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Old 04-14-2008, 03:44 AM   #1
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Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

In Mike Rozak's post from here he wrote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeRozak View Post
the potential extinction of MUDs in general...

To use an analogy, it's like saying, "Even though most people haven't heard of clog dancing (Clogging - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) , it only takes 1% to 0.01% of all night/dance-club dancers to jump in and there'd be a huge clog-dancer population"... which implies that the reason there aren't more clog dancers is largely because people haven't heard of it.

Yes, advertising will bring in some people. But the fact is, clog dancing is no longer in vogue, not since the 18/19th century according to Wikipedia.

You can (a) admit that and live with a dwindling and aging population of clog-dancers (staving off the decline with clog-athons and other occasional advertising), or (b) change clog dancing so it fits with the times more.
I think it is a little early for the clog dancing comparisons, since a lot of text mud operators here frequently score a lot of new players from graphical MMOs. Mike, I don't know what your actual playing history is as far as MUDs, but they offer a very different gaming experience from graphical MMOs. I actually think it is getting to the point where they are no longer direct competitors.

I will use Threshold RPG as an example. 2004 was probably our peak year in terms of total usage. We had a small but noticeable decline in both 2005 and 2006. But in 2007 we experienced growth that made up for most of 2006's decline, and so far 2008 is continuing in that direction. If it continues, either 2008 or 2009 will be a *NEW* peak. Considering the fact that Threshold is a 12 year old game, I think the possibility of hitting a new peak after experiencing a decline is pretty amazing. Obviously, I was highly motivated to figure out the reasons behind this resurgence, and I have narrowed it down primarily to these:
  1. We made some changes in development philosophy, administration methods, and content creation that have been very well received by our players.

  2. We hired a very productive staff member who took on a major development role and did a great job with it.

  3. We suddenly started getting a LOT more players from WoW and other graphical MMOs than ever in the past.

It is easy to understand how #1 and #2 worked. That is just standard game management stuff. Meet the needs and desires of your customers and you benefit. Hire good people and you benefit. The harder one to decipher is #3. Why in the last year and a half have more and more graphical players been trying MUDs for the first time? I have a few theories.
  1. The population size of gamers that have now played more than 1 graphical MMO is pretty large. Now that they have played more than one, and probably see a lot of similarities and repetitiveness, they are more interested than ever in a totally different type of online RPG experience.

  2. The popularity and greater acceptability of online gaming in general has increased the pool of people playing online RPGs. A wider pool of people means people with a broader set of preferences. Graphical MMOs almost exclusively play like EQ/DAoC/WoW, and that doesn't really suit everyone. MUDs offer an almost limitless variety in gameplay options: MUDs, MUSHes, ARPs, PKMUDs, etc., etc.

  3. A lot of MUDs have indeed changed and adapted. The EQ/DAoC/WoW style of gaming was based on MUDs, and for a long while MUDs tried to compete on that same playing field. A lot of MUDs are now ceding that specific style of gameplay to graphical MMOs, and instead focusing on things MUDs can do better than graphical MMOs: communication, customization, persistent alterations to the game world, highly complex gameplay features, etc.

  4. A lot of gamers are sick of always being limited to gaming on the best gaming PC out there. They like having games they can play on a work computer, a library computer, a hand held device, a laptop, or any computer from anywhere. This is not just in MMOs, but in the single player PC games as well. I have read numerous articles about the returning success of small, independent developers who make ~$10-20 games that you download as a trial and then pay to convert to the full version - basically the old shareware model.

  5. The growing dominance of consoles. This one is a bit of a stretch, but it makes sense if you follow it. Consoles are becoming more and more the gaming platform of choice for a higher percentage of gamers. The desktop PC is becoming less their primary gaming platform and more of a tool and a general entertainment appliance. People watch tv and movies on their PC, they play simpler games, they use it for internet applications, etc. As the PC starts to become more popular as a low/mid-range gaming platform, the desire for lower tech games actually grows.

Now, I am not about to say that this is the Golden Age of MUDs and they are going to rise up and have more total players than WoW and its ilk combined. But what I do see is that MUDs are actually starting to reap a little benefit from the overall growth of online gaming, and the failure (and/or unwillingness) of graphical games to meet ALL of gamers' needs. This presents an opportunity for MUDs that I think should be, and can be, taken advantage of.
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Old 04-14-2008, 04:53 PM   #2
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

Not wanting the important matter of clog dancing to be interrupted by this MUD discussion I move it to it's own thread where the subject can receive the attention it so rightfully deserves.

Let's use this thread for your views on the future (or lack thereof) of MUDs and compare clog dancing socials in the break room. Thanks!
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Old 04-14-2008, 06:07 PM   #3
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

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Originally Posted by Threshold View Post
I think it is a little early for the clog dancing comparisons, since a lot of text mud operators here frequently score a lot of new players from graphical MMOs. Mike, I don't know what your actual playing history is as far as MUDs, but they offer a very different gaming experience from graphical MMOs. I actually think it is getting to the point where they are no longer direct competitors.
I totally agree.

The problem is, even if you can convince players that text/language is a good foundation (and I definitely think text has strong points), a LOT of other stuff about MUDs holds them back. My first reactions on entering a text MUD are:

- Why does the overall UI look so crappy (because I'm usually using a Java-ish client written by a mud-admin who thinks of it as a holdover until I splurge and pay for Z-mud... which is incredibly scary looking, although powerful.)

- Why don't I have a graphical map? (Because it's assumed that I'll eventually use Z-mud or something and figure out how to use automapping.)

- Character creation usually involves picking one of 50 races and one of 50 classes. To find out what the races/classes are, I either have to type in an obscure command or visit the web site. Why isn't this better integrated.

- Why do I have to type all the time? Why can't I click on the word "orc" and get a context menu for the most common stuff I can do to the orc. Arrow keys to move, etc.

- And MUD help reminds me on Unix "man".

- And a few pictures here and there wouldn't hurt. It doesn't have to be $30M worth of art, just a few.

- At which point, I usually log out disgusted.


People coming from MMORPG-land will all have their own conscious/subconscious impressions, and they won't be exactly the same as mine.


To use a book analogy: Back in Roman Times, there were no spaces between words, and scrolls were more common than books. Imagine reading Harry Potter on a scroll, with no spaces. It could be the exact same text, but the presentation limits the experience.

Which is why I wrote option (a) is to do nothing (stick to scrolls, and MUDs tha run on virtual teletype machines), or (b) update the experience (books with pages and modern conventions, or MUDs that solve some of the problems I mentioned above, or whatever problem most people see as being important).



Quote:
Originally Posted by Threshold View Post
I will use Threshold RPG as an example. 2004 was probably our peak year in terms of total usage. We had a small but noticeable decline in both 2005 and 2006. But in 2007 we experienced growth that made up for most of 2006's decline, and so far 2008 is continuing in that direction. If it continues, either 2008 or 2009 will be a *NEW* peak. Considering the fact that Threshold is a 12 year old game, I think the possibility of hitting a new peak after experiencing a decline is pretty amazing. Obviously, I was highly motivated to figure out the reasons behind this resurgence, and I have narrowed it down primarily to these:
That's great.

Some counter-thougts:

1) You may be the exception. What's the total MUD population now, and has it been increasing or decreasing? No one knows these answers. My own highly-flawed memory of watching the MUD forums (topmudsites and ilk) is that post numbers seem to be going down. (Just as the population numbers in individual MMORPGs have a habit of peaking and gradually declining. At the moment, MUDs seem to be on the gradual decline.)

2) The MMORPG population is growing at the rate of around 30% per year (plus or minus). If the MUD population is shrinking at 10% per year (my non-scientific innacurate guestimate), then relative to MMORPG's, MUDs are shrinking at approx 40% per year! Yes, this isn't an entirely fair comparison, but it's something I got used to doing when deciding what financial investments to make, where the return on an investment is relative to what other investments return.


And a slightly wild tangent that's related (and which you briefly mentioned):

I'm excited about UMPCs, mini-notebooks, or whatever you want to call them (Eee-like devices). I expect them to be popular with schoolkids, travelling adults, and 3rd world countries. At the moment, MMORPGs don't work well (if at all) on them.

Imagine a nice-looking, easy-to-get-going MUD on such a device. It's be perfect! MUDs are low bandwidth, low CPU, low screen-real-estate, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, low power consumption.

So yes, I do see hope for MUDs, but I think they have to change and adapt. (Which leads to paradigm shifts and why people/companies fail to ride out the paradigm shift, but that can be for yet another topic.)
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Old 04-14-2008, 10:00 PM   #4
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

I can only speak from a single person's standpoint, but I'm certain I'm not unique in this respect. For the most part, Threshold is dead-bang on the money with his points. Especially the 'keep up with the tech advances' part in order to play a game.

As to the comparisons of Harry Potter and Roman scrolls, I think a better analogy between MMORPGs and MUDs is book-to-movie. While the subject and much of the content might be nearly identical, it's that intangible element that a reader brings to a book, hefting some or much of the imaginary burden of visual and audial imagery, absent in the nature of movies to spoonfeed that content to the viewer in totem. No matter how good the graphics and sound get, human imagination is better, and MUDs passively accomodate those willing to lift that imaginary burden.

I can see some of Mike's points, but seriously, how much visual input or lore research does one need to do for 'orc'? No matter how most MUDs shade the differences, we all pretty much know what it is. Even if a game has fifty races, I'm willing to bet 8-10 of them are quickly recognizable from the name alone, if not more.

Granted, I do some things to my keyboard for MUDs to make it more like a very complicated handset, such as aliases and hotkeys and macros to make the experience less typing-intensive and more fluid, but it's been my observation that those who are willing to read almost 100% of their content don't mind typing almost 100% of their input. Generally. I'm actually -against- art in MUDs, for the same reason I was appalled by the inclusion of brothers Hildebrandt paintings inserted into the LotR novels. What I see in my head is better rendered, especially when viewing the words of genuinely great wordsmiths.

I'm also one who tends to think there's still a steady population (and will continue to be so) of people who like the challenge of the medium. Most of our graphics-based joystick reflexes will hit a peak, and in many of those games, the race is to the swift, those best in shape from the wrist down. Unlike such games, MUD skills, a different set, tend to only improve over time. You spell better, your read more quickly or more comprehensively, you type faster, and you're exposed to some people who are truly gifted at it, and their skills become part of your skillset as well. I greatly prefer learning (and I still do, even at age 47) from a great roleplayer to learning from a talented gamer. One such skillset is 'seeing' the map in my head. I do refer to some of the ingame maps from time to time, but to me, seeing the terrain in a MUD is as transparent a process as looking at a graphics screen.

Whether or not the market trends bear out my observations eventually, my prediction is that MUDing is far from dead, except in the cases of rigid development.

Two cents.
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Old 04-14-2008, 11:54 PM   #5
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

My post went to the wrong thread and should be here, toit:

I think you may need to read back to a thread I started awhile ago called the book and the movie for a more appropriate analogy of Muds.

http://www.topmudsites.com/forums/ro...ook-movie.html
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Old 04-15-2008, 02:40 AM   #6
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

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I can see some of Mike's points, but seriously, how much visual input or lore research does one need to do for 'orc'? No matter how most MUDs shade the differences, we all pretty much know what it is. Even if a game has fifty races, I'm willing to bet 8-10 of them are quickly recognizable from the name alone, if not more.
I happen to like pretty pictures, but can easily understand why some people would want text-only.

Some random comments:

1) I should probably clarify "click on the word "orc" ". In my own game, I show pictures of objects (which text MUDs won't have, of course). There is a command line, but 90% of what a player wants to be done can be accomplished by clicking on an object image and selecting a menu item from a context-sensative menu. For example: Click on an orc's image and you'll see a menu with "Attack", "Say hello", etc. Click on a lantern and it'll have "Light/douse", "Add more oil", etc. A text MUD wouldn't have the images, but it would make sense to click on the object's word/name in the text and get the same menu.

2) As for character creation, or any other UI element: Imagine your mother (or appropriate tech neophyte) trying to play your game. Where would they have problems? It seems to me, that text MUDs have evolved and complexified so that there's a lot of stuff you need to know to play them. Z-Mud is an example of this, with a UI just as complex as Microsoft's C++ development IDE.

Raph Koster made a point (don't have the link) that game genres start out easy and accessible, and gradually get more and more complicated until only the illuminati know how to play. And then the illuminati die off, and the genre dies. He uses the example of table-top war games, which started out being fairly simple (Risk-like complexity), but by the 1980's had thick rulebooks and took days/weeks to play out. When wargames first appeared, they were so simple anyone could play. By the 1980's, only the hard-core would play. D&D is similar: It started out very simple, with the origianl D&D rulebooks and then Basic D&D. Now on the 4th edition, it's hugely complicated, especially compared to its origins.

If your MUD is so complicated that there are 50 races, 50 classes, 5000 items, 6000 spells, etc., then you'll find it hard to attract new non-MUD players. They'll find the whole thing overwhelming. Meanwhile, your experienced players are continually asking for more complexity. If they get it, they stay. But the extra complexity also creates a barrier that prevents new players from joining.

The same can be said about muds with 20K rooms. It's simply overwhelming to a new player.

As an example, a few years ago I saw Legend of the Green Dragon on the Internet. (Legend of the Green Dragon?) It was almost a MUD. It had LOTs of players, partially because it was playable from a web page, and partially because it was such an easy game to play. It seems to have empties out since then.
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Old 04-15-2008, 02:48 AM   #7
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

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Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
My post went to the wrong thread and should be here, toit:

I think you may need to read back to a thread I started awhile ago called the book and the movie for a more appropriate analogy of Muds.

http://www.topmudsites.com/forums/ro...ook-movie.html
I don't disagree with the book vs. movie analogy. I've used it many times before.

I do disagree with the reliance on a UI based on a teletype (Teleprinter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). You can still have text, but you don't need to rely on just one window with 10-point courier font, that scrolls. And you don't need to rely just on typing.

BatMud's UI (www.bat.org | The official site of BatMUD) is a step in the right direction. But it's a relatively small step, scary looking to new players (see my previous comment), and it only works with bat mud.
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Old 04-15-2008, 09:09 AM   #8
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

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Originally Posted by MikeRozak View Post
2) The MMORPG population is growing at the rate of around 30% per year (plus or minus). If the MUD population is shrinking at 10% per year (my non-scientific innacurate guestimate), then relative to MMORPG's, MUDs are shrinking at approx 40% per year! Yes, this isn't an entirely fair comparison, but it's something I got used to doing when deciding what financial investments to make, where the return on an investment is relative to what other investments return.
I think part of the problem is that people separate MMRPG and MUD. In my view they are different realizations of the same idea. While the text mmrpg gaming might have declined, the graphical mmrpg gaming might have grown. In a way you can say that text MUDs have evolved into graphical mmrpgs. That means that MUDs are very successful instead!

Usually discussions like these mostly cover observations but don't offer any solution. One such observation often mentioned is that a lot of people don't know about text MUDs.

Say we had 2-3 graphical MUDs(aka mmrpgs) here on the TMS toplist. What would happen?
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Old 04-15-2008, 02:45 PM   #9
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

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Originally Posted by MikeRozak View Post
The problem is, even if you can convince players that text/language is a good foundation (and I definitely think text has strong points), a LOT of other stuff about MUDs holds them back. My first reactions on entering a text MUD are:

- Why does the overall UI look so crappy (because I'm usually using a Java-ish client written by a mud-admin who thinks of it as a holdover until I splurge and pay for Z-mud... which is incredibly scary looking, although powerful.)

- Why don't I have a graphical map? (Because it's assumed that I'll eventually use Z-mud or something and figure out how to use automapping.)

- Character creation usually involves picking one of 50 races and one of 50 classes. To find out what the races/classes are, I either have to type in an obscure command or visit the web site. Why isn't this better integrated.

- Why do I have to type all the time? Why can't I click on the word "orc" and get a context menu for the most common stuff I can do to the orc. Arrow keys to move, etc.

- And MUD help reminds me on Unix "man".

- And a few pictures here and there wouldn't hurt. It doesn't have to be $30M worth of art, just a few.

- At which point, I usually log out disgusted.
You nailed most of the things that have bugged me right on the head. Some of those are fixable now, in "some" clients. Some are fixable in the future, with "some" clients. Frankly, I keep hoping, now that Mushclient is source available, someone with way better understanding of script integration and event handling will look it over and figure out how to get those things to work, ironically, the way they do in IE. We badly need basic controls support, and some way to use the COM system via scripting to plugin in external objects, so we don't have the limitations we do now. At the moment, their are only two ways to take, I don't know, lets say IE itself, and patch it to Mushclient:

1. Create a shell application that has UDP support, and creates the IE instance itself, handles the "page finished loading" event, then links via UDP to Mushclient, so that your script can receive noticed that data came in and respond to the "event".

2. Create a shell applicaiton that uses the Mushclient .tlb structure to get callbacks to the client, and creates the IE instance itself, handles the "page finished loading" event, then calls, using data passed "from" the script, CallPlugin(some_hex_number,data), then have that plugin try to figure out what the hell to do with the data, which is *not* able to contain more than like 255 characters, even if the data you need to send it does.

The *correct* way to do this would be something like:

Code:
#Don't remember the exact names at the moment. "world" is the internal Mushclient functions.
a = world.createobject("ie.application")
connect(a.finished, "myfunction")
a.loadurl("www.test.com")

sub myfunction ()
  note "Yeah! The page finished loading!"
end sub
But, this just isn't possible at the moment. If it was, then it would make using external applications unbelievably easy, make designing them easy, make using controls as easy as downloading the dlls for something like the VB runtimes, etc. The only thing the client itself would need to supply is the handlers for the objects, tiny bit of code, but a pain in the ass to manage, and a basic window that supports control container features. Everything else could be done via the script system.

You can't imagine both how fracking hard it is to either find how to manage the above though with a scripting system, or how much even more insane it is to try to do it with MFC getting in the damn way.

A lot of stuff it would be nice to see are just plain trade offs. Mushclient doesn't currently support 1) blinking, 2) text positioning, 3) inline graphics, 4) more than one font at a time, 5) a mapper. Why? Because the first four make writing the custom windowing code even *more* complicated. The last one the author didn't even have the first idea where to start making one. He figured an external for that might be better, and I tend to agree, since as things stand with scripting, some stuff, like path finding, would lock up the client while it ran, and synchronization of the script to the triggers, etc. without having the client suspend while they ran... isn't too feasible. And external, with proper integration is better for that.

Anyway. Point is, clients tend to be hit or miss when universal, since there is always "some" features that are not as practical as one would like them to be, which never make their way into the client. And, invariably, the ones that do have them, are missing other things. Ones like Batmud, which is mentioned, have a leg up only due to the fact that they don't even try to be universal, so don't have to make apologies for not supporting some feature the mud itself doesn't supply.

Some, like the one I use and mentioned, are so damn close that my teeth itch, but none of those of us that use it have the slightest fracking clue how to fix the problems, including the guy that wrote it, who frankly has no intention of fixing some of the things I consider flaws himself (not when he had to release the source to keep it alive, since no one would fracking pay him for using it).
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Old 04-15-2008, 05:51 PM   #10
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

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Originally Posted by Aeran View Post
I think part of the problem is that people separate MMRPG and MUD. In my view they are different realizations of the same idea. While the text mmrpg gaming might have declined, the graphical mmrpg gaming might have grown. In a way you can say that text MUDs have evolved into graphical mmrpgs. That means that MUDs are very successful instead!

Usually discussions like these mostly cover observations but don't offer any solution. One such observation often mentioned is that a lot of people don't know about text MUDs.

Say we had 2-3 graphical MUDs(aka mmrpgs) here on the TMS toplist. What would happen?
While I'd like MUDs to evolve with limited graphics, I expect most people here prefer just straight text, which is fine with me.

(High-quality graphics would be wonderfull too, but that's completely unrealistic because MUDs are more of a hobbyist virtual world, with limited ($0.00) budgets. And those small budgets are part of the reason why MUDs are worth keeping alive, because they're not trying to be (to use another analogy) mass-market McDonalds or McWoW, but a mom-and-pop restaurant on the corner - niche market, small community.)

However, I would like to see MUDs evolve (not towards MMORPGs - that's already been done).
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Old 04-15-2008, 06:14 PM   #11
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

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Originally Posted by shadowfyr View Post
Anyway. Point is, clients tend to be hit or miss when universal, since there is always "some" features that are not as practical as one would like them to be, which never make their way into the client. And, invariably, the ones that do have them, are missing other things. Ones like Batmud, which is mentioned, have a leg up only due to the fact that they don't even try to be universal, so don't have to make apologies for not supporting some feature the mud itself doesn't supply.
Which is my point about paradigm shifts that I didn't get to.

I suspect lots of people here have some of the same issues that I do. There are certainly enough posts on topmudsites and mudconnect talking about clients, attracting new players, etc.

However, the reason that companies don't survive paradigm shifts is because they refuse to make/see hard decisions. Often, they can't switch to the new technology because that will upset their existing customers. (As per IBM and PCs/Dos/Windows paradigm shift.)

The "facts" are:

- "Everyone" knows a better client would be a win.

- But no one has written it. It's a lot of work. (I know, since I've written a better client.) There are dozens-to-hundreds of attempts, but none have hit the mark. Or, those that have come close charge money (because it's a lot of work). Or there are other problems, like it only runs on Windows.

- And, MUD players have a proud tradition of being able to play with whatever client they want. If one client were to come out that was perfect, admins would need to convince all their players to use it, which wouldn't be possible.

- And, even if the perfect MUD client were written and admins could convince all their players to use it, it's basically impossible to convert a huge 20K-room MUD to use the new client. There's way too much code/content to fix.

- In addition, there's the "making the gameplay simpler to attract newbies" issue because that will probably lead to losing some long-time players who will complain that the game is too simple.

As a result, there are half measures like the BatMud client. But (IMHO) they aren't sufficient.
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Old 04-15-2008, 10:03 PM   #12
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

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Originally Posted by MikeRozak View Post

- In addition, there's the "making the gameplay simpler to attract newbies" issue because that will probably lead to losing some long-time players who will complain that the game is too simple.

As a result, there are half measures like the BatMud client. But (IMHO) they aren't sufficient.
Enjoying these posts Mike, very insightful. I share the same concerns on the client side and as a MUD owner it has never quite made sense to me to tell someone they have go buy a client to play the mud, particularly a client from someone else. It makes sense for established MUD players perhaps, but not for someone who just happens to find your game and isn't famiiar with MUDs.

On the BAT client, what would you add to that particular client that would take it from a 'half measure' to 'almost there'? I've played around with it a little myself and was quite impressed, although I didn't get into checking out its capabilities for client basics like external scripting, triggers, etc.
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Old 04-16-2008, 12:04 AM   #13
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

I have a few issues whenever the topic (and it's happened a few times) comes up about the fear of the demise of MUDS or the need for "new clients" with maps and gadgets and automapping and pictures, blah blah.

I started out playing all graphic games, Ultima Online, Meridian 59, Diablo, and on. When I found muds it was through a third party chat room on gaming and my first impression was unique, definitely different and I thought a strange concept. But after two weeks on a zero whistles and bells client (telnet), I was hooked with the whole imagination (book vs. movie) style.

After many years, I see it the same way. It IS an entirely different concept and style of gaming and to me much more immersed roleplay than any graphic game could hope to achieve. My arguments are not about that though, but rather about why the push to bigger, more functional, more graphic oriented clients? Bat client? Who cares. I don't play MUDS for automapping, graphics, mouse clicks, or multi window interfaces. If I did, I'd be playing the multitude of graphic games that blow mud features out the window.
What will happen with newer graphic/sound/mapping clients is that your clients (players) will eventually say, "ya man, L33T client dood! It's even starting to catch up with Runescape and WoW. Hey, let's just play WoW, ain't much different!" And unless you are prepared to build a WoW game, you will have oversold yourself.

Now I'm not against better clients with features that enhance text gaming and new clients should bost that.

In short. MUDs are text for a reason. They are books. Don't try to make them movies.

Enjoy!
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Old 04-16-2008, 02:01 AM   #14
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lasher View Post
Enjoying these posts Mike, very insightful. I share the same concerns on the client side and as a MUD owner it has never quite made sense to me to tell someone they have go buy a client to play the mud, particularly a client from someone else. It makes sense for established MUD players perhaps, but not for someone who just happens to find your game and isn't famiiar with MUDs.

On the BAT client, what would you add to that particular client that would take it from a 'half measure' to 'almost there'? I've played around with it a little myself and was quite impressed, although I didn't get into checking out its capabilities for client basics like external scripting, triggers, etc.
I haven't played with it much, and I'm not so much concerned with extra features (like scripting) as with the initial user experience... a poor initial experience which (IMHO) will scare away new (non-MUD) players, though not as quickly as plain telnet. If MUDs want to attract more players, they'll need a nicer newbie experience because (according to the posts I've seen) most players are lost within the first 10-60 minutes, long before they worry about scripting.

Some thoughts from my first few minutes of playing:

- Clicked "Create new character" and it sends me to a web page! Why not do this in the client?

- The web page wasn't working, and I found I could bypass that and just log in. All the "action" appeared to happen in the LL corner, where there's a small window (with small text, in courier) that's standard mud output, which has a fairly direct lineage from teletype. It doesn't need to do this, and could have one window for the room description, another for "events that are happening". (I've seen other MUD/IF clients that do this.) Or how about a separate window for inventory.

- As posted earlier, I'd like to click somewhere (on the words or object list or images) and get a context menu. Instead, I have to type everything. Yes, there are hot-keys, but they're not intiialized to anything.

- In the map window, it shows "This location does not support maps" (in the newbie area). Why can't I see a standard room-as-box and exits-as-lines display? And I should be able to click on the map to move.

- I am given no instructions about what to do. Only because I've played MUDs and IF do I know to type, and what the game is about.

- I type "Examine poster". Doesn't work. "Read poster" doesn't work. "Look at poster" seems to work... if you're going to rely solely on a parser, make a good one. Or bring up help if it looks like I'm clueless about what to do.

- Too many windows, making the game look complicated and scary.

- Font in the windows is small and courier - making it look complicated and scary.

- There is only one font. Why not have a larger font for the room name, italic for directions, etc? (I'm glad they didn't use hot pink and day-glow yellow though.)

- "HP 10/10 Sp:10/10 etc." What does this mean? I know, but it may not be obvious to players. And why is it displayed both in my transcript AND in the UR corner?

- "455 ms" is obviously my ping time, but why is that displayed by default.

- "15:13" - It displays the time in the LR corner. But the time is also displayed on my taskbar. Why add to the clutter.

- Etc.

Again, to emphasize, new non-MUD players don't know all the MUD conventions that you take for granted.

Attached are some screen shots of my client to show you how I think. (I'm sure many people will disagree with my tastes.) Yes, I know there are graphics (and text-to-speech), which many people here don't like, but imagine the same type of less-cluttered UI with only text. Advanced users can turn on more windows, but new players don't need to worry about the clutter. (PS - I'll be uploading a new version of my client, with new content, sometime in the next few months and posting here asking for feedback.)



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Old 04-16-2008, 02:14 AM   #15
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
After many years, I see it the same way. It IS an entirely different concept and style of gaming and to me much more immersed roleplay than any graphic game could hope to achieve. My arguments are not about that though, but rather about why the push to bigger, more functional, more graphic oriented clients? Bat client? Who cares. I don't play MUDS for automapping, graphics, mouse clicks, or multi window interfaces. If I did, I'd be playing the multitude of graphic games that blow mud features out the window.
Fair enough, but my suspicious is that the lack of automapping, mouseclicks, multiwindow interfaces, etc. are losing many potential MUD players. Graphics is a separate issue, and although I prefer an occasional picture, I can easily see a newbie friendly client/MUD being written that doesn't have graphics (barring something like a map).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
What will happen with newer graphic/sound/mapping clients is that your clients (players) will eventually say, "ya man, L33T client dood! It's even starting to catch up with Runescape and WoW. Hey, let's just play WoW, ain't much different!" And unless you are prepared to build a WoW game, you will have oversold yourself.
I agree, trying to evolve MUDs into a MMORPG is not really a good idea. That's already been done once.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
In short. MUDs are text for a reason. They are books. Don't try to make them movies.
I agree that MUDs are books and not movies.

BUT, let me use an example about automapping. The action in most books (barring fantasy) is usually un-tied to place. Sure, you know the characters are in Fred's living room having a discussion, but exactly what the living room looks like, where it is, and its relationship to the bathroom is irrelevant. Maps aren't needed.

In MUDs, that information is very relevant. Even books (mainly fantasy) contain maps when they affect the understanding of the book. Books will often contain small images at the start of the chapter (like a sketch of the entrance to the mines of moria, or the goblet of fire), not necessary, but a nice touch.
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Old 04-16-2008, 08:31 PM   #16
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

I think I disagree about the lack or presence auto-mapping being a feature that drives players away or keeps them. My favorite MMO* had no automapping, and you traveled by learning key landmark features and just knowing the realm. This played a huge role in PvP, and people who could never tell their way around (me) were not allowed to drive. It still remains my favorite MMO to this day.

Now, lots of MMOs have an automapping fuction because there's pretty much no other choice. In a 3D game, you can't really whip out your graph paper and pencil and map out the places you've explored. MUDs are one of the last bastions of the whole graph paper and pencil type of mapping, and lots of gamers still enjoy that. The "scene" setting of a mud happens in room descriptions. Granted, having a nice picture can add to the whole event, but a well-described mud sets the scene very well. Then players add to the scene based on the "room" that they are in.

Honestly, I think the fastest way that a mud loses players is simply that there's a lot of people out there who do not like to read. MMOs give you the option of playing and interacting in a fantasy world without ever really having to read a single word. People who don't read recreationally simply look at a text game and go, "Huh?"

Anyway, I'm rambling a bit. Your client looks very interesting, by the way!
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Old 04-17-2008, 12:24 AM   #17
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeRozak View Post
- And, even if the perfect MUD client were written and admins could convince all their players to use it, it's basically impossible to convert a huge 20K-room MUD to use the new client. There's way too much code/content to fix.
I think this one is pretty irrelevant. If you make a client that has every fracking bell and whistle already in it, then sure, its a problem. But, what I have been trying to manage with Mushclient, if I could ever connect script and object events properly without rewriting the entire client in raw c++, sans MFC, is make it universal in the sense that it "can" support features.

The idea being, if you mud decides to have an MMO style display of the character inventory, either you can adjust "that" data so that its sent differently, negotiate for it with a plugin, or otherwise *only* change it when you need to. The plugin to handle it would consist of the data management to send/receive commands *specific* to that plugin, and all you have to do is create a plugin that has a layout of the window, icons for the items, and the script needed to handle what you can do with it. Then, on the mud end, you have a universal system, possibly extending MXP, since that would be simpler, which would just go:

-negotiation-
// Any version 1.3 or higher, you could do 1.3, 1.7, if 1.8 introduced a new field, for example.
mud: <need=plugin_id, 1.3, +>
client: <have=plugin_id, 1.4>

-uses-
mud:<plugin_id, place=item_num, slot=arm>
client:<plugin_id, dragging=item_num>
client:<plugin_id, place=item_num, slot=bag=1>

Without the plugin in it, it would look and act more or less identical to Mushclient now, but have support for adding your own code, so that, if you wanted, you could even borrow the layout from such a plugin, parse "existing" data, and display an inventory, even though the mud itself doesn't support the plugin at all.

All that data negotiation does is allow the mud to send data to the client in a way that is **certain** the client will display the data in a particular way. But even without a plugin made "by" the mud admins, a client that supported such a script system could allow the user to manufacture one anyway, then just parse the "existing" output into the display. Since things like clicking, dragging, etc. would all be capturable events, you could have them do any behavior you wanted. So, instead of the plugin doing:

Code:
function drag(item, item_name) {
  <plugin_id, dragging=item_num>
}
function drop(item, item_name, location) {
<plugin_id, place=item_num, slot=location>
}
a player could make one that would do this, on a mud that *doesn't*:

Code:
function drag(item, item_name) {
   world->send "remove " .. item_name
}
function drop(item, item_name, location) {
  if location = "bag 1" {
    world->send "open bag 1"
    world->send "put " .. item_name .. "into bag 1"
  }
  else
  {...
Or, something similar, though the code is going to get complicated if you "don't" let the mud handle dealing with moving stuff around, but have to send sets of commands.

Point being, you don't need the admin to code anything, either into the mud, or a plugin. Someone is likely to do it anyway. We have plugins that, in terms of the ones I made:

1. Tell you how many potions you could make, based on how much of each ingredient you have in inventory.
2. Track the lunar cycles, to determine when one mob would appear, and show the moon phase in the status bar.
3. Keep track of how long you have been playing and warn you past a certain point.
4. Track your spells, to determine when they are 10-20 seconds from failure and need renewal.

Others... Have made ones to ghost the world window, so you can send chat and other text there, instead of having it in the main window, and other things. Someone made a mapper for a hex based map, to play a Battletech based mud, which while an external program, is "connected" to the client via a plugin, which runs the mapper, then feeds info back and forth.

Yes, in the perfect world, the admin are going to go, "Heh, and inventory with icons would be real neat!", and code one. In an imperfect world, if it was possible to create on in Mushclient, half the people that use it would already be using/adapting **my** version of one to the muds they play on. That this hasn't happened is entirely due to the fact that it just isn't possible to do at the moment.

So, no, adapting a 20k room mud to "support" something, is a non-issue. Unless its something nuts, like a 3D image of every room, or ambient sounds for areas, or something that "has to be" integrated into every room in the game, all doing so really does is simplify the data handling for the player, many of which will look for a solution, but not write one themselves. Otherwise, *someone* if you give them the tools, *will* code something for you, without even requesting, or possibly even wanting, it.

Last edited by shadowfyr : 04-17-2008 at 12:29 AM.
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Old 04-17-2008, 01:21 AM   #18
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

I'm not sure which worries me more: designing something into our game that states Thou Shalt Only Use MUSHclient in order to play at Legends of Karinth, or designing something into our game that states That Shalt Only Use a Windows Machine in order to play at Legends of Karinth.
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Old 04-17-2008, 04:24 AM   #19
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mina View Post
Honestly, I think the fastest way that a mud loses players is simply that there's a lot of people out there who do not like to read. MMOs give you the option of playing and interacting in a fantasy world without ever really having to read a single word. People who don't read recreationally simply look at a text game and go, "Huh?"
I think graphics are a good way to get more players, but I'm not going to push the issue here because (a) people are on this forum and playing text MUDs because they prefer text. My point about a nicer UI and less-scary newbie experience is somewhat disconnected from graphics. A nicer UI and less-scary experience (without graphics) will go a long way to getting more players.

And (b), creating graphics is expensive and time-consuming, to the point where many people feel it's not possible for a non-paid amateur group of MUD authors to create graphics. For my own project, graphics is limited to faces (which was a lot of work for the first face, but easy for all the others because they're procedurally generated), items (where I use sparse and quickly-drawn models), and buildings/scenery (which isn't really that time consuming to do something quickly). The aspect of content that's been chewing up the largest chunk my time is trying to make the NPCs more lifelike.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mina View Post
Anyway, I'm rambling a bit. Your client looks very interesting, by the way!
I'll be posting looking for feedback on it when I get more done. I keep finding things that need fixing.
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Old 04-17-2008, 04:34 AM   #20
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Re: Are MUDs the clog dancing of online gaming?

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Originally Posted by shadowfyr View Post
Yes, in the perfect world, the admin are going to go, "Heh, and inventory with icons would be real neat!", and code one. In an imperfect world, if it was possible to create on in Mushclient, half the people that use it would already be using/adapting **my** version of one to the muds they play on. That this hasn't happened is entirely due to the fact that it just isn't possible to do at the moment.
Strategically, you'll find the way to do this is to team up with the largest or second-largest MUD to simultaneously write a really good client and make changed to the MUD. Whatever protocols they use will tend to become the de-facto standard.

If you create a wonderful client without the backing of one of the top MUDs, you'll probably find your work ignored.

Trying to design by committe will get you bogged down in a lot of great ideas that no-one is willing to implement (unless you're really skilled at committes or lucky to get the right people on committe).


My own implementation is somewhat similar to what you describe except:
- The server specifies what window to display the text on.
- The text is transferred as (basically) HTML.
- A command (to click) is <a href="inventory>What am I carrying</a>
- If the href has &lt;click&gt; then the client requests that the player click on another object, and <click> is replaced by the object that was clicked on.
- All objects are assigned GUID (16(?)-byte globally unique IDs) for every object, and that's embedded in the HTML.
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