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It is not so Simple

by D.A. "Flux" Nissenfeld

By now you should know my mission well enough in the text-based gaming world. I like to make hack-n-slash (HnS) games. Just the thought of knocking the ones and zeros out of someone gives me a warm feeling down my spine. Getting away from fond thoughts, how do I do it? I know, I know. I say HnS and you think give me a sword and lets have at it. Well, it is not so simple.
Jean Claude Van Damme

Really is Jean Claude Van Damme.

Yeah, I could have made a stock mud, that would have been really easy. Just get dropped into Midga... I mean Fluxville and start duking it out with the stalwart blob and his wimpy monster cohorts. Of course, that is not even the issue, but it was funny just to envision how lazy one can be in the administrative world. The real issue is not about deleting the stock areas, adding races, changing warrior to fighter, or making that riposte skill. It is about the core of the game you are making, the fighting engine.

Why change it? Of course it is fine the way it is. I find it entertaining, sure. I have always wanted to stare at swiftly scrolling text all the while pounding the return key to get in as many 'acid blasts' or 'kicks' as humanly possible. Lets face it people, my bleak sarcasm does not begin to point out the inefficiencies of the current stock systems. Much like that new straight-to-video VanDamme movie, your HnS mud is exactly the same as that tired old stock ENVY, ROM or even DIKU set of code because most of the time people are seeing exactly what us muddy veterans were seeing way back with our 1200 baud modems: God scrolling damn text. You know the way to make a successful character: get the best equipment, the highest order skill/spell and just keep hitting the return button. Denial is not just a river in Africa buddy.

I am not saying that you should copy my code, I am not even saying my code is any good. All I am here to do today is to bring up the notion of freshness and to give some guidance for those of you who are willing to listen.

Back to the first paragraph, and the title of this article. What can you do to complicate, and in effect bring some new life, into your fighting engine? Do you want more guts and glory? Of course you do. Do you want efficient, orderly ranged combat? Do you want booby traps, and people chasing people, and mobs, down? Do you want giant rotary saws, fire, brimstone, whips, spaceships and Chinese acrobats doing flips? Well, just hold on there partner, you have got to think about this first.

Do not start out small; start out gigantic. What do you want people doing here? As always, I look to cartoons and video games for inspiration. After all, you are demographic probably plays the same games you do, and they probably watch those animie flicks just like you. When I started out truly amending the engine in my mud, I was playing a lot of Tekken. I wanted some strategy to the hand-to-hand combat. To my great dismay, I had to start taking modem speeds and connection lag into consideration, and you will to. You have to find a system that does not promote "button mashing" or in this case, "command spamming."

This is probably the first big hurdle. Most stock code has measures to prevent this, skill_beats comes to mind, but you can do better. Try thinking outside the box. An easy way to prevent this is to create a more realistic situation for fights. What would you do, personally in real life, if a guy the size of an elephant came after you with a sword? Putting aside your ego for a moment, you know that you would run for the hills. It is ok to admit that, we would all do the same thing. Why can not people efficiently run away in an average HnS mud? Well, it is mostly because the only means of escape, on foot, is a skill called flee. That suggests that you are running away from the fight. However, what if you had a shotgun sitting in the next room? Then you might not be running away, you might be moving for strategic purposes.

Does not that sound like a good idea, moving for strategic purposes? You know you have wanted to do that, but you can not because once you leave that room you have ended the fight.

Out of this idea to have a mobile, distance-able fight can grow an immeasurable amount of things. Having a fire-fight with guns, bows or even thrown spells becomes very possible. It does not necessarily need to be cheesy either. Just tone down the things you do not want to become the focus, and pump up those things you do want. Your players will figure it out because that is their job. They want to figure out the best way to get the most experience the fastest.

In addition, do not let other people tell you what is wrong with your engine. If you want to have a Dragonball Z-ish fighting engine, so be it. If people do not like that, bad luck. It is your game; you always have to remember that. You can take consolation in the fact that there will be people who find your game interesting. How do you think all those stockish muds have player base

Flux is currently involved in the creation of what he dubs as the first "twin" MUD. You can find him and his work at 3000.