The many properties of a U.R.R. item

This is partly a follow-up to the some of the discussion in the comments page of the previous entry. Still, if you’ve read that (or haven’t, and can’t be bothered), this post is about items in U.R.R, and the many, many ways in which they interact. Alas, since a list turned out to be a much better way to talk about items there is no flowchart this time, but our normal flowchart programming is sure to resume soon enough.

First, it’s worth noting not all items have all the same properties. Potions do not have a “material” property because all potion bottles are made of glass. Scrolls, likewise, because all are made from paper (and highly flammable paper at that – take note!). Similarly, weapons have more properties than armour, which in turn has more properties than alchemical substances, and so on and so forth. Because weapons a) have the most properties, b) are a vital part of what you & your allies go into battle with, and c) are almost fully programmed, this entry is going to focus on weapon properties. However, a lot carry over to other item types too.

Volume – all items have a volume. This determines how many can fit into a single square of the map; how many you can fit into containers; and, on a basic level, simply how large it is, and therefore how likely it is to hit someone if thrown, for instance. No longer are roguelike boxes of endless depth; you can only fit so many bodies in a container before you just can’t close the damned lid.

Weight – all items have a weight. This influences how far you can throw them, how clear a trajectory they take (momentum!), how much you and other creatures can hold at any one time, how likely ice is to crack if you put it down on it, etc. Some items are simply too heavy – no matter how strong you become, you can never carry a full Titan corpse. A Titan, head, however, is a rather more manageable weight (and volume, for that matter).

Melting Point – applies to almost all items, but non-metallic items have this functioning as a “burning point” rather than a melting point. This ties in to the previous entry, therefore – if you charge into battle with any fire-breathing creature wielding your wooden club high above your health and covered in wooden armour, you will shortly find your club destroyed, and everything you’re wearing on fire. Which will, of course, burn you until you take it off. On the other hand, a full set of tempered steel will stand up rather better. I am considering putting in a freezing equivalent whereby items become brittle, can shatter, etc – thoughts in the comments on this if you have any!

Material – this determines how it behaves in certain environments. Metal rusts in water; wood rots in water; etc. Closely tied to melting point.

Damage – metallic swords, for example, can be intact, notched, damaged or badly damaged. The damage an item takes from use reduces how effective it is combat, and its value. As with most games, you can repair these things yourself given enough skill – and a campfire, appropriate smithing tools, time undisturbed by foes, raw materials, etc – or simply pay some random civilian to do it for you. That’s what they’re there for!

Decay – closely tied to material. Rusting, rotting, etc. Once again, reduces effectiveness, but not as severely as damage. Can also slightly change the effect of a weapon – an intact longsword is better at slashing, while a badly rusted one is much less powerful, but might cause nastier wounds. This is never a worthwhile trade-off, but keeps weapons semi-useful even when twisted, blackened wrecks.

Enchantment, blessing, quality, alignment – determine, respectively, damage added on to every attack (e.g. +3); a variety of effects (the undead hate blessed weapons; cursed weapons can be tricky to get rid of; etc); the multiplier to the price it fetches at market; and what alignment of foe it is particularly effective against, if any.

This page is subject to change before the alpha release, but if you ask the game to show you the detail of a weapon, a larger window will appear and show you:

Tempered steel longswords are the peak of the class of ‘sword-like’ weapons…

This also, of course, shows another feature I haven’t even mentioned until now – weapons have a history, which keeps track of particularly noteworthy creatures you killed, and how you killed them. Perhaps, if you kill enough uniques with one weapon, the rest of the world will come to regard that blade as an artifact…

Anyway – weapon histories being a whole series of posts in themselves – the white text denotes the best possible outcome in that category. In this case, an unrusted sword. Light grey denotes the second best – the “particularly sharp” modifier is below the sharpest that bladed weapons can be. Runic information will be displayed in the appropriate colour, while the histories are displayed in descending order of fame (and, therefore, strength of creature slain) and likewise descending colour.

So there’s a pretty comprehensive summary of weapon properties, at least. All items can, of course, be thrown in to fires or carried with you across lakes if you want to find out what happens. More will be said on this in time – particularly on modelling fire, and cellular automata – but until next time: don’t fight dragons with wooden armour.

Coming Friday: Detail of the morale system, or: how to terrify an Orc into insanity (Part 1).

Coming Monday: Detail of the morale system, or: how to terrify an Orc into insanity (Part 2).


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16 thoughts on “The many properties of a U.R.R. item

  1. As always, very interesting article. So far, the only thing i don’t really like is the aligment system that feels artificial. Good, bad, chaotic… should only appear when player or the IA acts, but i guess it might be difficult to code. I “good chaotic metal sword” is nosense to me.

    I hope a demo will be playable soon !

  2. I’m going for the D&D alignment good/evil lawful/chaotic, but only in certain circumstances. Creatures each belong to a species or faction which can like or dislike you as well, so two Lawful Evil factions might like you different amounts based on your interactions with them. Being Lawful Evil doesn’t instantly get you in with certain factions, and nor does it instantly get you attacked by Chaotic Goods (though, let’s be honest, it normally will).

    Also, the overwhelming majority of weapons have no alignment bonus. However, the few that do have an alignment will still do normal damage to everything, but just, say, an extra 10% against the opposite alignment. Again, this system is in its infancy, so if runes on weapons turns out to be pointless/distracting, it’ll go. Any more thoughts on that from readers would be excellent! But I see what you mean – it’s not so much that the sword has that alignment, but it hurts foes more of the opposite alignment, but maybe that difference is meaningless in gameplay terms…

    Also, I’d be interested to know what you mean by alignment only affecting the AI. Do you mean that it only matters for interaction, and not for combat or anything else?

  3. I don’t know how to explain this in english… But yes, only for interactions.

    Basically, gobs are often (always ?) the bad guys, but why ?

    So, I mean that IA doesn’t have a pre-alignment. Before the player enter the world, everyone is “neutral”. Then, the IA (gobs, orcs, humans, butterflies…) acts with your IA algo. Maybe some gobs will gather to form a clan, maybe they will meet some humans and trade with them. So the gobs and the humans are “neutral loyal” now. Later, the player meet humains and convince them to join his team and kill the gobs for fun. Now the humans are “chaotic evil” for the gobs, but “loyal good” for the player.

    Something like that…

  4. Awesome!

    The best ideas are the difference between damage and decay, and the history of a weapon.

    I’d suggest you take a look at Age of Wonders or it’s sequel in order to check their “alignment” system. Races are spread on a rank of 12, with 4 evil races, 4 neutral races, and 4 good races. That said, any race combination can interact peacefully or be recruited into the same army, it will just take more effort to keep them all in check, or require greater amounts of diplomacy or a more charismatic leadership.

    I’m not suggesting that you clone the model, just that you check it for some inspiration and to look at a game in which “evilness versus goodness” is just a factor, an important one, but a factor.

    Anyways, Tchey’s suggestion of “relative alignment” is pretty damn good.

  5. @ Tchey – I get exactly what you mean. A kind of relative alignment system is a really interesting idea. Perhaps each faction has a set of beliefs/ideologies/objectives, for instance, and how close/far each belief of another species is determines what species A thinks about species B. Hmm. I will have to give this some thought. Alignment is not going to play a huge (or, really, any) part in the first edition of the alpha, so I have some time to think about it.

    @ Psi – I really like the idea of greater leadership required the greater the number and the greater the variation of species you deal with. I’ve also considered an idea whereby each race you can recruit has different things they like – say, Orcs like tearing up the bodies of their slain foes, while Elves find that hugely disagreeable, etc. A basic example, but that kind of thing. Each species is anyway going to end up with its own preferences for combat – ranged, magic, close, whatever – so this could, again, tie into keeping your force working together without just dissolving into internal strife…

  6. On the project I mentioned before, one of the things I’ve been working on is putting together a system of factions that are interrelated by concepts and ideology. In my philosophical world, I like “Grey”. I feel that many things considered “Good” really are not objective, and same for “Bad”. I don’t want to get into a debate, but basically I’m just saying I won’t be passing judgement on whats good or bad in the universe. To quote an unlikely source: “All things are lawful but not all things are advantageous.”

    Essentially I’ll create factions with ideologies that I partially or entirely disagree with (this is inspired by my experience with DeusEx Invisible War) but leave it completely up to the player if they want to join the bastards, and I won’t penalize them for it.

    What I haven’t figured out yet (but should be able to once I put my mind to it) is how to condense some of those ideologies into “dimensions”, which could be randomly generated according to a ruleset, creating entirely new factions I never thought of. And their opinions, values, and beliefs would determine the way they interact with other factions, and the way other factions treat them.

    “Dimensions” in this case are like “ideological spectrum”, but a bit fuzzier until I can figure out how to best represent it quantitatively.

    Since you’re dealing with mystical objects, I think its completely within the realm of possibility that the forger or enchanter could imbue properties in a weapon that would skew one way or the other.

    “This +3 Sword of Greenpeace is weak against Ents and Captain Planet but strong against BP Employees and Hexxus.”

    Honestly my project is more technological than mystical, so I’ve thought about faction dynamics than enchantments (clearly). Food for thought in any case.

    Just a technical note, and you might have just been glossing over complexities when you said this but:
    “Metal rusts in water”

    Rust only occurs on ferrous materials in moist air. That is to say, only iron rusts. Other materials oxidize, but in a significantly different way.

    In addition iron oxides are actually actively corrosive, thereby accelerating the process further. On top of that it tends to increase the surface area of exposure, so it decays even more rapidly.

    A high phosphorous content can also protect otherwise wrought iron objects. A real-world example is the Iron Pillar of Delhi, which is over 1,600 years old, and still standing.

    Nickel, Zinc, Cadmium, Gold, Chromium do not rust or tarnish.

    These can be used as protective layers or alloyed with iron to decrease the potential of rusting. There’s other preventative measures as well. Traditional iron and steel weapons are generally protected by oil or grease (such as after battle), or even passing an electrical current through the material using the “sacrificial anode” method.

    Copper oxidizes, but this oxidation layer is protective and prevents further decay. Also water does not cause oxidation of copper, but it reacts with oxygen in the air. Sulfides will cause copper decay though.

    Silver tarnishes when exposed to ozone or hydrogen sulfide in the air.

  7. That sounds like a very interesting idea. If you have the ideologies/dimensions completely randomized per faction, that obviously increases replayability, but could – unless you set something up to stop this – lead to an environmentalist faction also being, say, the military faction. Though, as Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri shows us, this need not necessarily be a misnomer. Would the ideologies reflect things like where they spawn, how they behave in combat, what buildings they like, etc, or just their relations with you and other factions? Depends, I suppose, on how/where creatures spawn…

    In a way, it’s slightly odd I’m going the fantasy route, since I read almost no fantasy and a lot of hard scifi. But, ultimately, I think it’s partly what people look for in a roguelike, it gives a lot of existing mythologies to play with people will already recognise to some extent… and I think my housemates would disown me if I wrote something else based on William Gibson’s work. With that said, I do like DoomRL and others that break with that convention.

    Oh, yeah, it’s a huge simplification, I know (especially having known of the Iron Pillar before now!) – non-ferrous items do, indeed, tarnish instead. Additionally, as you say, once things have started to rust, they then generally do so faster, which I’ve tried to reflect (though the effect is fairly minimal – I don’t want a little bit to rust to lead to your sword falling apart ten turns later!).

    Also, hilarious sword! If only I could find some way to put that in…

  8. Militaristic environmentalists already exist. And I figure in a different society things we haven’t thought of, combinations that would normally seem absurd, will be possible, even normal. It’s incredible how our own society has changed over just the past 30 years, ideals shift rapidly.

    Factions would be composed of individuals (except in the case of hiveminds and the like) so during world generation I’d vary the beliefs of the individuals by a random amount. This would lead to a faction member behaving on their own, possibly against the traditional wishes of their faction. Faction favor would rise and fall accordingly, same as it does for the Player.

    I’d love to see civil wars, faction schisms, traitors, etc spring up from this dynamic.

    As in Life, individuals beliefs would influence their decisions, the skills they tend to learn (pacifists probably won’t do a lot of combat training for instance), and so on.

    I’m sort of building a social simulation more than anything. Most of my focus is on the following areas:

    – Group Dynamics (Factions)
    – Interpersonal Dynamics (Reputation)
    – Intrapersonal Dynamics (Motivation)

    And as much as the AI relies on these to make its decisions, ideally the AI will keep track of the Player as well, getting a read Player Character’s Personality, Trustworthiness, and Goals and responding accordingly and treating the Player much like another NPC with the estimated statistics, learning and refining those guesses over time.

    Ah okay, I’m sure you didn’t need the chemistry lesson. I mean, even as I typed it out (and looked up specifics to make sure my status ailment wasn’t “hallu”..) I was thinking how most weapons are going to ferrous, sure they will have different resistances, but if you abuse them, they’re going to rust no matter what. It’s unlikely you’ll have a lot of titanium, tungston, or resin composite weapons.

  9. True enough, but I meant more environmental groups that raise an army, rather than militant environmentalism/’direct action’, etc, but I guess – especially in a Deus-Ex-esque game – the line could/would blur a lot…

    Traitors is an interesting idea, and one I’m pondering – that certain creatures can be predisposed towards a belief that isn’t traditionally their own, and can therefore either infiltrate themselves towards you, or you can do the same into opposing forces. However, I’d want to be careful, as I think it would get very annoying if every so often you suddenly got a:
    “The ____ was a spy! He attacks you!”

    As you say, I think treating the player like an NPC is important, to get an even interaction between the player and the NPCs. Might be tricky, but I guess it has to remain a goal. For me, other creatures in other factions will be just as likely/able to recruit and raise an army as you will, hopefully, and therefore just as likely to come after you with a small force, a big force, or whatever, as you are to come after them.

    I did look up other metals, but beyond variations of bronze, iron and steel as the major sword-making materials, I decided not to go with any others – both due to their rarity, and the internet informs me they tend to be much too brittle anyway.

  10. Whoa, awesome ideas you’re throwing around here!

    About the “traitors”, what about this?

    Each faction has a set of “traditional ethics”: A list of actions they approve and decry, to different extents, in others and themselves. Doesn’t need to be the same for others and themselves: a “supremacist” faction could approve ambitious actions in their own members, but decry them in others, and conversely approve submission in others and decry it among themselves.

    Now, when spawning an individual member of a given faction, he inherits the “traditional ethics” as a template, but you add a drift mechanism: there’s a random generator that modifies their values from the inherited set.

    You can bell curve it, most of the members of a given faction won’t deviate *significantly* from the inherited “traditional ethics”, but on one end of the spectrum you would have members that have “stronger traditional ethics”, giving them an edge at gaining leadership positions, and some others would have weaker traditional ethics, or even a couple of completely out-of-place values (like a chivalrous goblin, for instance), leading them to be first shunned by their community and potentially becoming outcasts and joining other factions where their membership seems “counterintuitive”.

    Example: knightly warband vs small goblin horde.
    Aforementioned “chivalrous goblin” is in the goblin horde, but has poor social status. Goblins finish off crippled enemies whenever they can. Chivalrous goblin finds that appalling, the same as knights. Everytime he sees that the game runs a check. Eventually the check succeeds and he goes batshit insane killing his former c omrades because they’re too cruel to live. After the dust settles, he has killed more goblins than knights, and he rallies together with the remains of the knightly warband.

    (Explanation of why fantasy groups have weird tag-alongs)

  11. @Mark

    I view all groups as equal, and all ideals as compatible except polar opposites, so I think it would be interesting to see the random combinations.

    I think by the traitor’s behavior it should be clear to the player that he’s not a team player. I wasn’t intending there to be spies, but more that they would fail to follow orders, eventually defect or just behave in ways inharmonious with their comrades. Because its a sliding scale it goes from “occasionally disrespectful” to rarely “actively attacking a leader who asks them to do something against their personal beliefs”. But even that would require they were aggressive and thought they could somehow be victorious. Most people you could rule out of plain fear as long as their personality wasn’t rebellious.


    That’s exactly the idea, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I like the bellcurve, I was trying to find a solution
    for that. But everything else you mentioned is exactly as I’d planned.

  12. Both – fascinating suggestions! This whole idea is really chiming with me. Each faction could end up with different traits that make them equipped for leadership positions – as you say, those who are perhaps least chivalrous in goblins would rise up quickly, while on other factions, those who are the most learned, or most/least diplomatic, or most chivalrous, or demonstrate the greatest martial prowess, or anything else will get to leadership positions.

    Something I knew I wanted from the start was the ability for factions to self-organise themselves, to an extent – the game will generate a world with certain leaders, but there’s no reason those leaders can’t be slain, usurped, etc.

    I think using a bell curve system is probably the best move, but I’m reminded of something I once read about game mechanics – you want things to be visible to the player, and having all this going on in the background, while great, might not enhance the player’s experience so much. I think I’d want to tilt species traits towards things that either happen in sight of the player, or that the player gets to hear about. If someone new becomes a ruler of some faction, a random NPC might mention it in an off-hand remark, or similar. I think the chivalry example is a great demo since the player would, obviously, see it happen, and presumably get a message at the same time that tells them what’s happening.

  13. Ever play Postal 2?

    Or even certain GTA games or Saint’s Row.

    People will break into fights, cops will come running (not for you, but other people) people will blow red lights, you’ll see gimps running down the street away from their angry Dom..

    Anyway, point being, this is going cause user-visible interactions. Fights and arguments will be audible. And since we don’t need to hire voice actors, we can even produce as much script as we want.

    Freelancer did a lot with its simple scripted missions, most of WoW’s quests were text until recently. Mass Effect did the same thing with its side missions.

    Another note about Mass Effect was when you’d be walking down a corridor you could hear the news in the background.. and sometimes the news would be about you or some game event. The Sim City games had that yearly newspaper. Vampire: Bloodlines did something similar. There’s tons of other games who use world events that could affect the player and present them to the user in various formats.

    Maybe pubs, or oracles, could be sources of in-game news. You could have a “Shadow Broker” (Mass Effect) or “ComStar” (Battletech) agent to access an information network later.

    These things *will* have an impact on the player., so I agree, visibility would be really useful.

  14. Not played Postal 2, but have both the Mass Effects. That’s similar to my thinking – I want people to mention in passing, even if they don’t know the player is the person they’re talking about, some of their feats now and then. Of course, factions that know you will talk about *you*, while factions that don’t know you may talk about your deeds, and might or might not believe you’re the person they’ve heard about who beat a king to death with his own leg, or whatever.

    I have another idea about this, which I think could be quite spiffy, but I’m not going to reveal quite yet. It’s part of the ‘reputation’ system in the broadest sense, though, and keys in to a fair few things you mentioned…

  15. Wow, love the detail. I also like how it’s color coded. One thing that put me off about roguelikes is that people always used ASCII as an excuse to make things ugly because it’s tradition. This one is very clean to read and quite intuitive, really looking forward to it.

    Though I’m also against the whole alignment with weapons thing. I find alignment and magic to be lazy shortcuts in a lot of games. It contrasts with the high detail of this game. Plus, with gaming trends this decade, people are finding good and evil to be quite relative. It makes more sense to have a ‘goblinoid slayer’ instead of a lawful sword. Or if you must have alignment, have it aligned with kingdoms. So a Sword of Rosary Kingdom would do extra damage to people who are enemies of Rosary Kingdom and such.

  16. Thank you! I hope so – the combat is also colour-coded, according to damage done, whether an ally or foe is being hit, what weapon is being wielded, and other factors like those. Likewise for, say, the ground, I find it hard in DF to identify where trees are because they look very similar to the ground. I’ve tried to make the trees look very unlike the ground so it’s instantly clear when you come across one. I’m glad you think it looks clean and easy-to-use!

    I’ve pretty much ditched the aligned weapons idea now. I have an idea for weapons which, I think, is truly brilliant, but I don’t want to unveil it just yet! As for magic, I’m starting to sketch out the early stages of a ritual-based magic system; you need to make certain gestures with your hands, make certain sacrifices, place certain things around you in a certain pattern, etc, in order to call upon the stronger powers. Again, that’ll be an option in the Great Alpha Consultation to ask for progress towards : )

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