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

Michael Hartman michael at thresholdrpg.com
Thu Dec 23 21:29:23 CET 2004

Damion Schubert wrote:

> 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?

Wow. That is a very compelling argument in favor of an invented
system. It still raises the problem for writing text descriptions
though, since a lot of a text description is trying to convey a
visual image of an item. If you cannot make the reader visualize the
size of something, that is tough.

Still, one could get part of the benefit of what you are saying by
inventing a totally new system of measurement and then provide a
conversion chart for players. That gives you some obscurity in the
numbers (to remove some of what you mentioned above) while still
giving the players a way to visualize things.

So if your web site said something like:

  1 gand (word invented on the spot) = 1.5 feet = .5 meter

You've obscured a bit what a gand is, but if you tell someone that
the sword they just found is 3 gands in length they know its a
pretty big sword.

In all of these very interesting posts, one of the core questions

In a game world where the unit of measurement matters, what happens
when the system used is not the same as the one most of your players
are familiar with (English for US players, metric for everyone
else). Are they uncomfortable? Does this make them less likely to

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