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Old 04-29-2010, 01:35 PM   #1
Samio
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Red face RP Intensive mud with no need for description

I know it may be a big request, but I'll ask it anyway: I want an RP-Intensive mud with, as the title states, no need for description, I.E: When you press look you see this. I don't care whether it's a Mush or not, I just want something I can just play but is in a serious environment. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and VERY sorry if this is in the wrong section.
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Old 04-29-2010, 04:55 PM   #2
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

This forum is for discussing "New directions in RPGs and advanced concepts in MUD development". If you're interested in talking about different approaches to descriptions (such as hand-written vs generated, or dynamic vs static) then this would be the appropriate place. If you want people to recommend some games you should repost in the "Advertising for Players" forum.

From a game design perspective I'm a big fan of dynamically generated descriptions - not just for geographical locations, but also for objects and creatures (and even help files). But many of the more hardcore roleplayers I've encountered seem to favour hand-written descriptions, and often prefer their descriptions to be static as well. They also seem to be very big on writing their own character descriptions, while I prefer to generate descriptions for everyone.

If you browse through the forums you can probably find some interesting debates about the merits of the different approaches, some of them quite heated.
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Old 04-29-2010, 05:18 PM   #3
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
From a game design perspective I'm a big fan of dynamically generated descriptions - not just for geographical locations, but also for objects and creatures (and even help files). But many of the more hardcore roleplayers I've encountered seem to favour hand-written descriptions, and often prefer their descriptions to be static as well. They also seem to be very big on writing their own character descriptions, while I prefer to generate descriptions for everyone.
I'm against dynamic descriptions for the simple fact that they start to become routine after awhile. Imagine an author writing a book with 100 variants in descriptives and just letting the computer ad hoc them in. Yuck. I view MUDs as artistic creations, not computer generated landscapes. Though, I'll not argue that some games could benefit from this style and even makes creation many times simpler. I also won't argue that some games would be more prone to fully automated character creation including descriptions, but I'm not a fan of it.
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Old 04-29-2010, 06:37 PM   #4
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

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I'm against dynamic descriptions for the simple fact that they start to become routine after awhile.
Are you sure you're not talking about generated descriptions? A dynamic description can be generated or hand-written, and I've yet to see a static description that couldn't be improved by having dynamic elements added to it. The only drawback of dynamic descriptions is that they increase the amount of work, but if you didn't want to invest time and effort into your descriptions I'm guessing you wouldn't bother writing any at all (some muds do take this approach as well, although I'm not fond of it).

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Imagine an author writing a book with 100 variants in descriptives and just letting the computer ad hoc them in. Yuck.
Imagine an author with no literary skill or talent writing a book. Yuck.

Generated or hand-written, a bad description is still a bad description. But hopefully a mud with hand-written descriptions would recruit builders that produce at least passable resuls - just as a mud with generated descriptions would hopefully implement a system that produced at least passable results.

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I view MUDs as artistic creations, not computer generated landscapes.
Sure, but they're also interactive games. I think there are clear benefits in making muds feel more immersive, and tailoring the descriptions to the viewer is an effective way of doing that.

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Though, I'll not argue that some games could benefit from this style and even makes creation many times simpler.
Generated descriptions shift the effort - there's still quite a lot of work involved, but once the system is in place you can leave it to create most of the descriptions for you (depending on how much of it is generated of course - you may well want to incorporate hand-written elements into many of the descriptions as well). On the other hand, dynamic hand-written descriptions will increase your workload, although personally I think the results can be worthwhile.

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I also won't argue that some games would be more prone to fully automated character creation including descriptions, but I'm not a fan of it.
It does open doors though - for example if you want descriptions to reflect what the PCs actually look like (as opposed to what they say they look like), generated descriptions can change on-the-fly to reflect shapechanging, wounds, worn equipment, and so on. This means that looking at someone actually gives you reliable and useful information about them.

In my first mud, most people left their descriptions blank, or filled them with ASCII art, offensive messages or combat logs. Perhaps its different for roleplaying muds, particularly those where people take great pains to write out lengthy descriptions and background stories - but for my style of game (where there is no roleplaying and no rules) I felt the benefits far outweighed the drawbacks, and I've yet to hear a single complaint about it.
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Old 04-29-2010, 07:06 PM   #5
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

I'm not quite sure I understand the OP, but guessing that Samio means a RPI where you don't have to write lengthy descriptions for your character, IIRC Armageddon doesn't have a requirement for a long history or character desc. I think I wrote 2 or 3 paragraphs when I made a character there and that's it.

Unfortunately, as KaVir noted, it seems like most RPIs and mushes require lengthy descriptions and histories. As a writing exercise that's OK, but in practice most of these don't end up being that good IMO.

I think it's rather odd to say that generated descriptions can get routine -- wouldn't static descriptions get routine too? The simple fact is that all text in a mud is going to get stale after a while, because by the nature of the beast text gets repeated. If you take this to its illogical conclusion you'd want no descriptions, as then you could rely on players to create new content for you. Dynamic descriptions, however, can not only break up the monotony a bit, they sometimes serve a useful gameplay function that's not just cosmetic.

What I find interesting is that a player who may not be able or willing to write good descriptions/histories often can be very fun to RP with, whether it's because of their personality, dramatic ability, spontaneity, humor, etc -- things that don't often find expression in a static description.

If there was a mud with minimal descriptions but RP required, I'd definitely check it out.
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Old 04-29-2010, 07:26 PM   #6
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

Interesting topic. It caught me entirely off-guard, which is surprising.

I'd honestly never considered which is better. In my mind it's so completely obvious that they are both better in the right situations. For that reason, I'd never even considered whether my MUD should use one or the other.

For the most part, we use hand-written descriptions. This makes it easy for any builder to start making items and locations without needing coding skills. As the builders advance in skill, we teach them to make use of dynamic descriptions, and then how to set up new dynamic descriptions for themselves.

Almost every item has some "default" dynamic properties, such as "color" or "material" which are used in the descriptions. This allows us to have hand-written descriptions of an item, say, a spear, and mention the steel spearhead, and wooden shaft. But that item can then be re-used in other situations. Say there is a plot about the emperors elite guard, and we want to make the guard stand apart. We can very easily set the property of the guard's spears to be black-lacquered spearheads with bronze shafts. Or whatever. In the short term, it's minimal extra work to make use of the dynamic properties, and in the long term it means we can have almost unlimited variations on the items, allowing pretty much every player in the game to have easy access to custom items.

The balance of generated description vs handwritten description also varies based on the item. Our clothing is extremely customizable, using in-game skills. A skilled tailor can get various materials, dye the material to the color they want, make various garments, add buttons (each potentially with their own color and material... for example, when making a coat for a captain you might put gold anchor-shaped buttons on it...), add trimming, add lining, etc. - in a case like that the description will be much more heavily generated than in a case like the spear.

We plan on releasing a new area into the game soon, that will be procedurally generated. Each room will, obviously, have a generated description. But even that generated description will be built up from hand-written descriptions. I honestly have trouble seeing the line between one and the other.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
It does open doors though - for example if you want descriptions to reflect what the PCs actually look like (as opposed to what they say they look like), generated descriptions can change on-the-fly to reflect shapechanging, wounds, worn equipment, and so on. This means that looking at someone actually gives you reliable and useful information about them.
Why can't you have both?
You can list what they say they look like, and then mention the generated content.
"You see Silvarilon.
He is totally buff and awesome and wrote this description of himself. Arrogant, isn't he? He also has a totally square jaw.
Silvarilon's right hand is dripping blood, and his left leg has been punctured with a spear.
Silvarilon is wearing a guard's uniform and a black cloak."

In the case of shapechanging, a generated description can temporarily replace their custom description, until they change back.

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
In my first mud, most people left their descriptions blank, or filled them with ASCII art, offensive messages or combat logs. Perhaps its different for roleplaying muds, particularly those where people take great pains to write out lengthy descriptions and background stories - but for my style of game (where there is no roleplaying and no rules) I felt the benefits far outweighed the drawbacks, and I've yet to hear a single complaint about it.
I'm quite horrified by that! I've only played in RP intensive muds, but seen enough of that sort of player on graphical games, so I'm not so surprised.
In ICO the description is generated based on what the player inputs from choices (e.g. "choose your body type") so it's not an issue, but even if we allowed it, I'd be very surprised if the players didn't self-police themselves.
So I suspect it is a very different attitude on RP muds.

Maybe that different attitude also factors into the hand written vs generated discussion? Do the players of one type of mud have a different preference to the other, perhaps?
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Old 04-29-2010, 07:42 PM   #7
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

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Originally Posted by Ide View Post
I'm not quite sure I understand the OP, but guessing that Samio means a RPI where you don't have to write lengthy descriptions for your character, IIRC Armageddon doesn't have a requirement for a long history or character desc. I think I wrote 2 or 3 paragraphs when I made a character there and that's it.
Oh, wow. I totally didn't understand that's what was being asked.

I assumed that requiring a lengthy description or history of your character was the exception, not the rule.

(I was thinking he wanted a MUD without either hand-written OR generated descriptions. I was imagining someone who didn't speak English well and wanted minimal reading, or someone blind using a screen reader, or something...)

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What I find interesting is that a player who may not be able or willing to write good descriptions/histories often can be very fun to RP with, whether it's because of their personality, dramatic ability, spontaneity, humor, etc -- things that don't often find expression in a static description.
Certainly!
Or they may contribute to the game in other ways, such as reliably roleplaying a craftsman, and providing an in-game service to the other characters, even if the roleplay of ordering an item from them isn't always edge-of-your-seat gripping.

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If there was a mud with minimal descriptions but RP required, I'd definitely check it out.
That's what I run. Ironclaw Online - Ironclaw Online: Anthropomorphic roleplay in Renaissance cities
You have to get through a few pages of choices when making a character, but it's all selected from drop-down lists, and only takes a few minutes. And then you're thrown into the game.

It's RP required, we expect the players to maintain a high standard - but don't have any sort of approval or writing requirements beforehand. For the most part the expectation of the other players is that there will be a high standard of roleplay, and almost everyone who plays either learns by example or decides the game isn't for them.

It is pay-to-play after the first month. But feel free to sign up for a trial account and play for a month. I wouldn't expect anyone to pay a cent if they aren't certain that it's value for money. If that turns you off, I also totally understand. (I find having a cost to playing helps us avoid problem players. It means all the ongoing players have an investment in the game.) (And no, I don't see a cent of the money. I build the game because I enjoy it...)

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I think it's rather odd to say that generated descriptions can get routine -- wouldn't static descriptions get routine too? The simple fact is that all text in a mud is going to get stale after a while, because by the nature of the beast text gets repeated. If you take this to its illogical conclusion you'd want no descriptions, as then you could rely on players to create new content for you. Dynamic descriptions, however, can not only break up the monotony a bit, they sometimes serve a useful gameplay function that's not just cosmetic.
You're right, all text gets routine.
I think the idea of "generated descriptions gets routine" is in the sense that, imagine there is a forest path. If it's hand-written, presumably every room has a different hand-written description that I can read if I walk down the path. I might notice something unusual in one while reading it. I will probably only read each room description once, so it doesn't "get routine" even though it's not changing.
If it's generated (and not generated in an interesting way) then maybe each room looks like it has the same description. Sure, sentences like "You are surrounded by three trees" might say "eight trees" in the next room, but it's not really giving me something new to read. In that case, I'd probably just scan the descriptions looking for something unusual that I can make use of, rather than reading them to get a sense of place and setting.

Of course, that makes the assumption that the generated descriptions won't be interesting to read. As Kavir points out, bad writing is bad writing, whether generated or not.
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Old 04-29-2010, 08:54 PM   #8
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

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Originally Posted by silvarilon View Post
Why can't you have both?
You can list what they say they look like, and then mention the generated content.
"You see Silvarilon.
He is totally buff and awesome and wrote this description of himself. Arrogant, isn't he? He also has a totally square jaw.
Silvarilon's right hand is dripping blood, and his left leg has been punctured with a spear.
Silvarilon is wearing a guard's uniform and a black cloak."
I suppose I could, but I prefer generating the lot - it's more consistent and it avoids the sort of sillyness I mentioned earlier. Besides, some of the descriptions can already get pretty long.

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Originally Posted by silvarilon View Post
In the case of shapechanging, a generated description can temporarily replace their custom description, until they change back.
But if it's an alternative form they may end up using it more frequently than their "original" shape. This is very much the case in my mud, for example, where many characters are built around a specific shapechanging ability.

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In ICO the description is generated based on what the player inputs from choices (e.g. "choose your body type") so it's not an issue, but even if we allowed it, I'd be very surprised if the players didn't self-police themselves.
I allow players to select choices about their appearance as well, but I don't think self-policing would work very well for me.
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Old 04-29-2010, 09:39 PM   #9
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
From a game design perspective I'm a big fan of dynamically generated descriptions - not just for geographical locations, but also for objects and creatures (and even help files). But many of the more hardcore roleplayers I've encountered seem to favour hand-written descriptions, and often prefer their descriptions to be static as well. They also seem to be very big on writing their own character descriptions, while I prefer to generate descriptions for everyone.
I think a combination of all three levels of dynamic generation is good.

Fully Dynamic:
I know we're generating the vast bulk of our highways and ocean rooms almost completely automatically. We have literally tends of thousands of the latter and no one is going to sit there descing them all, especially given that the only way those descriptions would ever be read would be if your character fell overboard... in the few agonizing moments before it drowned.

Half/Half:
I think this is what you touched on later, regarding including dynamic elements in descriptions. I think we've tended to use this more for mobs than for rooms, but it can definitely spice up both.

None:
The artistic expression others were talking about. Sometimes you really do just want a paragraph of lovingly hand crafted descriptive text to tell people what they see in a given room.
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Old 04-30-2010, 01:00 AM   #10
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

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I allow players to select choices about their appearance as well, but I don't think self-policing would work very well for me.
Ah, but you already mentioned that your game doesn't have policing.

Self-policing only works when there is also some absolute level of policing to back it up.
Players can tell each other how to behave, but sooner or later you'll get two players disagreeing, and you'll then need some authority that can decide what the game expectations are. And potentially enforce the expectations.
Without that authority, the players will each do their own thing and just disagree, and the self-policing will break down as more and more other players also buck the trend.

I am confident players would self-police descriptions and not put ascii images or log files, because I know that if a player did that they would be corrected by the other players, and if they refused to change they would be referred to staff who'd insist on the change.

What I'm not confident on is that they would self-police to a more subtle degree. I suspect we'd get a lot of "stunningly beautiful" characters, each with descriptions trying to outdo the next.

As a related question, do you guys have any tools to help make dynamic descriptions easier?

In ICO we can drop code into the descriptions, and use that to make dynamic content. We can also display properties stored in the object. But we also have "tags" that I pre-prepare for our staff.

An example is <quality>
So if a builder writes: A rucksack. <quality>
then it would display as "A rucksack. It is good quality."
It's a useful shortcut because a lot of items have quality ratings.
We also have seasons (which change automatically) as well as time of day, and have tags to use them in the descriptions. For example:

A small clearing in the woods<winter>, covered in a thick layer of snow</winter>. <summer>You hear the song of birds in the trees.</summer> <night>The clearing provides a welcome patch of moonlight in the otherwise pitch-dark forest.</night>

As you can see, it doesn't take any coding skills to make a rather dynamic description. As long as the writer is using the pre-prepared tags. Do you know of any other tricks or ideas to help writers easily make dynamic descriptions? I'm always eager to make their workload lighter and give them more options
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Old 04-30-2010, 05:47 AM   #11
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

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I think a combination of all three levels of dynamic generation is good.
What you call "dynamic" is what I would refer to as "generated". Let me requote an old post of mine, as I think it explains the distinction fairly well:

Quote:
The usual divide is "static vs dynamic" and "hand-written vs generated".

Most muds use static hand-written descriptions. A builder writes them, and that's what everyone sees.

I personally consider dynamic hand-written descriptions to provide the best solution, although they also require the most work - a builder writes them, but includes text-replacement tags and conditional checks so that the description is customised for each viewer.

The worst solution is static generated descriptions, which are often used as filler for vast wilderness systems. They are generated based on various criteria, often on-the-fly, but always look the same to every viewer.

A better way to handle vast wilderness systems is with dynamic generated descriptions. These are also generated on-the-fly, but are also modified for each viewer. This is particularly worthwhile for wilderness systems because it allows you to refer to things like the weather, the position of the sun and moon, and so on. Without including that, the description tends to be all padding rather than useful information.

I'd also like to stress the point I made earlier: Adding the option for dynamic descriptions doesn't mean you have to change any of the existing descriptions. It just means you have that option available should you want it.

For example you might decide you're perfectly happy with the current descriptions, and leave them as they are. But the next time you're writing an area, you might find yourself thinking "I'd really like to mention the sun shining in through the hole in the roof of the ziggurat and illuminating the ancient runes on the floor, but that would only happen at midday, so I can't really include that"...except now you can. And better still, you can even reveal what the runes say, if the viewer also happens to understand the language.


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Ah, but you already mentioned that your game doesn't have policing.

Self-policing only works when there is also some absolute level of policing to back it up.
Ah I see what you mean - in this case, yes, I agree. However my players do self-police certain activities (such as botting), even though there are no official rules against it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by silvarilon View Post
In ICO we can drop code into the descriptions, and use that to make dynamic content. We can also display properties stored in the object. But we also have "tags" that I pre-prepare for our staff.
Yes, I use tags extensively - for all messages, not just descriptions. Eg even combat messages would be written as "{name} drives {his/her} {weapon} over {his/her} {other.weapon} and through {opponent}'s {opponent.eye}, {frying} {opponent.his/her} {opponent.brain}!"

Quote:
Originally Posted by silvarilon View Post
We also have seasons (which change automatically) as well as time of day, and have tags to use them in the descriptions. For example:

A small clearing in the woods<winter>, covered in a thick layer of snow</winter>. <summer>You hear the song of birds in the trees.</summer> <night>The clearing provides a welcome patch of moonlight in the otherwise pitch-dark forest.</night>
Very nice, but I would consider those dynamic hand-written descriptions. When I talk about generated descriptions, I'm talking about the mud assembling the parts. For example, a description of your current location would be assembled in four sections, which I'll colour-code here to make the distinction clearer:

Section 1: Viewer's position (standing, walking, flying, etc), season and terrain.

Section 2: Time and terrain.

Section 3: Weather and terrain.

Section 4: Optional hand-written area description (season and day/night specific).

When combined, they give a paragraph like this:

You are walking through Whispering Wood, the leaves on the trees a mottled brown from the onset of autumn. Many leaves have already fallen to the ground, and they crunch beneath your boots with every step. The sun is beginning to rise on the eastern horizon, its red glow barely visible through the tall trees. Flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder fill the night air, framed against the backdrop of incessant rain which falls through the tree branches overhead before pattering on the ground. Your cloak flaps wildly in the wind, providing little protection against the pouring rain. The trees in this part of the forest are tall and sturdy, their great trunks towering high above you.

Likewise most character descriptions are split into six sections:

Section 1: Appearance (or face armour) and hair (or head armour).
Section 2: Body, arms and forearms equipment (or naked upper body).
Section 3: Waist, groin, legs, shins and feet equipment (or naked lower body).
Section 4: Height and stance.
Section 5: Held weapons and hand-worn armour.
Section 6: Sheathed weapons.

Note that sections 2 and 3 may sometimes be merged, while 5 and 6 are optional. This system is only used for humanoid creatures - other shapechanged forms have their own special rules. But put these together, and you end up with:

He is reasonably attractive, with pale white skin, glowing red eyes and long curly black hair which reaches his bare shoulders, held away from his face with a bandanna. Thin lines of dark runes cover his cheeks and naked upper body, tracing the muscles of his chest, coiling around his bare arms and twisting across his flat stomach. He has a pair of trousers tucked into his boots, with a black sash tied around his waist and greaves strapped over his shins. He is nearly six and a half feet tall, and seems quite agile on his feet. A pair of knives are strapped to his forearms.

Or:

A pair of steely grey eyes gaze out through the slit in his closed visor, which conceals his facial features, and the hood of his cloak is drawn up over the rest of his head. He is wearing a breastplate over his chainmail shirt, and a pair of bracers are strapped to his forearms. He has a codpiece over his trousers, which are tucked into his boots, with a belt tied around his waist and greaves strapped over his shins. He is nearly five and a half feet tall, and rides his nightmare with grace and balance. He is holding a black aegis shield in his gloved left hand. A wand is strapped to his belt, while a pair of target shields are slung across his back.

Etc.
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Old 05-13-2010, 09:57 AM   #12
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

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I know it may be a big request, but I'll ask it anyway: I want an RP-Intensive mud with, as the title states, no need for description, I.E: When you press look you see this. I don't care whether it's a Mush or not, I just want something I can just play but is in a serious environment. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Oh, and VERY sorry if this is in the wrong section.
These are contradictory requests. To have one you can't have the other. You might be able to find some RPEs which don't require a description but in my experience the less a player is expected to invest in their character, the worse the RP experience. Besides, is it really that hard to write a couple lines describing a character's appearance? It's not bloody Shakespeare after all.
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Old 05-17-2010, 03:43 PM   #13
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Re: RP Intensive mud with no need for description

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Originally Posted by prof1515 View Post
These are contradictory requests. To have one you can't have the other. You might be able to find some RPEs which don't require a description but in my experience the less a player is expected to invest in their character, the worse the RP experience. Besides, is it really that hard to write a couple lines describing a character's appearance? It's not bloody Shakespeare after all.
It is very true what you are saying, but think about the backgrounds and all that like in Armageddon. Eventually, I'll run out of ideas, and what then?
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