[MUD-Dev] Usability and interface and who the hell is supposed to be playing, anyway? (Was: PK Again)

clawrenc at cup.hp.com clawrenc at cup.hp.com
Wed Oct 1 10:31:59 CEST 1997

In <E0xEaQP-0001XX-00 at crucigera.fysh.org>, on 09/26/97 
   at 09:44 AM, Maddy <maddy at fysh.org> said:

>Previously, Adam Wiggins wrote....
>> [Maddy:]
>> > Previously, Caliban Tiresias Darklock wrote....

>The problem with (especially races) info in character creation is you
>don't want to give too much away.  Listing all of race X's weaknesses
>means that anyone can find them out.

I of course side step the entire area.  New characters are assigned a
non-descript humanoid body.  Its basically good at nothing in
particular, and not teribly bad at anything either.  The physical
appearance is much along the line of a gray humaoin with no features,
scars, clothing, sex, varition in size, or other distinguishing marks. 
Characters can then steal other bodies (and thus races) they like

If this were put into a more classical MUD scenario, this would
essentially be the ability for a guest character to mutate into a
"real" character (ie real body/race type etc), who so requested.

Aside: Guest characters are extremely valuable things for a MUD.

>I'd like to refer to everyone consistantly all the time, although I
>do see merits in providing a longer description when looking. 

>  A one-armed elf is here.  He has a beard and is dressed in a 
>  long flowing robe.
>  The one-armed elf says, 'Hello.'

This is essentially a Level Of Detail question (LOD).  The simplest
model is that of a graphical world.  When the object is far distant,
and only represented by a couple pixels, who cares how well rendered
it is?  Conversely when he is 6" away, that rendering quality can be

The same things really applies to textual descriptions of characters
in text MUDs with a couple extra caveats thrown in:

  -- Familiarity breeds contempt.  If you've seen Bubba all day every
day for the last 50 MUD years, you don't want to read his full desc
every time he enters a room.  Wiggins(?) has written several bits on
his approach to this point.  The most key of which appears to be
having the server recall how you last saw the other character, and how
you are most familiar with seeing him, and on that basis adjudicating
whether or not you actually recognise him as the character you know.  

  The key example given was something on the order of:

    > l
    Bubba is here.
    > l at bubba
    Bubba has long hair, a beard that reaches his knees, etc 
    and is wearing very tattered and filthy clothes.
    > enter inn
    Bubba goes upstairs.
    A youg clean shaven man comes down stairs.
    The man claps your shoulder and says, "Boffo!  Don't recognise 
    me all cleaned up eh?  Its me, Bubba!"

  One thing that I don't think Wiggins ever touched on is how to
detect and manage the transition from unknown to to known.  Above, you
knew Bubba as the hairy woodsman.  Now he's spiffed up.  How does the
server detect and re-bind your familiarity with Bubba to his new
clean-shaven self?

  -- Comparitive significance.  You know Bubba well, and can recognise
him on sight.  As such you want the minimal desciption as above. 
However, now Bubba is in a crowd of 500 others milling about a room. 
Glancing in the room you are should not see "A large crowd of people
and Bubba are here".  Bubba's familiarity should be drowned out in the
mass of other data represented by the crowd.  

Nathan has written some interesting pieces on this area specifically,
mot especially in the handling of crowds and loss off detail due to
data overload.

  Similarly, you are standing in town when a dragon flies by and start
munching on any and all.  You run, the dragon breathing down your
neck.  Bubba comes out of a side road and passes you (perhaps he's on
a horse).  you should not see, "The dragon is right behind you!  Bubba
runs past."  It is a question of applicable detail.  You don't have
free attention to spend on recognising people.

J C Lawrence                           Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                           Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------------(*)               Internet: clawrenc at cup.hp.com
...Honorary Member Clan McFUD -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

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