Back to index

The copyright situation for this article is unclear. It does not belong to the author of this site. Please see the copyright notice. If you have information about the copyright contact me!

Limited Advancement

by Derek Harding

There seems to be some confusion and misunderstanding about advancement on muds. This article is a discussion of the issues surrounding advancement and why there are limits to how far a player can advance.

When this advancement gets out of control in a few areas this can lead to significant problems. This is a problem currently being faced on Discworld, where some task-based awards were too generous and the advancement too easy.

Fighting fires

Putting out those fires that erupt all over the place from uncontrolled expansion.

Advance Forever!

The first question to consider is: 'Why can't players simply advance forever?'

A few moments spent thinking about this leads one to the inevitable conclusion that in some respects they could. Apart from number overflows, there is no real reason why a player couldn't just keep advancing within the system.

However, when one starts to think about what players would do once they reached a very high level things look a little less rosy. What happens is that players find there are no more challenges left to the game. There is nothing left to achieve. You can kill anything, steal anything from anyone, cast any spell or ritual at will. I know it sounds idyllic to a player struggling to improve but oddly enough that is the point! All a mud can really offer is the struggle to improve and the sense of achievement that comes with succeeding in that struggle. Once the struggle is removed there is nothing left to gain, no goal, no further up the ladder to climb.

Now of course, we could just keep creating tougher, more perceptive, more magic-resistant NPCs. The fact is that players who keep advancing at the rate of newbies will always outstrip our ability to code greater opponents. Furthermore, the general development of the mud will be hampered because all resources will be put into a vain attempt to satiate the few extreme players.

For this reason all muds (as far as I know) apply one of the following three mechanisms for limiting the level of players and hence keep them within the range that the mud can cope with and support.

Limiting Advancement

So raise the limit!

People's first response is to say that the current rate of decay of advancement is too low and that we should raise it. They usually see this as a solution to the problem. In reality though it only puts off the inevitable. Because the rate of advancement tends towards zero there will always come a level at which some players believe they are advancing too slowly. No matter how high we set that level they will still reach it. The only constraint on where that level should be is whether or not we have NPCs and mud features to support players of that level.

This can also be rephrased as, "we should raise the level limit", or "we should not purge the characters so often". There will always eventually be a time at which players reach their maximum level.

In Conclusion

When you get down to it all a mud can really offer to players is a period of time (or range of levels) in which they can play the game and advance and improve their character. Ultimately there will be a limit to the practical advancemet that they can achieve. On Discworld they are quite welcome to continue to play but they must understand that advancement will become increasingly slow and increasingly unrewarding.

Derek is an administrator for Discworld mud and has been there for many years, pulling his hair out and throwing himself to the wolves.