Strategies and Patterns: What roads would any dare to tread?
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Tyche



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 176
Location: Ohio, USA

PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2005 8:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spazmatic wrote:

Tyche wrote:
Both examples I think illustrate why generalized discussion invariably devolves into tactical.


I agree that that happens. However, a devolution into specifics is a devolution into something that's actually useful.


That was me...wot said that, not Burr. But sure I agree with what you say above. I also think general design principles are useful in a different sense. That level of discussion IRT muds is somewhat analogous to discussing general programming principles without regard to programming language. Not immediately and directly practical. I should have used "necessarily" really rather than "invariably". Patterns can be discussed generally, but without examples one can't actually determine whether said pattern actually exists.

Spazmatic wrote:

For example, consider account systems - they provide a barrier to entry, possibly encourage throw-away characters, and other negative things (or positive if you want that barrier to entry). However, they also encourage character retention, amongst other things.

Without considering the tradeoffs, we know nothing about whether account systems are useful for keeping/getting players, or, in fact, whether they're useful for anything at all except eating up dev time. Thus the need for specifics and limitations and goals.


Maybe you assume too much about what an account system is. If you mean verification and validation of a user by email, approval and/or credit card then yes, that throws up some barriers to entry. However in MercMud, the player's account is merged with the player's character. Often when I think of account systems, I am think of simply re factoring that one to one relationship to a one to many relationship. Not in order to introduce barriers to entry, but to introduce new options, features, flexibility and convenience.

Spazmatic wrote:

And, FYI, Tyche - PD was probably bad example. It's so bloody complicated. The good/bad is incredibly dependent on implementation, the rest of the mud design, the style of player, etc...


Does that mean Perma-Life is also bad example? Isn't it more complicated? More dependent on implementation, style of player? How many lives does a player get, 3, 5, infinite? Are there penalties for dying and being reborn? What happens when a player "wins" the game? Reaches highest level? Do they remort, tier, start over again?

I think it is. OTOH, permadeath is simple and elegant. Check out the thread on permadeath and make a note of the nature of the questions asked. All of them involve reimplementing or reestablishing life.

As to examples, off the top of my head there's MUD, MUD II, Harshlands, Armageddon. I would consider them successful and I know they exhibit high player retention. Note the first two are completely different games than the latter two. That indicates to me that PD isn't something dependent on a particular style of game. Armageddon and similar games do answer the argument I've most often heard against PD, and the very same argument cuts across multiple features. I think it's best summed up as the faulty design premise:

Thou shalt preserve the player's investment.

Spazmatic wrote:

So I'm going to try a topic switch. Let's try:
Coordinate-based systems.

1) What type of players have you found enjoy coordinate-systems?

2) What type of players do not?

3) What systems boost player retention in coordinate-based muds? Which do not?

4) How do you think coordinate-based systems have affected newbie retention?

5) How have coordinate-based systems positively or negatively impacted perceived player immersion?

6) Roleplay?

7) PK?

Cool Have you seen any specific issues or benefits to a coordinate-based design?

9) How has coordinate-based design affected your staff?

10) Your server?


I'm never really sure what is meant by coordinate systems.
Moria, Rogue, EverQuest, and Ultima Online come to my mind as examples.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2005 12:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Coordinate-based systems.


The majority of graphical muds are coordinate-based, so I'll respond from the perspective of text-based muds. It's also worth pointing out that there are several variations of coordinate-based system - my response assumes the completely roomless kind.

Quote:
1) What type of players have you found enjoy coordinate-systems?

2) What type of players do not?


I found that very few players enjoyed coordinate-based movement when first introduced to it - in fact it seems to be the main stumbling block for newbies. I've seen several players spend 10-15 minutes going through custom character creation only to quit within 30-60 seconds of connecting. Even many hardcore players tell me that they initially disliked it (or even hated it), but put up with it because they wanted to play the rest of the game.

However once players get used to it, they seem to really enjoy the flexibility it provides. Of course that's a bit of a redundant statement, because if they didn't they probably wouldn't hang around to give their comments anyway - but there are enough people saying the same thing that I suspect it's mostly a familiarity issue.

I guess it's what Bartle would refer to as "short-term bad, long-term good".

Quote:
3) What systems boost player retention in coordinate-based muds? Which do not?


While you can certainly implement systems that take advantage of coordinate-based systems, I don't think the answer itself is really any different to that of room-based muds - to retain players you need features that they find enjoyable.

However with a coordinate-based system you've already got a "short-term bad" feature, so you're going to have to really outshine the competition with your other features.

Quote:
4) How do you think coordinate-based systems have affected newbie retention?


Badly. However there are so few coordinate-based muds that there's no real competition for players who specifically want such a feature. So I think it's worth the initial difficulty of getting newbies to stay.

Quote:
5) How have coordinate-based systems positively or negatively impacted perceived player immersion?


I'd say it's primarily a positive impact. It feels much more as if you're in a cohesive world, as you can see terrain features from a long way off, and movement becomes much more gradual, rather than the blocky jumps of a room-based system. It's like comparing the movement in modern graphical games with the 10-foot-jumps and 90-degree turns of much older games such as Dungeon Master.

Quote:
6) Roleplay?


I can only speculate, but I can't see it making a great deal of difference either way. One small advantage I can think of, though, is that players can't just 'vanish' to another room while you're interacting with them - you'd see them turn around and start walking out of the building, and thus be able to follow or shout after them if you wished.

Quote:
7) PK?


A coordinate-based system offers a lot of nice options for combat, so I think it can be a huge benefit for PK. In particular, ranged combat is something that can be handled far better than in a room-based mud - so for anyone designing a modern or futuristic mud with an emphasis on guns, I'd say this is something they should at least seriously consider.

Quote:
Cool Have you seen any specific issues or benefits to a coordinate-based design?


I already mentioned ranged weapons - and by extention, reach, for melee weapons. Features such as movement speed can also add flavour to the game, and provide an excellent use for mounts (which tend to be deligated to pure combat roles in most room-based muds). The usual 'flee' command no longer becomes necessary, instead being just a regular part of movement (you literally just target somewhere away from your opponent and start running). Combat options such as 'backstab' can be based on position and facing, while 'circle' can become an actual movement type - you literally circle around behind your opponent, then hit them in the back.

A coordinate-based world is easier to map, and thus easier for players to navigate. Curiously enough, although they cannot read the maps, blind players seem to find the mud easier as well - I think it's because instead of having to memorise specific routes through rooms, they can simply target their desired destination and start walking.

Building needs to be handled in an entirely different way, and without 'rooms' there's no longer the concept of 'room descriptions'. I can see certain players hating that, even though you can still apply hand-written descriptions to specific geographic locations.

Spam can also be a problem, particularly when there are lots of people nearby. Filtering options can help, but they won't fix the problem entirely.

Quote:
9) How has coordinate-based design affected your staff?


It hasn't - it was designed this way from the start.

Quote:
10) Your server?


The line-of-sight checks did munch quite a lot of cpu, and I forsee other potential problems in the future as well. But overall, I don't think it's likely to be a huge issue.
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shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
Posts: 134
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2005 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I'm never really sure what is meant by coordinate systems.

In case Kavir's post didn't make that entirely clear... "coordinate-based" is the opposite of "room-based". In a conventional MUD, the game world is divided up into "rooms". Each "room" has a description of its own. The location of any given game object (such as a player, monster, or sword) is defined only in terms of which other object (typically a room) contains it. So the location of player X is defined only as "room Y". Rooms typically have exits, and moving around is accomplished by transferring from one room to another via an exit. Typically one can also only "see" objects that are in the same room as you are.

In a coordinate-based system, each object has an exact defined position within the game world (1.384 miles east, 2.723 miles north, etc.) So you no longer necessarily have room descriptions, exits, etc. You move in a particular direction at a particular speed for a particular length of time rather than going "1 room north", etc.
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Tyche



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 21, 2005 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:
tyche wrote:
I'm never really sure what is meant by coordinate systems.


In case Kavir's post didn't make that entirely clear... "coordinate-based" is the opposite of "room-based".


I think you misread KaVir's post. And mine too as my interest isn't really remedial.

kavir wrote:

It's also worth pointing out that there are several variations of coordinate-based system - my response assumes the completely roomless kind.


He alludes to a particular player interface to movement.

kavir wrote:

I found that very few players enjoyed coordinate-based movement when first introduced to it - in fact it seems to be the main stumbling block for newbies.


Now I haven't yet tried GW-II out and really ought to. I'm know he's explained the interface many many times. I'm just pretending he hasn't, just to make the point below. Wink

shasarak wrote:

You move in a particular direction at a particular speed for a particular length of time rather than going "1 room north", etc.


Surely both style of movement interfaces can and are done in room and coordinate systems.


I think Spazmatic's Coordinate-based system questions are too vague and may be loaded with at least two (possible more) conceptual assumptions. Which is fine if the responder clarifies as KaVir did. Though not comparable with someone else with very different assumptions on coordinate based muds who might respond, "My players love it and took to it like ducks to water".

Code:

a) The representation of virtual space to the player.
  3d view
  2d view, tile based
  ascii view
  hyper-textual view
  textual view
    1) line of sight
    2) distance/range
 
b) The player movement interface.
  keyboard based
    compass-style interface (north, go north, nw)
    keyword-style interface (north, shop, stairs, go stairs)
    smart directions (walk midguaard, run to trees)
    facing (left, right, turn around, right 90 degreess)
    vector/temporal (north 1 hour)
    vector/condition (east until gates; start north followed at some point by stop)
    speed (dash, run, walk, search)
    key-based (arrow keys/keypad/function keys)
      repeating keys
  joystick/mouse 
    click on map
    repeated clicks
    dragging
    roll movement

 c) relationship/manipulation of objects located in space
    get/put/touch/pull/press
    click and drag
    hide behind, under
    attachment relationship
      climg onto, sit on
      crawl inside
      wear/remove
    inventory 
      bag of holding
      location based
      menu
      commands
    player/objects as spatial singularities
    player/objects as occupying space
      blocking
      in 2 dimensional space
      in 3 dimensial


Regarding interfaces (b). Clearly all of those can be implemented in text muds regardless of whether said mud is "room-based" or "coordinate-based". Regarding presentation (a). Also all of those can be implemented in muds regardless of whether said mud is "room-based" or "coordinate-based". I pre-sense perhaps one might be dubious about 3d. One example is MediaMoo's Pueblo/Web VRML interface which presents the player with a 3d view of a room though the implementation is not coordinated based.

Additionally I think maybe there are combinations of a) and b) which are better than other combinations of a) and b). I insist they are largely independent of each other as features go. hah!

Regarding c)... I've seen coordinate based muds collapse into spatial singularites. Do players handle/like/hate interfaces manipulating objects in 3d space? Within their packs, pouches, purses? On/attached to their outer surfaces. Do they like/hate objects in intervening space blocking them rather than singularity space?

Which is why I say..."I'm never really sure what is meant by coordinate systems."
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
Posts: 76
Location: Pittsburgh, PA

PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 9:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I think Spazmatic's Coordinate-based system questions are too vague and may be loaded with at least two (possible more) conceptual assumptions.


I think you're right. Oops.

Apologies. I just wanted to get the ball rolling, didn't think my topic design all the way through.

Quote:
It's also worth pointing out that there are several variations of coordinate-based system - my response assumes the completely roomless kind.


Again, my bad. In a sense, even a standard room-based setup is little more than a very, very coarse coordinate-system. Plus, there's room-internal coordinate systems, etc...

So, sorry everybody, my bad on this one. Tyche and KaVir are right, though, in the sense that I was referring to systems utilizing a global coordinate-system, room-less, that also utilized the coordinate system for movement. So, the systems would vary from, say, SWR type systems to ASCII map coordinate systems to "coordinates-behind-the-scenes" systems to, I don't know, PhysMUD? But wouldn't include, say, room-internal systems, whether based on proximity (Skotos?) or internal grids (I'm thinking there's a Fallout mud that does/did this reasonably well).

Anyways, sorry!

On that note.

Quote:
Does that mean Perma-Life is also bad example?


I meant the Permadeath/Permalife dichotomy was a bad example to use, because it's a very complicated decision. Very Happy

Quote:
That indicates to me that PD isn't something dependent on a particular style of game.


Nope, I agree. PD can be done in just about any kind of game - however, the style of PD depends on the game's implementation. Depends pretty heavily, I think.

Quote:
That was me...wot said that, not Burr.


I know. Very Happy

Quote:
It's like comparing the movement in modern graphical games with the 10-foot-jumps and 90-degree turns of much older games such as Dungeon Master.


Hmm, but to use another comparison: what about old school Myst versus, say, Syberia versus, say, Myst 5. I think that roughly covers the spectrum from pure-room-based to semi-coordinate-based to pure-coordinate-based.

There are a lot of adventure gamers that think immersion was beter in Myst than either of the latter, and, while arguably a question of nostalgia and quality of production, perhaps there's a point? More detail is available in a "prerendered" (or in a MUD's case, hand-written) room than a coordinate system, right? It may not be as flexible or update effectively, but, you know.

Have you had any issues along those lines? Say, with players saying, "Oh em gee, I was wandering through the Halls of Igor the Terrible and all it had were colonnades and arches!" ?

Quote:
A coordinate-based world is easier to map, and thus easier for players to navigate. Curiously enough, although they cannot read the maps, blind players seem to find the mud easier as well - I think it's because instead of having to memorise specific routes through rooms, they can simply target their desired destination and start walking.


But what about long distances? Traveling, say, from Rivendell to Mt. Doom without nary an autowalker. Very Happy

Seriously, though, while I played for a little while, I didn't get far enough down the learning curve to tell. I did, however, get lost quite a few times in my short stay. Do the elder vets have any problems with that?

Quote:
Spam can also be a problem, particularly when there are lots of people nearby. Filtering options can help, but they won't fix the problem entirely.


Is it really worse than a room-based system? How so? I don't follow this one too well, unless you mean trying to update the position of a number of objects in the player's sight in a way that would normally be summarized by a room description.

Quote:
Lots and lots of stuff... followed by:
Which is why I say..."I'm never really sure what is meant by coordinate systems."


True. However, perhaps that's the point of discussion? If we only consider local optima of sorts, we can restrict the search space. Razz
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 10:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Have you had any issues along those lines? Say, with players saying, "Oh em gee, I was wandering through the Halls of Igor the Terrible and all it had were colonnades and arches!"?


No, I've not. Actually, a couple of days ago one of my players mentioned his delight about the descriptions including seasons - he'd been playing for over 450 hours and had only just noticed them...

I think that says more about my playerbase than anything else though.

Quote:
But what about long distances? Traveling, say, from Rivendell to Mt. Doom without nary an autowalker.


Well there are maps, and if you know the rough direction you can just type "north 10000", or even specify the exact coordinates of your destination if you know them. Movement is quite slow on foot, but there are plenty of faster ways to travel.

Quote:
Seriously, though, while I played for a little while, I didn't get far enough down the learning curve to tell. I did, however, get lost quite a few times in my short stay. Do the elder vets have any problems with that?


No, it's pretty hard to get lost in the world itself. I mean, you start at position 0/0, and if you want to get back there at any time all you have to do is type 'target 0 0' and then start walking. Combine that with an ASCII map that shows everything within several thousand feet, and it's pretty hard to lose your bearings.

Quote:
Spam can also be a problem, particularly when there are lots of people nearby. Filtering options can help, but they won't fix the problem entirely.

Is it really worse than a room-based system? How so? I don't follow this one too well, unless you mean trying to update the position of a number of objects in the player's sight in a way that would normally be summarized by a room description.


A room-based mud provides a nice way of encapsulating people together - stick a mob or two in a room, let a player wander in and fight it, then they can move on to the next room.

But when it's coordinate-based you can end up with a lot of people who can see and hear each other. For example my training area, instead of being broken up into separate 'rooms', is a large dojo in which players can walk around. When lots of players are in there and fighting, unless they're at opposite sides of the dojo, they're going to see each others combat messages.

The same situation happens in the starting village - you can see pretty much the entire village when standing in the centre of it, so you'll see players come running in through the gates and walking into buildings, you'll hear them talking to each other from quite a distance away, and so on. If there's a lot of players doing that, it can get very spammy.
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The same situation happens in the starting village - you can see pretty much the entire village when standing in the centre of it, so you'll see players come running in through the gates and walking into buildings, you'll hear them talking to each other from quite a distance away, and so on. If there's a lot of players doing that, it can get very spammy.


However, in an equivalent situation - say, a town square, RL - most of that simply exists as background noise. A lot of it we can't parse without focusing, and some of it can't be parsed at all. Would that help things?

Quote:
I mean, you start at position 0/0, and if you want to get back there at any time all you have to do is type 'target 0 0' and then start walking.


I guess that brings up the opposite problem - do players miss that? I guess I got lost mostly due to, em, not knowing where anything actually was, but that says more about me than anything else. But, when your players, say, enter a forest, is it a bit weird to find your way back out with coordinates?

Any trade offs here?
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Kjartan



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I always wanted to see a coordinate-based game where it rotated the map regularly (say, up is the direction you last moved, and the controls were "step ahead, turn left, turn right"), so if there wasn't any sun you could lose track of which way was north. That would simulate lostness pretty well.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spazmatic wrote:
However, in an equivalent situation - say, a town square, RL - most of that simply exists as background noise. A lot of it we can't parse without focusing, and some of it can't be parsed at all. Would that help things?


A sort of smart-filter based on how much data you're being sent? I suppose that could work, but I think it would also have the potential to get confusing for players, particularly in regard to speech (eg, a vital chunk of conversation gets filtered out, because a group of players walked past in the middle of it). It would have to be very carefully designed.

Spazmatic wrote:
But, when your players, say, enter a forest, is it a bit weird to find your way back out with coordinates?


I hadn't really thought about it, I suppose. To me it's kind of logical that you could just keep walking west until you left the forest - or even just walk directly to walk to the village - assuming you knew which direction you were going. The whole "You can't go that way" thing is something I always disliked about most room-based approaches.

Kjartan wrote:
I always wanted to see a coordinate-based game where it rotated the map regularly (say, up is the direction you last moved, and the controls were "step ahead, turn left, turn right"), so if there wasn't any sun you could lose track of which way was north. That would simulate lostness pretty well.


Could do, although I think that might get rather unplayable. I suppose you could add compass items and/or navigation skills, but then it's likely to end up as a feature that only really affects newbies (and in a negative way). It might be fun for underground movement though...
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 2:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
particularly in regard to speech (eg, a vital chunk of conversation gets filtered out, because a group of players walked past in the middle of it). It would have to be very carefully designed.


Well, focus would help fix that.

Though, in the real world, it does happen, and I wouldn't mind players having to occasionally ask, "Wot?" when they pass through the Town Square. Or, you know, when their player falls asleep listening to some chap's boring story. Very Happy

Quote:
To me it's kind of logical that you could just keep walking west until you left the forest - or even just walk directly to walk to the village - assuming you knew which direction you were going. The whole "You can't go that way" thing is something I always disliked about most room-based approaches.


"You can't go that way" is generally bad, unless it involves the Grand Canyon or "BEWARE OF DOG" signs. However, I meant more along the lines of simply getting lost the good old fashioned way. People's heads are a little off kilter - stuck without landmarks, they walk in circular patterns (much abused by the movie industry thank you very much). The ability to track direction and location in an absolute sense seems to prevent a great bit of potential fun in coordinate-based muds, namely walking by landmarks, trying to find Sietch Tabr without being eaten by the Makers.

May not apply so much with supernaturals, but in general, I imagine many character types ought to get lost if they start wandering around without guides in very bland forests or plains or what not. Very Happy
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 8:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
May not apply so much with supernaturals, but in general, I imagine many character types ought to get lost if they start wandering around without guides in very bland forests or plains or what not.


I suppose you could do that by removing coordinates from the user interface; don't let players see their current coordinates, and don't allow them to target specific coordinates. Players would then be required to target specific terrain features - walk to the gate, from there to the river, across the river, then head towards the forest, etc.

For a game where exploration was a strong focus that might be pretty cool, and could even be combined with Kjartan's idea of relative movement to make exploration a complex and challenging part of gameplay. But in muds where the world is just a means to an end I'm not sure that such realism would be worth the additional confusion for players, particularly when those players are already struggling to get to grips with coordinate-based movement.
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