More memories from the depths of TorilMUD lore.
Being one of the proto-MMO MUDs, and the MUD in particular that influenced the creation of EverQuest, TorilMUD included early/crude/simplified versions of many of the MMO mechanics we have come to love/loathe.
One of these is, of course, the respawn.
Oh, the respawn, one of those quirks required of a shared world. You can’t just kill a thing and expect it to remain dead in a game where a hundred or a thousand other people might need to kill the same thing… or ten of the same thing… as well.
And so we have grown used to respawns, spawn tables, rare spawns, and all of that in our MMORPGs. The sight of slain mobs reappearing on the field is nothing strange. I remember when the two hour respawn timer for mobs in WoW dungeons used to be an issue, back when WoW dungeons took longer than 20 minutes to run.
(Even the term “mob” dates from the MUD era, when it referred to a “mobile object,” which is all our orcs and dragons were back then.)
But back in the MUD era, things were less sophisticated, resources more restricted, and even drive space could be an issue. Back then there wasn’t any process keeping track of every single trash mob in the world, respawning them one by one on individual timers.
Sure, there might be a bit of code keeping track of a very special boss mob or a rare world spawn, but for the most part respawns were handled at the zone level.
A zone back in TorilMUD… back in DikuMUD… was something of an autonomous process. I tinkered with zone creation at one point and have forgotten most of what I once knew, but I recall that they were discreet areas that contained all the data… rooms, descriptions, objects, and mobs… that they contained. There could be a lot of zones in a MUD. You can see a list of zones from TorilMUD on a previous post I did.
When actually playing TorilMUD, it could sometimes be difficult to tell where one zone ended and another began. The world was seamless in its way, probably more so that WoW, where you can see the change in geography and color palette as you move from one zone to another. You had to look at the style of the text in the zone.
Sometimes it was obvious. An old or connecting zone might have no ANSI color characters in it or the writing style in room descriptions might change dramatically. And, sometimes, there would be a sign announcing the area, often including a warning about dangers ahead. (See the sign on the fence outside Kobold Village for example.)
Within a zone, all the mobs would respawn at the same time. The standard timer in TorilMUD was 20 minutes if I recall right. When off on a experience group, grinding levels some place like Kobold Village, the buffalo fields, the pirate ship, or even on the walls of Waterdeep, where elite guards gave great experience, it was important to establish a flow that worked with the respawn timer so as to limit down time. We used to come up with regular cycles and move from mob to mob, winding up back where we started just in time for the respawn.
Some zones were different. There were a couple of zones that were set to not respawn. Once they were done, they were empty until the game crashed and restarted.
Other zones… the special zones like City of Brass that required a full group of 16, correctly balanced… would not spawn until empty. That is, nothing would respawn until there were no players left in the zone. That could lead to difficult times if there was a full party wipe. With everybody dead and back in their own respawn points… their class guilds in most cases… the zone would respawn and all the mobs between the players and their corpses… corpses which had all of their equipment… leading to difficult times. It was not uncommon to bring along an extra person just to sit in the first room and “hold the zone” for the group to keep it from respawning in the event of a wipe.
And there were, of course, some oddities with the full zone respawn, like spawn order.
Any unique mobs in a zone were likely just that, unique. There was only one and they had a specific spawn location. But more generic mobs, guards or patrols, or other trash if you will, might be a single mob that was set to spawn at a list of points. At respawn time the zone would then refill any missing mobs from that batch starting at the top of the list of spawn points.
This meant that if you killed a generic mob from the second spot on the list, when respawn time came it would respawn in the first spot. The process was simple. It didn’t check what spots were empty or keep track of which mobs had spawned in which spot. It just checked to see how many of that mob were left and, if the count came up short, it spawned more of them to fill out the desired number.
This could be painful if somebody killed the wrong mob. Spawn order was serious business.
For example, I mentioned the elite guards on the walls of Waterdeep. Those were tough mobs, but they would not call for help or trigger a city-wide alarm if you attacked them. And they were excellent experience and dropped a decent amount of cash. But they were generic mobs and you had to be careful to kill them in spawn order. If you didn’t follow spawn order, or missed the respawn and kept killing in order past the first spawn after a respawn, you could end up with two elites in that first room. And while elite guards wouldn’t call for help or set off the alarm, they would assist each other, so now you faced a double spawn. And given that you probably setup your group to maximize experience, which meant keeping it as small as possible, a double spawn would be then end of things unless you got some help.
And so it went. As I recall, the reavers on the Pirate ship were the same way as elite guards. You needed to kill them in the right order or you ended up with overlapping spawns.
Anyway, that is my MUD memory of the day.