Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ideas and Conversation

hello everyone. i hope you're all having a fine winter.

i've been thinking a lot lately about what the setting of this new mud should be. the canvas is empty. it could be anything. we could make use of the setting of DR, our first mud. we could create our own mythology and create a world which is completely new. we could move away from fantasy and create a post-apocalyptic mud or a space-themed mud. we could move away from a fictional setting altogether and build a history-themed mud, or a present-day type mud.

more and more, i am beginning to think that it would be interesting if in-game events in DR determine what the new mud will be like in terms of setting. DR has a wonderful villain in Lilith, the queen of vampires, who wants to rule a dark, broken word of chaos. what if she got her wish?

(imagine playing in a world which has been ruled by an insane, brutal vampire goddess for a thousand years. areas could be ruined, blasphemed, twisted versions of areas currently in dr – it might be interesting to be able to play both games at once and have secrets from the past appear in the future... maybe allow some sort of chronomancy which somehow allows characters to exist in both games or travel between times...)

(or imagine playing in another dimension identical to the DR world in all respects except one significant event a thousand years before the current time of DR. Lilith was never defeated in the past, and for the last thousand years has ruled with an iron fist. The new game and the old game exist in the same time, but in different dimensions and with different qualities...)

(or imagine a world which has been terrorized by vampires but in which all vampires have been destroyed... or so everyone believes... a world which seems to embrace reality and shun magic, but where real magic sits beneath the surface waiting to be rediscovered and used...)

what should it be?

that's definitely what's on my mind right now.

i also thought it might interest people to hear a little more about how other options for the game are shaping up. the following conversation was sparked when gaming came up, and my friend 'void' asked me how the game design was coming. void and i used to collude all the time when he was running DR; he is the one who passed the mud on to me and who taught me how to run a mud. this is the rundown i gave him, and the ideas resulting from it. published with his permission.

-Indi- well
-Indi- we plan to write a mud which has few or no people-enforced rules
-Void- My only advice is do NOT give access to IP numbers to staff.
-Indi- we are not going to have any staff
-Void- Even better :)
-Indi- except us
-Indi- we won't need a staff bc there won't be a need to enforce rules
-Indi- and bc we are changing how guilds work
-Void- And you'll basically never have to do rule enforcement?
-Void- That's awesome
-Void- That's the holy grail
-Indi- we will have to do some by hand
-Indi- like multiplay
-Indi- but who cares, that's an easy one on a small mud, and i want a small mud
-Indi- we're going to make mobs more aware of player actions and be able to communicate them to other mobs
-Void- Sweet
-Indi- so for instance, if a player commits murder in an area with police or guards or whatever
-Void- Oh yeah I love law enforcement mprog-run mobs
-Void- I've seen it very successfully implemented
-Indi- they will figure out who committed the murder and they could also alert all other police in different cities
-Indi- maybe send out tracker mobs
-Void- Yeah the cops tracked.
-Indi- which would work nicely with the ninja class we want to put in
-Indi- because they could have the power to evade detection
-Indi- and thus avoid trackers
-Void- The cop would walk into the room and say:
-Void- "Mr. XXXX you have been accused of the crime of MURDER. You have 15 seconds to submit to my authority by saying "I submit".
-Void- "You now have 10 seconds to submit to my authority."
-Indi- hehehe
-Void- "You now have 5 seconds to submit to my authority."
-Void- Dude the first time I saw that I was like....
-Indi- hehehe
-Indi- yeah
-Void- I didn't submit, he dropped me in 2 hits.
-Void- I woke up in jail
-Indi- nice
-Void- I had a timer.
-Void- Like 30 minutes
-Void- And then was automatically released.
-Void- After paying a fine.
-Void- It was awesome
-Indi- yeah :)
-Indi- i want there to be gossip mobs too
-Void- Neat
-Indi- so that like, suppose a thief char is stealing a lot
-Indi- if he does it in front of the gossip, it will change how shopkeepers view him
-Indi- because the gossip told them he steals
-Indi- or if the gossip sees someone healing a lot
-Indi- the shopkeepers might give a discount
-Indi- something like that
-Void- Oh that's cool
-Indi- whereas with the thieves they might not even deal at all
-Indi- bc they don't want stolen goods
-Indi- so the thief would have to find a fence
-Void- Heh
-Void- Who takes a cut
-Indi- naturally
-Void- That's cool.
-Void- I wonder if I'm zen enough to just play it.
-Indi- i think the rules i want are like...
-Indi- don't multiplay
-Indi- and don't spoil the game for other players
-Indi- and if i decide you have broken either of those rules
-Indi- your char goes back to level 1
-Void- That's really ambiguous
-Void- For some people getting PK'd "ruins the game" for them
-Indi- yeah, but i am the one who decides
-Void- So you're like... a dictator :P
-Indi- it's my game
-Void- Heehee
-Indi- don't like it, leave :)
-Void- It always boils down to that
-Void- Good.
-Indi- besides
-Indi- i am really going to change the consequences of pk
-Indi- a one item loot only, but you get to search all containers before deciding
-Indi- so anyone who thinks getting pk'd "ruined" the game for them is a moron, and shouldn't be playing my game
-Void- Maybe if you loot anything shopkeepers just stop doing business with you for like 3 hours.
-Indi- maybe if a gossip saw you loot anything
-Void- "As you approach, the shopkeeper closes the door and you hear a beam lowered on the other side."
-Indi- hehehe
-Indi- yeah
-Void- I think it would provide a nice crippling effect and force people to find natural potions etc.
-Indi- well potions are also changing considerably
-Indi- no buying potions
-Void- Ooo good
-Indi- unless you buy them from players who have made them
-Void- Even better
-Indi- you make them by picking ingredients and then distilling them
-Indi- the ingredients are all coded by what kind of climate they can grow in
-Void- Neat :)
-Indi- the climate is embedded in every area
-Indi- and the climate changes with four seasons
-Void- Neat!
-Indi- so some very powerful ingredients will only be available at certain times of year
-Void- That's really cool
-Indi- :)
-Indi- i want to make it so that some potions are extremely powerful and can only be used by the person who made them
-Indi- so powerful that they would give enough of an advantage to someone who didn't know how to pk the way it's done on DR, that he would be able to protect himself from the pker, and possibly, if very lucky, even beat him
-Indi- so that people who most love to explore and find things and make things don't just get beaten up constantly by pkers
-Void- I think characters who PK should slowly lose some sort of karma points and the lower your karma, the harder it is to land spells on chars with good karma.
-Void- harder to hit, land spells
-Void- Stealing or PKing
-Indi- we have a lot of ideas about karma
-Indi- like
-Indi- we figure pretty much everything a char does should affect his karma in some way
-Indi- but the way we want it to be is, you start with neutral karma, and it's hard to gain good karma
-Indi- but it's easy to gain bad karma
-Void- I think looting should really fuck up your karma and that bad karma should really fuck you up as a PKer against anyone without equally bad karma.
-Indi- that
-Indi- is a great idea :)

once we start thinking outside the box of karma being attacked to alignment, we can make karma itself be the enforcement of whatever rules we want to embed in the game.

for example, if we want there to be an embedded rule about people not killing characters far below their own level, we could make it so that people who do so gain very bad karma, (which diminishes, as void suggested, how well they fight against people who are playing the game 'by the rules') so that they attack so badly that the lower level player might have a fighting chance to defend himself or flee.

karma could be used to determine what kind of buildings people could enter. for example, a character who commits murder often might take damage when entering a holy area like a temple. it might be impossible for them even to come in, making it a safe haven for the virtuous who shelter inside.

so many options!


PS i keep a notepad file open all the time to jot down ideas i have while doing other things. here's a peek at what's on it right now.

the idea of notes as objects
delivered to whomever via messenger
could be stolen, forged, planted, kept, etc

class that gives power to other chars... like a patriarch class, a spy master class (guild?)

spell to show the caster any sentence used in a say which contains his name or certain words, if it is said anywhere in the world

scrying pools, scrying a player, overhearing a player. players should be able to watch each other (and of course have ways to prevent being watched... magic ward on a room... deafen... hmm)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Response to Reader Response

Hello everyone.

For tonight's post I thought it might be interesting to respond to some reader comments, which have come to me in various forms. Many of these things are quite interesting to me and will probably form the basis of posts to come; consider this a sneak peek.

"I admire your efforts to create your own, personal, perfect MUD [but] fear it may not attract many players if you stick staunchly to your ideas and refuse to compromise."
I think that sometimes it's good to refuse to compromise. You know that when people say a building has been compromised, it means it's been broken into or taken over by the enemy. I don't want my ideas to be compromised. I don't want to compromise my ideas. It's like... I always choose to watch the director's cut of movies. Theatrical versions mean the director compromised. The director's cut is just better. Less people see it, but more people appreciate it. I know that at this point people don't really understand what my vision is, mostly because I haven't tried too hard to communicate exactly what that vision is… but I think the game I make will draw players who like the game it is. Many people I've known through DR may not like it… but I am not making the new game for them, and whether they like it or not doesn't concern me very much. I think a writer, a designer, should be true to her own vision and not compromise to please the masses.

"Do you want to focus on the cooperation, or the competition? Which is more important? Do you cooperate to compete? "
I think the competition is the most important thing. Games are about competition, even if the competition is against yourself or just for fun. Cooperation serves as means to overcome the competition. Teams are more powerful than one person, and teams require cooperation. Therefore cooperation is crucial, but yes, subservient, to competition. I think a mud without competition of any kind is really a chat room with costumes. I think it's great to have that kind of socializing going on, but ultimately, I am not building a fantasy chat setting. I'm building a game, and I want people to compete and have fun.

"If you're looking for a variety [of options for characters such as class], you will either need untold years of fine-tuning or perhaps remove the entire competitive aspect."
There isn't a need for untold years of fine-tuning if there are only a few options to begin with. Balancing just two classes, for example, won't take long at all. Then we will build from there, making sure things are balanced and fine-tuned as we go. Players will have fewer options in the beginning when the game is young, but both options will still be brand new and interesting for gamers to try out, and therefore offer new variety. We will have created the basis of a living game which will grow over time, and it will be brand new and original, with our versions of more familiar classes coming later.

In a way, by starting a new mud we are removing the entire competitive aspect from the game in order to rebuild it in whatever ways we think best. It may be that seasoned mudders are used to PKers being able to beat down anyone who can't fight face-to-face, no matter what other acheivements these non-fighters might have made in the game. It may be that there are seasoned mudders, both fighters and non-fighters alike, who enjoy this system. Fine and good: there are a thousand muds which use it. Find one you like and enjoy: DR itself is a great example of that style. However, this is not how our new game will be. There will be a great pk system for people who like to pk (similar in fact to DR's pk system), but this will not be the only way to compete.

Competition is fun because risk is fun, especially in a game where the setting is real, where the risk feels real, but where none of the consequences have any affect on the real world. I want to make a game where all kinds of players who enjoy all kinds of things (including RP and PK, but also things like exploring or socializing) embrace this. Consider this: in a game where magic is real, real power can come from any source imaginable. Imagine a game where a player aquires power based on how he plays the game... if he pks a lot, he gains pk bonuses... if he explores a lot, he gains exploration bonuses... if he socializes a lot, he gains socialization bonuses... and so on... Any player could achieve any or even all of the bonuses, and doing so would mean having thoroughly played every aspect of a game... at least for that class. We could also use this to deal with behaviour we do or don't want to happen on the game. For instance, if we want people to pk at low levels, then give a bonus suitable for leveling if people are pking at low levels (ditto exploring, socializing, etc etc). Or another example: if we don't want people to habitually pk BRs, we could make it so that people who do so lose their pk bonuses or even are penalized at pk, at least for the duration of the attack on the BR: smething to deter people from attacking BRs. Maybe they will be victims of Sido's Touch, and have their commands randomly use twice as much lag…:) The idea is not to level the playing field between a BR and his attacker, but rather to make attacking BRs require commitment from the player, and a decision to do something which, though possible, will not be quite so easy as shooting newbie fish in a barrel.

"Players who play to win pick a strategy that works and stick to it, only switching if they find a valid counter to it, then again when they find a counter to that counter."
I don't know who you mean by "players who play to win"… I think everyone plays to win… though now that you say it, I suppose it's not too hard to imagine certain people doing that sort of thing. Clearly, this is how someone who likes face-to-face combat prepares and trains. In a way it's good, because I think a great mud requires skilled PKers who like to compete. It's an extremely fun form of competition. But this is also exactly why I think that people who spend their time doing things which are productive for the game in other ways should also gain power which they can actually use, so that people who choose to focus only on PK don't completely dominate anyone they choose. Conflict should be a challenge… a challenge thrown down and a challenge risen to… Everyone should be able to create conflict and respond to conflict, and conflicts should end in death for the loser. High stakes, good times, and many ways to win. However, there should be more than one way of becoming powerful in a competition like this. PK should not be the only way. It should be one way.

"[Suppose w]e have an excellent PKer who has struck terror into the hearts of villains and friends alike. Meanwhile, we have an excellent RPer who has researched his way to amazing power. Why should the RPer get these edges in PK, when he's hardly even good at it?"

To me, that answer is obvious. The RPer has "researched his way to amazing power". Therefore he should have "amazing power" at his disposal to use however he wants -- including PK, if that is what he wants. Someone on TMC stated an opinion quite similar to yours: "if you're going to start a conflict with someone, or do something that someone else wants to kill you over, having a big sword, knowing someone with a big sword, or being able to run really fast should be your only choices for recourse. " I just don't think this is realistic at all. I hear that and I try to imagine Gandolf fleeing in terror from someone with a big sword, or sending Aragorn into danger while staying in safety himself. No; Gandolf has an esoteric power, of immense strength which few possess. He -also- happens to be a kickass battlemage, charging into PK headlong, but consider Sauruman from the same book -- he couldn't fight at all, but he was powerful enough to subdue Gandolf and an army of fighters, by staying secure in a place of power and attacking from afar.

I think if a player really does "research his way to amazing power" (and by this I mean he does actual work in the actual game... such as research and create a spell...or research and find an ancient artifact of power...or research and document all the flora and fauna in the game...etc), then he should have a way to use that power over other people. Conflict resulting in death shouldn't always require skill with weapons or a face-to-face fight. It should just require skill. The game should be flexible enough to allow people with many different skills and interests to compete, to gain power, to have influence. It should be flexible enough to allow for many different types of heroes... or villains... and still be fun and engaging for players who are just interested in fun, casual gaming.

I have been cautioned by obviously well-respected coders (?are they coders?) on TMC to keep my plans small and not to think on too grand a scale. But I think we all need to start thinking bigger. My coder and I have been limited by the constraints of our past mud, but we no longer are. There is now only one constraint: the limit of what we can imagine.

My mud will be about competition. I am removing the rule about no roleless pk (I have been planning to write more about this, and I will, so please wait to hear more before arguing that I shouldn't do that). There will be risk, there will be reward, there will be loss. But the game itself will respect the idea that there are many 'right' ways to play the game, and all of these ways will allow the character to gain power over his own life... and potential power over the lives of others. I don't think everyone should have to spend all their time PKing, but I do think it's realistic to have mages study spells to gain power...and not have to engage in close contact to learn powerful moves.

I want my mud to be realistic, in the sense that Dickens and even Faulkner are realistic, or that Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post paintings are realistic: all the characters, varied and unique as they are, live in the one cohesive world created by the writer. I invite people to come and be characters in my mud, and ask them to be aware of the parameters of the mud. Think about it: a dopey painted mailman from Saturday Night Post could not exist in Yoknapatawpha, the deep tension in the deep south. (Wow. I think almost he would get lynched.) Anyway, the point is that in order for a story to become great, it has to be consistent. A lack of consistency makes a work of art fail. This doesn't mean people can't be original or unique -- no two Rockwell characters are the same, and there are hundreds if not thousands of them. His people are all the same, but all different. Each one is unique. Rockwell painted no two faces alike, and he was incredibly prolific: he created more than 4000 works, no two alike. His Saturday Evening Post work, published once a week for four decades, was like he took snapshots of society for four decades, and made them jollier, kindlier, sillier, goofier, gentler. Each character is unique, and yet they are all consistent. He created a world. I want to create a world too, but I want its characters to be more than paintings... I want them to be real. I want them to be you, beloved gamers.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Perfection and Plato

hello everyone.

sorry for the long delay between this post and the last; i will admit i have gotten sucked into Oblivion and have been busy punching goblins and fencing all my ill-gotten goods. bethesda is a very fine gaming studio. <3

i did do some writing, but mostly over on TMC. i had posted a link there as an invitation to here, thinking people there might be interested in things here, and didn't really anticipate that people would post there about things here.

the TMC forums are an intimidating place for someone like me. there are half a dozen posters who tend to weigh in as the experts on nearly every topic, and certainly i am no expert on muds as a whole, or on anything (except, possibly, some dead writers). i don't doubt that they do indeed possess expertise, these rock stars of the TMC world, but i am curious where their fame stems from. are they famous coders? does everyone else know who these people are except me? do they know each other only through their many posts on tmc? is there some sort of secret mud admin society, a la eyes wide shut? curiouser and curiouser: the imagination runs wild.

it's fascinating to read posts there, since it provides some insight into the wide scope and breadth of muds in existence. this is why i love the internet: whatever can be dreamed can be developed, if the dreamer is determined. exactly this is why i believe so strongly in my ability to design a perfect mud... i am a very, very stubborn woman. it may take me a while to accomplish my goals, since i have a great many of them and pursue them haphazardly as inspiration marionettes me, but i do accomplish them if it is within my power to do so. i have abandoned projects which require someone else to do a major portion of the work, if my project partners lose interest and can no longer carry on, but Parviane is as interested in creating a mud which is really ours as i am. this will happen, and it will be something i am unreservedly proud of.

one thing i have been thinking about recently is what it really means to create 'a perfect mud'. i can't help but think of Plato here. (was it the republic? the statesman? i disremember and, not for the first time, am missing my library terribly. however, i can summarize without being able to supply sources. facts, and a memory which refuses to contain them, are the bane of my existence, now and forever. i think it was the republic. anyway.)

Plato felt that all tangible things existed as shades of the one 'true' thing which was that thing's immutable, undefinable essence. to understand universal truths, Plato felt, we must realize that all things we can touch and see are imitations, once-removed shadows or shades of the true and ideal forms to which we give names. a 'chair' for example, would not be definable in any of the ways we flawed humans conceive of a chair... all chairs that we can see or think of or imagine are once-removed shadows of the one true and perfect idealized form of the concept 'chair'. he wrote of what was, for him, an ideal place: an imaginary utopian Republic in which only the truest and purest form of all things could exist.

now, when i speak of creating a perfect mud, i am not suggesting that i am creating this perfect idealized essence of which all others are merely shadows. (sidenote: is it just me, but is it almost impossible not to use Heideggerian-style talk when thinking or writing about Plato?) what i can do, what i want to do, what i will do is create my own imaginary utopia: my own perfect mud. i don't think thomas more was trying to insult plato when he wrote HIS utopia. neither do i think that in creating what is perfect to me, do i insult others who have made or are making what is perfect to them. A Farewell to Arms is every bit as perfect Anna Karenina. maybe hemingway really did shoot himself because he couldn't be tolstoy, but i am not hemingway, and i am content, as austen was, to aspire to perfection on the simple scale of my own creation.

i will create the most perfect game i can make. and i will love the attempts to make it perfect: the crafting, the critiquing, the refinishing, and the endless endless polishing. i will make something beautiful.


PS if you are interested in reading what happened over on TMC, direct your browser to:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Imaginary Magic

to dg cuz i ruined his day
anyone who had to walk home in the pouring rain


today i was thinking about guilds and imms, game theory, level caps and the endless question of how to make players interested in playing their characters for a long period of time. what makes a game interesting to play for more than ten years?

in game theory terms, a mud, specifically the mud i own, dark risings, is
a hybrid game containing cooperative and non-coperative elements. for instance, coalitions of players are formed in a cooperative game (guilds) but these coalitions play against each other in a non-cooperative fashion

i find this language very difficult to navigate, needlessly convoluted. sometimes i wonder if the trouble with math right now is a lack of good translators from math into spoken language. seriously. a "non-cooperative fashion"? that means competition. games are either about working together, or working against each other. they are about cooperation, or about competition. hybrid games offer both.

in our hybrid game, a mud, characters work/play together to form a group (coalition, guild), but then the groups play competitively against each other. so gamers can both work/play together with other games, and they can compete against each other.

if there is going to be competition, there must be fair competition. i think level caps are important for this reason. it's important to have a level to reach which everyone can attain, a point at which, theoretically, the field is fair. this is the point at which all race/class combos are balanced, the point at which all of the many bonuses and checks have cancelled all of each other out. a kine mage is the equal of an ogre ranger. equal, but different.

but it's also at this point that people start competing. gamers like to be the best. they are not content with being equals in any type of game. even among teammates, gamers will compete to see who can be the most valuable to the team. competition on a ROM-type mud takes two forms: pk (or player killing) and rp (role play).

when players compete in pk, there are real and obvious winners and losers. since players are pking with characters which are (ideally) balanced (that is, an avariel druid and an ogre barbarian are equally matched: they will have very different fighting strategies, but taken as a whole (ie, counting in resistances, vulnerabilities, stats of all kinds, power of spells, power of spell combos, etc etc etc) both characters are equal. since both characters are equal, the controlling variable is the skill of each player.

some minor gains (ie guild, were, vamp) are available for those who are lucky or competent enough to get them, but ultimately, skill will trump any combo. There have been many instances where a great race/class/vamp/guild combo char has been beaten by a simple race/class combo controlled by an excellent pker.

(sidenote: i think there is also skill to putting together a good race/class combo, to using strategy to gain other enhancements such as guild spells and so on, but ultimately, i think any decently-built character in the hands of a good pker will win, regardless of whether it has a lot of extra perks or not. granted, i haven't seen someone playing the worst pk race and the worst pk class (drow wildmage imo) dominate the strongest pk race and class (drac ranger), but i think this is only because i've never seen a drow wildmage character try to pk. nobody would try that, because gamers like to win, not give themselves handicaps. a very few gamers push themselves to the limit and fight with unguilded no-perk characters. i've seen these types of chars win. it's awesome to watch. and even more awesome to win with them. there is no rush like the rush of beating a heavyweight with a lightweight.)

so clearly the real competition in pk, what is needed to win (and thus earn the respect of the other gamers) is skill in building and using a powerful character to compete with other characters.

this is where a lot of very problematic conflict came in on dr.

remember: competition on a ROM-type mud takes two forms: pk (or player killing) and rp (role play).

the real competition in rp, what is needed to win (and thus earn the respect of the other gamers) is skill and building and using a powerful character to compete with other characters.

sounds the same, right? the difference is, often rpers will create roles for themselves in which they are incredibly gifted or powerful people, and expect everyone to respect that role and treat them with utmost respect. when those rpers can also pk, there is no problem, because they can assert their power. when they can't, they are just a bunch of safe-hugging crackheads who wave their arms around making flashy lights and colours appear as they tell anyone who will listen how awesome they are. or at least, that's how they look to pkers who have been rping with them and now want to rip their arms off.

the question of "power" is problematic: in a game set in imaginary fantasy land, anything can happen. so who is to say what power is real and what power is tolerated for the sake of the game? is being able to beat someone up with your sweet script powerful? is your claim of possession of the power of a thousand-year-old demon (who seems not to be able to affect anyone else but you) powerful? doesn't having power mean having power over other people?

one can play the role of a "powerful magician" on dr, but since all mages and magic-type classes have the same basic, balanced skill level, players cannot actually realize this assertion except through pk. this means that players who cannot pk cannot try to be the best through this natural method of player-vs-player fighting.

often in the past, there have been players who did very little fighting, but were still very powerful. they were powerful because many people respected them and did what they said. they were respected not for their pk skill, which was negligble, but for their ability to weave a story around people, to bring other people into the living web of the game. i would like to see there be a way for these sort of people to earn the power to destroy their enemies without having to pk in the traditional means.

imagine a powerful mage guild in which the magi contantly research and
practice magic, toiling day after day to enhance their power and strength -- but having their "power and strength" built on imaginary concepts invented by the magi...or plagiarized by the players controlling the magi... where the magi do not research their own magic, but instead discuss new spells which they will never be able to cast without an immortal to help them fake it. it's like they are play acting, because when an inferno guild comes to attack, all these great and fine magical "arts" they've "researched" and written about do nothing to help them fend off or destroy their attackers. and the attackers, who have worked hard to become skilled assassins, worked hard to gain real power, can't really be blamed for not cowering before the imaginary might of the magi.

but the fact is, the magi who have become part of a magic guild, who work and toil day after day to discover and enhance magic, these magi SHOULD have exceptional power to protect themselves. if the game is trying to be realistic (and to me, it should be, even if it's a realistic fantasy about vampires and elves), there should be a way for non-fighter classes to protect themselves and even to be the best WITHOUT having to fight. after all, they CHOSE a non-fighter class.

magi should be able to join a magic guild and study magic, and gain power according to the work they put in. imagine a mage with the ability to kill someone with the utterance of a word... but only once a day. assassins would not be so eager to attack, nor should they be... but they might be cunning, and succeed. there are ways to silence a mage.

i think the concept of guilds needs to change. i think they need to incorporate trades, in a way. a magi guild might have one trade for each circle of magic: one for nature magic, one for death magic, one for healing magic, one for destructive magic. each of these circles might have tasks to do, rituals to perform, potions to brew, etc, etc, tasks which might take years for a character to perform in completion, each granting significant over-other-characters power. in this way, a player who most loves exploration, or who most loves doing quests, or who most loves performing rituals, can rise to power alongside someone who most loves to pk.

the question is...

could it be done without imms? it could be done without actually having "guilds" with their pomp and circumstance, but rather just guild areas which supply what is needed, and achievable powers over who can access the supplies in the guild... imagine a magi guild with limited resources... a powerful mage might force other seekers away, using the secrets he's unlocked for himself. a thief guild, which might teach new ways of sneaking, new types of sneak attacks, secrets to picking unpickable locks, poisons, how to apply sleeping potions.... that sort of guild might be totally secret, forcing one who wants to join it to think like a thief to find the hidden knowledge of the masters. a thief guild, which perhaps turns thieves into assassins.

to me, this idea has opened a new door for potential.


ps did you know stock ROM 2.4 beta has a "heroic" (level 51) which morts can attain? i wonder why this was taken out, and what muds with it in are like....

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rain and Witches

hello everyone. welcome back.

this post is supposed to be my thoughts about how dr fits into game theory. i have been working on that idea, and writing about that idea, and learning about game theory (or at least, wikipedia game theory, which i recognize for what it is. game theory. on wikipedia. i get it.).

(note: i came back and added the aside below as i was editing this post before publishing it. this should probably not go right at the begining, since it's my thoughts from after having finished the post. before i got distracted. i know, i haven't told you about the distraction yet. that's because for you, right now, this one time only i'm from the future, and for you, right now, i will make a prediction about the future of this post: after this note, and the aside which follows it, which seems to be about what my original topic was, i will get distracted...)

(aside: the simplicity of wikipedia allows me to get a basic understanding of game theory. i assume that parts of it might be wrong or misrepresented or amaturish, but at this point in my game theory development, that's okay. i think i am learning. i've been playing with putting the terminology into more intuitive terms. than "co-operative" vs "non-cooperative" by looking at dr as an example. i feel like i'm learning how an engine works. this is the mode of thought i was in when i came up to my room to write. just before getting distracted. i can't write about this tonight because my earlier distraction became inspiration in a roundabout way for the new game, and i want to share with you how i become inspired.)

well, i came upstairs and into my room tonight to write.

i settled in to write about game theory, but then i noticed an odd sound. it's raining out, raining hard. the streets are slick and black with rain, the air is full of raindrops which flicker and glow like lightning bugs, catching the light here and there as they fall.

night rain is the best kind of rain. rain on the prairies here is magical. it seldom rains in these deep thirsty fields east of the Rocky Mountain ridge. one of the things i love about calgary, nestled between the foothills and the fields, is how often it rains. in saskatchewan, where i grew up, a solid rain that might soak through your clothes to your skin was rare to the point of scarcity. and for the last two weeks it's been cold here in our almost-mountain city, past the crisp cold evenings that make the end of your nose feel nothing but cold, into sharp nights where the very lights also are cold, cold unwavering stars in an uncaring sky. winter is a time of beauty, and of risk.

but tonight, it's raining, a heavy soft warm rain cleansing the city, washing away the dirty slush of the day. i open my windows as far as they will go, and it's far. life in this city is rich even for mendicants like me. the window far open, my feather pillows pressed against the sill, a warm feather blanket over my legs, silky and grey like the down of a silver swan. warm light from the beautiful dusky rose shades of two lamps. i feel surrounded by warmth and beauty, and the soft gentle sound of rain. this will be the last rain before winter. the land now must sleep.

people think that saskatchewan is a land without nature. when people think of nature, they think of trees. forests, woods, possibly the beach (though one should note when people say they are getting "back to nature" no one assumes they are heading to the beach). for most people, woods are necessary for a setting to be considered "nature". in the long dull drives through saskatchewan, most often done in the heart of winter on a dreary trip to stay with in-laws for the holidays, the land is hidden. all that can be seen is the dark muddy fields and spots of patchy snow which may not even be snow but salt flats, where the land has been destroyed and left untillable by nature itself. the few trees in sight are desolate and fornlorn. what a barren place, these strangers think, and they drive on.

but saskatchewan in the summer is a wholly different place. in the summer there is nothing but one day after another of long, cloudless summer blue sky sunshine. all creatures live and grow here, but they are subtle and small, delicate-looking but hardy and resistant. this is the paradise to which creatures return in the summer. there is nothing like going out on horseback, riding for five or ten minutes over a rise and looking off into eternity, until the eye can no longer follow the low stretch of land to the horizon, until nowhere can be seen any sign of mankind. instead, there are: deer. antelope. songbirds. hunting birds. harmless snakes. rattlers. gophers, dozens of gophers. grasshoppers. butterflies. nowadays, as the wide wild places dwindle even in canada, there are moose. even the moose seek sanctuary in the deep secret places of saskatchewan.

you see, the land looks flat. but looks lie. as you continue out into the plains, away from the highways, amazing things begin to appear. lac pelletier is a lake hidden entirely within a folded valley. it is long and narrow. one can drive within ten miles of it and not see that there is a lake hidden below.

near my hometown is a tiny crevice which holds a forest, complete with a creek for wading or fishing, and full of animals such as wild beavers, birds of all kinds, deer, and, if you believe my father, cougars. they are woods built equally for exploring, and for lying beneath the trees and staring up at the ever blue sky just visible through the swaying branches. these are the whispering pines.

much of my childhood was spent exploring the nature of the prairies. watching gophers or badgers or anthills for hours, bringing home baby magpies, baby hawks, injured kittens, plastic crates of grasshoppers, plastic buckets full of frogs or garter snakes, my pockets always full of pretty rocks i'd found and often wearing crowns of golden dandelions which i had plucked long-stemmed and woven together.

once i found a bumblebee which was clearly dying, and although i was afraid it would sting me, i felt sad that it was dying all alone in a playground. i argued with myself: never trust a bee. they sting. And i argued back: they do. but even bees deserve to have someone care that they are alone and injured. i built around it a beautiful temple of dandelions as bright as the bee, so it wouldn't feel lonely, and then read aloud to it from my book. when i looked down again, the bee was clearly dead. the next day i went back out to that spot of the playground, and the dandelions were there, looking sad and limp and dull, but the bee was nowhere to be found. i hope his bee family found him and took him home.

i have tried to paint a portrait of the prairies, a place which i love and miss dearly. i want you to understand the frame of mind i am in when i am building and designing for our game. the rain tonight brought me back into this dream of nature and compassion, of innocense and happiness and hope in faith and goodness. this portrait of empathy. imagine this portrait now as the backdrop of one of only two classes the new mud will have: the witch.

the witch. witches in our game will not be the witches of fairy tale, nor the wiccans of new religion. our game will have no religion. witches will be as i imagine them, in the secret unfolding land of the deep prairie. i think a witch would be someone with compassion and empathy to build places of power for injured creatures. witches would tap into the power of nature, becoming one with all things, all people, all living creatures who whisper and breathe, from pine trees to insects to birds and animals of all kinds. no witch would ever harm a living thing, believing as they do that all living things are one. to kill another would be to kill the self. gains in experience and advancement for the witch will not be brought about through the deaths of live things... unless... the witch herself were to become evil, and her powers darken into destruction and capricious chaos.

i meant to write about gaming tonight, and was distracted by the rain. thank you for bearing with me. i will write more again soon. there is so much more i want to write about, such as why we are only going to have two classes on the new mud, and what made us decide that, and of course, what the other class will be. (psst. it's ninja. very. cool. class.) but for now, writing has wrung me out. i debated about posting this or not, since it's not typical game blogging fare, but what the heck. this is what came out tonight. blame it on the rain.

i will be back with less girly thoughts soon.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Consider This Your Invitation

dear people who are interested in thinking seriously about gaming, in writing about gaming, in writing period, in reading the writing of a mad blonde game designer,
--i don't where you all are out there. but i am writing to you, and would love further correspondence.

dear people who are interested in the specific game of dr,
--this blog is not primarily about dr. it is about gaming, but will probably contain references to dr if i can use it to illustrate examples about my theories of game design. you may learn interesting things about how dr works, but nothing that is secret. dr's secrets will not show up here.

to: people who nitpick writing
--if you are are feeling distracted by the absence of capitalization or quotation marks in this work, then please take a moment to consider the following:
-my thoughts have few capital letters.
-my conversations have no quotation marks.
-punctution describes how writing should be read.
-let conventions slide.
-those things are not important here.

i am a game designer who recently left off working on someone else's vision for a game and decided to make my own. making a game, designing a game from the ground up, is sheer pleasure for me. although i feel i did many innovative and interesting things on the game i just left, there was too much there which i felt needed correction and change, too much that had gone bad and too much that had been lost. i also found myself itching to change the story, to make it better, to make it more rich, more interesting, more alluring, more real. i did this in many quiet ways, like replacing dusty felt curtains at an old theatre with heavy velvet ones, rich and red. my partner in crime (ie my coder, a most talented, gifted, and generous coder. he has a good sense of humour, too.) and i did good things at that mud, but we left because what we want now is to create something new and better, something beautiful.

when we left we didn't know exactly what it was we wanted to do. there were no longer any limits. we weren't shackled to an irregular buggy code patched together in snippets and drunken amateur coding attempts. we no longer had to be concerned about player outrage over the changes we felt should be made. there were many reasons we felt we had to leave that other mud which may, i suspect, come up often in my writing here. however, i must point out that although my coder and i still are owners of this other mud (along with our third owner there who is not involved in our project here), we have given up all direct control of this other mud, and no longer have any creative or coding or staffing input whatsoever. i have been playing again as a mortal, the way i used to be able to play before i became involved with the staffing of the game. it is a very enjoyable game to play, which makes me proud and happy. my coder and i no longer pay for the mud either, but we have told the players how to donate, and how cheap it is to keep the mud afloat. between the dedicated staff and the solid commitment and loyalty of the players, i think dr will stay afloat. it will be eleven years old on october 31. <3

anyway, ultimately, to make a long story short: we now want to create a perfect prototype for a mud.

we see a lot of problems with how traditional mudding has worked. the main problem, i think, is this.

muds were created by people who were learning how to code as they coded. muds were then taken and adapted by other people doing the same thing, and new versions were released. we were running a rom 2.4 mud which not only has gone through several revisions (how muds developed is a fasincating story... i'm unsure of whether to tell that story right now or not... perhaps later, let's go on). anyway, it had gone through several revisions just on the code base itself, which is available for download for free to anyone. then, it had gone through several coders with varying levels of coding proficiency. rom code is COMPLEX. it's full of tables and tables and tables and tenuous links from one part of the game to another. rom code is a delicately patterned, like lace. people who don't know how to make lace, when they try to add to an existing piece of lace or try to fix it, these amateurs may try hard but often accidentally make a clumsy mess of it. that's what the code of dr is like. it's like lace into which clumsy fingers have blundered many times. some of these blunders came from dr's own coders. some came from the blunders of previous rom designers. some came from horribly blundered "snippets" which are patches, patches on lace.

the point is, problems in game play arose from problems in code. since people who work on muds are often not good programmers, attempts to correct those problems were not done with code, but with putting rules into the game. in order to have rules, someone must enforce the rules, and so a game with rules needs arbitrators or "immortals" as they're called in dr) (note: i will not call them immortals on the new game. the term muddies the story of creation since that speaks only of three deities. this is one of the many problems i have with dr. it has such bad form.).

in this type of game, where the conflict is meant to be between players, the introduction of rules inevitably creates conflict between players and staff, instead of just the game-conflict which is player-player. in some cases this player-staff conflict is treated like game-conflict by one or both of the player and staff member involved. this inevitably ends in a player getting banned from the game, whether the staff member is at fault or not, because i am the one who has to deal with it, and i hate it. there is nothing worse to be pulled out of building or writing because i have to deal with some dope who thinks it's okay to pick a fight with the referee. my game, my referees, they know the rules. people who have a problem with them should come to me privately. i am harsh with people who knowingly break the rules, especially if those people are staff, whom i hold to a much higher standard. the player should talk to me about the situation and then find some other player to fight, not keep trying to ko the staff. the staff will always win, and the player will always lose. the staff is immortal. however, i do investigate suggestions that any staff member of mine is corrupt. i police my staff to uphold my ideals. most of the time i have tried to choose staff who share my belief in these ideals of honesty, fairness, honour, like a gentleman's game. sometimes people have fooled me, pretended to beleive in these things to gain power in the game, and behave unscrupulously whenever my back was turned. these people have made me a less trusting person than i used to be. other people do not cheat because they know i am watching them. those kind of people also make me sad.

but i think the ability to cheat is a flaw in game design. games can be ideal worlds, a programmer's ideal and perfect place. places of magic. places of fear and mystery. places of excitement. if a programmer can create all this, then he should be able to create a world in which all attempts to cheat will fail.

if it simply isn't possible to cheat at a game, there don't need to be any rules for a game. if no rules, then the only conflict which can exist will be player-player. i would kind of like a way to make immortal status real and achievable. i think that would be pretty fun. as it is there are only a few things that immortals can do to cheat, and only a very few which could affect someone detrimentally. i think those could be controlled with good coding. then players could become immortal. that would be a pretty cool ability. i think immortals should also be players. dr doesn't have the code to support that, because there are such massive power imbalances between morts and imms there. but the new game can.

in my next post, i will be writing about game theory and applying it to the game of mudding. i will try to use math to explain what i think makes a great game. other posts will relate how the new game is finally coming together, in terms of what it will be, how it will look, what races and classes we will be implementing, the new variables we will be adding to the game, what we will be taking away from the game, and many other things. it's very exciting!

one last thing today. judging from the last blog i wrote on (which was also the first blog i wrote on, an admin blog which my coder created a few months before we left dr), there are many people at dr who are unhappy that we kept the code for dr locked when we left. i know there has been a fear of stagnation, and although to me the game seems vibrant and alive, i do understand your concern. i don't want dr to die off either. i left because i had faith that dr would not die off. i still have that faith. anyway, my coder and i have been discussing whether or not to release dr code, either as it is now, or as it will be once we strip away all the bad and polish up all the good. maybe we will release both versions. maybe not. there are a lot of things to consider, but we are considering things.