Just a bit of musing

Adam Wiggins nightfall at inficad.com
Wed Feb 26 21:36:20 CET 1997

> A thread on rec.games.mud.admin has recently turned to combat interaction.
> The thread is, unfortunately, dominated by the diku types, who have rather
> limited perception when it comes to combat, and who, in trying to propose

Hmmm...I'll agree with the 'limited perception' bit, but it does seem
to make sense to me that those who implement muds which are completely
and entirely based around combat would know something about how combat

> beyond the room visability, have trapped themselves into a complex system
> to establish three dimesnional positioning and standard vision passing of
> rooms

"trapped"?  Nice choice of words...anyways I think the best (and,
incendentaly, most complicated == detailed) 3d positioning system I've
heard of so far comes from JC Lawrence, described in a rather lengthy
thread on this mailing list last year.

> As crude as their suggestions have been, the concept of a MUD based
> on free space instead of rooms has been clinging to my mind. What do you

I've been mulling this over in my head for several years now, and have
yet to come up with anything that I think is a real significant improvement
over the traditional room concept...

> guys think of this? It would not be hard to code, conceptually, but the
> tendancy to spam the player would be great, and the creativity of writing
> styles might be somewhat hampered in trying to allow player specific
> perception of surroundings. One scheme I have been playing with: This

Well, there's no reason you couldn't have the mud 'trim' out things, trying
to determine what the player will see depending on a) the character's
perceptive abilities, height, etc b) their options settings c) what
the mud thinks they would notice.  This is actually easier than it sounds,
although equally easy to screw up.  Things like keeping track of what general
direction they are heading - they are likely more interesting in what is ahead
of them than what's behind them.  Also, you're more interested in what
characters are actually approaching you, rather than those just moving about
in vectors more or less unrelated to you in nearby rooms.  In addition, the
sheer volume of stuff can be a form of filtering; in a city you won't get
many messages like "Cirdan enters the shop a ways to the west" but you
will get the message "A band of orcs is approaching from the west" when
you're out on the open plains.  Even though we stick with rooms for a couple
of reasons, we still give them general info about the environment which
surrounds them.  This actually ends up reducing the amount of writing that
builders need to do, because it will tack on stuff like "There is some sort
of settlement several miles to the north" instead of requiring the builder
to enter it.  They are only obliged to describe the immediate surroundings.
Even things like plant life are added automatically; we have a database of
several hundred trees, flowers, ground cover, and other sorts of plants which
have areas in which they grow "automatically", and the builder doesn't need
to do different descriptions for each season - the flowers only bloom at a
certain time, the leaves fall off of certain trees in the winter, etc.
In addition, different players will see the world in a very different way.
A character that is 9 feet tall can see quite a bit further than a character
who is 3 feet tall; however, if the smaller character attempts to hide from
the larger character, he will find it quite easy, while the larger character
will find it nearly impossible to hide from the 3 foot character given
normal conditions.  In addition, intelligence and perception as well as
general world knowledge make stuff appear in different ways.  For example,
a stupid character might see, "A large pile of coins rests on the table"
whereas a smarter/more perceptive one would see, "Several hundred coins rest on
the table" and Rain Man sees, "231 coins rest on the table, one of which has
a small dent on its surface."  A character with knowledge of botany would
see, "Two oak trees and a yew sappling grow here" versus a normal character
who sees, "Three trees grow here."  Naturally you can always try to take
a closer look at a certain thing, which takes a certain amount of time,
but gives you a bonus to your perception rolls.  (Of course, if you just don't
know the name of any trees, you can stare at it all day long and at most
you'll get a detailed description of the type of bark, flowers, leaves, and
what have you.)
Obviously there is quite a bit more than these rather specific examples,
but the point of all this is that we ended up sticking to the room concept.
The main problem with getting more specific than this is that you loose the
simple elegance of the room + cardinal directions setup.  We have all our
rooms aligned on a perfect grid (256x256x256, which is bigger than it sounds),
which actually makes it extremely easy to conceptualize for both the builder
and the player.  You always know that if you go north, east, south, west,
you're going to end up back in the same room, assuming you make your
direction-sense rolls.  By throwing in all this "extra" stuff, it works out
that _most_ of the room description is very dynamic.  Two different characters
see two very different things, and even the same character returning later
sees a different setting due to time of day, season, and their character's
worldly knowledge.  Yet it remains simple to imagine the actual layout
and easy to navigate, no matter how complex the rooms themselves get, and
you get to keep the mood and creative effect of having individual room
descriptions, even though they serve a lesser purpose.

> descends from the concept of my graphical MUD project.

This is basically what we decided - if you want to get much more complex
than current muds (refering to all those with a grid system already in
place, of course), you have to go graphical.  Many have done the overhead
ansi map ala nethack/moria/angband, although this doesn't appeal to me much.
I like to think that the ideal mud would play (and read) just like a good
piece of fantasy literature.  ANSI-maps don't really fit too well into
this category, handy as they may be.
As far as doing an _actual_ graphical mud, I don't think it would be
worth doing unless you could do a real, totaly interactive 3d environment,
maybe with a view along the lines of Tomb Raider, but with mud-like controls
(ie not arcade-ish).

> A blocking description would block things "behind" it, using the 2D
> crystal latice matrix transforms to determin "behind"ness. Screening hides
> the things behind it to varying degrees. Multiple objects can occupy the
> same location, but have volume concerns. A "node" corresponds to a room,
> and could concievably have size variation, though that is not necessary to
> the design. The nodes portrayed here have scope 5x5.

Nod...I think most grid-maps I've seen on muds work pretty much like this,
although with varying amounts of detail as far as volume limitations.
I tend to think that the z-axis control is generally the weakest part of
these implementations, however.  In addition, this goes back to the fundamental
problem of this seeming pretty arbitrary to someone reading a text description.
So you're left with a totaly non-traditional graphical display of some sort,
of which I've yet to see one that conveys anything of the sense of mood
and environment which you get with a really well-written area; it feels
more like some abstract game of chess or something.  Then again, perhaps
this is the "crude" diku-coder side of my brain speaking.

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