MUD/RPG/MMORPG idea collection

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Overview

This page lists some (hopefully all) MUD-/RPG-related ideas (not whole MUD ideas) I have had. They have been collected here for remembering.
They are not grouped in any way to form a single game, although that might not be impossible.

Feel free to use, but:

Me

I like developing new, not so much using what others have made.
But I have some experience about MUDs, mostly about BatMUD.
These ideas on this page are induced by various things.

-Joel Yliluoma

Generic (technical) ideas

Real temptations

Last updated 2007-01-15

Shortly:

  • Player is the soul; game simulates the body
  • Player must feel the body

In Slayers there's one episode with a boy who has a curse upon him. The curse makes all girls feel nauseated when seeing him. Male people don't see anything special in him.

In BatMUD there are banes like racism and feminism.
BatMUD's approach to these is that the characters do things, and there's nothing the player can do about it.

In my opinion, the player should be the one who feels the pressure to do things.
If the character feels like he has to kill something, the player must do that or the character goes mad or feels pain or is so much distracted that everything goes wrong.

The player is the soul of the character. The game only simulates a body. You can fight against temptations your body (brains included) feels, but it takes strength of the soul - strength of the player.

Original note in Finnish: http://bisqwit.iki.fi/kala/forcedspells.txt

I've heard that Oblivion has a bane/condition called vampirism, which works exactly like that.

No magical knowledge

Shortly:
  • No magical knowledge
  • If you haven't heard something, you don't know it
  • Internally, everything must have multiple levels of details

When you see people, you don't know them, unless you have met them.
Instead of immediately knowing the person's name, you would see his specie, clothing, actions, equipment and other details, depending on your level of perception, interests and how much time is there to make observations.

The same applies to everything observable: buildings, cities, NPCs and so on.
Everything your character has never seen (or heard about) before should look unfamiliar, even if the player has seen them before.

On the other hand, things you know should be very familiar (unless your character has really little observation time or is distracted).

If the character knows that the furry being that has white stripes in its tail is called "Bisqwit", there's no reason why you couldn't just see that "oh it's Bisqwit" instead of being every time reminded that "oh it's the furry being that has white stripes in its tail, called Bisqwit". If you concentrate on observing, then you'd notice the details again.

A MUD called Avalon already does something like this.

Bodily knowledge

Shortly:
  • The player shouldn't feel like the character is just a stupid machine

If your character happens to know something, there's no need you should be always be doing things manually.

For example, if you walk in a foreign city, your wanders might lead you to a restaurant. Your character will probably remember the place, unless he has a bad memory.
Next time you walk in the same city (or whatnot, if you live there), you could just want to go the restaurant, and your character already knows the way. No need to command each movement. Those are basics, and your character already knows them by its body. There is no need for the soul to participate in such a casual thing.

Your character might know restaurants in many towns, and when you say "restaurant", it would always mean the restaurant in the nearmost context. If you want another restaurant, you call it "restaurant in Mernitia" or something like that.

Of course just commanding "go to <a very distant place>" wouldn't always work: Your character might be worried about the strains of the travel.
That's again where soul and body must be one.

Note: This isn't the same as defining run-commands in BatMUD. In BatMUD you're programming the character to do predefined things. It works no matter how stupid/wise character you have. Everyone can blindly follow instructions. They are again machines.
What I explained here is more automatic. Be anywhere, and your character knows how to go from there to somewhere else. Unless he gets confused and lost.

n,e,w,w,s,e,.. argh!

Come on, the character isn't a compass!

This is a difficult design question.
Still, I think knowing the cardinal directions should be a special skill that a character could have.
Navigating should happen by sight, not by compass, i.e. turning left and right and going forward and choosing the second way from the crossing etc, having no idea whether they are walking in circle.

Inertia

If you are a huge ent or a giant and you're running fast, you should find it very difficult to stop or turn quickly.
Merely a dexterity stat in battle is not enough.
You will occassionally bump into things when you can't correct your motion in time.

No common starting point

Each player has a unique character, and so should be the background of his character.
People are born in different places, perhaps even in different eras.
Thus, they have various languages.

Languages

Suppose your character is born in Mernitia and your friend's character is born in Fragulis. These are two (imaginary) very distant places and a different language is spoken in each of them. So why should your characters be able to understand each others?

My answer: They shouldn't, unless they study languages.

You, the player, the soul of the character, may speak in whatever tongue you wish, be it English, Finnish or Japanese.
Your friend may speak the same language, but as your speech is actually the speech of your character, you won't understand each others.

The game engine should take care of that by garbling the speech you hear by the amount inversely equivalent to your character's skill in the foreign language.
Different garbling methods for different languages, of course, so different languages would sound different...

Needless to say, this of course applies to heavily roleplaying oriented games. Also applying this would require a large player base, because otherwise people wouldn't much interact... And the game should be interesting enough even without language-based interaction.

There shouldn't be any "channels" or "tells" either.
Some remote communication could exist between telepaths or such, though.

I've heard a MUD called NightmareMUD already does something like this.

No humanoids

Humanoids are boring. Why must all the player character species be two or more legged human resembling things, which do familiar things like "walking"?
Do something different!
Start with dolphins and a completely underwater world! :)
Something where the new player feels like a baby who doesn't comprehend anything of her surroundings at first.

PCs and NPCs are the same

Shortly:
  • Player characters should be indistinguishable from NPCs
  • But it is hard to make working

In the no magical knowledge section I already discussed that the character shouldn't automatically recognize things he hasn't been introduced to.
Somewhat related to this is the idea that NPCs you encounter should be in many ways indistinguishable from player characters you have never met before. The only difference between a player character and an automated character is that the soul of automated character is a computer, where as the soul of a player character is the player.
The characters don't see souls, so they shouldn't see difference.

This idea sounds nice, but it has some drawbacks:

  • It is hard to implement. NPCs are usually too visibly mechanical.
  • It is frustrating to play if you don't know whether the person you are talking to is a player who's just being too cryptic or a NPC which can't help you in your problems.

This problem is especially significant in little games with small playerbase - although if making friends is easy, it might be tolerable.

My experience in Avalon got me understanding that Avalon does this.

Of course, when PCs and NPCs are the same, their actions should be similar too. In monsterslaying-oriented MUDs, NPCs should go killing monsters too. When ever there is a player character observing, the game could play back some previous player party actions with NPCs and improvize...
See also: avoid common bad design.

Player experience

Shortly:
  • You can't just hand a powerful character to a newbie player
  • Everything isn't in the file. Player's experience matters

[To be written]

Death

Different MUDs take a different view on death.

I'll discuss here some of my thoughts.

Monsters

Respawning

One of the boring things in MUDs I have played is this: You kill monsters, and the monsters pop back eventually again.
The world gains nothing. Fighting the wind.
Yea, your character does gain experience. So what? Kill more monsters?

Nonrespawning

What if the monsters died permanently when you kill them?
Unless the monsters reproduce (by whatever means) quickly, a monsterslaying-oriented MUD quickly runs out of monsters to kill.
In this case, life should be valued.
Most MUDs I know are based on monsterslaying...

Players

Permanent death

Last updated 2003-09-03

The character only dies once. After that, the player can only create a new character if he wishes to play more.
Some MUDs (hcbat for example) employ this method.

Die many times

Last updated 2003-09-03

In most MUDs, players die often and there's some way to restore life to the character's body - with varying penalties.
When you're dead:

  • You might be waiting in hell/heaven unable to do almost anything.
  • You might wander around as a soul/spirit and can't touch anything and seldom be seen.
  • You might see a dreamworld, which you can explore freely. Nothing from there can be transferred or affect the "real" world of the game, though.

To regain life:

  • You might "pray". Someone might answer your prayer. You suffer penalties: some stats could be reduced, your body needs extremely difficult healing, etc.
  • A cleric or magician must cast a powerful spell to bring your body back to life. Penalties possible.
  • You must accomplish a task with your soul/spirit while you're dead.
  • All the dead are restored into life when the stars and moons are in some position the next time. With a time control spell someone could affect the moment.
  • You might automatically restart somewhere plain naked.

There could be a limit how many times you can die. After that, you'll die permanently. (Like in most platform games.)

Dying moves you from a world to next

Last updated 2003-09-03

When you die, you'll leave the world behind and move on to the next one.
You'll lose contacts to everyone you knew, and they'll lose you.

This new world could be:

  • Completely a new world
  • Just a different era in the same world.
    This might be exciting. If dying moves you backwards in time, you could leave messages for those who you left behind.
    More sensical would be to move forwards in time though.

It might depend on your life in the previous world.
This kind of system would probably require that the separated players don't interact with each others regarding the game.
Impossible to enforce.

  • You might be born again as a child.
  • You might carry your dead body to the new world and be barely living.
  • Your soul/spirit might move into a new adult body in the new world - possibly to a body of someone who died recently.

No death

Last updated 2003-09-03

Maybe nobody ever dies.
If the game doesn't have any life-threatening hazards for the characters, nobody dies.

The meaning of the life

Last updated 2003-09-03

In the section about respawning monsters, I touched this subject.

This is relevant with the type of the game.
What is the goal of the life of the character in the game?
What do they do for living, what do they wish?

I think there are two generic classes.

  • Personal strength
  • Social gains

The main point of playing in a MUD is that you interact with players.
Both these systems have interaction with other players, but what differs is the motive of this interaction.

Personal strength

Last updated 2003-09-03

A question of the meaning of the life.

Shortly:

  • You play for the benefit of yourself.
  • Nobody cares about you, unless you're a threat to them.

You (your character) gain strength by whatever you do.
For example, you kill monsters and get stronger. You kill stronger monsters, and gain even more strength.

What do you do when you're the strongest in the world?

What use does the strength have, other than feeding itself?

You do interact with other players, but you do that only because it helps yourself.
Some monsters are impossible to kill alone, so you must group together.
If you're a fighter, you need healers because otherwise you die.
If you're a healer, you need fighters because otherwise you never get to practice your skills.

You dislike the social gains system, because it helps the weak stay weak and makes the game generally boring.

As a sidenote, in my personal opinion this system follows slightly a satanic view.

Social gains

Last updated 2003-09-03

A question of the meaning of the life.
Shortly:

  • You play for the benefit of people around you.
  • Everyone cares about you, unless you're lazy.

[To be written]

You dislike the strength-based system, because it makes the world a harsh place and lacks an useful goal.

As a sidenote, in my personal opinion this system follows a christian view.

Graphics

left Would a MUD in a graphical world like those SNES RPG games be a working idea at all?

Background music

A really great way to enhance the experience of certain events and places is to add a background music.
It of course requires a good composer.
This also only applies to roleplaying centered MUDs, as in other type of MUDs people don't have self-discipline to listen repeated music. People want to listen whatever they want.

Grouped with graphics this could be a certain memorizable moodmaker.

Talking with NPCs

Meaningless actions? Then say so, re: NPC

When the people (npcs) are walking around in circles and having nothing to do, they should really say so.
- "What are you doing?"
- "I'm looking at this pond."
- "Why?"
- "Next I'll go looking at that bush over there."
- "Why?"
- "And then I come back here and look at this pond."
- "Why? Are you that much bored?"
- "Sort of."

Artificial languages for NPCs

Last updated 2007-06-13

I recently read about Toki Pona (sorry, no Wikipedia link; they deleted the article suddenly after several years) and it brought a Star Tropics -style primitive island people to my mind.

If your RPG contains such people, you could try to simulate their life and use Toki Pona as their native language. As a very simple language, it seems perfectly suited for that.

You could add a translation layer to English, but they would still think in Toki Pona.
You could even make possible to communicate with them using Toki Pona...
Or not.

I've also considered constructing an entirely musical language. (Yes, I know about Solresol. I'm aiming for more dimensions.)

Not everyone is happy to talk

Last updated 2003-11-26

In adventure RPG games you usually can talk with everyone and have them say a few words.

Break the tradition: Do it like the Finns do! If you are going to just chat with someone with no plan, expect the following responses:

  • *gasp* What do you want? eek! molester!
  • What is it?
  • *thinks* is he drunk?

So your character would always need a reason for chatting.
"Do you like <something>?" - "Why? What kind of interview is this?"
"What are you doing?" - "It's none of your business!"
"Hello, how d-" - "*steps quickly a meter backward* Stay away from me and my children!"
"Can you share a thought with me?" - "*loudly* Now that's a strange question. *nearby people start looking suspiciously*"

Who talks first?

Last updated 2007-06-25

In most RPG games, when you want to talk with NPCs, you simply "trigger" their speech without actually having to talk. So in most cases, it looks like the NPC talks first. However, real life does not work like that.

So how to change that?

  • When you want to talk to NPCs, you would possibly need to first select your own words from a list of statements.
  • When your character has got nothing, she could think "I can't think of anything to talk about" and turn away, refusing to talk.
  • Characters could instinctively avoid eye contact. If you spend long time ackwardly close to an NPC, or you look at it for a long time, it would get equally embarrassed and possibly turn away, or initiate discussion themselves.

Avoid common bad design

Last updated 2004-07-21

There is an interesting story at somethingafwul.com.
Here are some things that should be done:

  • Even distribution: put impossibly hard monsters appearing even from the very beginning of the game! Of course, there must be a way of surely not run to them.
  • Monsters should be carrying stuff that they possibly have someway got. Especially applies to money.
  • No distinction between NPCs and PCs.
    Thus, also NPCs would need to battle monsters - not only when it suits the plot ("save me save me"), but in exactly the same ways as players. Monsters should battle each others too.
  • No safe place - if you're hunted by a grand villain, you can't go resting in a motel - the villain could find you and kill you while you're sleeping.

Reverse experience

Last updated 2003-12-01

Almost all RPGs have this: By battling you gain more experience; you become stronger, and fight bigger fights.

How about if it all were the opposite?

Fighting exhausts you. Gradually you wear out and become weaker.

Fight one type of monsters, become a specialist with them. Fight other type of monsters, slowly forget everything about the previous type.

If the characters do too much the same thing, they become overstressed and lazy, which degrades their performance. They should have more things to do. While they concentrate on one hobby, they forget something about other hobby, but they relearn quickly enough, provided that they had enough rest.

Realistic shops

Last updated 2004-02-16

In RPG games, shops always have an infinite supply of items, unless it's part of plot that they're out of supply.

Well, this is simple to solve. Make them uninfinite.

But what's more radical - put a "best before" stamp to each item.
Usually, if you find a potion, or even, say, steak, from a chest someone friendlily has left into the wilderness, you can carry the item with you and eat it 5 years later when you finally get hungry. And it's as tasty as ever.
Start from the shops. Add a lifetime meter to each item.
Make sure the shopkeeper replenishes the stock often enough.

Some games apply a "condition" meter to weapons and shield: if you battle a lot, your item becomes battered. But even if you don't use the item, it should age and become more suspectible for accidental breakage.

While you're on that, add "warranty". If your helmet breaks in the middle of the battle, exposing your head for the angry ogre to bash, you can demand compensation from the shopkeeper if your helmet still had warranty time left.

Game element ideas

Time travelling

Last updated 2002-09-25

Shortly:

  • Unstable timegates lead to different time periods
  • Players inhabit different eras

Complete story at my timegates page.

Time travelling types

Last updated 2004-02-16

  Time travelling modes:
    — in predetermined moments / eras — some select vantage points in history
    — smooth, to *any* moment
  Experiencing modes:
    — view only, gain information (ghost mode)
    — participation (flesh mode)
  Causality modes:
    — no consequence, each era is causally separated
    — concrete changes (like in Chrono Trigger)
    — chaotic changes (breath somewhere and a storm emerges week later)
  Reality modes:
    — destined universe (can't change, everything just fulfills the destiny)
    — variable universe (one thread; changes its shape)
    — threading universe (changes create a new branch)
    — multiple universes (superset of the threading model)
  Existence modes:
    — you become a separate entity (possibly existing twice in the same time)
    — you reuse an existing entity (e.g. someone's body, e.g. own)

Shifted summoning

Last updated 2004-09-07

Shortly:

  • Eerie temporal desync in a summon spell

This special effect has absolutely no use, but it would add some spice: A person being summoned arrives to its destination before he left.

An example is shown in my diary: http://bisqwit.iki.fi/diary/11984

This of course would require that the game calculates the events to happen between the arrival and leaving with major certainty.
If it could be made working, it would be frightening experience :)

Partial fumble in summon

Last updated 2007-01-15

This idea was originally written by Warp.

Shortly:

  • A fumbled summon results in the body and mind being separated, the body being summoned but the mind being still in the originating place

Once the mind and body are separated, the mind cannot influence the world. The mind needs to travel to the body's location by its own.

Balance of magic

Last updated 2003-03-17

Applicable theory in games involving magic.

  • Magic disturbs the nature balance.
    There should be equal amount of evil and good in the world.
  • Cast a good spell, and someone suffers.
    Cast an evil spell, and something good happens.
  • The bigger the spell, the bigger the counterconsequence.
  • Grant someone a wish, and she receives a curse as well.
    Curse someone, and she'll receive a blessing that compensates the curse in some other way.
  • The receiver of the evil and good do not need to be the same though.

See also Niilo Paasivirta's ideas (Finnish) of chant words for spells: http://web.archive.org/web/20040122090259/http://gimpi.jyu.fi/np/moslib/help/topics/magicchants

Professions

Spell teaching... pay per hour?

Last updated 2007-01-15

In some games, magic spells are learned in shops. The game asks for which character of the party will learn the spell. After you select the character, the spell is learned. It costs a fixed price.

My idea is that when the party goes to the magic shop, the shopkeeper would teach the spell by showing example. The whole party would be allowed to watch it. The teaching takes as long as the player wishes. Usually it ends when the desired character(s) have learned the spell. The longer it takes, the more it costs. Time is money.

Teaching easy spells to an experienced mage would cost virtually nothing, and teaching powerful spells to a newbie mage would take weeks and cost millions.

Naturally, there would be prerequisites for certain spells. For example, for a regeneration spell the student needs to have knowledge on healing and biology.

Spell-teaching could be a profession too.

Super chefs

Last updated 2005-09-01

You need to watch some Iron Chef to understand this.

In BatMUD, there's a system of alchemy, where by combining different herbs together you can create different potions and medicins of almost any imaginable effect. Most herbs grow only at certain times of year, and only in certain places of the world. They also need to be preserved carefully.

Now, apply the same concept to cookery. Imagine a world with hundreds of different ingredients that can be made into food. Plants of all kinds, meat of all animals of different kind (and animals that have been raised differently), mushrooms, possibly more even imaginary materials, and dozens of different ways to combine, prepare and to serve them. Meals that are cooked with armies of chefs, for supplying anything from soldiers to kings. Tools of different materials, size and level of automation. An endless opportunity of learning new. And of course, battles between master chefs from all over the world!

And there's a hazard... fishes, mushrooms, plants... many of them are poisonous or even lethal if not prepared properly. You wouldn't like to kill your king or give the army of your land a week-long diarrhea!

Now there's an idea for something to do in an RPG.

Internally, the game could use some kind of algorithm to calculate various aspects of the ingredients and how they transform as a function of the cooking method together into a set of another aspects that define the quality of the meal. And the quality is a multi-dimensional aspect, of course. There's of course the taste (which itself has various aspects), but also how satisfying it is, how nourishing it is (again, various aspects), and how beautiful it is estetically. And there could be some magical effects too.

The players would need to give names to the dishes they create. For a game with millions of possible dishes, the game developers can not possibly name them, and it wouldn't really make sense t make an algorithm for them either. The names your players invent can become common knowledge in the game, and other players may try to guess what ingredients went into them. The game may also give some hints when analyzing the dish.

You could earn money by writing books of cuisine... but such books don't make you a master chef. They give inspiration, but you still must learn yourself how to perform the things you do.

Elementalist ways of cooking

In the various elemental theories, there are a few elements that fit very nicely in cooking. I took liberty of thinking meanings for the others:

  • Fire (火): Boiling, frying
  • Water (水): Soaking
  • Earth (地/土): Burying
  • Air (風): Wind-drying, blowing
  • Thunder (電/天): Electrocute
  • Light (光): Illuminate
  • Darkness (闇): Sealing, preservation
These could be the basis for the cooking.

Music performances

Last updated 2006-06-30

In Final Fantasy VI, there's a scene in an opera house where the player must help a character to sing an aria by selecting the right words at the right moment.

In a MUD, a player could be playing in a band, and occassionally the game would present the player with choices of chords to select from. Selecting the right chord would give a token amount of experience to the character, and selecting the wrong one would give disapproval from the fellow band members and a decrease in the spirit of the audience.

In the beginning of one's musical career, playing the music (selecting the right chords) would take all of the player's concentration, but as the character gains more experience, the game will prompt the player less often, and will allow the player to make more observations of the overall scene, and of the audience. When the character has mastered the skill of musical performances with the instrument, the player does not need to do anything during the performance. Different instruments would have slightly different methods of playing. Performances would be a way to earn one's living in the game.

I had another similar idea for professions in a game, but the idea escaped me before I had chance to write it down...

Parodies and copies

right Last updated 2004-07-21

If you are low on your own ideas, take some of the ideas others have had!

Insidejokes and details throughout various sources.

  • Magical trees that are impossible to bypass
  • Even smaller things on the middle of road, impossible to bypass.
    Could be anything from Snorlax to a little bottle.
  • Jusenkyô with nyanneechuan (Ranma reference) and similar cursed places.
  • More curses: See nauseated view.
  • In many japanese anime forests seem to be places where people go and immediately get lost.
  • An immediate cloudburst from bright sky, when someone is depressed and/or angry and shouts/curses something aloud, seems nasty.
  • Similarly, happy sunshine sometimes immediately after someone experiences something very joyful would make the game happier.
  • Flying.
Almost every Final Fantasy game there is involves flying at some point of the game. In some games there is more, in some there is less. A little obsession to flying can't hurt, can it? ;)
Birds of various sizes and breeds, aerodactyls, flying boats, airplanes, balloons, cannons, even spaceships...
  • Everybody knows everything - the farther and more private, the more well known.

More ideas:

Weirdness

Last updated 2007-04-17

Things that just don't make sense in the real life.
Examples:

  • Shops that sell moods (EDIT 2007-04-17: This idea was actually used in a Doctor Who episode that aired 2007-04-14)

Ceremonies and protocols

Last updated 2003-05-25

What really much adds colour to a game is ceremonies.

Examples of various ceremonies in the real world:

Ceremonies and protocols are procedures, completed with a certain way.

  • Newcomers to a game do not expect to have ceremonies and usually only wish to rush from moment to moment, like children.
    • When the game is relatively new, it must be assured that there is certain benefit of having ceremonies. NPCs should be programmed to complete the ceremonies with precision and forgiveness.
    • When the game has matured and there are lots of users, there will be social pressure ensuring that ceremonies are kept alive.
  • People who have became accustomed with ceremonies, will attach to the ceremonies. When someone omits a solemn ceremony, it shocks, because it's a road to world where nobody cares of nothing but themselves.
  • While ceremonies are not useful technically, they are absolutely great socially. It makes the game deeper, grows social bonds and makes it harder to leave the game. No game wants to die, so it must try to hold its players.

The world is full of ceremonies of different types: solemn ceremonies, religious ceremonies and carneval ceremonies.
Here are some areas which have many ceremonies:

  • Scout ceremonies
  • Military ceremonies
  • Fiction ceremonies: For example, the tv serie Babylon 5 features some Minbari ceremonies which might be interesting.

The longer and more solemn the ceremony, the better it is socially.
Too many solemn ceremonies, though, scare people away. Consider it as flavor.

Think of it as a social experiment.

Names of places

Take useless names into use.
Here are some useless but convincing sounding education center names:


See also:

Last edited at: 2007-09-14T13:23:27+03:00