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....


  1. I would like the level system completely done away with, and rather have rp'ing and your collection of skills and abilities dictate your worth. There's nothing worse (or better) for taking the fun out of a game than having to grind to level X. I can visualize ways around this problem...can you?

    ps. i've been working, and this made my day, rather than ruin it, hah!

  2. HAI SIDONIE! You're blog is too pink! BAI SIDONIE!

    -TPB Kamille

  3. I would like to talk with you. Do you have MSN?

  4. i do have msn, but i feel a little weird giving it out to an anonymous stranger. if you'd like to communicate with me please feel free to email me at love to chat :)