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

Damion Schubert ubiq at austin.rr.com
Tue Dec 21 19:12:11 CET 2004

Michael Hartman wrote:

> 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?

Most commercial games make up their own - of course, we're all doing
men-in-tights games, so switching to 'stones' for weight, for
example is pretty easy for us.

In Shadowbane, we go a step further.  We don't use labels at all -
your inventory shows that you're carrying "30/75", without saying
what that is.  Our spell distances, similarly, don't display what
unit of measurement they are (which is 'unit', the length of which
is based on some hardcoded tech-derived number with little or no
corellation to any real-world unit of measurement).

An advantage of making one up or not labelling at all is that it's
harder for players to point out incongruities in your game.  What do
you mean, this warrior can carry and fight with 300 pounds in his
backpack?  Is this huge, expansive game world really only 10 miles
by 10 miles?  That's too small!  What do you mean I have to run 3
miles to complete my quest?  That's too far!  Obfuscating these
labels allows the designers to make decisions dictated by design -
how much does a warrior need to carry for fun's sake?  How big
should the world be?  How long should it take to get to the next
zone and complete your quest?

Lastly, if you're making a game where players are doing a lot of
converting from one unit of measurement to another - you're probably
making a pretty complicated game.

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