MugScan Hat

Pippin takes a further look at adventure writing


In the last issue we looked at how best we could write locations for our adventure games. In this issue we will look at the continuity of the game or its control of time within a land. If the objective of the game is to collct treasure and to solve puzzles then a point will be reached when the puzzles have all been solved and the treasure collected. So how best to restore anything so that the game can continue? There are two approaches to this problem. One involves running a program within the game that will automatically replace items and restore puzzles to the game on a times base, say one item replaced every 20 seconds. This is called an autoset system. The alternative is to reset the game completely every hour with the consequence that everyone is thrown out of the game whilst it resets. This method is usually known as a global reset.

The success of an adventure game depends not on realism but on creating a sustainable fantasy. Automatic resets or 'autosets' can be just as fantasy destroying as the familiar global reset if they are not implemented in the context of the game. Having puzzles, mobiles and treasure reset before you with no apparent cause can be distracting. If there is nothing in the game storyline that indicated why the dragon has been reborn then the global reset method should have been used, as this simply signals the start of a new adventure, and is an acceptable way of doing it.

MirrorWorld incorporated an autoset system from its inception, and was the first adventure game to use that technique. The autoset is seen by the players as part of a very strong line in whlch they are participants in a 'Westworld' environment. (hence the name MirrorWorld). The land is seen as a contrived adventure, with little men in white coats behind the screens repairing the damaged robot monsters and replacing missing or damaged treasure.

This also explains the reappearance of the adventurer after a seemingly unpleasant death at the hands of another player. No one ever really gets hurt in MirrorWorld. Each puzzle is tested in turn so that only problems which have been completed are reset, and the same is true for treasure and monsters. One item is restored in the game every twenty seconds and subtle clues are given periodically, to indicate that a particular puzzle has been reset. For example, you hear a voice cry out 'I must be avenged' this signifies that some of the group of puzzles in the temple have been reset. The little men are stealthy but nevertheless part of the overall fantasy.

Quest is also a uninterrupted mug and runs without resets, and again there is a strong storyline that explains why treasure is restored. You are rewarded for gifts that you give to the Wizard Taliesin through a somewhat unpredictable and obstreperous apprentice. Taliesin uses the gifts in various magical rites of creation, and then places the recreated treasure back in the land. It is very interesting to see him do this. The process can be watched by going to his home, the Magic Cottage. Additlonally, Quest has an arena where game generated combatants fight each other to the death. You are given the odds on these characters and can place bets on the final outcome. This is another way of making points and also an addictive and exciting addition to the game.

Spacers is a new sci-fi mug adventure which uses yet another approach. The players are a 'Mad Max like' crowd of mercenaries who have gone to an abandoned Space Station to try and salvage it. They are a cut-throat crowd, who would as soon as kill each other as not, (yes another violent game). The station has been overrun by unpleasant aliens and is in a poor state of repair caused by neglect. Payment is received for repairing the many systems that go into malfunction. Replacement parts have to be obtained from a number of storeroom's that are scattered around the complex and a bonus is awarded for killing aliens. In this game there is no Mad King's room, altar, hole or swamp in which to hand up treasure. Credits (points) are obtained for repair work done, or enemies killed. Since the station is in a constant state of break-down, it is no surprise when the same equipment repeatedly malfunctions, and the story holds together very well. The autoset routine continuously monitors damaged equipment. Spacers also sports an arena which functions in the same way as Quest.

There are other spin-offs from using an autoset. Many players like to chat for a while during play. This is sometimes brought to an abrupt conclusion, if a global reset occurs, with players rushing off in every direction to collect treasure. Autosets create a setting within which vou can choose the moment that you set off on your adventure, without sacrificing another pleasure of playing, ie. chatting with other prayers.

I am by no means saying that all game should have autoset, in some cases it is not appropriate. But where the story allows for its inclusion, or better still, the game is written originally to use this technique, it enhances the game and makes playing time very pleasant.

Richard A. Bartle (
21st January 1999: cnfapr91.htm