The Roleplaying Conversion
(Turning your Hack and Slash into a great Role-Play Intensive MUD.)
A strategy for Admin and coders alike to spawn role-playing in their MUD. MUDs, to me, are like books. That's actually how I got into MUDding, there was an advertisement at my local bookstore to try out a text-based game that was being run by a few of the employees of the place. They coined it as a largely interactive and unending "Choose your own Adventure" book, where the players defined the course of the game, and how things changed and played out through the introduction and development of their characters, and the interaction with others. Unfortunetely this MUD didn't last long, for whatever reason it eventually just became a dead- link, but I had seen the world of MUDding, and eventually found another.
My experiences with other MUDs early on were pretty bad. Most were more like a big pool of people trying to kill each other, or the many randomly generated things that the code tossed out there for that effect. Interaction was at a player level, through the little name-blips that danced around on the screen. There was no real story, and none of the characters really played into it. They were social points more similar to a medieval, text-based version of Soldier of Fortune Multiplayer, then like my first encounter, which was a fun and evolving online book almost.
So I kept looking, and after a good many MUDs later classified as "Roleplaying Allowed" or "Roleplaying: None" I stumbled upon a Java-based MUD called "The Eternal City": A role-playing -required- game, with a setting, a story, a developed world to play and interact with others in! It was great, and everything I had experienced and more with my first experience, and the sporadic touches inbetween.
But this too didn't last, and after their gradual change to Pay-to-Play I had to move on. And realized that great, fun, role-playing MUDs that were also visually appealing were few and far between. So I decided to settle in an Rp-encouraged MUD. From there is where my discussion begins... as through the years the MUD has gradually worked its way up the RP evolutionary ladder, as seems to be the standard in MUDDing today. I hope that this will be helpful to all that share my past woe.
To me, and most of those I've spoken with. A MUD isnt a... Multi-user domain, or dungeon, or whatever the official acronym stands for. But its a simulation. An attempt to simulate whatever environment the MUD is based on, while maintaining some gameplay, fantasy, and fun. If it was completely realistic it wouldn't be that fun. Most people use them as an escape. So with that said, here we go.
The Three MUD Classifications: There are three types of MUDs, and sometimes one has to go through all three of them to achieve a successful product. The three are:
Roleplaying is allowed, but not really encouraged via a story line, plots between characters, a well-developed world, or any of a number of things. Usually role-players in a role-playing allowed MUD are eventually snuffed out by the people that simply cannot. A MUD either evolves or stays at a minimal Pbase, as the fun and interactiveness of the game is shallow at best. With only so far as you can go before becoming pointless.
Roleplaying is encouraged, via several means: The gradual or immediate removal of OOC devices listed below, the rewarding of good role-playing or people that make an effort to enhance the world, discouraging OOC behavior without nescessarily punishing them; starting plots, events, creating a story line for the world, developing it, keeping it original. Overall Roleplaying encouraged MUDs make the effort to create a believable simulation. Some are rocky, using stock areas and slow to maintain role-play, but sometimes evolve to the last phase, or maintain a rather large, median pbase between hardcore role-players, sometime role-players, and the people that like the MUD as a large social game.
These are usually the cream of the crop of games for people that like a deep, sometimes limited involvement in a game. They evolve, change, and are moderately realistic, while maintaining some form of gameplay and fun. They usually lack all the OOC devices listed below, have interactive and helpful staff that encourage and develop plots and storylines, as well as a mostly, if not entirely original world that makes the game new and exciting, and different then the many 100s of MUDS out there. They are like books that you involve yourself in, change, and interact with. They range in plot and design, but sadly, don't achieve the pbases they deserve. With that established, I move onto the OOC devices, that seperate the above lists.
Devices of the Out of Character:
There are many OOC (out of character) devices that prevade most MUDs. They make it hard to immerse yourself in the simulated environment, by bringing in large amounts of unrealism, and sometimes just plain annoyance. A few examples are:
An OOC chat channel in any form can be a sure-fire way to ruin the feel and effect of a simulation. Imagine being in the middle of an event, a battle with the forces of evil, or just poisoned tea with your assassination target, when in through your screen is a bright flash of ANSI-color saying something like: Pokemon today was great! -or- Did you see who won the dodgers game? All this and more can really ruin a simulated environment where those types of things don't exist.
Numbers, in all their shapes and forms are the dread of people wanting realism. HP, Damage, Stat numbers, AC, dice-rolls, all these types of things are horrible to see. Like in a duel to the death. "Your stab kills Blank! 5 damage!" Or: You lose 10 hp!, or: Strength: (5). This is one of the most common and hard to remove OOC devices in MUDding, as most, if not all, code-bases have an underlying mathematics process that deals with almost everything.
Names as opposed to a short-description is a less-prevalent, yet still important OOC device that can botch your simulation. While you might still play that your character doesn't know who "Bill" is, if -you- the player know, it makes it hard to remain totally impartial. It would be much easier if you really didn't. Sdescs do that wonderfully, as they keep you, and everyone else in the dark.
These are a few of the major OOC devices that can hinder realism, and all-together destroy your simulation if used in bulk; Reducing it more to a place people go to immerse themselves in a shallow pool, then to go swimming into the deep, complex and believable simulations that are Role-play based. There are many more that I didn't list, because they arn't easily groupable, some are:
*Unproductive staff members:
Staff that doesn't encourage the theme of the game. May chat oocly with people, disturb role-play, etc.
*Many many bugs:
A game that doesn't run smoothly is hard to play, and thusly live in, change, and interact with.
Sometimes great MUDs are ruined with horrible color-schemes that literally blind people, or try too hard to make things colorized. A touch of color isn't bad, actually its far better then too much.
Conversion is easy when the pbase is accepting, and the code well-developed. It starts with the removal of some, if not all the OOC devices listed above. Make the game pretty, smooth codewise, few if any channels, few if any numbers, and develop a great world with a good staff to run it. Of course that sounds easy like that. "Just do it and its done." Well its not all that easy. Sometimes change scares and threatens a pbase, so the best steps are gradual.
I'm going to focus on numbers a moment because this is the most questioned and hard to deal with change. People feel good when they are level 1,000. With 255 strength, doing 1,000,000 damage backstabs, with their 50,000 hp. High numbers oo and aa people, and sait the thirsty Achievers that need to be better then their neighbor.
Gradual steps include... lowering, if not removing. This is usually a more standardized HP system that is more realistic. Two people wouldn't be so different in build that one would be literally immortal with 500000000 hp, and the other 10. Its just hard to imagine people that physically different. A more realistic system is maybe everyone with 100-500. Thereby making even the hardiest person not somehow godly, while still being a normal guy.
Stats really don't need numbers. And are easily replaced with equivalents. If you have a 25 max point stat system, break it down into fives, and give it an adjective. Something like 1-5 (Awful), 5-10 (Bad), 10-15 (Normal), 15-20 (Good), 20-25 (Great). This way people can't do something like: "My Str is 13!" Which sounds horrible, but instead, "I am moderately strong." Better by far.
Damage is the same way. Adjectives can make the conversion from numbers to nothing easy. A system of descriptive and realistic damages. Alot of MUDs seem to think it possible for the standard commoner to be able to sustain 100: "OBLITERATING" hits. When more proportional damage would be great, and encourage more realistic behavior, thereby promoting the Role-playing environment. Downsize the damage code all-together to fit with the decreased HP, then make damage nouns accordingly. If the hardiest person will have 500 hp, then a hit that does 250 could be described as a very nasty blow. Whereas 50 might be still very hard depending on who your fighting, with a 10 being a more normal hit. So whatever your HP system, make the attacks fit with the damage they do, in comparison to the total HP of the person. If a typical battle lasts for 10 rounds, with the average damaging being "OBLITERATing" then something is wrong, because no one could sustatin that, and still walk away after. Something more like "scratches" or "nicks" or "minor cuts" would better represent the damage.
Then of course the ultimate number removal is the removal of levels. The most realistic, and in my opinion fun MUDs revolve around skills. Real-people dont, at random intervals of knowledge gaining suddenly become stronger, faster, or whatever a Level up equates to in the MUD in question. Rather someone who focuses on bettering themself in a skill becomes better due to the fact that they are more skilled. Someone who is level 50 with all 1%s in their skills shouldn't be able to beat a level 1 person with 100%s in all their weapon skills. They are more skillful in combat, but because they didn't go out killing random Mobs, they lack the HP and general bonuses that Level Ups include.
With all this done you will end up with a great and fun MUD, that is both realistic and a game. It will be in-depth, with an unending replay value. People will come, immerse themselves in your world, and enjoy. But caution... its very hard to start a completely Role-play Intensive MUD from scratch. -Its best- to make gradual steps, collecting a Pbase along the way, allowing for input from the players your trying to please, seeing how they wan't the world to evolve. There is nothing worse then a great, role-play accomodating MUD with no people. What's better is to see a MUD develop over time, keeping the players you've grown to trust over the years. So with that I bid you all good luck.
Sincerely, Dave, aka. Dorrin.
Longtime player of Feudal Realms MUD, and the world of MUDs alike.