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Old 11-16-2010, 05:43 PM   #1
Justin534
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The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

Ok, this thread originally started here Yet Another RPI Thread ...but dont let the name of the topic fool you there was a bit of confusion on my part on the term RPI and I'm now moving the conversation here.

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Old 11-16-2010, 08:54 PM   #2
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

Categorizing muds is just such a hard thing to do successfully. I mean, you could say "I'm looking for a DIKU" and end up with several hundred possible selections, and you might only like one or two of them. So - you can narrow it down - okay - if the choice was "required RP", or "RP allowed" or "not a RP game" - then I want it to be required. So that narrows it down to um - only a couple hundred instead of several hundred. Now let's see - do I want any specific theme? Well - actually. I don't want spaceships or anything modern, no guns, no steampunk.. but how do I filter that out? I'm open to anything else, but I definitely don't want those things.

If I -could- filter those things out, I might find - only a hundred to choose from now.

Okay so out of that hundred, I really don't want to have to try more than a handful before finding my perfect game. My perfect game has at -least- 30 people playing actively during peak time. That means - not people who log in and go idle for 3 hours, but rather, people who are actively there, able to respond to things that show up on their screen. That leaves us with - let's say, 40 games. 40 games that are RP required, with a minimum of 30 people actively on average during peak time, made with a DIKU (or at least based on DIKU - we'll assume derivitives count in this example), that don't involve spaceships, guns, or modern themes.

Now what else. I want my chosen game to have a website where I can find information about the game, and help files, and tips and hints, maybe a run-through, explanation of the game world and the theme, contact information, etc.

That narrows it down to 30 games. I want permanent death. Not "permanent death, except when you..." or "permanent death, but some people can..." I want permanent death. Once your character is dead, they're dead. A resurrection might be available if the game crashed or there was a bug in the code and your character died as a result, but no IC devices to justify resurrections, period.

Aha - we got 8 games to pick from now.

The problem with all of the above, is HOW do we pick categories that people will want to have to select from? Not everyone will have the same criteria - but really, we're all narrowing down our options based on our interests. You have to start with a broad stroke - but which stroke? The codebase? Whether or not it's RP-enforced? Whether or not it's permanent death? Whether or not there are classes? Whether or not human is a playable race? Whether or not it's VERY colorful and you have to use the java client and cannot turn color off? Where do you start, and what options do you give people to select from, in order for them to narrow it down to a reasonable number of games to try?
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Old 11-16-2010, 09:14 PM   #3
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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That MSSP info you gave me is quite interesting, especially for getting accurate numbers on how many players are onine. The only down side is that it has to be implemented on the server, and if I were to create a requirement that the MUD has to support MSSP I may severely limit the amount of MU*s in the directory. However, I could always just leave it open as an option and tag listings that use MSSP so perhaps they stick out more...perhaps something like the number of average players on a MU* could say next to in verified or unverified, depending on if the server is using MSSP.
I'm in favor of MSSP (even though my MUD doesn't have it...)

Although mud designers can still cheat, it's a very different thing to doctor the statistics to the usual "over-estimating" - average number of players? We had fifty last week. That sounds good! - easy to do, even without bad intentions. MSSP is therefore likely going to give much better results.

I'm not sure how to best handle muds that don't have MSSP. For things like "genre" that would be set by the mud admin, you can just let them fill it on webpage. For things like player numbers, I'd be inclined to not let them fill it in. MSSP or nothing. Anyone can still search for their MUD in the directory, but their mud wouldn't show up if someone searches for, e.g. "muds with over 20 average players"

If the admins want their mud to have that information, they can implement MSSP. If that sounds harsh, remember that I'm one of the admins without it
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Old 11-17-2010, 01:38 AM   #4
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

I'd like to see something like a combination of MUDStats.Com: statistics and infomation on MUD/MUCK/MUSH/MUX/MOO games and a review/rating site like The Interactive Fiction Database - IF and Text Adventures.
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Old 11-17-2010, 02:50 AM   #5
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

I was just thinking that it's probably sensible to mine mudstats, either as a starting list, or just as a way to get the daily data. Maybe have some sort of "By submitting your MUD here, you understand it will also be included on mudstats.org" - which is probably a good thing, let mud admins get more exposure when they don't necessarily know about the different mud-related services.
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Old 11-17-2010, 10:59 AM   #6
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

I'd suggest MSSP as well - it's what MudStats uses for playerbase size (when available), and it would allow you to instantly populate your list with over 40 mud entries, including fields that don't exist on the TMC or TMS listings. You'd probably need to expand manually from there, but it would give you a decent head start and a unique gimmick.
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Old 11-17-2010, 11:50 AM   #7
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

It's common to see a bot on the who lists of mushes that acts as a mud listing service/dictionary/etc. In combination with mssp you could write a bot that does much the same thing (at least for player numbers and maybe some other things, like help files). If it's bringing players to their mud I'd guess most mud owners would be fine with it.
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Old 11-17-2010, 02:04 PM   #8
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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I was just thinking that it's probably sensible to mine mudstats, either as a starting list, or just as a way to get the daily data. Maybe have some sort of "By submitting your MUD here, you understand it will also be included on mudstats.org" - which is probably a good thing, let mud admins get more exposure when they don't necessarily know about the different mud-related services.
Also, if I were to make a directory/MUD listing site by itself few people might take notice of it and choose to submit their MU*s, even if it did have unique features for search and indexing. Ultimately, any directory only has as much value as the amount of listings it has (for those that use it for search) and the amount of site traffic (for those that seek exposure). On the other hand if I could associate the directory with an already existing and known MUD related site, like MudStats.org, creating a connection between the two it could give the site some prominence right from the start. Further proliferation of MSSP could only be a good thing as well, as there doesn't seem to be any other protocol for indexing MU*s that I am aware of, and it would be nice to have a standard.
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Old 11-17-2010, 07:37 PM   #9
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

I don't know what MSSP means, but from a user's point of view, if I was looking up muds in a search directory, I wouldn't be caring how many players there are on average. I would care how many players there are on average, *during the time I want to play.*

Because, if there are 80 players on average, and these 80 players play on average between midnite and 9am EST, then I won't be playing that game. Because, I will be the only player, on average, playing during my usual play time - which is some time OTHER than between midnite and 9am EST.

Again, this is why it's so difficult to categorize muds. I would -need- to rule out games where I'd be the only player during the times *I* normally play, regardless of the size of the playerbase. I don't use mud searches currently, and never have, for this reason. Because I can't filter what I -don't- want, I can only include what I -do- want. And that just takes way too long to narrow down my choices.
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Old 11-17-2010, 08:57 PM   #10
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

It does appear MSSP would allow you to collect data about peak playing times, and not just a simple average.

Heres an example TrekMUSH: Among the Stars is a Star Trek MUSH with 52 average players connected.
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Old 11-18-2010, 12:07 AM   #11
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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The only down side is that it has to be implemented on the server, and if I were to create a requirement that the MUD has to support MSSP I may severely limit the amount of MU*s in the directory.
While implementing the telnet option can be pretty intimidating, the plain text version is easy to add. One benefit of only allowing MSSP servers is that there's no need to verify ownership.

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Can I assume Areas, Helpfiles, mobiles, objects, rooms are pulled directly from the MUD database itself and are not numbers set my the MUD administrator?
I think most MUDs report their database statistics, some use preset numbers, and a few report -1 to indicate that the information is not available.


I think the biggest advantage of MSSP is that it'll allow real competition between mud listings once the critical mass is reached.

The biggest remaining challenge is the variable list. I think everyone figured to let that rest as getting the actual protocol worked out over at MudBytes was a somewhat tiring and frustrating experience. Then there was the mudstandards drama that sucked the life out of at least half a dozen people. I'd definitely like to get some feedback on a bunch of categorization ideas I've milled around in my head.
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Old 11-18-2010, 11:10 AM   #12
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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I think the biggest advantage of MSSP is that it'll allow real competition between mud listings once the critical mass is reached.
Can you elaborate on this a bit?

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I'd definitely like to get some feedback on a bunch of categorization ideas I've milled around in my head.
Definitely! Thats why I made this thread, I'll also come up with a list of different attributes I've been thinking about as well and we can compare notes when I'm not as tired as I am right now. So I assume your one of the leads working on MSSP?
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Old 11-19-2010, 09:43 AM   #13
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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Can you elaborate on this a bit?
Right now TMC lists the largest number of MUDs with a pretty large data set, making it the #1 site to go to to find a MUD. New mud listings might create better data sets, but they'd have a hard time getting more than 100 muds to register. I think MSSP has the best chance of breaking that monopoly, and provide a (hopefully) better data set.

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So I assume your one of the leads working on MSSP?
MSSP is my brainchild, and I maintain the specification page which ties all work by other parties together. Some people call it a community effort as mud listings and mud servers can do as they please, but when it comes down to things I typically have the final say so far, though I try to make everyone happy.

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Definitely! Thats why I made this thread, I'll also come up with a list of different attributes I've been thinking about as well and we can compare notes when I'm not as tired as I am right now.
One thing I think is missing is for MUDs to define their gameworld's ERA and SUBERA. Wikipedia has a list of them List of time periods - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia though it'd probably be best to make a list. Most MUDs will probably pick Medieval as their ERA and Dark Ages as their SUBERA, but I think it'd be interesting for players looking for a very specific era.

Another issue is the HISTORIC RIGOR, right now MUDs tend to use the MSDP sub-genre to define either the era or how closely modeled after historic earth their world is. Low Fantasy takes place in a setting that closely resembles written history, while High Fantasy (Like Lord of the Rings) shares little to nothing with written history. I'm not sure if HISTORIC RIGOR is the most sensible variable name.

Another variable would be SCIENTIFIC RIGOR to describe if scientific principles and consistency of the game physics and theme play a large roll. Lord of the Rings would probably be High or Medium, while Disc World and AD&D based games would have a low scientific rigor, and even scifi genres like StarWars would be Medium, and in some cases even Low if a setting has magic, FTL, telepathy, superpowers, werewolves, etc. This so MUDs don't have to list themselves as Hard Fantasy or Soft Science Fiction in their subgenre.
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Old 11-21-2010, 09:29 PM   #14
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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Another issue is the HISTORIC RIGOR, right now MUDs tend to use the MSDP sub-genre to define either the era or how closely modeled after historic earth their world is.
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Another variable would be SCIENTIFIC RIGOR to describe if scientific principles and consistency of the game physics and theme play a large roll. Lord of the Rings would probably be High or Medium
I'm not sure I understand why Lord of the Rings would have a high scientific rigor. It seemed to have medieval technology, but no real focus on "medieval science", no windmills, water wheels etc.

But it did have mountains full of dwarves and goblins, with no apparent food source (other than each other)

I totally understand why it's got more scientific rigor than Discworld, that intentionally flouts the rules of physics - but I'm not sure what you use to judge the high vs medium.

I've also got a question - where would Ironclaw fall? In terms of both historical rigor as well as scientific rigor.

The setting is a fictional continent, populated by human-like talking animals. The church can bring the dead back to life, zombies walk around, and the wilderness is, basically, populated by dinosaurs. The technology is anachronistic, spanning a period of about 500 years, so mounted knights may well be fighting blocks of troops wielding carbines.

But yet the four main factions are based on real life cultures, with (some of) their cultural achievements and attitudes.

And the world, while having so many fantasy elements, is very much "hard" in terms of social assumptions. The (Italian-themed) city has fresh water brought in by aqueduct. If the players push for slavery to be abolished, the citizens won't cheer them, they'll complain that the aqueducts aren't maintained. (Unless the players take other, appropriate action. Such as funding the maintenance of the aqueducts now that it's not maintained by city-owned slaves.)

Wizards can shoot fireballs, but it's much easier to just shoot a crossbow. And much faster to learn. So armies are made up of many more soldiers than wizards. Yet wizards have certain abilities that can't be replicated with technology, such as (limited) teleportation - so they certainly fill key roles. Siege tactics are different in this world, due to some of the characters being bats, with the ability to fly. The emphasis is always to set up the game in a believable way, to explain why society works the way it does.

So... um... how would I categorize that?
Strong scientific rigor, because we are extremely strict about technology all coming from the right time period? (albeit within that 500 year range...) Or weak scientific rigor because we have talking animals walking around wearing clothes?

Right now, one of our staff is researching renaissance roofing tiles, and the appropriate materials they were made from. (And doing so for the four major cultures) - does that give us strong historic rigor? Or because we go to a lot of effort to push the RP being appropriate for the time period, with aristocracy, rising middle class, and the historic social upheavals experienced during the renaissance? Or weak historical rigor because it takes place on an imaginary continent, and women are allowed to be mercenaries and soldiers?

I don't object to your categories, I'm just unsure how we'll rate ourselves against them. I think we're going to get a lot of games that, in some aspects are very historically accurate, and in others are exceptionally inaccurate.

Heck, even a "Knights of the Round Table" game - would that be historical? Or not?

Or am I misunderstanding how the categories should work?
(And apologies for what must sound like a game advert. I just wanted a clear example of how some aspects can have extreme attention to detail, while others are hand waved or stylized)
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Old 11-22-2010, 10:22 AM   #15
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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I'm not sure I understand why Lord of the Rings would have a high scientific rigor. It seemed to have medieval technology, but no real focus on "medieval science", no windmills, water wheels etc.
I'd say it's mainly the rarity of magic and having a consistent medieval setting that makes the Lord of the Rings hard fantasy. A MUD set in middle earth may have no magic at all for the average player, making it hard fantasy, and another MUD might allow everyone to be a pimped up Gandalf with chain lightning and teleport, making it soft fantasy.

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I've also got a question - where would Ironclaw fall? In terms of both historical rigor as well as scientific rigor.
From what you described I'd say medium historical rigor and medium scientific rigor. It's a tough call going just by what you've told about the game, but if you self identify the game as hard fantasy and take player complaints about inaccuracies serious it should be alright to go for medium.

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Heck, even a "Knights of the Round Table" game - would that be historical? Or not?
MYTHICAL RIGOR could be introduced for games with a mythical setting. Right now MUDs would use Mythical Fantasy as their subgenre, or Round Table (or something) if they want to be specific. MUDs inspired by a mixture of mythologies, or with a loose interpretation, could go for Medium.

All in all it's probably best to reserve High for games that abide by real world physics, real world history, and real world myths. An interesting consideration is whether perma death is required for scientific rigor, it'd make sense to add a separate variable for tricky stuff like that though.
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Old 11-22-2010, 08:35 PM   #16
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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I'd say it's mainly the rarity of magic and having a consistent medieval setting that makes the Lord of the Rings hard fantasy. A MUD set in middle earth may have no magic at all for the average player, making it hard fantasy, and another MUD might allow everyone to be a pimped up Gandalf with chain lightning and teleport, making it soft fantasy.
Ah, that makes sense. The actual LotR story, with minimal magic (that just happened to follow the stories of two of the four individuals that did wield magic) is a low-magic setting.

So a game with fireballs and chain lightning set in middle earth is soft. But a game with hobbits living in an agricultural community, and haggling over the price of carrots, or visiting the nearby human town to get drunk on half a mug of ale, is hard fantasy.

The existence of hobbits is fine for hard fantasy? Because they are essentially short humans? Elves? What about the more fantastic creatures, such as trolls that turn to stone in daylight?

In an earlier discussion you were talking about hard fantasy as a setting where things follow on sensibly from each other, regardless of the amount of magic available. So a world where everyone can teleport would likely not have a mail service or trained horses.

If we're defining based on the amount of magic, then instead of hard/medium/soft fantasy, maybe that should just be another axis. Level of magic: none, minimal, some, lots, extreme.

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From what you described I'd say medium historical rigor and medium scientific rigor. It's a tough call going just by what you've told about the game, but if you self identify the game as hard fantasy and take player complaints about inaccuracies serious it should be alright to go for medium.
I'm happy to be categorized as anything, but I'm not sure I understand your logic here. If I self-categorize as hard fantasy, and take player complaints about inaccuracies seriously - why wouldn't I use the "hard fantasy" category? Unless a third party is checking the listings, why would I intentionally put my game in the "medium" category, if I believe it should be in the "hard" category?

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MYTHICAL RIGOR could be introduced for games with a mythical setting. Right now MUDs would use Mythical Fantasy as their subgenre, or Round Table (or something) if they want to be specific. MUDs inspired by a mixture of mythologies, or with a loose interpretation, could go for Medium.
Mmmm, adding subgenre probably helps with the hard vs soft fantasy/historical discussion.
If my subgenre is "medieval" and I say hard historical rigor then that probably implies that I'm talking about real cities and people, real technology, etc.
If my subgenre is "medieval fantasy" and I say hard historical rigor, I can't possibly be talking about real cities and people - otherwise it wouldn't be "fantasy" - so I'm probably talking about real technology, realistic items, appropriate time period for the items (no guns, steampunk etc.) - but maybe there are elves and trolls. And wizards with magic.

Then I could say my subgenre is "Round Table" and I have a high historical accuracy. Which would allow me to have knights (even though the legend predates stirrups...) and magic (due to Merlin and Morgana) and Fae creatures, but not orcs and elves.

While "Round Table" with low historical accuracy would allow the players to be wizards and warlocks, and to fight dragons and ettins and other D&D monsters.


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All in all it's probably best to reserve High for games that abide by real world physics, real world history, and real world myths.
Valid. But that effectively just reduces the "range" from all non-real-world games to be binary low vs medium.
Or forces us to create new categories.

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An interesting consideration is whether perma death is required for scientific rigor, it'd make sense to add a separate variable for tricky stuff like that though.
Yeah, I'm of the opinion that - as long as there is a seperate variable for it - perma death shouldn't impact scientific rigor.

If I want a scientifically rigorous game, I can search for high rigor AND no perma death. If I see a game with high scientific rigor and perma death, well, I know what I'm getting into when I visit the game. So there's still no confusion.
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Old 11-23-2010, 08:37 AM   #17
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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If we're defining based on the amount of magic, then instead of hard/medium/soft fantasy
I'm not sure how MSSP should work... but I'm still of the opinion that many attributes a MUD carriers on a rating/search site shouldn't be defined as a discrete binary states. i.e. Hard fantasy OR soft fantasy OR medium fantasy. Rather I think the MUD administrator should be able to determine that his/her MUD is fantasy based - but not to what degree. Once the fantasy attribute is toggled for the MUD it should receive its value from player votes. There could be a more or less analog gradient from 0 to 10 thats based on player votes and opinion. The degree of fantasy would slide accordingly.

If players on the whole felt the MUD existed in a hard fantasy/low fantasy world then the Fantasy value would be closer to 0, if the players felt the fantasy world was more representative of a soft fantasy/high fantasy world then the value would be closer to 10.

Last edited by Justin534 : 11-23-2010 at 08:37 AM. Reason: clarification
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Old 11-24-2010, 09:40 AM   #18
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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The existence of hobbits is fine for hard fantasy? Because they are essentially short humans? Elves? What about the more fantastic creatures, such as trolls that turn to stone in daylight?
Tolkien trolls and dragons are definitely more fantastic than realistic. I'm not trying to be the authority on what qualifies and what not however, though I'd like to create a clear system of detailed categorization.

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If we're defining based on the amount of magic, then instead of hard/medium/soft fantasy, maybe that should just be another axis. Level of magic: none, minimal, some, lots, extreme.
I'd rather define it as the fantastic vs the realistic, in which case you only have to define one of them as one excludes the other. A low scientific rigor would indicate a lot of fantastical elements, which may be magic, telepathy, or something else.

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Unless a third party is checking the listings, why would I intentionally put my game in the "medium" category, if I believe it should be in the "hard" category?
That's not really a problem with the actual categorization, I guess it makes sense to clearly describe the meaning of the various terms.

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Valid. But that effectively just reduces the "range" from all non-real-world games to be binary low vs medium.
That's not necessarily a bad thing if there are enough additional search options to further narrow the search. I personally don't see a big problem with binary options as they leave the least amount of room for ambiguity.


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I'm not sure how MSSP should work... but I'm still of the opinion that many attributes a MUD carriers on a rating/search site shouldn't be defined as a discrete binary states. i.e. Hard fantasy OR soft fantasy OR medium fantasy. Rather I think the MUD administrator should be able to determine that his/her MUD is fantasy based - but not to what degree.
MSSP has a GENRE variable which will allow a MUD to choose Fantasy, Horror, etc, as their genre. Next there is the SUBGENRE variable which would allow something like Dark Fantasy, which is a subgenre containing elements of both Horror and Fantasy.

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Once the fantasy attribute is toggled for the MUD it should receive its value from player votes. There could be a more or less analog gradient from 0 to 10 thats based on player votes and opinion. The degree of fantasy would slide accordingly.
Using this mechanism the difference between a 3 and a 4 becomes arbitrary, and subsequently many games would still cluster around the same scores. Then there's the question whether you can only search for games with a 6 (or other number), or if you define a range, 1-5 for example. My guess is that providing a range would become the only way to get meaningful search results, which would bring one back to a binary/trinary system, with some added confusion.

It's an interesting concept though, and might not be overly confusing if you have a simplified search interface that converts a 1 to 10 score to low, medium, and high, possibly with an algorithm that return the bottom 20% for low, top 20% for high, and the rest for medium, though this may not give ideal results in all cases.
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Old 11-24-2010, 07:49 PM   #19
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Re: The Art of Seach - Categorization of MU*s

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It's an interesting concept though, and might not be overly confusing if you have a simplified search interface that converts a 1 to 10 score to low, medium, and high, possibly with an algorithm that return the bottom 20% for low, top 20% for high, and the rest for medium, though this may not give ideal results in all cases.
Exactly, the actual values themselves wouldn't necessarily be visible to the end-user. Instead, like you said the site could use an algorithm to convert the more or less analog data into a discrete category more meaningful to the user - i.e. low, medium, high fantasy. But, in the background there would still exist a gradient derived from votes. I think this would be particularly useful as MU*s have the tendency to change over time.

Using strictly fantasy as an example. From a player's perspective they could vote the MU* either Low Fantasy Setting, Medium Fantasy Setting, High Fantasy Setting. A tooltip could be displayed when they hover their mouse over each vote option to describe each option. Then behind the scenes Low Fantasy could evaluate to a value of 0, Medium 5, and High Fantasy 10. Lets say 15 people voted: 8 for Low fantasy, 5 for Medium, and 2 for high. If you add everything together you have (0*8) + (5*5) + (10*2) = 45. If you then took a simple average (Total Value/Num. of Votes Cast) = (45 / 15 ) = 3. So, in this case the Fantasy gradient value would be 3. Behind the scenes the algorithm could convert any value between 0 and 3.33333 as Low Fantasy, between 3.33334 and 6.66666 as Medium Fantasy, and between 6.6667 and 10 as High Fantasy.

So in this example a gradient value of 3 would be evaluated to Low Fantasy in the directory. I also imagined people would be able to comment under each attribute... so on the site / directory not only would the degree of fantasy be searchable in this manner, but players could also leave comments in regards to each attribute, allowing users to see in words what players have to say about the fantasy setting, along with the tallied results of whether its viewed as Low, Medium, High, etc. This same mechanism would also be equally applied to other attributes, for example, Permanent Death - perhaps it ranks 9.2, which lets say evaluates to 'MUD has permanent death system implemented' Player's could comment on the attribute with the ability to say something like: "The MUD features permanent death for the most part, except there are a few rare occasions when a character might be revived ICly such as A, B, or C."

Anyways, these were some ideas floating around in my head in regards to how a search/directory site could categorize MU*s, one of the major advantages being that as MUD changes/evolves so does its categorization. I also owe some credit to a poster in the other thread who help me to rethink some of my original voting ideas.
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