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Old 05-25-2008, 02:54 PM   #1
AirheadGaming
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custom clients. Good or bad?

Greetings everyone! I have spent the last 4 years working on a Mud engine, before scrapping it and starting over fresh. I wrote the new version of the engine in C# with .NET 3.5, and I am currently in the process of finalizing a Gui based tool kit for designing the Mud project. The only thing that concerns me is my lack of knowledge when it comes to telnet and networking. I had planned on writing my own server code, and the server would sit on a couple Windows based servers (or linux when the project port to Mono is completed) and then write a custom client that users will download and use to connect to the server. I thought a custom client would be good, as I can share most of the code between .Net, .Net compact Framework, and Mono, but I suppose cross platform could be easily achieved with a telnet client or PHP based client.

What do you guys think? The goal is to have a version of the engine running on windows & linux, with client support on windows, linux, Mac OSX, Windows Mobile & PalmOS. What are the pro's and cons for running a custom client? If telnet is the best solution, where should I go for documentation on it? I don't know anything about coding telnet.

Thanks in advance!

Johnathon
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Old 05-25-2008, 06:30 PM   #2
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AirheadGaming View Post
What do you guys think? The goal is to have a version of the engine running on windows & linux, with client support on windows, linux, Mac OSX, Windows Mobile & PalmOS. What are the pro's and cons for running a custom client? If telnet is the best solution, where should I go for documentation on it? I don't know anything about coding telnet.
Cons:
  • takes away development time from mud itself
  • barrier to entry for players (either because of extra download required or platform incompatibility).
Pros:
  • UI control
  • brand enhancement

One thing to keep in mind is that if your custom client won't include common functionality of existing telnet clients, you're probably better off just implementing telnet.
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Old 05-25-2008, 08:27 PM   #3
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

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Originally Posted by Ide View Post
Cons:
  • barrier to entry for players (either because of extra download required or platform incompatibility).
Having a client to download is actually barrier removal.

For example, if you have a 'PLAY NOW' button on your front page, or you have a form based login page that immediately starts a client when they submit, you are light years ahead of most MUD's.

Most muds require a player to download a third party client. The person then has to be savvy enough to configure and install. Then they have to figure out how to use this beast to connect to your game (and not someone else's). This is a lot to expect from someone who has never played a MUD before. This problem is one of the biggest barriers facing MUDs.

At the very least you should have a simple custom client that will allow them to connect to your game quickly and easily. The key being quickly and easily.

Once a player is into a game, understands how MUDs work, they will learn about custom clients with more power for what they may want to do.
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Old 05-26-2008, 12:13 AM   #4
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Fewer players willing to try:

Studies on various shareware dev sites has shown that as a client gets larger, it gets fewer download. I think the current sweet spot is 50-100 meg. (NOTE: This is way more than your typical MUD client. :-) )

Flash seems to the popular choice for language today because (according to the wisdom of the forums) almost everyone has Flash installed. (You might want to look at metaplace.) Java seems like the next choice (runescape has done well with this), followed by your own C++/etc.


Customizable UI - I think this is important, but I suggest you go beyond teletype (Teleprinter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) functionality and have multiple windows, maps, etc. (As has been discussed in other posts.) If you're just doing the same-old UI with a pretty background, your own client may not be worth it.
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Old 05-26-2008, 02:35 AM   #5
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Gold jacket, green jacket, who gives a ****.
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Old 05-26-2008, 06:42 AM   #6
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avasyu View Post
Having a client to download is actually barrier removal.
Perhaps - but requiring the download of a specific client, as the OP seems to suggest, is a big entry barrier for muds. Requiring the use of a specific client can also be an entry barrier for experienced mudders, as you have to convince them to stop using their favourite client.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avasyu View Post
Most muds require a player to download a third party client.
Most muds don't require any downloads at all - they work with raw telnet, or can be accessed directly from certain mud sites. The prospective player may be encouraged to download a client, and having a decent custom client can certainly be a big plus (although not so much in terms of reducing the entry barrier), but they are not usually required to download anything before they enter the mud.
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Old 05-26-2008, 07:46 AM   #7
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

I think if a client helps to make a great game, then it is good. For example downloading a client for a 3D game is usually no problem for me as long as there appears to be some quality.

If say you make a text MUD client, and it is worse than zMUD and adds nothing really new then that would make me hesitant to download it. However say I primarily use telnet instead because I don't want to buy a client, then your client could very well become the client of choice if it isn't worse than telnet.

It is fun to download new software .
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Old 05-26-2008, 12:26 PM   #8
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
Perhaps - but requiring the download of a specific client, as the OP seems to suggest, is a big entry barrier for muds. Requiring the use of a specific client can also be an entry barrier for experienced mudders, as you have to convince them to stop using their favourite client.
Agreed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
Most muds don't require any downloads at all - they work with raw telnet, or can be accessed directly from certain mud sites. The prospective player may be encouraged to download a client, and having a decent custom client can certainly be a big plus (although not so much in terms of reducing the entry barrier), but they are not usually required to download anything before they enter the mud.
Lets face it, raw telnet sucks. I even hit a couple site to see how well Vista telnet works, and it would not fire up for any of the game sites I hit. I got a pop up window asking if I wanted to telnet, but it never worked. Of course, I did not try to figure out what was wrong, and I doubt most people would.

The best option for MUD owners is to have a simple flash or java client on their site which can quickly get new players into the game. Nothing that requires installation, it just play right in the webpage. Then move them on to something more powerful.
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Old 05-26-2008, 12:33 PM   #9
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeran View Post
I think if a client helps to make a great game, then it is good. For example downloading a client for a 3D game is usually no problem for me as long as there appears to be some quality.

If say you make a text MUD client, and it is worse than zMUD and adds nothing really new then that would make me hesitant to download it. However say I primarily use telnet instead because I don't want to buy a client, then your client could very well become the client of choice if it isn't worse than telnet.

It is fun to download new software .
Yeah, I agree. Your client is not going to be better then zMUD. (not without a lot of work)

Your best bet is to make a simple client that can be played directly in your webpage. It should have simple alias, macro, and trigger support. It should have clean graphics, status bars, and so on. Something professional looking that will get a player right into the game.

Once a new player learns more about MUD's they are probably going to move up to something more powerful.
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Old 05-26-2008, 01:21 PM   #10
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

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Originally Posted by Avasyu View Post
Your best bet is to make a simple client that can be played directly in your webpage. It should have simple alias, macro, and trigger support. It should have clean graphics, status bars, and so on. Something professional looking that will get a player right into the game.
The question is if you actually want to have macros/triggers . My opinion is that if you feel the game you design requires the player to write macros/triggers then you might need to ponder what the game is about. The game should probably be designed so that triggers aren't needed.
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Old 05-26-2008, 01:59 PM   #11
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

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Originally Posted by Aeran View Post
The question is if you actually want to have macros/triggers . My opinion is that if you feel the game you design requires the player to write macros/triggers then you might need to ponder what the game is about. The game should probably be designed so that triggers aren't needed.
Umm, I disagree. People use triggers and macros ***even for MMOs***. I use a program to track my DPS and everything I have killed in EQ2, by reading the data in the log file (annoying, since it would be a lot nicer to read it directly from the data stream in their client). Suggesting that you need to rework the game if people feel the need to use such things is just.... absurd. There will almost always be some things that you want to display in windows that the mud, even with a custom client, won't display they way you want, information the player wants to keep track of that the client/mud doesn't, or tasks that, no matter how well designed, may be easier to assign to a keypress than having to type them all manually. Its not about "requires", its about, "flexibility", and frankly, the ones that laughably try to ban "any" use of them, instead of just nailing the botters when detected, annoy the hell out of me, as do the ones that insist I have to use their client, because doesn't have scripting, or triggers/macros that are worth anything (being too limited).

But it is a catch-22. The more someone can do with you macro, trigger, alias and script system, the more vigilant you have to be at watching for people botting, but at the same time, the happier the user is with the client they use, when employing "allowed" tricks and helpers. And, *almost everyone* is going to find something they wish they could display differently, work out without using pen and paper, or use to help them in a way the existing mud/client won't, as it stands.
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Old 05-26-2008, 02:02 PM   #12
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Thanks for the tips everyone, the main goal of designing this engine is to make creating MUDs easy, it has a tool kit with a real clean UI with drag and drop support for linking rooms to doors. I don't plan on building a large MUD with it, but rather releasing the MUD for 3rd party developers to make games with.

That being said I would not know where to begin with the telnet side of things, how would I go about writing a server that supports telnet?

As for custom clients, the goal was to provide a new user with a simplified experiance. Alot of times trying to remember all of the commands available or what commands do what can confuse a new player, and thus the reason behind a possible custom client with a UI so the user won't need to enter commands. The client download size should be less than 1MB (not including the .NET framework for windows machines) due to the server containing all of the files. The client should just send a command to the server, server parse it and send back text to display in the console. Am I going about that in the right way? clients should not have any of the game files stored on their local machine to prevent hacking correct?

Thanks again everyone.
Johnathon
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Old 05-26-2008, 02:52 PM   #13
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Yeah, I can't remember who said this, but the quote goes 'always remember the client is in the hands of the enemy'.
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Old 05-26-2008, 03:16 PM   #14
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

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Originally Posted by shadowfyr View Post
Umm, I disagree. People use triggers and macros ***even for MMOs***. I use a program to track my DPS and everything I have killed in EQ2, by reading the data in the log file (annoying, since it would be a lot nicer to read it directly from the data stream in their client).

Suggesting that you need to rework the game if people feel the need to use such things is just.... absurd. There will almost always be some things that you want to display in windows that the mud, even with a custom client, won't display they way you want, information the player wants to keep track of that the client/mud doesn't, or tasks that, no matter how well designed, may be easier to assign to a keypress than having to type them all manually. Its not about "requires", its about, "flexibility", and frankly, the ones that laughably try to ban "any" use of them, instead of just nailing the botters when detected, annoy the hell out of me, as do the ones that insist I have to use their client, because doesn't have scripting, or triggers/macros that are worth anything (being too limited).
A lot of the display needs can be handled by easier methods than advanced triggers. For example the server could handle different ways to send the output to the client. In e.g MXP I believe you can set client side variables as an example how it could be done.

It is when the triggers are capable of sending data back to the MUD you start to get very close to automating gameplay. If you look at some scripts on Zugg Software's forum you can see that some of it is pretty questionable. Atleast if you would like to run a game that is somewhat fair to users both with and without zMUD.


Quote:
But it is a catch-22. The more someone can do with you macro, trigger, alias and script system, the more vigilant you have to be at watching for people botting, but at the same time, the happier the user is with the client they use, when employing "allowed" tricks and helpers. And, *almost everyone* is going to find something they wish they could display differently, work out without using pen and paper, or use to help them in a way the existing mud/client won't, as it stands.
In some rpgs I have played botting has been so common that real play is rare. When you look at how some of those games are designed many of them almost force you to consider write a bot to endure the gameplay . That's in my opinion the kind of gameplay to avoid designing.
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Old 05-26-2008, 04:26 PM   #15
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

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Originally Posted by Avasyu View Post
I even hit a couple site to see how well Vista telnet works, and it would not fire up for any of the game sites I hit. I got a pop up window asking if I wanted to telnet, but it never worked.
Vista comes with telnet (client and server), but it is disabled by default.

To enable it you have to:
1) Click Start
2) Click Control Panel
3) Select Programs and Features
4) Select Turn Windows Features on or off
7) Click the checkbox beside the telnet client
6) Click OK

Hope that helps.
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Old 05-26-2008, 04:34 PM   #16
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

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Originally Posted by AirheadGaming View Post
That being said I would not know where to begin with the telnet side of things, how would I go about writing a server that supports telnet?
Couple links to get you started:
Wikipedia on Telnet
Sourceforge project - .NET Telnet

Google is my friend!
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Old 05-27-2008, 01:24 PM   #17
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Thanks for the links and info, I'll take a look at it. Maybe the best thing to do is instead of writing my own networking engine, write it all to work with telnet, provide a custom client as an optional download, but still allow the game to be played through traditional telnet clients or php based web pages for those that have clients they prefer.
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Old 05-27-2008, 03:39 PM   #18
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeran View Post
A lot of the display needs can be handled by easier methods than advanced triggers. For example the server could handle different ways to send the output to the client. In e.g MXP I believe you can set client side variables as an example how it could be done.

It is when the triggers are capable of sending data back to the MUD you start to get very close to automating gameplay. If you look at some scripts on Zugg Software's forum you can see that some of it is pretty questionable. Atleast if you would like to run a game that is somewhat fair to users both with and without zMUD.


In some rpgs I have played botting has been so common that real play is rare. When you look at how some of those games are designed many of them almost force you to consider write a bot to endure the gameplay . That's in my opinion the kind of gameplay to avoid designing.
This is true, and a "lot" if it can be solved by incorporating in features like MMOs have, like command toolbars, auto-targetting, etc. But, like I said, you still get cases where something is just a pain in a backside to do in the game, or the information you are looking for is not easily kept track of via the client.

Some simply can't be though, without having at least "some" questionable interactions. The rule the mud I played at has is, "It can send commands, as long as all you do with the result is display information, or do things that do not directly effect game play." This means you could have a trigger "set" the name to be used to heal someone, based on some event, but you still have to "cast" the spell. You can send commands to check your inventory, to make sure you put away all your stuff, as a sequence of things needed to log off, but *you* have to issue the command that starts that sequence of events. If it was something in combat, instead of a log off, that would be even more restricted, you can't have one command cast a series of buffs, but you could have triggers register the fact that you did cast the spells, then set timers to warn you when they where about to need to be recast. The timers **cannot** recast them though. At one point I even came up with a joke, based on sending multiple lines through tells, where my tell would respond like an NPC and display a price list for made up items. Other people grabbed the idea and set of shops to sell extra items they collected. This has become redundant (mostly), and there are now restrictions preventing multiple lines being sent over anything "except" tells, where its still allowed. But, its one case where technically the client "is" doing something one its own, completely separate from the user, but it has *zero* impact on actual game play. (Unless you consider telling people you have a piece of armor for sale as "effecting advancement". lol)

I don't know, I just like to have "some" control over what my client is doing and the ability to tweak some things to fit how I play. Limiting what the client can do, severely messes with that ability.
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Old 05-27-2008, 03:47 PM   #19
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

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I don't know, I just like to have "some" control over what my client is doing and the ability to tweak some things to fit how I play. Limiting what the client can do, severely messes with that ability.
I guess one way to go between the both solutions is to have an API on the server the client user can access, e.g remote procedures similar to xmlrpc. It would give huge advantages to retrieving information to display, but still make it possible to limit bot-style scripts.
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Old 05-28-2008, 01:25 AM   #20
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Re: custom clients. Good or bad?

A custom client is the ultimate way to go. Muds need to come into the 21st century and use all the tools available to them and a custom client is certainly one of those tools.

That said, if all your going to do with the client is to offer a dull black screen and a connect button aka any telnet app out there, and by app i mean everything from windows telnet to zmud and mushclient then you might as well just embed some dumb java app into a website and call that connectivity.


Take a look at the Bat Mud Client for inspiration, those guys have written a truly amazing client for their mud. Its has good features and is easy to use and enhances the game play experience.

If you ever wish to gain players from outside the mud community you need to start offer non mudding players something that they understand. The understand download client, or click here to play, they don't need confusion of telnet or download someone else's client and try and work out how the hell to connect to the game you wanted to play. A mud client should be like every other game out there, you click start and your in the welcome screen with the press to connect button.

I have run some small scale tests on this with my children, their friends and with 2 classes of year 7 students (12 year olds) at school i have access too, using my own test muds website as an example. I found from talking with them that they find it confusing to have to download a 3rd party program and connect to a mud, 85% of them were happy to click the play now and use The Bean Client and none of them could work out how to use mushclient even when it was installed already for them.
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