After reading the reviews of Avatar I see them as mostly unrepresentative. That is not to say that all of them are untrue or contain misinformation. My point is that there is no middle ground in these reviews – Avatar is either a shining beacon in the MUD darkness or the most contemptible hell-hole on the net. If you use your own common sense you will of course realise that neither is true.
Let me set out my stall here, I like Avatar – there you go, out of the closet. Phew! Now you know where I’m coming from. Is it a perfect place? No. Is it a place where I want to be? Yes. Does it have its share of disaffected players? Sure. Do some players adore it before their family, friends and lovers? You bet. What’s the truth then?
I tried a few muds before arriving at Avatar and found them bewildering – I didn’t have any idea what a mud was or how to play them. Avatar has a great mudschool – it helped me understand the basic command structure and got me interacting with the game quickly. Avatar says its ‘newbie’ friendly – most of the time it is, there are people who will help – the Angels whose sole purpose is to guide and nurture – other players who will answer questions. However, like everywhere else there is the odd ar**hole who comes up with a silly quip or an unkind word in response to a friendly enquiry. No-one likes an ar**hole so don’t be one either, if you have a question ask politely on channels and you will get a response – aggressive demanding tones and caps lock will win you few friends. The help files are also extensive and can answer most questions. Language policy is strict - no swearing on public channels but in groups or personal tells you can decide how you want to be viewed through your behaviour.
Character creation is quick and easy – but be warned. Unless you are an experienced mudder avoid characters with the ‘star’ next to them because they are more difficult to play. Avatar is really about grouping – sooner, rather than later, you will have to group with other players to advance. Certain classes, such as mages, find it hard to find groups – just don’t play them at first. Make a nice warrior and avoid races with a high experience count to get to the next level – this way you will level more quickly and will find it easier to decide if you want to stay or not. Choose the harder races and classes later on when you have experience and want more of a challenge – most players have more than one character. Soloing is being made more and more difficult – this is not a criticism merely a fact – Avatar is about grouping with other players.
I was amused reading some of the past reviews as some called the game stagnant others thought it had changed too much. Again, this shows how opinion is denoted by perspective. Some examples of both views are in order. There are currently three tiers; 1-50 low-mortal levels, hero up-to 999 sublevels and then lord again with 999 sublevels. Hero can get repetitive and groups tend to hunt in the same few areas which is a shame as all the areas are nicely written with entertaining descriptions and enemies. Lord is virtually a different game and the proposed follow-on tier of legend has not yet been implemented. Avatar is attempting to get as much original content as possible so 'stock' areas are being withdrawn and are being replaced with new ones. Some miss the old favourite haunts others relish the new challenges.
A good example of how change brings out contrary opinions is the subject of lords. Lords are no longer so powerful in the area of Avatar where the lowmorts and heroes play, though they have full powers in their own area. Many lords enjoyed their power over heroes, why not as they earned it. This has caused some players to leave. However, heroes now have more value, a high hero is worth having. Before a party wouldn't hunt unless they had more powerful lord spells, now they have to rely on hero spells. The downside is that hero equipment is less plentiful and the incentive to morph into a lord is less acute for some. Again pros and cons.
The staff or 'immortals' who run the game are a perennial topic for these reviews. Some see them as hard working and dedicated, others view them as unsympathetic and unjust. Do they care about the game? Undoubtedly yes they do. Do they care about the opinion of one disaffected player? Probably not. This said, single viewpoints seldom do justice to the complexities of Avatar - especially when it comes to the staff. I don't know any imms' personally and have seldom had cause to speak with one. But I have virtual eyes and see what occurs. The staff run a well organised game and new features are being added to Avatar all the time. A nice example is the new worship system. This has added a new dimension to characters but the way it was implemented caused dissension in the ranks. Some players jumped right in and chose the wrong god for their character - they were naturally angry as the help files were purposefully vague on the benefits/drawbacks of religion. On the other hand a graphic 'this adds plus one to strength' help file would have removed all the mystery. It also provides an example of imm' attitude - calls for a way of changing your god (with a penalty) after a bad religious decision was listened to and added very quickly. Calls for the lords to regain full powers have been, so-far, rejected.
Imms have personalities too - some do not have the 'public relations' gift and can get peoples backs up - others are approachable with a genuine flair for smoothing over ruffled feathers. Can I say that they are all nice or all nasty? No, of course not. Some players are more trouble than they are worth as well, whining their way through the levels and complaining about every little thing in a game that they don't even have to pay for. The imm's do put up with a lot but the killing of a player as punishment for rule infringement (only a player who should know better in fairness) is immature and not worthy of the quality of the game. This is the thing that drives me mad and I would stop it immediately if I had the power - but I don't and that's the point - players are guests in a privately owned world - there are rules and most rules (such as no bad language on channels) benefit all those who inhabit Avatar.
To conclude - reading these reviews of Avatar will perhaps confuse you into inactivity. One review says its the best thing since sliced bread another will say that it is the pit of all evil. I urge you to use your common sense and try Avatar for yourself - it might not be for you - there again (like me) you might be thankful you dipped your toe in. For me the good that I find in this virtual world far, far outweighs the bad - until that changes I will hopefully wander its cities, mountains, dungeons and ruins. Give it a go and make your own mind up - you have nothing to lose but your armour, sword, potions, ... oh and with the new religion option ... your soul.