Transition from text adventures to MUD...

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Mike Rozak

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Jan 12, 2004, 8:56:44 PM1/12/04
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Does anyone have any experience in designing both IFs and MUDs?

The more I consider writing a graphica IF authoring tool, the more
interested I become in an online component. Online provides some nice
features:

Player's POV:
- Ask other users for hints
- Use the IF title as a filter for other people interested in activities
you're interested in. IE: Each IF becomes a small (and temporary) social
group for meeting people based on a shared interest - the IF.
- Results in better IF because (as noted below) author gets better feedback
about how users interact with the IF.

Author's POV:
- Feedback to the author about how users are exploring the IF, either from
logs or observation.
- Corrallary: Author can easily chat with users and learn what works and
doesn't work
- Pleasure of author seeing their IF title being used
- Ability to protect content from piracy (by having it stored on the
author's server)


However, history has shown that if you take a IF (in the form of a text
adventure) and make it multi-user, you end up with a MUD. This is how MUDs
first began. From what I've seen, MUDs are a completely different beast than
IFs. (Theoretically they could be nearly the same, but in practice, once
multi-users ability is added to an IF, it inevitably seems to change and
loses some of the IF-ness.)

I have been trying to figure out why adding an online-component inevitably
turns an IF to a MUD. I have come up with the following reaons. If you know
of others, please step in. (I am interested in the reasons because if I know
why the transformation happens, I might be able to stop it with an
appropriate design.)


1) As soon as multiple users are wandering around an IF, the programmer puts
in chat functionality. (Since this is an obvious thing to do.) Chat
functionality has a downside for the IF though, because it allows players to
more easily ask each other for hints. This reduces the time it takes for a
player to complete the IF. (Of course, players can always download
game-walkthroughs. Personally, I'd be quicker to ask a fellow player for a
hint than download a walkthrough because a) it's easier, and b) it's a way
of starting up a conversation.)

2) Since several people are inevitably wandering around the world, they may
also want to pass items back and forth or work on puzzles together. This
causes a MAJORf
--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

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Jan 12, 2004, 9:15:16 PM1/12/04
to
Sorry, I accidentally sent it half way through writing... here's the full
version:

Does anyone have any experience in designing both IFs and MUDs?

The more I consider writing a graphica IF authoring tool, the more
interested I become in an online component. Online provides some nice
features:

Player's POV:
- Ask other users for hints
- Use the IF title as a filter for other people interested in activities
you're interested in. IE: Each IF becomes a small (and temporary) social
group for meeting people based on a shared interest - the IF.
- Results in better IF because (as noted below) author gets better feedback
about how users interact with the IF.

Author's POV:
- Feedback to the author about how users are exploring the IF, either from
logs or observation.
- Corrallary: Author can easily chat with users and learn what works and
doesn't work
- Pleasure of author seeing their IF title being used
- Ability to protect content from piracy (by having it stored on the
author's server)


However, history has shown that if you take a IF (in the form of a text
adventure) and make it multi-user, you end up with a MUD. This is how MUDs
first began. From what I've seen, MUDs are a completely different beast than
IFs. (Theoretically they could be nearly the same, but in practice, once

multi-user functionaloty is added to an IF, it inevitably seems to change


and
loses some of the IF-ness.)

I have been trying to figure out why adding an online-component inevitably
turns an IF to a MUD. I have come up with the following reaons. If you know
of others, please step in. (I am interested in the reasons because if I know
why the transformation happens, I might be able to stop it with an
appropriate design.)


1) As soon as multiple users are wandering around an IF, the programmer puts
in chat functionality. (Since this is an obvious thing to do.) Chat
functionality has a downside for the IF though, because it allows players to
more easily ask each other for hints. This reduces the time it takes for a

player to complete the IF. (Of course, players without chat can always


download
game-walkthroughs. Personally, I'd be quicker to ask a fellow player for a
hint than download a walkthrough because a) it's easier, and b) it's a way
of starting up a conversation.)

2) Since several people are inevitably wandering around the world, they may
also want to pass items back and forth or work on puzzles together. This

causes a MAJOR problems with the IF because players can interfere with each
other's world. This makes puzzles very difficult to impliment because they
must still work, even with hundreds of players wandering around, all trying
to accomplish the same things. Players end up stepping on each others toes.

3) Items 1 and 2 reduce the efficacy of puzzles, so the author tries to find
something else for players to do on their online IF. This usually involves
killing monsters (or each other) since monsters can be automatically
regenerated. They're a much easier source of entertainment (for some people)
than trying to write puzzles and/or plot/story that can withstand hundreds
of users at the same time. In a broader sense, the IF world becomes static,
and the only activity is provided by the players and occasional NPCs - who
are largely static.

4) Once a user has gone through all the author's content (which may happen
very rapidly if they're talking to one another), they are left twiddling
their thumbs. All they can do is chat and fight monsters. There is a strong
tendency at this point for the author to expand his/her IF since the author
doesn't want to loose the players (which would always happen if the users
finished an off-line IF) and the players which stay don't want to leave the
author's IF. Hence, the players ask for more content in the same IF, and the
author obliges. This ends up producing a huge IF, tens of times larger than
anything that would be seen offline. It also causes a bit of stagnation,
just like Hollywood movie sequels tend to stagnate.

5) The author's desire to keep the players around requires that the author
not only create content, but also do social engineering. After all, once the
content is exhausted, it's the social aspects of the IF that keep the users
around. Some players (griefers) are detrimental to the community, so the
author either spends time kicking off undesirables, or designing a system
that encourages them to go elsewhere.

I suppose my observations are a bit negative. They are based on my own
experiences writing an adventure BBS in the 1980's, and information about
MUDs and MMORPG that I have gleemed from the Internet and books.

So to reiterate my question: Has anyone else had experience with authoring
both MUDs and IF? Can you explain why the addition of an on-line component
of IF inevitably changes the experience so completely? I'd really like to
design an IF that has on-line components, but which doesn't morph into a
MUD.

Thanks

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Andrew Plotkin

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Jan 12, 2004, 9:43:28 PM1/12/04
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Here, Mike Rozak <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote:
>
> So to reiterate my question: Has anyone else had experience with authoring
> both MUDs and IF?

Several of the folk here (not including me) help maintain and extend
the IFMUD. But that's entirely a chat system, not an IF-style gaming
experience. I mention it only to get it out of the way. :)

> Can you explain why the addition of an on-line component of IF
> inevitably changes the experience so completely? I'd really like to
> design an IF that has on-line components, but which doesn't morph
> into a MUD.

I think you nailed the reasons already. The base cause, I guess, is
that players expect an on-line game to be an on-going experience. IF
is a short-term, bounded experience. I don't want to say "inherently
short-term", but that's what it is today. An adventure game (text or
graphical) takes a few days, if you're willing to accept hints. (As
you note, in an on-line game, nearly everybody will be exchanging
hints.)

If you can present a networked game in such a way that players expect
to get together in a group, play through it, reach the end, and be
done -- then that would not evolve into a chat-room or static world.

It's an interesting problem, which I'm now watching in real time in
the new online Myst game. Right now it *is* a chat-room. The game
hasn't launched yet. They recently tossed us a challenge to keep us
entertained while we wait; I think it took three hours before some
players had engulfed it, digested it, and started discussing the
solution in the spoiler forum. (Probably would have been even faster,
except that client slowdown is one of the bugs they haven't fixed
yet.)

We don't yet know how they're going to deal with the ongoing content
problem. It's possible they don't *have* a solution.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."
*
* Make your vote count. Get your vote counted.

Jayson Smith

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Jan 13, 2004, 5:55:58 AM1/13/04
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Ok, here are a few thoughts on the subject.
First, most muds I've seen do not take the IF form, in that they are basicly
glorified chat rooms. In this type of environment, the authors need not
worry about providing content if they don't want to, because chatting is the
main purpose. What the people responsible for the operation of the mud
usually do is oversee the mud, the database, the mud system's code and the
well-being of such, adding in new features and fixing bugs when appropriate.
These persons are usually referred to as the wizards of the mud, in most
systems. Some of the wizards have access to the code that actually runs the
mud, while others only have access to the database, which is that collection
of objects, rooms, players, exits, and other types of creations which make
up the mud. As with probably many other muds, on ifMud, sometimes the
higher up wizards add new features to the mud code. This lets the nonwizard
players who, on ifMud, are allowed to build their own objects, to play with
the new features and build new, nifty things. But mostly we just sit around
and chat.
Some other muds have specific tasks for all players. Some of these, like
Federation (a pay-to-play mud-like system) basicly have a preset way in
which a player advances from level to level. Such systems are written in
such a way that many people can be, and often are, working on the same
problem at the same time, independently. Some other types of muds have
quests, which are small sections of the mud sort of like text adventures.
When you do a quest, you are trying to do something although you aren't
always told just what. Most such systems I've seen have have some quests
which you play alone, and have very strict rules on what information may be
exchanged between players about the various available quests.
Well I hope this has been of some help.
Jayson.

"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in message
news:UwIMb.8604$Wa....@news-server.bigpond.net.au...

Rexx Magnus

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Jan 13, 2004, 6:09:49 AM1/13/04
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On Tue, 13 Jan 2004 10:55:58 GMT, Jayson Smith scrawled:

> Ok, here are a few thoughts on the subject.
> First, most muds I've seen do not take the IF form, in that they are
> basicly glorified chat rooms. In this type of environment, the authors
> need not worry about providing content if they don't want to, because
> chatting is the main purpose.

*snip*

It really depends upon the engine being used. Moo is more of a socialising
space, whilst Merc is more combat based - which makes it a bit more inline
with current mmorpgs. Depends on what you want to use it for as to which
engine you choose, and thus what people can do in it.

The one appealing factor of MUDs is that you can construct the world from
the 'inside' for a larger part, without having to resort to coding in an
editor, as with IF.

It would be good to be able to write inform this way (at least for
describing objects, placing them and creating the map) then tweak the rest
in code as normal.

--
http://www.rexx.co.uk

To email me, visit the site.

Michael J. Fromberger

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Jan 13, 2004, 9:07:09 AM1/13/04
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> "Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in message
> news:UwIMb.8604$Wa....@news-server.bigpond.net.au...
> >
> > Does anyone have any experience in designing both IFs and MUDs?

In article <V7QMb.43030$PP5....@bignews4.bellsouth.net>,


"Jayson Smith" <rat...@bellsouth.net> wrote:
> Ok, here are a few thoughts on the subject.
> First, most muds I've seen do not take the IF form, in that they are basicly
> glorified chat rooms.

Although I have only written a couple of IF games, I have fair bit of
experience playing them, and also designing and building MUD-type
environments. I, too, have thought about the issue of multi-player IF,
and the chief problem seems to be that unless you control your
environment very carefully, everybody comes into a MUD-style game with
different kinds and levels of motivation.

Some show up simply to be sociable -- whole rooms full of people just
chatting. Where this doesn't occur (e.g., combat-heavy LPmud based
games), it often becomes an uninspiring game of "who can go around and
hack up the most monsters first." Vasty flame-wars have been fought
over the question of whether player-killing (PK) should be admissible
around such systems. Very little IF takes place. Furthermore, I have
always found it very difficult to design good multiplayer puzzles and
"quests" that cannot be made insoluble by a bad combination of character
actions.

Then, too, there is the problem of time: In a MUD, time is usually
continuous; whereas an IF is meant to end once you have completed the
story. Some MUDs emulate this by having "resets", where the same old
quests "come back" after a while so that new people can do them. But I
have always found that to be a gross hack.

Now, in my heart of hearts, I would like to believe that an open,
multiplayer IF/MUD hybrid is possible. But I think that in order to
make it playable and fun, and keep that wonderful sense of mimesis and
"story" a good IF game possesses, you would have to restrict the MUD
side very sharply: Maybe, for instance, you would have to choose all
the players and get them all signed in before the IF begins, and then
when anyone signs out, the whole game-state for that session is saved,
and play is suspended.

That isn't to say it's impossible -- a lot of the ideas M. Rozak
described are certainly appealing. But I feel as if there is a
fundamental difference in the nature of IF vs. MUD which will require
more than just a technical solution.

-M

--
Michael J. Fromberger | Lecturer, Dept. of Computer Science
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~sting/ | Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA

Anvilsmith

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Jan 13, 2004, 4:04:55 PM1/13/04
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From both this and your previous posts, I understand you want a
puzzle-heavy form of IF. When you switch it from single-player to
persistent multiplayer, there's one thing you must (and probably do)
understand... You're switching from a game to a service. Or a
money-making, cattleherding operation.

Anyway, IFs bring in an element of discovery, which they can only keep
for so long without being updated. This happens whether they're online
or not. One problem here is the internet culture, because of which
players expect to just log in and play, at all hours, in all
conditions. If nothing new appears every day, they get bored. If you
want to limit the MUD aspect, you could encourage players to team up
and log in only when there's a new adventure waiting for them, but
that would wipe away some of the benefits you mentioned.


"Chat functionality has a downside for the IF though, because it
allows players to more easily ask each other for hints."

Even worse, it can kill the atmosphere that graphics are constantly
trying to set in... It's interesting how, in a MUD, you can pretty
much ignore the atmospheric scenery around you. Even when room echoes
trigger from time to time, they only affect one of your senses, and
you can foolishly treat them as spam. A graphical scenery (especially
the dynamic sort - I'm talking about preset animations like the sky
turning from day to night) with sound elements thrown in will do a
much better job preserving the atmosphere... Until, of course, you get
used to the chatty side of things and start mistaking the background
for a pretty wallpaper. This is why you'll never be able to carry IF
into multiplayer, at least if you decide to keep it commercial...
Games that disallow or limit chatter don't get more than a few hundred
players, and usually enjoy only ten or twenty. That's largely because
of their strict enforcement of role-playing, but I suspect that the
lack of in-game chat channels plays at least a small part in it.
You're stuck with two options here: sacrifice atmosphere (that is,
quality) by allowing free chat, or sacrifice popularity by persecuting
it. If you want to charge anything for your authoring tool, expect to
see a lot of the latter.

"2) Since several people are inevitably wandering around the world,
they may also want to pass items back and forth or work on puzzles
together."

There are very simple ways to fix the inventory problem, although the
ones I envision would limit the game... Put decay on the items (or
prevent them from passing gateways that lead between adventures*), and
allow an infinite ammount of them to be spawned. Rather than place the
items themselves somewhere, you'll have to cleverly design "vending
machines" of some sort - the weapon rack for swords, the bookcase for
the magic scroll etc. If items had to be used up for completing a
puzzle and gaining a key, a player would have to backtrack after
giving away that key, which would make players less inclined to
"trade" their goods.

*I consider an "adventure" to be a group of puzzles arranged together
in some coherent way, where solving certain puzzles allows the player
to solve others.

As for hints, you can remedy that in an interesting and MUDish way.
Give the players classes, and program your puzzles so that each class
can approach them in a different way, essentially making three or four
puzzles out of each. That way, if a skill is being underused, just
make an excellent adventure that relies on it. If the puzzles were
clearly more enjoyable to those who featured that skill (say, there
were plenty of machines around - this would promise cool features to
everyone who had engineering), it would become more popular among the
players. Just keep that skill useful in the next adventures, and
you'll soon have a loyal fanbase for it.

Note that both classes and skills would encourage players to get
themselves several accounts, as that would instantly earn them new
skills/classes. The author might consider charging extra for all
accounts beyond the first. It's impossible to do in an IF where the
player can experience everything, but with this system on, you can
slip in pay-per-view elements without overly annoying the players.
Also, you could trick them into beta-testing an adventure to get a new
skill, if you advertise it well. Whatever the author does, however, he
should never even consider offering "premium", pay-to-play adventures,
even if they're completely unique or give side-benefits like adding
skills. By doing that, he'd have to keep the players from developing
new content, or make sure they don't do anything remotely as good as
the official adventures. Everyone will migrate to the free content
otherwise.

"This makes puzzles very difficult to impliment because they
must still work, even with hundreds of players wandering around, all
trying
to accomplish the same things."

The biggest problem of MUD (the game) was that, from its onset, it was
regarded as a single-player game where people could play together. For
instance, even if someone in a room was holding a torch, everyone else
would only see darkness, because the torch only affected its owner.
This bug was later fixed, but its cause lingered. Aside from its
technical problems, MUD had a lot of static "secrets" in it, and since
everyone could find them after getting a few spoilers, everyone did.
I'll only mention this for now: with graphics involved, it's going to
be much tougher to let users design new content.

One of the things that carries over from single player is the
perception that every player has to accomplish the same things in
order to go through something. First, randomly assigned content can
exist, and in the case of "single-shot" adventures that may be gone
through only once per account, it might actually work. Second,
cooperative and competitive elements can be introduced, sometimes in
unison. An adventure that uses competitive elements would probably
need to start off cooperative. Otherwise, it could forcefully keep
solitary players from getting in, or disregard the competitive side of
things while only one player was in it. The downside is that, if hints
were available, the whole competitive side of the adventure would be
spoiled.

You also assume that the author just throws in adventures and expects
the players to solve them. Well, apart from tinkering with your preset
adventures and adding "infixes" to minimize the effect of hints, you
could grant limited design powers to the players - let them design
puzzles and adventures. It would improve the social interaction
(whether that's a good thing or not, I won't say) and allow designers
to interact with players in real time. In other words, this could be
the dawn of puzzle-game DMing. A voting process could be instituted,
and in exchange for every vote, the popular designer would receive a
deduction of his monthly cost. Profuse ass-kissing might ensure, but
the whole thing would encourage people to design puzzles appropriate
to the present audience... Which, I suppose, can also be a bad thing,
especially when you're trying to educate your players.

Player-based design would be extremely easy to add into a text-based
MUD, but you want graphics... Sadly, you might end up with poor user
content because of this, since graphics design works against a strong
imagination (by the time you're done making one image, you've already
experienced and forgotten thousands more). Then again, work can always
be split between graphics and puzzle designers. Another issue is that
you're unlikely to find many puzzle-loving players with serious
graphics skills, and if you don't... Good luck developing your
graphics library. I'm assuming that people will tire of prefabricated
content, and while you'll provide variations to it, many puzzles rely
not on variations, but on unique details. Often enough, however, these
details can be represented through text... I've seen many NWN modules
in which an approximate image had to be used for a specific item: a
pearl, for instance, became an egg, while a sheath was converted into
an odd musical instrument.

When a few of your players start making wonderful graphics, you'll
have to make sure they conform with your own - yours might be
realistic, theirs might be magical and surreal. There's an advantage
to having both types, but if they don't go together well, you'll have
to allow highly thematic zones to exist, and venture into the sort of
insanity you'll find in many hack&slash MUDs.

I suppose it depends on the engine itself... I imagine it to be
something like a static Morrowind, where you can lay down objects and
adjust them, as well as plant an invisible camera object somewhere.

"Items 1 and 2 reduce the efficacy of puzzles, so the author tries to
find
something else for players to do on their online IF."

Yes, but don't limit yourself to monsters and static NPCs. Instead,
you could create highly replayable puzzles and other small
attractions. Some would forbid creative use (a slot machine is an
example), while others, like a deck of cards, would allow great user
imput. I don't see why an arcade couldn't be considered a highly
replayable and non-linear adventure - you win enough games, and you'll
"graduate" to the back rooms, where they play poker and d&d for hard
cash. With limited design powers, the players themselves could create
such games... Just imagine all the content they'd be providing. It
might be static content, but it keeps everyone "fit" and pleased while
new adventures are being built.

Everything I said also addresses #5, so I'll say this again... Allow
the players to create adventures, and enforce a ranking system,
possibly a vote-based salary (which may or may not exceed the player's
monthly cost, depending on how many votes he gets). You'll be getting
mounds of content out of this, and players will be able to interact
with each other through their creations, without being in the same
timezone.

"I'd really like to design an IF that has on-line components, but
which doesn't morph into a MUD."

That just invalidates everything I said... Bleh. At least, I hope
someone will find all this useful. I'd recommend a few MUD-theory
forums for your cultural gratification, but it seems you're trying to
avoid the concept...

Default User

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Jan 13, 2004, 5:09:52 PM1/13/04
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"Michael J. Fromberger" wrote:
>

> Now, in my heart of hearts, I would like to believe that an open,
> multiplayer IF/MUD hybrid is possible. But I think that in order to
> make it playable and fun, and keep that wonderful sense of mimesis and
> "story" a good IF game possesses, you would have to restrict the MUD
> side very sharply: Maybe, for instance, you would have to choose all
> the players and get them all signed in before the IF begins, and then
> when anyone signs out, the whole game-state for that session is saved,
> and play is suspended.

It's a challenge. I was a wizard on EOTL <http://www.eotl.org> and still
am, but inactive presently. Having come from an IF background, I spent a
lot of time thinking about areas that would be more like a IF experience
vs the more simplistic ones common to MUDS. That means getting away from
areas with set places where certain NPCs will be found for the player to
kill or whatever, with static quests that don't change after being
solved.


You still have to take into account the essential differences of MUDs
vs. typical IF. MUDs are designed for player character development, and
will have PCs with vastly different levels.


One way to provide new things to do is to have limited time mini-quests.
You can also restrict player activities to a certain degree.

One aread I was looking at, which never got beyond the planning stage,
was the Film Noir area. This would emulate an environment like that The
Maltese Falcon or other similar films.

There'd be ongoing small quests which would earn one player only some
points. There'd be good and bad things possible, i.e. you could take on
an assassination, or work to bring a fugitive to justice. Missing
mcguffins could be out there to be found and turned if for reward or
sold to the shady character down at the docks. A lot of these could be
automated, the system at startup would gen some available quests.

Then there'd be larger things the programmer could add periodically,
major quests. Once performed by a player, they would be done. Maybe a
bank heist, you have to find out when and where and stop the perps.
Maybe a valuable object d'art will pass through town on a train, and
there's a buyer.

An important aspect would be informants. NPCs that know stuff about the
quests. However, they might not be that forthcoming, or give bogus
information. The player could develop relationships with the NPC, maybe
help him or her with a task to gain trust. A little cash never hurt.
Maybe a chain of informants:

> Ask bartender about heist
> Bartender: Sounds like the sort of thing Freddy would know.
> Ask bartender about Freddy
> The bartender is a bit vague about that.
> Pay bartender ten dollars
> Bartender: Try down at the Kit Kat, he likes to hang there on Tuesdays.

There'd be restrictions on the players. You couldn't go stomping down
Warf Street wearing your spectral plate mail and waving the Sword of
Doom, so you'd restrict what could be brought in. You'd better watch out
killing or assaulting NPCs out in public, otherwise you'll have police
troubles. Even if do it in a back alley, maybe there are some clues
left.


Anyway, I think there can be some melding of the MUD and IF forms. But
there will always be significant differences.

Brian Rodenborn

Mike Rozak

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Jan 13, 2004, 7:27:05 PM1/13/04
to
To all. Thanks for the posts. They've given me things to think about, as
you'll read below:


From previous post:


> It's an interesting problem, which I'm now watching in real time in
> the new online Myst game. Right now it *is* a chat-room. The game
> hasn't launched yet. They recently tossed us a challenge to keep us

It would be interesting to do a demographics study to see how the
sterotypical user on Uru differs from one playing MMORPGs. I suspect age,
gender, maturity, interests, etc. would differ, just as the type of people
that watch nature shows is different than the type of people that watch
survivor. (Not that some people won't like both.)

I have been pecking away at Uru's puzzles and have been thinking about going
online. I may wait a month or two before trying it so they have some
content. I don't see how they'll keep up with demand though.

The Uru team could take the appraoch that Virtual Worlds (a 3d chat) does
and allow players to create their own content. (I am thinking about this
too... after all, an IF author kit inherently allows players to create their
own content.) This would provide for an infinite amount of varying-quality
(junk to good to great) content. Richard Bartle's "Designing Virtual Worlds"
points out some sticky legal problems with MMORPG (or Uru) allow users to
create their own content. I doubt Uru or any MMORPG will do this because of
the legal issues. (Note that Virtual Worlds is a non-homogenous and very
random landscape (too many cooks spoil the broth) which is sparesely
populated (due to its size). User created content is not always good.).


> (As
> you note, in an on-line game, nearly everybody will be exchanging
> hints.)

Is there a way to discourage this? Maybe design the IF so it created random
names for the NPCs, or substitute puzzles... for example: In the last
LucasArts Pirates (of the carribean?) adventures I was playing, the solution
to many puzzles varied from game to game. Following the walkthrough (which I
had to in a few places) wasn't as trivial as usual because of this.
Walkthroughs were still possible though. It is especially easy to have
combination-puzzles vary for each player's game.

My above mentioned solution is a start, but not nearly enough. Utlimately, I
doubt that a solution exists. (Having an infinite amount of content might
help; User-generated content might work. Alternatively, TV channels approach
the content problem by churning out endless sitcoms, reality TV, and
gameshows.)


And a different post:


> always told just what. Most such systems I've seen have have some quests
> which you play alone, and have very strict rules on what information may
be
> exchanged between players about the various available quests.

Related to the above issue. How well does this work? I suspect that most
people, when offered a tip, will either ask that it not be given or that
only a small portion of the solution is hinted at. (After all, if you try to
tell someone how a movie ends they will become very irate. Oddly, I like
knowing how movies end before I watch them, so I can see how the author
twists the plot to produce the ending.)

I suspect one reason that hints are often requested in MUDs is that (to some
people) MUDs become a competition amongst players. If the purpose of a MUD
is to win (as opposed to enjoy the journey) then learning solutions from
other people is a desirable outcome. So how does one prevent an online IF
from becoming a competition? Don't include levels/money? Parallel worlds (as
below)?

This post:
> ...everybody comes into a MUD-style game with


> different kinds and levels of motivation.

Just to be devil's advocate, it's a similar situation in offline IF.
(Although very few people run an offline IF for chat functionality.)

> Furthermore, I have
> always found it very difficult to design good multiplayer puzzles and
> "quests" that cannot be made insoluble by a bad combination of character
> actions.

What if, when a player logs on, he is only in a parallel universe with the
other players? He can see and talk to them, but he can't do anything to
affect their world and vice versa. This solves one problem, but creates a
mind-bending situation where players can be in the same room but experience
different things. It also prevents players from handing objects to each
other and fighting with or along side one another.

Less restricting: the game could allow players to band together into parties
and explore private parallel universe. Many MMORPG are doing this now. I'm
not sure how well this works.

On a related note to all this, I'll bring up the subject of "fillers" (I
don't know the correct name for them). A filler is something that makes
content go further...

- Hot dogs use grains and meat by-products for fillers.

- TV shows use commercials and the weekly gaps between episodes.

- IF uses puzzles that cause people to bang their head against a wall for an
hour. (Note: Many people enjoy very difficult puzzles, and to them such
puzzles wouldn't be filler.)

- Computer RPGs and MMORPGs use combat... content cannot be experienced
until a PC attains a certain level or aquires certain skills. To attain the
level the PC must kill lots of monsters, which while entertaining for about
10 seconds, does lose its luster.

- Face-to-face RPGs use the time between weekly sessions, mechanics of the
game (lots of time needed to role dice, look in rulebooks), the offtopic
conversations amongst the players ("Did anyone see last night's TV show?"),
and the consumption of pizza, as fillers. When I played face-to-face RPG, I
suspect only an hour of actual play occured in the 4 hours we sat around the
table.

Fillers reduce the "content-development cost per hour of playtime" and
sometimes reduce the efficacy of hint-giving (except in the case of nasty IF
puzzles). They are chosen so they don't seriously detract from the overall
experience, and sometimes even enhance it... ("Stay tuned for next week's
exciting conclusion to XYZ TV program...")


In an MUD or on-line IF, fillers include:

- Puzzles

- Combat

- Chat

- Waiting for the wizards to invent new content (same thing as waiting for
next week's episode of a TV show)

- Travel time... does any mud consume real time if the player travels to a
distant place? Or if the player builds a difficult item? For example: To
solve a puzzle the PC may need to travel across the world. If the PC elects
to do this, the MUD could tell the player his PC will be travelling for the
next 60 minutes of real time, and the player might as well log off and come
back in an hour. This might annoy some players, but it could also be used to
lengthen out play time and create the "Stay tuned..." effect. Besides, many
players would time their travel time to coincide with bedtime.

- Is there anything else?

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Jayson Smith

unread,
Jan 14, 2004, 12:38:30 AM1/14/04
to
One more thing I thought of comes, again, from Federation. This has to do
with making it so that people can't spoil puzzles for each other, etc.
Basicly, you give each connected player a different solution to the puzzle.
The one example I've thought of is in Federation. Once you reach a certain
rank you must go hunt down one certain person to give you something you need
in order to advance much further. The trick here is, he could be anywhere
in your known universe. And aparently, just because someone found him
somewhere on Earth ten seconds ago doesn't mean he'll be there for you.
Aparently the way this works is that whenever a player logs in, or reaches
the point where they need to find this person, he will show up in a random
location in the universe known to all players at that level. But his
location is specific to that player, so nobody else has any way of helping
the player find this person. Nobody else has any way of knowing where he is
for the person who needs to find him. Just my latest thought brought to you
by the Jayson Smith stupid and dumb thoughts corporation. For all your dumb
and stupid thought needs!

"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in message

news:t10Nb.11167$Wa.1...@news-server.bigpond.net.au...

Michael J. Fromberger

unread,
Jan 14, 2004, 12:16:04 PM1/14/04
to
In article <t10Nb.11167$Wa.1...@news-server.bigpond.net.au>,
"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote:
>
> I had written

> > Furthermore, I have always found it very difficult to design good
> > multiplayer puzzles and "quests" that cannot be made insoluble by a
> > bad combination of character actions.
>
> What if, when a player logs on, he is only in a parallel universe with the
> other players? He can see and talk to them, but he can't do anything to
> affect their world and vice versa. This solves one problem, but creates a
> mind-bending situation where players can be in the same room but experience
> different things. It also prevents players from handing objects to each
> other and fighting with or along side one another.

An interesting idea, but -- as you say -- I think it would be a little
too weird to be playable as described. Suspension of disbelief is one
thing; but I think this would really destroy the mimetic spell
completely.

One way to ameliorate the situation might be to divide the story and the
world into "episodes", so that certain areas, actions, and events are
only available within a given episode. This is similar to the IF notion
of a "chapter", except that in a multi-user context, you could allow all
the players in a given episode to interact more or less at will. The
points of contact between episodes could be carefully contrained.

A good example of a family of games that work in episodes is
SquareSoft's "Final Fantasy" series -- these are not really "IF" in the
traditional sense, but they have an interesting structure. As you
accomplish various tasks, your view of the world changes and expands to
allow you to go new places, obtain new skills, interact with new people,
etc. This is nothing particularly new, of course, but I think it might
be an effective strategy for structuring an IF/MUD hybrid. Your view of
other players within the same episode would be unrestricted, but players
located in the same room as part of different episodes might not see
each other at all (think of it as different time periods, perhaps).

Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 14, 2004, 4:10:28 PM1/14/04
to
Here, Mike Rozak <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote:
>
> The Uru team could take the appraoch that Virtual Worlds (a 3d chat) does
> and allow players to create their own content. (I am thinking about this
> too... after all, an IF author kit inherently allows players to create their
> own content.) This would provide for an infinite amount of varying-quality
> (junk to good to great) content. Richard Bartle's "Designing Virtual Worlds"
> points out some sticky legal problems with MMORPG (or Uru) allow users to
> create their own content. I doubt Uru or any MMORPG will do this because of
> the legal issues. (Note that Virtual Worlds is a non-homogenous and very
> random landscape (too many cooks spoil the broth) which is sparesely
> populated (due to its size). User created content is not always good.).

User-created content is 90% garbage, and most of the rest isn't good
either. A game that planned to *rely* on users would be... well, it's
a risky strategy, and it would require a lot of planning to avoid
being a foolhardy strategy.

> > (As you note, in an on-line game, nearly everybody will be
> > exchanging hints.)
>
> Is there a way to discourage this?

Do we want to discourage this? The point of having an on-line game is
to have interaction between players. Helping another player is a
very satisfying and pleasant form of interaction.

> I suspect one reason that hints are often requested in MUDs is that
> (to some people) MUDs become a competition amongst players.

On the contrary, I see it as very cooperative. Players are almost
always willing to help each other up to their own level of progress.
If it were competitive, players would be miserly with their hard-won
secrets.

> [filler:]


> - Computer RPGs and MMORPGs use combat... content cannot be experienced
> until a PC attains a certain level or aquires certain skills. To attain the
> level the PC must kill lots of monsters, which while entertaining for about
> 10 seconds, does lose its luster.

That's really an IF-parochial view, though. In CRPGs (whether online
or single-player), the combat *is* the game. (Or sometimes non-combat
activities, but it's the same architecture whether you're clubbing
rats or harvesting barley.) The content is background and reward, like
cut-scenes in IF games.

People who play CRPGs find the combat entertaining. Or at least
interesting. Or something. God knows I'm not one of them, which is why
Uru is the first on-line game I've signed up for. But people play
Everquest to fight monsters and level up.

If you make an online game with this sort of filler (whether it's
combat or forging magic rings or exchanging secret messages or
whatever) you'll be hard pressed to avoid having the filler *become*
the game. It's what players will spend their time doing. You'll wind
up creating a de facto CRPG, instead of online IF.

Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 14, 2004, 9:04:25 PM1/14/04
to
Thanks for the post. It has plenty of valuable information.

> From both this and your previous posts, I understand you want a
> puzzle-heavy form of IF.

Personally, I prefer more plot/story, which is a problems for MUDs because
the only sustainable plot/story is one which is affected by the user-base in
general, but not every user. (There is only one Harry Potter in a Hogworts
MUD, but many Harry Potters in a Hogworts IF.) However, many people are
interested in lots of puzzles.


> understand... You're switching from a game to a service. Or a
> money-making, cattleherding operation.

You sound a bit cynical here... of course, when I ran a for-free adventure
BBS I started to think the same thing about cattle hearding. Ultimately, I'm
not really into hearding, so the info you gave may help me avoid it.

> conditions. If nothing new appears every day, they get bored. If you
> want to limit the MUD aspect, you could encourage players to team up
> and log in only when there's a new adventure waiting for them, but
> that would wipe away some of the benefits you mentioned.

Since the users get bored and ask for more features, the author provides
more. This ultimately gets stale for the author and the users. Could a
system be designed where a MUD/IF encourages the users to use the content
and do some chatting along the way, but THEN encourages them to migrate to
another MUD/IF. This other MUD/IF might be a) the same world but after some
major changes have happened, or b) something completely different.

Note: What I'm suggesting is the antithesis of what MUDs try to do, which is
retain users in a single world for as long as possible.

My concern about the staleness is similar to TV series. After a season or
two of a TV series, it just retreads the same ground. (Some series have good
writers and take longer to die, but they all become stale in the end.)
Ultimately, the series loses viewers and is killed. MUDs, because the users
and authors aren't willing to migrate to something new, don't die as quickly
(as I think) they should. Even if new content is added, it's still in the
same world, and often with the same players (since new content often
requires a higher level, so only experienced players get there).

So what devices can be put into a mud to encourage migration? (I'm not sure
if the following will work or not.)

- Provide a "the end" screen which is shown when the content is used up. It
tells uers they can stick around, or go onto the next chapter/episode of the
mud, or onto a completely different mud.

- Either don't have levelling, or allow levels to be transferred between
muds. Levels, money, and object acquisition encourages users to stick around
because they've worked so hard to get their current PC strong.
(Unfortunately, levels are used as a "filler", as I posted earlier. They are
a useful device to extend game play.)

- Others?

> "Chat functionality has a downside for the IF though, because it
> allows players to more easily ask each other for hints."
> Even worse, it can kill the atmosphere that graphics are constantly
> trying to set in...

Good point. I can't think of a solution to this. Maybe have a bouncer that
moves PCs along if they're sitting in one place too long? (Silly idea).


> You're stuck with two options here: sacrifice atmosphere (that is,
> quality) by allowing free chat, or sacrifice popularity by persecuting
> it. If you want to charge anything for your authoring tool, expect to
> see a lot of the latter.

Speaking of enforcing role playing: For a few seconds I was thinking about
an IF where the player could jump from NPC to NPC, taking control of the NPC
so long as that control was within the NPCs characters. (Some earlier
discussion got me thinking abou this.) This could be extended to a MUD where
players run the NPCs. NPCs not being currently run by a PC would be under AI
control. The basic concept works for real-life Renaissance fairs (where the
actors are volunteers pretending to be characters), but I doubt it would
work in a MUD. If it worked, NPC interactions would be much more
interesting.


> the players to solve them. Well, apart from tinkering with your preset
> adventures and adding "infixes" to minimize the effect of hints, you
> could grant limited design powers to the players - let them design
> puzzles and adventures. It would improve the social interaction

Why not encourage players to set up their own MUDs and make puzzles
themselves? I can think of some pros and cons for this:

Pros: (Reasons for users to go off and make their own muds/if)
- Keeps the atmosphere of the MUD/IF unified because it's just one author,
or a group of friends.
- Bartle's "Designing Virtual Worlds" points out legal problems when other
people contribute large amounts of content to your MUD/IF, especially when
you're charging for it.
- Monitoring the quality of the content added by users is difficult.

Cons: (Why users shouldnt be encouraged to make their own muds/if)
- If you're trying to make money on your own MUD/IF then encouraging
competitors isn't a good thing.
- Many potential-MUD authors won't want to spend the money for the server or
time to maintain.
- You can't port characters from one mud to another.
- A world created by just one person is inevitably smaller than one created
by a team.


> Give the players classes, and program your puzzles so that each class
> can approach them in a different way, essentially making three or four
> puzzles out of each. That way, if a skill is being underused, just

Good idea.


> I suppose it depends on the engine itself... I imagine it to be
> something like a static Morrowind, where you can lay down objects and
> adjust them, as well as plant an invisible camera object somewhere.

I can do object placement like in Morrowind, but I also have model creation.
Model creation is, of course, more work for the author. But, if an
enthusiast creates lots of models and gives them away on his web site,
authors will use them.

I am still planning the UI, but I don't think that I'll have a spatial
walkthough system like Morrowind or other MMORPGs. I'm thinking of nodal
movement like Myst III. The reason for this is:

- Game developers do a lot of polygon count optimization in order to create
scenes than refresh at 30 fps. I don't expect users to be quite so saavy or
have so much time. For an equivalent image quality, I'd expect a user's
model to get 8-15 fps.

- If it's full 3D like Morrowind/MMORPGs, authors will have to deal with
animation. Animation is more work than building a model. Plus, animations
are traditionally limited to walk and combat cycles. What if the author of
the IF wants to animate "You jump up and down on the box and flatten it."
Morrowind/MMORPG don't even try to animate this. (Of course, an IF author
could skip this animation, but if most actions are animated, but then some
aren't, the non-animated actions really stand out.)

- In order to get a high framerate, Morrowind/MMORPG use 3D accelerators, of
course. The problem is that not all 3d accelerators are created equal, and
many have bugs. As a result, I'd get all sorts of bugs like "It doesn't work
on my XYZ video card". I don't have the money to buy heaps of cards.

- Plus, the quality of graphics from 3d accelerators is fairly poor. I want
better looking graphics, so I'm willing to take 1-5 seconds per frame.
(Cached to disk for speedy access later on, of course.) The prevents
animation.

> "I'd really like to design an IF that has on-line components, but
> which doesn't morph into a MUD."
> That just invalidates everything I said... Bleh. At least, I hope
> someone will find all this useful.

Even though I don't want to create a MUD, much of the info is still useful.
Thanks.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 14, 2004, 9:19:29 PM1/14/04
to
> One way to ameliorate the situation might be to divide the story and the
> world into "episodes", so that certain areas, actions, and events are
> only available within a given episode. This is similar to the IF notion
> of a "chapter", except that in a multi-user context, you could allow all
> the players in a given episode to interact more or less at will. The
> points of contact between episodes could be carefully contrained.

Good point. Episodes/chapters allow the plot/story to grow and the world to
change.

However, my first thought, and maybe that of users is: But, if the episodes
take place in the same location (but in different times or realities) then
why can't I talk to other people in the same place (but in a different
time/reality)? (Passing objects back and forth would be a different issue.)

Which gets back the the problem of people from different realities being
able to talk to one another.

Of course, I'm being difficult here in an attempt to brainstorm.

Actually, multiple realities isn't a completely foreign thing to reality.
Let me stretch an analogy: As people (in the real world) age, their
perception of reality changes. For example: Someone who fought in WWII has
strong memories of it. For me, WWII happened before I was born, so it's just
a history lesson, and in some sense, didn't happen in the same way as the
WWII happened for the veteran. We are in two similar, but different
realities.

Or, for something dealing with fiction: I have read the most recent Harry
Potter book (#5). Someone who has only read books #1..#4, and not #5, has a
different perception of Harry Potter than myself. (I perceive Harry as 1
year older, etc.) I can have a conversation with someone who has only read 4
of the Harry Potter books and not feel too wiered out.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Daniel Barkalow

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 2:33:10 AM1/15/04
to
On Tue, 13 Jan 2004, Mike Rozak wrote:

> 1) As soon as multiple users are wandering around an IF, the programmer puts
> in chat functionality. (Since this is an obvious thing to do.) Chat
> functionality has a downside for the IF though, because it allows players to
> more easily ask each other for hints. This reduces the time it takes for a
> player to complete the IF. (Of course, players can always download
> game-walkthroughs. Personally, I'd be quicker to ask a fellow player for a
> hint than download a walkthrough because a) it's easier, and b) it's a way
> of starting up a conversation.)

This is only true if different players are in the same state with respect
to the story at different times. Otherwise, hints aren't applicable or
they're more general information (like the arrangement of the static parts
of the map). Of course, this is the obvious design, where each player goes
through the full story in order at their own pace.

But what is particularly interesting about online play is that you can
have different players in the same state at the same time, doing things
which benefit from a group of people working on it. If this is the point
of multiplayer play, then you want to encourage it as much as possible.

One possible design would be to instead have a central "chat" environment,
and then have adventuring opportunities appear when the author (or
authors) have them written and feel that a sufficient group is present and
willing to start something. That group goes in, plays through the content,
and then comes out. If there is a later group of people who haven't played
that section, they could play it later. People would be encouraged to turn
to the group of players they're with rather than other people, and the
chat system would be disabled between people in an adventure and people
elsewhere, to let people focus on the activity (and talk more conveniently
with the people also on the adventure). Upon completion of an adventure,
the fact that you'd finished the adventure would be marked down, so you
could then see things marked as spoilers for it, but couldn't play it
again (perhaps you could also get the ability to revisit parts, skip
around, play with other people who'd seen it, etc).

I suspect that this would end up keeping more of the character of IF while
being multiplayer, and focus on the interaction that most people want when
they want IF to be multiplayer.

-Iabervon
*This .sig unintentionally changed*

Mike Kozlowski

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 12:36:40 PM1/15/04
to
In article <bu4b84$av6$1...@reader2.panix.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

>That's really an IF-parochial view, though. In CRPGs (whether online
>or single-player), the combat *is* the game. (Or sometimes non-combat
>activities, but it's the same architecture whether you're clubbing
>rats or harvesting barley.) The content is background and reward, like
>cut-scenes in IF games.

That's a huge over-simplification. While it applies to a certain
class of CRPGs (the Icewind Dales, the Diablos, the Everquests), it's
only partly applicable to games like Baldur's Gate, and not applicable
at all to games like Planescape: Torment, where combat is (or, at
least, can be) rare and trivial.

Exploration, NPC interaction, story, and number-incrementing are all as
integral to CRPGs as combat.

--
Mike Kozlowski
http://www.klio.org/mlk/

Michael J. Fromberger

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 5:39:15 PM1/15/04
to
In article <RMmNb.12772$Wa....@news-server.bigpond.net.au>,
"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote:

> > One way to ameliorate the situation might be to divide the story and the
> > world into "episodes", so that certain areas, actions, and events are
> > only available within a given episode. This is similar to the IF notion
> > of a "chapter", except that in a multi-user context, you could allow all
> > the players in a given episode to interact more or less at will. The
> > points of contact between episodes could be carefully contrained.
>
> Good point. Episodes/chapters allow the plot/story to grow and the world to
> change.
>
> However, my first thought, and maybe that of users is: But, if the episodes
> take place in the same location (but in different times or realities) then
> why can't I talk to other people in the same place (but in a different
> time/reality)? (Passing objects back and forth would be a different issue.)

There is no technical reason why you couldn't design the system so that
people who are in different "episodes" but the same essential location
could communicate. But I think that would defeat the whole purpose in
having episodes in the first place -- which, at least as I envisioned
it, is to separate players at different stages of the IF. If you don't
isolate them somehow, I think you'd basically lose any advantage a
hybrid system might have over a plain MUD.

> Actually, multiple realities isn't a completely foreign thing to reality.
> Let me stretch an analogy: As people (in the real world) age, their
> perception of reality changes. For example: Someone who fought in WWII has
> strong memories of it. For me, WWII happened before I was born, so it's just
> a history lesson, and in some sense, didn't happen in the same way as the
> WWII happened for the veteran. We are in two similar, but different
> realities.

Yes. That's the kind of thing I wished to express in game terms by
means of the "episode" concept.

Cedric Knight

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 7:27:40 PM1/15/04
to
"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote

> I'd really like to
> design an IF that has on-line components, but which doesn't morph into
a
> MUD.

I've no MUD experience, but here's a possible IF-centred approach:

* Design lots of puzzles and/or story elements which require multiple
characters to progress, perhaps because of special qualities of the
individuals (size, appearance, position), or just the number of them.
This should be much more imaginative than some fighter/magic-user/thief
combination, and have a good, motivating story. Don't have any
real-time events - everything should wait for player turns, which can't
be too frequent.

* Attract plenty of players to the launch, put them on a short waiting
list, and divide them into groups of, ideally, four. Each of these
groups is a separate game session with an independent game state. There
is no communication between different groups/sessions, at least in the
game world.

* Players may be able to select one of the four characters that are
available when joining, or may be allocated them in some other way
depending on design, but they have no control over character abilities
and attributes other than personality. Communication between players is
encouraged to be in-character and can only happen in the same room.
Inevitably people will find some way to swap IM contact details after
they have met, so a certain 'telepathy' may need to be anticipated in
the story design. This tendency could be postponed by promising a chat
facility only once the story is completed.

* If one or more of the four players drops out or goes idle too long,
they (identified by something like a cookie) retain the right to return
to their character, but other players in the group can 'adopt' them
temporarily to prevent hitches in play. Players can only be kicked out
and replaced, even if idle, by the administrator.

* The four characters may, depending on the story, be a single team
dealing with largely inanimate puzzles, or two opposing teams with
opposing objectives and motivations, or one and three such that the one
player will not come across the others (probably antagonists) until
halfway through, or the combination may change during the course of
play.

* This is necessarily time-limited play, depending on the time of the
parties to collectively solve puzzles. If it's going to take more than
a couple of hours, the most important criterion for sorting players into
groups is the time of day they're intending to play.

All of which is obviously a lot of work. It rests mostly on ability to
accomplish the first point, i.e. IF writing ability.

CK


Piglet

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 7:42:47 PM1/15/04
to
> I've no MUD experience, but here's a possible IF-centred approach:
>
> * Design lots of puzzles and/or story elements which require multiple
> characters to progress, perhaps because of special qualities of the
> individuals (size, appearance, position), or just the number of them.
> This should be much more imaginative than some fighter/magic-user/thief
> combination, and have a good, motivating story. Don't have any
> real-time events - everything should wait for player turns, which can't
> be too frequent.
> <snip>

IMHO there is no need to divide characters up into 'classes'. If we are
talking about relatively puzzle based IF you could simply rely on varied
and tricky puzzles, making cooperation not neccessary yet preferable, as
well as removing specific limits on players, leaving or joining sessions
etc.

For example you could play adventures in a team of 10 or so players,
each working at the game (and often cooperating) whenever appropriate
for them, perhaps there could be a 'replay' feature that tells the
players that have been away what has happened since they left.

Hmm.. Perhaps I shouldn't be writing this sort of post at 0045, oh well,
i hope it all makes sense.

Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 8:36:41 PM1/15/04
to
> User-created content is 90% garbage, and most of the rest isn't good
> either. A game that planned to *rely* on users would be... well, it's
> a risky strategy, and it would require a lot of planning to avoid
> being a foolhardy strategy.

Agree. Although, all current text IF (Tads, Inform) is currently
"user-created" content since there aren't any paid text-IF professionals.
Much is still garbage. I don't think this is what you meant by
"user-created"; I suspect you were thinking about MUDs that allow users to
continually add to them.

And, as far as the garbage part, I have two minds on this: While I don't
like to play a garbage game, writing one can be loads of fun. In real-life
terms: Sometimes I like to paint on canvas; I'm not terribly good, but I
paint for my own enjoyment.


> Do we want to discourage this? The point of having an on-line game is
> to have interaction between players. Helping another player is a
> very satisfying and pleasant form of interaction.

Good point.


> On the contrary, I see it as very cooperative. Players are almost
> always willing to help each other up to their own level of progress.
> If it were competitive, players would be miserly with their hard-won
> secrets.

Maybe. If 80% were helpful (and willing to give hints away), and 20% were
playing to win, those 20% would get all their hints from the helpful 80%.


> That's really an IF-parochial view, though. In CRPGs (whether online
> or single-player), the combat *is* the game. (Or sometimes non-combat
> activities, but it's the same architecture whether you're clubbing
> rats or harvesting barley.) The content is background and reward, like
> cut-scenes in IF games.

Sorry, my comments about fillers were overly simplistic. I like to play
CRPGs from time to time, despite the monotony. My motivation is 50% combat
and 50% advancement of plot. Some people like pure combat. I suppose I
should have said that filler is not solely designed to consume time, but
rather a portion of the content that is designed to be signficantly cheaper
per hour of play, and which is not expected to be as interesting (per period
of time) as the more expensive content. (This statement is overly obtuse.)

In food terms: In chocolate cake, the flour acts as filler. However, a
chocolate cake without the flour wouldn't be a chocolate cake. It would be a
chocolate bar with egg mixed in.

Specific to combat - Actually, combat can be made interesting so long as a)
it doesn't end up being a "keep pressing the same button" activity, and b)
it doesn't happen all the time. (In a theoretical sense, Chess is combat.)


> People who play CRPGs find the combat entertaining. Or at least
> interesting. Or something. God knows I'm not one of them, which is why
> Uru is the first on-line game I've signed up for. But people play
> Everquest to fight monsters and level up.

I suspect/believe that long-time players of Everquest do not find combat
interesting. I think they don't find it displeasing, and it helps them
towards their goal of levelling up. (Combat in Everquest can also be a
mind-numbing experience, like playing Tetris or putting a jigsaw puzzle
together.) They are interested in levelling up either because a) it's a
metric of their self worth, and/or b) it allows them to access content on
Everquest that is designed for higher level characters, even if the content
is just even meaner-looking monsters.

Conversely, players of many twitch games, like the forthcoming Halflife II,
do find combat intersting. Twitch combat requires thought and produces a lot
of adrenaline, especially if playing against someone else.


> If you make an online game with this sort of filler (whether it's
> combat or forging magic rings or exchanging secret messages or
> whatever) you'll be hard pressed to avoid having the filler *become*
> the game. It's what players will spend their time doing. You'll wind
> up creating a de facto CRPG, instead of online IF.

I don't really want to include combat, but to be devil's advocate: Couldn't
an author moderate the amount of combat? A few years ago I played a 3D Kings
Quest (mask of eternity) that had a mix of adventure and combat. I enjoyed
it.
--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 8:39:13 PM1/15/04
to
> One possible design would be to instead have a central "chat" environment,
> and then have adventuring opportunities appear when the author (or
> authors) have them written and feel that a sufficient group is present and
> willing to start something. That group goes in, plays through the content,
> and then comes out.

Interesting idea. I'll have to think about this one.


--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Andrew Plotkin

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 9:46:50 PM1/15/04
to
Here, Mike Kozlowski <m...@klio.org> wrote:
> In article <bu4b84$av6$1...@reader2.panix.com>,
> Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:
>
> >That's really an IF-parochial view, though. In CRPGs (whether online
> >or single-player), the combat *is* the game. (Or sometimes non-combat
> >activities, but it's the same architecture whether you're clubbing
> >rats or harvesting barley.) The content is background and reward, like
> >cut-scenes in IF games.
>
> That's a huge over-simplification.

Okay, granted. :)

> While it applies to a certain
> class of CRPGs (the Icewind Dales, the Diablos, the Everquests), it's
> only partly applicable to games like Baldur's Gate, and not applicable
> at all to games like Planescape: Torment, where combat is (or, at
> least, can be) rare and trivial.
>
> Exploration, NPC interaction, story, and number-incrementing are all as
> integral to CRPGs as combat.

As I think I said somewhere upthread, story and NPC interaction and
exploration are integral to *most* computer games these days. (And the
exceptions that I can think of are racing/sports games.) Exploration
and puzzles (for games that have puzzles) are IF elements. Fighting is
an RPG element. The games in which RPG predominates are the one I call
RPGs.

Number-incrementing is just what I'm talking about. I used to think of
number-incrementing as the defining characteristic of CRPGs. I've come
around to the idea that the defining characteristic is that you pay
for progress with hours of play time (and the numbers are just a way
to keep track of player-minutes).

Does Planescape have any kind of of stat-pumping, time-consuming
activity? I haven't played it, but people keep telling me it's not
like other RPGs. I might not characterize it as an RPG at all.

Joe Mason

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 11:25:58 PM1/15/04
to
In article <bu7jaq$ei6$1...@reader2.panix.com>, Andrew Plotkin wrote:
> Does Planescape have any kind of of stat-pumping, time-consuming
> activity? I haven't played it, but people keep telling me it's not
> like other RPGs. I might not characterize it as an RPG at all.

Well, it definitely has the typical RPG combat, but for most of the game
it comes in small chunks which are immediately followed by a payoff.
There are only two areas which are full of really repetitive combat; one
of them is only there in case you really want to level up, with no other
reason for existing, and the other one yields lots of equipment, but also
has a couple of hidden NPC's to find.

Joe

Stephen Granade

unread,
Jan 15, 2004, 11:51:35 PM1/15/04
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> writes:

> Here, Mike Rozak <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote:
> >
> > The Uru team could take the appraoch that Virtual Worlds (a 3d chat) does
> > and allow players to create their own content. (I am thinking about this
> > too... after all, an IF author kit inherently allows players to create their
> > own content.) This would provide for an infinite amount of varying-quality
> > (junk to good to great) content. Richard Bartle's "Designing Virtual Worlds"
> > points out some sticky legal problems with MMORPG (or Uru) allow users to
> > create their own content. I doubt Uru or any MMORPG will do this because of
> > the legal issues. (Note that Virtual Worlds is a non-homogenous and very
> > random landscape (too many cooks spoil the broth) which is sparesely
> > populated (due to its size). User created content is not always good.).
>
> User-created content is 90% garbage, and most of the rest isn't good
> either. A game that planned to *rely* on users would be... well, it's
> a risky strategy, and it would require a lot of planning to avoid
> being a foolhardy strategy.

I know Skotos (http://skotos.net) has been planning on such
things. Now, granted, since their launch they've partnered up with a
lot of third-party developers to keep afloat, but in their flagship
Castle Marrach game, they're having users create content. I'd be
curious to know more about how that's going.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade
ste...@granades.com

Joao Mendes

unread,
Jan 16, 2004, 5:56:55 AM1/16/04
to
Hey, all, :)

"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in message

news:UwIMb.8604$Wa....@news-server.bigpond.net.au...

> I'd really like to
> design an IF that has on-line components, but which doesn't morph into a
> MUD.

Interesting thread.

I was on Elendor for a long time way back when, and though I really didn't
'design' anything, I did code a bunch of objects and bots. In fact, when I
first thought up the idea of coding IF, I was thinking about taking PennMUSH
and detweaking it for single-player usage. How weird is that, huh?

Of course, Elendor is a MUSH, not a MUD, and though it does (did?) have some
quests, they are largely irrelevant, so the applicability to the case in
point is perhaps a bit dubious.

Anyway, from reading the whole of the thread, it occurs to me that your
objectives aren't entirely clear fo me. When you say on-line, do you mean
something that is available for a few people to play together, like, say,
for or five, or do you mean something that is actually meant to be massively
multiplayer?

The latter, MMIF (massively multiplayer interactive fiction) is, perhaps, a
bit weird. It's sort of like... I don't know, MMBR (massively multiplayer
book reading), perhaps... IMHO, it's just not something that a massive
number of people can actually share with each other, like a MUD/MUSH/MMORPG.

The former, however, turns up an interesting number of possibilities. The
central concepts, I think, would not be entirely dissimilar from on-line
role-playing systems or even PBeM RPGs. I'm thinking, perhaps, in terms of
something that might be dubbed CARPG (computer aided roleplaying games) [not
to be confused with CRPGs]. A game like this would be a mother of a system
to design and code, but if done right, could yield something quite
interesting, IMHO. One question that pops to mind is whether you intend for
the number of players to be fixed or permit a certain variation.

A final note: Say you design a number of CARPGs. Say, further, that you
create a central area that actually connects all the game areas and allows
people's characters to wander in and perhaps find other people to go through
the game with them. What you then have is basically Daniel's idea, which was
quite nifty, BTW :).

Again, interesting thread.

Cheers,

J.


Cedric Knight

unread,
Jan 16, 2004, 8:12:50 AM1/16/04
to
Piglet wrote:
[Me:]

>> I've no MUD experience, but here's a possible IF-centred approach:
>>
>> * Design lots of puzzles and/or story elements which require multiple
>> characters to progress, perhaps because of special qualities of the
>> individuals (size, appearance, position), or just the number of them.
>> This should be much more imaginative than some
>> fighter/magic-user/thief combination, and have a good, motivating
>> story. Don't have any real-time events - everything should wait for
>> player turns, which can't be too frequent.
> > <snip>
>
> IMHO there is no need to divide characters up into 'classes'. If we
> are talking about relatively puzzle based IF you could simply rely on
> varied and tricky puzzles, making cooperation not neccessary yet
> preferable, as well as removing specific limits on players, leaving
> or joining sessions etc.

I agree about the term 'classes', particularly since we are to all
purposes of my approach talking about unique player characters designed
by the author. I was thinking perhaps of the Frenetic Five/Max &
Doris/Earth and Sky comic superhero genre where co-operation between the
PC and NPCs is indeed necessary and an integral part of the story. Of
course, there's no absolutely no reason to limit it to that genre, it's
just the obvious model.

In multiplayer IF, Austin/Emily/Doris de Lightning/Pastiche etc would
all be PCs, and the commands given by one PC to an NPC become
in-character communication, which may or may not be acted on. The
author can set up an initial antagonism or rivalry between the PCs, but
the fine detail of dialogue is down to players.

IMHO if cooperation isn't strictly necessary, you've lost some of the
charm and also partly the social aspect of RPGs, and start to run into
the problems Mike describes, particularly his point 2. The individual
'avatars' should not be faceless and interchangeable, given
individuality only by the player (interactor), but be given specific
interesting roles in the story by the author.

What fun would acting be if the writer and director never pull things
together into a script, but just leave a bunch of people on the stage
and tell them to get on with it? Mike Leigh's famous improvisational
technique starts a bit like that, with the actors determining a lot
about the character's history or mannerisms, but ultimately they are
never free to wander through the story at will. Otherwise there
wouldn't be a story at all.

Now, putting the narrative elements of IF aside, admittedly doing a
crossword together can be better than doing it alone. But it often
seems to end up with one person doing most of the work because they're
more eager or more experienced with that kind of puzzle. There's a
tendency to duplicate effort or interfere, leading to competition,
however polite, between the players /outside/ the frame of the puzzle.
If this is fed back into the design of puzzles inside multi-player IF, I
can see it does produce CRPG features (Mike's point 3) such as the
'number incrementing' of level, attack capability etc., ad nauseam.

Hope this makes some kind of sense.

CK

Mike Kozlowski

unread,
Jan 16, 2004, 10:34:09 AM1/16/04
to
In article <bu7jaq$ei6$1...@reader2.panix.com>,
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote:

>Number-incrementing is just what I'm talking about. I used to think of
>number-incrementing as the defining characteristic of CRPGs. I've come
>around to the idea that the defining characteristic is that you pay
>for progress with hours of play time (and the numbers are just a way
>to keep track of player-minutes).

I can see the point, but my favorite RPGs don't work that way. Ultima
VII is another example of a game that _has_ stats, but is driven more
by story than incrementing -- the obstacles that keep you from driving
right through to the end of the game are (mostly) that you haven't
talked to the right people and done the right things, not that you'll
get whomped in combat because your numbers and equipment aren't good
enough.

And even if you look at the more conventionally incremental RPGs, the
best ones are the ones where the levelling-up is incidental to the
story/exploration/interaction aspects. When you play BG2 or KOTOR,
you do level up and get better very conventionally, but it sort of
just naturally falls out of what you're already doing.

That's a decided difference from games like Diablo or Icewind Dale,
where the story and exploration aspects are a thin veneer over the
combat mechanics. It's why I find the one sort of game endlessly
fascinating, and the other tedious and work-like.

>Does Planescape have any kind of of stat-pumping, time-consuming
>activity? I haven't played it, but people keep telling me it's not
>like other RPGs. I might not characterize it as an RPG at all.

It's been a while since I played it, but I think there's some, but not
much -- definitely less than in any other RPG I've played.

Daryl McCullough

unread,
Jan 16, 2004, 10:28:23 AM1/16/04
to
Andrew Plotkin says...

>As I think I said somewhere upthread, story and NPC interaction and
>exploration are integral to *most* computer games these days. (And the
>exceptions that I can think of are racing/sports games.) Exploration
>and puzzles (for games that have puzzles) are IF elements. Fighting is
>an RPG element. The games in which RPG predominates are the one I call
>RPGs.
>
>Number-incrementing is just what I'm talking about. I used to think of
>number-incrementing as the defining characteristic of CRPGs. I've come
>around to the idea that the defining characteristic is that you pay
>for progress with hours of play time (and the numbers are just a way
>to keep track of player-minutes).

Okay, by that definition, "Okage" is definitely a CRPG. However, in
my experience from playing it, the combat aspect (and gaining experience
points) is the least enjoyable part of it. Battle in "Okage" (and I
assume that this is true in many CRPG) is completely boring. You
basically just attack, attack, attack until either you're dead, or
your opponents are. There is no possibility for being clever (sneaking
up behind your opponents, or playing dead until they come close, or
dropping a chandelier on their heads). I think the game would be
just as enjoyable without the combat and experience points.

--
Daryl McCullough
Ithaca, NY

Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 16, 2004, 5:12:35 PM1/16/04
to
> There is no technical reason why you couldn't design the system so that
> people who are in different "episodes" but the same essential location
> could communicate. But I think that would defeat the whole purpose in
> having episodes in the first place -- which, at least as I envisioned
> it, is to separate players at different stages of the IF. If you don't
> isolate them somehow, I think you'd basically lose any advantage a
> hybrid system might have over a plain MUD.

Interesting. From a developing an authoring tool POV, this sounds like a
good option to have. Although I'd also include the option (controlled by the
author) of allowing people in different episodes to talk.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 16, 2004, 5:36:19 PM1/16/04
to
> * If one or more of the four players drops out or goes idle too long,
> they (identified by something like a cookie) retain the right to return
> to their character, but other players in the group can 'adopt' them
> temporarily to prevent hitches in play. Players can only be kicked out
> and replaced, even if idle, by the administrator.

This could work if a) the sessions were short enough that people could
reliably show up and stay the whole session, and b) the people knew each
other well enough that they would show up. (I'm a bit skeptical about these
two requirements being fulfulled often enough, but if these problems could
be overcome the idea has merit.)

Piglet's post was anit-class, but I think the classes would ensure that
everyone played their part - which is one reason why traditional pen & paper
RPGs have classes.

Just thinking of implimentation... it would be like a fractured MUD/MMORPG
account. In a normal MUD/MMORPG there's a user account, and each user has
several PCs that can be logged on one at a time. I have been thinking about
each PC having its own world, BUT if the world were shared by the user
account and several of the account's PCs could be logged on at the same
time, it would produce the model you mention. The trick is to control
permissions and invitations for who gets to join the party...

In outline form, a typical mud has:
1 world (often divided into realms for database size constraints)
10-10000 PCs, each PC controlled by one player
A player may have 1-10 PCs stored in his/her account

What I have been thinking about has been:
10-10000 PCs, each PC controlled by player
1 world PER PC
A player may have 1-10 PCs stored in his/her account

What you are suggestion is:
1-1000 worlds
Each world with 1-10 PCs, each PC controlled by one player
The 1-10 PCs would be stored in the same account

Other modifications might include:
- 1 player controlling 2 or 3 PCs at the same time... although
this defeats the purpose of classes and multiple users
- Several players controlling 1 PC - not really a viable idea
- Each world divided into multiple chapters (as discussed in
previous posts) - This idea does work.

This also sounds distantly similar to idea I was thinking of for a computer
aided RPG (see reply to Joao Mendez).

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au
"Cedric Knight" <ckn...@gn.babpbc.removeallBstosend.org> wrote in message
news:5gGNb.24637$qx2.2...@stones.force9.net...

Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 16, 2004, 5:51:25 PM1/16/04
to
> > willing to start something. That group goes in, plays through the
content,
> > and then comes out.
>
> Interesting idea. I'll have to think about this one.

I just expanded on some new thoughts in the post to Cedric Knight.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 16, 2004, 5:52:21 PM1/16/04
to
> objectives aren't entirely clear fo me. When you say on-line, do you mean
> something that is available for a few people to play together, like, say,
> for or five, or do you mean something that is actually meant to be
massively
> multiplayer?

Actually, I'm not quite sure. I'm more brainstorming at the moment. What I
can say is that:

1) I don't care much for MUDs and MMORPGs are they generally exist today.
They seem too combat oriented, without enough puzzles and story.

2) I like the basic concept of an on-line experience (for reasons that I
posted at the very beginning of the thread), but how to combine online and
IF is still uncertain.

> to be confused with CRPGs]. A game like this would be a mother of a system
> to design and code, but if done right, could yield something quite
> interesting, IMHO. One question that pops to mind is whether you intend
for
> the number of players to be fixed or permit a certain variation.

I have been thinking about a CARPG, but I don't think it will work well.
Here's what I brainstormed:

1) One GM (preferably with 2-3 monitors) and 3-6 players log onto an
internet sight.
2) The GM can upload scenes (3d models) into the player's machines.
3) The GM can upload props (NPCs, objects, etc.) into the player's machines.
4) The GM can constrain the player's movement (to make sure they don't
wander around areas that the GM isn't ready to narrate)
5) Add chat functionality, probably with voice chat. The GMs can
electronically convert his voice using any number of filters so he can talk
as the NPCs.
6) The GM can send sound FX, background music, etc. to the PCs.
7) Have the system log everything that happens, so the session can be
archived.
8) Maybe assist in rolling dice (so that everyone sees the electronic dice
rolled, etc.)
9) Online manuals, etc.
10) Maybe build in rules/animations for combat. The GM would control the
NPCs in combat.

I don't think it will work because:
a) If the players are scattered over the internet then face-to-face contact,
out-of-context talk, and pizza delivery are lost.

b) Face-to-face RPGs are dying (or nearly dead). They filled a void for
people that wanted escapism, socialization, and creativity. CRPG, IF, and
MMORPG now fulfill much of this need.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Quintin Stone

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Jan 16, 2004, 6:06:45 PM1/16/04
to
On Fri, 16 Jan 2004, Mike Rozak wrote:

> b) Face-to-face RPGs are dying (or nearly dead). They filled a void for
> people that wanted escapism, socialization, and creativity. CRPG, IF,
> and MMORPG now fulfill much of this need.

I'm sorry... what do you base this on?

/====================================================================\
|| Quintin Stone O- > "You speak of necessary evil? One ||
|| Code Monkey < of those necessities is that if ||
|| Rebel Programmers Society > innocents must suffer, the guilty must ||
|| st...@rps.net < suffer more." -- Mackenzie Calhoun ||
|| http://www.rps.net/QS/ > "Once Burned" by Peter David ||
\====================================================================/

Yoon Ha Lee

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Jan 16, 2004, 6:40:13 PM1/16/04
to
Quintin Stone <st...@rps.net> wrote:

> On Fri, 16 Jan 2004, Mike Rozak wrote:
>
> > b) Face-to-face RPGs are dying (or nearly dead). They filled a void for
> > people that wanted escapism, socialization, and creativity. CRPG, IF,
> > and MMORPG now fulfill much of this need.
>
> I'm sorry... what do you base this on?

They looked pretty alive to me in Boston (at Your Move Games in Davis
Square, at least--inadequate sample, I know). The RPG-playing folks I
knew were engaged as well in CRPGs and MMORPGs but continued doing the
face-to-face stuff. And I never thought to ask if any of them were
still into IF (or aware that there was new IF to be had), but they were
familiar with Zork and educated me as to grues, so...

YHL

Rikard Peterson

unread,
Jan 16, 2004, 6:54:01 PM1/16/04
to
Mike Rozak wrote in
news:nlZNb.15230$Wa....@news-server.bigpond.net.au:

> Interesting. From a developing an authoring tool POV, this sounds
> like a good option to have. Although I'd also include the option
> (controlled by the author) of allowing people in different
> episodes to talk.

Wouldn't it make more sense to have Casablanca in 1942 and Casablanca
in 1943, 2003 or whatever as different locations as far as the system
is concerned if you don't the people in the different eras can't impact
each other. I fail to see the point of it being the same location.

I assume that's what you're talking about, since the alternative
(ghosts walking around that you can see but don't interect with just
beacuse they are further along in the story) just seems weird.

Rikard

Anvilsmith

unread,
Jan 17, 2004, 11:40:32 AM1/17/04
to
"There is only one Harry Potter in a Hogworts MUD, but many Harry
Potters in a Hogworts IF."
Although it would really cripple my view of the community to see more
than a few Harry Potters in a Hogworts IF, the example you provide is
perfect. In an IF devoid of character development, everyone plays the
same character. However, as soon as you provide two ways to finish a
locked door puzzle, you get two different Harry Potters. One of them
prefers smashing doors down, while the other goes looking for the key.

RPGs aren't necessarily about stats or dialog or PC-to-PC interaction
- every method of expressing one's personality adds to the RPG side of
things. Giving different solutions to puzzles (that would appeal to
different kinds of players), and encouraging the players to stop
thinking in terms of "the best path", is probably the best way to
produce a RPG-IF hybrid. Even in a puzzle-based game where characters
are treated as avatars, the role-playing side of things would still
have to exist, since different people come into the game with
different mindsets. Pacifists won't want to kill things in-game,
engineers would like to pull the stones out of a lever-filled wall and
see the gearwork behind it, and those who love continuity will try to
find links between various "adventures".

Note that some sort of plot/story can be achieved with "lots of
puzzles". Suppose there's a puzzle for destroying a part of the world,
or causing a large island to rise from the sea, filled with fresh
puzzles for the masses. Of course, they could only work once, and
would have to be terribly complex to make sure that players don't just
stumble in and do them. I'm sure you'll gain a lot more by keeping new
adventures hidden and locked under a complicated puzzle than shouting
announcements as soon as you complete them. First, suspicions will
rise as to which puzzles lead to which grandiose events, so players
will be more careful about everything. Even when there's no new
adventure in sight, everyone will still be on the look-out. Second,
it'll provide an excellent means of recycling plots. Let's take the
awakening of Cthulhu, for instance: it's an inevitable fact. Someone's
going to come in, tickle the old geezer and get the whole world
swallowed up. There are, however, ways of keeping him sealed in, and
many players will prefer to do that. Whenever a great puzzle that ends
with the sealing of Cthulhu is completed, the old liberation puzzle
will still exist, so the author can recycle part of the adventure.

Of course, even Cthulhu cannot survive the turmoil of a busy chatroom,
and there's nothing to keep a player from calling out to everyone in
the IF. Well, nothing except his dignity, but that can't be relied on.
Although parts of an adventure may block shouting, there's always IRC.
I suppose that if you want to maintain the mystery, you'll have to do
some law enforcement on your own.

Strange as it is, I'm imagining a competitive IF similar to Capture
the Flag, in which players have to go through several puzzles to get
to the enemy base. Their progress could be blocked by enemies, for
instance, via puzzles that require an enemy to be there and operate
them (chess is an extreme example of this). The players might even
have a stock of prefab puzzles which they could add in different rooms
of their own base, just to keep the enemy busy. It's an interesting
idea, though I'm not sure where it would fit into a multiplayer IF. It
could only be used as filler if the puzzles used were seriously
replayable (for instance, if they could be customized in-game), or if
trustworthy players designed them. It could, however, be used for beta
testing puzzles, to see how easily they can be finished in stressful
conditions.

"Ultimately, I'm not really into hearding, so the info you gave may
help me avoid it."

You'll need to attract intelligent individuals, or players willing to
conform to a community made up of such individuals. I'm sure you've
already noticed one thing that helps here: it's easier to write than
to make graphics, so by providing both mental and visual stimuli,
you'll encourage players to develop the former. The games built with
your tool might bring in some players through its sheer eye-candy, but
slowly convince them that reading whole sentences of text each day
won't make them ill.

This relates to the incorrect assumption someone made, that 90% of
user-made content is crap. There is no single value to any product,
just as there is no single learning curve to any design tool. The
assumption is perfectly true for NWN, because crap is easy to make
using the Aurora Engine, while quality work takes some effort. Anyone
can paint a dungeon and add prefab creatures... What makes a game
wonderful, however, is the scripting and playwrighting that very few
players are willing to learn, let alone employ.

For this reason, I'll make a ridiculous, but thoroughly true
statement: a good tool succeeds not only at making complex
simulation/writing feats easy to implement, but also provides a
cruelly high learning curve for simple stuff. If the latter requires
one to spend effort on the former, even better. The harder it is to
produce simple content, the more likely it is that those who manage
will have the patience and determination to go through with their
great projects.

However, crap will still appear, and you'll want to isolate it. The
best way to do this is to divide the player-run sections of the
gameworld from the official stuff, and possibly connect them through a
central filler area, where lots of replayable puzzles and toys were
available as socializing elements. Suppose the central region is a
noisy arcade with a quiet parking lot outside it. Every player could
design a single region of his own, accessible via the parking lot, and
fill it with his custom-made adventures. Since a player couldn't reach
these places by just typing "north" somewhere (he would be presented
with a huge list in the parking lot, and nothing else) the content
would be easily regulated. This way, players would immediately find
and use the option to filter locations by category and user / reviewer
rating. Self-advertising might become a problem, but I doubt it. The
only thing that truly bothers me is the dynamic nature of the
content... The player might give a location a high rating, but later
discover that new puzzles have replaced the old ones and tarnished the
location. To keep everyone's vote valid, I suppose the scores could
reset every month.

"What I'm suggesting is the antithesis of what MUDs try to do, which
is
retain users in a single world for as long as possible."

Actually, a (rather small) number of MUDs and PBFs (mostly PBFs)
encourage users to play more than one game, typically by sharing links
and allowing players to advertise. I haven't played a MUD in two
years, though, and I'm not familiar with many hack&slash MUDs, but
when it comes to small, role-play intensive games that peak at
different timezones, playing one game while keeping others in the
background is a sort of requirement. Some MUD clients like GMUD even
have a little window that lists the games to which they are connected
- every time something happens in another MUD, a little asterisc
appears beside its name. Very convenient, and probably something the
client side of your tool should include...

Anyway, I assume that you mean every MUD is owned by a different
author... I can't see why the same author would run more than one
multiplayer IF, when he can just bundle them all together. So why
won't players migrate? Partly because of the sense of community they
get from staying in one MUD. Given their real-time nature, MUDs
usually need a lot of players from similar timezones to work.
Otherwise, there's little interactive content to entertain them. A
multiplayer IF isn't like this, as it can be played in small groups
and doesn't need a steady core of dedicated players just to keep
itself alive during tough times. Chatrooms also encourage typical
players to stay, because as soon as they moved on, any conversations
and relationships they had would be cut short, if only for a time.
Granted, most chatroom conversations are so worthless that the
participants won't care if they ever took place or not, but they still
have a powerful effect. To channel that effect for your own purposes,
you have to institute a chat network that spans multiple IFs - even
multiple servers, if that's possible.

Inertia is an important factor as well: players might be too lazy to
proceed into the new adventure if they aren't excited about it or led
forward. Since they can finish at their own pace (the IF isn't going
anywhere) there's nothing that can drag them forward... Except their
buddies. One interesting (and hazardous) phenomenon manifests here: if
someone's friends go through a static story more quickly than he does
(whether because he missed some sessions or they played through the
end on their own), they'll be tempted to pour hints all over him so he
can speed through the remainder of the story, or convince him to skip
right to their IF. I'm not sure how this should be handled.

There might also be an issue of who owns which server. If authors were
provided with a free, public server in which they could congregate,
there's a chance they would link to each other, if they weren't
already grouped into a sort of meta-MUD. Custom graphics could easily
be shared between authors, and would need to be downloaded only once
per server. In PBPs that share servers, it's ridiculously easy to play
all games available: just scroll down the list of forums and make
yourself a character in each of them. However, MUDs don't really share
resources like this and take a lot of effort to code... Some of the
costs of running a server still apply whether it's popular or not, so
naturally, server owners will look for compensation in player numbers.

You must understand that genre norms, some natural and others imposed
by tradition, will affect all games created with your tool. As long as
people don't treat multiplayer IFs as MUDs, you'll be able to shape
their expectations and encourage cooperative authoring. What I'm not
sure of is the way you plan to restrict the tool's usefulness for MUD
design...

"My concern about the staleness is similar to TV series. After a
season or two of a TV series, it just retreads the same ground. (Some
series have good
writers and take longer to die, but they all become stale in the
end.)"

I don't mean to sound preachy, but you can't compare the potential of
a TV series with that of literature. One reason is that the characters
in literature can be kept interesting by presenting their few simple
actions in a great number of ways. Think of how entire mounds of
poetry abuse the sun by describing its flight and properties in more
or less original ways. TV just can't do that without feeling awkward.
Besides, the stagnant stories you find in TV series appeal only to
stagnant individuals - not your crowd. RPI MUDs and PBPs rely on the
characters' actions to support or generate stories, but that's not
what you're looking for...

In a wide player-base, you won't find a consensus as to which kinds of
repetition are tolerated, and you probably shouldn't care so much
about your players' opinions: they're going to migrate anyway, sooner
or later. It's best to develop the IF in all aspects rather than
concentrate on one for the players' sake. I can identify several
sources of "staleness": the graphics/sound, writing, story, puzzles,
characters and world. The graphics can only be fixed by including
animations, simplifying the graphics design process and providing a
greater variety of customization for every picture. The writing...
There are tons of features that can improve this, from simple windows
to cool animations that affect the text itself, but the best thing you
could do is allow authors to code everything in by themselves. When it
comes to the prose, there are a few tools you could use to keep things
varied - I, for one, haven't seen a spellchecker that keeps track of
how many times a family of words, a rhythm or a morphological property
is used in the same paragraph/text. It would certainly take a lot of
effort -too much, in fact- to code in...

Then there are the real troublemakers: story, puzzles, characters and
world. A story may seem stale is because the PCs participates only as
observers or players... In order to get them more involved, you'd have
to provide RPG elements. Another problem is the way information is
given: suppose you have two branching paths, each of them accessible
for everyone who can interpret a bit of information. Half the players
get to read a book on the subject, while the other half must analyze a
mural. These two sources lead the players to ideologically (and
geographically) different endings, so that, in the next chapter,
they'll be competing with each other towards the end. There are three
available from that point, one for each of the two ideologies and one
for a hybrid ideology that appears when a player learns about both
sources. This is a "cooperative" ending, which can theoretically be
reached only in multiplayer games, or by playing the same game twice.
Now, the players aren't supposed to talk to each other, since they're
in different parts of the world. By analyzing the mural and book
together, they might find out that they don't have to fight at all.
Half the plot gets ruined, not to mention all the competitve puzzles
that the two sides could've thrown at each other. Once again, chat
triumphs over IF. I suppose the best "tolerant" way to avoid this is
to infrom players that they shouldn't ask for hints.

While the players and PCs may not evolve much during the course of the
game, the true characters (in the story sense) are the machines and
NPCs they interact with. There are no problems with having the world
evolve, whether naturally or because of player actions, though you
seem to want an ongoing story rather than a world meant to be explored
and manipulated. A war can take place in a multiplayer IF, but not its
decisive battle, since the experience of new players shouldn't be
altered by those about to complete the game.

"new content often requires a higher level, so only experienced
players get there"

By "level", you must mean "anything that improves the success rate
and/or effectiveness of a player's actions". In an IF, the Brass
Lantern can be a new level, as it allows you to explore dark places.
If you need to get the red key to unlock the door to the area that
contains the brass lantern, the red key is also a new level. Design
these areas as the segments between two successive, concentric
circles, and you have a typical MMORPG map...

Multiplayer IF doesn't need that. If you consider the IF archive a
whole game, then every game recently made is "new content". Imagine
what it would be like if, as a new player, you had to groan your way
through (reduced versions of) Advent, Zork, Hitchhiker, Curses,
Janitor and Jigsaw just to get to this "new content" that everybody's
talking about... You'd like to join the discussion, but the damn troll
keeps standing in your way.

However, if you have a "finished chapter 1" flag, and design
descriptions in chapter 2 that treat the player as either a newcomer
or a veteran in the plot, well... You'll introduce the possibility of
in-character storytelling, which shares the problems of the
competitive story I described earlier, but can still be extremely
entertaining if the players show enough discipline.

"Levels, money, and object acquisition encourages users to stick
around
because they've worked so hard to get their current PC strong."

It only works when levels and such are standardized. Besides, what
keeps "training ground" MUDs (I won't call them IFs) from appearing
and beefing up the players?

"So what devices can be put into a mud to encourage migration?"

-Direct gateways from one game to another, even if they're on
different servers. This goes without saying.

-Big, flashy signs on said gateways. These don't have to be actual
signs... If the other IF features a surreal world based on symbols and
superstition, put the gatway in a fortune teller's tent. If it's a
whole country, and the game focuses on diplomacy, make an embassy for
it.

-Ensure that the "precursor" IFs contain information that can be used
in the "sequel" IF. This is something the authors have to work on, and
they're the ones who have to make it visible.

-(for content designers)the limitation to one area for every IF. While
cruel and oppressive, this will encourage players to designers their
stuff along different IFs. It also discourages them from updating a
single area - the difference between a farmer and a gardener, I
suppose.

-(for authors) Promote cooperation when it comes to designing a single
IF. If several authors team up to work on a project, chances are
they'll do this again. I have no idea how you can do this, since it
has a lot to do with the programming language of your product.

-If you really have to, promote a "compact" standardization: as
opposed to skills and stats, characters just gain "points". These
points can be translated anything, and only their quantity, as well as
their place of origin, passes between IFs. So if a player earned 200
gold, a broadsword and a "digest poison" skill, the 500 points that
these objects represent will be converted into 100 paratroopers in the
next game.

"Speaking of enforcing role playing: For a few seconds I was thinking
about
an IF where the player could jump from NPC to NPC, taking control of
the NPC
so long as that control was within the NPCs characters."

I think Threshold RPG still does this. Mind you, that game has almost
no roleplaying whatsoever despite being "RP Required". You can
temporarily take over an NPC and role-play him however you wish... Of
course, since he's had dealings with other NPCs/players, and since he
does have a personality, consistency dictates that you look at his
file before playing him. This is an inconvenience for new players, and
I doubt anyone besides the veterans and authors would understand how
to properly role-play a specific NPC.

A few settings might allow one to transfer his personality between
various objects... Robotic entities could spread into other cybernetic
systems, while typical demons would only need to possess their
victims.

"Keeps the atmosphere of the MUD/IF unified because it's just one
author,
or a group of friends."

You can do that, to an extent, by limiting the code and objects that
can be used in design. For instance, you might force designers to use
only objects that you've already created, and assign prefabricated
descriptions to these objects. If you want to encourage that sort of
tyrrany, consider coming up with an "automatic author control" scale
that made it easy for authors to decide just what the players are
allowed to build.

"Monitoring the quality of the content added by users is difficult."

Then don't monitor it. As long as the content doesn't appear in a
clearly delimited official zone, it's not required for the players to
go into it or even know about it. Encourage specific user ratings,
like "story", "descriptions" and "puzzles", rather than just a flat
score.

"Bartle's "Designing Virtual Worlds" points out legal problems when
other
people contribute large amounts of content to your MUD/IF, especially
when
you're charging for it."

Neverwinter Nights doesn't. Half-life doesn't (heck, they even sold
Gunman). Warcraft 3 doesn't. Morrowind doesn't. One could argue that,
in the same manner, a MUD only charges for the official areas. If the
unofficial bits were free for download, but impossible to read without
server-side help, there wouldn't be any problem, as I see it (the
courts could prove me wrong, of course).

I'll mention that Richard Bartle runs one of the most commercial MUDs
in existence, and argues that it's better to own a crappy MUD that
makes you rich than provide a quality MUD for free. Given that he
doesn't want other commercial MUDs to show up, he could be slightly
bending the truth.

"Plus, animations are traditionally limited to walk and combat
cycles."

You never noticed it, when you were crawling through a dust-storm in
the ashlands, on the lookout for those wretched pterosaurs that had
already drained half your health... Spotting ancient towers in the
distance, through the red clouds, was as much a skill as downing a
Daedra, but it was all worth it in the end, when you came back to the
familiar flapping banners of Caldera. The exploration aspect of that
game was much more interesting than its combat elements, and some of
it came through simple, recurring animations. If there's a way to
separate the animated content from the static, in terms of rendering,
well... Even having a few animated objects that stand out because of
their low polygon count would work well enough. Graphics don't need to
be about action as much as atmosphere.

If you keep everything static, you'll limit the variety of user-made
content. First, you won't be able to include sounds, as the static
pictures on your screen will feel out of place. Wait for the end of
the year in Pax Romana to understand how serious this can get - in the
forum, you can hear voices, clinks and wagons trudging by, but
everything is static... It just feels weird. Second, there's the
content problem - not many locations are naturally static, and when
they are, they're usually unimpressive. By just adding a few objects,
like a night sky sheet and a transparent, colored film, I imagine you
can simulate the day-night cycle without any fancy lighting.

Sam Denton

unread,
Jan 17, 2004, 4:09:59 PM1/17/04
to
Andrew Plotkin <erky...@eblong.com> wrote in message news:<bu7jaq$ei6$1...@reader2.panix.com>...

> As I think I said somewhere upthread, story and NPC interaction and
> exploration are integral to *most* computer games these days. (And the
> exceptions that I can think of are racing/sports games.) Exploration
> and puzzles (for games that have puzzles) are IF elements. Fighting is
> an RPG element. The games in which RPG predominates are the one I call
> RPGs.

I realize that probably everyone reading this already understands what
I'm about to say, but let me say it anyway.

My understanding is that successful MMORPGs are social games. In the
beginning were MUDs, which tried to be muliplayer IF, but it was soon
observed that players tended to gravitate to a few locations and chat
rather than "play". Single-user computer games (SUCGs) can be
catagorized in many ways, but the main thing that being on-line adds
is the ability to converse with other players, which turns the game
into a community. Any similarity to single user computer games winds
up being merely a hook to attract a certain subset of users. In that
light, any attempt to "beef up" the SUCG aspects are probably wasted
efforts.

For example, being able to sneak up on an NPC is a desired feature in
a RPG-SUCG, but being able to do the same to a fellow PC mostly just
gets the victim angry. So, PK-ing winds up being very restricted, if
it's allowed at all. (And introducing monsters creates new problems.
For instance, players can assemble hunting parties of almost any size.
There are at least two ways to solve that, but they lead to their own
set of problems.) The end result winds up like, for example, Star
Wars Galaxies. Many of its flaws were blamed on the game having to go
online before the programming was done, but the work done since then
suggests that it wouldn't have made much difference.

Exploration and puzzles have even worse difficulties scaling to
multi-player modes, so "MMOIF" winds up really different from SUCG IF.
The only solution that I can think of would be to make inter-player
communications useless. For example, one could randomly generate
mazes for each player, so that there's no point in sharing information
about the "lay of the land". As another example, solving a puzzle
could require building a tower from bricks, which are generated one
per player, and the tower's final height depends upon the number of
players. Both of these solutions seem a bit lame to me.

The most successful MMOGs aren't based on RPGs, but are instead are
glorified instant messaging systems. There (http://www.there.com/)
has little or no "game" involved, while Puzzle Pirates
(http://www.puzzlepirates.com/) wraps a minimal theme around a
collection of proven online games.

I don't know what is planned for the D'ni MMORPG, but I hope that it
doesn't try to slavishly covert Mist and Riven to an online format.
That path leads only to failure.

Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 17, 2004, 4:33:34 PM1/17/04
to
> > b) Face-to-face RPGs are dying (or nearly dead). They filled a void for
> > people that wanted escapism, socialization, and creativity. CRPG, IF,
> > and MMORPG now fulfill much of this need.
>
> I'm sorry... what do you base this on?

I don't have any statistics in total sales, but my evidence is this: When I
first started playing (circa 1980), gaming books like D&D were hard to find
in stores. (They only appeared in hobby stores.) The ease-of-finding RPG
books peaked out around 1990 - with entire shelves in bookstores like
Waldenbooks, or even gaming-only stores. After that, I found it more and
more difficult to find any gaming books. I take this as a rough indicator
about how mainstream an activity is.

If it isn't dying, that's great. Maybe someone has heard statistics from
whichever companies now own D&D, GURPs, Warhammer, etc.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 17, 2004, 4:50:27 PM1/17/04
to
> Wouldn't it make more sense to have Casablanca in 1942 and Casablanca
> in 1943, 2003 or whatever as different locations as far as the system
> is concerned if you don't the people in the different eras can't impact
> each other. I fail to see the point of it being the same location.

Yes, but you can talk to the ghosts; you're only forced to accept they're
ghosts when you try to given them something or attack them. I agree, this
may cause a problem, but then again it might not. However, I'm doing
brainstorm/design right now, and would rather leave it as a possibility that
rule it out. If it does (or doesn't) work I can always provide a swtich for
the author to turn off the functionality for his/her content.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Mike Rozak

unread,
Jan 17, 2004, 5:44:57 PM1/17/04
to
> it'll provide an excellent means of recycling plots. Let's take the
> awakening of Cthulhu, for instance: it's an inevitable fact. Someone's
> going to come in, tickle the old geezer and get the whole world
> swallowed up. There are, however, ways of keeping him sealed in, and
> many players will prefer to do that. Whenever a great puzzle that ends
> with the sealing of Cthulhu is completed, the old liberation puzzle
> will still exist, so the author can recycle part of the adventure.

While I don't think this particular scenario will work, it illustrates one
important point: It may work, and even if it doesn't some author will want
to try it.

The more feedback I get, the more ways I think of generalizing the IF system
so it can handle more varied forms of IF. At the present I am thinking of a
framework as follows:

- IF scripting language. OOP. Something like Inform/TADs but heavily reliant
upon an IDE. (Some people may object to the IDE, so I'm looking at a way of
also outputing just text files) This scripting language could also be used
to write a CRPG or MUD, just as Inform/TADs could if they were expanded to
support multiple users/clients.

- Instead of a text window, or in the case of MUDs, telnet client, it would
be a 3d-capable client that includes a renderer, text (movie titles or pages
of text), sound, music, and text-to-speech. Its inputs would include typed
commands, menus, and mouse-clicks. The particular UI displayed by the client
is under the control of the script.

- The scripting language would talk to the client through some sort of
proxy. This proxy would allow the script to be run on the user's local
machine (along with the client), or on a remote machine, depending upon how
the author configures it. (Note: Assuming that the IF might be run over the
high-latency internet limits some UI choices.)

- The amount that players can interact with one another is determined by
what features the script turns on in the server software. The script may
specify that it wants to be run like a MUD (with one script/world and
hundreds of PCs), like the small party arrangement (with several
scripts/worlds, each one with a few PCs), or the parallel worlds (one
script/world per PC). NOTE: Any internet support is a LONG way off; the
important part is to design the system to expect it. For now, I'll have a
proxy that keeps both the client and the server on the same machine, but
simulates an internet lag time under debug mode.

- Dynamic downloading of data, so only the bits of content (such as models
and textures) that are going to be used in the current "chapter" will get
downloaded. This is also useful if the author updates some models/textures.


What wouldn't be supported is:
- Letting the author modify the content without a shutdown. Many MUDs allow
the wizards to modify the code on the fly without bringing down the system
first. This is especially true of MMORPGs. While this would be a nice
feature, I don't think the programming effort (and potential bugs) warrant
the work since I don't expect my system to be used for MMORPGs, but smaller
user-bases. (Note: Creating/destroying objects would be easy as long as it
doesn't involve rewriting the code for them. If I REALLY wanted to, my
system could modify the code on the fly, but it would be work to impliment
this.)

- Animated 3D. My 3d modeller has animation abilities, but I don't think I
want to support animated IF, at least not at first. The reasons are a)
animation is a lot of work for the author, and I think the IF scripting, 3d
models, and sound are enough to try for now, and b) animation over the
internet can be tricky. Fixed animation over the internet is no problem, but
animations that dynamically react to the player is a problem due to internet
lags. MMORPGs spend a lot of effort trying to solve this problem.


> You'll need to attract intelligent individuals, or players willing to
> conform to a community made up of such individuals. I'm sure you've
> already noticed one thing that helps here: it's easier to write than
> to make graphics, so by providing both mental and visual stimuli,
> you'll encourage players to develop the former. The games built with
> your tool might bring in some players through its sheer eye-candy, but
> slowly convince them that reading whole sentences of text each day
> won't make them ill.

I basically agree with this, except I'd have the computer read to the user
using TTS, since trying to read and look at images is difficult.

> Neverwinter Nights doesn't. Half-life doesn't (heck, they even sold
> Gunman). Warcraft 3 doesn't. Morrowind doesn't. One could argue that,
> in the same manner, a MUD only charges for the official areas. If the
> unofficial bits were free for download, but impossible to read without
> server-side help, there wouldn't be any problem, as I see it (the
> courts could prove me wrong, of course).
>
> I'll mention that Richard Bartle runs one of the most commercial MUDs
> in existence, and argues that it's better to own a crappy MUD that
> makes you rich than provide a quality MUD for free. Given that he
> doesn't want other commercial MUDs to show up, he could be slightly
> bending the truth.

Let me clarify: If a company provides the server for the author's content,
then there's no problem. (aka: NWN and half-life) However, if the author's
content is tightly integrated into the company's content (which happens with
many MUDs) , then there is a problem. If the author has a fight with the
company and demands that the author's content be removed, or starts
demanding compensation (which would cause the company to remove the content)
then legal messes could arise.


> There might also be an issue of who owns which server. If authors were
> provided with a free, public server in which they could congregate,
> there's a chance they would link to each other, if they weren't
> already grouped into a sort of meta-MUD. Custom graphics could easily
> be shared between authors, and would need to be downloaded only once
> per server. In PBPs that share servers, it's ridiculously easy to play

Server price for authors will be an issue. Graphics will require a fair
amount of bandwidth, at least for the initial dump to the user's machine.

> "new content often requires a higher level, so only experienced
> players get there"
> By "level", you must mean "anything that improves the success rate
> and/or effectiveness of a player's actions". In an IF, the Brass
> Lantern can be a new level, as it allows you to explore dark places.
> If you need to get the red key to unlock the door to the area that
> contains the brass lantern, the red key is also a new level. Design
> these areas as the segments between two successive, concentric
> circles, and you have a typical MMORPG map...

Actually, I meant level as in experience points. If combat is a central
theme, then the combat often provides XP. Because you a PC needs so many XP
for his/her character to go up a level, and be able to fight the monsters in
the next dungeon (aka: chunk of content), combat acts as a way of slowing
down a user's progress from contant A (the 1st dungeon) to content B (the
second dungeon). This is a useful tool for the author.

However, if half the content requires a level 10+ wizard, and most people
get bored long before they reach level 10, then they don't get to experience
half the content. I suppose it comes down to content that's tied together
into smaller segments (like episodes) rather than huge campaigns. This is a
choice for the author though.


> If you keep everything static, you'll limit the variety of user-made
> content. First, you won't be able to include sounds, as the static
> pictures on your screen will feel out of place. Wait for the end of

Good point. What about trickes used in anime? Generally static images, but
with zooms/pans and some animation.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


PSurge

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Jan 18, 2004, 12:33:55 AM1/18/04
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"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in message
news:OShOb.16512$Wa.1...@news-server.bigpond.net.au...

I took the liberty seeing who owns what.

TSR was absorbed by gaming giant Wizards of the Coast. They are primarily
focused on CCGs (collectable card games), but also endorse the AD&D-based
computer RPGs, and have developed the 3rd edition AD&D rules. A company
this large and profitable presumably wouldn't have bought TSR unless there
was a market.

GURPS is still run by Steve Jackson games. They are currently offering a
"GURPS lite" version free of charge from the website.

Warhammer appears to be owned by Games Workshop, and appears to be quite
busy with an array of tabletop strategy games involving figurines. Of
course, it is expensive to even begin to play Warhammer, and their players
are mostly of the die-hard sort, so they likely have a strong base of income
from this small group.

That's all I got. I've got to go read the rest of this thread now...

> --
>
> Mike Rozak
> www.mXac.com.au
>
>


Adam Thornton

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Jan 18, 2004, 12:44:54 AM1/18/04
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In article <7VoOb.17093$DE.1...@fe2.columbus.rr.com>,

PSurge <PSu...@indy.rr.com> wrote:
> TSR was absorbed by gaming giant Wizards of the Coast. They are primarily
>focused on CCGs (collectable card games), but also endorse the AD&D-based
>computer RPGs, and have developed the 3rd edition AD&D rules. A company
>this large and profitable presumably wouldn't have bought TSR unless there
>was a market.

Yeah, but....

Not very long ago, Wizards of the Coast was a tiny and unprofitable
company. Then they invented something called _Magic: The Gathering_,
also known as "Crack for Nerds." Then a couple years after that they
bought TSR. In the fullness of time, they themselves, were bought by
Hasbro, which has Not Been A Good Thing.

I still do pen-and-paper gaming every chance I get.

Adam

PSurge

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Jan 18, 2004, 1:32:40 AM1/18/04
to

Oops, I missed the Hasbro thingy. I'm a recovering crac... er, M:tG
addict, having been in since the initial release of the game. It must have
been around when Hasbro bought the company that I stopped buying new cards.
Go figure.

I play pen-and-paper games when I get the chance. I've been trying to get
a MegaTraveller game going for awhile now, but with little luck.


"Adam Thornton" <ad...@fsf.net> wrote in message
news:bud6gm$d3a$1...@news.fsf.net...

Alex Warren

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Jan 18, 2004, 6:34:57 AM1/18/04
to
Mike Rozak wrote:

> The more feedback I get, the more ways I think of generalizing the IF system
> so it can handle more varied forms of IF. At the present I am thinking of a
> framework as follows:
>

[various snippage:]
> - IF scripting language.


> - Instead of a text window, or in the case of MUDs, telnet client, it would
> be a 3d-capable client that includes a renderer, text (movie titles or pages
> of text), sound, music, and text-to-speech. Its inputs would include typed
> commands, menus, and mouse-clicks.

> - The scripting language would talk to the client through some sort of
> proxy.

> - The amount that players can interact with one another is determined by
> what features the script turns on in the server software.

> - Dynamic downloading of data, so only the bits of content (such as models
> and textures) that are going to be used in the current "chapter" will get
> downloaded. This is also useful if the author updates some models/textures.

Have you looked at QuestNet Server? The "Lite" version is included with Quest
3.51 - http://www.axeuk.com/quest/download.htm . It's very similar to what you
describe, apart from the lack of 3D rendering (!), and currently you can't use
sound and images in online games (but that is being worked on).

You can create games with a visual editor which outputs a scripting language, or
you can just write the script yourself.

In online games, the clients don't see any script - they receive text from the
server and other commands to configure the interface etc.


> What wouldn't be supported is:
> - Letting the author modify the content without a shutdown. Many MUDs allow
> the wizards to modify the code on the fly without bringing down the system
> first. This is especially true of MMORPGs. While this would be a nice
> feature, I don't think the programming effort (and potential bugs) warrant
> the work since I don't expect my system to be used for MMORPGs, but smaller
> user-bases. (Note: Creating/destroying objects would be easy as long as it
> doesn't involve rewriting the code for them. If I REALLY wanted to, my
> system could modify the code on the fly, but it would be work to impliment
> this.)

You can dynamically create objects, rooms and exits and change the properties of
these while a game is running in QuestNet Server, but you can't go and add
actual code while it's running.


I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.


Alex

--
alex at axeuk, and add .com for email address.
Make adventure games easily with Quest - http://www.axeuk.com/quest/
Analyse web site log files for free with Xlogan - http://www.xlogan.com/

Seebs

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Jan 18, 2004, 9:33:32 PM1/18/04
to
In article <7VoOb.17093$DE.1...@fe2.columbus.rr.com>,
PSurge <PSu...@indy.rr.com> wrote:
> TSR was absorbed by gaming giant Wizards of the Coast. They are primarily
>focused on CCGs (collectable card games), but also endorse the AD&D-based
>computer RPGs, and have developed the 3rd edition AD&D rules. A company
>this large and profitable presumably wouldn't have bought TSR unless there
>was a market.

WotC was ludicrously wealthy, but figured their CCG thing wouldn't stay that
rich forever, and TSR was foundering. That said, 3E has done fairly well.

I understand that sales aren't as high as Hasbro would like (Hasbro, being
total losers and mildly evil, bought WotC with the assumption that CGG's would
stay the hot new thing forever), but are still high enough to keep a few staff
on.

-s
--
Copyright 2004, all wrongs reversed. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
http://www.seebs.net/log/ - YA blog. http://www.seebs.net/ - homepage.
C/Unix wizard, pro-commerce radical, spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting, computers, web hosting, and shell access: http://www.plethora.net/

Mike Rozak

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Jan 19, 2004, 7:08:44 PM1/19/04
to
> Have you looked at QuestNet Server? The "Lite" version is included with
Quest
> 3.51 - http://www.axeuk.com/quest/download.htm . It's very similar to what
you
> describe, apart from the lack of 3D rendering (!), and currently you can't
use
> sound and images in online games (but that is being worked on).

Thanks for the tip. I just had a brief look. (I'll have a better look
later.) Quest seems similar in principle to what I'm thinking. My software
will be targeted at more advanced programmers/authors though.

1) Quest doesn't (seem to) have a scripting language. What I'm planning will
be completely based on a scripting language, just as TADS/Inform are. A
scripting language is good if an author wants to do some complicated
logic/interactions, but bad if the author doesn't understand programming or
wants to quickly produce content.

2) QuestNet appears to be target at LANs, although I saw a post that a
simple telnet client was available. The code to create an online IF (for
internet) is easy to get running, but difficult to make stable. This is
because:

a) If it's on a real server, the software can't crash and can't have memory
leaks.
b) Users of the server will TRY to crash it.
c) Users will try to find any flaw they can and take advantage of it to
cheat or harass other users.
d) User account managment. (This may even need to include billing.)
e) Other issues I don't know about now, but which exist.

Item 2 ends up being a LOT of work, which is why, if I do internet support,
it's a long way off.


3) 3D graphics are more work for the author than Quest's use of JPEG images.
I think 3d is more flexible in the long run though.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Alex Warren

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Jan 20, 2004, 4:58:20 AM1/20/04
to
Mike Rozak wrote:

> > Have you looked at QuestNet Server? The "Lite" version is included with
> Quest
> > 3.51 - http://www.axeuk.com/quest/download.htm . It's very similar to what
> you
> > describe, apart from the lack of 3D rendering (!), and currently you can't
> use
> > sound and images in online games (but that is being worked on).
>
> Thanks for the tip. I just had a brief look. (I'll have a better look
> later.) Quest seems similar in principle to what I'm thinking. My software
> will be targeted at more advanced programmers/authors though.
>
> 1) Quest doesn't (seem to) have a scripting language. What I'm planning will
> be completely based on a scripting language, just as TADS/Inform are. A
> scripting language is good if an author wants to do some complicated
> logic/interactions, but bad if the author doesn't understand programming or
> wants to quickly produce content.

Quest *is* based on a scripting language. You can hand-code games using a text
editor if you want. The visual editor generates this code, so there is a choice
of whether to use it or not (or you can use both).


> 2) QuestNet appears to be target at LANs, although I saw a post that a
> simple telnet client was available.

Yes, a telnet "adaptor" is available. QuestNet runs equally well on LANs or the
internet. It doesn't use much bandwidth at all - the only data sent between
server and client is the text to display on-screen.


> The code to create an online IF (for
> internet) is easy to get running, but difficult to make stable. This is
> because:
>
> a) If it's on a real server, the software can't crash and can't have memory
> leaks.
> b) Users of the server will TRY to crash it.
> c) Users will try to find any flaw they can and take advantage of it to
> cheat or harass other users.

I deal with problems as they arise, and so I fix bugs which cause crashes as
they are reported. I may have to put in protections to stop people for example
flooding the server, but only when that actually becomes an issue. I could spend
a long time programming all kinds of defences but it's a bit pointless unless
people are actually using the thing.


> d) User account managment. (This may even need to include billing.)

You can set the server to require logins, and you can set whether you want it to
allow players to register themselves. If players can't register themselves, you
could set them up after they paid you for example.


> e) Other issues I don't know about now, but which exist.

Pretty difficult for me to address those! :)

Mike Rozak

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Jan 20, 2004, 9:09:08 PM1/20/04
to
> Quest *is* based on a scripting language. You can hand-code games using a
text
> editor if you want. The visual editor generates this code, so there is a
choice
> of whether to use it or not (or you can use both).

Sorry, didn't see this in my quick skim.


> I deal with problems as they arise, and so I fix bugs which cause crashes
as
> they are reported. I may have to put in protections to stop people for
example
> flooding the server, but only when that actually becomes an issue. I could
spend
> a long time programming all kinds of defences but it's a bit pointless
unless
> people are actually using the thing.

That's the only way you can handle it. When I ran a BBS I encountered tons
of security issues. Having just read some MMORPG and MUD programming books I
have learned of even more.

Hopefully I can learn something from Quest's exerpiences. I'll have to play
around with Quest and see what kind of feedback/issues get posted on the
boards.

--

Mike Rozak
www.mXac.com.au


Joao Mendes

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Jan 21, 2004, 10:36:27 AM1/21/04
to
Hey, :)

"Mike Rozak" <Mike...@bigpond.com> wrote in message

news:8blPb.20968$Wa....@news-server.bigpond.net.au...


> Hopefully I can learn something from Quest's exerpiences. I'll have to
play
> around with Quest and see what kind of feedback/issues get posted on the
> boards.

Also, and this is from a concept standpoint only, as the looks of the thing
aren't the greatest, check out Bridge Crew. It announces itself as a
computerized cooperative role-playing tool. You can find it on the
underdogs (www.the-underdogs.org).

Cheers,

J.


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