This is quite an old series of posts, from 1999 on Usenet. Players were complaining about how tough the mobs were in EQ (which had just launched at the time), and at some point the thread got cross-posted to both the UO and EQ newsgroups, and Brad McQuaid jumped into the thread. Much to everyone’s dismay, I think, we mostly agreed on things.
This is a very common thing in muds. Let me describe a “Lady Vox” I put in a mud once: it was a vampire that resided in a closed room with a locked door. The instant you walked in, it slammed and locked the door behind you, blinded you, summoned helpers to take you out, and attacked with a full arsenal of magic spells.
When it first went in, it was utterly deadly. It took a carefully coordinated group of 10 people to kill it.
Today, it is routinely soloed. Despite its capabilities having been upgraded in the meantime, and player capabilities being downgraded to match. Players figured out tactics to deal with it, and soon were superior in organization and execution.
- This means (mathematically) that the game as a whole loses a degree of accessibility to newbies. Features and things to do will tend to be added at the high level in order to satisfy the high level players demanding greater challenge. It is a very common thing to see muds where 90% of the zones are intended for groups of maxxed out characters only. Newbies are reduced to one or two areas per level range, and the entire process of levelling up is seen as just “the prelude to the real game.” This renders the game less friendly. UO suffers from this (“build your character to GM, then go play”) and so does EQ (“the game doesn’t really start until level 10”). It is a bad thing.
- It runs the risk of unbalancing the entire economy and creating a Monty Haul system. The addition of higher level areas implies the addition of cooler and more powerful items to serve as rewards in those areas. Over time, these items filter down into an economy that has insufficient drains. The average standard of play rises as a result, and the previously difficult areas are rendered less challenging. So, the designer can always add tougher mobs, which means even more powerful items, which…
- the game continues to have higher and higher levels added to it (tougher monsters, increased player levels, better equipment).
- Lady Vox is not upgraded but remains at the capabilities of whatever level designation she is now.
If those two things are that way, then yes, I stand by it. Of course, Brad might upgrade Lady Vox, or he might not expand the game on the high end (that’s breaking from the announced pattern, but hey, he might change his mind).
If a year from now there are level 150 players with magic items 5 times more powerful than what we have now, then why would it even be surprising to you if Lady Vox is taken down by a group of three?
This isn’t a “defending UO” thing–this is just what happens on muds that follow that development pattern.
Good tactics on the part of a player, given a system that actually permits the attack, can overcome extremely large power differences. Some of these tactics might be called “exploits,” certainly, and most of them are usually due to poor tactics on the part of the victim (be it insufficient AI on a mobile or lack of smarts or expertise on the part of a human player)… even in level-based systems, it’s pretty common to see this happen. Indeed, in designing level restrictions like EQ’s, you actually assume it occurs and formalize the expected power differential at which it can occur (eg, a guy 10 levels lower can take out a level 20, if he’s smart–that’s the point at which you put your hardcoded restriction in).
So in your opinion, should that Lady Vox or vampire be upgraded or not? Letting it remain in its overtaken-by-events state actually makes for interesting conversation too (“wow, I just soloed Lady Vox…! Anyone remember when she was the deadliest mob in the mud?”)…
The hidden issue then becomes budgetary, naturally–something we generally do not bother the players with. 🙂
In the old Encyclopedia Brown books there was a mystery involving a map on a boat that supposedly got wet when the tide came in through an open porthole. Ludicrous, of course, because as the water level rises, so does the porthole–and the map stays dry.
If your definition of “level one” or of “magic item” were not based on hard numbers but instead were the result of an equation analyzing the actual current day capacities of players–then rabbits would actually spawn stronger to match the current capacities of newbies killing them. Balance would remain exactly the same–a level 1 mob matching a level 1 player. The water level raises not only the water but also the porthole…
Never seen it done in a mud though. Standalone games often do it. Especially platform games, where the enemies will be smarter or dumber based on how well you are doing, or the game will supply extra powerups if you are doing poorly.
- do it without human admin intervention
- do it with significant contribution from the playerbase
How to do that for this particular issue is a thornier question.
Only a few weeks after this exchange, Lady Vox was taken down by a single group of six players, and the “exploit” was promptly fixed.