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The Miscreant Engine

Started by F. Scott Banks, May 20, 2004, 05:50:51 AM

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kenjib

Quote from: WyldKarde
Information is another form of currency in the game.  There are "hints" generated when the world changes.  Those with second sight might see glimpses of a dark future.  Augurers can look at patterns of birds in flight and determine that something is wrong to the west.  Any of these portents means that the game has generated some new horror.  Maybe orcs have settled in the swamps or a portal to hell opened up in the mountains somewhere.

Once this information gets to the people who see it first, it will be told to leaders like city heads or interested crime lords.  From there, it will be passed down to guilds who will dispatch their "adventurers" (probably sitting around waiting for the world to go to hell) and the fun commences.  Mind you, this is just a possible pattern.  Nothings stopping the original "seer" from grabbing a party and going into battle himself.  However, there are those who would pay for such info.

In the meantime, thieves, spies (you don't need to play two characters to play two sides...besides, I can check ISP addresses to prevent most multiple log-ins) and just nosy neighbors are trying to "steal" the information (it's treated like an object) to get it to their own little cliques.  Tavern owners, for example, run makeshift guilds, using roaming adventurers to collect the bounty on quests.  The barkeep finds out the "Mage" Guild is looking for an enchanted sword and then passes this info along to a few over-eager adventurers, saying he'll pay 'em handsomely for the weapon.  They retrieve it, are paid a fraction of it's true worth (which most computer RPG players are used to anyway) and the barkeep gets to reap the benefits of guild ownership without the expense of training members or paying guild taxes to the landowner.  It's a way around the "legal" way of running a guild.

Okay, that sounds like a great idea.  Now, how do you make it actually happen the way you want it to?

When people play a MMORPG, they are going to find the quickest way to get from point A to point B.  It's really hard to close loopholes, and finding and exploiting loopholes is actually one of the primary goals of game players.  What kind of mechanics are you going to use to reinforce these kinds of behavior and discourage behavior you don't like.

Furthermore, how do you scale this type of situation to a variable number of players?  Let's say for example that a new evil appears in the west.  Some players detect it and set out to destroy it.  So do some other players.  However, by the time they get there a powerful guild has already swept through the area and cleaned it out because they have a "rapid response" augur and deploy system in place.  Essentially this whole feature serves this one guild and doesn't really enrich the experience for the vast majority of players.  This is one of the essential problems with MMORPGs - you do not have the same exclusive rights to protagonism that you have in a table top game.  You want to be the hero, but when you are just one in a world of ten thousand heros, by the time you get to the princess there's little chance that she hasn't already been saved - hundreds of times in fact.

Finally, if you're serious about getting this done, then how are you going to assemble a sizable team of programmers and, perhaps the more difficult part, quality graphics designers and content creators, to finish the game?  Back in the old days of Bard's Tale and Ultima I, games used to be made by one person noodling away in their basement, but those days are long gone.  Today these games require huge teams and lots of money to develop.  Especially if you are talking about a MMORPG where in addition to the client you also need to worry about programming the server side.  You also need some expertise in many different areas - graphics (how good are you at multi-variable calculus?), sound, AI, databases, networking, and perhaps one of the most important for a MMORPG: security.  If any one of these areas is not done expertly, the game could potentially fall flat.

Also, I notice in your first post you called it "an independent game I'd essentially be playing with my friends..."  However, now you are talking about features of large, persistant, player run communities that ostensibly would require thousands of players to sustain.  What, exactly, is your goal?  Who is your audience and what is the game supposed to accomplish?  If you want a large game then you are talking about corporate backing because you need a big server infrastructure and people to maintain it to support thousands of players.  You also need a support infrastructure (this is an area where most pay-MMORPGs are complete and utterly indefensible crap), billing management, etc.

So, what are the logistics?  Depending on what your goals are, this could be a really massive undertaking that there is no way you could possible finish on your own coding at night and weekends.

Now, what is realistic for one person to accomplish?

Start with a chat program.  Add functions to accomplish all of the tasks that the game rules dictate.  You can pull off some simple AI.  Forget a 3d graphical front end because you'll never have time to do all of the modelling.  Essentially, in MMORPG land you could probably pull off a small text MUD by yourself but not much more.  Even large MUDs have many programmers working on them.

I hear you coming up with all of these grandiose ideas but I don't understand how you can actually pull it off.  To me, this logistical problem is a much larger one then trying to figure out how how many races you want and whether people want to bake or sling swords.  Please don't think that I'm trying to get down on you here.  It is possible, but if you are thinking of a commercial endeavor (which it would have to be if you are talking about a 3d MMORPG supporting thousands of players sufficient to sustain multiple communities) this is where you need either really sharp business skills or you need to find someone who does.

Now, as an aside, here's an idea I think is interesting:  A MMORPG without servers where all of the stuff traditionally handled by servers is handling via distributed computing among the clients.  That's maybe the only way I could see a large scale non-profit graphical MMORPG working, since you no longer need server infrastructure and could create a system of volunteer support (still crap but not much worse than what's out there, and since it's free people can't complain that it's crap), but even then you'd still need a large team of developers and artists to get it off the ground.  You would also need a very slick design because you would essentially be inventing some brand new technology.  You also face some engineering problems that other MMORPGs don't have to deal with.  For example, the activity level of the world has to be scalable to the number of people online, since that determines the amount of "server" computing power available to you.  The already very difficult area of security also becomes even more difficult to deal with, as you no longer have a server with which to lock down the integrity of your character database.  The players own their own data and yet you don't want them to be able to edit it.  Finally, the world status information is going to be spread across multiple computers where it is being generated and yet you still want everyone to see the same thing.  This is a very tricky problem to deal with.  At the very least, I think broadband would be a requirement to handle all of the extra traffic, but I might be wrong.

This would perhaps work best as an open-source project, but I think open source games haven't usually been very successful in the past because it's impossible to find certain key people (like graphic designers) and also when it comes to games everyone wants to talk and nobody wants to implement.  Most likely, it would end up a huge meandering project that is never finished.

So, I think you have some seriously daunting logistical issues ahead of you that you should look into.  Anything can be done, but you need to come up with a solid plan.
Kenji

F. Scott Banks

Good one kenjib.

Well, in terms of server support and cost.  I'm just going to set up my own server.  Since the game is free, I don't have to really worry about overcrowding.  Whatever the server can handle, it can handle.  If I end up with a behemoth on my hands that everyone and their mother wants to play, I shouldn't have any problem finding the funding to make it large enough to accomodate vast amounts of playing customers.  Until I have a game that works, it's a little presumptuous to count money.

Actually, I have a simple chat program that runs the rulesets from other games I made in the past.  I used it on my barracks network back at Ft. Huachuca.  Anyone on the network could log in, find a GM and get to town.  The ruleset for my games could also be suspended so you ended up with a dice-rolling chat applet that could play any game you want.

Also, I'm not making an MMORPG.  

Wait, quick...lemme specify.

I'm currently programming an MMORPG engine.  It actually works like a MUD maker. It allows the user to create rooms, objects, and NPC's and assign properties to them.  Then, the program compiles the users input according to the ruleset in my RPG.  The RPG is designed from the environment's perspective, not the character's.

So if a world builder makes a group of goblins and places them in an encampment outside of a human settlement, the game will play the goblins according to the rules in it's database.  If they're hostile and poorly equipped, they'll raid.  If they're well equipped and fairly intelligent, they may build a fortification and prepare a more organized attack.  If they have adequate resources where they are, they may simply settle and raise their little goblin children.  The world builder only has to create them and plop 'em down.

Then again, maybe the goblins are part of a quest.  In that case, they will do whatever the world builder tells them to do.  They will kidnap a princess, set up a toll and extort gold from travellers...whatever they're specifically told to do.  If the world builder doesn't tell them what to do...they do what nature (the program) tells them to do.  World builders (technically, the game GM's itself) can make as detailed or as simple an environment as they like.

So I'm really just programming an MMORPG engine.  If I were trying to create an entire MMORPG from scratch, I'd have a near impossible task on my hands.  Don't forget, however, that Lineage started with a single programmer writing code in his spare time.  Say what you will about the quality of that game, but it achieved (and possibly exceeded) it's goals.

Believe me, I know the astronomical cost of mounting a MMORPG.  That's why I'm only making part of one.  If it works, then I'll go ahead and make the added investment to turn it into a downloadable that anyone can play.  For now though, I'm trying to see if my theory is viable.  If it's viable, then I'll look into seeing if it's profitable.

Oh...as for the competition in Quests.  That's a good point.  Quests are generally very, very hard.  Only a small percentage of the playerbase will be able to complete them and only a small percent of that group will be willing to (most high-level characters will be running guilds or cities of their own).  Simply put, not everyone will get to a quest.

Then again, isn't that what adventuring is about?  I would think that, despite the quest system, most adventuring players would actively seek out trouble rather than waiting for it.  Augury and Seeing only work within a certain radius of the affected person and only when the game is about to unleash on an unwary community.  A small group of goblins won't trigger augury, but a massed army moving towards the city walls will.  The main thrust of Augury is reading patterns in nature and is therefore useless unless something has gone horribly wrong.

But yes, not every player will get a shot at every quest (or even most of them).  But, the game generates things for them to do.  Quests are just "sanctioned" adventures.  Nothing is stopping an entrepid party from going goblin-hunting, cave-crawling, or cleansing unholy ground.  The area around a civilized area isn't going to be exactly roiling with monster activity but the farther you get from those civilized areas, the rougher it's going to be.  Without the playerbase thinning out the creatures, the game is allowed to "heap"

"Heaping" occurs when enemy NPC's establish a balance among themselves, becoming the monster equivalent of a kingdom.  It might be a Lich that has raised an army of undead and who is keeping a tribe of orcs enslaved to dig tunnels where he can summon demons directly from the pit of hell.  The surrounding countryside has no life and the radiating dark magic (magic works like weather...influenced by and influencing nature) has given birth to random horrors all around the Lich kingdom.

The game creates things like this in response to player activity.  Like bacteria that get stronger due to weaker strains being killed by antibodies.  Only the unusually strong will survive and then the unusual becomes the norm.

Adventurer one:  My but the lizardmen are hard to kill on the western penninsula.  Where I'm from, they usually die when you cut them in two.  I've never had one grow a snake tail where his waist was and keep coming.

Adventurer two:  Yeah, they didn't used to do that.  West Siiiiiiide!!!



Good questions kenjib...this is tightening up my engine nicely.  Keep 'em coming man.

F. Scott Banks

Quote from: kenjib
Okay, that sounds like a great idea.  Now, how do you make it actually happen the way you want it to?

When people play a MMORPG, they are going to find the quickest way to get from point A to point B.  It's really hard to close loopholes, and finding and exploiting loopholes is actually one of the primary goals of game players.  What kind of mechanics are you going to use to reinforce these kinds of behavior and discourage behavior you don't like.


I don't think I answered this question specifically so I'll do it now.  Basically, I'm not gonna do anything to discourage it.  If an adventurer wants to tear into the haunted woods because he heard that there was easy gold there let him.

We'll notify his next of kin.

If I allow players to counterfiet currency, why wouldn't I let them make up fake quests to send unwitting eavesdroppers to their deaths.  Guild members can read the code specifying this as a legitimate quest so they know.  Now, it's possible to get ahold of information that's supposedly classified, but the easiest way is bribery.  Just pay a member of the guild to get you copies of the real quest notices.

Otherwise, a good "Forgery" skill check will allow a thief to tell if it's fake.  Smart adventurers should ask for a copy of the quest notice (if it's word of mouth...you get what you didn't pay for) so they can at least know where to collect.  Thieves can also learn the code of other guilds (success rate no better than sixty percent) to guess for themselves what the true quest is.  Documents can either be forged (complete fakes) or coded (misleading, but containg true information) to confuse those it isn't intended for.  The lies in a document can be created mechanically (private code) or magically (it's blank until a counterspell is cast) and revealed the same way.

So while it's possible to come up with a shortcut, I've tried to allow for ways to counter those shortcuts within the game itself.  The game only creates hard boundaries in terms of abuse and outright cheating (breaking into a player character's home while he's logged off or backstabbing him during an interrupted or broken connection).

Sydney Freedberg

Quote from: WyldKardeSo if a world builder makes a group of goblins and places them in an encampment outside of a human settlement, the game will play the goblins according to the rules in it's database.  If they're hostile and poorly equipped, they'll raid.  If they're well equipped and fairly intelligent, they may build a fortification and prepare a more organized attack.  If they have adequate resources where they are, they may simply settle and raise their little goblin children....."Heaping" occurs when enemy NPC's establish a balance among themselves, becoming the monster equivalent of a kingdom.  It might be a Lich that has raised an army of undead and who is keeping a tribe of orcs enslaved to dig tunnels where he can summon demons directly from the pit of hell.  The surrounding countryside has no life and the radiating dark magic (magic works like weather...influenced by and influencing nature) has given birth to random horrors all around the Lich kingdom.

Now that is very, very cool. How on earth do you program the nasties to interact with one another like that? You're tracking lots of relationships there (Orcs to Lich, Lich to undead, tunnel-digging to demon-summoning), all of which have multiple possible values (slavery/obedience, mastery, purpose).

F. Scott Banks

Whooo, now you're getting into programming.  It's cool because this conversation was bound to invite the question of how.  Just giving code snippets, even for the simpler functions in the game would fill about ten pages of posts so I'll break down the how of what I'm doing in simpler terms.

Basically, I'm writing this in an object oriented language.  This means that I can deal with certain things on an individual basis.  For instance, the game does not recognize armor as "armor".  Armor is simply a skilled piece of metal.   Lemme explain:

Armor starts off as a piece of steel.

A blacksmith uses his skill to "level" that piece of steel, teaching it new skills.  Now that piece of steel knows how to absorb damage and it is given the label of "armor"

Because the blacksmith knows how to make plate (and this is, in fact, what he's trying to do), the "armor" is subcategorized as "Plate"

So, the game recognizes the armor as a piece of steel.  The player recognizes it as armor.  The environment sees something in a way that makes sense for it.  The player sees the same thing in a way that makes sense to him.  Certain "skills" (variables that determine how obects interact with each other) define that object so that it has a role in the game.

So, how does the player see that armor?

I don't have to come up with a complex algorithim to determine the damage resistance of every piece of armor in the game.  I only have to write a basic set of rules governing all armor and each individual armor will adhere to those rules to the degree they are able.

rule:  All platemail slows character movement by 50%

Exception:  Elven plate increases character movement by 10% (i.e. elven plate only slows a player down by 40%)

Exception:  The "Veteran" skill increases character movement in plate mail by 10% (Soldiers have to wear heavy armor and move efficiently in it...now the charcaters speed is only reduced by 30%)

Exception:  A strength of 20 reduces all movement penalties to 1/2 of their value (so the plate penalty is reduced to 25%, the fact that it's elven plate reduces it to 15% and the fact that a veteran is wearing it reduces it to 5%).

This means that two different characters would get completely different values from the same piece of equipment.  I don't have to say that "thieves cannot wear plate" and write the program to enforce that rule.  The game simply makes it impractical for a character without the skill to perform a certain task, perform that task.

So that's how inanimate objects relate to characters...now on to your question...how to characters relate to characters.

NPC's get a different skillset from player-characters.  Their additional skills determine how they react to other NPC's.  As far as AI goes, it's somewhat primitive, but as I create more complex monster types, the AI starts to step up considerably.

QuoteIt might be a Lich that has raised an army of undead and who is keeping a tribe of orcs enslaved to dig tunnels where he can summon demons directly from the pit of hell. The surrounding countryside has no life and the radiating dark magic (magic works like weather...influenced by and influencing nature) has given birth to random horrors all around the Lich kingdom.

Let's work up to the  top of the heap.  The random horrors created by magic "waste" so to speak.

Well magic does not vanish when used.  If you cast "Black Death" on a character, some of the magic will be resisted.  If the character is killed, some of the magic will go unused, since the full power of the spell wasn't needed to get those last few HP.  This surplus magic is taken by the game.

As I said, the game is actively playing against the human players.  The game will use the environment to create monsters naturally.  Swamps are breeding grounds for snakes and goblins eat snakes (i.e. swamps make goblin societies).  Sometimes, however, the game gets a bonus resource to apply to the "natural" resources it otherwise gets to use.  The game can use leftover magic in an area to create variations on natural creatures.  

I mentioned unnatural evolution and supernatural evolution in a past post...this is an example of the latter.  Now, instead of regular goblins, the game can create goblins formed from black magic instead of nature.  Since these variations are different depending upon the magic levels in the environment, different societies may have similar creatures with wildly different abilities:

QuoteAdventurer one: My but the lizardmen are hard to kill on the western penninsula. Where I'm from, they usually die when you cut them in two. I've never had one grow a snake tail where his waist was and keep coming.

Adventurer two: Yeah, they didn't used to do that. West Siiiiiiide!!!

But these "random horrors" aren't part of a society.  They're wandering monsters with no strategies.  Despite the unique way in which they're created, most won't work well and will end up easy killin' for any adventurers.

That's allright though, because beyond them are legions of undead.

Undead work like extensions of their creators.  If they're naturally created, they follow nature's rules ("natural" undead are an example of unnatural evolution.  They have no life cycle and no function.  They exist and are created through some irregularity in the natural order) and if they're created by another creature, they behave as their creator orders them to behave.  These undead are created by a lich, so we can assume they're relatively strong.  

However, this same lich has to manage a orc slave camp, and summon demons so the undead will have their limitations.  Magical constructs have to be sustained through magic.  If the ground can't sustain the undead (it's not their burial ground)  then the lich has to.  Now we're getting into how the game finds a balance.

The orcish slaves are defined easily enough.  If a player (computer or human) can subjugate the lead orc, then that player can issue orders to it.  Subsequently, the lead orc will issue those orders to the weaker members of his own tribe.  Now, not all societies work like this, but some orcish tribes may do what their leader says even if that leader is obviously kneeling to a higher power (since orcs only follow the strongest, a beaten leader may hold no sway over his people, making enslavement impossible).  In this case, we're going to say that the orcs follow thier chief into the slave pits.

This means that a group of adventurers could free the orcs to wreak havoc on the Lich war machine (or just kill 'em for free XP).  Always, the player should be looking for ways to exploit the game because the game is playing too.  If the game leaves itself open to attack, hit that loophole.

Mind you, what you'll have to do with a tribe of magically-enhanced orcs, battle hardened in their revolt against an undead master  and forged in the cruelest conditions known to man...is up to you.

But we're still not done.  The Lich that set this whole thing in motion is probably the character you wanted to know about.

The game views the lich as a character.  It's AI is set up through "behavioral skills".  Just as characters are allowed to choose backgrounds, so do "thinking" monsters.  A player may choose the background of "War Hero", meaning that he already has a certain level of rank and status in a society.  This also means that he's attained a certain level of notoriety in another society (kind of like being the child of a loved and hated character, but by NPC's instead of just other player-characters).

But anyway, those backgrounds determine how NPC's react to a player, what skills they may and may not learn.  When computer-generated characters use them, they do the same thing.  This lich was alive once, so it has a history.  Perhaps it was killed by orcs ("killed by:" is a big background modifier for sentient undead) so now it uses them.  Perhaps it worshipped demons and can now serve them better as a lich.  Perhaps both backgrounds are true.

These skills determine what a monster will do when it gets the chance.  It's other skills determine what it "can" do.  A lich with the skill of "Subjugation" can command lesser creatures, even to the degree of making them do things they would not normally do (remember, to command all the orcs, the Lich only needs to command their leader).  A lich with the skill of "Subjugation" and "Raise Dead" can command an organized army of zombies instead of just shambling flesh eaters.  Since the undead are extensions of the Lich, this is only slightly more difficult than keeping the orcs under control.  Doing both simultaneously, however, leaves the lich with little energy to handle the final piece of this puzzle.

Demons.

Demons are what occur when the game is given limitless resources and can create whatever it wants.  The limitless power of the demon realm is actually suppressed by the earth realm itself, so the game rarely gets a chance to use all of it's potential power in one single shot.  When it does, it creates a demon.  A creature so ludicrously overpowered that it exists outside of the games balance entirely.

Chances are that the Lich won't be able to control the demon.  The only thing keeping the domon from destroying the game entirely is it's limited range.  The demon may not be controllable, but it cannot move without the permission of what summoned it.  The Lich can have it's demon slave, but it can't use it.

But if you're willing, you're free to try and kill it.

We'll notify your next of kin.

West Siiiiiiiide!!!

- Wyld -

kenjib

Quote from: Sydney Freedberg
Now that is very, very cool. How on earth do you program the nasties to interact with one another like that? You're tracking lots of relationships there (Orcs to Lich, Lich to undead, tunnel-digging to demon-summoning), all of which have multiple possible values (slavery/obedience, mastery, purpose).

There's another aspect you didn't touch on WyldKarde, which is the relationships between actual objects in implementation (as opposed to classes in design, which you are talking about).

I would approach it by treating everything essentially as database items - whether or not they are stored in an official "database".  What you have is a many to many relationship.  You could solve this problem with a resolving table - thus each relationship is a database object in itself.  So, for example you have two tables (aka collections of objects - whether you code them as records in tables in a db or arrays of objects or whatever it's essentially the same thing):  MONSTER_GROUPS, and MONSTER_GROUP_RELATIONSHIPS.

The lich and orc groups are both part of MONSTER_GROUPS wherein are defined the properties describing each group as independent entities, while MONSTER_GROUP_RELATIONSHIPS creates an entry with pointers to both the lich and orc objects.  It also has state information that defines the relationship - the "slavery/obedience, mastery, purpose" stuff you are talking about.  This means you can also have a whole object hierarchy for relationships if necessary.

Now you run into scaling issues after a while here, which means depending on the size of the world you might need some really beefy server hardware.  If you want to avoid the scaling issues you need to remove the many to many relationship, but then you are eliminating much of the meat behind the design goal.  EDIT:  This could possibly be why you don't see this kind of thing in MMORPGs today...
Kenji

daMoose_Neo

Interesting coding ideas, but what actually enforces roleplaying?
The vast majority of games don't consist of Cedric the Bard regailing travels with stories of the great Warrior Prince, they consist of Bob, Joe and Mac going off into the "wilderness" and leveling while Craig, Alex and Josh stand around in the "square" talking about the football or hocky game on TV.
I applaud the coding efforts as a coder myself, but fantasy RPGs I personally think are the hardest to transfer faithfully to the PC, because almost no one actually role plays while online.
Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!

F. Scott Banks

Arright kankib...I'm not sure I follow your question this time.

QuoteThere's another aspect you didn't touch on WyldKarde, which is the relationships between actual objects in implementation (as opposed to classes in design, which you are talking about).

I'm assuming that you want to know how objects (in terms of tools items, weapons, etc.) interract with each other.  Actually, from a code standpoint I already told you.  Everything in the game that can be manipulated is an object.  Technically, the characters are objects as well.  The only things that aren't objects are the rules that define gameplay.  For the purpose of this example though, we'll assume that objects are weapons, items, and armor.  

This is a somewhat dangerous distinction to make because as I explained, the engine doesn't make this distinction in practice.  A rogue's dagger and the rogue itself are nearly indistinguishable from one another as far as the computer is concerned.  The rogue is simply far more skilled where as the dagger has only one skill: Inflict Damage: Thrust.  A rogue would have a lot more skills, but the computer treats them the same.

So an instance where "objects" (you know, I'm throwing this term around far too losely) interract with each other is a little more complex than the example I gave.  I'm guessing you'ra asking a roundabout question about combat.  If not, it's the example I'll give anyway.

Combat in this engine is something that would take hours in a pen-and-paper, but I'll go ahead and explain the process as best I can without using code snippets.

When combat is initiated, the Miscreant Engine sees it as one character using skills that change the vital values of another another character (HP, Mana, Gold, anything like that).  So if I do anything that changes your HP, you'll be informed of it.  "Combat" is actually a term only human players would use.

So let's say a rogue is fighting a mage.  Just for shits and giggles, let's say that the rogue is attempting a backstab to initiate combat.  I'm going to use the shorthand I use when I code so bear with me.

So the rogue performs skill  "Backstab @ Mage"
("@" is shorthand for "target" in Miscreant)

This causes the dagger to perform the skills  "Inflict Damage: Thrust + Damage Type Pierce + Damage Yield .30"

Because the rogue is performing a backstab and the dagger is performing thrusting and piercing damage, this opens a subset of modifiers.  These happen anytime multiple events occur that would change the overall success or failure of an action.  A rogue backstabbing with a dagger is a simple, almost "common sense" example of multiple events that should produce a higher success rate.  This same system increases the damage of cold attacks against creatures that are largely liquid or lighting attacks against knights encased in metal armor.

Modifiers take all applicable "skills" and apply them to an "event".  The rogue has attained a skill of 75% success rate on backstab.  Because the situation is ideal, the rogue is guaranteed that 75% and only has to roll for the additional 25% to perform a perfect backstab.  Let's say the rogue only gets 10% to apply to his backstab, making his chances of success 85%.

Simultaneously, the rogue is applying his skill with the dagger to determine the damage done with it.  The rogue knows how to use a dagger with a skill that is 100% of perfect.  This makes the rogue a master of the dagger and any roll is applied to "additional" damage.  There's also a skill that allows masters of a certain skill to apply their "overrolls" to any weak rolls that modify that skill (i.e. a rapier master can apply his "overroll" to the riposte skill in order to increase the chance of success while performing riposte with a rapier.

But, this is going to take long enough without all that.

So the dagger has a damage yield of .30.  That means that using 100% of the dagger subtracts 30 HP of damage from the target.

All in all, the rogue's backstab has a 85% chance of success and if it succeeds, it will subtract 30 HP from target.  Now, the rogue takes these values and applies them to the Mage.  

See why I didn't go into this before...This is one-half of one turn of one round.  If this initiated a party-battle, we'd be here all day.

Okay, the Mage is unaware of the fact that the rogue is about to backstab him.  We're assuming that the rogue has been hiding or sneaking into position and has gone unnoticed.  The Mage's stance is one that supports the defensive techniques of block and parry.  A stance is a position of readiness (assuming the character is "ready") that makes for higher chances of success when performing certain skills.  It could be as complex as a swordsman taking the "rose and stone" position or as simple as a thief tiptoeing while sneaking.

Blocking is maneuvering a weapon into the path of an incoming weapon to intercept and absorb the blow.  Parrying is much the same, but the weapon's force is diverted, increasing the chance of a successful counterattack but increasing the risk that the enemy's weapon, because it's still moving, will hit it's mark anyway.

However, blocking only works when the defender is aware of the attack and parrying only works when a block is possible.  The Mage is technically "flat-footed" despite his ready stance.  The rogue's attack negates the mage's defensive bonuses.

The rogue's attack is processed as a mathematical question to the mage.

Mage Damage = Rogue Attack - Mage Defense

Now we know that the rogue's attack = 30 Dam w/ 85% chance of success.

We also know that the Mage's initial Defense = 0%, as he's on guard for a block and he won't see the attack that's coming.

So we so to the Mage's secondary defense.  His skills have failed him so all that's keeping him out of a shallow grave behind the thieve's guild is his armor (i.e. secondary defense...some skills also serve as secondary defense like "flinch", a desperate twitching maneuver that can either reduce or increase damage inflicted).

The mage is wearing ringmail.  The ringmail is a piece of metal that knows the skills: Absorb Damage: Melee + Reduce Success 30% on slash + Melee Soak .10/50+ (a bunch of other skills forged into the orginal hunk of metal).

Now the ringmail will reduce the success of a slashing attack.  Unfortunately for the mage, the rogue is thrusting.  The chance of the rogue's attack succeeding is unaffected and remains 85% (which may as well be 100% since the mage is countering with 0%).  The mail does reduce the overall damage though.

The Mail soaked .10 of up to 50 units of damage inflicted.  The rogue's dagger inflicted 100 units of damage, each valued at .30  The first 50 units of damage are "soaked" and are worth on .20.

"Soaked" damage = 10 (50 * .2)
"Pure" damage = 15 (50 * .3)
Damage inflicted = 25 (Pure + soak)

So that's the first turn in one-sided combat.  This could be more complex with better weapons or with more skills, but that shows how all objects in the game interract with each other.  It's skill vs. skill in everything.  Whether it's trying to hammer an inanimate hunk of steel into a fine helm, or trying to hammer a goblin into a bloody pulp, the same formula is applied over and over again.

F. Scott Banks

Roleplaying...ahhhhh.

Actually, I haven't come up with a way to enforce a roleplay mechanic.  I honestly think it's a waste of time to enforce role-playing.  Every player will have a different level of involvement depending upon their tastes.  Even in a role-playing tabletop setting, you have players that consult their guides or charts while waiting for their teammates to make rolls.  That's not "realistic".

Also, I don't really consider it to be out of role to go powerlevelling.  If there's fistfulls of money to be had by going out and killing monsters, reinvesting that money into better tools and going out to kill bigger monsters, then yeah, lots of people are going to do it.  If you create a game that rewards that behavior with powerful items and trunkfulls of gold, then it's the game's fault that the players act that way.  

No one becomes a Rogue/Fighter/Illusionist to sit around the tavern and swill beer.

That said, I beleive that one can encourage role-playing.  In this game it is beneficial to join guilds, become usefull to the community, learn skills and make friends.  A good role-player is debateable, but the game rewards good players.  If you want to become king, go ahead and do it.  If you want to become a demon-hunter of great renown, get to killin' those deomons.

Player griefing is reduced because powerful characters have more to worry about than hasslin' the newbies.  The king who decides to tussle with the kids in the goblin forest is going to end up assassinated by a player at his own level who also wants to be king.

I'm considering taking a note from illarion and having players pre-create their characters (not a bad idea considering the first character will be the Patriarch or Matriarch of an entire bloodline) and get them approved.  If nothing else, it will reduce having to rename characters like TERMINATOR007 and LeftNutz2004.  Also, it kind of thins out the goofballs.  Since the game is free, a short wait and an approved character wouldn't be much to ask.

As far as not having to listen to the American Idol results in-game, there is a moderated main chat channel that is In-character only.  Misuse results in "muting" where the punished player can only communicate through pre-defined phrases (interpreted as hand-signals).  It's like being forced to use the "scripted" conversations in one-player RPG's.

Normal:

Caleb says:  Hale and well met!  Is anyone present willing to join me in an orc hunt?  I understand they're camped to the north of here.

Muted:

Caleb signs, "Can I join your party?"
Let Caleb Join?  Yes/no

You don't have to hear out of character comments as OOC has it's own chat channel that can be ignored.  You can also punish muted characters by ignoring "sign language".

As far as encouraging roleplay, my moderators (anyone who has played a MUD knows that they're easy to hire, as long as the game is free) will be able to reward good roleplay in-character.  The Bard who tells a rousing tale will get a commission from the king, a private quest, or something like that.  In fact, good roleplayers will probably get goodies from other good roleplayers without any help from moderators.  

Generally speaking though, roleplay is usually it's own reward.  When I had my thief run screaming and naked into battle to distract the enemy while my friends escaped, I did it because that's what the character would have done (our cleric was pregnant by the perverted little halfling).  I didn't do it for any gifts from the GM.  In fact, I got captured and tortured thoroughly for my efforts.

But oh, "The Dangly Charge of Relmin Lightfinger" is remembered to this day.

kenjib

Quote from: WyldKardeArright kankib...I'm not sure I follow your question this time.

I wasn't speaking about combat, or equipment so much as the dynamic community groups within the game world that you have described - the ways in which a settlement of orcs might interact with a settlement of liches or players for example, and how you represent the state information of that relationship.  In the worst case scenario you have an O(N^2) situation, as each group could potentially interact with each other group.  This is ugly, so you need to limit this by making some compromises - either a smaller game world or some kind of geographical range or zone system limiting interactivity are two possible solutions.

--------------------

As regards roleplaying, one of the first things I would look at would be the reward system.  I would argue that the reward systems in pretty much every MMORPG out there now actually actively discourages roleplaying because every second you spend roleplaying is time you could have spent kicking monsters in the junk and taking their wallet instead.  Even spending time adding roleplayed flourishes will decrease the efficiency with which you kick monsters in the junk and take their wallet because it slows down the junk-kicking and adds spam that makes it harder for people to follow the action.

So, when the primary indicators of character success in the game are phat lewt and killer xp, and the best way to get these is to shut up and hit the 'A' button over and over again for six hours, I think it's pretty clear why roleplaying is more of an exception than a norm.
Kenji

daMoose_Neo

I've played MUDs for several years, mostly just to kill time.
During that time, I've met one person who actually role plays his characters.
I'm bringing this up because it seems you're really into roleplaying yourself and it would so suck if you put this effort into this and have people come online and be all like 'dude ur coo ken i b in ur party'

Personally, I think the only way to pull off a true, successful roleplaying game is to use real people as opposed to hordes of NPCs. More work, but when you're dealing with a select few people its easier and more enjoyable.
Sit down, examine the world. Run with the random generators, that can actually be a help~ But look at areas to create the kind of story RPG games are known for and find a way to make something like that possible. Get three of your pals and yourself together with Admin accounts and running say 3 or 4 characters at a time- have them "GM" the game in their own little segment. The automated systems will take card of the rules, so all your GM Admin buddies have to do is help drive story- react to the players in an appropriate way, direct them a little to the possible occurances etc. If the players decide they want to kill the bouncer (as a friend of mine does repeatedly), throw them in jail for breaking the law. If they help out someone whos dying, allow them some small reward (ie everyone in town gathers and cheers when the poor adventurer is saved by the traveling Knight, get 1/2 off the inn for the evening or something).
The problem with MMORPGs isn't the sheer number of people playing, its the reliance on the technology to create the atmosphere. It can't. It can regulate the physics, but leaves the meaty, fun stuff to the people- the roleplaying.
With a small world, this isn't impossible. 20 players, 5 of which are admins and you have 3 people per admin to 'manage'. If the area is reletivly small, then the admins could easily work together to weave the stories and what not. GM's will have a heads up on the random occurances and can reflect that in their characters. Rather than have a scripted "There is a dark cloud to the East," wouldn't it be cooler if the player was walking along and someone grabs him - "Sir Leoric? It is you! Please, I need your help! My daughter, she went off to pick flowers in the forest earlier today and she hasn't returned! Normally I wouldn't worry, however there have been whispers of dark creatures in the forest after sunset and I fear for her safety!" Now, this could be legit OR it could be a plot to attack the brave and legendary Sir Leoric by getting him off and alone. With a typical MUD/MMORPG, it would be one or the other and everyone would know "Talk to the man, go to the woods, kill the thieves, take their treasure".

Enough of my rambling though :P Point: Computer NPCs cannot do what real people behind a character can, so for the best game, ditch the Computer NPC as much as possible and try to enlist some GM Admin aids to RP.
Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!

F. Scott Banks

Ahhhh, now I follow kenjib.

Actually, I guess I could have answered this question a lot more simply (then again, someone was bound to ask about combat so it's prolly best I got that out of the way).

All skills have limitations on them.  Magic has a range.  The lich kingdom would actually have to be pretty small because the lich is using up so much power to raise demons.  It wouldn't be a full-sized kingdom (although, in this game even the largest community is a circle that radiates only eighteen miles from the town square).  The lich is limited by what he can do and the extent to which he can do it.  It wasn't touched on before, but certain skills, especially magical spells that require concentration to maintain, limit a character's ability to perform other skills.  The game is self-balancing in that regard.  A character can simultaneously perform two spells of equal power and maintain them but can't do much else (actually, a character could perform three spells in this manner, unfortunately the poor guy would immediately black out and all three spells would dissapate).

So, of the most powerful abilities, the game only allows the use of two at a time (and this only by the strongest characters).  Human-players, computer AI, both have to plan which two high-level spells they want to use in this manner.  Ironically, the simpler, weaker skills can be affected by dozens of modifiers (i.e. backstab affected by ambient lighting, elevation, armor type, weapon type, character skill, defensive stance, offensive stance, etc, etc, etc.).  Strong skills aren't affected by much because they don't really have to be.  If a player casts the spell "Godlike Might" at master level, strength modifiers aren't applied.

Now...advancing the story through the playerbase.

Actually, the game needs a good playerbase because it takes place during the reconstruction.  This would take awhile to explain and would contain spoilers from all three Armageddon Gospel Novels.  Since the first one won't be on bookshelves for seven months, this would be counterproductive to the revenue-earning venture that I am involved in.

But, I can tell you that something happens that leaves the world laregly void of sentient life.  The sentient races are reduced to tribes, stumbling through the wilderness and scraping together what existence they can.  eventually, they band together and use their unique talents to construct a mighty city.  The goblins dig tunnels and create a sewer system, dwarven craftsmanship creates beautiful walls and buildings.  Elven arboreums and gardens create a beautiful campus.  Human scholars, with their simple language, create a library where all of the combined knowledge of every race on earth is stored.  All of the races stay together to create this one mighty city, a wonderful place where their past differences were forgotten and they would live together in peace and harmony.

It lasted roughly seven years.

After seven years of nonstop construction, many of the races began to remember their old glory.  If they could create something as great as this city, just think of what they could again become, this time armed with the knowledge of their former enemies.  The sentient races scattered to their old homeleands and left the city in the hands of the old men and children.

Despite the apparent helplessness of great age and great youth, this turned out to be a volitile combination.  The children of the city went to the old sages and learned their wisdom at a very young age.  Dwarven warriors trained beardless little whelps in the art of combat and hoary old scorcerers taught children how to manifest their will upon all creation.
The children of that great city became far more powerful than their parents, now they had only to make their mark upon the world.  Unlike their parents, however, they named the city before they left it and it was ever after known as Akadime.

However, not all children were trained in the honorable arts of other races.  Some went with their parents, leaving their sisters and brothers to be polluted by the weak philosphies of old men.  Race-mixing leads to the destruction of the pure bloodlines that generations have fought and died for.  Once they saw the error of their ways, the mighty [insert race here] deserted their folly and left it to fall on the heads of those fools who beleived in it.  The children of the pure [insert race here] were trained to be greater than even their parents, but in the ways of their ancient culture.

Hmmmm, sounding a little like the rants of certain political groups?  Well, I said this is dark fantasy.  Along with other things, I decided to take the casual racism in most fantasy settings and put an uglier face on it.  There's more ways to make the audience uncomfortable than oozing sores and creepy lighting.  Make note, that this is something only found in the Novel itself.  The game doesn't make assumptions on what anyone'smotives are.  Game lore is all stored at the Academy (what, I know you saw that) so it's got a watered-down, just-the-facts feel to it.

It explains the diaspora as something that was bound to happen eventually and doesn't go into much depth as to what triggered it (in the novel, it's when a half-orc child kills his half-elf brother).  The game doesn't roleplay anything, so my story's darker racism kinda bottoms out in gameplay.  Frankly, I'm not sad that it doesn't make the transition.

But anyway, the game world is created by the players (the beta testers who get to be that first generation out of the nest).  They found the first cities.  The only game-moderated civilizations are the Academy and the various homelands of other races.  Guilds are born from warring ideals.  What is taught at the academy versus what is taught culturally.  

These beta testers get to work out the kinks in the system and eventually determine the political climate that the other players walk into.  Since the game will be, upon it's release to the public already in progress, there's no need to beat players over the head with a story.  There will already be several storylines in play and the fastsest road to success will probably follow them.  

So NPC's will be limited.  Then again, NPC's will also be player-created so it's not so bad.  Beta-testers will create small communities that grow into large communities.  I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but NPC's are the retired characters of active players (what, you didn't think I was gonna let 'em play fifteen different characters did you?).  If your old ranger hangs up his boots to become a gardener, you'll see him hanging around the garden.  If you ask, he'll even tell you stories (where do you think that journal goes when you're done with it) about his adventures.

You don't need to go to the warrior's guild to get a map of the ancient dwarven mines, just ask old Pete the baker, he once brought a king's ransom out of those mines.  Old party members will have relationships (so NPC's will still roleplay their old animosities) with each other and maybe even old villians will pop up occasionally.

"Retired" NPC's don't fight though, so don't think you're going to get Azrik from the potions shop and Meldark from the weapons emporium to continue their old rivalry over Hyatha, the old lady who sells flowers by the temple, it's not going ot happen.

Although they'll gladly tell you a few embarrassing stories about the old fart.

It's not player-run I know.  But shaping my playerbase to fit my ideal like pieces in a dollhouse is where many designers go wrong.  You play with your players, you don't play with them.  The other characters are attatched to humans.  To force them to fill roles my gameworld needs when they don't want to isn't fun for anyone.  I have to find a middle ground.  This is my solution.

daMoose_Neo

Quote from: WyldKardeYou don't need to go to the warrior's guild to get a map of the ancient dwarven mines, just ask old Pete the baker, he once brought a king's ransom out of those mines.

Thats the kind of thing I was talking about though. Does this mean anyone for any reason can go see good old NPC Pete and get a spiffy map to the hidden ancient dwarven mines, get there and be surrounded by everyone and their brother?
Personally, thats just like any other NPC in any other MUD. They have a few preprogramed phrases, say the correct code word and presto, you have a map that everyone else has.
Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!

F. Scott Banks

It is possible, for a large group of people to all be in the same place at the same time.  The game is supposed to work that way.  Otherwise, wars and marketplaces would be pretty boring.  If everyone decided to go to the old dwarven mines, then yes...everyone would be down there picking around for lost treasure.

The game limits the maximum number of people in a room to be no higher than sixty (The actual number isn't sixty, but I'm not going to explain this in hexadecimal).  The game can perform perfectly with up to that many players onscreen at once.    

But, I assume your question had nothing to do with "clumping".  You're asking if players will all crowd into the same areas and step on each others toes.

Well, there's nothing stopping them from doing that, but there's no reason they should.  Let's look at the math.

Lets assume that a city has it's maximum limit of six-hundred people.  Let's also assume that they are all player-characters and that they are all adventurers looking for something to do.  No bakers in this city...all paladins, mages, and rangers.

For argument's sake, lets say they're all the same level.  This means that they all need enemies that are roughly the same strength as they are in order to have fun.

To understand the world map, we need a Hex grid.  A single hex contains the city proper.  The six hexes around it contain farmland.  The twelve hexes around that contain "wild" land that produces random roaming monsters.  The eighteen hexes surrounding that area produce more powerful, more organized creatures.

Beyond that, you have "heaped" monsters that are operating at a level equal to that of the city that these adventurers walked out of.  Arguably, no single party could handle such an entity, it would take a full-on war involving every citizen from our theoretical adventuring town.  We're not even going to have to travel that far to satisfy every single player.  We're only working with the thirty-six hexes immediately surrounding the city.

A single hex on the map contains sixty "rooms".  Each "room" contains sixty "spaces" where players can stand.  This means that each hex on the map can contain the entire polulation of our town six times over.  

However, the city isn't where we go to fight monsters.  We could, but let's assume we aren't.  The farmland usually contains weaker "newbie" level monsters that don't attack or organize on their own.  We aren't going for them.

Of our thirty-seven hexes, we're only going monster hunting in twenty-nine.  Seven hexes equalling four hundred and twenty "rooms" or twenty-five thousand, two hundred spaces are going unused in this example.

Usually, "wild" areas have creature populations that are up to six times as dense as the largest city, depending on the level of the creatures (strong creatures lower population density).  The presence of the strongest creatures lowers "wild" areas to populations closer to that of a large city.  "Wild" areas never have less life than is found in a large city.

Except in this example.  

The creatures in the "wild" areas around this city are at half their lowest allowable number, three hundred per hex.  We're also going to lower their skill level to half that of the adventurers.  Normally, critters this weak would outnumber the adventurers six to one, or be killed by stronger monsters and simply not exist in the area.

So, in the hexes nearest the city, our critters number three-thousand six hundred.  The average battle in this game takes ten minutes.  At half skill however, it should only take five minutes for an adventurer to kill a monster.

So, with six hundred adventurers fighting nonstop, it will take a half hour of real time to kill every monster in the area surrounding their wheat fields.  This is with the monsters lining up to be killed and the adventurers not having to look for them.

Beyond that is our second area.  Now, this area would be home to a few organized bands of skilled monsters, many of them are tougher than the adventurers and could only be brought down by organized parties.  They would outnumber the adenturers three...perhaps two to one.

Not this time.  They're the same level as the adventurers and each hex holds a number of monsters equal to the humans.  There are eighteen hexes this time, each containing six hundred monsters of a level equal to the adventurers.  Combat will take about ten minutes per full battle.

The adventurers now have ten-thousand, eight hundred monsters to kill.  Fighting nonstop it would take the entire citizenry of our theoretical village three hours of real time gameplay to kill every single monster in this area.  Mind you, they can still see their chimneys from where they're standing.

So...in answer to your question, I don't think there's any real danger of the playerbase "not having anything to do".  Especially if all they want to do is kill things.  I said earlier how "quests" weren't the only way to adventure.  

I guess I didn't explain the in enough detail how the world spawned monsters and uses them.  The terrain literally spits critters out of the ground, keeping track of how many have been created and killed and how they were killed and what type of creature killed them.  

A swamp knows when it needs to make better goblins, or tougher slimes from how many of it's "players" have been killed.  Use poison on the goblins and eventually, they will develop an immunity to it, or use it themsleves.  Each "hex" is it's own GM, creating monsters that are slightly better organized than the ones that got killed previously.

And this is just natural terrain.  Swamps, fields and forests.  Unholy ground, hellmouths, and dragon lairs create monsters that...well, frankly I haven't thought of yet.  MMORPG's have done a lot of things wrong, but they have done a few things right.  The ability to run off and adventure for hours on end is something they've given the casual gamer.  I see no need to change that.  Let the casual gamer have their release.

You didn't really think I was going to go to all this trouble to fix the problems inherrent in MMORPG's just to screw up the few things they got right.  Trust me, there will be plenty of things to stick your sword in.

daMoose_Neo

Stepping on toes is a side effect yes, but thats not what I was getting at.
I've always felt that most MUDs destroy the specialness of certain achievements.
IE Pete made a mint raiding the dwarven mines. He's a rich man, yes. But do you go around giving your hard earned (or stolen) money? Why did he give me the map? Was there any special reason? And why do I need to go to him for a map? If its a commonly known location because anyone can get a map, why isn't it listed on a world map? Why don't the poor citizens go down there? Theres enough adventurers down there to kill the monsters and Balrog, so theres nothing for them to fear as they're looting.
How cool is Excaliber when everyone has one? How cool is "The ultra rare cool only weapon of doom in existance" when anyone above level 15 has it? What value is it to the player to explore the "Lost Ruins of the City Never Seen" for treasure when there are 60 people on the same map and the treasure simply repops? They have their uses and their cool factors of course, but thats enhanced when you're like "I have the ONLY Excaliber!" or "I was the first person to map the area and loot the treasure!"
I'm not talking about the mechanics or math (and I used to hack roms via Hexidecimal, I'm fairly familiar with it ^_^) or "not having anything to do", I'm talking about the flavor of the world in general.

I worked on an online adaptation of Pokemon out of boredoms sake a few years ago and got a considerable chunk done before NOA clamped down.
Part of the premise in the video games is the "Legendary Monsters"- creatures of mythic power and proportion, only one in all of the world. Or gamepak, in which case everyone had it.
Our online world was handled differently- there literally was only one of each of the Legendary monsters. Powerful, rare and difficult to catch- capturing one was a true accomplishment worthy of bragging rights.
With Pokemon, the entire principle is battling, not much in the way of roleplaying, but by limiting some things we forced the players to expand in other avenues. Teams that traditionally relied on Legendaries found ways to compete successfully with common monsters and the ones with the actual Legendaries were well admired because it was difficult to do.

Point is there are ways through a little careful control to create other incentives and in a round about way enforce roleplaying.
And too, are any GM forced to fill roles? Yes and no. They have to play any other character, but some people get off on that, thats how they like to play~ Not saying they should force the players, but they could better provide the characters with a genuine interaction than a series of scripted responses.
Nate Petersen / daMoose
Neo Productions Unlimited! Publisher of Final Twilight card game, Imp Game RPG, and more titles to come!