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Old 07-25-2010, 01:18 PM   #1
Vatiken
 
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Troublesome Aspects

In all genres from FPS, RTS, to MUDs, developers strive to challenge their players. These challenges often require time, mental skill and character skill. Sometimes these challenges however are more challenging due to improper implementation or poor design. A good example is from the classic game "The Secret of Monkey Island", which might I add is one of my favourite games of all time. In one part of the game you have to use a rubber chicken to slide across a clothes line to get to another location. The most difficult part of solving this puzzle though is sliding your mouse curser across the screen and trying to click on the 1 pixel wide clothes line.

In the way of MUDs, and being that CircleMUD/Diku is my homeland, I can't help but find that some of the challenges they offer are more annoying then challenging.

For example, hunger and thirst play a significant role in the stock code. As time passes a player becomes more hungry and thirsty until eventually they are starving and their ability to heal comes to a halt. A system like this offers a sense of realism to the world, but I find it takes away from the game. A player is forced to pack food, keep track of food and forage for food all to ensure that they will be able to heal. All of which takes away from the aspects of the game that people enjoy playing.

The same can be said for the rent system aswell. Every item you possess costs X amount of gold per day to store at an inn when you leave the game world. The benefits of this of course are that it encourages players to log in and play again soon before they lose their equipment due to lack of money. A system like this grossly discourages equipment hoarding and will likely keep all pieces of unique expensive equipment active in the game world. Unfortunately, like the hunger system, the rent system "forces" the player to perform a certain way to avoid negative aspects of the game ala not healing, or losing equipment.

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My question to developers and players is what defines an aspect of a MUD as challenging? or as troublesome? What challenging aspects of gameplay to you feel the urge to complete? While which other "challenging" aspects do you feel detract from gameplay?
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In regards to my previous example of hunger, I believe that by making food/water heal the player up until they are full adds a strategic element to gameplay that offers a similar result to the stock system. While allowing the player to use food/drink to positively affect his character as opposed to preventing a negative affect.
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Old 07-25-2010, 03:21 PM   #2
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

In my opinion the primary advantage of "hunger and thirst" is not one of realism, or providing a challenge, but of serving as a money sink. Food and drink are consumable resources, meaning players have to constantly buy more to replace those they use. In combination with a crafting system, this can provide a strong boost to a player-controlled economy.

Having said that, I do have a strong personal dislike of most implementations of hunger and thirst - although I wouldn't want to see them providing a purely positive effect either.

I would say that the difference between "challenging" and "tiresome" is primarily a matter of perspective. Once a particular activity ceases to be "challenging", it will start to be viewed as "tiresome". The only solution I can think of is to make such activities optional, or heavily restrict how often they can be performed (one-shot quests being an obvious example).
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Old 07-27-2010, 08:57 PM   #3
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

We've taken the view that hunger and thirst are mechanics that are ultimately too annoying for the world we're trying to create. We're including a cooking skillset that will allow players to create custom foods for the purposes of roleplay and creativity. More advanced cooking creations will also give temporary bonuses when eaten, creating a commercial demand for player made food.

I understand KaVir's point about food as a gold sink and I think it's a valid one. With that said, we've decided against it, perhaps in part because we all remember our pre-level-80 days in IRE Muds, which have a somewhat frustrating implementation of hunger and exhaustion mechanics.
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Old 07-28-2010, 12:37 AM   #4
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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Originally Posted by Vatiken View Post
My question to developers and players is what defines an aspect of a MUD as challenging? or as troublesome? What challenging aspects of gameplay to you feel the urge to complete? While which other "challenging" aspects do you feel detract from gameplay?
I find that anything repetitive or overly complex can detract detrimentally to enjoyable gameplay. This is of course completely subjective. Some people love everything repetitive or massively complex.

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In regards to my previous example of hunger, I believe that by making food/water heal the player up until they are full adds a strategic element to gameplay that offers a similar result to the stock system. While allowing the player to use food/drink to positively affect his character as opposed to preventing a negative affect.
There is nothing I've despised more than what you describe as: You are hungry eat something. You are thirsty drink something. The reason you see this alot is because that force eating system comes from a stock code that many MUDs utilize.

Anything that causes a character to slowly die or be disabled via inaction is severely debilitating to enjoyment. In my opinion, MUDs are meant to be played on and off as you can focus. If you take a phone call or a poddy break to return dead because you didn't eat is an automatic no deal for me playing that game.

hang on a sec...

Arrrrgggh, I left a game to write this quick post and my character just died of hunger! *mutter*
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Old 07-28-2010, 04:38 AM   #5
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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There is nothing I've despised more than what you describe as: You are hungry eat something. You are thirsty drink something. The reason you see this alot is because that force eating system comes from a stock code that many MUDs utilize.

Anything that causes a character to slowly die or be disabled via inaction is severely debilitating to enjoyment. In my opinion, MUDs are meant to be played on and off as you can focus. If you take a phone call or a poddy break to return dead because you didn't eat is an automatic no deal for me playing that game.
It's worse than that...the stock system most muds use simply provides a penalty to regeneration if you're hungry/thirsty. The games I've seen that cause death by starvation or dehydration have usually gone out of their way to implement it specially, and they tend to be really proud of it.

I recently played a mud where I was too stuffed to drink anything, and as a result I dehydrated to death, which caused my leg to fall off in a shower of blood.

Personally I chose to implement hunger the other way around, so that there's no concept of being "hungry", only "stuffed", "digesting" and "not digesting". Eating food instantly restores health, but also gives you some minor speed penalties until you've finished digesting everything. This makes food useful while also keeping it optional - you don't need to eat just to compete with those who do (unless you've intentionally built your character around eating, such as a wendigo who grows in size the more it eats).
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Old 07-28-2010, 11:40 AM   #6
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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I recently played a mud where I was too stuffed to drink anything, and as a result I dehydrated to death, which caused my leg to fall off in a shower of blood.
LOL, that's classic

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Personally I chose to implement hunger the other way around, so that there's no concept of being "hungry", only "stuffed", "digesting" and "not digesting". Eating food instantly restores health, but also gives you some minor speed penalties until you've finished digesting everything...
Similar at NWA. While we considered only using potions or other methods of healing besides eating, I found that the variances in types of food and the numerous differences in each style of food plus the usage of potions and other healing methods made food a good option so it stayed. Currently we have several hundred types of food not including player created types, so it works. Though we still get the occassional player that thinks eating to heal is unrealistic, but then so is talking to a dragon.
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Old 07-28-2010, 12:48 PM   #7
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

I agree with the hunger/thirst complaints - although they can be implemented elegantly enough to not detract from gameplay (hellmoo) I often find that they are just plain annoying. I don't log on to a MUD to spend time feeding myself, that's what the rest of the day was spent doing!
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Old 07-29-2010, 01:00 AM   #8
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

While hunger/thurst was never a problem at Castle Marrach, since food was nothing more than a prop to entice social activity, trying to get somewhere in the Game (as in rank, position, title,) always was.

There, you must impress those who are ranked higher than you to get ahead. But even then, you faced the problem of an ill-created system of rank, called the Great Chain, that was filled with positions already filled by Players (who wouldn't leave them in a million years on their own) and positions that have been empty since the Game's launch that aren't really nessicarry to the Game itself...
Lord Warden of the Coast?...Um, were atop a frozen mountain..
Royal Tutor?...What are you going to teach Fae's who are 30,000 years old, and have servants who tell them everything anyway?

The only real way of geting any upward movement was to either wait for someone above to advance or leave the Game perminately. And even then, you were subject to the favortism of those above you no matter how hard you worked towards getting that position. The frustration alone drove people away, and a few of them were tagged by the rest of us as ones who'd go all the way...

Sad, very sad...That Game held a lot of promice too.

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Old 07-29-2010, 01:47 AM   #9
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

Advancement and political hierarchies have been a problem in many of the MUDs I've played. A leader will receive a position and camp in it for months or even years. 85% of the time, the grounds to challenge a leader are inactivity. In a vicious catch-22, advancement through the ranks will often require that a person receive significant input from someone at the top... who is often lazy or inactive. Thus, the very people who could conceivably replace a leader are stuck in the lower-middle tiers because the person they are trying to replace for inactivity is too inactive to promote them.

This scenario becomes doubly painful in pay-for-perks MUDs where being the leader of an organization earns you a stipend. Leaders will rabidly hold onto leadership positions they don't particularly want because to surrender them would mean giving up a steady stream of income. When challenged on their inactivity or lazyness they will briefly resurface, spouting fiery rhetoric about their service to the organization and offering promises of future activity... only to then sink back into the same routines once the leadership challenge is dealt with.
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Old 07-29-2010, 06:02 AM   #10
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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Advancement and political hierarchies have been a problem in many of the MUDs I've played. A leader will receive a position and camp in it for months or even years.
If you allow players to create their own organisations, rather than having leadership positions handed out by staff, then this ceases to be a problem. If a leader does a poor job, the members will just leave and start their own rival organisation.
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Old 07-29-2010, 08:29 AM   #11
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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If you allow players to create their own organisations, rather than having leadership positions handed out by staff, then this ceases to be a problem. If a leader does a poor job, the members will just leave and start their own rival organisation.
I think that's true but I don't think that's practical for every type of MUD or every kind of situation. Also, allowing players that level of autonomy comes with its own set of problems.
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Old 08-03-2010, 04:26 PM   #12
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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Originally Posted by Vatiken View Post
For example, hunger and thirst play a significant role in the stock code. As time passes a player becomes more hungry and thirsty until eventually they are starving and their ability to heal comes to a halt. A system like this offers a sense of realism to the world, but I find it takes away from the game. A player is forced to pack food, keep track of food and forage for food all to ensure that they will be able to heal. All of which takes away from the aspects of the game that people enjoy playing.

The same can be said for the rent system aswell. Every item you possess costs X amount of gold per day to store at an inn when you leave the game world. The benefits of this of course are that it encourages players to log in and play again soon before they lose their equipment due to lack of money. A system like this grossly discourages equipment hoarding and will likely keep all pieces of unique expensive equipment active in the game world. Unfortunately, like the hunger system, the rent system "forces" the player to perform a certain way to avoid negative aspects of the game ala not healing, or losing equipment.

In regards to my previous example of hunger, I believe that by making food/water heal the player up until they are full adds a strategic element to gameplay that offers a similar result to the stock system. While allowing the player to use food/drink to positively affect his character as opposed to preventing a negative affect.

------------------------
Strangely enough, we only recently added in a change that would allow ghouls to receive health benefits when eating the corpses of fallen foes. It's based upon the level of the mob/player and the players constitution to determine how much health they receive. Of course, you eat two corpses and you are "full" no matter what your HP is.

What I love is the economic responsibilities of storing your eq.

Your character can have only so much weight in their inventory. If you want to horde special items you store it at the banks that are in your clan halls and various cities. This is how the storage formula works out:

To find the cost of storing the item:
You can store a maximum of 150 items.
Storing an item will cost you 4 copper * number of items.

IE if you have 4 items in storage already, it will cost
you 20 copper to store the 5th.

You can store bags etc with items in them and this will
count as one item only, however, the storage cost will
be multiplied by the number of items in the bag.

Example: You have 4 items in storage, storing the next
item will cost you 20 copper. However, you are storing
a bag that contains 10 items. It will cost you 200 copper
to store this item. 20 x 10 = 200


The above works out good for the players as the banks only charge you copper so you never have to worry about running out of money.


To me, the hunger and thirst prompts never bothered me on this game as there wasn't much of a penalty as you couldn't die from it. You lose a bit of hp per tick and it affected your hp/mana gain. To many of us players that didn't bother us. Drink from a fountain, eat the heart of your enemy. boom. Nothing more needed to be done. In my view point, if you're going to add a hunger and thirst affect, there should be dire circumstances so you actually do need to eat and drink. Otherwise its a waste of time to have to see those prompts come up every few moments. I so love gag.
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Old 08-03-2010, 07:13 PM   #13
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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I think that's true but I don't think that's practical for every type of MUD or every kind of situation. Also, allowing players that level of autonomy comes with its own set of problems.
Heh, I've found this first hand to be a suprising backlash. Everyone wants to be King, but no one wants to face the peasants.
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Old 08-04-2010, 07:58 PM   #14
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

I don't so much mind hunger/thirst notices, as long as (and it's often not) done every once in a while and not every minute or so. Being hungry and thirsty is realistic- and it encourages people to take basic survival skills like forage or 'dig water source' or whatever. What it *shouldn't* do is prevent a character- especially a new character- from exploring, or encourage them to stay nearby a fountain or tavern for fear of dying. A lot of games manage perfectly well by having a waterskin that lasts a good while and some basic food available early on. Also, if I'm so inclined (and hungry enough), I will eat the heart of a fresh kill because it will keep me alive, right?

I think it matters, too, what the timescale on your game is- is a IC day = 10 minutes OOC? For me, it's more about time. I dislike games that age your character a year in three days or something daft. Also, I'm extremely irritated by the 'rent' command. I tend to leave MUDs with 'rent' after only a short while- because I foresee difficulties later on; as someone mentioned, logging in to a game because you *have to* or your character will lose everything/die is just silly. People should play your game because it's where they want to be, not because they get penalised if they don't play.
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Old 08-04-2010, 09:12 PM   #15
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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Also, I'm extremely irritated by the 'rent' command. I tend to leave MUDs with 'rent' after only a short while- because I foresee difficulties later on; as someone mentioned, logging in to a game because you *have to* or your character will lose everything/die is just silly. People should play your game because it's where they want to be, not because they get penalised if they don't play.
Easily solved, though.

What we do is "mothball" inactive characters.
So if you're logging in regularly, you pay rent, impact the economy, get sick from diseases, and other such stuff.

If you stop logging in, that continues for some time (a week or so) and then stops. It starts again when you next log in. That way you can take a break for a month, year, or however long you want without worrying that when you return you'll have lost anything much.

But we also wouldn't kill someone from thirst, or drain their bank account from rent...
We might kill someone from a disease (but there is resurrection) - even then, unless it's a fast-acting disease we'd still pause it if the player was inactive.

the other side of the coin, since we try and make players not loose anything by being inactive, is that a lot of players abuse this. If things are going badly for them in-game (it's a social/political game) they will often just stop logging in, knowing that we won't make anything too terrible happen to their character while they're away. They'll wait for things to die down, then return. It means a lot of plots are killed by one of the key characters vanishing.
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Old 08-04-2010, 10:12 PM   #16
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

I guess firstly I'd say that if someone doesn't log in for a week, that's normal. A month? That's excusable (maybe a family thing came up, or sudden loss of house/job or something similar), but three months is an indication that the player isn't really interested anymore. I know that some people 'check in every few months', but that seems to me to be rather pointless- if you're not active in a MUD, then why play it? Please note that I say 'MUD' because I have never played a MUSH or something else- but I think the point remains the same. Text games are quite reliant on an active playerbase, and someone who doesn't play for your game for three months seems to be 'out of the game'. Delete the character, in short. If there's an argument for keeping characters/players on your database after three months of idle time, I'd like to hear it.

You can't, obviously, *make* people play your game. But if they're heavily involved in a plot or intrigue, then chances are that they're interested enough to keep playing. People get irritated, ticked off, angry at the other players, et cetera, but if they have any kind of responsibility in the game (guild/faction/faith leader or some-such) then chances are that they've RPed or worked hard to gain that position. Sure, they might get so ****ed off that they leave for a week just to cool their heads and rethink things, but they shouldn't expect to just stroll back in with no consequences. And I'm talking about a week, never a month or more...

I guess it really depends on what sort of game you're running. Personally, if I ran a MUD, people who left for a month with no explanation would be deleted. That might sound harsh, but the reality is that MUDs and such rely on active, interested participants. If someone leaves for a month with no notice, no matter how 'important' their character is, they should be wiped. You simply don't need that kind of luggage.

Hmm. I may have lost the point and been on a rant. My point is this- Idle players hurt a game, and absent players (who still hold important positions) kill a game. I honestly feel that it's about keeping a game fresh and interesting to new blood, and idle and absent characters do nothing to help the cause.
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Old 08-05-2010, 12:49 AM   #17
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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If there's an argument for keeping characters/players on your database after three months of idle time, I'd like to hear it.
Our stats bear out that there are a fair number of players that return after >3 months away. Far from all of them return, but a significant amount, maybe more than 10% of players that were active and left for 3 months return.

And one of the big reasons they return is because they can jump back into the old character, see what old friends are still be around, drop a few clues about old plots. They can also create a new character, but most returnees first come back with their established character, even if they then go on to make a new character.

So keeping their characters around helps make it easier for them to return to the game, and that helps you keep an active playerbase.

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You can't, obviously, *make* people play your game. But if they're heavily involved in a plot or intrigue, then chances are that they're interested enough to keep playing.
You'd think so, wouldn't you?
It surprises me how many players will stop playing a plot that they are interested in, for fear of "loosing" due to the plot. I guess there is a certain percentage of players who only enjoy themselves while they feel they are on the winning side, or while they feel they are the key individual.

But yeah, for the most part, if people are involved in a plot, they'll be motivated to keep logging in.

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Hmm. I may have lost the point and been on a rant. My point is this- Idle players hurt a game, and absent players (who still hold important positions) kill a game. I honestly feel that it's about keeping a game fresh and interesting to new blood, and idle and absent characters do nothing to help the cause.
There is a middle ground.
Idle players don't hurt the game any less if their character is deleted, and returning "old guard" characters can help the game. So I don't see any need to delete their characters. As you said, you can't make people play, and players having the fear of their character deleted might encourage them to log in, but it won't encourage them to play.

Characters that hold important positions certainly shouldn't be idle. There needs to be systems in place to avoid those problems. Either they loose the position if they are idle, or other characters have the right to challenge for position (and if they don't respond to the challenge they loose the position...), or someone else can step into an "acting" role, or other players can set up the equivalent.

For example, we have guild leaders, who keep their leadership position no matter how long they're idle - but anyone can create a guild. If the leader of the blacksmiths guild is idle, anyone can start a new blacksmith guild and recruit members from the old guild - now they've got a new guild with an active leader. If the original player returns, he still has his blacksmith guild, and can go about trying to recruit his members back.

So our game has hundreds of inactive guilds - but that's fine, because those guilds don't do anything, and are pretty much invisible to the other players. The number of active guilds stays pretty stable, even as players come and go.

We've also got some specific staff-supported guilds that are part of the gameworld, and you can't just "make a rival" - for example, the Rinaldi noble house is a group of nobles that run the city. You can't just make a rival group of nobles and expect to rule the place. Those groups have regular (once every 3 months or so) votes for who the leader should be. And any member can call for a new vote if the current leader is absent for too long.

The larger problem isn't players that leave for three or more months. It's the players that stay, but don't do anything. A guild leader who logs in regularly enough to be active, but doesn't organize any events or do any roleplay with the members isn't much better than an absent leader - however, the players are less likely to replace the leader while they are still logging in.
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Old 08-05-2010, 02:35 AM   #18
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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If there's an argument for keeping characters/players on your database after three months of idle time, I'd like to hear it.
On NWA players spend a lot of time building themselves socially, politically, and in their guild. It would be unfair to delete a character file who has been playing for years, after 3 months. We houseclean annually and having a character file for a year does not harm our database in the least.

Most players do not leave for long periods and come back, but it does happen and the players that play on NWA are mature and mostly good quality players. I would never delete a character simply for being gone a few months. A year, sure, a few months, nah.

Keep in mind we have strict rules about inactivity and roleplay in the game, so we don't have a lot of "ditch" the roleplay players on the game.
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Old 08-05-2010, 02:46 AM   #19
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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If there's an argument for keeping characters/players on your database after three months of idle time, I'd like to hear it.
We've had a return of a ton of old characters lately on one of my games. (By old, I mean characters that created in 1998.) One of the people who came back is a mother who stopped playing for 5 years because she had children. She's back and playing now that her children are in school most of the day and she no longer has toddlers to run around after. She missed her character during that time but made her family a priority. I would have felt pretty guilty deleting her character because she chose real life over her in-game life.

While I don't disagree with your points that long absent characters and idle characters can hurt or stagnate a game badly, a big enough population simply absorbs the missing spots and fills in the holes with new characters naturally. I'm not sure that deleting characters is actually necessary and may impede a player's return.
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Old 08-05-2010, 02:53 AM   #20
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Re: Troublesome Aspects

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We've had a return of a ton of old characters lately on one of my games. (By old, I mean characters that created in 1998.)
When you have a good game, this is normal I think and says something for the quality of your game and playerbase.
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