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Article by FireCat
Copyright 29/03/2003
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In all things, there is balance.

Many races, but you can only pick one (unless, of course, you create many characters).

Many classes, but you can only pick one (unless, of course, you create many characters).

Many weapons, but you cannot wield all of them at once (unless, of course, you use many characters).

I will talk here not of the reasons game balance is sought, but rather, the effect on players when game-balance IS present.

The players are forced to choose.

Choose one race - but none of the rest. Choose the special abilities of a ranger - but forsake the unique abilities belonging to each other class. Wield the most damaging weapon - but accept that it be slower than even an average weapon, let alone the fastest.

Some players will not be affected by this limitation. They prefer to play only the one race, only the one class, only the one weapon. They are satisfied unless that race/class/weapon vanishes; for all they care, the rest of the races/classes/weapons could disappear utterly.

Other players will like more than one of their options. It is for them that game-balance presents a difficulty. They want to do everything, or just more than is allowed. No matter what their choice is, they will be sacrificing one of the options they desired (unless, of course, they create multiple characters).

These game-balance issues are all present in the mechanics, the code. They are perfectly fine for a purely hack-and-slash MUD. But if yours incorporates roleplaying in any way, another issue of game-balance becomes relevant - roleplaying vs. H&S.

Many advocates of mixed environments will insist that roleplaying is completely possible in combination with H&S. I am among them. This is why I am giving you a method to prevent losing players who are there for both.

As the perceived balance of the game shifts, players have likewise shifted which characters they play. When dwarves are powerful, everyone that did not have a dwarf before, suddenly might make one now. When wizards become weak, players use their wizards much less. When the speed of a weapon became more important, players began using normal weapons just to avoid the penalties that came from a slower, if stronger, weapon.

Some players believe that roleplaying is merely the realistic interaction with your environment - and that, the more depth this interaction has, the better they are roleplaying. They always react this way - but always as themselves.

If the code generates a shift in the apparent balance, these players follow the wave towards their character who would be most efficient in the new environment. They play this character most often, their other (now comparatively useless) characters mainly ignored. And their new "main" character, receiving the lion's share of their roleplaying efforts, becomes more "realistic".

Except to those of us who note a bunch of personality-clone figures walking around, who mysteriously know our characters despite having never met before, who become offended as if struck by mortal insult when we decline to act as their life-long friends (after just having met), and in essence may as well be the same person, only, with skills that (while changing in type) never lose their "maximum efficiency" no matter how the coded balance is shifted.

Continuing to "roleplay" despite which character they are using, these players enjoy themselves more than anyone else - at the expense of other people in the MUD. The wider balance (between those who are playing just for RP, those who are playing just for H&S, and those playing for both) can be kept by watching both a character's ability to "kick ass" in the code, and their ability to roleplay. Make sure no character can exceed, in both those respects, a level commessurate to the effort their player has put in. This may be done by granting the character-types weaker in the code, an advantage of opportunities for roleplaying (since many definitions of roleplaying include interaction, a social character-type, or one with advantages in how many languages they knew, would be quite appropriate). Conversely, character types that are already very easy to begin roleplaying with, can be weakened in the code.