[MUD-Dev] Metric vs. English System of Measurement in Games

Michael Hartman michael at thresholdrpg.com
Mon Dec 20 21:54:16 CET 2004

It pains me as an American that we insist on perpetuating the use of
the inferior English or Imperial measurement system.

The game design question this raises is what should a developer use
when create a new game world?

If you know in advance that the majority of your customers will be
from the United States, does that inherently necessitate the use of
the English system (feet, yards, miles, etc.)?

Or is it still feasible to use the metric system?

Even from a coding perspective the metric system is generally
superior for the same reason it is superior in real life: all units
are divisible by 10. This keeps things nice and tidy and makes it
very easy to figure out distances.

Areas where this can affect gameplay are:

  1) Weight: Inventory systems where the amount of stuff you can
  carry depends on weight must clearly decide between pounds and
  grams (or kilos). This is important for total inventory space as
  well as for representing the weight of each individual item.

  2) Range and Area of Effeft: Spells and other ranged attacks that
  have range must be expressed in either feet or meters generally.

  3) Descriptions: This is most relevant to text games, but even
  graphical games sometimes have text descriptions of various
  things. You need to know which system you are using or else the
  descriptions will be inconsistent.

I think it is obvious that no matter what a game developers decides,
the system of measurement should be universal. While it is possible
that different cultures in the game might use different systems,
this is probably going to cause more difficulties than
benefits. Furthermore, regardless of the difference in game
cultures, there are so many things that are described to the PLAYER
and those things need to be in one standardized format.

One very major concern:

  If you use the metric system, will you be sacrificing your
  potential attractiveness to US players?

I would be interested to see if this was a question any other
developers wrestled with, and if so what did you decide (and how did
you decide it) ?

Michael Hartman
President and CEO, Threshold Virtual Environments, Inc.
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