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Old 03-16-2014, 02:24 AM   #1
dark acacia
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How do you bring back a fading MUD?

Once in a while I find some game, usually through the TMS forum, which is trying to restore its former glory. As often as not, these games are places which used to have a respectable community, often as few as three to five years ago. For whatever reason, most of its core community have moved on, and now the regulars amount to a few people and perhaps an IMM or two at peak time. All that's left is the memory of what adventures once took place there, and the dungeons and monsters and quests which live on through the occasional visit by some diehard regular's new alt.

One big thing which keeps me from staying with one of these games is almost always the lack of a community of people to play with. Sure, it may be RP enforced, but a murder mystery isn't much of a mystery if the victim and the suspects were the only three people on the desert island.

Some of these games use incentives like huge experience modifiers, significantly reduced costs for things, and special items to attract new players. The regular non-IMMs are also often glad to take a newbie all the way through the newbie levels to the highest obtainable non-IMM levels within a day or two, showering him or her with lots of gold and equipment along with killing off monsters which the newbie would have absolutely no chance of beating alone or with other newbies. I used to think that this was a great thing, until I finally realized that I'd get tired of the game very quickly because there's no challenge when everything is given to me in an attempt to make me stay.

It's a vicious circle for me; on one hand, I want a community I can role play with. On the other hand, I don't feel motivated to stay in a game when everything is handed over to me so easily. Either one thing or the other gets to me first and then I find myself straying away from the game, perhaps not returning.

I understand that a fading MUD is trying hard to hold on to the old days so that the old legends and stories and hundreds of hours of coding and administration won't go to waste. These games are no more deserving of collapse than any currently popular MUD.

So how does a fading MUD make a comeback? Are there now games which came back?
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Old 03-16-2014, 03:00 AM   #2
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

I think that depends largely on what's caused it to fade in the first place. With some muds, staff get busy and wander off (Whispers of Times Lost), other muds never get highly populated (Southlands), other muds are highly populated and gain all kinds of newbies but their player numbers never increase because they are hemorrhaging old veteran players to being 'busy', or 'real life'. And then there is a game that I was staff on. Armageddon. It is the only RPI I know of that has more people on its unofficial forums than log into the game on accounts (staff accounts and new player accounts included) on a weekly basis, that is largely dedicated to talking about those very problems that caused them to leave. In Arm's case? Get rid of Nyr and actually let players achieve things. So the consensus on jcarter's forums ( Home | Armageddon MUD Discussion Board ) would indicate. What mud are you talking about? Any in general, or a specific one? Are there any issues that players can come to a common consensus on as being problematic?
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Old 03-16-2014, 04:22 AM   #3
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

Sadly enough I think Text Muds are a slowly dying breed, and that means all of us, regardless of how big the playerbase is, or once was. The reason is an ever diminishing total number of players. Where there once used to be a constant refill from new high school and college kids, these kids nowadays play any of the increasing number of graphic games available, and mostly have no patience for reading lots of text and typing in text commands.

There is no real "new blood", we are all competing for the same, ever diminishing pool of players. The new players you get nowadays are either the usual wanderer that switch between a number of Muds, or some nostalgic 30+ individuals, returning to what used to be their obsession as teenagers. Usually the latter category also wanders around, since the Mud they remember so fondly is already dead and buried, and now they are looking for something as similar as possible. Check the posts on TMC or TMS under the heading "Looking for a Mud", and you'll see a distinct pattern. Also, when you are above thirty, you usually don't have either the time or inclination for spending hours at the keyboard, so the "returners" rarely last long

Of course the dying process usually takes longer, the higher the number you started from. But even the ones that used to have hundreds of players, now have halved the playerbase. My own game never had a large pbase, even in the highdays we used to peak around 30, so it's something of a wonder that we are still alive and kicking at all. The reason is probably that our players always have stayed long, some of them have been with us for well over 10 years. So we still have a hardcore of oldbies, who keep in constant contact, even if they don't log on daily

So what can be done to revive a fading Mud - or just keep it going for a while longer?

Helpful players and imms is of course number one, but there are better ways of helping new players than showering them in equipment and power-levelling them. A better method is to challenge them - give them a quest or defined task to do, point them in the right direction and then let them solve the problems on their own. Then of course there should still be someone to receive and reward them after the task is done, and that can be a problem due to the different timezones.

And since there are not always enough players on line around the clock, it is also important that the game is possible to figure out and play on your own. So a good tutoring School is important and also good helpfiles. There should also be a rather wide variety of things that you can do to advance your character, other than just killing mobs. Farming, lumberjacking, crafting, trading, minigames, solving quests...

A good community is essential, it may just be a bit of a challenge for a new player to really become part of it. If the old players aren't willing to let new ones into their community, they are essentially doomed themselves. Roleplay is only one part of the social game, there are also OOC social bonds, that are just as important. Imm initiated plots and quests can sometimes become a total success, but other times fall flat to the ground, because nobody is really interested, Usually plots and ideas that are generated by the mortals rather than the staff have a better chance of succeeding.

New content is something that always works for us. Whenever a new zone or feature is introduced, our oldbies crawl out of the woodwork so fast that it becomes obvious that they have an active network outside the Mud. Whether they use IM, Facebook or E-mail, the oldbies usually turn up in droves in an amazingly short time, once the rumour starts spreading. And then for a while the Mud is bustling with life, and since players breed players, more of the newcomers stay on a bit longer, when they are met by an active Port. Until the day when the new feature no longer is so shiningly new, and the oldbies begin to fade out again...

This may all sound a bit depressing, and the main reason why so many of us still hang on is, that we are not willing to sacrifice the endless hours of work from ourselves and others. A good mud is not only a community, it's also a complex and intricate work of art, created by many people, cooperating over many years.

And as long as anyone is willing to pay the server rent, and there still are staff members working on improvements and additions, and players that enjoy the game we create, there is still hope. Hope that one day someone influential out there will discover the treasure of these vintage games, with more content and depth than they ever thought possible, and spread the word on the Internet, and Text Muds will one again be the talk of the day and start to flourish again...

Fat chance of that ever happening...
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Old 03-17-2014, 02:29 AM   #4
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

I am actually confused with this on running discussion.

I have read a large amount of online forums posting back and forth on the topic of are muds are dying off, or what should be done to modernize them, and how to get new players.

I have never ran a mud myself but I do see a pattern in the different people who are posting.

On one side there are people saying it is slowing and players are growing old and stagnant.

Then there are the few posts saying that their muds are doing just fine and have been doubling in players.
The trouble with that is 50% increases of 10~100 people is not great when looking at the wide range of people around the world playing games.
The new additions being from online advertising and it doesn't seem to be from actual changes in the type of mud or game play.

I am wondering if honestly this is just a change of generation.
The children and young adults which are now spending their time and money seem to be chasing what they grew up with and it was not text based games.

I would be surprised if any new mud players were younger than 20 years old.
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Old 03-17-2014, 04:44 PM   #5
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

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Originally Posted by Anaiah View Post
I think that depends largely on what's caused it to fade in the first place. With some muds, staff get busy and wander off (Whispers of Times Lost), other muds never get highly populated (Southlands), other muds are highly populated and gain all kinds of newbies but their player numbers never increase because they are hemorrhaging old veteran players to being 'busy', or 'real life'. And then there is a game that I was staff on. Armageddon. It is the only RPI I know of that has more people on its unofficial forums than log into the game on accounts (staff accounts and new player accounts included) on a weekly basis, that is largely dedicated to talking about those very problems that caused them to leave. In Arm's case? Get rid of Nyr and actually let players achieve things. So the consensus on jcarter's forums ( Home | Armageddon MUD Discussion Board ) would indicate. What mud are you talking about? Any in general, or a specific one? Are there any issues that players can come to a common consensus on as being problematic?
I wouldn't site a website that discusses any MUD that is full of people who are disgruntled and now (childishly) spew all the "secret info" like venom a good example of anything. In Armageddon's case, they are not even close to fading. They have more people on at peak on a regular day than they used to get for HRPTs back 12 years ago when I was first playing there.


How do you bring back a MUD that's fading? I don't know that you can. The only thing that will keep a MUD from dying is a combination of niche, player and staff dedication and the ability to grow with its player base. Look at SWMUD, still around after all these years. Look at Armageddon Mud, still around. How many have come and gone? No amount of incentives is going to change the inevitable. What it will do is temporarily resuscitate.
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Old 03-17-2014, 07:22 PM   #6
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

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I wouldn't site a website that discusses any MUD that is full of people who are disgruntled and now (childishly) spew all the "secret info" like venom a good example of anything. In Armageddon's case, they are not even close to fading. They have more people on at peak on a regular day than they used to get for HRPTs back 12 years ago when I was first playing there.


The number of players who log in each week is actually the exact same as it was 3 years ago (you can check the weekly updates for this), and I doubt you've given more than a cursory glance over the site you're so quick to slander, so let me break it down for you by percentage: 13.3% of the posts are spoilers. That's 86.7% of posts based on other things.

So while you're right about them having more players than 12 years ago (I genuinely cannot verify this, I went and looked and numbers are absent), I -can- say this:

Weekly Update for week of April 18 to April 24, 2010

"271 Unique Logins
39 New Accounts Created"

Weekly Update for week of March 10 to March 16, 2014

"266 Unique Logins
68 New Accounts Created"

So... even with 29 more accounts created, there are still five less account logged in for the last full week of records than there were four years ago during a comparable time of year.

So yeeaaah. Keep saying what you need to. I understand what it's like to love Arm. I loved it so much I spent over a year on staff there. There's multiple reasons why I not only am not on staff, but am also no longer a player (and -am- a player at another RPI right now).
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Old 03-18-2014, 07:32 AM   #7
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

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The number of players who log in each week is actually the exact same as it was 3 years ago (you can check the weekly updates for this), and I doubt you've given more than a cursory glance over the site you're so quick to slander, so let me break it down for you by percentage: 13.3% of the posts are spoilers. That's 86.7% of posts based on other things.

So while you're right about them having more players than 12 years ago (I genuinely cannot verify this, I went and looked and numbers are absent), I -can- say this:

Weekly Update for week of April 18 to April 24, 2010

"271 Unique Logins
39 New Accounts Created"

Weekly Update for week of March 10 to March 16, 2014

"266 Unique Logins
68 New Accounts Created"

So... even with 29 more accounts created, there are still five less account logged in for the last full week of records than there were four years ago during a comparable time of year.

So yeeaaah. Keep saying what you need to. I understand what it's like to love Arm. I loved it so much I spent over a year on staff there. There's multiple reasons why I not only am not on staff, but am also no longer a player (and -am- a player at another RPI right now).
Wouldn't your numbers be more compelling if you used the same week?
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:32 AM   #8
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

The dates aren't exactly the same in 2010 as they are in 2014.
Week of 3/7-3/13, 2010:
253 unique logins, 39 new accounts created.

The following week (just to make sure we include those dates that are counted for the 2014 listing):
269 unique logins, 36 new accounts created.

Back in 2010, there were only a few more accounts created in a two-week period, than the game had created in -one- week in 2014. That tells me there's *more* interest in Armageddon now than there was in 2014, if you are to believe limited statistics that come from limited raw data. In the world of marketing and sales, you learn that only around 1% of all people who express interest in something will stick around to enjoy it. Out of every 100 people you tell about Armageddon, 1 person will play. Out of every 100 people you give a pamphlet to your church out on a random streetcorner in your downtown location, only 1 person will show up for Mass. In the marketing world, Armageddon is doing marginally better than the expected statistics as far as getting _new_ players. They lose players for all the usual reasons that all games lose players: some grow out of it, some get banned, some never really liked it in the first place and leave shortly after showing up, some leave out of annoyance with some perceived slight (which might also be a real slight), and some create accounts but never actually try to play, which skews the numbers.

Games fade for all kinds of reasons. Armageddon isn't fading, so it really has nothing to do with the topic.

On topic: the game owner needs to find out why their game is fading, and address the reason. In some cases, it's a lost cause. The head coder gets married and leaves, and the admin can't find a replacement, and doesn't know how to code, himself. Or the game gets hacked. Or the admin chose a code base that was just way too limited for what he wanted to do, and he's coded himself against a brick wall. Or an admin who was just a kid himself, had no idea how to run a game, created it because he was banned from another game, and after all his 3 pals who he riled up into believing they could do a better job, realized they couldn't - they left, and now he has a game with no players.

Other games fade because their themes just aren't interesting anymore. Others, because of admin shifts in "vision" for the game's future. Some games fade because there are too many changes too quickly and this confuses the players, who'd rather just not bother to play than have to keep up. Others fade because the game can't keep up with the players.

So: first, determine whether or not your game is actually fading. If it is, find out why. Address the reason - and the game will stop fading. You might have to shut down completely (in which case, it isn't fading anymore, it's just ended). Or you could just keep it going if it entertains you personally, even with no other players in it.
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:11 PM   #9
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

A solid post I think, Jazuela. A large part of the problem is marketing. For well-established MUDs (rather than new, smaller MUDs which face other problems), marketing strategies and fixing any in-house problems should be objectives number 1, 2, and 3 on the "to do" list.
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Old 03-19-2014, 10:17 AM   #10
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

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A large part of the problem is marketing. For well-established MUDs (rather than new, smaller MUDs which face other problems), marketing strategies and fixing any in-house problems should be objectives number 1, 2, and 3 on the "to do" list.
Marketing is the biggest challenge for all indie games, not just MUDs. But running a MUD in this day also involves facing a number of unique challenges that other indie games don't have. To name a few of the big ones:

* Text-based I/O. To modern players, a MUD looks like a chatroom in a "real" game, and is disqualified instantly in a world where even graphical games are disqualified for not being as pretty as other graphical games. Text-based I/O also means you need basic reading and writing skills in a particular language, whereas a graphical UI could enable a game to cross language boundaries much more easily.

* Very low entry barrier for devs, negligible maintenance costs. Pretty much anyone can put up a MUD in less than a day and start hacking away. And if you have 0-3 players, you can still keep your game/hobby going on indefinitely because the cost of keeping a game going is so low. This results in audience fragmentation and a great number of lower-quality offerings that probably reflect negatively on the overall ability of MUDs to attract and retain new players.

* Unwillingness to change. It seems that at this point almost everyone who thought MUDs should experiment with new technologies has left the building. Even something as obvious as the fact that telnet is no longer a default application is lost on most MUD devs and admins. The audiences have moved on, but most of us haven't.

To me, it seems that there are two healthy directions that a MUD can take. The first direction is going to echo some of the earlier posters. It involves becoming "even nicher", offering a unique RPI experience, or a staggeringly complex text-based world that no graphical game can ever hope to match. After spending countless of hours achieving this and slowly converting veterans of other MUDs, you *may* get to a relatively stable playerbase. At least, you'll have a better fighting chance.

But not every new MUD can go RPI or roll out a world that can compete with games that have been in development for decades now. The other direction is to start trying to reach new players where new players now live. On sites like Facebook and Kongregate. On mobile devices and tablets. On new platforms that offer a key advantage to early adopters. With this approach, you would have to constantly re-think the way people play your game.

To put it simply, Option A means greater emphasis on the server and catering exclusively to MUD vets, while Option B means greater emphasis on the client(s) and trying to broaden your target audience.
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Old 03-19-2014, 12:37 PM   #11
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

That's a good analysis plamzi, but I think there is room for an option A where you don't cater just to mud vets, if you find the 'right niche'. No doubt your presentation would have to change too to attract non-mudders, but I think mostly text is still viable.
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Old 03-19-2014, 01:42 PM   #12
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

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That's a good analysis plamzi, but I think there is room for an option A where you don't cater just to mud vets, if you find the 'right niche'. No doubt your presentation would have to change too to attract non-mudders, but I think mostly text is still viable.
Agreed, to an extent. I probably should have said something like "catering exclusively to MUD RPI vets, or to a similar niche audience." Because depending on how you define your niche, you may find that it appeals to a thin slice of non-mudders as well (adult themes come to mind). And, of course, even if you choose to fill a niche, you can (and should) pay enough attention to the client to make sure your game is as easily accessible as possible (which is never a bad thing).

I agree that mostly text is still viable, but only in the context of a niche game. Like Molly, I think the day when multitudes wake up to re-discover text-based games is a pipe dream. The Net is very different now from what it was in the early 1990's. I tend to believe that if people had other online gaming options in those years, the vast majority of them would have never played MUDs even then. In other words, text-based gaming has always been an acquired taste, very much like reading in general is. There was a Golden Age for it, the kind that every novelty item gets, but that's now over and it ain't coming back.
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Old 03-19-2014, 04:23 PM   #13
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

One thing that I have not read here involves how Players treat each other.

For the Newbie, like going to a Job Interview, its the impression they receive when they try a Game that either keeps them coming or makes them leave.

Yes, I agree that Graphical Games are the biggest drain on the MUD Community, and the loss of Staff with a good dose of RL matters is another draining factor. But if MUD's in general want to keep going, they need to want players to come and stay.

Then, there's the fact that not everybody plays at the same speed. For some, this will improve with time and confidence in the MUD (also helped along by encouraging players). But for others, for one reason or another, while showing great enthusiasm for the Game, are either slow or considered 'dimwitted" by other players who either have the time or paticence to try helping these people get up to speed--and instead, force them out of the game alltogether.

Yes, this has happened to a friend of mine that I tried helping in a MUD that I have long rallied against on these boards. She tried going back in 2012, and managed to stay only five months before the same people who shoved her out in the first place succeeded in showing her out again. Recently, she posted on that game's fourm board about the possibility of returning...

Only two people responded, that she told me (and I should ask her if more responded), but neither of them were the ones who pushed her out twice before.

Another fact is the lack of mobility with in a Game can also stagnate and strangle it. Maya, my Boss at Eternea, had a very interesting plan for combating this--what I've named 'Ebb and Flow". Basicly, you give a character a position in the heirercy of things for a limited amount of time to see how they perform with responcibility, pressure and whatnot. If they do good, they are promiced an even higher position--if they do poorly, they're returned to the general populis but are givien another shot later...

The point is to keep things circulating with in the Game so they don't become stagnated. By this means, you cater to the players, keep things interesting, and nobody has a stranglehold on any position (unless they're NPC's) in the Game.

So you see, even if your MUD has the most dynamic of everything imaginable if you don't take care of, or challange your players, your MUD dies.

Its that simple.




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Old 03-19-2014, 05:57 PM   #14
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

The main question is - how do you make players interested in the game, and the second question is, how to keep them interested.

And this is not easy. You mentioned the increased competition that text MUDs face, and it is true that in many ways, text MUDs are dying.

But other games are dying just as well, players continually find new things to do.

What worked for me in remaining interested are actually other players. They drive the main storyline and the plots, and this makes a game interesting. Because it gets to be dynamic and not really predictable (save for the static game world itself).

I don't care about features in a MUD, I need good roleplayers.
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Old 03-19-2014, 06:10 PM   #15
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

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I don't care about features in a MUD, I need good roleplayers.
I think that's true for online games in general, the fact that a lot of players are actually looking for "their kind of crowd". Some communities of online gamers drift for years from one game to another. The games only provide incidental settings for their online existence.
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Old 03-25-2014, 06:40 PM   #16
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

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Movies haven't killed books so I don't think that MMORPGs can kill MUDs.
Been saying that for years. Though the book better be interesting and well written.
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Old 03-27-2014, 10:14 AM   #17
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

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Making MUDs more screenreader friendly is also the way to go.
This is working for UL nicely. The head coder has been listening to the visually impaired players and adding modes to make the game better for screen readers. As a result, we've been picking up new blind players left and right!
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Old 03-27-2014, 01:45 PM   #18
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Re: How do you bring back a fading MUD?

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Making MUDs more screenreader friendly is also the way to go.
Yeah, we've put some effort into that too. The latest step in that work is a set of verbal maps for the PreHistoric Dimension, which was introduced yesterday. (The ones for Medieval are already in the game).
That leaves OldWest and Future, but we've got people working on those maps as well.

The nicest things about this is that the verbal maps are totally a player initiative. Two of our players, Rynald and Loria, have spent a lot of time charting the routes and turning them into mapbooks.
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