Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

pb4

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of online chess. At the same time I’ve been messing around with new mud ideas. I like chess, and I like muds, so naturally I ask myself — can a mud play more like chess?

battle chess

My answer isn’t an unqualified ‘yes’. To play strictly like chess you’d have to remove chance (notwithstanding some chess variants I guess) and I wouldn’t be happy with a system that totally relies on player skill. Some of the attraction of a mud is playing a character after all.

However injecting chance into chess is really a minor point. What are some of the qualities of chess that might work in a mud?

  • You start off equal to your opponent

    This seems like the least workable chess-ism, however it’s not unusual to spot another player a piece or two, so there’s some precedent for asymmetrical starts at least.

  • You have a variety of pieces with different moves

    Different ‘moves’ in a mud aren’t unusual (kick, punch, etcetera), but I think this quality of chess leads to an interesting idea.

    You have a variety of abilities, each with a range of moves. Standard stuff. But, as with chess, at any time your abilities will be in some arranged state. There’s a big difference between a white pawn on a2 and a7. Now add a white rook on a1 and the game changes yet again.

    This is the essence of chess. One problem doing this in a text mud is visualizing this arrangement without making it look like, well, chess. One simplification would just be to reduce the number of pieces/abilities. Another might be to create a dynamic description of your character in a conflict that updates itself as the conflict continues.

    This gets to a personal taste of mine; in many muds the flow of action is very quick, with text whizzing up the screen. It gets even faster when you’re grouped. Many players enjoy this, no doubt, but I’ve always liked a slower pace, or at least more of a reading experience than the virtual text shmup of much mud conflict.

    So I’ve seen some muds experiment with a fixed room description window in the client that changes as you move. Why not a ‘fixed conflict description window’ that updates too? Basically this is your ‘chess board’ that shows the arrangement of abilities versus your opponent(s). Thinking of it that way, it probably would work best combined with a fixed room description anyway.

    Now as I said, the visualization is one problem. It’s easy for a player to strategise when they understand their options — a pawn moves forward, a rook can protect pieces on its file and so on — but it gets more complicated when you’re in a mud simulating some world model. I don’t have an easy answer to that, but I think it’s an interesting avenue to explore at least.

  • You (might) have a time limit

    Since I’ve been thinking of doing something turn-based in a mud, an overall time limit (of course you can have each turn take limited time, but I’m thinking for the whole conflict too) might work very well. I’m not sure if modeling this as ‘fatigue’ or some other reserve pool, or an actual extra-diagetic time limit would work. Maybe a combination of the two.

  • There’s a tradition of studying games

    I think this is an interesting possibility. Usually to ‘get good’ at a mud you just play your character, talk to and group with other players and maybe read a guide or two. What if studying other character’s conflicts was a means to improve as well? It might be cool to put this in the game fiction somehow…say, you could listen to game-generated songs that described a character’s actions in some situation.

At the moment I’m working on an idea where I think some of these concepts could work well, so we’ll see where this goes.

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