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Old 11-22-2008, 02:23 PM   #1
Milawe
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When is big too big?

There are a lot of times when a mud is too big, and some rooms or areas never get visited for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps the area is unbalanced, not fun or poorly described. Sometimes it's just flat out boring. Sometimes, though, a mud starts out way too big, there might be a lot of people logged on, but they never run into each other to play together. That's a sign of a doomed mud.

If you were a builder, how would you determine if your mud had finally gotten to the "too big" phase? How would you make it smaller?
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Old 11-22-2008, 02:42 PM   #2
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Re: When is big too big?

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Originally Posted by Milawe View Post
If you were a builder, how would you determine if your mud had finally gotten to the "too big" phase? How would you make it smaller?
I don't think a MUD, when it comes to areas can be too small. My experiment with decision trees, http://www.topmudsites.com/forums/mu...sion-tree.html, indicate that more rooms is better than less rooms. The main issue with the experiment though is the small data size I used, and how to interpret the data. Does the amount of rooms affect the amount of players, or is it the amount of players that affect the amount of rooms?
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Old 11-22-2008, 03:43 PM   #3
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Re: When is big too big?

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Originally Posted by Milawe View Post
If you were a builder, how would you determine if your mud had finally gotten to the "too big" phase? How would you make it smaller?
I've run across a few muds that gather data on which areas are visited and how often, and by whom. Setting up a good suite of tools to gather and process this information would be the first step, and while it's easy to put this off in favor of adding features and content, I think there are certain things you can't just learn anecdotally from your players.

As far as making it smaller, this depends on your setting and theme obviously. It might be hard to justify closing off a large desert or forest area for example, but you could rework the areas (perhaps making them substantially smaller in the process) to make them more suitable for your game. One thing that muds can and should take advantage of is the rapid development and world changes achievable with text content.
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Old 11-22-2008, 04:00 PM   #4
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Re: When is big too big?

I was thinking more of the design phase before the mud is even open. I'm not sure there's any way to predict if a mud is "too big", but I always thought that the more places to explore the better. Though, on the flip side, if you have too many places to explore that have nothing to explore in them, you could actually be hurting the game rather than adding to it. People would stop search and stop caring that there were so many places to look around in, and they'd essentially just stop looking. Then they would miss all the neat treasures you DO put in becuase they are no longer looking.

For example, say there's a mud with 100 rooms. Of those 100 rooms, 25 have something to discover in them. A person would be relatively willing to explore the 75 other mundane rooms in hopes of finding the 25 special rooms. If the mud was 1000 rooms large and also had 25 special rooms, people would find special rooms much less often and might actually just think there's no point in looking.

I wonder how to determine what's "too big" before players ever enter the picture. Perhaps it's impossible to do without players.

(BTW, cool decision tree! I don't know how I missed that discussion.)
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Old 11-22-2008, 04:43 PM   #5
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Re: When is big too big?

One thing to realize is that movement in muds is very fast compared to, say, a graphical mud. You can build a 20 room road connecting two major cities, which might seem long, but I could probably run it in 30 seconds or so. So in a sense it's not a huge deal if you have a lot of space in your mud -- space is good, it's a major element of a mud, and I think it in a sense has got a bad rap in RP muds. Because things are really spread out the RP suffers, and people blame the space. But it's not really the space itself, it's how it's laid out and how it relates to the gameplay and the RP. When you remove the element of space from a mud you lose one of its essential qualities, and all the things you can do with that element, it's like handicapping your game.

As far as knowing what will work before playtesting, in a certain sense yes you need players. I think there are some rules of thumb but a lot of that is specific to your building style and the mud itself.
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Old 11-23-2008, 03:05 AM   #6
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Re: When is big too big?

What is your target audience and target genre?

This factors in a lot more than you might realize, or at least it does in my own opinion. ^.-

A casual game that focuses on just being plain "fun" for individual players, with a focus on exploration and general gameplay, or PK/cat-and-mouse games and grinding will probably benefit a lot more from having more varied areas for players to play in. Someone who has to grind for levels is going to enjoy having new ways to "grind" and new places with new quests a lot more than he is if he has to go from level 1 to 40 all in the same area.

These games are usually supported by global channels and gameplay elements like fast-travel (be in the form of a command or spell or simply being given speed-walking directions). Players can locate and travel to others very easily.

Roleplaying games, particularly those which can be described as "hard core" [channel-less, IC-only communication, no access to global fast-travel features or information, etc], are only fun to players if they can actually find other players. It's easier (and smarter) to arm players with a handful of RP hubs backed with a colorful setting than give them a 6-billion-room map and expect them to telepathically find their own forms of entertainment.

When your MUD starts out, you're not going to have a large playerbase. In fact, you'll probably NEVER have a large playerbase. Think about how you want players to find each other and whether or not cooperating/competing with players is going to be a big part of your game.
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Old 11-23-2008, 02:57 PM   #7
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Re: When is big too big?

Your world can never be too big! That said, if you are sacrificing quality just to be big, then there is a problem. Well-written areas with a theme, interesting mobs to bash and interact, and (most importantly IMHO) exciting quests that tell a story should always be the goal.

If you are in the design stage and find that you have mapped out a huge world with hundreds of areas, believe me that you will be forever in the building stage trying to flesh it out (at least if you want to maintain high standards of quality). In this case, pick a focal point on your map and draw a circumference around it to target your opening world (maybe a dozen areas?). After you open, you can expand outwards at your leisure--and players always love when new areas are added.

If you are just wondering what size to aim for to open, you can look to the TMS categories of "world size": small (<3000), medium (3001-6000), large (6001-10,000), huge (10,001-20,000), and gigantic (20,001+). A good goal may be medium to start (though large may be doable for the ambitious). Most of the huge and gigantic worlds grew to be that big over time.

Last edited by Estarra : 11-23-2008 at 03:06 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 11-23-2008, 06:30 PM   #8
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Re: When is big too big?

I asked my partner this question and she replied, you have nothing to worry about dear. Not very nice huh? I digress. Muds can be too big and i have played some that are just that, usually in muds that have overland/wilderness maps, where just because you can have a trillion rooms, you do and that the space between zones is 400+ rooms. IMO traveling more than about 200 rooms to get anywhere is too big.
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Old 11-24-2008, 02:58 PM   #9
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Re: When is big too big?

When size is enough and too much varies between certain areas.

Unique rooms:
A moment for definition- a "unique room" is not a room that doesn't photocopy code from another room, it's a room that has significant purpose in the game and that must be visited fairly regularly. These should be at least relatively low in number, because gameplay may, especially in RP MUDs, rely on players running into each other here. Few people play a MUD with the intention of spending time alone. If they wanted to do that, they'd play something offline. Your number of these rooms can be much higher in a less RP oriented MUD, where players can meet with out-of-character communication on channels and things like that, but if you're going to run an RP MUD, ideally, you might even want all these rooms grouped in a central hub, so that players are basically thrown together as a matter of every day life. (E.g. Having one room in the entire universe where you can buy and sell things. Annoying as a game mechanic, but it WILL make characters meet each other. Not ideal, but a possibility)

Overworld:
Without a map, the overworld becomes somewhat limited. Valid overworld size increases with a map, but it always needs to be traverseable. How traverseable terrain is is measured in movement time, not room size. If your MUD limits how fast commands may be processed to enough of a degree, even walking 20 rooms can be tiresome. If your MUD makes your character stop to rest every 10 rooms or so, that becomes even worse. Whether your MUD incorporates flight, teleportation, or other transportation systems, can also be an issue. You can have a truly massive overworld, as long as getting to places on it does not take an extended period of time. Then again, some MUDs seem to be built to have travel over long distances feel like just that: long travel. The gameplay result of this is that players will congregate near the central hub and areas placed in "foreign parts" will be almost unpopulated. Players will tend to take up residency in certain portions of the game and may not come to interract with others outside their desired play field. It takes a healthy player base to support this, but DiscworldMUD has one of the slowest, most complicated travel experiences I've seen on a MUD, yet it still manages to be healthy, while games like NW, which have a more compact field to force characters to interract, or RetroMUD, with an expansive world(s?) but very quick movement and more plentiful sub areas, are similarly functional.

Areas:
Quality over quantity first, in areas, but after that, quantity is not a bad thing. For RP MUDs, or others lacking or restricting out-of-character meetings and socialization, a strong central area to throw people together is important, but many players, even in those games, will be thrilled by the allure of more and more areas to explore. Number and variety of areas helps ensure that a game is enduring, but one needs to be careful that areas are always unique and well thought out. Buggy areas, boring areas, and unbalanced areas are worse than no areas at all.

In summary, when MUDs come across as "too big" it's usually a problem in one of these three areas. Keep a good tab on each (minimum number of unique rooms as potential meeting places, an easily traversable map, and quality areas) and you should be fairly safe.
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Old 11-24-2008, 05:59 PM   #10
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Re: When is big too big?

I'm a fan of big, but not at the expense of cookie-cutter rooms.
In my old MUD, the size was 20,000+ rooms, so I'm told, but the traversibility was an issue. For instance, 'go pine' in one direction was 'go trunk' to get back. There was a murkiness on commands, as well, such as 'climb rope' but 'climb hill' would not work. There was a lack of intuitiveness in room-to-room movement, even if each room was unique, at least in the respect that the roomlong wasn't cut-pasted from a dozen other rooms. The only times that room descripts were duplicated was within the parameters of an intentional maze.

On the other hand, well-written rooms in a far-flung region are a welcome relief, especially as it keeps the 'discovery' part of the playing adventure alive, even if there isn't a large enough playerbase to support constant interaction. My first time seeing a new room is usually at least interesting if not openly exciting, and such places are the innate treasures of any mud.

My personal preference is for the stage to be set and set well, and leave the rest up to the roleplayers. Having said that, I enjoy a MUD wherein almost every room has at least one interactive object, even if it's only a bench to sit on, or a lake to point at. At one Simutronics product, there were plenty of rooms, but almost nothing to genuinely interact with. After a time, emoting such things into existence is more tedium than frivolity. Conversely, at another mud, room item limits became a major headache to playability.

Nutshell:
I like huge worlds, at least if they're going to hold my interest for more than a month. I can explore a world in pretty short order if I put my mind to it, so that part at least should take up some serious time.
Caveat: If I see the same room twice in an hour, I do start to question creator creativity.

C.
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Old 11-27-2008, 10:02 PM   #11
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Re: When is big too big?

I don't believe a MUD can be too big. It can have low quality areas which removing would create a smaller more consistent MUD, but in that scenario the problem is not that the MUD was too large to begin with so much as that it had less than satisfactory areas on it. As long as every area on the MUD is consistently well made I feel the sky is the limit and that bigger is better in absolutely every possible manner. On the other hand a MUD can be too small. When MUDs are too small players quickly do everything there is to do, get bored, and move on to another MUD.
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Old 12-27-2008, 06:15 AM   #12
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Re: When is big too big?

Too big is never an issue, balance and logic are. Newbie zones should be near starting areas. harder ones farther out. Yes there should be zones for the big guys and the little ones but it seems to me that far too many MUDS neglect the midbues. The characters that can play but are not power fighters or mages yet. I can;t speak to levels since they vary from MUD to MUD. But I can say, I have yet to find a mud that keeps this balance as it grows.
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Old 07-05-2009, 05:08 PM   #13
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Re: When is big too big?

*bump for more feedback*
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Old 07-06-2009, 12:25 AM   #14
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Re: When is big too big?

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*bump for more feedback*
I have no feedback. Except to say that your bump was pointless.
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Old 07-06-2009, 10:52 AM   #15
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Re: When is big too big?

It's my understanding that low level areas and generic mud design will attract certain players, and typically most players trying out a mud will quietly leave if things are not to their liking.

From this perspective you can in theory attract a player base that loves big worlds, and you can attract a player base that prefers small words. Given the complete lack of research I doubt anyone knows for certain what game design elements compliment each other, and which do not.

Last edited by scandum : 07-06-2009 at 05:29 PM.
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Old 07-07-2009, 04:13 AM   #16
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Re: When is big too big?

Size isn't about a number of rooms. It's not about how many coded rooms there are, or even how big the IC 'world/universe/dimensionverse/whatever' is in canon. At least from the point of view of most players.

(Disclaimer: Size does matter for code/database/processing purposes in many cases, but I'm not touching that part in this post.)

Say I'm playing a fantasy game where few characters have access to high speed transport. The entire world is about the size, of, say, Texas. Let's also say it takes a week to travel across the entire game world due to whatever restrictions you have set up (timers to limit how fast one can move from room to room, fatigue, etc). We'll call this World A.

In our second example, let's say the game area is the solar system we live in. It takes five hours to travel from the two planets furthest part at a given time. We'll call this World B.

In the perception of most players, World A is 'bigger' than World B in terms of travel, since it takes longer, even though World B is bigger in terms of the volume of area it covers.
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Old 07-07-2009, 01:23 PM   #17
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Re: When is big too big?

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Originally Posted by Milawe View Post
There are a lot of times when a mud is too big, and some rooms or areas never get visited for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps the area is unbalanced, not fun or poorly described. Sometimes it's just flat out boring. Sometimes, though, a mud starts out way too big, there might be a lot of people logged on, but they never run into each other to play together. That's a sign of a doomed mud.

If you were a builder, how would you determine if your mud had finally gotten to the "too big" phase? How would you make it smaller?
Difficult questions, because pulling areas is also a doomsday device when players see areas disappearing. I would think that size depends entirely upon the players' wants and the creator's end goal. If it is an RP game, then you definately need to limit your world to ensure interaction or have ways of interacting without being in the same location. If it isn't, then never seeing another player is alright if you can see results of what they do (forums, posts, areas changing based on who was in it, etc).

I also recommend starting your MUD small (if you are new) and expanding based on your growth and not shrinking, but modifying based on playability and interaction. Just like a company.
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