alternative methods for advancement
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Alister



Joined: 13 May 2005
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Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2005 6:43 am    Post subject: alternative methods for advancement Reply with quote

I'm currently designing the character advancement component of my mud, and could use some help working out a couple problems. My main aim is to make the process of advancement engaging. Not something monotinous like the usual pointless killing people have to go through to advance their characters. That's not to say I neccessarily want to take emphasis off of hack'n'slash; I just want to have some sort of engaging framework for character advancement (with emphasis on combat).

I think the obvious way to go about doing this is to make advancement quest-oriented. Experience is gained by achieving explicit goals like "travel to the Gloomwood, harvest a dozen deathcap mushrooms, and bring them to Fritz the alchemist".

However, there's a couple things about this sort of advancement process that I'm not entirely pleased with. One is that players will surely burn through quests like this far faster than they can be written unless I have a wonderful staff writing quests all the time (which I don't, nor plan on having). Eventually, players are going to get to a point where there is not a whole lot for them to do.

Second, I suspect that - although engaging at first - something like this will basically turn into the boring monotiny that senseless slaying of NPCs is. I played World of Warcraft for 2 weeks, and quit for this exact reason. Although, maybe this is just because of the (IMO) bland, repetitive approach to quests that WoW took, and not something fundamentally wrong with quests.

So I don't really know where that leaves me. Has anyone tried tackling this problem before? Does anyone have thoughts on how it can be done?
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shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2005 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How about having players invent their own skills?

Suppose a player wants a new and damaging fire spell, you could insist that certain pieces of knowledge be found in order for the research to happen, and also certain raw materials used up in the process of researching and creating the spell.

So the player actually invents the spell - decides on damage, description (within reason), area of effect, casting time, duration of effect, material components required to cast it, or material components that enhance its effectiveness, etc. and a variety of subtle modifiers (e.g. if it's a fire-based spell it might get a bonus against frost-using creatures, a penalty against fire-using creatures - or a lightning spell might be more potent if cast on a rainy day - or not).

Depending on the attributes chosen, a quest is then generated of a difficulty that reflects how powerful the spell is. A "finger of fire" spell that does minor damage to a single creature might require only some charcoal and sulphur to create, while a "firestorm" spell that can immolate an entire room would require the skull of a firedrake, the tail-feather of a new-born phoenix, the captured soul of a fire elemental, etc. plus various arcane scrolls, books, and papers to be found scattered around the world. The player won't initially be told where any of this stuff is - but then later (maybe much later) he'll be approached by an NPC who "just happens" to need to hire someone to kill a young firedrake.

You could adopt the same player-driven approach with more mundane things: players could invent their own combat moves, for example, or could practice specific sequences or combinations of moves - that player employing that combo is faster and more damaging than a player who knows the individual moves but hasn't practised the combination. (But of course if you've fought that opponent before, you may know what his practised combinations are, so, once you see the first feint, you can anticipate when and where the real attack will come, and turn that to your advantage).

You could also scatter martial arts masters in difficult-to-reach locations: only Master Ling Chao can teach you the secrets of the flail kick, while only Master Loong Si Tse can truly polish your mastery of the Iai.

The most important thing, though, is allowing players to have their own personal skills that are different from everybody else's.
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Massaria



Joined: 14 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2005 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems we have similar ideas about character advancement, Alister, as I too are trying to construct a system where quests (I prefer 'puzzles'), is a significant factor in determining the power of the character.

Quote:
Eventually, players are going to get to a point where there is not a whole lot for them to do.


I plan on deftly dodging this nasty little catch by abandoning the project. When it's all over and done with, I'm gonna hand it over (assuming someone wants it Smile) and begin a new... or at the very least begin again with the same basic principles - I have no doubt I'll make enough mistakes this time around, in both design and code, to make it worthwhile starting over.

To explain the way I see the progress of my own project, I need to explain the basic setup first.
It's certainly going to be unfriendly to newbies, but to a certain extent all players will be newbies, as the UI, gameplay and aim of the game is not going to be something the usual suspects will have seen before.
The primary drive of the character will be a desire to discover and understand - this is true for the player too, who will have to work in order discover a lot of commands that are routinely covered in helpfiles in most MUDs, even how to make a character! On the other hand, these discoveries not only pay off in the form of new commands or information, but also in 'XP' - a pool of points by which players can gauge their own progress against others - not just the progress of the characters, but both.
Through the collective, or uncollective (I Don't care much either way), efforts of the players and characters, all the commands, all of the areas and all of the story of the world and indeed the characters themselves are revealed, and yes... now there's not a whole lot left to do.
This could be where the next project came in, who knows Wink

If, however, I were planning to continue work on it, and because of the nature of the characters and the background story, I would introduce a political system at this point... no, actually a crafting system first - but you got the idea - if you can't have a great big team to work on the content, you should aim to implement entertainment that doesn't require it. You could say that the players should be the content, as in roleplay, or at least provide it, as in crafting.

Mass.

PS: Dang this language. Help me out here please.
Is A or B correct?

A [the] aim of the game is not going to be something the usual suspects have seen before.
A You could say the players should be the content

B [the] aim of the game is not going to be something that the usual suspects have seen before.
B You could say that the players should be the content
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shasarak



Joined: 29 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2005 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Massaria wrote:
PS: Dang this language. Help me out here please.
Is A or B correct?

A [the] aim of the game is not going to be something the usual suspects have seen before.
A You could say the players should be the content

B [the] aim of the game is not going to be something that the usual suspects have seen before.
B You could say that the players should be the content

The aim of the game will be something the "usual suspects" have never seen before: you could say, in fact, that the players themselves will be the game content.

Or:

The aim of the game will not be something the "usual suspects" have ever seen before: you could say that the players themselves will be the content.
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Cornelius



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2005 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Massaria, Im no engrish teacher but it seems to me either way is legible. If one is more syntactically correct I dont think its anything the queen would blush over.

Now about the original posting by Alister, what if you expand (or add to) the sense of personal advancement with a goal oriented social advancement. And then have that advancement be competative. So instead of you reaching level 100 so you can compete with other level 100s, at level 99 you have to topple the level 100 to gain the level at which point the other player becomes level 99- maybe that other player has enemies that would help you so you band together. I used that example for demonstration purposes only but from that premise you have a constantly shifting sense of advancement and then maintenance which should keep players busy forever.

My favorite incarnation of this and the one I am trying to apply to a MUD is 'controlled resources' (thank you sid meier). If there are resources scattered throughout the worldmap which allow your troops to fight better and you control that resource than you are top dog on the trash heap. However other people will want to get that resource and so will fight you for it. My plan is to make a world map littered with resources and also strongholds, I am not yet sure whether I want to allow players to build strongholds themselves to defend resources- I am still a little iffy on the player generated content concept. In any case the stronghold defends the resource and is allowed to use it in troop production. A player then takes these troops which translate to a type of hitpoints and attack/defense parameters and may march his/her army on another stronghold with a resource he/she desires.

That is one incarnation, but also consider farmers with land needs, or even economics with trade contracts and routes, or politicians with constituants. You could even zoom in to the player and have some sort of Highlander(tm) theme. The key here is to introduce competition that keeps the concept of power fluid.

About your desire for quests to dictate advancement: I am a big fan of strategy- I am currently working on a way to have players topple strongholds using strategic moves like flooding, fire, encouraging mutiny, sneak attacks, feints, and magic. This would would be equivalent to a quest in that you may have to find the weak point in the dam, or infiltrate the citadel to place flammable materials, etc. Only the quest would always be different because it would be dependant on the other players ability to defend their stronghold in ways a questmaker could never imagine.

I would also egotistically refer you to an article I wrote about the concept of player vs. character advancement which has some other thoughts on engaging players long term.
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Alister



Joined: 13 May 2005
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Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 1:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

shasarak wrote:

How about having players invent their own skills?


*grin* I like what you're getting at. I have actually planned something like this for magic already. Although, I have never really thought of it in the context of providing players with content that will keep them engaged. My intuition tells me it's probably not going to be something that will be able to continually engage players (well, not until players start making content for other players [e.g. fortresses to invade]), but maybe it will be a nice complement to questing.


massaria wrote:

If, however, I were planning to continue work on it, and because of the nature of the characters and the background story, I would introduce a political system at this point


that's not a bad idea. It seems to be in a similar vein as Shasarak's. I guess the underlying theme here is that we can let players set up engaging game content for themselves and one another. I'll think about how that can fit into my mud.


Cornelius wrote:

instead of you reaching level 100 so you can compete with other level 100s, at level 99 you have to topple the level 100 to gain the level at which point the other player becomes level 99- maybe that other player has enemies that would help you so you band together


That's a neat example, and definitely something that fits well into my mud. I think I will end up doing something like this. However, I find this (and Massaria's) idea mildly unsatisfying, in that they require more than one player around to be effective. I won't really be able to use this sort of stuff until I get a decent player base. This is one of the reasons I stopped my last project, which was going to be a strictly PvP mud; I decided it would be too hard at the beginning to keep players engaged when only a few others were around. Ideally, I'd like stuff players could potentially do alone so I can work with it right from the start.

That said, these are cool ideas. I think the idea of encouraging players to interact with eachother (whether it be socially or in conflict) is a rich source of engaging game content. The harder part is what to do when you don't have many players, like at the beginning when your first open your mud. Does anyone have any more ideas for that part of a mud's life?
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Cornelius



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 6:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Consider that levels require maintenance- say you get hungrier faster or your gym membership dues increase, or you rip a lot of shirts and half of your purple pants and must replace them... and not meeting these requirements regularly will slow/halt/or even reverse your advancement. Assume that mobs will hold positions that you do not have enough players for (i.e. the first player will have to defeat 99 questmobs to get to level 100). Now consider that a single player can only realistically maintain 10 levels (power players may be able to squeeze more) by themselves because of this rising maintainence cost. So in order to advance they may need to team up with another player and with their combined efforts can both advance to 20-25 and maintain it. However, even before the team up they will be busy maintaining their current levels... now this example may sound unappealing in this form- losing levels because of maintenance issues would upset your more casual players but put another way, I think it makes more sense:

Far be it from me to guess at what will actually occur (there is an old adage in warfare that an enemy given three options will invariably choose the fourth) but I hope that in my case with resource control and player armies (see previous reply) that I can find a way to make maintaining a large standing military force quite difficult for a single player. You need to pay them, feed them, provide equipment and horses and feed them too, etc... A lone player will only be able to effectively maintain a relatively small force. If he/she does not control a stronghold than all these things must be obtained by the player directly from the field (usually by banditry). If they manage to overtake a stronghold (held by mob-governers if no player owns it) then the stronghold will provide whatever resources it has available but still the stronghold must be maintained by governing the populace (governership of strongholds will be a strong part of the game) with farmers, fishermen, craftsmen, shopkeepers, constables, etc... and if the stronghold is wealthy enough maybe you could add to your army with local troops or assign them to defend the stronghold when you and your army are off on campaigns. So maintaining your forces is a fulltime job until another player arrives. That player will then do the same or join the previous player thus making their combined forces larger. Then a third player joins and either tries to hold his/her own or join 1 or both of the previous. So even if the first player gobbles up all the resources/strongholds before the other players get there, he/she will find it impossible to defend all of them at once. Alll the other player has to do is attack the weakest one. Now say a fourth player joins and the worst case here is either he joins the other three or tries to go it alone and is pummeled by the other three until he is forced to join them. Now time goes by and one of the latter three thinks they want to be head chieftan- well they know they can get no. 4 on their side because he was forced to join the band anyway so the two rebel. Again, they will combinely attack the weakest stronghold- take it for their base and grow from there. A few players steadfastly defending a few strongholds will have a better time than many players who must defend a huge empire. My hopes are that even if a huge empire grows there is always a chance for a lone player to convince a few other players to rebel against thier emperor and stake a claim in some stronghold. Perhaps a watergirt fortress somewhere in the liangshan marsh. (shameless plug alert: the great chinese classic "Outlaws of the Marsh", is my main inspiration for this concept)

What generally should be taken from this? (A) I have a naively optimistic view of how players will behave and (B) My design philosophy is to create a system that maintains a natural equilibrium. If for every benefit there is an equal and opposite drawback then you usually dont have to impose artificial restrictions and caveats. Essentially, it doesnt require more than 1 player to build up and maintain your power, but even unopposed you should not be able to build up infinite power. You build up to your equilibrium. And the equilibrium should not be artificially imposed either, none of the "you can only control 5 strongholds" or "maximum military size reached" nonsense. Try to equalize it with "5000 troops starve to death through lack of nourishment" or "stronghold 3 has been left undefended and was taken over by bandits" kind of things. So instead of reaching 5 strongholds or 10,000 troops and saying 'what now?' they have to constantly work at feeding their troops and defending their strongholds or risk losing them.

does any of this make sense? I am not sure, but I hope it does...
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arrowhen



Joined: 19 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I feel that a lot of the monotony of character advancement comes from the presence of trainers. A lot of muds (and by "a lot" I mean "just about every mud I've ever played") involve endless cycles of "go out and kill some mobs, level up, go back to the trainer and practice some skills, go out and kill some more mobs. Repeat until the mobs are too easy to kill and then move on to the next area with a trainer and some mobs." Many muds try to liven things up with quests, but the way they're implemented just adds another step--"go to the questmaster and ask for another boring fetch-quest"--to the cycle.

It seems to me that the process would be a lot more entertaining if it wasn't so repetitive.

Sure, have a trainer to teach basic skills and spells, but make the player work for the rest of them. Give out skills as rewards for quests, or let characters learn them from their enemies ("The master swordsman disarms you again, but THIS time you think you've figured out how to do it yourself!"). Let them learn spells from spellbooks dropped by wizard mobs or from mysterious carvings on the walls of remote temples.

Sure, put a quest-dispensing NPC or two in town, but don't let that be the ONLY source of quests. Those obvious "kill X and bring me the sacred Y" quests should just be an excuse to send players on a quick tour of the area, to show them places that they might want to go back and explore later. The INTERESTING quests should be ones that players stumble upon, or ones they go looking for in response to hints dropped by NPCs.

Players are less likely to fall into a rut if there's more than one road to take.

Eventually, though, the time is going to come when a character has done every quest and learned every skill. It's just the nature of the game; unlike a traditional pen-and-paper RPG, you don't have a DM who can say, "Ok, guys, good job, that's the end of the campaign! We'll roll up new characters next week." Unlike single-player CRPGs, you don't get to show the player a cut scene followed by the words "GAME OVER." Your players are going to keep playing until their characters get boring, and then they're going to (ideally) retire their characters and start over or (realistically) decide that your mud is "boring" and either quit or stick around to cause trouble.

The challenge is to ensure that there's something to do other than just levelling up. What that "something" is depends on the kind of players you have or want to attract. There's roleplaying, of course, if you have a willing (and large enough) playerbase. There's crafting and trade, for those who are into that sort of thing (personally, I have too many economic problems in the real world to want to bother with them in a game). Myself, I'm an explorer. It doesn't matter to me how long ago I maxed out my character, if the game tells me I've only explored 72% of the world, I'm going to stick around to see what I've missed. (Provided, of course, that the mud has well-written descriptions and interesting scripts.)

However you decide to engage players' attention, though, make sure that SOME of it is available AT ALL LEVELS. When all the "good stuff", the unique and interesting stuff that sets your mud apart from all others, is only available at high levels, it just encourages players to grind their way through the levels as fast as they can to get there. By the time they do, they've been doing nothing but levelling for so long that it'll be hard for them to switch their attentions to something else.

If you give me something interesting to do NOW, and also tantalize me with things I can do in the fututre, then I have both a short- and a long-term reason to keep logging back in.
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Spazmatic



Joined: 18 May 2005
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Location: Pittsburgh, PA

PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Eventually, though, the time is going to come when a character has done every quest and learned every skill.


Define "learned" and define "done". Very Happy

Kidding! But, what I do mean is that, if you bend your definitions a little, you'll see that, at least for some players, you can make progression infinite. I'm not talking randomly generated areas (though they are nifty), nor am I talking about PvP type advancement (which is nifty too). Simply put, make skills slow to max, make character advancement (whether level or level-less) infinite, and tweak quests so that there are exceptionally difficult ones that basically can't be completed. Throw in some random drops and you can make the mud's value go on forever.

Yes, it shocks me that this works, but after seeing players with several years of online time - yeah, it does. Some players will be sufficiently enraptured by their buddies on the mud, the roleplay, the combat, the thrill of being top dog, etc, and will play forever and ever even when there's no real new content.

Probably not really your original point (way up there), but the poster brought it up and I thought I'd throw it in.

Too woozy to think of good solutions for "interesting" advancement, though I'd warn that an effective quest-based system requires mass builders or a heckuva quest generator. Oh, I guess I can throw in the traditional tricks - PvP or social systems, so, like, PK for status, RP, politics, guild wars, empires, unique items, etc. But most of them were already mentioned.
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Cornelius



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 7:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spaz,

With infinite advancement you are rewarding players who started the game early and pour massive amounts of time into it. Because newer and more casual players will eventually be far behind the level curve I suspect powerleveling will become a common occurance in this scenario (unless you have full pk which I think would lead to much worse problems). In my opinion powerlevelling devalues the gameplay experience but more practically speaking it nullifies your intention to make levelling a more gainful and arduous process. Also, levels may go on forever but at some point skill-gain must stop and with it the anticipation of the level gain. Whats a few hp gained at level when you already have 10,000+ and all your skills?

Random item drops, on the other hand, I think is an excellent idea to keep things interesting. I bet you will always find people sticking to a character trying to get that adamantine mace of bear mauling with just the right combination of stat-boosts to be unstoppable.

And I'm sure for the few players that have the distinction of being so far beyond the plebians in levels that there is a certain amount of pride that keeps them playing but this does nothing for newer players that from the start know that they need to play for years just to get close to these people. There is then a sense that everything has been done and exploration and experimentation is a dry well- better get someone to powerlevel me and save some time... what you will get is a skewed aging pbase that will eventually die out. This may take several years which is an admirable run for any mud but shouldnt our goals be for something more?
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Spazmatic



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
With infinite advancement you are rewarding players who started the game early and pour massive amounts of time into it.


Not disagreeing. Like I said, it will certainly benefit some players. I'm not so much advocating it as a solution so much as reminding people that advancement caps are not standard - they're a choice.

Plus, if you make the growth curve sufficiently evil, you're not really rewarding them much anymore. Very Happy

Quote:
powerleveling


Eh. Let's connect that with...

Quote:
at some point skill-gain must stop and with it the anticipation of the level gain.


And...

Quote:
what you will get is a skewed aging pbase that will eventually die out.


There are muds nearly two decades old that use such an uncapped advancement system. They're doing quite well. So, you know, I don't buy this argument at all.

Do they have trouble with powerleveling and newbie abuse and what not? Sure, sometimes. But, then again, not always. While advancement is infinite, it reaches a point where it's very very slow and people tend to only do it once in a while. So, they'll roleplay, or quest, or go wizarding, or have guildwars, etc - all the standard extras that vary from mud to mud. On, say, skill-based muds (which this works WAY better for), they may follow another tree or skill template or something. Sometimes they start new characters while still playing the old ones.

The point is, they don't necessarily level endlessly for three years of online time. You'll still need something else to do, though it could be as simple as chatting and as difficult as super-hard-life-quests. However, the endless advancement cap does appeal to older, previously capped players who might quest/treasurehunt/war either way, but will certainly enjoy getting to advance all the meanwhile.

Anyways, I fail to see how powerleveling is inherently a bad thing, or even avoidable. It's not my cup of tea, and you don't want people to be forced to powerlevel, but some players happen to enjoy it. And it's always going to exist in any automated advancement system.

As far as not having skills anymore... maybe, but maybe not. It's not terribly hard to create a system of distributed skills such that it would take three years of online time to reach the last one. Sure, the rate's decreased, but there's still something THERE. Think of it as the logical extension of having fewer level 20 skills than level 1 skills (assuming you have levels at all) - you'll have WAY fewer level 132434 skills.

Quote:
There is then a sense that everything has been done and exploration and experimentation is a dry well- better get someone to powerlevel me and save some time...


Why? I don't see this at all. People who powerlevel will powerlevel regardless. It's always going to be faster. Why don't newbies powerlevel in WoW, even though it's quests are tbh incredibly boring? Because it's still more interesting to expore and muck around then reach level 60 in the shortest possible time. You might be better running Monastery 45 times, but for new players it's more fun to try out content.

Eventually, sure, players are going to reach the point where it's harder to create content for them. But, I think, no matter what approach you take (RP, baybeh!), player interest (if not necessarily balance) will benefit from having endless advancement as one possibility.
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arrowhen



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PostPosted: Sat Nov 19, 2005 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
With infinite advancement you are rewarding players who started the game early and pour massive amounts of time into it. Because newer and more casual players will eventually be far behind the level curve I suspect powerleveling will become a common occurance in this scenario


Exactly. This is enough of a problem in muds with finite advancement. It's disheartening to log onto a mud for the first time and see that every other player is at max level. I've even looked at websites for muds that say things like, "the REAL game begins at avatar." If that's the case, why not just dispense with advancement altogether and START everyone at avatar?

Muds, of course, developed from pen-and-paper roleplaying games. One of the things that's always been said about PnP RPGs, from their very inception, is "this is a different kind of game, because unlike most games, RPGs don't have a 'winner.'" This is true to some degree: most RPG rulesets don't have built-in victory conditions. But there's still plenty of success or failure in a RPG campaign. There's one sure way to "lose" in a PnP RPG: your character can die. And the very possibility of such permanent loss makes it even more exciting when your character survives to achieve her goals.

But mention permadeath to your average mudder and they'll recoil in horror. And for good reason--a player in a mud potentially stands to lose a lot more than a player in a PnP RPG. When you start a new PnP campaign, you know it's eventually going to end. You also know that if your character dies you're PROBABLY not going to have to start all the way over at first level (some gaming groups do this, but it's extremely rare). You're going to be able to start a new character at approximately the same level as your friends' characters, so that you can continue to participate in the same adventures. Dying still sucks, but it doesn't usually mean you're out of the game.

In most muds, your character can live forever. It can last until YOU decide that it's not worth playing anymore. Most muds don't have any significant death penalty; you lose xp and maybe equipment, but all that really means is you have to spend time getting them back. There's no real RISK involved in facing death. But if you add permadeath, the risk becomes too great. You go from no real risk to the risk of losing a character that you could theoretically play forever.

And even if you add the possibility of death from old age (which, in a fantasy mud, means either that lifespan, one of the traditional distinguishing characteristics of races, will have to be markedly changed, or that everyone will play elves) you're still creating a system where you can't win, but you can definitely lose.

Maybe what's needed is a mud you can win. A mud with a specific victory condition, or at least one with a specific end. Maybe once a character reaches avatar, he should start thinking about retirement. A retired character could leave behind a legacy of some sort, whether it's NPCs extoling his virtues (or cursing his name) to anyone who will listen, a new spell named after her, or even ascention to godhood. The extent of a retired character's legacy would depend upon his accomplishments during his life, creating a sort of high score table integrated into the world as a whole.

Characters could even amass followers or descendents, providing a pool of replacement characters from which players could choose after retiring their original character. You could do quests or spend money (a mud can never have too many money-sinks) to advance your replacement characters, so that you're not starting all the way over at first level when you retire.

Letting players skip the newbie levels with their replacement characters might also lead to a wider variety of race/class selections. I, for one, am often hesitant to play spellcasters in muds (despite the fact that I play them almost exclusively in PnP RPGs), simply because they start off so weak. I often find myself not sticking with a mud because I quickly tire of playing boring warrior types. I'd probably be a lot likely to stick with one, however, if I knew that my success with a warrior would mean that I could eventually play a wizard who stood a chance of survival.

The key to adding replay value to a mud like this is ensuring that a player's race and class selections have a noticible effect on gameplay. Too often, a race is nothing more than a couple of stat bonuses and a maybe a some vague roleplaying suggestions. A mud that encouraged me to regularly start over with a different character, and ensured that creating a significantly different character led to a significantly different game, is one that would hold my attention for years.
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Massaria



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2005 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
With infinite advancement you are rewarding players who started the game early and pour massive amounts of time into it. Because newer and more casual players will eventually be far behind the level curve I suspect powerleveling will become a common occurance in this scenario


Since my character advancement is primarily based on solving puzzles and discovering secrets, I've chosen to lessen the impact of this 'injustice' by making the discovery/solving of major mysteies public. That way new players can look up what important discoveries has already been made, and thus quickly be up to speed with the old players - or at least quicker. The new players simply benefit from the efforts of the old players.

Another approach, which I quickly discarded for my purposes, would be to make experience gains dependant on the number of players that have already been created.
When the mud opens, XP gains are normal. After 100 characters have been made, the following 200 characters receives a 5% bonus to their XP gains, the following 300 would get + 10% etc.
This would illustrate how the people who have gone before will leave knowledge of their pursuits in the gameworld - bards will sing of their deeds and after the trolls were removed from their den, every villager knows they are best killed with fire - small bits and pieces, but enough to warrant a modifier.

Obviously not an inspired solution, but better than no solution IMO.
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Alister



Joined: 13 May 2005
Posts: 62
Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2005 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cornelius wrote:

With infinite advancement you are rewarding players who started the game early and pour massive amounts of time into it. Because newer and more casual players will eventually be far behind the level curve I suspect powerleveling will become a common occurance in this scenario


Just a quick comment that this does not neccessarily have to be the case with infinite advancement. Let's assume we're working with levels, which just makes the demonstration a bit easier to do. Now assume that the time it takes to go from level n to level n+1 is exactly twice as much time as it takes to go from level n-1 to level n (or for the math-savvy, levels increase logarithmically w.r.t. time).

Given enough time, new players will catch up to old players (or very close to it), since new players are on an earlier part of the level curve than old players and, thus, are levelling faster than old players. If you do the math, it will take the same amount of time for a new level 1 character to reach the current level of the old player as it will for the old player to level one more time.

So there's no longer a noticable favor towards players who have been around longer. Players may still powerlevel, but as I think Spazmatic suggested, this fact is independent of anything else as long as there's an automated advancement system in place.
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Spazmatic



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

PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2005 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Now assume that the time it takes to go from level n to level n+1 is exactly twice as much time as it takes to go from level n-1 to level n (or for the math-savvy, levels increase logarithmically w.r.t. time).

Given enough time, new players will catch up to old players (or very close to it), since new players are on an earlier part of the level curve than old players and, thus, are levelling faster than old players. If you do the math, it will take the same amount of time for a new level 1 character to reach the current level of the old player as it will for the old player to level one more time.


*ahem*

Yes, all the technical stuff is correct. But, the idea that this somehow contradicts what was said earlier... is not.

I'll quote myself, to boot.

Quote:
While advancement is infinite, it reaches a point where it's very very slow and people tend to only do it once in a while.


Okay, first, there's this silly notion running around the world that by making levelling logarithmic, you're removing the advantage held by older players. That's entirely false. You're just decreasing the value of that advantage in term of game statistics - like you said, "very close". The reason it looks so nice is that levels are discrete, so old players and new players will eventually be sharing the same level number. That is just an illusion, though, because eventually the older player will level and the new player will once again trail, by the same amount of time too. It's just hidden by the discrete nature of levels.

As long as there's some monotonic function f: R->N mapping from time spent to power, powerleveling will exist. That's why powerleveling is independent of the existence of levels, physical statistics, or even combat - trading games have powerleveling too. It's just a question of gaining more per time spent, period.

Two cases follow. I'm going to treat advancement as discrete, since it's convenient, but all arguments follow (and follow better) for continuous variables.

Case one: all you have is leveling. There's no system that's non-monotonic (like, say, RP). In this scenario, at any given time point t_i in the older player's gaming life, he or she has a choice: quit, or level. If s/he quits, eh, that's what you get for making level 20 take 52 million times as long as level 1 (assuming base 2). If s/he does not quit, in 52 million time units, s/he will level - call this t_i'. A player that starts playing at time t_i will, at time t_i', be at level 19. However, all other things being equal (that is, assuming the players have equal skill), the older player still has an edge. Powerleveling has still won out over not-powerleveling. This edge, in a deterministic system, will always result in the older player winning. In a non-deterministic system, this will improve hir odds.

Case two: you have options besides leveling. They must be non-monotonic, time->power. In this scenario (which I discussed much earlier in my post many posts above), under the assumption of pseudo-logarithmic leveling I mentioned before (pseudo because true logarithmic leveling is horrible), you get players reaching a point where they spend less and less time leveling. Other options are more appealing. They'll still (some, anyways) level periodically, since it remains an option. And, heck, it's probably fun to do even if it wil now take 150 million time steps to level since 100 million of them are spent RPing or questing - it doesnt' require contiguous time anymore. There will still be a difference between younger and older players, though! The trick comes in through the non-monotonic function from time to power... Now players can advance through other means (questing!) that isn't directly proportional to the time they've spent. This will, however, cost you older players if the types of power are the same (nobody likes it when they sank in 2^n time units and gets their butt kicked by some kid who quested for n time units).



Lesson? Infinite advancement is okay if you make the rate of improvement decrease with time. Not because it "new players will catch up to old players", but because other options will eventually become more interesting and more efficient. Players will flow in that direction, and powerleveling will just become something to do in off hours. More options are better than less options!
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