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Old 05-14-2002, 11:49 AM   #1
KaVir
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I've been thinking recently about a discussion I had with Edward Falconer on TMC last month, when discussing his "interactive story" character creation system.  The idea was still rough, and the discussion didn't go anywhere, so I thought I'd mention it again over here.

The initial idea, as proposed by Edward, is similar to that used by Ultima 6 - and also by at least one standard codebase (Mordor?).  During character creation, the player is asked a number of questions, and their character is developed accordingly.  Some questions might open (or close) different paths, and some paths might only be available through luck.

What I then brought up was the idea of having the mud generate everything which would be outside of a character's control - including appearance, birth, name, and so on.  Just like in real life, the player would have no control over these things - but would be able to control their life AFTER that point.  A player might want to play a warrior, but find their character is the son of a blacksmith - he would then have to run away to avoid following in his father's footsteps, perhaps join up with an army (or a group of bandits) and develop his character that way.  Alternatively he might be born the son of a King, and be expected to learn swordplay - but never allowed to put himself at risk in a real fight.  Once again, he'd eventually have to run away in order to develop his character into a "warrior" concept.

The second concept, which is technically a separate issue, incorporates an idea I gained from the RuneQuest RPG - age.  With the "interactive story" approach a player can create a history for their character - but when does their character actually start play?  It's not really logical for all characters start at the same age, but an older character SHOULD be more experienced - after all, while the player might be new, the character (from an IC point of view) isn't.

Thus I would propose that a player can CHOOSE when they wish to finish character creation.  They could opt out almost immediately, and start play as a young child, or take it to the other extreme and start play as a grizzled old veteran soldier.

Obviously this requires balance.  For this reason I would suggest that younger characters learn/develop faster than older ones, so that after a certain point (say, 50 hours play) all characters would be on roughly equal footing, regardless of what age they started at, and would continue to develop at the same speed.

The advantage of being older would be that you'd get a headstart in the short-term - you'd have enough starting skills to be able to get straight into the thick of the action.  The disadvantage is that you'd have to decide in advance where to put a lot of your skills, as well as that obvious fact that you'd be older (which is obviously a serious problem if you have implemented stat deterioration and/or death from old age).

The advantage of being younger would be that you'd have a gentler introduction to the mud, and you'd be able to try out the mud (deciding what suited you the best) before putting too much effort into any particular category of skill.  You'd be weaker initially, but if you were willing to put in the effort you'd eventually catch up with the older characters - and you'd also outlive them.

The extremes would be the most tricky - a REALLY young character would be practically defenseless, and have to spend most of their time watching and learning, while a REALLY old character would probably die of old age within a month or two of play (and also be too decrepit to defend themselves very well physically).

Another noteworthy point is that this would allow you to create a new character who is as old as (or older than) many existing long-term characters.  Cross-referencing details in-game could create some very interesting results - perhaps your new "veteran mercenary" character was the mentor of another player's "runaway blacksmith".  Even though the other player had been playing for months (and you had only just created yours) the mud could create the association and apply the information via some sort of character-recognition system.  The two characters would then recognise each other on sight, and be able to view what they know about each other (all automated, of course).  You might also have some characters who trained together when they were younger, others who are enemies (you know that mob you killed last month?  Well, someone's just started playing his son!), others who have heard of each other by reputation, or have just bumped into each other in the past.  This would immediately provide a link between the new players and the old ones, and encourage them to interact with each other.

I'd be interested to hear other people's thoughts.
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Old 05-14-2002, 03:14 PM   #2
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How much would you let a character determine about their background, and how would you deal with that in the cross-referencing? In constructing his background, a player may need to determine certain characteristics about the people surrounding his character.

For instance, say that sometime <i>after</i> creation, the young blacksmith tells another character that his mentor was a drunkard. Later your creation engine hands another player the character of the mentor. How does this player know that his character is supposed to have been a drunkard?

You could give the blacksmith the power of adding such things to the mentor's background up until the time the creation engine gives the mentor character to another player. However, at what point would enough be enough? The player of the mentor probably won't enjoy getting stuck with a character whose every detail has already been determined by another player.

You could give the player the option to choose from more spin-off characters than just the mentor, but then you will lose the benefits of having an involuntary background system. If a player wants a warrior instead of a prince or blacksmith, they will find a spin-off character that is a warrior.

In an RP-enforced mud with distinct groups of RPers and PKers, this may be a good thing, if you also give them the option of generating a completely new character rather than making them choose a spin-off character. That way the people who enjoy (and are thus probably good at) writing backgrounds will be the ones that determine the backgrounds of all characters. And the people who would rather play a particular class of character will be able to choose to do that.

But if your mud is mostly PK, then you aren't really losing anything if a person's abilities doesn't match their background. And if your mud is mostly RP, then you could be losing a lot if you restrict your player's artistic liscence through automation.
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Old 05-14-2002, 04:46 PM   #3
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You make some very good points - it might be better if any cross-referencing was done only with insignificant people from a character's background. No mentors or family - only acquaintances. No matter how detailed your background is, it's never going to mention every person you've ever met - but if your character happened to fight at the famous Battle of Beerkeg Mountain, and so did mine, there's a good chance they might "remember" each other. Our characters might even remember each other from sword class, or something like that. This would still provide a way to introduce players to each other, but without the risk of disrupting any of their backgrounds.
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Old 05-14-2002, 10:01 PM   #4
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I've always loved the Ultima 6 method of character creation where you didn't get to pick every single detail of your character. It's much more like "being born" since none of us actually get to choose which height we'd like to be or what our hair looks like or what color eyes are. I'm very intrigued by the idea of having to deal with the consequences of birth. I'm all for very little choice in picking a background, but I think that I might possibly be in the minority here.

It seems that it would be quite difficult to decide each person's place in the living world and then just plug them in without an extensive background. Would that mean that players are adjusting to the blacksmith suddenly deciding he wanted to be a warrior one day? Would this happen with each new character on the MU*? It seems that it could be very disruptive for each player to learn a new character's background and how they fit into the world prior to an actual player taking control.
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Old 05-18-2002, 05:00 PM   #5
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KaVir and others,

The discussion on TMC was certainly stimulating and it's one that myself and Brian Lindahl have tossed around ever since. As a disclaimer to this post, please realize that my comments come as the administrator of a game that is role-playing enforced.

1) Automating everything.

I have to say that this idea is very solid and could provide some highly interesting and random experiences for any roleplayer. While we're certainly considering implementing automatic creation as an option for experienced or novice roleplayers that are having difficulty coming up with a concept, I'd strongly disagree with making this the only form of character creation.

Players like choices and characters at some roleplaying MU*s have lasted over a decade.

As for the catering to the LCP (Lowest Common Player) that we have discussed previously, KaVir, we'll have to accept the fact that some players will create a character over and over again until the background matches the ideal. While I'd find it exciting to play out your "son of the blacksmith" scenario, other players would rather have their beginning skill bonuses placed elsewhere and simiply recreate.

2) Generational Gaps (The Age Dilemna)

One of the premier issues we discussed in the development phase, the age dilemna is also one of the more complex ones--especially for hard-coded roleplaying environments where age will have an obvious effect on both social and code-based factors.

Our eventual decision is to limit standard creation to a seven-year range of age sixteen to twenty-three. While this gives the player some choice in maturity it also sets characters in the age where it makes applicable IC-sense for characters to have only middling IC skills. I've always preached my support of in-game (as opposed to pre-game) character growth.

This doesn't mean we won't allow players to portray characters outside of the sixteen to twenty-three standard, but we've cupped the choice into an application based process. Players who seek to play younger or older characters, nobles, nationalities ('races&#39 not yet opened geographically, or several other concepts that are not open to the common player must apply. In most cases, we'll require players to play a standard character before applying for a customed character.

Note that these custom/special characters will not recieve immense skill-bonuses or all-powerful traits--it's simply a way for players to create a character that has been overlooked from standard creation.

TCP's character creation should be in by late summer, and I'll invite you to take a further look at it then.

Best,
Edward Falconer
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Old 05-19-2002, 12:00 PM   #6
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Hi Flaconer, glad to see you found your way here...

I've been mulling this concept over for years, and will eventually implement it into the game for which i work. At the risk of being repetitive, I'll address the entire concept:

o Question-based creation, following a template. Initial questions, such as race [region], sex, etc will determine the starting template to be used. Each time a question is answered, the algorithm will recalculate the using template to determine which direction to go next. Ideally, this would randomize the situation to the point that it is unpredictable. Choices at one level will open or close questions at later points.

o Living-history concept - much as KaVir mentioned, and as was further expounded upon on Mudconnector, the concept of advancing a character after initial creation. A sort of choose your own adventure within the creation system itself, from which the prospective player can break at any time. At each question, the character could be given his current age or situation, as well as the projected change. Example:

Current age: 17. You have the opportunity to apprentice yourself to a blacksmith. Full term apprenticeship will take 4 years before you have freedom. Do you (1) Refuse, (2) Follow it through in its entirety, or (3) Break off after a period of learning, running away?

Option 3 would pick a time between 0 and 4 years at which the person runs away. Option 2 most likely would eat 4 years of the characters time, and make them a blacksmith journeyman. However, it possibly could break into option (3) for other reasons, such as running away due to abuse, the blacksmith being killed, etc.

o At times during the creation process, significant events could be chosen based off a timeline from the game. For example, you create a character who will ultimately be 40 within the game. Moving backward, we see that the battle of Beerkeg Mountain occured when you were 30, and you are given the option of having been in that battle. Perhaps even you died there, at which point you must once more begin creation.

Basically, the idea would be to allow one to fall into the storyline with many major aspects already resolved, but with others beyond the players choosing.

Also, as I menitoned to Falconer before - there will be archetype's which are chooseable during creation. Archetype's are character requests generated by other players, such as someone to play the father of a current player, which will have major points of question answered already, but other facets fillable within the creation system.
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Old 06-17-2002, 05:56 PM   #7
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Heya all,

I must say I'm amazed about how many things I actually have thought about are being discussed here.

The whole lifecycle sounds very interesting to me. People want to decide about their storyline though so perhaps give them that.

What I was actually thinking about was to allow some interaction between people which would result in off spring. A new player would be placed into a family that way. Which would give you relatives and some kind of background but you could choose your way from there.

Your father might be the mighty paladin of the White Tree Temple, and you always despised him so you join the Red Hand and hunt down every paladin of the aforementioned Temple. But of course he could also choose the path of following his righteous dad and become a paladin too.
If there aren't any women expecting babies you could have a new player be a traveller from another plane or world, which would give him all options he would need to.

The real tricky thing I think is dying. And since I see alot of articles about death and dying I think that's what more people find interesting. You rather not die, since you worked so hard for you character, put in several hundred hours and then you die of age?
So some reincarnation would be cool.

Well I have to think about that later

Greetings Dre
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Old 06-17-2002, 06:23 PM   #8
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My family was killed by orcs.
This led to a life of adventuring.
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Old 07-28-2002, 10:25 PM   #9
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Well it depends on what direction your game is going towards in my own opinion.

If you are going for a total Roleplay game; then you will want the user to have the most creation over their character as possible; with little places where they cannot change the settings. (specific stats, etc).

People can improve; you would want a way to improve your statistics; but then again, improving one stat might make another get weaker, and so on; nobody is perfect.

Spells that are not used often will be harder to cast; will require more mana; and might fail more than one that is casted a bit more frequently.

There must be a hardcoded maximum and minimum of each though; you cannot give a person FULL control over their character; unless of course; you are creating a Talker.
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