenarios to develop strategies just to get a minor edge is not a wise choice. So, I would say fairly that without their help I would never have played enough to get as good as I was/am, I would have become bored with the game and moved on. As it was I got good, then better then faster and eventually could hang with some of the top RTS gamers that have graced the gaming Zone over the years. Now in the same time frame I was struggling on a MUD with a theme I was familiar with, but it had terrible help files. If it were not for the massive number of newbie helpers I would have dumped them on day one. Later on I left them for my current MUD after they had 2 pwipes in 6 months.

Short version of advice:

If your MUD has more emphasis on RP, give the players as much help as is possible so they can spend more time in character and less chopping up mobiles (or players) to get what they need. Keep in mind to hold back just enough information so that it cannot be duplicated easily.

If your mud is more Hack'n'Slash/PK oriented then your secrets will have to be more closely guarded. Since the strength of your MUD depends more on code and less on live persons and charisma, you have more to lose and easier ways to lose them. I would still suggest giving as much help as possible, and well documented, easy to understand help files. Just make sure that the information you give out does not contain any specifics that can be easily translated into another MUD.

When in doubt, err on the side of the players. Without happy MUDders we are all screwed anyways.
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Old 02-28-2004, 06:02 AM   #15
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As a mud owner/coder, I think that people just... shouldn't know the formulas.

I know all the formulas in the game, and if I don't remember one, I can always look it up. That makes for very boring gameplay, cause I know how everything works. Knowing everything makes the game -really- boring, so... don't give out formulas
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Old 02-28-2004, 06:47 AM   #16
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I know all the formulas in the game, and if I don't remember one, I can always look it up. That makes for very boring gameplay, cause I know how everything works. Knowing everything makes the game -really- boring, so... don't give out formulas
Do you think chess would be more fun if the players didn't know how many points each piece was worth, or how the pieces moved? If, instead of playing it the way it's played now, they had a GM nearby, to whom they would issue commands such as "I want to attack the white army with my horsey" - then the GM would handle the actions outside of the players view, and give feedback such as "your horsey is charging across the battle field when suddenly a bishop jumps out from behind a tree, and beats him to death".
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Old 02-28-2004, 08:59 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Feb. 28 2004,06:47)
Do you think chess would be more fun if the players didn't know how many points each piece was worth, or how the pieces moved?  If, instead of playing it the way it's played now, they had a GM nearby, to whom they would issue commands such as "I want to attack the white army with my horsey" - then the GM would handle the actions outside of the players view, and give feedback such as "your horsey is charging across the battle field when suddenly a bishop jumps out from behind a tree, and beats him to death".
I think this is an excellent analogy, tell them how they can use what is in the game and let them build their own strategies.  If your game is well enough balanced, varied strategies will produce similar results.  

For example, I once used a Drow Cleric, not exactly what you would call the best of fighting classes, as a formidable PKer.  Rather than go for how much damage my player could cause, I used the strategy of protecting my character with every protection spell under the sun and had the ability heal myself, my aim was to wear the other player down.  Not your typical type of PKer but it was reasonably successful.  This mud gave you all the stats of everything, most people of course opted to make "powerful" characters, I thought I'd try something a little different and surprised quite a few people by taking down some of the so-called "powerful" characters.

I think the same can be said for RP muds, give players the option to use the formulas if they want.  If the mud is well balanced, I don't think it will matter.
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Old 03-01-2004, 05:13 AM   #18
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i love pking with clerics =) the problem is the other people tend to get bored.
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Old 03-01-2004, 06:43 AM   #19
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As for the chess anology... I guess it depends. Some things the player has to know to form a good strategy, yes. Chess isn't a very complex game, it's all a matter of how you are able to move the pieces (Since all the pieces are equal in strength when they meet eachother), and from then on, it's up to you to figure out how to use them.

In muds, you have formulas for damage, defense and everything... If I knew a Flameshield does exactly 10% of damage to the person who hit me, and that the Master Troll did on average 100 damage per hit, meaning it would hit him 10 damage per turn... Plus I know that it has 500 HP, and I do 40 damage on average per turn, and I could calculate that:

I could heal myself, without using any special attacks, and I'll only have to survive for 10 combat rounds.

Once I come to that conclusion, every time I kill that master troll, it's gonna be the same thing. I'll know exactly how much I need to do, it'll get extremely repetitive, and I'll just get bored of killing him!

Sooner or later, I'll get bored of every mob in the game, even the toughest ones, cause I'll have the most perfect strategy to use against them and I'll only use that.


Doing it against players, however, is something else, cause they're dynamic... well, that is, unless you're fighting a player who uses the same system as you and just uses the same perfect strategy all the time.
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Old 03-01-2004, 07:06 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by (Amnon @ Mar. 01 2004,06:43)
In muds, you have formulas for damage, defense and everything... If I knew a Flameshield does exactly 10% of damage to the person who hit me, and that the Master Troll did on average 100 damage per hit, meaning it would hit him 10 damage per turn...
Yes you do have formulas for everything, you could figure this out even if you weren't given the formulas if you were so inclined, (I think someone has already mentioned this). So if that is your style of play then whether you have the formula or not won't matter, sooner or later you'll calculate it anyways. Not giving out the formulas will only prolong the inevitable. Adding a randomizing code might slow the process even more, but again sooner or later someone will figure out that formula too if they really want to. It depends on the style of player I guess.
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