Spaceships, sky-ships and sea-ships

 
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 9:56 am    Post subject: Spaceships, sky-ships and sea-ships Reply with quote

In the permadeath thread, Cornelius mentioned ship-v-ship combat, which is something that has interested me for a while. I also recall Kelson discussing this sort of thing on mudmagic a few months ago, and I assume that Traithe/Falconer will also be working on something similar as they're going for a Spelljammer-like theme.

A few years ago I discussed a design with Kastagaar for a mud inspired by Elite. Players would purchase spaceships, hire crew members, buy upgrades, then travel between worlds trading to earn money. Unfortunately it never got any further than a vague design, but it's still something I thought would have been rather fun. I even tried thinking up ways to incorporate (magical flying) ships and ship-based combat into my current mud design, but couldn't find a way of doing it without breaking the theme.

Still, I think it's a cool concept with a lot of potential, and it would work well with many muds.

From a conceptual perspective I don't think there would necessarily have to be much difference between sea-ships, sky-ships and spaceships. Even if you introduce a third dimension for the latter two, from the perspective of the pilot they'd still be fighting on a 2-dimensional plane. Equally, when it comes to add-ons, technology and magic can both provide pretty much the same sort of options.

From a combat-perspective I think it could probably incorporate the same style of combat as I suggested for units in the "large-scale battles" thread, without the difficulties associated with individuals taking on an entire unit. The pilot could sit in the steering part of their ship, at which point they'd effectively 'become' the ship, gaining access to a range of new commands. For large ships, other players might be required to sit in other control points (such as a weapon-turret), or even climb into and launch a small fighter ship, which they could fly back to the mother ship after the battle (this would be more geared towards spaceships, but I've also seem the same concept used in Spelljammer).

The biggest difficulty I see with ships is that either (1) the journey would typically take a very long time, which is boring, or (2) the journey is very fast, which makes trading far too easy. One solution would be to allow ships to make hyper-jumps, but required time to recover afterwards - perhaps 1 real-life hour per light-year travelled or something similar (regardless of whether you were online or not). This could be explained away with a number of reasons: refuelling, repairs, recover from magical flux, or whatever. There would still be the chance of encountering an enemy ship en route, which would immediately halt your travel and force you to fight - and players could also set themselves up on well-used routes in order to intercept other ships if they wanted to.

However that then leaves the problems of players being stranded at different locations across the world/galaxy/universe, which is generally not a good idea unless you've got a huge playerbase (and even then, it's not much fun if you can't socialise with your friend because your ship has to spend another 5 hours recharging). One possible solution to this would be to allow players to teleport (either with technology or magic) without their ship. Thus you could fly from X to Y, then teleport back to X to hang out with your friends until your ship was ready to go, then teleport back to Y, fly on to Z, and once again teleport back to X. The drawback with that is that it makes distances feel pretty much irrelevent, and instead of a ship you might as well just be running a shop.

I really do like the idea of players being able to captain their own ships though, trading between worlds, smuggling illegal goods, becoming pirates, bounty hunters or assassins, and so on. And I really think it could provide a fun combat system, particularly with larger ships which required groups of players to work together as a close-knit team.
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Greggen



Joined: 16 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 1:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like this idea a lot, and was thinking about taking it up a while ago. I loved all those trading games like 'elite' and 'X'.

Quote:
(1) the journey would typically take a very long time, which is boring, or (2) the journey is very fast, which makes trading far too easy.


To expand on your suggestions a touch:

  • Make it expensive to jump between systems - e.g. hyperspace fuel, gate toll. This means it will only be viable for the more advanced traders. They will be able to take on bigger jobs too.
  • Make it dangerous to jump between systems. Attack by pirates, chance of engine failure (for the cheap models Smile ) etc.
  • For the problem of travelling time, a mud such as this could change the idea that you have to be logged on to the mud constantly. You could set the ship to autopilot, and then log off. Perhaps being able to track your progress through the website.


I would also love to make a game where you can set up your own evil empire -- having a system where players can buy factories and play the stock market.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Make it expensive to jump between systems - e.g. hyperspace fuel, gate toll. This means it will only be viable for the more advanced traders. They will be able to take on bigger jobs too.


Expensive travelling costs is one option, although I wouldn't want to make it so expensive that it discouraged players from exploring.

Quote:
Make it dangerous to jump between systems. Attack by pirates, chance of engine failure (for the cheap models ) etc.


By 'jump' I assume you mean as opposed to regular (slow) travel? That could actually work very well if combined with a sort of 'planar travel' concept - allow the player to shift their ship into an Elite-like "witchspace" where they can move extremely quickly but with a high risk of being attacked (well okay, that's not much like the Elite witchspace, but I still like the name;))

Quote:
For the problem of travelling time, a mud such as this could change the idea that you have to be logged on to the mud constantly. You could set the ship to autopilot, and then log off. Perhaps being able to track your progress through the website.


My only concern with that is when it comes to combat - what happens if you're attacked while offline? I'm not a big fan of letting people die in downtime, particularly when they stand to lose a lot from it (in this case you could lose your ship and its cargo, if even you yourself could respawn back on your home work).

Perhaps if you used the "witchspace" idea you could say that regular space is 'safe' but slow, and can be handled while you're offline, while witchspace is fast and dangerous and can only be done while you're online. To help balance it out somewhat, you could also say that some of the best trading locations can only be reached through witchspace.
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Cornelius



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KaVir wrote:
Even if you introduce a third dimension for the latter two, from the perspective of the pilot they'd still be fighting on a 2-dimensional plane

In the SWR code, I have found that even though the game is keeping track of 3d coordinates all you, as a player, are concerned with is distance to target- this effectively reduces it to a 1d problem. However, this simplification can really only be done in a zero-g environment because as soon as you add potential energy to the system you have the ability to trade it for kinetic: pilots will read this as trading altitude for airspeed, a common dogfighting tactic and now you have distance to target and altitude on target, a 2d problem. This I suppose is why people shy away from atmospheric flight or simplify it way down: keeping track of higher dimensions in a non-visual way is extremely difficult, even when presented visually many people have a hard time putting it together.

KaVir wrote:
The biggest difficulty I see with ships is that either (1) the journey would typically take a very long time, which is boring, or (2) the journey is very fast, which makes trading far too easy

If you could not simply jump from one location to anywhere else in the galaxy but instead had to go through 'corridors' or for the Cowboy BeeBop fans "warp gateways" that could lead you on a multileg journey I think this solves the problem, at least for me it did. My favorite implimentation was one in which if you wanted to make the journey in one shot it did take a very long time but you could cut your time (and fuel capacity required) by making several smaller jumps to a sequence of starsystems- this made finding the correct trade routes to maximize efficiency a very interesting thing to do- even if it violated some basic geometry Smile but this inconsistency could be gotten around by doing a warp highway network type thing much like the aircraft networks we have today. This not only gives the player something active to do but allows pirates as you say, to hang out in known hubs. And also if the player decides he doesnt have enough money for fuel to finish the trip he can take a profit loss and sell his goods at the local system for the local price. This translates to ports of call for non-space ships, you will need to restock your supplies constantly or youll all die of scurvy!!. Also- if you think about it a very simple solution is to just reduce the amount of money you can make off a sale... this way you set up a triangle (quad, cinq, sext, ...) trade where the individual trade is easy but to make any decent profit you need to plan out a trade route that earns you a lot of money...

KaVir wrote:
And I really think it could provide a fun combat system, particularly with larger ships which required groups of players to work together as a close-knit team

If you could find a way to promote such a system and make it work you would be my hero all over again. The problems you encounter by trying this are that every player wants his/her own ship, of course why wouldn't you... and if you are lazy about coding large ships one player can script himself to run all aspects of it. Also, in SWR games its hard to find a big enough crew that are all on at the same time and for the same length of time with enough consistency to make it work. In my experience however much I would love it, I have never seen such a system viable in practice.
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Greggen



Joined: 16 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Perhaps if you used the "witchspace" idea you could say that regular space is 'safe' but slow, and can be handled while you're offline, while witchspace is fast and dangerous and can only be done while you're online. To help balance it out somewhat, you could also say that some of the best trading locations can only be reached through witchspace.


Roughly my line of thinking. There's no reason you couldn't provide all three methods, each with its pros and cons:


  • Normal space - free, safe and slow.
  • Hyperspace/witchspace/etc. ( <-- favourite sci-fi word here) gates - very expensive, fast and quite safe.
  • Hyperspace jumps - fast, uses fuel, unreliable.
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Cornelius



Joined: 13 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greggen wrote:
For the problem of travelling time, a mud such as this could change the idea that you have to be logged on to the mud constantly. You could set the ship to autopilot, and then log off. Perhaps being able to track your progress through the website.

I am not a fan of things happening to a player while they are offline, I personally think that it detracts from the play when you are actually online and can become troublesome with multiplaying characters. So I think a better application of this idea would be to have the player buy shippers, man them with crews, define their trade route and then they would work for the player autonomously much like you suggest with autpilot- sometimes they would be attacked... sometimes they would break down- in both cases they will send out distress signals that they player will see if they are online and can quickly hop in a frigate and fly to their aid- imagine your merchant fleet is being attacked by pirates- you get a distress signal while shmoozing the magistrate trying to get him to lower the tarriffs. You politely excuse yourself- assemble your crew who is down at the pub shmoozing some waitress trying to get her to lower her... anway you hop in your frigate and rush over just in time to harass the pirates into leaving your fleet alone!! Now that sounds like fun.
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Greggen



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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If you could find a way to promote such a system and make it work you would be my hero all over again. The problems you encounter by trying this are that every player wants his/her own ship, of course why wouldn't you... and if you are lazy about coding large ships one player can script himself to run all aspects of it. Also, in SWR games its hard to find a big enough crew that are all on at the same time and for the same length of time with enough consistency to make it work. In my experience however much I would love it, I have never seen such a system viable in practice.


The way I would do this is to make each position on the ship an elaborate mini-game. For example, if you are piloting a ship alone, the AI controls all maintenence. However, if you have a mechanic player, they can keep the ship at a more optimal level via such a mini-game. Repairing the ship can also be a different game depending on which component has gone wrong.

Mechanics could 'power up' with new tools, so they have their own little advancement routine and goals.

If such a game is fun, there is no reason people wouldn't want to do it, or just script it with a bot. The trick is making the games varied and deep enough to make people want to do it for any length of time.

Quote:
I am not a fan of things happening to a player while they are offline


Agreed. The only situation I would do this in is if players understood the risk and there were alternatives available.


I must admit, my MUD in development has been suffering from design schizophrenia lately. I wasn't sure what I wanted: Room based? Coordinate based? Slow, tatical combat? fast, brutal combat?

This idea lets me do all of them! Slow coordinate based combat in ships and fast room-based combat when out of your ship, so I might very well go ahead with a game like this. Please keep the ideas coming!
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If you could not simply jump from one location to anywhere else in the galaxy but instead had to go through 'corridors' or for the Cowboy BeeBop fans "warp gateways" that could lead you on a multileg journey I think this solves the problem, at least for me it did.


Good idea - it would also allow you to make the longer journeys more interesting, and give people points along the way where they could save/quit.

It might also be nice to have two forms of speed, like there are in Elite, as well as the SpellJammer RPG - travelling speed (for normal movement) and tactical speed (for combat). A ship coming too close to another ship or other large object would automatically slow down to tactical speed, as a technological/magical failsafe designed to prevent collisions. This would allow the pirates to hang around and catch merchant vessels en route, and also give a valid reason why a police ship (or equivilent) could come to the rescue if the merchant is able to survive for two or three minutes. It would also help clump ships together, as people ran into fights and slowed down, thus getting around one of the biggest pitfalls of travelling around such a huge area; never meeting anyone.

Quote:
The problems you encounter by trying this are that every player wants his/her own ship, of course why wouldn't you...


So the trick would be to make it more profitable for several people to share a ship. Perhaps a two-man ship can carry three times the cargo, a three-man ship can carry five times, and so on. The scripting is a potential problem, but that's something that'll come up with any form of combat.

Lots of other interesting points to reply to but unfortunately I've run out of time - I'll reply more later tonight.
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KaVir



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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cornelius wrote:
I think a better application of this idea would be to have the player buy shippers, man them with crews, define their trade route and then they would work for the player autonomously much like you suggest with autpilot


That'd be fun as well, but would really turn the trading aspect into a different sort of game. But perhaps you could reach a compromise by saying that the autonomous ships would only fly the 'safe' routes (less profitable, and unable to get hold of the rarer products) and can't be used for other profitable activities such as smuggling.

A rich player could therefore eventually afford an entire trading fleet, but would probably still make less money than the daring single-ship trader who smuggled weapons between waring worlds.

Greggen wrote:
The way I would do this is to make each position on the ship an elaborate mini-game. For example, if you are piloting a ship alone, the AI controls all maintenence. However, if you have a mechanic player, they can keep the ship at a more optimal level via such a mini-game. Repairing the ship can also be a different game depending on which component has gone wrong.


Very cool idea! This could be handled rather well with the tumbler approach I discussed in the social combat thread - I can just imagine the engineer ripping out wires and replacing components in an attempt to divert extra power to the shields while shouting "She kinna take no more, Cap'n!" ;) I think this sort of concept would probably fit a lot better with a sci-fi theme than with fantasy, although I could also see it working with some sort of magical rune-covered ship like in The Death Gate Cycle.
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Ashon



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lot's of stuff to reply about, but first off, the first thing I thought of when I saw this thread was: Ooooohhhh, Now I wanna Make Sid Meier's PIRATES! MUDô And of course any design that starts talking about trading makes me want to start talking about Tradewars.

I tried recently to run a Tabletop trading game. And found that my players at least were looking for something more then just trading and so while I haven't thought about this in MUD terms, I have been thinking about this type of genre.

WRT: Travel Times. The Hyperjumps, Catching a breeze or a current, could work to speed things up, things like magically enhanced sails or better engines work too. But there's something to be said for the interactions that can happen on a ship too. Take a look at cRPG's. They usually sit in a travel stasis while the player can go around talking to NPC's gathering things, and finally arrives when the player triggers the event. It would be interesting to see if one could incorporate a system like that into the game. You can also break the monotomy with Encounters. Pirates, Space Monsters, Unexpected events. And if the goal is not nessicarily to speed up travel, but to slow down the amount of trading done these things would work well.

WRT: Staying online while logged out. I wouldn't go the route that has been suggested. I'd suggest that too log out, you need to be docked in some sort of port. You're downtime is spent repairing the ship, upgrading it if need be, and digging up contacts or new contracts. (Which could all be tracked via the website. The issue with repairs being done offline is of course the question: How long it takes to repair the ship while online. I'd suggest that online repairs have an option of 'rushing it'. Having the mechanic take generic parts and using them instead of using the Retailer Suggest After Market parts. Which would/could have adverse affects. But since you are in a time crunch. you need it now.

Multileg Travel/trading: Take a look at Marc Miller's Traveller. Here's the T20 Lite Rules which are free. But they way the economy works is the Tech level of the planet is combined with Tech Level of the Spaceport, the Agricultural Level. The UDP is used to determine the needs of the planet. What I did for my tabletop game was I generated the size of the city, the amount of people, the trade goods that the city produced, and using that found out the items needed (I used TableSmith, a randomized Generator, extensively for this). From there I set up a formula to figure out the base cost of the raw materials, the cost for production, and then gave each industry a profit margin. So, by using a system to generate or poll each port, you can determine the goods needed/produced by a port. And figure out an algorithm to get the prices set.

Up top, I talked about the players wanting more then just the playing, so I started to examine what I could do to make it more interesting. And this is what I came up with. I was going to mix a the sessions: Trading Session/Adventure Session. The Trading Session would be spent travelling, haggling, and selling, recruiting, in regards to the trading. But the Adventure Sessions, would revolve around such issues as being awarded an exclusive trade agreement, or just being awarded a trade certificate for a port. They had to do a quest (defeat goblins, find out who murdered the Patriarch of the Trading Family) to get the best stuff. If they wanted to smuggle some goods, they'd have to travel and find the contact, and do something for them. This could work well with a MUD, you generate an NPC who has an incredible one time trade deal, but first: do this.

WRT: Working together as a team. Make the initial purchase of a ship a lot of money. Have some NPC trading ships where a player can be 'trained' or even higher level players can hire on lowbies. So that you get that cooperation. In the middling levels players are going to have their own 2-5 crew member ships, and at high levels, the players can own the large freighters that make their money off of bulk, and they need to hire other players to help them on their ship.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
Posts: 565
Location: Munich

PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From time to time I think back over old ideas, and just recently I've been thinking about this concept again - so I decided to put together a basic rough draft for how the game might work.

Each player may own a maximum of one spaceship, which can be purchased or sold within any docking port. This spaceship is persistant, and (as per Ashon's suggestion) you can only load it into memory while in a docking port. You do this via the 'request' command, which describes a transporter beam moving your ship down to the ground. If the ship remains empty for 30 seconds while in a docking port, the mud will describe the transporter beam raising it back into the air, and the ship will be unloaded from memory.

Only the owner of the ship may pilot it, and they do so automatically upon entering the ship. They may only leave the ship when it is stationed within a docking port. When piloting a ship, you effectively 'become' the ship - your command set completely changes to reflect that of the ship. Thus 'score' will display information about the ship, 'equipment' will list the fittings you have, 'inventory' will list your cargo, and so on.

Travelling time would take 1 (RL) minute per light year, with each light year also adding 1 point of 'wear and tear' to the ship. Wear and tear would be repaired automatically at 1 point per RL hour while in a docking port, but could be done faster by completing maintanence mini-games (puzzles designed to be unbottable). A ship which had suffered too much wear and tear would be unable to launch. Spaceships would travel between worlds, and would therefore not interact with players who moved around on the ground (except for cosmetic messages about a spaceship flying past overhead, etc).

Ship commands (designed to be compatible with typical player commands) might include:

* Score: Display the attributes of your ship.
* Equipment: List what weapon/shield/etc systems you currently have installed.
* Inventory: List your cargo.
* Crew: View your current crew (required to operate the larger ships).

While docked you would also have access to additional commands, such as:

* Recruit: Recruit a new crew member (no arguments lists those available).
* Dismiss: Dismiss a current crew member.
* Missions: List (and optionally accept one of) the available missions.
* Buy: Purchase cargo (no arguments lists prices).
* Sell: Sell cargo (no arguments lists prices).
* Install: Purchase and install a weapon/shield/etc system.
* Uninstall: Remove and sell a weapon/shield/etc system.
* Refuel: Refuel your ship (without argument, lists costs).
* Repair: Perform repairs (without argument, lists damage).
* Launch: Launch your ship (without arguments, lists destinations).

A simple trading mission might work like this:

You log on to the mud and walk to the docking port, where you request your ship. You climb on board, buy some cargo, specify your destination, then launch your ship. The distance to your destination is 5.3 light years, which therefore takes 5.3 minutes. While travelling there would be the chance of an encounter (much like random wilderness encounters). Once you land at your destination, you could sell your cargo, refuel, and repeat the process.

Note that the above only describes the basic game concept. Once in place, there are a huge number of ways in which it could be expanded - additional ships, upgrades, cargo types, options for assassins, bounty hunters, asteroid miners, pirates, smugglers, designing your own ships, building your own space station, micromanaging fleets of ships, supporting player crew members, courier missions, passenger ferrying missions, military missions (with associated ranks), etc, etc, etc.

This could work as a game in its own right, or could function as a sort of mini-game.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A recent MudBytes post from Igabod brought this old thread to mind. In fact Igabod's idea is to have a Star Wars style pod racing game, so things like travel time and trading wouldn't be an issue, but it was his musings about how to display the information to the player that really caught my interest - because that's one of the issues we didn't really discuss much in this thread.

In recent months I've been playing around with MUSHclient, using it to create a graphical interface complete with maps that update in real-time as you (and others) move around. One of my players has even taken it a step further, enlarging the map and drawing little graphical representations of people moving around, but the hard part is animation - if the images aren't animated they're going to look a bit wierd, but animations require a lot more artwork and a lot more refreshes, even before you start including different weapon types, and factor in the huge selection of different monsters you'd need to cover. Perhaps MUSHclient can handle it, I'm not sure, but where would I get all that artwork from? There's a lot of public domain clipart, but that's not going to cut it for animations.

However for vehicles like ships and podracers you could get away with little or no animation, and much less variety. MUSHclient can already rotate images, and that would cover the facing, so at most you might want to add a little fire animation for rockets and guns (or better yet just have it as an extra sprite that can be displayed on top of the other images). Last year Nick Gammon also explained how to create an image from multiple layers - his example involved creating an avatar by combining different articles of clothing, and even changing the colour of the clothing at runtime.

Applied to a spaceship or podracer, this approach could be used to create a dynamic image for your vehicle based on the different parts and paintwork you'd selected, which could then be rotated as you moved around. This would also let you get away with a much smaller number of images, as (unlike monsters) you could probably create most ships by putting them together from parts, reflecting the different customisations each captain had made. You might not want to customise a sea ship to that extent, but the same approach would allow you to show armaments and structural damage.

The custom GUI would also provide a good way of representing a 3D environment, perhaps utilising an Elite-style 3D radar, which is something you really couldn't do with ASCII graphics.
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Deadsoul



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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yeah the fading point between text and graphics is slowly fading, mainly because what we want to do is getting harder and harder to emulate with text (at least what I would like to do).

im personally waiting for the civ 5 c++ repository to be released.

then again id be happy if i could get a working diku map system going.
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KaVir



Joined: 11 May 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deadsoul wrote:
yeah the fading point between text and graphics is slowly fading, mainly because what we want to do is getting harder and harder to emulate with text (at least what I would like to do).

Is it though? Or is it because mud clients are becoming increasingly graphical? I'd argue the latter - MUSHclient only added graphical support relatively recently, while newcomers such as Mudlet are working on similar functionality, and a number of graphical web-based clients are also in the works.

If such clients had existed 10 or 15 years ago, I'd be willing to bet that muds would have started taking advantage of them back then. In fact you could even argue that the muds with big budgets did exactly that, creating their own custom graphical clients (and then calling themselves MMORPGs).

Deadsoul wrote:
then again id be happy if i could get a working diku map system going.

A graphical one? I've had a few ideas on the subject, we could discuss it in another thread if you're interested.
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