First, a little background so you have some context for my opinions:
I played a couple of other MUDs years ago, but didn't resume until December 2002, when I found Avatar while taking a break during a biochemistry final study marathon. I start medical school in the fall, which will obviously curtail my MUD hours, but also allows me to speak without fear of retribution. What are the imms going to do to me? Jail my characters while I'm studying for a Pharmacology final? I say all that because I want you, the reader, to know that this is an honest assessment of the MUD where I've spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of years. I'm not on the staff, nor (as far as I know) do I know any of them personally. My perspective is purely that of a player.
What Crom said in his last post is a pretty good evaluation of Avatar. There are a lot of great people involved, both players and staff. There are a few jerks involved, both players and staff. Gameplay is fun, but there's a lot of room for improvement.
Also, Avatar has experienced something of a rebirth over the last few months. There's a lot of coding going on, and while the staff has sometimes been criticized for "fixing stuff that ain't broke" while leaving the bigger tasks undone, the design/coding staff seems to be shifting more of its focus onto bigger things. Snikt himself has had an OBVIOUS rejuvenation in spirit (although I don't think you can blame someone for having a few lulls in excitement over a MUD they've been paying for/designing for almost a decade). He's very psyched over the prospect of a T1 and increasing player-counts via getting that giant monkey (Legend) off of Av's back. Crom has openly stated that he's offered to code it pending Snikt's approval.
There is an IDEA command that allows everyone to send their creative input directly to Crom. His responses to each individual idea are posted on the design website and e-mailed to anyone subscribed to the Forum list. There are still great surprises, eg Devastant springing the assassin class on us a couple of months ago, so the creative process has a good balance of open-input/response and imm secrecy.
Avatar's strength is its people. Like any other social environment, you will run into a jerk here and there, but overall most people will find a great group of friends in Avatar. While I do believe that grouping is a little TOO necessary at points in the game, ie when it stagnates individual players from time to time, it also plays to Avatar's main strength.
I have been treated with great respect by the staff, not as a "mere" player as some have attested. They are very approachable, with few exceptions. In fact, if I had a criticism of the public face of the immortals, it would be that they should be a bit MORE harsh! :)
The Builders are doing a great job. It seems that every time I lament the loss of an area, the one that replaces it is ten times better. This year there was also an area building contests with great player submissions.
The relatively new Quest Team is awesome. The quests are varied, from boggle (the word game) to mass pk anarchy, and each one has been a blast.
Okay, now for some criticism:
The tier system needs a revamp. It can be very monotonous at times, because you basically spend about 800 Hero levels doing nothing but gaining hp/mana/mvs in preparation for Lord, where your stats are rerolled anyway and you spend 800 levels gaining hp/mana/mvs--only you progress more slowly. I'm sure part of the reason for this is that there's nothing beyond Lord, so it should take a while to get through what exists. However, the implementation of Legend should negate this, allowing for shorter tiers, perhaps 400-500 levels.
The "multiclass" system needs changing, and it looks like there's a trend for the better. The new classes are being imp'd without the "jack-of-all-trades" hero mode, and hopefully the old classes will have this modification soon. Also, while the remort command may satisfy the Lords itching for something new, ultimately it's a lot of work for a little progress.
But guess what? Everything I think could improve, I send to Crom for consideration. Some are huge drastic steps that may not be right for Avatar right now, but the door's always open.
I'd recommend this MUD to anyone looking for a fun escape from reality, from n00bs to veterans. Long Live Avatar!