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2020-07-13 Monday: Planning the Teraum MUD

2020-07-13 Monday: Planning the Teraum MUD is a(n) log

it is about MUD, Teraum, Teraum MUD, and Decolonization

it was released on Jul 13, 2020

Okay, so I've had a change of heart since I last thought about the Teraum MUD. I no longer want to skip from ~83pc to ~430pc: I want to work with the world I have, in the time I've established, and look at decolonization in specific instances. That is, ask myself as I go:

The first two questions are world-building specific, so I'll give them consideration when I'm back to writing game areas: for now, I'm going to give some thought to what game features would be appropriate.

This may seem reductive, and I might come to disagree with this once I've put my hands on the project more, but I think right now I could tag game features with one of the three terms: colonial, decolonial, and indigenous.

Something like buying or selling items at a market would, likely, be colonial, since it'd be using imperial money.

Something like gifting an item to an NPC who lives in a settler-colony to win their favour might be decolonial, since it's helping strengthen a relationship outside their imperialism. (Clearly I'm making big assumptions about how these features would work.)

And things like harvesting seasonal berries or making most craft goods could be considered indigenous, since it's working directly with the game world, not with or against the game's humanfolk constructs.

Phrasing it like that encourages me to highlight a personal belief that is probably relevant to this explanation, that imperialism is, fundamentally, the pursuit of the creation of an absolute fictional reality controlled by imperialism: in some ways, it can be thought of as a simulated world inside the real world: in the context of a MUD, which is a simulated world, this might mean that the Empire is a simulated world inside the MUD, that the MUD looks to, the same way players look to the MUD.

(I hope that explanation makes any sense, reading it back it does but only because I've just said it, I suspect.)

I'd like to plan out some concrete game features, but first I'd like to say what features exist right now, between Racket-MUD and Teraum MUD code.

Everything in the MUD is, within Racket-MUD, a thing, with qualities. Briefly explaining the qualities currently available to a potential thing seems like a good way to present the MUD's features:

Looking at this list, I already see an issue with my taxonomy of colonial/decolonial/indigenous: unless I really stretch, I can't neatly categorize any of these into those boxes. Nevertheless, trying to see if features fit into one of those three boxes, or are more mundane, is still a good exercise, I think.

There are quite a few mundane features I plan on adding, and simply haven't because they are, well, mundane, and rather tedious to implement and as this rather long log entry hints, I'm more in the mood to work on stuff closer to the fiction. But, I'd like to, soon, implement a say command for talking to things in the same container as you, and a tell command for sending DMs to players.

When talking about game features, it's hard not to think of things in terms of gamification. I know I want to have a feature to collect berries from a bush. But why: what would the player be able to do with the berries they collected? They could sell them at a local store in exchange for currency, but then what would they do with the currency? Use it to buy… berry jam? That jam could then be used to…

The train of action reaches an end there: there's nothing the players can do, except collect more berries. A common mechanic for this problem is to implement an “action points” system of some sort, where collecting berries requires a certain number of points, which recharge slowly over time. Consuming berries would increase the action point recharge rate.

It's a solid game mechanic and central to the experience of many things, including my favorite MUD. But, as I just said, it has a tendency to make itself central to gameplay, and I don't know if I want that. It makes increasing the rate of action point gain and spending the focus of the game's metagame, and that could easily, I think, lead to a mindset of resource extraction.

Unless, of course, there is a strict and explicit balance between action point rate increases and some sort of cost. If a blueberry restores 10 action points, it must take 10 action points to grow. A jar of blueberry jam which restores 100 action points must contain 8 blueberries and require 20 action points to produce.

This would require the blueberry bush receiving an input of action points…

Hmm, at this point I'm talking about basically, simulating the flow of energy around a system: a very abstract physics simulator. The sun and water that the blueberry receives, plus any other things like being pooped on by a bird, would increase its action points.

There's an immediate problem with this system as a central mechanic, which is that it would have to be rather carefully balanced. However maybe that can be motivation to address a problem worldbuilding MUDs face: older areas fall behind the features of the later ones. If Teraum had a culture of areas being “stewarded” by developers, who worked to make sure the areas were productive and up-to-date with the rest of the world, that could encourage constant development of existing game areas.

Maybe it's for lack of imagination, but this seems like a good-enough mechanic to center gameplay around, at least for the foreseeable future. Revisiting our berry thing:

So, probably would've been more worthwhile to pick more berries - but carrying four pints of berries by hand can be tricky!

So maybe there should be a blueberry bush closer to town, or…

This provides a good motivation for allowing other features, like gardening.

But, for now, the current next steps are:

I'm sure there's also lots of things that need fixing along the way - I think I noticed that the look command wasn't properly handling names - so this should be a good roadmap for the next stage of Teraum's development.