Persistant player-character existance

 
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Grem



Joined: 15 May 2005
Posts: 36
Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Sun May 22, 2005 10:48 pm    Post subject: Persistant player-character existance Reply with quote

Has anyone utilized a system where a player character will remain in the gameworld even with the player has logged out? If the characters could perform automatic activities based on the player's doings, it would be an excellent tool to make the MUD world feel more alive by populating the world by characters that users have created.

Questions to consider:

1. What would the character be doing while the player is logged out? Sleep? Work? Train? Could the player specify what the character is to be doing while he is logged out?

2. How would other characters interact with this character? Could combat occur? Could your character die while you are offline?

3. How should the character be displayed in the world? Should he exist in the list of mobs in the room? Should he exist as a statistic in the room?



Personal input:

I plan on creating such a system, utilizing these rules:

1. Players can specify what they would like their character to do while they are 'offline'. Such actions could be 'work for money', 'steal money', 'steal items', 'advertise guild', 'repair city', 'sabatoge city', 'plant trees.'

2. Once players log out, their character will act as a 'script' in the room they logged out in. Based on the player's action choice, actions will occur in the room. For example, if a character is set to 'steal money', an event will occur in the room randomly if enemies of the player walk by:
- Your coin purse suddenly feels lighter.
Of course, the event could be avoided based on the player's awareness skill:
- You feel a hand reach into your coin purse but you quickly turn to engage the rogue! (A rogue mob will be created based on the mob's stats and attempt to automatically escape).

3. When the player logs back in, the system will inform him off all earnings or changes he made to the world while logged out. Players will always log back into the room they logged out in. Obviously, if a player is a rogue, and logs out in a very popular city intersection he will make a lot more money than if he logged out in the middle of the wilderness.


Other rules:

- When automated messages are displayed to the room, the logged out player's name will never be revealed.
- Players cannot die or be harmed while they are logged out. Mobs will occasionally be created to represent them, but if the mob is killed or flees, it will only represent 'failure' of the character's goal.



Benefits of the system:

- Players will be rewarded while they are logged out, which gives them further incentive to log back in.
- Rooms will become more interactive, as logged out players will cause events to trigger. If the player is set to clean up the city for money, then his surrounding rooms will slowly be repaired and he will gain gold when he logs back in. In this manner, 'player-made' scripts will make the world more interesting.
- Realism! Players dont mystically vanish on logout, they are always a part of the environment.
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Baeran



Joined: 16 May 2005
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PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was thinking about something along the same lines. I was just going to have them selling goods though. Before they went offline they could flag anything in their inventory and then they would sit there and sell it while the player was logged out. Hadnt really put much thought into other things to do with it though.
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Vilmer



Joined: 13 May 2005
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Location: Kentucky

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 5:19 am    Post subject: Re: Persistant player-character existance Reply with quote

Grem wrote:

3. How should the character be displayed in the world? Should he exist in the list of mobs in the room? Should he exist as a statistic in the room?.


A cyber-punk mud in the late 90s did this by cryogenesis. People could walk into the lab and see tubes of people in frozen slumber, wearing what they had when they originally froze themselves. It had to be removed when the population increased, there wasn't enough electricity in the world to power all those refrigerators, so to speak. Defrosting was amusing.

That's the cheap way out of course, because the characters aren't really doing anything, but they do exist. As for giving them actions, it seems it would get relatively hectic if you there's a decent sized player base. I have about 30 alts on the game I play, but then again your game might not allow alternative characters. What about those people who log in monthly? Or less frequently than that? I'm not sure about their cases.

It seems passive-aggressive actions would probably be the best route to go, avoiding combat and such. As Baeran suggested, trying to pawn off equipment and goods would be a decent consideration, just something small to give the player some idea that he still existed after he typed quit.
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Baeran



Joined: 16 May 2005
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Location: On your lawn.

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 5:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The way I was figuring it leaving people as shops, in a designated market place type location, would be cooler then filling a market up with NPCs.

But the project I am working on is pretty light on the NPCs in general.

Anyhow I am sure you could set them up to do lots of useful things, wandering the city and picking up garbage would be handy atleast. No more need for fido. Very Happy I would probably make them safe from combat though, or make it so you gain nothing for killing them, although I am sure that wouldnt stop some people.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember discussing this on MUD-DEV in 98, but unfortunately I can't seem to access the archives. The concept seemed 'cool' at first glance, but I'm not sure if it's really practical (at least not to the level you want to take it).

If I recall correctly, many (most?) MOOs work much like Vilmer mentioned, with characters 'sleeping' while the player is not online. Of course this can end up with a lot of characters in memory, which may not be suitable for muds which pay for their hosting based on RAM usage. Of course if the character is just training while you're offline then you don't really need to have a physical representation of the character - you can just calculate what they did the next time they log on.

Quote:
Benefits of the system:

- Players will be rewarded while they are logged out, which gives them further incentive to log back in.


It also gives them a strong incentive to log off whenever they're not actively playing, rather than hanging around and socialising.

Quote:
- Rooms will become more interactive, as logged out players will cause events to trigger.


Even if the active playerbase is small, you're likely to soon end up with thousands of pfiles. If all of these are loaded at once and triggering events then you're likely to end up with a very spammy mud if you're not careful. As a test run, try loading an assortment of five thousand mobs into your muds starting town and see what it's like walking around.

Quote:
If the player is set to clean up the city for money, then his surrounding rooms will slowly be repaired and he will gain gold when he logs back in.


How will you deal with the players who create scores of alts to stay offline 'farming' the mud for gold?

Quote:
In this manner, 'player-made' scripts will make the world more interesting.


So each character would also be scripted?

Quote:
- Realism! Players dont mystically vanish on logout, they are always a part of the environment.


However they also become parts of the environment which you can't get rid of (they can't be harmed). Perhaps if they were to remain wandering the streets until killed, at which point they ceased working, and next time the player logged on they found themselves sitting in hospital recovering from being beaten up (with no exp loss, but no reward for working offline)? Killing such a player could also allow you to take whatever gold s/he had accumulated, encouraging players to log on frequently to 'bank' their cash.
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Baeran



Joined: 16 May 2005
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PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 8:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As far as loading ALL the players I wouldnt do that just the ones that had logged in and then logged out since the last time the game was turned on...

They dont take up a particularly huge amount of memory (atleast for me) so as long as people didnt do as you mentioned and farm for gold I guess you would be ok.

Would need to come up with some kind of measures to prevent that type of thing. Not so much a problem if you are just selling random items, one character is just as likely to sell it as five are for that...
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Grem



Joined: 15 May 2005
Posts: 36
Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2005 12:25 pm    Post subject: RE: Kavir Reply with quote

Player files will not remain loaded. A structure will be created in the room based on some stats of the player. The structure should only be a few bytes.

Logged out player structures in the room will trigger randomly, which means that the more players logged out in a single room, the more unlikely your logged out character is to trigger in that room.

(If there are 30 rogues logged out in one spot, only one of the rogues in that room will trigger every 5 minutes or so!)

This will force players from farming one location. Also, the benefits from logging out will never outway the benefits gained while being in-game. Another idea is to have a logged out player structure 'expire' after X amount of time, based on the particular job they've set. Perhaps if they are set to steal, they will steal until they get caught. If they are set to work, they will work for a certain amount of time.
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Wilkes



Joined: 30 May 2005
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 10:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe you're onto a good concept, however the implementation you outlined has a few features which I feel might become "flaws" in the future.

The biggest and most notable one is the way you've mentioned the use of logging out for aggressive actions which gain the character an amount of cash, with no actual risk to the player themselves. What's to stop a player from logging out for a few weeks, and logging in with quite a hoard of cash?

You of course could implement a few things that would break this problem, perhaps logout affects would only last up to 1/4th of the time that the player had logged in the previous session. This would encourage longer session times, and solve the problem KaVir mentioned about people logging off instead of socializing.

However, it would also open up the chance of having a large percentage of idlers who try to casual farm your game while at work or school. A good client could easily allow scripting to keep them online long enough, assuming you don't require they use your specific client.

Additionally, there is the problem that you may be making it inherently more efficient to be a thief while offline as opposed to online. The balance of thievery typically is the risk of loss. Without said risk, you've got nothing to really balance the amount of cash that can come in, besides perhaps a nerfed formula. However, said nerfed formula then goes against your realism point.

Now, enough with the criticism, on with the suggestions and questions. First and foremost, I think you should definately look for a good route for this system, this could very well draw the elusive "casual player". The type that often play browser based games which have less need for continual play time.

How much benefit do you want to see from the use of this system? I doubt you want it to be negligible, but what sort of gains could players see from this system as opposed to having been online?

Perhaps instead of using economic options for offline actions, you could instead use it for more "menial" actions that the players themselves would find less fun to do, or you as a developer would find less fun to program.

If your MUD has NPC status, perhaps there could be an option on logoff for improving status with certain NPC types/factions. It would be assumed that players were going around chatting with various NPCs, and perhaps their prototypes could show up in some zones in passing by.

This particular idea could take out a bit of the work of automated speech
for many of the different NPCs which are irrelevant to quests or other
major aspects of gameplay within your game atmosphere. It's also a
passive idea which players can also see some small inherent gains from.

Plant trees and adveritse guild were also good ideas in my opinion, as they are passive, yet they also can have a positive affect on the player themselves. Perhaps advertising for the guild will increase the amount of NPCs that give information about that particular guild around the MUD. The more offline advertising time a guild has, the better. This would also be an
activity, similar to your thievery example where players could log on and see some somewhat immediate benefits.

You could even set it up so players that advertise the guild might influence mobiles to join, which might add to the amount of gold the guild has in its coffers, there by positively affecting the player, without doing too much so.

Planting trees, as I said is also a good option, depending upon the amount of nature type systems you will be integrating into your MUD. If planting trees equals a slight amount of more power for dryads, or druids or a particular guild, then it could be another one of those systems that players see a direct affect from. They get to positively affect their playing experience, or someone else's, while logged off and essentially doing nothing.

A mercantile idea is also a good system, Baeran's idea I think could prove to be a good basis for PC shops all the way around. It could allow players to trade items while offline, and even open up the market for merchants. The gain from such a thing would also be lesser, due to the inability for the merchant to really hawk his wares. However, this can cause problems with realism and implementation, if for instance you want the ability to steal from shops and include PC shops in the mix.

To sum things up, instead of rambling on, as I have a tendancy to do: I think the idea has quite a bit of merit, and I'm not advocating abandoning it. But I do believe the path you're describing might not be in your best interest to take. Giving the option for passive gains that would have little risk in actual game play would be more conducive to proper balancing of rewards for the log off system. It also prevents there from being one optimal log out activity. Each one should be as close to equally important as possible.
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Grem



Joined: 15 May 2005
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Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 12:24 am    Post subject: Log-out persistance Reply with quote

The system is not designed to 'reward' a player for logging out. My hopes for the system were to provide the following benefits:

- Make the world slightly more lifelike by creating 'player-generated content' based on the player's particular 'purpose' in the world. (The player can effect a specific location of the world while he is logged out in any manner he sees fit).

- Provide small bonuses to the player which gives them an incentive to log in in the future, while not encouraging them to log out for 'hoarding' purposes. (By providing a cap to their earnings.)

- Balancing world systems while offline rather than making players perform actions while being online. (Planting trees, advertising guild, cleaning city). Sure, players may want to do these things while online, but players that can't play as often still want to make a difference to the world!
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Wilkes



Joined: 30 May 2005
Posts: 9

PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 3:24 am    Post subject: Re: Log-out persistance Reply with quote

I think I'll handle each of your points one by one, rather than as a whole:

Quote:
The system is not designed to 'reward' a player for logging out.


My post wasn't really saying that the system is designed to reward a player, but that players may see it that way if the benefit and lack of risk outweighs the amount of effort players need to spend for said reward in game. Hence why I singled out the thievery example, as thievery generally is balanced by a characteristically high risk.

Quote:
- Make the world slightly more lifelike by creating 'player-generated content' based on the player's particular 'purpose' in the world. (The player can effect a specific location of the world while he is logged out in any manner he sees fit).


This is something I completely agree with, your system idea has the potential to create a bit of extra player generated content. It also gives a bit of IC reasoning behind logging out. The benefits of seeing "shades" of other players will definately be there, and may help to boost the feeling of a large playerbase, just by the sheer number of "shades" that will be floating around.


Quote:
- Provide small bonuses to the player which gives them an incentive to log in in the future, while not encouraging them to log out for 'hoarding' purposes. (By providing a cap to their earnings.)

Well this is exactly one of the things I asked about in the post above. Perhaps giving some input on my ideas would also be a good way of assisting you in developing your system? And going back to my first point, if they gain enough that it outweighs the risk of doing it in game, then they'll likely resort to offline thievery over the other options.

Quote:
- Balancing world systems while offline rather than making players perform actions while being online. (Planting trees, advertising guild, cleaning city). Sure, players may want to do these things while online, but players that can't play as often still want to make a difference to the world!

This is another one of the things I mentioned in the post above. I think you may have misread my post, or taken it as a bit of an attack. One of my points is that these systems which may be seen as "boring" could be made to be done solely offline. And, due to the slight, but incrementally positive reward, players might enjoy the choice of being able to do said things offline.

One of the popular theories of fun in game play revolves around the amount of choices that games put infront of the player. I ascribe to this particular philosophy, and try to integrate it into my games. I think this system could add some extra fun for the player at logoff, as well as open up the opportunity for further planning up until log off. Collecting the appropriate seeds for planting, or making sure you have the appropriate amount of bags for your trash collecting.

I think I'll end this post here, with a quick question for you. Were you just giving an example of a system idea you came up with, or were you wanting actual criticism and input on the system itself?
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Grem



Joined: 15 May 2005
Posts: 36
Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 3:05 am    Post subject: RE Reply with quote

My reply wasnt just to you Wilkes. I was more or less agreeing and reinforcing whatever ideas you had that we agreed with. Im looking for criticism and input, as well as giving an example of a system I plan on utilizing. =)
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Wilkes



Joined: 30 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 5:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Im looking for criticism and input, as well as giving an example of a system I plan on utilizing. =)


Ah, it can sometimes be hard to tell what exactly posters are looking for when they post their ideas. Now that we've got that cleared up, let's get on with the ideas work, shall we?

First and foremost, what sort of actions do you think would be suited to this sort of system? To give a few of the examples so far:

Planting a Tree
Advertising a Guild
Cleaning a City
Increasing Social Status Among NPCs

Do you have any other examples that you think would fit this system well? In my opinion, I think the best actions would be ones that give small gains to the player, which may not necessarily be monetary. Non-physical (in the figurative sense) gains can be easier to balance in the long run. Such as social status within your city or with said NPCs, or giving your guild more marketspace, etc.

To move things to another angle, how are you planning on showing player demeanors? Is there just going to be a message (playername is here doing action), or are they actually going to see the player planting the tree? Do you think that with time this system could have the negative sideaffect of causing increasing amount of clutter around the world as you begin to store thousands of pfiles with different logout locations?
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