Easy to explain the basic idea of emergence, not so easy for mud creators to put into practice?

Discussing emergence in muds is tricky because I’m not an expert, not even very familiar with it. Nevertheless the basic idea as I see it is to allow for unexpected behavior if you give a group of players a coded system and a game world to use it in. To quote from the Wikipedia,

play […] might be radically different from [one game session to] another, while the rules of the game are exactly the same.


This is a worthy goal for any mud. If you can code a relatively simple system that will provide a great deal of replayability, you’re simultaneously reducing the amount of content-sweatshop labor you have to do and enhancing the gameplay for your players. A real win-win right?

I have seen some talk about the necessity of creating true objects, and some muds have done this, so for example your character can pick up another character and use them as a weapon, any object can enter another object, and so on. Then you can define certain things about how these objects interact. So you define a devil snake as ‘poisonous”, and if a character eats the snake they’re poisoned. Of course many muds do this already by adding flags, but I think (not sure) that some basic functionality is lost.

Regardless I don’t think this is really what emergence is all about anyway. What you want to do instead is create an object, then call it a tree, or a rock, or a player-character. Then make up your simple rules: objects can stack on top of objects, objects can move other objects, etc. So then when you create an area you load a forest, boulders, put something under the boulder, up in the tree, and the player can move the boulder, climb on top of the tree, and it’s all part of the game world, not something you have to define with a script.

Easier said than done?


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