The Madness of Starting a Mud
Anybody starting a new mud at this day and age must be totally crazy. I remember saying that already in 1997, completely convinced that text would be dead in the next couple of years and muds a thing of the past. Well, here we still are...
I have been involved with muds since 1994, being a coder on one nearly the whole time as well. Recently I had to leave the mud I had come to consider as my home and was left with the choice of where to go from there. Having mudded for an amazing seven years already, one quite possible solution was to simply move onto new environments. On the other hand, for a long time already I had had these dreams of another mud. Seven years of coding for the same game and same theme, and here was my chance to create something completely different. I also realized just how much I enjoyed the challenges and mental exercises in trying to code something new.
The next step for any hopeful, future mud owner is to figure out what codebase to use and whether one has the resources to run a mud. I have always been an lpmud person, so I looked for and found an lp mudlib I was most comfortable with. Problem was that it would only run on Linux. After pulling out my hair to get Cygwin to work and worrying about the possible security problems I might have running the mud on Windows, I decided to take the plunge and introduce myself to the world of Linux instead. Fortunately I had a spare machine and a good friend who helped with the set up.
After everything was running smoothly and the mudlib was just begging me to start working on it, I started to experience a series of doubts once again. By the time my mud would open, there would be a couple thousand muds in existance at least. How wise would it actually be to try to create yet another one that would be lost amongst the masses? No matter how much I coded, I could never hope to catch up with the older muds, which have years of development behind them already. And what if text really is dying? The prospect of working very hard for months and then not getting a single player was not very tempting.
Here are the conclusions I came to eventually:
1) While there are more and more graphical online games coming into the market constantly, muds can still offer things that those games cannot. For the most part, muds are free. They do not require huge downloads or powerful computers to play. They are accessible from anywhere that offers telnet access. You can always play the same game whether you are at home, at work or visiting an internet cafe in Paris.
2) Muds offer a level of roleplaying, which the other games do not, for the most part. The graphical games usually center on looks and actions. If you are an evil player, then you get evil cleric spells and you summon the dead to do your bidding and so on. You can talk with other players, but you cannot thoroughly immerse yourself into the character, to completely act it out, as you can in heavy rp muds.
3) Looking at the internet, text is certainly not dying. The webpages may have nice looking backgrounds, flashing colours and pretty flowery decorations, but the content in the majority of websites is that which is written there. There are hundreds of discussion boards, journals, articles and news that people read through daily. E-mail, ICQ, IRC, AIM and all the different kinds of communication programs are used by the thousands and what passes through all of them? Text.
There are still muds out there, which boast at having hundreds of players online at any given hour, so it is not an impossible idea to get a popular mud even these days. It will require more work than it used to however. I think muds need to concentrate on quality more and start recruiting new players from outside the regular circles. There are thousands of people on the internet who have never even heard of muds. Muds need to learn new advertising strategies and how to emphasize their advantages more. We need to consider what it is that draws people to the internet, to read all that text out there and how to bring some of that to our own muds, offering a nice game to play on the side as well.
So, having succesfully deceived myself that perhaps this whole mud project was not completely doomed from the start, I set to work...
Feor can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read a daily journal of the trials of coding a new mud, check out http://feor.diaryland.com.