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Old 12-29-2007, 04:40 AM   #1
bloviate
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Question The stock experience (or one variant thereof)

When my mud was last in development, there was a standard approach used in MUDs of similar origin.

Players chose a race and joined a certain guild, which dictated the skills and abilities available to them. They earned experience which allowed them to train skills when they had collected enough. A player had an abstract body with hit points. When the hit points reached a certain level the player might fall unconscious. And below a lower point, death would happen. Gameplay consisted of going out into the world and killing things. Perhaps trying to do the simplistic quests which were implemented.

It wasn't particularly deep or interesting, but it worked and adopting it was economic in the sense that it was hard enough to get all the work done required to ready a MUD for opening. Builders and players were of course familiar with it, a custom system would not only potentially delay opening but might also discourage the interest of both parties. And in that sense, it was the only option. You wanted to create something, but you wanted to create something achievable.

Now I find myself considering how my game should work.

Is it more playable or fun to have the simplistic hit point as a measure of consciousness and life rather than a more extensive system based on the condition of limbs and the usability there of?

Is it more playable or fun to have the membership of a guild strictly defining the abilities and skills available to the player in such a shallow manner rather than a more extensive system which allows the player to specialise their expertise from the range of possibilities?

Does this standard which was in place back in the day resemble anything you were familiar with? Have things evolved and is there a new standard? Or is this level of depth still the standard?
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Old 12-29-2007, 10:23 AM   #2
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Re: The stock experience (or one variant thereof)

Still the standard I think.

One thing you should ask yourself when doing something away from the 'standard' is whether what you're doing is really a good idea or just being different to be different. Hit points is a good example. The problem with using a system based on limb condition and usability is that while it's more realistic it's not a great idea for a game where 75% of your time is taken up in combat. A new player could easily get both wrists broken, their eye gouged out, and their toes chopped off after just a few fights. Then what? Do you just add spells or healers, or some racial or class ability, to shine them up good as new? It's certainly a possibility, but it should make sense for your game.

If what you want is for combat to have more interesting tactical choices, and make players think twice about the long-term effects, perhaps there are other ways to accomplish that.

Anyway, I'm all for doing something different, but where I would focus is on the theme/setting rather than specific mechanics.

edit: I should say that the focus on theme/setting should include other mechanics not normally seen in a game. But I think you get more bang for your buck by looking at the mud as a whole and styling that rather than tweaking magic, combat, class tiers, etcetera.

Last edited by Ide : 12-29-2007 at 10:27 AM. Reason: I am dumb
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Old 12-29-2007, 03:24 PM   #3
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Re: The stock experience (or one variant thereof)

Ide pretty right about that. Focus on your theme not mechanics as a theme.

I will say though that I've found players enjoy both types of games that Bloviate describes. Both the open skill based game without set levels and guilds and the set level and required guild type. NW is RP based but also has skills and guilds. I find that more roleplay is reached in a community like a guild/religion/clan than as a loner out grinding. But the option to be a rogue (loner) is also available.

Some games are built strictly around the open format without guilds or set powers and many love these types as well. So it really is up to you, your style, and what kind of playerbase you wish to cater to. Good examples of "vastly different" Mud themes are 4 Dimensions (I seem to always tout this one, likely because the theme is so unique), Armegeddon, MUME, Shattered Kingdoms, God Wars II, and Threshold. Each have their own style and quality that draws different players.
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Old 12-30-2007, 07:27 AM   #4
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Re: The stock experience (or one variant thereof)

Personally, I feel that there's a lot to be said for "oldstyle" mudding. Something that looks familiar and comforting to some degree. While some games do the cutting-edge thing very well, what I've gathered from a lot of players is that the majority of them aren't looking for the most complex or realistic system - they want one that works, and one that they can get into. When I play, I don't want a million things going on in combat with commands you have to input all the time in order to defeat a powerful AI (though some people may like this) - I want the traditional, oldstyle, not-too-difficult automatic combat with dumb NPCs. While it might not be everyone's cup of tea, I think that MUDs are a somewhat nostalgic and simple genre, and that to some degree they thrive because of this, not despite this.

People who demand the flashy and complicated are likely to move on to graphics, or to those games such as GWII that are renowned for doing it very well. I think it's important for the rest of us not to forget where MUDs came from, and that many people are looking for that, or something not too alien that they can quickly get into, without going through the "newbie" persona over and over. I think that we often add features more and more without realising that all of this makes the game something very different - which may be good, but not necessarily and certainly not always.
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Old 12-30-2007, 03:58 PM   #5
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Re: The stock experience (or one variant thereof)

Quote:
Originally Posted by bloviate View Post
Is it more playable or fun to have the simplistic hit point as a measure of consciousness and life rather than a more extensive system based on the condition of limbs and the usability there of?
I spent quite a bit of time developing a combat system that I felt would offer a more interesting alternative to the standard hit point depletion system.

Without spending too much time going over the details of the system, basically every wound that a character received that was more serious than a graze had a certain chance of killing or incapacitating a character. The actual chance depended on both the severity of the new wound and the number of wounds which a character already had. Every wound a character received was more likely than a previous wound to put the character out of action. The more serious a wound, the more quickly its lethal potential increased with each successful hit.

The upside of this system was that it did make combat more exciting in that there were few matchups that would be so one-sided that one combatant would be mathematically guaranteed a victory. Also, combat felt more "realistic" in that no combatant could survive numerous serious and critical injuries. A single critical hit, while difficult to achieve, could end many fights.

The downside to the system was that it was too randomly lethal. In a mud in which a character can be expected to spend a considerable number of rounds in combat in any given gaming session, this level of lethality just wasn't going to work.

However, as I began to adjust the combat's lethality curve, the system began to feel more and more like a regular hit point depletion system. Unlike a hit point depletion system, however, it lacked any way for a player to accurately gauge how much damage they could still take (at best, a player could guesstimate his or her odds of surviving another successful hit or two).

All of which has given me a real appreciation for the good old-fashioned hit point model. While I think alternative models can certainly work and are worth looking in to, it doesn't hurt to give some thought as to why the system is so pervasive. There are plenty of things that can be done to make mud combat more exciting and engaging and which can give the mechanics of a fight a new feel without necessarily dumping the use of hit points as an abstraction for a character's health and fitness.

Quote:
Is it more playable or fun to have the membership of a guild strictly defining the abilities and skills available to the player in such a shallow manner rather than a more extensive system which allows the player to specialise their expertise from the range of possibilities?
I don't like guild/class systems generally, but this is largely because of the way such systems are usually implemented. Given that the goal, whether implicit or explicit, of many muds is the development of a character that in some way stands out in the crowd, I don't understand why such games would then throw a tremendous obstacle in the player's path in the form of cookie-cutter classes.

While guilds can certainly serve a useful social function in muds, it is worth considering that perhaps a character's abilities should determine guild eligibility rather than a character's guild determing his or her abilities. In general, I tend to favor games that give the player as much leeway as possible to design the character they want to play without having to be limited to a fixed range of classes or guilds with narrowly defined skill sets.
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Old 12-31-2007, 03:00 AM   #6
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Re: The stock experience (or one variant thereof)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ide View Post
One thing you should ask yourself when doing something away from the 'standard' is whether what you're doing is really a good idea or just being different to be different.
Being different is not a goal I think anyone should aim for the sake of it. What appeals to me is to make a deeper, more believable model of a fantasy world, but not an unplayable one. These two things do not have to be mutually exclusive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ide View Post
Hit points is a good example. The problem with using a system based on limb condition and usability is that while it's more realistic it's not a great idea for a game where 75% of your time is taken up in combat. A new player could easily get both wrists broken, their eye gouged out, and their toes chopped off after just a few fights. Then what? Do you just add spells or healers, or some racial or class ability, to shine them up good as new? It's certainly a possibility, but it should make sense for your game.
This is the question, indeed. The player clearly needs to buy insurance of some kind. Perhaps this can be my revenue model - free players take their lumps and lose chunks, whereas cash can buy you all sorts of sorcerous insurance which is used to make an adventurer's everyday experience less tedious. Well, okay, I just made that up; but it inspires me to experiment (perhaps without the pay for play part). "Quest Dungeon Insurance Runner Online," coming not so soon to a broken Windows telnet near you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ide View Post
edit: I should say that the focus on theme/setting should include other mechanics not normally seen in a game. But I think you get more bang for your buck by looking at the mud as a whole and styling that rather than tweaking magic, combat, class tiers, etcetera.
I would agree with the second sentence. Making a hodge podge collection of whimsical fleshed out systems is doing it badly, unless mad genius or luck is involved. Or I guess, the rest of the MUD is so well done that the disjunctive systems are tolerable.
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Old 01-01-2008, 07:37 AM   #7
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Re: The stock experience (or one variant thereof)

Personally speaking, when I've been looking for a H&S mud, I've mainly looked for code that is simplistic but innovative. A mud might have a code that takes care of everything, runs smoothly, remains bug-free and so on, but if it's confusing and unaesthetic, and takes me six months to even vaguely comprehend, I'll lose interest fast. A mud's code should not be extremely alien to what the general norm is (standard DIKU, ROM, SMAUG etc.) unless you want to attract mainly challenge-seeking players at the expense of numbers. A mud such as GodwarsII is an example of that; I tried it out, and I found it to be an exceptionally well-written mud with impressive code and awesome ideas, but it was just way too different from what I'm used to. It is ultimately up to the individual's personal opinions and preferences, but my impression is that the muds that often rank within top10 here are the ones with straight-forward and recognizable code. This does in no way mean that the code is dumbed down or lacking at all, it just means that the guy coming from some other mud doesn't have to face the daunting task of learning an entirely new code while also presented with the obstacle of a game world and community that he's not familiar with. A great example of the opposite of my above reference is TorilMUD which has a fairly mundane code in many regards, but with great concepts such as spell memorization instead of mana, actual raid content, and no level restrictions on equipment. The latter will of course not go well with all muds as it depends heavily on other factors, such as whether or not it has PvP, but it is such a simple and easily comprehensible thing while also one of the mud's defining features.

Some other advice, all based on my personal preferences:

- Don't fall for the temptation of writing up thirty different races with ridiculous names just because you thought it would be neater than having elves and dwarves. You don't necessarily need to use the standard fantasy races, but nothing deters me more than seeing a full page of choices called trzgnfr˙k and zimbi'dabipop. Likewise, class selection (or your mud's equivalent) should be kept at a reasonable level. No cthuluists, no meta-augurers, no wing chun monks, no thaumaturgagogists. You don't have to stick with the fighter/mage/cleric/thief template, but one of the best muds I've played had four races and six classes, and players don't stick around solely based on their class selection if your mud is insufficient, but you will scare off a lot of potential players if the first thing that meets them is the choice of dozens of races and classes that they don't recognize at all.

- I honestly would stick with a simple, tried-and-true hit points system unless there's some very compelling reason that your mud can't do that. If you're running an RPI mud then you may want to consider such things as hit locations and actual bleed code, but if it's a H&S then hit points will do just fine. It also allows you more options for customization in your itemization system, and it's just a lot easier to manage than other often needlessly complicated or overly realistic systems.

- When considering your mud's itemization, I would recommend that you shy away from wildly curving stat progression. What I mean is that you should not have to give your highest level items +250 strength and +800 hp, it becomes so tame and clunky. I prefer a good old 18-stat-system, and hit point totals that don't number in the multiple thousands. There's no reason you can't balance your game's rate of progress and difficulty while maintaining a milder curve. If your level range is 1-50, make low-level items give bonuses of +1 and +2 to stats or hit/dam, and end-game items something like +5-8. That also prevents the pitfall of ending up with an itemization system where equipment means everything. It's also closer to what most mud engines come with by default, so i will both save you the trouble of coding a radically different system and alienating players who are used to the much more common D&D-like system.

- Don't create a code that greatly encourages the use of triggers unless you want your mud to become a game of "who's the best at writing scripts?". I have seen countless muds succumb to this, and not only is it unrewarding to find that the game you created is being played that way, but it also tends to shorten the longevity of the game for the players. If the main challenge is figuring out how to write a script that beats everything, they won't have fun for as long as they could if they had to play manually. You don't need to actively discourage triggers, but it's generally easy enough to write a code that both makes actual botting more difficult and prevents the playerbase from wanting to do it. In other words, make success rewarding, but also make the journey worthwhile.
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Old 01-02-2008, 06:13 AM   #8
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Re: The stock experience (or one variant thereof)

Quote:
Originally Posted by bloviate View Post
Is it more playable or fun to have the simplistic hit point as a measure of consciousness and life rather than a more extensive system based on the condition of limbs and the usability there of?
Personally I'm not fond of assigning hit points to specific body locations. If people can choose to target specific body parts, it tends to result in much shorter fights (because they'll focus on one location), while if they can't, combat becomes much more luck-based than usual. Furthermore, it's much more difficult to gauge your overall condition in a fight if you're trying to keep track of several sets of hit points.

Instead, I prefer to keep track of limb condition through a separate wound system, so that your hit points go down as normal when you get struck, but particularly deadly blows can also inflict additional penalties. The primary goal is still to reduce your opponent to 0 hit points, but you can cripple them with additional wounds to make the process easier. Although you still have wounds to keep track of, they are typically boolean; your overall condition is represented by a single integer.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bloviate View Post
Is it more playable or fun to have the membership of a guild strictly defining the abilities and skills available to the player in such a shallow manner rather than a more extensive system which allows the player to specialise their expertise from the range of possibilities?
This is very much a matter of personal preference, as both extremes have their pros and cons, although sometimes you'll find that certain abilities only make sense for a specific subgroup of character types - in such cases, a class/guild system is a pretty neat solution.

My own approach was to try and combine what I felt was the best of both worlds; I have five classes, each with their own distinct abilities, but each player can highly customise/specialise their character within the range of options available to their class. It's very rare to find two identical characters, and some of the variations within each class are extremely different.
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