Eating and Drinking in MUDsIn the past, the topic of "eating and drinking in muds" has cropped up from time to time during discussions on various MUD forums. Several people have stated that they dislike the need to eat and drink, feeling it is boring - to which my usual response has been "just because something CAN be coded badly, doesn't mean it HAS to be". Certainly, in most muds eating and drinking serves very little useful purpose and is generally little more than irritating spam - but I believe it could be made both useful and (relatively) interesting.
Recently I've been playing a computer game called "Black and White". For those who don't know, the game is a populous-style "God" game - with a twist. As well as your villagers, you also control a creature, which you have to teach as it grows up. You have to teach it what to eat, what not to eat, where to drink, how to cast spells, how to help the villagers, where to go the toilet, etc - it's a long, sometimes tedious, often amusing process.
In my case, my creature turned out to be rather uninterested in eating which often caused him to keel over from starvation (occasionally landing on - and thus demolishing - my villagers houses). As such I was a little worried about leaving my computer running while I went to work, but as I was quite eager for my creature to grow bigger I finally decided to leave him to his own devices, hoping desperately that he'd manage not to starve to death.
I came back to discover my creature had eaten over 150 animals as well as a fair number of villagers. His "fatness" rating had gone up to 100% and his alignment had turned to "completely evil". He'd stuffed himself silly while I'd been away - I was not impressed.
Anyway, last week I had a strange dream (I know, I think about muds too much) in which I discovered that my mud character had gained a fatness rating of 100% from eating too many pot pies from the bakery. Upon waking, I thought "actually, that's not a bad idea" - and since then I've thought about how to make the system a little more interesting.
After a little research into food types, I've discovered that there are six basic types: protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, minerals and water.
Protein is made up of 22 amino acids (11 essential and 11 non-essential) and is used for building and maintaining the body, supplying it with the material for tissue. This comes from both meat and plants, although the former is much higher in quality and more digestible than the latter.
Carbohydrates usually come from plants and are divided into two categories - simple and complex. The simple carbohydrates (including starches and sugars) are primarily for supplying energy in the form of glucose to the organs and central nervous system. The complex carbohydrates provide fibre as well as energy (although not as quickly as simple carbohydrates).
Fat is the main source of energy (as in calories, not energy to make you refreshed and feeling active - thanks for pointing that out, Chenoa!), but also provides a number of fat soluble vitamins. Fat helps provide healthy skin and contains acids which help regulate metabolism.
Vitamins are divided into two categories - fat soluble and water soluble - which affect things like vision, reproduction, growth, tissue repair, bone formation, blood clotting, infection resistance, etc.
Minerals are divided into two categories - major minerals and trace minerals - and affect things like blood clotting, blood pressure, DNA/RNA structure, energy, fluid retention, wound healing, sugar and fat metabolism, etc.
Water is, well, water. I think most people know how important it is (and if you don't, watch the movie "The Hole").
Because vitamins and minerals are relatively simple in function, I think they'd be better off grouped together (listing every single vitamin would be rather over the top I think). So I'd probably split the food types into 5 categories:
1) Protein (animal or vegetable): Improves physical stats, enhances healing rate, animal (meat) protein is higher in quality and more digestible than vegetable protein.
2) Carbohydrates (simple or complex): Provides energy and (in the case of complex) fibre, but simple is quicker to digest (so you get the energy points faster).
3) Fat: Provides energy and inherently gives additional vitamins.
4) Vitamins/Minerals: Improves healing, resistance to poisons/diseases and fat metabolism.
5) Water: Required for survival. Used up over time and through exertion.
Each item of food would possess a percentage division between the above 5 categories - even drinking water would possess a tiny percentage of minerals.
Now you could start adding categories like "hunger", "fatness", "metabolism", "blood pressure", "red blood cells" (clotting/healing), "white blood sells" (immune system), "dental health", etc.
Then you can sit back and watch with amusement as the obese hack-n-slashers waddle around with rotten teeth and major hair loss! For those who prefer not to impose this sort of thing on their players, it could always be made optional - the benefits of healthy eating (increased physical performance, greater immune system, improved healing, etc) wouldn't be available to those who weren't prepared to make the effort, however. Alternatively if you allow players to create their own meals from various incredients, an enterprising young chef could probably make quite a tidy income from selling "healthy-option" meals to rich, lazy players.
You'd even be able to claim that your mud was educational!