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Old 01-24-2003, 05:33 PM   #1
Threshold
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Main Premise:

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Originally Posted by
KaVir wrote:
No, the "general attitude" is that a mud which specifically caters to the masses will sacrifice quality in order to attain quantity - and that isn't a phenomenon unique to muds.

Which would you rather add - a groundbreaking technical feature which was unnoticable from a players perspective, or a new "ninja" class which would attract a few new players? †The answer depends on your personal priorities.
In think in many (if not all) industries, the temptation for any business is to sacrifice quality for quantity. That is what gives us things like AOL and Everquest.

There are, however, exceptions. Blizzard is an excellent example, imho, of a company that continues to devote itself to producing HIGH QUALITY games despite their success. They do not seem to make decisions based on what will sell vs. what makes for a great game.

Thus, I think a critical portion of your initial premise comes at the end: "The answer depends on your personal priorities."

Quote:
Originally Posted by
KaVir wrote:
A commercial mud, by it's very nature, has to reorganise those priorities - it's no longer a hobby, but a business. †It might be nice to add a "cool new feature", but if it doesn't add anything to the gameplay then (from a business point of view) it's probably not worth adding - particularly not when you could spend that time developing something which will improve your profits (and for a commericial mud, "players = profit").

For many of us developing muds as a hobby, the fun comes from pushing the boundries of what has been done before. †Innovation is the goal, and the playerbase is just something that happens on the way. †For a commercial mud (unless it has very poor business management) the goal is to get a large playerbase, and any innovations are just stepping stones to get there.
On these points I think you have painted with a bit too broad of a brush. As you also noted, not all hobby games eschew popularity for quality. In fact, I would posit that some of (please note, I said SOME OF) the hobby games are the worst "popularity whores" of the genre. Think of the thousands of MUDs out there where there is little or no thought given to doing something new or interesting. Instead, they just race to see how many snippets and downloadable areas they can plug into their game, and then try to cobble together the latest "fad" classes that people will get excited about (ninjas, dragons, vampires, etc.).

Further, consider how many hobby muds are nothing more than:

1) A group of angry players/coders/builders from Mud A who set out to create Mud B and their core design philosophy is "Mud A sucks! We're going to make Mud B everything Mud A SHOULD HAVE BEEN but isn't because Head Admin of Mud A is a nazi!"

2) A single person who doesn't work well with others (and thus cannot get a builder or coder position on an existing mud), so he downloads some source, pays $10 for some server space, and posts a "LOOKING FOR HEAD CODER" message on web forums and usenet.

3) A single person who is unwilling to learn about mud development by working their way up on any other game, so he downloads some source, pays $10 for some server space, starts hacking away, and posts "LOOKING FOR CODERS & BUILDERS" messages on web forums and usenet. Note that the difference here between this person and any other person starting their own mud is that the person I am referring to here is the type of person who would not even CONSIDER building for some other game even just to learn through experience about mud design and administration.

----------

I do not think every commercial game follows the AOL model of development where the only thing that matters are: 1) The number of customers and 2) The bottom line.

In order to illustrate my point, I can best speak about my own experience in creating and running Threshold.

From the first day I started making Threshold, my design philosophy was a simple corollary of the "If you build it, they will come" idea: Make the kind of game I would like to play, and people who want the same thing will come. Those who come, will be thrilled to have finally found "IT!".

In the course of following this design philosophy, I have made many decisions that have DRAMATICALLY reduced the potential "customer base" I could have built were that my own goal.

Firstly, you must be 18 or older to play Threshold. Right there I am already cutting out a HUGE portion of the market for onling gaming. From playing games, I got sick of dealing with immature 13 year old punks, and as I got older I became less and less comfortable with having to worry whether or not the things I was doing or saying were appropriate for "kids" to hear (should there be any kids present). So as a player, I didn't want to have to deal with kids and I didn't want to have to worry that there might BE kids present if I was saying something not appropriate for kids.

[NOTE: I freely acknowledge that there are many people under 18 that are FAR MORE MATURE than people 20, 30, or even 40+ years old. But when you make policy, you are dealing with generalities. In general, children under 18 are not very mature. Furthermore, there is no alternative solution to the problem of adults feeling uncomfortable when they are worried there "might be young ears present".]

Secondly, I made Threshold *RP REQUIRED*. I would say that the overwhelming majority of online gamers fall into 2 categories: 1) People that have no interest in RP and 2) People that have passing/some interest in RP. They want to RP now and then, but not all the time. There is a third category of people, those who want to RP all the time and stay IC at all times, but that category of people is MINISCULE compared to the first two. By establishing a rule that alienated the first 2 groups completely, I cut my potential customer base down by at least 80% (if not more).

Thirdly, I do not tolerate twinks. If people make an ass of themself during their free trial period, they are gone. If they treat the newbie helpers with disrespect on the OOC newbie help channel, if they go on PK rampages that are totally absurd and have no IC justification, etc. they are nuked and sent packing. If I just wanted their money, I could easily just ignore it, let them pay up, and then wait for the sheer mass of the IC player run society to squish them into an oily stain in the dirt. But I do not want my players to have to deal with such people, so I weed them out early.

Fourth, when it comes to game development, I design the things I think are cool and fun. I discourage players from trying to engage in "feedback by mob rule" because I don't want to make decisions based on quelling the mob. This is not to say that we do not solicit player input and feedback. We have NUMEROUS commands that facilitate sending in suggestions, feature requests, corrections, etc. and also encourage it via email and on our web forums. We also take pride in the fact that we implement TONS of player suggested features on a continual basis. But the point is we don't add something just because 100 people think its 'kewl.'

Fifth, we do not engage in "game inflation." This phenomenon is something you see on many (if not most games). Game inflation is when every new area has monsters worth more xp, with better loot, better weapons, better armor, etc. This gets people all excited because they feel like they can get all this great new "phat lewt!". In my opinion, it makes the game absurd in the long run. However, it definitely seems popular and it keeps the drooling masses coming back for more, so it certainly delivers numbers. However, as I have stated before, that is not my priority.

----------

So to summarize, I completely agree with you that when numbers of players becomes the first priority quality and innovation suffer.

I disagree, however, with the assertion that this phenomenon is particularly common in commercial games vs. hobby games. On the contrary, I think you see the most extreme and eggregious examples of this in non-commercial games where the admins are engaging in some kind of ****ing contest based on how many players they have. (I do grant you, however, that in total there is more innovation going on in the total of all hobby games than in the aggregate of all commercial games.)

Further, I feel there are many commercial games (and gaming companies) where the priority is making the best game possible rather than the best selling or most popular game possible.

I know that is my personal design philosophy, and it seems that some other excellent companies (like the aforementioned Blizzard) work in a simlar manner.

I would agree, however, that such companies are less common than the "lowest common denominator" type, but I feel it is important to make the distinction.
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Old 01-24-2003, 08:16 PM   #2
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Very intelligent and well-put. I don't agree with everything you've ever said, but this one anyway makes a lot of sense heh.

I will admit that a lot of us have the stereotype that commercial mud = piece of crap that only cares about how much money they can get, but then in most cases that's just as valid a stereotype as under 18 = immature twink who doesn't "get" RP. (Here's where Orion would probably call you a hypocrite, heh.)

Personally I don't care. If a mud wants to charge money that's their business, but I don't have to play it if I can't afford it and if it doesn't seem like something I'd like.

Actually, the only reason I don't run my own mud is that I can't afford to, and even if I could I prefer to design rather than code. I have a lot of ideas for things I'd like to experiment with, but none of them will probably ever exist because if I code it, I won't have fun playing it because I'll know how it all works. This is a large part of the reason I won't let myself become a creator on the mud I play, even though they've been asking me to off and on for years, heh. I did spend 3 years helping to design a game intended to be one of those hugely successful MMORPG's though, even though our head coder went AWOL on us and nothing ever happened with it. I love design. I'm just not so fond of coding even when I know how to do it. We wanted the game to be something we'd get so addicted to that we wouldn't want to eat or sleep, and the money we hoped to make from it was sort of secondary. So I know where you're coming from there.

As for the mud I'm addicted to, I think it's a great thing that we have a lot more players now than we used to, and the creators didn't "sell out" in order to get a bigger player base. When I started about 3 years ago, we had maybe 300 chars active in a good month, and 70-80 per day. Recently I've seen the monthly figure up at almost 500 and the daily at 150. Most of this I think is due to joining the community here at TMS, and being consistently in the top 20 even though we have a pretty small player base compared to a lot of the others. The mud is still the same concept it used to be (although with better features hehe), it's just that more people know about it now. So sometimes you CAN have a larger player base without sacrificing quality or your ideals. It's working for us anyway.

-this inane rambling brought to you by a sick and twisted mind
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Old 01-24-2003, 09:28 PM   #3
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Actually, Blizzard has been condemned by its Diablo (the only Blizzard game that I follow, so maybe other games as well) player base for over two years for its lack of effort to maintain the integrity of Battle.net and the balance of the 7 different classes.
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Old 01-25-2003, 11:51 AM   #4
Molly
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The world must be coming to an end, since lately Threshold and I actually have been agreeing on some thingsÖ

(On a side note, †I donít know what this thread is doing in ĎAdvanced Mud Conceptsí, but as long as KaVir doesnít mind, who am I to question it? Iíll add to the discussion instead, giving the viewpoint of a free Mud that has been up for quite some time).

First, to the things we agree on. I totally agree that the syndrome of trying to attract as many players as possible isnít specific for P2P muds, too many free muds suffer from it too. In fact I think that to many Administrators having as large a playerbase as possible is their primary goal, and in the process of trying to cater to all tastes, they often end up with a washed-out, uniform product, that makes one stock mud hard to separate from another.

I also agree that some of the hobby games - ď (please note, I said SOME OF)ď - are more or less worthless crap, totally without merit and individuality. And, as Iíve stated before, I regard this as the biggest threat to the Mud Community, because the comparatively few good, original muds drown in the deluge of uniform, half-assed Twink Muds that swamp the Mud lists.

But then again, there are of course also some statements that I disagree withÖ

For instance this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by
Further, consider how many hobby muds are nothing more than:

1) A group of angry players/coders/builders from Mud A who set out to create Mud B and their core design philosophy is "Mud A sucks! We're going to make Mud B everything Mud A SHOULD HAVE BEEN but isn't because Head Admin of Mud A is a nazi!"
LOL! That is EXACTLY how and why we †- (and I guess many with us) - set out. And what is so wrong with that, providing you actually DO end up producing something better?

I guess the difference between our group and some others is, that most of the people who start muds - (for one reason or another) - arenít willing/able to put in the extensive and qualified work needed to create a good Mud. They donít even realise from the start how much work that IS involved.

We had a vision from the start, and it hasnít changed much on the long and hard way to fulfilling it. Sure, we didnít have to develop a codebase from scratch, since we never had any intention to make any money from our creation. So, we started out with the already existing Circle code Ė (no need to re-invent the wheel) Ė and added the features that we specifically wanted for our concept to it. In particular we added a lot of extra options to the OLC, to enable the Builders to create zones that were more fleshed out, challenging, multi-tiered and intriguing than most Muds offer their players. We added some snippets and some unique code, again being guided specifically by what we wanted our mud to be.

But the main bulk of the work has been put down on the zones, and the built-in Quests in those. It normally takes 100 hours to build a decent quality 100 room zone with individual descs. If you add a lot of extra descs to it, to enhance the flavour and supply hints for Quests, like for instance LISTEN/SMELL/TASTE/FEEL descs, look <noun> and look BEHIND/ABOVE/UNDER <noun> descs, then the time needed might easily become the double. Add to that the Quest scripts, that usually have to be pretty advanced to prevent cheating, and you end up with a quality zone, that only few Builders have the talent, knowledge, energy and persistence to produce.

The encouraging thing is, that good Builders seem to inspire each other, and so our best Builders quickly adapted to these standards. It has even become a contest between them to produce the most intriguing new zone.

Itís true that each Mud should find its own niche, and stay as true to that as possible. We donít go for enforced roleplay, since neither of the Founders are very much into RP, and because enforced roleplay quite often - (please note, I didnít say ALWAYS) - ends up in just the type of 'naziĎ environment that takes much of the fun from mudding.

But then again we donít cater for the hackíníslash masses either. Sure, you can get along here up to a point by just killing mobs, but to really get to the top, you also need to be SMART. In some Muds you have to shell out $ to get the best equipment. In our Mud you have to solve some pretty tricky Quests to get it.

So thatís who we cater for Ė the SMART players. I guess thatís why our playerbase still is pretty limited, in spite of the fact that weíve been on line for almost 6 years now. † *snicker*
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Old 01-25-2003, 01:28 PM   #5
Threshold
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Quote:
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Molly wrote:
The world must be coming to an end, since lately Threshold and I actually have been agreeing on some things
It gets worse! Because even the place where you THOUGHT you disagreed, we don't! [SEE BELOW!]


Quote:
Originally Posted by
Aristotle wrote:
Further, consider how many hobby muds are nothing more than:

1) A group of angry players/coders/builders from Mud A who set out to create Mud B and their core design philosophy is "Mud A sucks! We're going to make Mud B everything Mud A SHOULD HAVE BEEN but isn't because Head Admin of Mud A is a nazi!"
Quote:
Originally Posted by
Molly wrote:
LOL! That is EXACTLY how and why we - (and I guess many with us) - set out. And what is so wrong with that, providing you actually DO end up producing something better?
Nothing is wrong with that!

The type of mud I was referring to there was mainly the kind where a bunch of people from one mud who were generally troublemakers, rabble-rousers, and just plain bad folks decide to try and make a mud as a way to "attack" the mud they are mad at.


Quote:
Originally Posted by
Molly wrote:
I guess the difference between our group and some others is, that most of the people who start muds - (for one reason or another) - arenít willing/able to put in the extensive and qualified work needed to create a good Mud. They donít even realise from the start how much work that IS involved.
I think you are dead on. I think that is EXACTLY the difference. People who start with a positive motive (truly wanting to make a better game) have a good foundation. People who start with a negative motive (lets destroy Mud A by making Mud B! ) generally do not have the willingness or wherewithal to see the project through.


Quote:
Originally Posted by
Molly wrote:
So, we started out with the already existing Circle code (no need to re-invent the wheel)
I quoted this for one reason... I just wanted to note the irony that when you started with "CIRCLE" you didn't have to re-invite the "WHEEL". *smirks*
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Old 01-25-2003, 01:32 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by (Friedman @ Jan. 24 2003,20:28)
Actually, Blizzard has been condemned by its Diablo (the only Blizzard game that I follow, so maybe other games as well) player base for over two years for its lack of effort to maintain the integrity of Battle.net and the balance of the 7 different classes.
Battle.net issues have nothing to do with game design though. And considering the money Blizzard has invested into servers and bandwidth, people who complain about a free service are turds.

Also, the main people whining about balance between their classes are the .0001% who compete for a spot on their ladder rankings. With 5+ million people playing each of their games, the miniscule few competing to be on their top 10 lists is incredibly infinitessimal.
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Old 01-25-2003, 05:01 PM   #7
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I don't like blizzard games much. They seem so... derivative.

About Player base: No matter how well built the game is generally, if there is no one else to talk and play with, it isn't very enticing for people to stay and continue playing.

I've logged on to muds which seem very nice, but only have no one else on, so I log off. And all muds which have good player bases have low quality stockiness...

I guess I'll keep to my old mud, as nothing compares, and I've tried many...
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Old 01-25-2003, 06:03 PM   #8
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Azhon wrote:
I don't like blizzard games much. They seem so... derivative.
Hmmm. I think you played the games in the wrong order then. Most of the features from Diablo I & II, Warcraft I, II, and III, and Starcraft were ripped off *FROM* those games and used elsewhere.

The Diablo inventory and paper doll system has become the de facto standard for not just RPGs but many action and adventure games as well.

The Diablo system of clicking where you want your avatar to move to, rather than steering/walking via keyboard commands has also been ripped off.

Then there are the countless attempts at being the "Diablo killer"... most of which failed miserably (Darkstone, Dungeon Siege, and tons more).

I am not as familiar with Warcraft, but I believe innumerable features have been ripped off *FROM* it and have become standard RTS fare as a result.

Starcraft is another classic that is certainly in its own league. It is an international megahit of gargantuan proportions. It has a longevity that is unbelievable.

Now, I can understand not liking their games. Entertainment is just that way- not everyone likes the same things.

But "derivative" is an issue of fact, and generally it is Blizzard from which ideas are "borrowed" rather than vice versa.


Quote:
Originally Posted by
Azhon wrote:
About Player base: No matter how well built the game is generally, if there is no one else to talk and play with, it isn't very enticing for people to stay and continue playing.

I've logged on to muds which seem very nice, but only have no one else on, so I log off. And all muds which have good player bases have low quality stockiness...

Well, good thing that isn't what we are talking about here then, eh?

We aren't talking about a game with 5 players trying to reach a critical mass of say 50 or 70 players online.

We are talking about admins/game developers making the size of their playerbase the number one priority such that even if they have 200 players online at all times on average, the goal is to get 250 online average, rather than just trying to make the game as good as it can be.
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Old 01-25-2003, 07:49 PM   #9
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When I mean derivative I mean that they're not very original.

Starcraft is essentially Yet Another Dune. Warcraft is roughly the same.

Diablo is a simplified rogue/nethack with pretty graphics. Mindlessly repetitive too.

Both have been done before.

And I'm getting this thread right off topic. Sorry. Going to PMs from now on
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