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Old 01-27-2010, 01:22 AM   #1
Avasyu
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Easing the process for new players.

One of the main things we have been trying at IRE is get our games as true newbie friendly as possible. By newbie I mean the player who has never seen or heard or playing a game in text.

Over the past year we have slowly changed our entire process for getting new players. We have pointed our ads to landing pages that allow the user to create a character quickly via a html page. We then auto log them right into our flash client (fMud) and place them into a character creation sequence.

We have begun to 'MXP' the introductory tours of the games (only Imperian currently). This is an effort to guide the new players into the text experiences, teaching them how to play via typing, rather then just clicking. Hopefully it will result in more new players sticking around long enough to get interested.

After the intro the player is prompted to complete 'tasks' which get them doing things in the game right away. As opposed to not really knowing what to 'do next'.

You can see what I mean here: Play Imperian

That page starts the process.

1. Character Create
2. Auto Login
3. Pick Starting Race/Class/ect.
4. Begin the MXP intro.
5. Graduate Intro and begin tasks

So here are my questions.

1. What do you think of the MXPed intro. Too much? Not enough?

2. What other things do you think can be done ease players into the typing/text/mud experience?
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Old 01-27-2010, 06:43 AM   #2
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

For a long time, one big advantage of muds over other online games was that they didn't require any downloads before you could start playing. With the telnet client being dropped from the default Vista installation, new players today are more likely to have a web browser than a telnet client - and the former has the added advantage of providing a far prettier interface than the latter.

So I think using a browser-based client is definitely worthwhile. No downloads means a lower entry barrier, and the interface is likely to feel more familiar and less archaic than a simple telnet client. Even if your target audience has never played a mud before, they may well have played browser games.

I think downloadable clients are still definitely worthwhile, particularly if you customise them (like Aardwolf did with MUSHclient). But this can be left as an option for later; it'll just be another hurdle to jump over if you throw it in front of a newbie.

I've not done anything with MXP (although I support the protocol), and actually wasn't even aware that FMud supported it. I may have a play with it at some point though, it looks like you can do quite a lot with it. I wouldn't suggest using it just for the introduction, however - either use it throughout the game, or not at all. Otherwise the newbies are forced relearn how to navigate as soon as they've finish the introduction, and that can be extremely frustrating.

Do you support MSP as well? I wasn't too keen on adding sound at first, but it was requested by several blind players when I was trying to make the game more accessable, and after I had a play with it I find it surprisingly effective. Graphics and text are both visual, so it can sometimes be difficult to integrate the two together, but sound can simply be added on. Many browser games also have sound, so if you're trying to appeal to the same market it's definitely something to consider.
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Old 01-27-2010, 12:33 PM   #3
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

Whenever I'm in the library I typically read the first page of a book, and if it's good enough I take it home. I think this is the major downfall of MUDs, mediocre descriptions that don't draw in anyone with a love for reading.

The next issue is that MUDs haven't evolved past being a bunch of rooms with descriptions, and NPCs you can kill. Newbies often try all kinds of intricate forms of interaction with a MUD, only to find out that all they can do boils down to: n, e, s, w, u, d, l, and k.

The screenshot provided by imperian unfortunately emphasizes these two points:
http://www.imperian.com/images/regis_client_small.gif
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Old 01-27-2010, 12:35 PM   #4
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

We use a lot of MXP in Maiden Desmodus and I think it works really well. I specifically designed the web interface so that new players can use the mouse almost exclusively if they want to, at least initially. For example you can move around by clicking exits, interact with objects and NPCs via right click menu, click keywords during NPC conversations, and even perform attacks and other common commands using a (configurable) hotbutton bar. What is interesting is how many of the experienced mudders who check out the web client use the mouse rather than typing commands when they start the game.

Another thing I did was to implement a simple server side targetting system so we can have hotbuttons in the client for commands which require a target. This means you can click an NPC to target them and then click an action button to stab them (for example) which I think is more intuitive if you're not used to MUDs.

We use sounds in the web client using our own protocol which loads them from the server on demand. It means there can be a slight delay the first time for each sound effect, but the client would be huge if we embedded them. The server also supports MSP and we have a sound pack available for people use other clients.

Last edited by Orrin : 01-27-2010 at 12:40 PM. Reason: forgot the clickable conversational keywords!
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Old 01-27-2010, 02:12 PM   #5
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Orrin View Post
We use a lot of MXP in Maiden Desmodus and I think it works really well...Another thing I did was to implement a simple server side targetting system so we can have hotbuttons in the client for commands which require a target. This means you can click an NPC to target them and then click an action button to stab them (for example) which I think is more intuitive if you're not used to MUDs...We use sounds in the web client...
So essentially you are turning into a dumbed down graphics game. One thing we really stress against with upgrades and web interface on NWA.

We (NWA Staff and Game) don't want to compete with WoW or Runescape. They own the market on online RPG's with graphics and sound. It would be like a publisher of books having music and video clips inside the book as you read it. No thanks.

For those muds that want to gear this way, go for it. I commend IRE for attempting to make things clean for people brand new to text only games. We are moving in that direction as well having a type of directional start up for brand new players to text vs. experienced text players.
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Old 01-27-2010, 02:39 PM   #6
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

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So essentially you are turning into a dumbed down graphics game.
I think you've missed the point. What I was talking about (and you even quoted me) was using a mouse for command selection. This has nothing to do with being a "graphics game", dumbed down or otherwise. There is a distinction here between input and output. WoW for example isn't a "dumbed down text game" just because you can type commands on it.
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Old 01-27-2010, 04:07 PM   #7
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
So essentially you are turning into a dumbed down graphics game.
Most muds incorporate both text and graphics (although text muds are usually limited to ASCII graphics) - so it's really just a question of degree. Personally I don't see how replacing a text prompt with an energy bar or an ASCII map with a proper graphical one would dumb down a game.

Even your own mud has graphical images on its website - do you think it would dumb down your mud if the maps could be accessed directly from within the mud, or if some of your artwork was included in the help files? You wouldn't even necessarily need to use pictures - you could just use it to format output into nice tables, or extend the number of available colours, or provide a thematic medieval font, etc. Or perhaps the only graphics are the background, which looks like the open pages of an ancient book.

Back in the old days there were people who hated the idea of adding ANSI colour to muds (after all, novels aren't written in multicoloured text!). But over time colour has become a fairly standard feature, and I believe we'll gradually see the same acceptance extended towards certain graphical elements. No doubt some muds will spurn all graphics, just as some still refuse to add colour, but I think the hobby on the whole will adapt.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
We (NWA Staff and Game) don't want to compete with WoW or Runescape. They own the market on online RPG's with graphics and sound.
Like it or not, you are competing with WoW and Runescape. But there's a large market for multiplayer browser games, and players' graphical expectations are far lower than for regular MMORPGs. I think even a primarily text-based mud could pull in many new players with some careful marketing and a pretty browser-based client.

And don't forget, the browser client would be optional - your existing players could stick with their own clients. You wouldn't be giving anything up, only opening new doors.

Finally, as I mentioned previously, sound support is very popular among blind players - and that is one audience you're not competing with WoW over.
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Old 01-27-2010, 05:37 PM   #8
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

I think the point is to make it easier to introduce players to the mud experience, rather then trying to 'clickify' everything. Obviously they will still have to type when every the talk to anyone and when they start to get deeper into the game.

On IRE we put in some tracking to see exactly at what points in our newbie tours people quit. A significant number of people quit when they ran into something a little tricky to type. For example, there was a mob in one of the intros players had to send a tell too, the name was complex, and the new players had trouble spelling it just right. Not understanding the problem, a huge number of people quit. We changed that part of the intro and it significantly cleared up the problem.

I agree that we are directly competing not only with WoW and Runescape, but with every form of entertainment on the web. There are thousands of free games, facebook games, flash games, console games, etc, for people to entertain themselves. If muds cannot instantly catch some attention in the 'first page' (good analogy Scandum), the we will always loose to games that provide a better, cleaner, faster interface.

Also Scandum, thanks for pointing out that wonderful graphic. We have a better one here (Midkemia Online: Sign Up and Play!), but your point is taken. We are actually going to be spending a significant amount of time the next few months redoing our websites and really focusing on things like that.

As for MSP, we have not really done anything with that. I think my rapture guy would kill me if I asked him to add it at this point. Trying to get MXP to work across all the plethora of clients out there has been quite a bit of work. However, I do think we will start adding sound in the future. We will probably confine it to the client. Things such as background music, mouse click sounds, button roll overs, and such, to get a feel to user reaction to it.
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Old 01-27-2010, 06:53 PM   #9
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
Most muds incorporate both text and graphics (although text muds are usually limited to ASCII graphics) - so it's really just a question of degree. Personally I don't see how replacing a text prompt with an energy bar or an ASCII map with a proper graphical one would dumb down a game.
I think you missed my point entirely. When I say "dumbed down graphical game" I'm talking about Text Games that try to incorporate graphic bars and maps, and images, and sound like that of WoW but leave a lot to be desired. What you essentially get is a "dumbed down" graphical game.

Quote:
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Like it or not, you are competing with WoW and Runescape.
No, no we are not. Not in a market share sense. Unless you are speaking so globally that Monopoly is also competing with WoW because they are both games, or Mcdonald's online is competing with WoW online because they are both "online", which is rediculous in market strategy.

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And don't forget, the browser client would be optional - your existing players could stick with their own clients. You wouldn't be giving anything up, only opening new doors.
We have an online web based client, so I'm not sure who you are talking to.
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Old 01-27-2010, 07:05 PM   #10
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

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No, no we are not. Not in a market share sense. Unless you are speaking so globally that Monopoly is also competing with WoW because they are both games, or Mcdonald's online is competing with WoW online because they are both "online", which is rediculous in market strategy.
We may not be competing with them in market share, but we're definitely competing with them in mind share and time share. If they're playing World of Warcraft 8 hours a day, they're probably not putting much time into MUDs.

Why not make our genre of games easily accessible to as many people as possible?
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Old 01-27-2010, 07:08 PM   #11
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

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Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
No, no we are not. Not in a market share sense. Unless you are speaking so globally that Monopoly is also competing with WoW because they are both games, or Mcdonald's online is competing with WoW online because they are both "online", which is rediculous in market strategy.
I disagree. We are competing directly with games like WoW. On the week that WoW came out (and this is probably true for all MUDs) I can track an instant decrease in our online play times for all our games. Without a doubt I attribute it 100% to WoW.

I think we are competing with McDonalds online as well. Luckily however, they have nothing of worth to keep people on their site, instead of ours.

Basically, we compete with any form of entertainment that keeps people from our games. When people have some free time and are wondering what to do, we want them to think, 'Hey, I want to become addicted to an online game', opposed to 'Hey, I think I will go to a movie, or play a board game.'

Last edited by Avasyu : 01-27-2010 at 09:23 PM.
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Old 01-27-2010, 09:12 PM   #12
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

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Originally Posted by Avasyu View Post
2. What other things do you think can be done ease players into the typing/text/mud experience?
I think that MUD developers need to get out of the mindset that "telnet clients" are what define MUDs. MUDs and their kin do compete against other forms of time-sinks. So, capturing the hearts and minds of the next up-and-coming 20 somethings is going to require an understanding of how THEY do things -- not how WE think they should do things. These folks are a group who like to point at and poke things with their mouse cursors. Typing is practically a secondary experience. The interactive social media/entertainment platforms that are popular today are not popular because the users have to navigate the interface with a series of typed commands. They are popular because users are easily connected to the information they desire, interacting with it through mostly a series of mouse clicks/gestures/etc. Typing certainly comes into play, but at a lesser extent. Please realize that I am referring to how users interact/navigate with the content of their choice --- not how they actually create it. Obviously they must use their keyboards for posting, emailing, twittering, etc. ;-)

Furthermore, graphics and sound are highly useful in assisting the users reach their goals in getting the information they desire - be it an exclamation point over a MOB to indicate a quest, a "DING" sound to let them know they've bumped into a wall, or a highlighted icon to let them know they have mail. People now-a-days expect these things. Counting these sorts of features as impure or not-useful in your game world because they "don't fit the genre" may cause the genre to slowly go the way of the dinosaur.

To me, the bottom line is making an attempt at understanding what the users of today and tomorrow actually do by habit. We need to evolve our MUD clients/interfaces to facilitate these habits. Zero install, browser based games are huge in popularity! I applaud any MUD creator who is actively targeting the browser and the multimedia capabilities offered through the browser platform.

One might draw the parallel between MUDs and books. "Books" are really more a concept -- in the sense that they are written words, placed on paper. Now-a-days, though, its getting mighty popular to interact with those same words on a webpage, an ebook reader, or some other electronic medium. You see, the general concept of reading has not changed -- but the way a person interacts (The interface) with those words certainly is evolving!


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Old 01-27-2010, 09:19 PM   #13
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

Nice response ArchPrime, I agree 100%.
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Old 01-28-2010, 02:20 AM   #14
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

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Furthermore, graphics and sound are highly useful in assisting the users reach their goals in getting the information they desire - be it an exclamation point over a MOB to indicate a quest, a "DING" sound to let them know they've bumped into a wall, or a highlighted icon to let them know they have mail.
I think this is where the biggest divide is. One group sees MUDs as an imaginative immersive experience. The other group does too (or so I assume?), but believes exclamation marks over mobs, ding sounds, and glowing mailboxes will improve this immersive experience, where as the former group believes it detracts from the experience.
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Old 01-28-2010, 06:24 AM   #15
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

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I think this is where the biggest divide is. One group sees MUDs as an imaginative immersive experience. The other group does too (or so I assume?), but believes exclamation marks over mobs, ding sounds, and glowing mailboxes will improve this immersive experience, where as the former group believes it detracts from the experience.
It's not about immersion, it's about the user interface. After all, ASCII colour doesn't improve the immersion of a game, but many muds still find it a useful way of drawing attention to important information. Likewise, some muds use the bell character for private messages, or ASCII graphics for login screens and in-game maps. This is really just an improvement on such methods.

Having said that, personally I find that sound effects can be used to improve the immersion of a game. Background sounds from the terrain you're walking through, the noise of a storm raging overhead, even the roar of the monster you've just encountered or the ringing sound of your sword leaving its scabbard - I find all of these add to the atmosphere of the game. But if you disagree, if you hate sound, you don't have to use it! It's completely optional, it doesn't impact anything else or give a disadvantage to those who don't want it. You don't "lose" anything from adding it, except the hour or two spent adding sound support to the server.
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Old 01-28-2010, 06:37 AM   #16
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

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Originally Posted by scandum View Post
I think this is where the biggest divide is. One group sees MUDs as an imaginative immersive experience. The other group does too (or so I assume?), but believes exclamation marks over mobs, ding sounds, and glowing mailboxes will improve this immersive experience, where as the former group believes it detracts from the experience.
I think it's important to make a distinction between interface elements and the rendering of the world itself. I agree that a world described in text makes for a more imaginative and immersive experience than one rendered graphically, but that doesn't necessarily have to carry over to how you interact with that world. A conventional MUD prompt with numbers isn't automatically more immersive for the player than a graphical bar, in the same way that typing "get sword" isn't any more immersive than selecting the sword with your mouse.
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Old 01-28-2010, 09:51 AM   #17
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

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One might draw the parallel between MUDs and books. "Books" are really more a concept -- in the sense that they are written words, placed on paper. Now-a-days, though, its getting mighty popular to interact with those same words on a webpage, an ebook reader, or some other electronic medium. You see, the general concept of reading has not changed -- but the way a person interacts (The interface) with those words certainly is evolving!
This.

I would agree that trying to turn a text game into a "dumbed down graphical game" would generally be a Bad Thing, but I think it would be an Even Worse Thing to develop a MUD that was a dumbed down text game.

Blogs, IM, social networking sites, and the like have all shown that people are still very receptive to textual communication online. But they have expectations for some ability to interact with that text that isn't available on the printed page. MUDs that can meet those expectations will probably lower the threshold for acceptance for new players.
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Old 01-28-2010, 10:15 AM   #18
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

What attracted me to my first text game, was that I wasn't watching TV. In other words, I started with text, specifically for the purpose of avoiding graphics. Since modern socialization revolves around graphics, I don't know how valid my opinions are. However, here's a thought, just the same:

Don't automate. Make the players actually do each thing necessary. Don't "put them in a special room" where some mobile tells them what to type in order to pick up the broadsword, wield it, and kill a kobold. Instead, focus on the help file system. Make it as intuitive as possible, with enough cross-referencing to cross your eyes.

If someone comes from a graphics game where they click a clickie and it shows what they have in their inventory has grown by 1 item...

Then include references to get, pick, take, hold, drop, give, accept, and use in the inventory helpfile. In the use helpfile, include all ways someone can use something, in addition to the actual use command: wield, wave, drop, give, hold, equip, break, throw, etc. etc.

Help files should be succint, but they should -also- provide a list of other help files people can refer to if they're looking for something different, but related.

The help files should -also- be on the website, categorized and sorted alphabetically, PLUS numerically, PLUS by category, and within each category, alphabetically. So the entirety of the help file list should be accessible in any number of ways, because players will look for a single file in any number of ways. Excel can do this with ease, most spreadsheet programs can as well. Plus they can be transferred to html nicely so there really is no reason why every mud's help files aren't set up in a multitude of cross-referenced lists.
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Old 01-28-2010, 11:39 AM   #19
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

In the IRE games, we've found that we have great success with a mixture of both hand-holding and liberal help file referencing.

Just referring them to the help files alone is rarely sufficient. We like to tell them what to do (pick up the sword, kill the kobold), congratulate them after they've done it, and then provide them with the information about the help files so that they can reference it later.
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Old 01-28-2010, 01:08 PM   #20
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Re: Easing the process for new players.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
It's not about immersion, it's about the user interface. After all, ASCII colour doesn't improve the immersion of a game, but many muds still find it a useful way of drawing attention to important information. Likewise, some muds use the bell character for private messages, or ASCII graphics for login screens and in-game maps. This is really just an improvement on such methods.
I wasn't talking about the user interface, if people new to muds prefer using the mouse that's fine (I personally dislike having to move my hand back and forth between the keyboard and mouse). Books that give chapter titles and page numbers a different color aren't a big issue either. It's when random words or paragraphs are highlighted for emphasis that it starts to annoy some people, particularly builders making forest descriptions green is something that baffles me. Exclamation marks over quest mobs and quest logs takes most of the fun out of questing / exploring, so it's both immersion breaking and dumbing things down to a grade school level, which I guess is fine if that's your target audience.
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