Daily Archives: June 24, 2013

The Feedback Issue – Which Weapon Should I Use?

You were to adventure in the world and not focus on min/max or optimizing or beating the numbers. You were there to group up to go forth and find adventure. Your mind needed to be on the world described, not on some die roll.

Me, attempting to sum up the early philosophy of TorilMUD

Potshot latched onto this quote in a past post where I was going on about changes in TorilMUD.

The context was around the fact that TorilMUD is exposing more numbers to players.

The game, based on the early philosophy I mentioned above, strove at times to hide what we might consider some of the most basic numbers in the game.  Rolling up a character required accepting stats that were not numbers, but just descriptions.  You might see “average” or “above average” or “mighty,” each of which mapped to a range of values.  The numbers were eventually revealed once you hit level 20, by which point you were presumably committed to a character, though if this was you 4th or 5th character, you probably had enough equipment stored away to twink them out, and enough knowledge of where to go, to get them to level 20 in maybe just 8 hours of game time.

That started to change over the years, especially during the latest incarnation of the game.  And the changes were primarily justified as being about providing feedback to the players.

The first thing to change was how you could check on your level progression.

Back in the old days, you had to go all the way back to your class guild master and check on your experience, which resulted in messages like this:

The great druid Kaladan is ready to show you how to become one with nature.
Your guildmaster says ‘You are still a very long way from your next level.’

I think that meant I was between 20% and 29% into my current level.  There was a different message for each 10% graduation per level.  And while some of the messages were more obvious than that… before and after half way said just that and for the last 10% your guild master grinned in anticipation… it was still a pain to travel all the way back to town just to get a reading on your progress.

So that changed to a text version of a progress bar, then to a simple percentage read out, and, just recently, slaying mobs began reading out both an experience point value and a percentage like this:

You beautifully slash a burly sailor into two parts – both dead.
a burly sailor is dead! R.I.P.
A burly sailor slumps to the ground.
You receive 40,573 XP (1.07%) experience.
Your blood freezes as you hear the rattling death cry of a burly sailor.

So there you go.  It is now possible, 19 years after the MUD first started, to directly assess the value of a given mob.  And the “exp” command tells you how much you need to get to the next level.

You are 5,101,956 XP (94.48%) away from your next level.

The problem is that we have now moved from levels being something of a mystery to levels becoming a mathematically precise certainty, which is a clear step away from the original philosophy of the game.  The next step would seem to be to expose hit point values and damage rolls.  Right now those are still hidden with verbiage.

You parry a burly sailor’s lunge at you.
A burly sailor’s attack only grazes you as you maneuver your mount!
A burly sailor slightly wounds you with his average hit.
Your mighty slash slightly wounds a burly sailor.
Your attack only grazes a burly sailor as he dodges aside!
Your strong slash barely wounds a burly sailor.
< 400h/427H 210v/210V >
< T: Kigev TC: few scratches E: burly EC: small wounds >

But is that the right direction?  Must we always move towards exposing more numbers?

Certainly that is the easiest way to express feedback in a system that is made up of numbers.  And if you are going to try and hide numbers, you have to come up with an effective way to provide feedback on some things that we might otherwise not consider, such as how to tell which weapon you ought to be swinging.

Weapon comparisons have been done with numbers… which pretty quickly got summed up in DPS ratings… for a long time now.

Have shovel, want mallet!

WoW weapon comparo

But could you do it without numbers.  Could you look at a weapon, equip it, maybe try it in a fight or two, and get enough feedback to say whether or not this is what you out to be swinging.

I decided to check TorilMUD to see if perhaps weapons gave enough description for that sort of thing.

Certainly some do.  The description for my Paladin’s holy avenger lets you know that this sword is something special.

This heavy sword has been crafted out of an unknown metallic alloy, the exact nature of which is known only to the gods. The long blade gives off a soft and warming radiance, even as the edges glint dangerously. A hilt long enough for two hands to grip firmly has been decorated with kingfishers and the pommel is crafted to look as though a dragon maw is gripping a brilliant pearl. Flaring crossguards sweep up, masterfully tapering into the appearance of talons that meet the bright blade.

After the long quest to obtain it, you were probably pretty sure it was going to be hot stuff in any case. But what about further down the food chain?  I decided to look at weapons that new players might pick up, to see if I could correctly pick the best weapon by looking at the description.  In order to limit the range and to keep to places I knew well, I focused on the areas outside of Leuthilspar, the elven starting area.

In some of the old haunts I was able to pick up five weapons from various mobs to see what their descriptions said.

Name: a bronze sword
Description: The sword is fairly small yet broad, with a thick leather handle. It looks perfect for close in encounters.

Name: a small sword
Description: The small sword seems to have an inscription of some sort.

Name: a long sword
Description: you see nothing special

Name: a cudgel made of stonewood
Description: This blunt, short club is made from a special type of wood which is hard as stone. Crafted by the special skill of the faeries the club is impervious to damage.

Name: a wooden spear
Description: This wooden stick is almost but not completely straight, it is about two feet in length. Sharpened to a point it makes a crude but usable weapon as demonstrated by the dried blood on its tip.

So, given those five choices, which would you choose, assuming you have chosen the warrior’s path and are thus likely not to face any class restrictions?

Actual stats after the cut.

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