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  Mechanic #030 - Communist Zombie MUD

Category: Mmorpg
Posted: 06/07/07

A blast from the past - a reposting of several old, well known blogs on the subject of a very different sort of online rpg.


The following are a bunch of old blogs, reposted here without change. This is sort of one of my most famous ideas and I still get requests from people to send it to them. It was always my intention to repost this concept in this project, but I was thinking that I would simply rethink the idea and present a new take on it. Well, there are two problems with that.

The first is that I'll probably still get requests to email this blog out to people. It made a pretty big impact and it was the first game idea I posted that was actually linked to by other people. It's sort of origin of this 300 Mechanics project, so I have a soft spot for it. I don't think it needs to be rewritten - perhaps even would be worse because of it.

The second problem is that the badge system that is describe here has basically been appropriated by Lord of the Rings Online with their very similar deed system. I think there is more to this idea than just the badge system, but I figured that if I posted the original, unchanged blogs with the posting dates then I could effectively avoid being accused of ripping them off (being hit by irony that thick can be fatal).

I'm posting a few related blogs. The first is the philosophy behind the idea. I think it contributes and underscore what the idea is truly meant to be and is as much a part of it as the actual description is. Of course, some of it is outdated. Never did learn Java 3D. The second is the idea itself. The remaining blogs all came a year later and sought to expand on the idea in meaningful ways. I'm not sure if they succeeded, but I thought I might as well include them anyway.

There is a LOT of content here (so much so that I haven't completely reread it yet), but I didn't think it was worth breaking up into multiple entries, what with essentially being reposts and all. And, as you may have figured out by now, I don't spell check when I write. I'm sure I had a good reason for it at one point or another, but I apologize none the less.

  06/25/05 - Game Design: 223 Words

"The Cat in the Hat" was a children's book which Dr. Seuss wrote using a minimal list of only 223 words. He is quoted as saying that it took him nine months to complete due to the difficulty involved with such a small vocabulary. However, "The Cat in the Hat" is now perhaps the most famous children's book ever written, long since eclipsing the benign exploits of Dick and Jane. The brilliance of the book comes directly from how little Dr. Seuss had to work from. A true genius is not the one facing down infinity and plucking down nuggets from its vastness. A true genius is one who solves every day problems without the every day tools by which they are normally solved.

I bought a programming book. Two of them actually. It's been a while. In fact, it's been so long that Java has jumped from version 1.4 to 5.0 - I must say that it is getting harder and harder to fake this whole "programmer" thing. Generics. Enums. Autoboxing. Static imports. Annotations. For/in loops. I'm pretty sure they just make up this stuff as they go. It's cool stuff. It makes Java more abstract and interesting. That C++ stuff is a bunch of ugly crap that offends my very soul. Java is beautiful. And nowhere is that more obvious than the scene graph-based Java 3D. Suddenly, 3D starts making sense when you stop talking about vertices and start talking from the top down.

But why bother learning Java 3D? I mean, the closest I've ever come to finishing a game, EVER, is a crappy little Bomberman clone that was written in three days total. Why learn a new skill set when I should literally have more than enough skills already to do something unique and interesting? I mean, if "The Cat in the Hat" can be written in 223 words, I should be able to do something new, original, and exciting with mere text. At first, you'd write it off as absurd - text games are as old as computers and every programmer from here to eternity starts with text. To think that one could come up with something new and unique after all that is the most supreme form of arrogance! And yet... we've been writing books for thousands of years, and the Cat in the Hat managed to create the perfect first reader - a good story, interesting characters, humor, and all within the limited vocabulary of a first grader. It can be done.

So, the idea is to limit the vocabulary, at least abstractly. Videogames have a vocabulary of gameplay devices which tend to define and sometimes dominate. A genre can sometimes be defined entirely within the limits of a few set conceits. What happens when you take away these conceits? Can you make an RPG without experience points? Can you make one without money? Can you make an online game without cliques? Can you tell a story without a climax? If you reduce yourself to 223 words, what book would you write? The basic issue that I take with RPGs is that you start at level 1 and you gradually get powerful. This conceit merely exists to dole out the content at a measured pace. You can't instantly kill the final boss because you aren't level 100 yet, and when you are level 100, you don't need to concern yourself with fighting those level 1 guys that you wasted early on. However, what essentially happens is inflation. As you become more powerful, so do the enemies. A level 7 player versus a level 7 enemy is no different than a level 20 player versus a level 20 enemy. Maybe there are a few more tricks, but the relative balance remains the same. Let's dump that crap. No levels. No accumulated advancement.

Players secretly hate each other. This is because they are fiercely competitive and can only truly trust a small group of players - usually their guild or whatever clique they manage to cling on to. The problem with this is that online games tend to become clique versus clique - you are whatever you are grouped with. A common enemy means that you work together. None of this leading you to a secluded area, killing you, and stealing your stuff - you work together towards a common good. But what of the players, like myself, that choose not to enter into a clique. They are exploited and are generally treated like second class citizens. If I hear one more person tell me that the only way to enjoy a specific MMORPG is to join a guild, I'm going to get violent. So, let's dump the clique stuff. No guilds. Not even combat parties. We don't need gameplay enforced trust - without experience points or money, there's nothing left to protect.

Money pisses me off. People are always so willing to offend to get even the slightest advantage. I've had friends haggle me over the price of a t-shirt! Does saving a dollar or two really justify the loss of respect and trust that you receive in return? In SWG, Retz was trying to sell something and the buyer demanded that she throw in a free gift of significant value to go with it. I don't trust money. People lose sight of the true goal when the temporary goal of accumulating currency takes over. Respect? Value? Honor? Trust? Honesty? It doesn't mean ANYTHING when money is on the line, and that irritates me to no end. So, currency has got to go. No more fucking over your fellow man for pocket change.

The idea of experience points is kind of like a currency you can't lose. You just gain it, and when you hit the mark, something happens. You just keep building and building, always moving forward. You only control the speed. Even if you dump levels, there's still this innate draw towards experience. Killing needs to get you something. There's nearly no risk, and the best way to excel is to simply sit down and grind over and over again in the best min max tradition. Let's dump experience points. Let's see if advancement can't be something a little more significant.

Better yet, to avoid the whole min max thing, let's see if we can't make advancement unique for each player! You can't min max something you can't predict. This whole monster-monster-monster-boss thing gets to me too. If you can determine where the monsters are and where they reappear, you just camp spawn points. If you do the same quests, you can tell everyone how to do them. Let's dump all that stuff. Let's make a player in his 90th hour float in the same boat as a player in his 10th minute.

I've systematically removed many of the conceits of most major MMORPGs. I've taken just about everything you expect to be there and I've punched the delete key. So now what? We've got to build a game around what we don't have. If you don't have experience points or money, what's the goal? How do you advance? If you don't have guilds or combat parties, how will players communicate with each other? When limited to linear text output, how do you convey complex information? Hell, what's the point? Where's the long term appeal?

I assure you that all this stuff is but one solution to a series of problems. Even if you remove them, that doesn't mean that there aren't other solutions out there. You just gotta think. Gotta use the old noodle a bit. I couldn't help but think back to an old game idea I had involving zombies. I sat down with it and hammered out some rather interesting solutions to some old problems. Stay tuned.

  06/27/05 - Game Design: Communist Zombie MMORPG

The idea, as presented in the last blog, is to create a text-based mmorpg which is both interesting and unique. The way to make it unique was to take away just about everything that you would expect to be there - namely stuff that is far more optional and destructive than it would initially seem. No more of this "nothing personal, it's just gameplay" attitude, this game has taken away the individual's desire for competition and progress and replaced it with gameplay devices designed to encourage cooperation and the good of the many.

The basic premise is simple. You play as a survivor after a zombie holocaust. When your character dies, you must create another one. There is advancement, both on a character scale (the longer you play a single character, the better he gets - to a small degree) and on a player scale (you can earn advancements that exist between characters). You can only create one character at a time, and to play another character means killing that one off. Each character you can create belongs in an archetype (ie policeman, doctor, farmer, biker, etc) that has specific advantages and disadvantages. Playing the game will unlock further archetypes to play as.

To combat rampant individualism, the idea is that you cannot keep any items between gameplay sessions. That's right. Individually, you do not accumulate anything. If you log off, you will drop everything on the ground. The next time you log in, you start with nothing. Instead, you are able to donate your items to various outposts in the world.

An outpost is essentially a shared town-type place. They can have stuff like armories (where you can find equipment), medical tents (healing), barracks (which hires guards to protect the outpost) and so on. In addition to places which directly affect the players, there are outpost specific locations, like a generator room which powers the other rooms, or a gate which prevents zombies from entering.

Each outpost room serves a specific function which requires donations. For instance, you can go into an armory and request preset combat gear (ie a shotgun and bullets). The armory has a level which is dictated by donations. You donate weapons and ammo you find out in the world to the armory to improve its level, and everybody gets to benefit from it. This level is not static. Requesting equipment spends some of the points, and there is a maintenance rate depending on level (ie a level 1 armory requires 100 points per hour, but a level 5 armory requires 1,000 points per hour). Each player is responsible for not only maintaining the armory's points, but adding to them to improve the armory (increasing the number and types of preset combat gear).

The same applies to other areas. Donate your medkits and bandages to the medical center in return for different buffs that you can request. Donate food to the barracks to increase the number and quality of guards that protect the outpost. Donate wood and tools to the gate to make it stronger, and gasoline to the generator (which doesn't go up in levels, but has a higher drain depending on the high level rooms it supplies). These items are all usable by the players, but since they can't retain them between sessions, there is no reason to not donate the crappy equipment, though good equipment would probably be better off being dropped in the room for other players to use. Player will need to go out into the world to find these items and return them to the various outposts throughout the game world - with specific items being worth a LOT (tackle the military base and walk away with a missile launcher for 1 million armory points or something).

Certain characters classes can hang out in rooms to lower the maintenance rates. A doctor hanging out in the medical center will reduce the upkeep, and a weapons master would reduce the upkeep of the armory. They also have the effect of improving the abilities of the room. A medical buff of HP +40 could become HP +60 with a doctor in the room. Doctor abilities would be likewise improved in the room. A weapon master could improve a gun to use less ammo than otherwise possible. However, if a zombie gets into one of these rooms (typically by breaking through the gate and killing the guards), the upkeep will increase for each zombie in the room. An overrun outpost could rapidly deteriorate without intervention.

The purpose of the players is to go out there and scavenge the world for materials to maintain the outposts. There are other goals of unlocking features, such as more powerful archetypes to play as. This is accomplished by a series of badges. A badge could be awarded for seeing a specific location in the game, defeating a specific number of zombies, killing a boss, saving an outpost, or whatever. Badge stuff. Getting badges will yield benefits, but you can only get a badge once. It is essentially an experience point system based on accomplishment and not grinding (though you could grind the badges, but you won't want to - I'll explain in a second). These badges are at the player level, so if you complete a badge with one character, you will have it with a second.

The badges are separated into different categories, some of which are personal achievement, but most are not. For instance, you may get a badge for donating over 10,000 points to each of three different outposts. You may get a badge for helping other players. For defending a base. Essentially, to get all the badges would require being a good, helpful player, and require playing every different character archetype and seeing pretty much every location of note in the game. But some badges are given for the wrong reasons as well.

When you are killed by a zombie (either directly or through infection), you will become a zombie for one hour of gameplay time before you can create another character - and zombies have their own badge system. They get badges for eating the brains of other players, destroying outposts, and generally being a complete bastard. Zombies are weak and go down like punks, and you'll be no exception - only you can have other zombies follow you around to help. These zombie badges only apply towards zombie skills and abilities. As a zombie, you can't talk or communicate with players - they won't even know who you are or were. It's entirely anonymous.

The reason you don't want to grind badges is because zombies don't have any set spawn points. They will appear randomly around the world. The number of badges collectively earned by the population will affect the zombie population. The more badges earned per hour will increase the number and aggressiveness of the zombies. If you, personally, have earned a bunch of badges, the zombies will have an easier time smelling your brains. If the population at large has earned a lot of badges, the zombies will start attacking the outposts with the most people in them.

These badges yield player rewards, though these rewards will essentially be randomly selected - though they occur in tiers (meaning the first 10 badges will be tier 1 skills, and the next 20 will be tier 2 skills, etc). There's no real way to determine which skill you'll get with which badge. Some of the skills are static and the same for everybody, but many of the skills will be randomly created. For instance, everybody will (at some point) earn a "hacking" skill that allows their characters to break into security locks. They will also earn a Combat 10 skill, which has 10 points spread out randomly between combat skills. One player may get shotguns +4, dodge +6, while another would get a pistols +3, knives +5, grenade launcher +2. The purpose of having uncontrollable advancement is to take control out of the player's hands (it is a world controlled by zombies, you know). There should be, however, a way for badges (and the skills that come with them) to be dropped and regained to yield a new randomization (to a point - don't want people doing the same thing over and over and over again until they find the uber skill). These skills can be equipped in a skill room at an outpost. The level of the skill room affects how many skills can be simultaneously equipped.

Each archetype has sub-archetypes as well to play as. For instance, you can start off as a little girl/boy and her dog. After playing that character for a while, and getting a completion badge for the archetype (usually accomplished by doing a specific action), he'll unlock the dog trainer, then lion tamer type (he's someone from the park zoo who comes with his own lion), or perhaps the monkey trainer, or even a zombie master (you get your own Bub to do your bidding - teach him to shave). A thief may be capable of being a thug or a biker or a catburgler, etc. While all sub-types of a particular archetype are functionally the same (a surgeon, a field medic, and a veterinarian all benefit from being in the medical center room, and can heal other players), they are slightly specialized in some way. A policeman may have proficiencies with a stick and gun, while a SWAT member would do better with SWAT armor and a shotgun. There should be some uniqueness to make them different enough to affect strategy, but similar enough that no role is ever compromised by its members being TOO specialized.

  06/16/06 - Alternate Advancement

I've decided to essentially steal some of my favorite ideas over the psat few years and integrate them into this one MUD. One of those ideas was the concept of an alternative to levels and advancement. In the zombie world, you have temporary characters with no levels or experience that can't be leveled up. However, there's got to be something to do in the world. The theme of the game is survival, but you don't want to make survival the only goal since people will quickly realize that it's not worth it and simply stop trying to survive.

However, due to the lack of personal advancement, there comes a need to find an alternate way of measuring progress. An old idea I had was to provide "cards" with several random goals on it. By achieving those goals and completing the card, the card becomes a sort of type of equipment, with stat bonuses or something. I'm going to take that idea back and modify it slighty.

Essentially, each character class has a list of let's say 64 badges. These badges are dependant on the character class. For instance, a policeman's badge set may revolve around saving people and killing zombies, while a carpenter's badge would involve fixing barrades, building weapons, and so on. Some of these badges may be exploration badges like visiting the police station for the cop (maybe even a character class, like civilian or something, which has ONLY exploration badges). Anyway, unlocking these badges also brings with it bonuses. For instance, unlocking 10 badges may allow your policemen to pick up body armor at the armory.

In addition to class specific badge sets, there would also be a global badge set that all characters work towards completing. For instance, killing 1000 zombies, completing badge sets from 5 character classes, or completing specific quests with any character. I'm a little worried that since all advancement is badge related, having 64 universal badges could be too little. At least with the character classes, if new areas or abilities are added, you can just create a new class. But global badges would need some sort of room to grow over time. If that's the case, there could be tiers of these, in sets of 64. It's more like adding an expansion pack's worth of quests than a level system.

There needs to be an easy way to see what badges you have. Thinking on this problem, I realized how absolutely similar it is to the racing Kirby's unlocking system - a grid of unlocks. What's more, that system had a beautiful thing in. By unlocking one cell on the grid, the neighboring cells became hints. The more you unlocked, the more hints you would have. Anyway, here is what I'm think a decent textual interface could be:

Tier 4        --01-- ::::::          2/20
:::::: --04-- [=05=] --06-- :::::: ::::::
:::::: :::::: --11-- :::::: --13-- ::::::
:::::: :::::: :::::: --18-- [=19=] --20--

Policeman     :::::: ::::::          0/20
:::::: :::::: :::::: :::::: :::::: ::::::
:::::: :::::: :::::: :::::: :::::: ::::::
:::::: :::::: :::::: :::::: :::::: ::::::

Basically, everything is numbered, so you'd type "badge 1" to get the hint for the first badge. It also works with badges you've already achieved, but the message will be slightly different. A hint might be "Kill XX Zombies" while the achieved badge message would be "Killed 37 Zombies". A quest hint might be "Talk to the Crying Little Girl", while the victory msg "Tried to save Crying Girl's dog, but ended up saving the world!".

Coming up with a sufficiently broaded enough badge system that can simultaneously track a potentially infinite number of goals could be somewhat difficult. Most MMORPGs use a quest system with a limited number of quests so they only have to save a few dozen - not every quest across every character. I guess I'll just have to see.

  06/18/06 - The Persona System

I'm pretty much throwing this idea out - I'm not really sure how I'd implement it or even if I could. But in the last blog, I said religion would play a part. We'll, not just religion. Basically, the character type's world views play into it. The character's badges should be considered less like quests and more like a "story arc". It rewards a character for playing to that character. So a tourist is rewarded for touring, and a military man is rewarded for combat. But I want to take that a step or two further - and you can only do this with a MMORPG like this one where you have a bunch of different characters. Again, just some ideas. No idea how feasible they are at the moment.

First thing, I'd like the characters you actually SEE the world differently. Like if you examine an object, you might get a little extra commentary text telling you what you think about it. Like if a priest examines a Bible, it'd say, "A small, leather bound book with a crucifix on the cover. You clutch the book tightly in your hand. The Good Book has always been there for you in your time of need." - while somebody else would see "A small, leather bound book with a cross on the cover. Who writes this crap?"

I'd also like the character to so of say/think things randomly, which could be clues to their badge list goals, or simply just color. For instance, if you stand around in one spot too long, the character might think "I'd better get moving before they find me." Or, "I wonder what happened to my research back at the university..." These would be fairly infrequent things, and they would also be based on the morale system (I'll get to that in a moment). So, if they have low self esteem, they might scream obscenitity or convert all your text to ALL CAPS, or even mispell words in location discriptions. Kind of the text version of sanity effects in Eternal Darkness.

The morale system is basically the sin system from the purgatory idea. Basically, you start out at 0, and you earn or lose morale by playing to the character. For instance, if you are a religious fanatic, then grouping with an atheist would cause you to lose morale (though I'd call it "faith" or something in that circumstance). Praying could raise your faith, and being in a room with a friend when he is killed causes you to lose it. One of the badges for every character would be to reach perfect morale - but that might not be so easy since you've got to get your character to survive long enough to do it.

Certain special ability rely on the morale bar being at a certain level. There might be a special attack that can save your ass, but you've got to be "in the zone" to invoke it. They are sort of heroic opportunities - little stories that play out depending on the situation. Some may be attacks, but they could be any "lucky coincidence". Like a professor stumbles upon a safe - and without having to search for the code, tries 1-2-3 and it works. Or you come to a locked door, jiggle the handle and it falls open.

Low morale, as mentioned, starts working the other way. You fumble with doors and can't get them open fast enough. Your character will randomly flee from zombies without permission. They'll mutter under their breadth. Their attacks will miss more frequently. Start hearing noises, and so on.

Anyway, the point is that this MUD isn't a place where you log on and hang out as yourself. Rather than each and every character being you in a different skin, it's more like they have their own needs and wishes and you are babysitting them. I really want the effect of playing a tourist to be different than playing Rambo. The zombie genre isn't so much about the zombies themselves; it is about the interpersonal conflicts of normal people put in very stressful situations where every decision has the potential to be their last. I want to insist on some of that behavior at a gameplay level.

To sum things up, it's not quite forced roleplay, but about playing to the character. Again, a system like this would be very fundamental to the game and require significant preparation and design work. It would lengthen the amount of time it took to add new character types to the game, as each one would have to be defined as both a character and gameplay device. I'd have to fill out dozens of morale entries, and write that random character dialogue and stuff. And with dynamic descriptions, I'd have to go back and update the whole game every time a new character type was added. It'd be a serious undertaking, unless I was really smart and figured a better way to do it. But I think it's an interesting idea that's not really new in single player games, but in MMORPGs, it pretty much goes against EVERYTHING we are told to expect and demand.

  06/21/06 - Ways to Communicate

I've already mentioned that I want to throw out the expectations of the past with regards to play communications. That doesn't mean that I want make it impossible to communicate. There will be a variety of different ways to communicate with your fellow players, though not like you are used to.

In a traditional online game, you've got the ability to communicate directly with another person, so long as you know their name (a /tell). You can check who is currently online (/who). Frequently, you can communicate with your entire team or guild in some sort of chat service, or perhaps in a channel format like IRC. Well, I'm throwing all that out.

This is a game of survival and it is vital to the genre that you feel isolated and alone at pretty much all times - even in the presence of others. As such, the characters will not be given names at all. You will just be "a policeman" or something. If you would like to tell people a name they can address you by, you are free to do so - but it has no innate gameplay aspect. You will never refer to a person by their name as far as gameplay is concerned.

You can communicate easily with people in the same room. You can say something which all players can hear, or you can whisper to a single character. Shouting is also something that you can do, but it will follow a sort of "sound rules" than I'm currently working out. Basically, the idea is that it gets quieter the further away from the player's position it gets. For example:

    In the same room: "HEY!! WHERE IS EVERYBODY?!"
    In the neighboring rooms: "Hey! Where is everybody?"
    In the next rooms: "hey... where... everybody..."
    In the next rooms: You hear a shout but can't make out the words.
    In the next rooms: You hear a faint noise off in the distance.

The sound rules will be something which I'll need to define more explicitly, but I'd like it to apply to any sound being made, such that shambling footsteps and crashes can be heard nearby to give you an indication that a zombie may be nearby. I'm not really sure how I'll work this system out, but I think that in a mud where many of the characters need to avoid combat, an early warning system of some sort is absolutely vital. Also, zombies will be affected by sounds, so shouting could alert nearby zombies of your presence, or at least wake them up to start shambling around. The sound system will require a blog all to itself, I think.

Beyond say, whisper, and shout, you'll also have various communication strategies depending on your character class and location. For instance, you'll find shortwave radios in various locations. These cannot be picked up or otherwise moved, but while in that room, you can communicate with players in other rooms with shortwave radios. There will be a few channels and what not.

Perhaps more interestingly, the mud itself will use it to market quests. For instance, if you are just hanging out in the radio room, you may hear a plea for help come over the radio from a group of people trapped in a gas station in the suburbs. Or you could hear a beacon from the government telling people to come to the military base to find shelter or something. Basically, just an in character way of letting players know what's out there.

Some characters, specifically janitors and policemen, will have walkie talkies. These will be portable versions of the short waves, but will be limited to the current zone. So if you are chatting over the radio in the hospital, the people in the military base won't hear you. Other players will hear a "The policeman's walkie talkie beeps, chatters, and goes silent", but only the player owning the walkie talkie will hear what is said or be able to communicate through it. This is not something that can change hands. When the player dies, the radio breaks. It is specifically a perk of the particular class (and potentially one you have to unlock).

Civilians, however, will have access to cell phones. These phones each have a phone number created at random each time a new character is created. You are free to give them out to other players who can then call you. It is basically a two way channel between two people - like instant messaging. You have to hang up and dial another player to talk to them. However, the ability of the phones to work will require a working cell tower nearby - and the towers frequently break and require maintence to work again (I'll address the "world changing" quest system in a later blog).

Anyway, there are a few ways to communicate with other players, but the really useful stuff is uncommon and at the mercy of the mud. It's something which you cannot always rely on being there. It's something that will aid in the collective survival of the mud players, but not something which can be used to build a clique of any sort easily.

  06/23/06 - Survival Quests

In most MMORPGs, quests are sort of a means to an end. About 80% of WoW's quests involve killing x number of enemies - which you probably would anyway if you were simply forced to grind up anyway. It just makes you feel like you are getting something done, rewards you with a (minor) bonus for pretending to care, and there you go. Having a well written quest or something which isn't just a pretty picture frame around a tired old mugshot is pretty rare indeed, and certainly not the cornerstone of online gaming.

I'm going to do something a little different. In Zombies, the theme is survival. It's not what you get. The genre isn't about characters getting stronger and more powerful - but weaker and more alone as they run out of supplies, suffer injuries, and lose a helpful friend or two. In fact, the strong are very rarely the ones who survive. So while the traditional quest system could be fit into the game, it doesn't really make sense. The people who DON'T do quests should survive longer.

But that doesn't mean that the genre is without quests. In fact, if there was ever a genre out there that exemplifies quests, it's the zombie genre. For instance, people are trapped in a house and can't escape. There's a gas pump out back - past the zombies. They light some sticks on fire, grab a truck and run to the pump. Or perhaps they are trapped in a mall, so they lock all the doors, barracade them with large trucks, them wipe out the zombie population inside to make it safe. Or perhaps the power goes out and someone needs to go to the basement to get it running again. Or maybe, a bunch of drunk losers can't think of anyplace better to go, so they've got to solve problems on the way to their favorite pub. Or reach a military barracde where the radio beacon tells them to come.

The zombie genre is literally nothing but quests - but there's a BIG difference. You don't get rewarded for doing them. You get punished for not doing them. If you don't get the generator started, you don't have power. If you don't get to the gas pump, you'll run out of food in a few days - not that you could hold them off that long anyway. The "quests" are born from necessity.

That's what I want to do with my mud. I want quests to be something which affect some part of the world in some way, and those quests are available only because something broken or you lost some ability. In a previous blog, I mentioned working cell towers. Cell phones won't work unless the towers work. When they break, you've got to send someone up to fix it. You don't get rewarded except to maintain the status quo - whatever minor advantages you may current have. Your survival is dependent, not on getting stronger, but on fighting against getting weaker.

This sort of figures into home bases (which were a big part of the original design treatment). Basically, players can get togteher and create safe zones by barracading areas up so zombies can't get in. They can then contribute to a small community outpost there and improve it by donating items found in the world. But these outposts are constantly under attack, and if you aren't constantly maintaining it in tip top condition, the zombies may break through and trash the place. You've got to make sure the generator has gas. You've got to repair the barracades. You've got make sure there are enough guards defending the place.

The point is, eventually, somebody is going to slip up. They'll forget or they'll leave the drudge work to somebody else who never does it. Eventually, somebody is going to make a mistake, and the whole outpost will fall. That's what the zombie genre is about. Zombies aren't a threat individually. Even a golf club can be enough to survive in a group of them. The problem is when you think you are safe and get complacent.

Even the non-home base quests will be like that. They'll be some event that happens randomly that needs to be taken care of. For instance, maybe a missile silo is compromised on the military base, and someone has to get in there and disarm the missile before it blows up the whole place - destroying literally everything on the mud and rebooting from scratch. Or perhaps you've got to make sure the outpost contains enough anti-virus serum, which requires chemicals from various locations in the game, and mixed in a chemistry lab. Or maybe you hear a distress call come in over the short wave radio. If you don't save those people, they'll die - and who will you stock the outpost with to defend it?

This isn't a mud where you win. This is a mud where you lose. Eventually. Your only measure of success is how long before the enevitable happens.



Copyright 2007-2014 Sean Howard. All rights reserved.