[MUD-Dev] UI Issues: Anti-scripting techniques

Adam Wiggins nightfall at user2.inficad.com
Sun Oct 5 19:40:49 CEST 1997

> Brian Price <blprice at bedford.net> wrote:
> For some skills, getting some basic training is a true necessity, since
> failure can carry harsh consequences.  No one in their right mind would
> want to learn the basics of defusing bombs by trial and error with live
> bombs, for example.  :-)

IMO this is how combat skills should work.  It's difficult to learn
the things you need for mortal combat (combat skills, being able to handle
fear or adrenaline, pain tolerance) without actually getting yourself hurt
or killed.  Witness a good boxer - he probably is missing a bunch of teeth,
has some brain damage, a few scars, maybe a chunk missing out of his ear.
And these guys are fighting with set rules (no poking eyes out, no nad
kicks, etc) and padded gloves!  Imagine when you get some guys with swords
going at it..
Really this boils down to resources.  It could be that it's expensive to
learn how to pick locks, because you have to buy lockpicks on the black
market (probably semi-expensive) which break frequently when you don't
know what you're doing.  A person who is trying to learn to pick locks might
have to pick a few pockets as well to get by..
Other resources for skill-training can involve location, timeframes,
or special equipment.  Becoming knowledgable about astronomy is probably
going to require a good location (the top of a hill, far from a city),
equipment (a nice telescope), certain timeframes (studies done at night,
and even then you can only study certain stars and planets at certain times),
and possibly even other resources - access to a good library, being around
others that are knowledgable about the subject, and so forth.  That's
a lot more stuff than just typing "study stars" over and over again.

> >While I suppose in some exceptional case a chef might go from
> >flipping burgers in a fast food joint to becoming a world-renowned
> >chef by sheer practice, this would not be the normal case by any
> >means.  Of course, we all know that training alone does not suffice
> >either, I'd bet we all know of individuals who have completed some
> >course of training, barely passing, and never achieved any degree of
> >success in the trained skill.  (Such individuals do tend to become
> >managers however :) j/k).
> Well, one question is in how you divide up skills.  For example, one
> could simply have a "cooking" skill, or you could divide it up into
> "short-order cook", "baking", "barbecueing", "haute cuisine", etc.  Thus,
> our hypothetical burger-flipper might become a very good short-order cook,
> but will never become a world-renowned chef, since that would require a
> high skill in haute cuisine.  Of course, few muds will probably want to
> divide cooking into this many skills -- but many muds might want to divide
> up combat skills into, say, "short slashing sword", "short thrusting sword",
> "medium slashing sword", etc.

Another key point, although I think there's a better way to divide the
skills.  The reason that a burger-flipper can only get so good at cooking
is that she's not doing all the things that a gormet needs to know.
She does the same thing over and over again - the gormet makes many kinds of
dishes and spices and equipment and cooking methods.  Knowing how to blend
all these together in just the right way is what makes her a great chef.
The burger-flipper doesn't have most of this knowledge.

Translating it to combat, we can go back to our old example about the
luberjack.  He stands all day long in the forest swinging an axe against
treetrunks.  Under certain (poorly designed?) skill systems, he would become
the world's best axe-fighter after twenty years or so of this.  Of course,
if the skills are divided well, this won't be a problem.  He may be
a master at handling axes, and he's probably got a good amount of upper
body strength.  He's probably also got a fair amount of stamina from doing
that all day every day for so long.  What he doesn't have is skills to
locate openings in a foe's defense, defense skills of his own, the speed
and quick wit to handle combat tactics or even knowledge of those tactics,
pain tolerance, and even the ability to deal with threating situations on a
mental level.
This is no different from the burger flipper above, who gets a few very
specific skills, but not the broad amount of knowledge necessary to do
a complex task well.  Thus, I'd say the moral of the story is that a
complex task requires a proportionate number of skills.  A simple task
should only need a few, or one.

> >efforts and even manage to solve a few quests/explore a bit in the
> >process, still in many cases, I'm reduced to useless spamming to
> >increase skills to a competitive level.
> I agree.  Implementing some of the ideas I discussed to make blindly
> reusing skills have low returns should go a long way towards solving
> this problem.

Not only do they solve the problem of spamming and scripting, but they
make the game more fun.  Who wants to stand around doing the same thing
over and over?  When I play a mud I want to sort of cruise around and
'work on' whatever I feel like.  Usually I stay at something until
I hit a noticable improvement (like being able to pick a lock I
couldn't before), at which point I go and do something else.  Having
the skill system reflect this is IMO a great player thing, even
dismissing the abuse problems above.

> Well, IMHO, the solutions I've proposed aren't truly "heavyweight."
> I don't mind spending a large amount of time thinking about and
> implementing a solution to a problem, as long as it's something that
> will only need to be done once.  I think the biggest problem we had on
> SWmud was that there wasn't a single system for advancing skills -- it
> was pretty much left up to the writers of the individual skills when they
> should advance and how much they should rise each time the skill was
> advanced.  Thus, fixing problems required tweaking individual skills --
> and didn't help any other skills which had the same problem.


> A single system for advancing skills, with a few options for different
> "types" of skills, would allow easier fixes to related groups of skills,
> and would reduce the chance that an inexperienced skill designer could mess
> up.

Not to mention making it easier to add new skills.

> A mildly sadistic system might be to do these adjustments on a character-by-
> character basis -- thus, those who try to advance faster by "spamming"
> skills
> would have their advancement per use decreased to where they advance no
> faster,
> or maybe even slower, than they would if they only used the skill when it's
> truly needed!

I like it.  It's also 'realistic' - I find that if I've been doing something
for a while, particularly if I'm not very good at it, there's a point
of diminishing returns.  At that point I might as well go do something else
for a while, since I'm not going to learn anything new by banging my head
up against the same wall again and again.

Hum, anyone want to implement character frustration? :)

> pick lock
You begin picking the lock.
[long ass time goes by]
You throw up your hands in exasperation and storm out of the room, swearing
under your breath.

> It does, however, require continuing implementation -- each time a new
> skill is added, trainers have to be added for it.  Further, the "harder
> to find" part for finding high-level instructors may be hard to implement,
> and gives more incentive for players to "cheat" by sharing locations of
> instructors.

Hard to implement?  IMO the funnest NPCs to make are the teachers.  The
barbarian that roams about in the plains and will only teach you if you
bring him the head of a giant; the old hermit-druid who lives on top of
Mt. Neverclimb in the midst of the Reallysteep mountain range and requires
that you purify your mind through meditation before he'll teach you, the
greasey pick-pocket in town who you have to first convince that you're
not an undercover city guard and second, won't teach you for very cheap..

As to the 'cheating', I don't find this a problem at all.  I think it's a
*great* thing for player interaction - sharing knowledge.  Now, a good
mud will be designed so that the most powerful/important knowledge is
the sort of thing you want to keep to yourself.  But given the sorts
of teachers described above, you have something akin to Luke asking
Ben about how to be a Jedi, and Ben describing the forsaken planet upon
which lives a forgoten master of the force...

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