Appendix to rules

Rich Skrenta (
Tue, 16 Nov 93 8:24:17 EST

Appendix A: Notes on Realism

Game design often requires tradeoffs of realism against playability.
Here the author attempt to justify, or at least apologize for, some
of Olympia's.

o The training skills (such as Train peasant to worker) specify
the time needed to train one man; time to train <n> men is
linearly proportional. There are none of the economies of
scale one would expect to find when teaching groups of men
with a single instructor, and individual men can be trained
in unreasonably short periods of time.

Although this is not very realistic, I felt that there was
little to be gained from additional modeling in this area,
and that the potential benefits did not outweight the extra
complexity necessary in the programming and player rules.

o From time to time a player will suggest that Olympia should use
a hex grid instead of a nodal map. While many games do make use
of grid maps, the PBM format makes it difficult to work with that
fine a level of granularity.

Olympia's geography is based on subjectively large provinces
whose contents are all considered to be in more or less the
same place. The rule is:

Units in the same region can interact with each other;
Units in different regions cannot.

It is hoped that Olympia's abstract nodal map models the
important aspects of game geography, while omitting less
significant details, to enhance playability in the PBM format.

o Units in Olympia move by first waiting the duration of the journey
in the starting location, then instantly jumping to the destination.
This offends realism in several ways: One can see units long after
they have departed; an interrupted movement order instantly brings
units back to their starting location; and interaction (such as
combat) is possible with units after they have left.

Note that some interaction with units, such as giving items and
stacking, is explicitly prevented after they have begun movement.
Combat is allowed up until the point a unit has actually moved out
of a location, however.

Why not do it another way?

1) Make the route a pseudo-location, and allow units to
stop part-way across, meet each other on routes, etc.

2) Have units go into "hyperspace" for the duration of
their journey.

3) Have units spend half the time in the original location,
and half in the destination.

Option (1), depending on how it is implemented, either introduces a
second level of a locality, or a second kind of location.

If a second level of locality is chosen, then the definition of "in
the same location" must be expanded to include how far along a
particular route one is.

If each sub-route along a journey is a full-fledged location, then
we have constructed the route from little hexes, but the map has
a very strange shape. If we are to choose hexes, then we should
throw out the nodal route system altogether, and not try to combine
the two.

In either case, the rules become too complex and unwieldy.

Option (2) extends the locality model by saying that a unit may
be "nowhere"/in transit. This tends to foul up code that may want
to know where a unit is.

If a unit dies in nowhere, where does its dropped items go?
What is the weather like in nowhere?
Are two units in nowhere in the same place?
What does a cast of "Locate character" show for a unit in

Although there may be answers for these questions, they all require
special case handling in the code. Often asking unforseen questions
about a unit in hyperspace results in a program crash.

Furthermore, hyperspace allows units to easily hide from would-be
attackers. To avoid combat, a unit need only stay on the move
constantly, and no attacker will be able to pin it down.

The objection to option (3) is that an interrupted movement
would leave the unit at the destination without having traveled
the required amount of time. I also felt that it was slightly
cleaner to have the special no-interaction rules only for
one case (departure) instead of for both departure and arrival.

In a game with hex grids, one doesn't think twice about jump
movement after a time=4 delay. Olympia's province routes simply
take longer to traverse.

The Olympian movement model is ultimately a tradeoff of simplicity
vs. realism. Given the requirements:

o One can't cheat by interrupting movement
o One can't hide from combat by moving

additional modeling or complexity in the movement model would add
little enjoyability to the game. Thus, it seems best to choose a
simple movement model.

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