Saturday, July 17, 2010

Building Character

So the last few weeks have been pretty chaotic. I used to work for my dad off and on, between bouts of education: for two years after the time I spent writing about Aristotle and coversations between God and Satan; summers the next two years while I was learning and testing theories about criticism and transmission of knowledge. After that I sort of knew what I wanted to do in life and off I went to do it.

But, this year my dad really needed some help and I know the job and, really, I do have the freedom in life to be able to go and stay somewhere for the six months if that's what's necessary. And besides, Saskatchewan is paradise in the summer. I've been driving out in the back country soaking in all the beauty I can hold. We went fishing the other night and came back with not one fish but three or four dozen crayfish. My dad and I cooked them up and shelled their tails and tiny little claws and I made a lobster thermador using crayfish meat, which we ate on the back deck in the setting sun light. People can keep their mountains. It's the sky for me.

Still, it's baling season and I'm working 12 hours a day dragging around massive heavy belts giant metal pulleys and knives and teeth and all sorts of other nasty things covered in grease and oil and poky parts. It's hard chaotic work and I come home, take a bath, talk on the phone for an hour or so, and fall asleep. The good parts are I've lost 5 pounds,and it's a perfect place to wear my black engineer-style cap with the little black bow. The bad parts are, I haven't worked there for two years and there's a lot I have forgotten and it's a very stressful job, and it's busier than I remember it ever being.

All of which to show why I haven't had much time even for playing videogames let alone for building a mud.

However, last night, after a crazy week of 12 hour shifts, I had the night off. After watching this awesome Japanese vampire movie with my dad, I decided to pick up my Summoner game, which I hadn't had a chance to play all week.

So I was wandering around in the Ikaemos swamp thinking, as I always do when I play video games, about the new game. In Summoner (Devotion and THC), Joseph is this farmer born with a mark who has to go around collecting rings in order to be able to summon the demons bound to the rings. When he's wearing the rings, if he gains XP, the rings he's wearing gain XP, and when the rings' XP reaches a certain level, Joseph gets access to a new summonable.

I started thinking about how that could be done within the framework of our mud. Thinking about EQ and the problem of there being not enough motivation for people who are finished levelling to engage with the game, leading them to sit around and become players who say things like,

"Behold! I am a powerful wizard! Beware my wrath, or I will flutter my hands around, and emote lights and sounds! I may even act your role for you, graciously showing you how to react to my awesome display of magic which no one else in the game can see or feel! You say it's not real magic, but I say it is, and I can tell you a hundred very long stories about all the mighty feats I did to gain access to this magic! What does it matter that I just made the stories up and didn't actually do any of them? This game is all about making stories up, right?"

It drives me crazy to see players doing this because I think it makes the game feel hokey and cheap, and makes players aware that they are playing a game. Although I love cubism, this is not a cubist mud. I don't want players to be aware of the frame. I want them to enter it, to accept its reality as their own, to create depth.

So if that's what I want, why not use code to reward people who do go out and engage with the game?

We had already decided not to stop the XP counter when a character reaches level 50, so that characters can accumulate XP forever (from fighting monsters, exploring areas and completing quests, winning games run both by AI and by staff, by performing tasks set by guilds, etc.) I want to give players real power, and to reward all types of play. I want people to sit around and roleplay, but I ALSO want them to go out and play the game itself and work to gain real in-game power with their characters.

I think one good way to do this is to give (Magic) objects an XP counter which is related to the player's XP counter, so that while a player wears a (Magic) object, a portion (as yet undetermined) of the XP they earn while wearing the object will go on that object's XP counter.

We just made a whole bunch of new v-slots for objects (we are making each weapon type have a cool unique ability) so I thought it would be possible to have objects be able to:

* Set an item's XP counter to 0 when worn; and

* Specify a preset XP amount which, when reached, will give ring new abilities; and

* Specify two or three different levels so that the item can become more and more powerful as the wearer gains more and more XP.

I think it would be great to have (Magic) items not reveal their true natures until they have shared enough experiences with the wearer. Bullies who attack people with activated (Magic) items and loot them would find themselves with an ordinary eq of no particular value, because removing such an object in any way (such as with the 'remove' or 'loot' commands) would reset its XP counter to 0.

I think this would be fun to do for Jewelry type items :)

I was going to write a lot more, but I got sidetracked helping a new builder get set up. This is a great time to get involved because now is the time decisions are being made, so if you're interested in building, playtesting, or if you want to help in some other capacity drop me an email at


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