[MUD-Dev] Character Perceptions

John Buehler johnbue at msn.com
Fri Jan 23 11:07:18 CET 2004

Scion Altera writes:

> I am surprised, John.. another idea I agree with ;)

Yeah, sorry about that.

> I liked all the examples you gave, from the swords to the night
> vision to the perception of warrior-ness for fighting classes or
> wealth for roguish classes. I just wanted to add that this is
> certainly not limited to graphical games.

I thought it would fit into text MUDs as well, but I don't have
enough experience with such games to know if it would even be
desirable to text MUD players.

[examples snipped]

> What we're talking about here is essentally the character's
> "second nature". Pickpockets are always going to be looking for
> easy, wealthy targets. City guards are always going to be looking
> for potential troublemakers.  [...]

> The other aspect of this seems like more of a user interface
> issue.  Looking for a shop selling swords is a perfect
> example. [...]

I don't know how many distinct ways that character perceptions can
be applied, and I'm hesitant to say that character perceptions is
specifically addressing one or two problems in current game design.
All of this really just boils down to user interface issues because
it's all a question of how to depict this information to the player.

If I say something quietly to my buddy who is standing next to me,
the game may show that to your character (which is standing a few
feet away) as a speech bubble above my character - but with nothing
in it.  Or perhaps a bubble ala Peanuts' Woodstock character so you
get a sense of how much was said.

If your character smells orcs, you should be notified that orcs are
upwind of you, relatively close, and which direction the wind is
coming from.  But only if you know what orcs smell like, of course.
Adding that to a game means that hunters have to worry about wind
direction because most animals have a strongly developed sense of

In the social strata of gameplay, it should be possible to indicate
what amounts to body language.  A character that is suspcious should
have a way of clearly indicating that.  It might be by a red face on
the character.  But that might not be enough.  You might want to
know who or what the character is looking at.  The character might
have a serious interest in the emblem on your cloak.  If your
character can pick up on that, you should be notified.  Perhaps a
line connecting the other character's eyes to your cloak so long as
the other character is watching.  Walk down the street of a big city
with a sword in your hand and you're going to have a ton of lines
from city NPCs to your sword, reminding you to sheathe that sucker.
When you have attuned your character's perceptions to look for a
certain thing, your character's eyes will give that away, and others
might notice it.

The social aspect of the game continues into the political realm.  A
large element of the political game might be played through these
perceptions.  Your political arch enemy isn't going to hit you with
a sword, but he may show serious contempt for you.  Or he might mask
that contempt using some kind of Emotional Control skill (a social
skill), making him more able to manipulate situations.

Perceptions cover a lot of ground because it's all about the 'input'
side of decision-making in games.  It leads to more complex
scenarios.  And I believe that THAT is where the true entertainment
of these games lies.  It makes the actual experience of the game
that much richer.  It's why I'm hesitant to categorize the
technique.  It might limit how others could apply it.

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