Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Quests Participants and Non-participants

There's a low intensity, yet long running debate about quests and peril to people who aren't participating. The crux of the matter is there are some quests where the entire mud becomes a pretty dangerous place whether you are involved with the quest or not, so characters who are unaware of what is happening can be killed.

An example of this is the "blue steel gang" that went into towns and hunted players. As many of you may remember, players severely criticized it during the event, but afterward there was much praise about the quality and theme. Certainly there were players who are often away from the keyboard that were disgruntled even after its conclusion. In fact, there was significant debate among the admin during the quest as to whether or not this type of event should be allowed to be done again or even if that one should have continued. In the end, a well thought out theme that made the mud more dangerous was accepted as an improvement by the admin.

One of my beliefs is: The mud should be a dangerous place. Expecting to amble blissfully about or go away from the keyboard with no consequences is something people have gotten away long enough for it to be comfortable. That doesn't mean it should be this way. Few argue that exploring shouldn't be dangerous, but they argue walking around town should be safe. It is most of the time, but in my opinion, there's no halo around towns. Players sack towns constantly; why should mobs be excluded from hunting players there?

I'd like to see us make it more dangerous by putting in themes and long running (like several weeks or months) quests that can cause disruption to existing play. The quests, will of course, have rewards. These don't necessarily all have to be drachma, spells, skills, but will be worthwhile for those who participate. They may be simply for the larger good like something as simple as the mud is a safer place for the next few weeks. Long running quests that increase danger are disruptive and SlothMUD players like certainty and predictability. And while I believe we shouldn't provide either, we certainly don't want random, purposeless death, either. Any increase is sure to stir a controversy with players.

There are plenty of reasons to go away from the keyboard for extended periods of time. The only really safe way to do it is to rent out. This has a small cost associated with it and players often try to avoid this by not renting. That's a risk/reward which currently has nearly zero risk. If the mud is a more dangerous place the risk goes up and fewer people will take it, at the expense of paying a little more in rent. A few that do take the risk will be unlucky and face the consequences of trying to figure out what happened while they were away.

A counter argument states that we have the "join" command that allows people to participate or not. So why not just use that for all quests and themes that might attack players? I'm all in favor of this when the event has a declared reward is time boxed. However, in the case where the reward isn't obvious, or even that there is a clear objective, I'm not in favor of using this. Nobody would ever have the join flag on outside of the clearly announced events.

By no means is this a done deal. These are my own opinions and I haven't convinced the rest of the admin of this, so we aren't moving forward on it yet. We shall see if we can harness some creativity and muster the effort to implement a broader, more permanent theme that will indeed make the mud more dangerous.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Pure Java is Better Than Starbucks Coffee

I enjoy a cup of joe Starbucks like most people, but when it comes to coding Java, there ain't nothing like Intellij IDEA from JetBrains. Those people know Java and those people know IDE's. I've done a lot of coding on a lot of different platforms and I think that I come back to Java a lot when I don' t know what else to choose simply because of the quality of this piece of software.

Some of you hard core guys out there will never use an IDE because it takes too long to learn or for some other reason that escapes me now. It took me a long time to get over the hump, but now that I am, I won't go back. Features like refactoring, method extraction, integrated debugging and drag and drop GUI widget just can't be done with vi or notepad.

If you are just starting Java or some other language, by all means get out notepad and start making mistakes so you know what all of the different things in the language do, but if you know the language, try an IDE. I don't particularily like Eclipse for Java, by the way; It just doesn't have the coolness factor of IntelliJ IDEA.

Here's a screenshot of an standalone Java application that I'm working on as a tool for builders who will be working on an upcoming Sloth enhancement. Just a teaser for now, but I will have it fully functional soon.

It is a Java Swing application that I developed with a lot of drag an drop, trial and error in the IDE to get it to behave exactly like I want. It would have taken me four or five times as long to do this without and IDE or else I would have stopped short with an inferior product.

Perhaps I'm just a poor coder whom uses the IDE as a crutch, but I don't think so.

If I get a little time soon, I may even describe in some more detail what this project is if Kjartan doesn't get around to it. In any case, it will be something unique to Sloth.