2011-11-16 09:39:30

Social and RP balancing issues related to training near Healer NPCs

Kirdneh Inn and Jynath's Hut are areas popular for 'training' due to easy access to cheap healing from the NPCs there. This raises a number of RP balancing and social issues:
  1. should players have unlimited access to free or cheap healing from NPCs?
  2. when players gather next to the npc, there is a tendency (sometimes deliberate) to block each other from talking to the npc
  3. when players gather next to the npc, there is a tendency (sometimes deliberate) to block each other from moving around
The developers believe that 1. is unbalanced and would like to fix this. E.g. limit heals to once per XX minutes or only YY heals in one hour, say. It is on a growing 'to-do' list. Tracker ID 3131557 records the issue.

Case 2. was a reported bug, but it has been difficult to find a neat solution. NPCs are designed to talk to one player at once. Theoretically the healer could heal, then go directly idle (idle means, not attending any player). But as designed, these healers have stories to tell, other functions to perform, they are not supposed to be just healing machines. (Did you know for example that Katerina responds to friendly kisses? Did you know that Jynath also sells scrolls?) We don't want to destroy the design of the NPCs as a mere workaround.

Case 3. is another game limitation. Players occupy the tile they are standing on and other entities cannot occupy the same tile. In many cases this of course desirable and necessary, but it can be abused. Features such as 'push' have been implemented to try to resolve the problem of antisocial players who block each other, but it is not a complete solution.

Unfortunately 2. and 3. have, at times, escalated into problems that have led to players getting upset or frustrated. Often, simply ignoring a trouble maker and 'sitting it out' is an effective solution, but the stress involved is still a concern. There have been many complaints by players about the situation, particularly in Kirdneh Inn. Players sometimes expect admin to intervene with social problems, which is against admin policy, as admin intervention is not an enduring solution. We tried to find a more general solution.

Solution decided upon, to be implemented in Stendhal 0.98:

  • Protect the areas inside and around Kirdneh Inn and Jynath's Hut. Players can train nearby and then go inside to heal, or use meat/ham/potions and train in their preferred location (a preferred option as it helps balance the economy better)
  • Widen the corridors of Kirdneh Inn to make blocking there less easy.
Other options which we considered for this specific problem:
Disallow pvp entrirely, then the areas won't be used for training and the problems will stop.
- Tempting! It would certainly solve some social problems! But this seems unfair. Pvp has long since been a part of Stendhal, and we think there is still a place for it. Further, while training is considered extremely boring and a very ineffective use of game time, players do still appear to enjoy watching their stats increase :)
Fix 1 and don't allow unlimited free healing
- We want to do this, still but it would take longer to code.
Remove the healer NPCs or increase the price dramatically as requested by a player for example in this report: Tracker ID 3112715
- There is a response in the report which is a good answer to that idea.
Admins use gag or jail or other punishments
- Not an enduring solution. Against admin policy to intervene in social problems.
Side note: The bug that an attack started outside a protected area will continue when victim or attacker moves into to a protected area, has now been fixed for Stendhal 0.98, as per Tracker ID 3403812
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