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Old 08-16-2007, 03:52 PM   #21
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Re: A player's perspective

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Originally Posted by shadowfyr View Post
Now, one solution would be to employ something like a few MMOs do for their game data, "Download as you play, or download now." Start with a simple stub, something that is small, downloads fast, isn't much bigger than MS Telnet, then, as they play, have it patch in additional features, until you have a complete client. Set up a custom file server, so that it only uses "idle" time, when the user isn't typing commands. Have any transfer in progress suspend "if" they type one. Its almost silly to even think about it, but for someone on dialup, waiting 10 seconds to load the stub and start playing is going to be nicer than waiting 5-6 minutes to install a client. For someone on broadband.. Stop fracking complaining. It would take you longer to type a complaint about using 3rd. party clients than it would to download one. lol
It's a balance. First impressions matter enormously and to people used to playing on clients that have had some effort put into making them look attractive presenting a game client that looks as incredibly ugly as MS Telnet is going to be a huge turn off. I want to present people with something that doesn't have them thinking, "This looks like something some high school kids hacked together." We're fairly happy with the balance currently struck by Nexus, though it could certainly be prettier. There's no install required and a broadband user is up and running about 5 seconds after start-up. Initial screen for Lusternia, for instance, looks like this:



It's not perfect by any means but it presents a heck of a lot better face to a new user than something approximating MS telnet, with a very minimal download. It just loads the initial bit and then streams the rest of the data it needs in the background while you're going through character creation.


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Old 08-16-2007, 03:53 PM   #22
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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Hmm, though... If your advertisements for bringing your players to your portal is "graphic intense" or in other ways cater to people that play games on their computer, they are likely to already have java installed. In fact almost anyone with a semi-up2date computer should have java 1.5+ running on it.

I can't imagine anyone coming to your portal looking to play a game (and are in someway a gamer) are running a computer that doesn't even have java 1.1.4...
Well, we'll find out!

Do you have a feeling for how people tend to get java 1.5+ onto their PCs? Does it tend to be bundled by OEMs or what? It's not included by default in Windows anymore is it?
--matt
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Old 08-16-2007, 04:37 PM   #23
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Re: A player's perspective

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It's not perfect by any means but it presents a heck of a lot better face to a new user than something approximating MS telnet, with a very minimal download. It just loads the initial bit and then streams the rest of the data it needs in the background while you're going through character creation.
It's nice, but it won't matter a whole lot to people who are textually challenged and who'll drop out once they figure out what it's all about, which seems to be what happens since 96.1% quits after pcgen.

MS telnet is indeed somewhat ugly, but PuTTY is already a big improvement.

Books for adults don't need pictures and lots of nice fluff to be read, the only requirement is that the content is good. Why would an adult interested in a textual game world reason different?
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Old 08-16-2007, 04:52 PM   #24
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Re: A player's perspective

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Books for adults don't need pictures and lots of nice fluff to be read, the only requirement is that the content is good. Why would an adult interested in a textual game world reason different?
You're comparing apples and oranges. Someone who is already aware of the existence of books and is into books doesn't need pretty pictures to hook them, although even there cover art influences book sales.

If we were only looking to target existing MUD players then the impetus to prettify the experience would be less important. It'd be more along the lines of pretty cover art on a book.

The problem here is that these adults are not interested in textual game worlds. They're usually not aware they exist at all to begin with and the interface is immediately unfamiliar and frankly, not very friendly compared to GUI. The idea is to keep their interest as long as possible to increase their comfort with the interface. We all know that at a certain point the text interface stops becoming a barrier and becomes quite natural. It's about trying to keep people around that long.

Quote:
It's nice, but it won't matter a whole lot to people who are textually challenged and who'll drop out once they figure out what it's all about, which seems to be what happens since 96.1% quits after pcgen.
Most of those people aren't textually challenged. They're not illiterate or unwilling to read. When you've never seen a game/world whose interface is dominated by text input/output you may not even recognize what it is you're playing since the interface is so unfamiliar for a game.

And on a practical note, retaining even 4% extra of the people who finish character generation means we just cut the cost of obtaining a registered player in half. Small increases can lead to big results.

--matt
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Old 08-16-2007, 06:07 PM   #25
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

I hadn't realized that Telnet wasn't active in Vista by default. Gotta say this is worrisome to me. I know raw Telnet is the ugliest format possible for a MU* to be viewed in, but that direct link was often a common method of having folks "accidentally" discover a MUD. Now they'd need to know about the existence of MUDs so that they can install Putty, MUSHClient, SimpleMU or some other client software.

Really makes me want to front-burner plans for a web-based front-end for my games.
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Old 08-16-2007, 06:10 PM   #26
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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I hadn't realized that Telnet wasn't active in Vista by default. Gotta say this is worrisome to me. I know raw Telnet is the ugliest format possible for a MU* to be viewed in, but that direct link was often a common method of having folks "accidentally" discover a MUD. Now they'd need to know about the existence of MUDs so that they can install Putty, MUSHClient, SimpleMU or some other client software.

Really makes me want to front-burner plans for a web-based front-end for my games.
Hire us :P
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Old 08-17-2007, 12:01 AM   #27
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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Originally Posted by Brody View Post
I hadn't realized that Telnet wasn't active in Vista by default. Gotta say this is worrisome to me. I know raw Telnet is the ugliest format possible for a MU* to be viewed in, but that direct link was often a common method of having folks "accidentally" discover a MUD. Now they'd need to know about the existence of MUDs so that they can install Putty, MUSHClient, SimpleMU or some other client software.

Really makes me want to front-burner plans for a web-based front-end for my games.
Although it isn't live here yet, this change in Vista telnet was the main reason I added a field for "URL to client" in the new MUD database ... so they can quickly check out a MUD using that when telnet itself doesn't work.

If nothing else, most MUDs should be able to put up a simple JTA based client as a telnet replacement. I still have long term hopes for Ajax ... but implementations I've seen done with it so far are very slow and jump through a lot of hoops to emulate a telnet connection.
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Old 08-17-2007, 03:07 AM   #28
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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I hadn't realized that Telnet wasn't active in Vista by default. Gotta say this is worrisome to me. I know raw Telnet is the ugliest format possible for a MU* to be viewed in, but that direct link was often a common method of having folks "accidentally" discover a MUD. Now they'd need to know about the existence of MUDs so that they can install Putty, MUSHClient, SimpleMU or some other client software.

Really makes me want to front-burner plans for a web-based front-end for my games.
Wow, I didn't realize that either.

I share your concern. I don't think all that many people came in 'accidentally' so to speak but the fact that telnet was essentially omnipresent on almost all computers was certainly a plus for text MUDs.

I know it almost certainly won't do any good but I'm going to try and get in touch with someone(s) relevant at Microsoft and at least let them know the consequences not including the tiny telnet application has for the original virtual worlds. Getting a behemoth like that to care is probably wishful thinking though.

--matt
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Old 08-17-2007, 03:12 AM   #29
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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Although it isn't live here yet, this change in Vista telnet was the main reason I added a field for "URL to client" in the new MUD database ... so they can quickly check out a MUD using that when telnet itself doesn't work.

If nothing else, most MUDs should be able to put up a simple JTA based client as a telnet replacement. I still have long term hopes for Ajax ... but implementations I've seen done with it so far are very slow and jump through a lot of hoops to emulate a telnet connection.
What about Flash? I'm hopeful a Flash client could be done, if not super-easily due to the fact that it's not the easiest thing to work with. The plus side is that it's light, essentially ubiquitous, and is really good at presenting text. For a long time I don't think its text rendering was fast enough to keep up with the speed of output that many text MUDs require but people who know more than me about its technical capabilities have opined that with Flash 8 it may be fast enough.

Anyone have a lot of experience with Flash?

--matt
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Old 08-17-2007, 03:30 AM   #30
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

I love the intarweb.

Amitoune Flash Internet Client

Click 'Play This Game', right hand side below the top ad banner.

Courtesy of:

Steve Madrogue

Well, courtesy of Google, really.

Some notes:

On the page you get to from the first link the developers say it took two coders 2 months to write the client in C++ and actionscript.

In FF 2.0.0.1 I had a little trouble with the scroll bar (to move the viewing window down so I could see the input line) but using the 'end' key on my keyboard worked a lot better.

I think this has a lot of potential.

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Old 08-17-2007, 03:39 AM   #31
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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I love the intarweb.

Amitoune Flash Internet Client
You...rock. But not as much as confirmation that Flash can render text fast enough.

That client is a piece of crap and is buggy enough that every time I moved by browser view down to see the input box and buttons at the bottom it popped my view back up to the top of it, but that's just polish. The core functionality seems to be there, barring what I was able to find about it potentially really eating up memory.

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Old 08-18-2007, 12:23 AM   #32
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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You...rock. But not as much as confirmation that Flash can render text fast enough.

That client is a piece of crap and is buggy enough that every time I moved by browser view down to see the input box and buttons at the bottom it popped my view back up to the top of it, but that's just polish. The core functionality seems to be there, barring what I was able to find about it potentially really eating up memory.

--matt
I had the same problem with the moving the browser window down, but overall this is a very cool thing to see.

Been a while since I learned a new language, and I do have a fully licensed CS3 for other web work. Hmmm .... so many projects, so few hours in a day.

EDIT: Just found this link:

http://livedocs.adobe.com/flash/9.0/...=00000321.html
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Old 08-18-2007, 02:10 AM   #33
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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Originally Posted by Lasher View Post
I had the same problem with the moving the browser window down, but overall this is a very cool thing to see.

Been a while since I learned a new language, and I do have a fully licensed CS3 for other web work. Hmmm .... so many projects, so few hours in a day.

EDIT: Just found this link:

http://livedocs.adobe.com/flash/9.0/...=00000321.html
Sweet. Thanks for finding that.

It seems to require Flash CS3, which probably doesn't have huge adoption yet, but this shows that new Flash versions are adopted pretty darn quickly. Adobe - Flash Player Version Penetration

--matt

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Old 08-19-2007, 01:11 AM   #34
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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I think if players log on to a text-based game with the expectation of playing something graphical, they're likely to have a more negative response than if they're eased into it more gently with phrases like "interactive novel".
Sorry for the delayed jump into the discussion. I haven't read through the whole thread yet, but this struck me as very true. I've encoutered this a few times where someone likes the graphics on our site, logs on all eager to play, creates a character, and then start asking about how to get into the game.

It's probably even worse if they can actually create from the website while they're staring at the pretty graphics. If this happens, I think we've pretty much lost the player because then he or she feels as if s/he has been tricked.

Honestly, though, this hasn't been a wide-spread problem for us. Most of our players that recruit from the graphical games usually emphasize that it's a text, roleplaying-enforced game. I'm unsure, though, if having a disclaimer on our site would actually help. People seem to skim and then try to log on as soon as possible. It couldn't really hurt, though, if you end up with a player like me. I spent a week reading my first mud's website before my friends told me how to log in because they wanted to make sure that I didn't mess up.
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Old 08-19-2007, 04:16 AM   #35
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

Regarding clients.

IMO, easy, fast clients do have negative effects as well. If you do not have to put any effort into gaining the game, you are so much more willing to throw it away if it does not look good immediately. If you have to download 100 megs to play the game (like most "normal" games) you tend to get people that are genuine interested in it. You might loose a bunch right before the download, but do you honestly think they would get hooked into the game anyways? I tend to say no (just a guess). The people that shows a real interest to try it, those are the ones that are going to stay.

A ****load of people may click a "click to play" button without having any clue what they are getting into, and when it is only text they shut it down right away.

I believe it is better to have people play the game with an already knowledge of what it is about. Show screenshots! You have to show the players what it is before they try it out. You wouldn't go buy a game in the store without some kind of idea of what it is.

I'm a strong believer that it is more of a quality than quantity thing with getting players hooked into text muds.
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Old 08-19-2007, 04:17 AM   #36
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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It's probably even worse if they can actually create from the website while they're staring at the pretty graphics. If this happens, I think we've pretty much lost the player because then he or she feels as if s/he has been tricked.
With all due respect, that's like claiming that the cinematic trailers that video games put out pre-release don't help because they make players feel like they've been tricked since the in-game graphics aren't as good. You ever seen the original WoW trailer, for instance? It bears almost no relationship to how the characters look in-game and yet I'll bet you almost anything you want that it was very effective at peaking people's interest. There's a reason that Blizzard has, literally, an 85 person strong cinematics team.

It's about keeping people's attention, however you can within reason. The longer you can keep their attention, the greater the chance that you're able to communicate your true value proposition to them.

I also can tell you from personal experience that it works. When we implemented our fairly pretty Nexus client and took out our older, ugly-but-also-java-based client, there was a statistically indisputable increase in retention both in completing character creation and completing the first hour of gameplay.

--matt
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Old 08-19-2007, 04:45 AM   #37
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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Regarding clients.

IMO, easy, fast clients do have negative effects as well. If you do not have to put any effort into gaining the game, you are so much more willing to throw it away if it does not look good immediately. If you have to download 100 megs to play the game (like most "normal" games) you tend to get people that are genuine interested in it. You might loose a bunch right before the download, but do you honestly think they would get hooked into the game anyways? I tend to say no (just a guess). The people that shows a real interest to try it,
those are the ones that are going to stay.
That doesn't make any sense. The people who are going to tolerate the 100 meg download are also going to tolerate the 1 meg download. At least some of the people who will be turned off by the 100 meg download will not be turned off by the 1 meg download.

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A ****load of people may click a "click to play" button without having any clue what they are getting into, and when it is only text they shut it down right away.
Most of them will but that's not too relevant.

The point isn't how many quit, because the ones who aren't interested in text don't matter, and they cost you very little/essentially nothing since they quit right away. The point is the ones that do stick. Having a huge bloated client is, in absolutely no way whatsoever, an advantage. It may be necessary for a particular product, or at least the outcome of budget + circumstances, but it is in no way an advantage. I don't mean to sound like I'm just dismissing your point of view here...but I am. There's really no debate about this. A smaller barrier to entry will result in more players, all other things equal, than a larger barrier to entry. I mean, you can posit all the "what ifs" you want but I don't think you can point me to empirical evidence where increasing the barrier to entry in MUDs/MMOs has resulted in more players than lowering the barrier to entry.

If you don't believe me, try running a simple experiment. Track your conversion rate with your current client. Then, increase the size of the client by 10x by just including a bunch of garbage data. Are you seriously telling me that you think the larger client is going to end up getting you more players?

If you want some great examples of how important a low barrier to entry is when you don't have $20 million to spend on marketing, go look at Runescape, Gaia Online, Habbo, Neopets, Club Penguin, and so on. Now try and find me a single online game community with comparable development budgets (no comparing WoW, with its 9 figure budget, to Runescape, which started as one guy in his parents bedroom...and has more players than WoW today) that even approaches their size that requires you to download a huge client before you start playing. (No need to look. There are none.)

If you don't want to restrict yourself to online games, that's fine. Look at the 50 most popular websites in the world. Tell me how many of them require you to download and install a client to use them vs. using a client technology that almost all users already have installed (browsers, flash, etc). (Again, no need to look. There are none.)

--matt
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Old 08-19-2007, 11:41 AM   #38
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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Having a huge bloated client is, in absolutely no way whatsoever, an advantage.
IMO, it can be. Text muds require a lot of more inital time before you can get hooked into them compared to graphic games. If you have downloaded a game, and spent some work into getting into it started, I believe you are more willing to give it a fair testing. At least i would. I'm so much more willing to shutdown a game if its started from within a browser, compared to if i have installed it off a cd or a download, (and even more so if i spent money on it).

However, I'm not saying light clients are bad.

You could have both worlds.

*Click here to play NOW!"* (opens lightweight java applet, or flash thing)

*Click here to download our FULL game, 1 gig* (real application, with an awesome screenshot showing the benifits of downloading)

Edit: ofc there have to be some content in the client, not just "bloated". I am pretty sure there will be people using the real app client over the browser version, and im pretty sure those are the ones that will be higher % getting hooked into the game...)

Last edited by Hephos : 08-19-2007 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 08-19-2007, 01:47 PM   #39
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

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With all due respect, that's like claiming that the cinematic trailers that video games put out pre-release don't help because they make players feel like they've been tricked since the in-game graphics aren't as good.
Well, there's a difference. They are at least both graphic mediums. You don't see novels being advertised with much in the way of graphics or trailers.

I think the whole discussion should focus less on the players, and more on the medium. Books haven't gone away because they provide for a storytelling experience that movies can't match. So, what is the gameplay experience that MUDs provide that MMOGs can't match?

One is cost. It takes much less to create and run a MUD. This is passed on to players (hopefully) as games that are either free or cost much less too. Given that most MMOGs run in the $10-15/month range, MUDs should probably cost no more than $2-3/month. I'm not saying whether MUDs should be free or no, but just from a new-player point of view, this is probably the number I'd say you'd have to have to use price as a competitive advantage. (And if you know my previous posts, transparency about the expected costs is key too--pay for perks with an unlimited upside is a way to turn this competitive advantage into a disadvantage if people feel they've been duped.)

The next advantage is required bandwidth. I'm not sure how much this turns into an advantage though. But MMOGs are notorious for 100+ MB downloads that take some people forever, depending on their connection, particularly dialup customers, of which there are still many. Also, must MUDs are lag-free, something that most MMOGs can't say.

A possible new market, because of the text interface, is the thin mobile client. Let people play on PDAs and smart phones (though ease of input is a factor here). There are a lot more of those devices out there than computers. Also, due to low bandwidth requirements, that means playing on your laptop in a hot spot is perfectly reasonable.

But the above are all "structural" advantages. Where I think MUDs have to focus in on is why play a text game over a graphical one? And this is where you should start thinking the whole book/movie difference.

To me, it's RP. To have all the tools of RP (dialogue, emotes, personal descriptions, etc.) as being the fundamental interface of the game is what makes RP so much more possible on a MUD than in an MMOG. I take it one step further and only play on MUSHes, where there is no PvE environment to speak of, and generally speaking, a cooperative PvP environment (or player-run PvE) where there is often little in the way of coded combat/health. And, ironically, this is what makes any combat I engage in more weighty, as MUSHes almost all have permadeath.

After RP, it's a story that players can engage in. And by engage, I don't mean progressing along a static storyline that everyone else does, like an MMOG quest structure. A MUD should play like a interactive novel, not like the cloning of single player computer RPGs that you see in MMOGs. One thing that MUSHes do a lot of is player-generated content, as most allow players to create rooms, objects, and even NPCs. The low (almost non-existent) development costs for content, and the ability for players to create their own is what allows for a dynamic game environment.

Finally, in terms of "losing" aspects to try to get players... I don't really see having a complex combat system as being a draw. With a text interface, having to type longish commands to react to events seems like a losing proposition to people who play the MMOGs. Granted, maybe it's because I'm not a real fan of graphical twitch games, but if I'm going to play twitch, it'll be graphical. I'd say the same for a grind. If I have to grind up levels, I'll do it in an MMOG (though, to be honest, I refuse to play a grind anymore in any venue).
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Old 08-19-2007, 01:58 PM   #40
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Re: Reaching out beyond text MUDs

Quote:
A possible new market, because of the text interface, is the thin mobile client. Let people play on PDAs and smart phones (though ease of input is a factor here). There are a lot more of those devices out there than computers. Also, due to low bandwidth requirements, that means playing on your laptop in a hot spot is perfectly reasonable.
I'm working on a java client for my SE P990i. Not full of features. But will be nice to use as immortal to control the game server. (With a small qwerty, i think it will work nice on the p990).
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