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Old 08-02-2010, 07:42 AM   #61
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

There always have been (and always will be) some people who are more interested in taking than giving, shamelessly pushing their own agendas at every opportunity, and offering nothing but scorn and insults to the achievements of their competitors.

But equally there are also those who contribute back to the community, whether through advice and suggestions, offering community resources, developing public protocols, sharing design concepts and code, or even releasing fully functional mud servers and clients.

I don't really see any change in that respect, but I have noticed a change in terms of the sort of things the community is working on (and sharing), and overall I think it's pretty positive.

For example, Mudlet and MUSHclient are both actively developed clients that have been made open source, making them more accessable to people who wish to do further customisation - and both clients have been introducing significant support for graphical interfaces.

Then there's MudStandards, which (at least until it was ruined by a couple of bad apples) was making some good progress towards open standards for the benefit of all muds - it looks like development has gone underground, but the end result should still be something that'll benefit the community on the whole, and their wiki may also prove a valuable resource in the future.

Then you could take a look over Tyche's list of open source mud servers, some of which are pretty young. These have avoided the restrictive licences of the past, and at least one of them has been used as the basis for rather nice-looking commercial mud.

And of course there are things like the Intermud chat networks, which improve communication between mud owners, allowing them to better interact and share ideas.

Then of course there are newer sites such as WGFriends, which attempts to bring together different genres of online game, and is even working on a browser client that mud owners can customise to their individual games - once it's complete I think this'll be a great way for muds to offer a download-free graphical interface to new players, and it could even help push muds into the browser market.

Overall I'd say I've got a pretty positive feeling about the direction muds (in general) are heading. Competition may be stiff, but muds as a whole seem to be adapting and evolving, and I'm really excited about some of the things I'm seeing.
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Old 08-02-2010, 08:00 AM   #62
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Thumbs up Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
There always have been (and always will be) some people who are more interested in taking than giving, shamelessly pushing their own agendas at every opportunity, and offering nothing but scorn and insults to the achievements of their competitors.

But equally there are also those who contribute back to the community, whether through advice and suggestions, offering community resources, developing public protocols, sharing design concepts and code, or even releasing fully functional mud servers and clients.

I don't really see any change in that respect, but I have noticed a change in terms of the sort of things the community is working on (and sharing), and overall I think it's pretty positive.

For example, Mudlet and MUSHclient are both actively developed clients that have been made open source, making them more accessable to people who wish to do further customisation - and both clients have been introducing significant support for graphical interfaces.

Then there's MudStandards, which (at least until it was ruined by a couple of bad apples) was making some good progress towards open standards for the benefit of all muds - it looks like development has gone underground, but the end result should still be something that'll benefit the community on the whole, and their wiki may also prove a valuable resource in the future.

Then you could take a look over Tyche's list of open source mud servers, some of which are pretty young. These have avoided the restrictive licences of the past, and at least one of them has been used as the basis for rather nice-looking commercial mud.

And of course there are things like the Intermud chat networks, which improve communication between mud owners, allowing them to better interact and share ideas.

Then of course there are newer sites such as WGFriends, which attempts to bring together different genres of online game, and is even working on a browser client that mud owners can customise to their individual games - once it's complete I think this'll be a great way for muds to offer a download-free graphical interface to new players, and it could even help push muds into the browser market.

Overall I'd say I've got a pretty positive feeling about the direction muds (in general) are heading. Competition may be stiff, but muds as a whole seem to be adapting and evolving, and I'm really excited about some of the things I'm seeing.
Now that's a lot of exciting things to hear about.
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Old 08-02-2010, 11:20 AM   #63
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Now that's a lot of exciting things to hear about.
Disclaimer: The following is a rant based in large part on frustration and is the opinion of myself only, and not the other Lithmerian staff or Lithmeria as a whole.

It is, but I can't help but feel that the biggest threat to the 'health' of MUDs isn't a lack of developers/developer tools but a lack of players and lower tier staff. Thousands of MUDs open up every year, each draining players and talent out of the common pool from which they all draw. My concern is that many of these MUDs are created and run by people who want to try MUD administration but don't fully comprehend the level of commitment required to make a real go of it. They play around with a stock codebase, change a few things, goof around with the OLC, change a few room names and declare their MUD open for business. Players enter (and I fear) become disillusioned with the genre as they are met with a lack of professionalism, dedication and innovation.

I can't help but feel that if every 10 MUDs out there consolidated into one, pooling their staff and combining their talents and resources, the hobby as a whole would be in much better shape. It reminds me of being a kid and playing Battlefield: 1942 with my friends, watching as every single person on a team swarmed toward the 2-3 planes/tanks in an effort to get there first, only to eventually lose the game because no one wanted to be an unglamorous (but indispensable) infantryman.

What makes this issue especially significant for me is the snowball effect the size of a playerbase has on a MUD. I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally would have absolutely no interest in playing even the very best MUD in the world if it had no player base. The PvE could be a rollercoaster ride of adventure that makes raiding 25 man heroics for the achievements in WoW seem like a nice relaxing afternoon of casual gaming... and I still wouldn't play if there were only 6 people online at a time. Similarly, I know I lingered at my previous MUD home for far longer than I probably should have because I'd built up a whole slew of connections and relationships, possible only in a MUD with a significant playerbase. My fear is that MUDs have spread themselves so thin that quality games are wallowing in obscurity, unable to pick up the initial playerbase required to build up a true following.

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Old 08-02-2010, 06:05 PM   #64
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by Elvarlyn View Post
Disclaimer: The following is a rant based in large part on frustration and is the opinion of myself only, and not the other Lithmerian staff or Lithmeria as a whole.

It is, but I can't help but feel that the biggest threat to the 'health' of MUDs isn't a lack of developers/developer tools but a lack of players and lower tier staff. Thousands of MUDs open up every year, each draining players and talent out of the common pool from which they all draw. My concern is that many of these MUDs are created and run by people who want to try MUD administration but don't fully comprehend the level of commitment required to make a real go of it. They play around with a stock codebase, change a few things, goof around with the OLC, change a few room names and declare their MUD open for business. Players enter (and I fear) become disillusioned with the genre as they are met with a lack of professionalism, dedication and innovation.

I can't help but feel that if every 10 MUDs out there consolidated into one, pooling their staff and combining their talents and resources, the hobby as a whole would be in much better shape. It reminds me of being a kid and playing Battlefield: 1942 with my friends, watching as every single person on a team swarmed toward the 2-3 planes/tanks in an effort to get there first, only to eventually lose the game because no one wanted to be an unglamorous (but indispensable) infantryman.

What makes this issue especially significant for me is the snowball effect the size of a playerbase has on a MUD. I can't speak for anyone else, but I personally would have absolutely no interest in playing even the very best MUD in the world if it had no player base. The PvE could be a rollercoaster ride of adventure that makes raiding 25 man heroics for the achievements in WoW seem like a nice relaxing afternoon of casual gaming... and I still wouldn't play if there were only 6 people online at a time. Similarly, I know I lingered at my previous MUD home for far longer than I probably should have because I'd built up a whole slew of connections and relationships, possible only in a MUD with a significant playerbase. My fear is that MUDs have spread themselves so thin that quality games are wallowing in obscurity, unable to pick up the initial playerbase required to build up a true following.
Well there is no solution to that unless you increase the player pool significantly or make requirements for being listed far more stringent (sort of blacklisting those with a certain percentage of stock in their codebase).

The community effort idea I have could potentially increase the player pool, but it is a fact that all the dead listings and nearly stock listings do give players a bad impression. I do think there should be higher standards for listings in general like a minimum time frame from when a listing is added until it is displayed for others to see. I'm all for giving anyone the opportunity to make a MUD, I just don't agree that a slew of dead or carbon copy MUDs should be cluttering up the main listings.

That may make me sound like an asshole and I really don't want to come off that way. It's just the way I see it. TMS lists tons of MUDs for example that I know are dead and have been for years. I'm sure the same can be said for other listings.
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Old 08-02-2010, 07:34 PM   #65
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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I do think there should be higher standards for listings in general like a minimum time frame from when a listing is added until it is displayed for others to see. I'm all for giving anyone the opportunity to make a MUD, I just don't agree that a slew of dead or carbon copy MUDs should be cluttering up the main listings.

That may make me sound like an asshole and I really don't want to come off that way. It's just the way I see it. TMS lists tons of MUDs for example that I know are dead and have been for years. I'm sure the same can be said for other listings.
I don't see why saying that makes you a jerk. Games like God Wars II, Threshold, IRE, Lithmeria, Armageddon and so on have thousands of man hours invested in them. They have original descriptions, unique code, new lore and so on and so forth. Yet, on a listing, they get exactly as much space as some stock-trash anime clone MUD someone threw together in 4 hours by replacing the word "rogue" with "ninja" in 12 places. That damages the community.
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Old 08-02-2010, 10:55 PM   #66
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by Elvarlyn View Post
It is, but I can't help but feel that the biggest threat to the 'health' of MUDs isn't a lack of developers/developer tools but a lack of players and lower tier staff.

Thousands of MUDs open up every year, each draining players and talent out of the common pool from which they all draw. My concern is that many of these MUDs are created and run by people who want to try MUD administration but don't fully comprehend the level of commitment required to make a real go of it. They play around with a stock codebase, change a few things, goof around with the OLC, change a few room names and declare their MUD open for business. Players enter (and I fear) become disillusioned with the genre as they are met with a lack of professionalism, dedication and innovation.
I think you make a good point, and it is unfortunate that one of the few areas where we do have somewhat of a "community" is in an area that we don't need it as badly. Development tools are great, but more, easier to make MUDs is not really what we need most as a gaming genre. In fact, the ability to easily get a mud hosted and started probably did a lot of damage to the genre.

We need more warm bodies - both as a whole and per MUD. More MUDs before we have more players just dilutes the pool and hurts the MUDs we already have.

There have been a few efforts to work as a community on getting the word out, or marketing MUDs to a larger base of people, but they failed almost before they started. That's where a lot of the sniping and "I don't want to help because this will help <insert name of mud they hate> more than it will help my mud."

When you hear fans of other niche forms of entertainment trying to get the word out, they happily tell you about some of the biggest players in their niche. Can you imagine your average MUD player or admin explaining MUDs to someone and being willing to tell them about a really big, popular MUD other than their own? That would practically never happen.

Generalizing here...

If you loved folk art, and you wanted to get someone into it, would you right off the bat show them the most obscure examples? No, you'd show them some of the biggest breakout artists that they are more likely to enjoy, and if it caught on you'd start showing them some of the more unique artists in the genre.

For an example closer to home, if you wanted to get someone into MMOs, would you be more likely to show them World of Warcraft or Dark Age of Camelot? Sure, you can easily argue that DAoC has dramatically superior and more interesting PvP, but is it realistic to expect a total newbie to the genre to understand the deep, challenging gameplay? Or to tolerate getting "pwnt" in PvP as they learn the intricacies of it? Of course not. But showing them WoW is an easy way to get them sucked into the hobby. It is pretty, it is accessible, and it almost plays itself. If they enjoy WoW, then you can show them stuff like EvE Online and DAoC and other far more complicated, niche members of the genre.

The MUD Community has never demonstrated a willingness to promote itself as a hobby regardless of which MUD(s) benefited the most right off the bat in terms of users gained. As a result, every MUD is fighting the entire battle solo in an effort to bring people to the hobby one person at a time. Its definitely a challenge.
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:59 AM   #67
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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I think you make a good point, and it is unfortunate that one of the few areas where we do have somewhat of a "community" is in an area that we don't need it as badly. Development tools are great, but more, easier to make MUDs is not really what we need most as a gaming genre. In fact, the ability to easily get a mud hosted and started probably did a lot of damage to the genre.
I agree with everything you said, but this is the point that stands out most in my mind. Earlier in this thread, people cited statistics to the effect of 1000+ new MUDs opening every year. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that we're not getting 50,000 new MUD gamers in the same time frame. This means that many of these MUDs will be ghost towns, clogging up the lists and turning off players.
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Old 08-03-2010, 01:46 AM   #68
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

What do the client developers have to say about MUDs/MUSHes/Mu*s in general? It might seem that those folks who write clients could provide some input into download statistics and trends -- those metrics might help... Most of what I've read about MUD health comes from the Admin/Server Developer's perspectives. Are there any client developers that read these forums?
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Old 08-03-2010, 05:36 AM   #69
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by Elvarlyn View Post
I can't help but feel that if every 10 MUDs out there consolidated into one, pooling their staff and combining their talents and resources, the hobby as a whole would be in much better shape.
I've heard that sort of view quite a few times over the years. The problem is that nobody really starts up a mud with the intention of creating a stock clone - everyone thinks that they are special, that their game offers (or will offer) something new and innovative.

Of course you could argue that it's the same with browser games and graphical MMOs - but they have a far larger crowd of players to draw from. That's part of the reason why I'm so interested in community advancements in the areas of protocols and clients...it makes it easier for muds to start nibbling at the edges of those other markets - and in those markets, we're far more likely to stand out from the competition.

Raph Koster wrote an interesting article about MMO long tails back in 2007, and it's well worth a read.

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It might seem that those folks who write clients could provide some input into download statistics and trends -- those metrics might help...
According to figures posted by the client developers on MudStandards, the annual downloads per client are:

MUSHclient: 56,438
CMUD: 53,922
zMUD: 52,962
Tintin: 20,000
MUDlet: 12,000
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Old 08-03-2010, 06:10 AM   #70
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Why did this turn into a discussion on clients? I mean I understand how the conversation got to that but I disagree with the notion that clients have much of an affect on the number of players available to the MUD community. [...]

Even looking at MUD listings. They advertise to fellow MUD enthusiasts and rarely to people who find them in searches. The "outside" internet isn't easy to break out to with information on MUDs that might grab the attention of people who may indeed be interested.
The problem is, you need to nail both of these things, and the latter is not as much of a problem as the former.

My MUD (Abattoir) is pretty moribund. Hardly anybody plays on there now, yet there is still a steady trickle of new players. And when I watch those new players, some leave because they see the game is empty, but more often than not they struggle with the interface. They don't get as far as realising they're alone because they're too busy trying to work out what to do when the room description has scrolled off the top, they have no help button to click for a list of commands, there are some cryptic numbers that appear before each thing they type, and so on.

If we were able to keep 30% of our current newbies up to level 10 rather than 1% of them, we'd be as busy as we were in our heyday 10 years ago. In our case at least, it's not a lack of interest, just a lack of retention. And I think it would be both easier and more productive to improve the interface than to try and increase the number of incoming newbies by a factor of 30.

It isn't really about text per se; as several people have stated, most internet users spend most of their lives working with text these days. And many popular games on Facebook and the like are almost entirely text-based. It's just about how we present that text, and a typical telnet window is a pretty poor way of doing that.
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Old 08-03-2010, 06:10 AM   #71
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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This is definately true at least now. If any text MUD jumped to the Multi Server platform (which is required when you reach between 750 and 1000 players), that would change in a big way.
Why would you need multiple servers?
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Old 08-03-2010, 09:45 AM   #72
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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The problem is, you need to nail both of these things, and the latter is not as much of a problem as the former.
However, as I mentioned before, clients have come quite a long way in the last few years. These days it's pretty quick and easy to create a graphical front-end, and if you browse the MUSHclient and Mudlet forums you'll see players designing some really nice-looking custom interfaces for their favourite muds.

Sadly the interest from mud owners often seems to be rather luke-warm, but there is still some definite progress being made by a number of the larger muds in terms of improving communication with the client.
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Old 08-03-2010, 10:33 AM   #73
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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However, as I mentioned before, clients have come quite a long way in the last few years. These days it's pretty quick and easy to create a graphical front-end, and if you browse the MUSHclient and Mudlet forums you'll see players designing some really nice-looking custom interfaces for their favourite muds.

Sadly the interest from mud owners often seems to be rather luke-warm, but there is still some definite progress being made by a number of the larger muds in terms of improving communication with the client.
Well yeah, it's not just the client that needs to be good but also the way that the mud uses it. For example, the fact that you typically see the prompt data over and over again, yet a room description scrolls off the top of the screen, is pretty unforgivable in accessibility terms. In no time your screen is covered with outdated data and the relevant context has disappeared.

I think all this was potentially solved by MXP a long time ago (at least as far as you could say MXP solved anything, awful half-baked protocol that it is - there may be better alternatives), so it would be great to see some further standardisation on this front.
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Old 08-03-2010, 11:00 AM   #74
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Well yeah, it's not just the client that needs to be good but also the way that the mud uses it. For example, the fact that you typically see the prompt data over and over again, yet a room description scrolls off the top of the screen, is pretty unforgivable in accessibility terms. In no time your screen is covered with outdated data and the relevant context has disappeared.
As long as there's some way to identify the start and end of a room description, it's pretty easy to divert it to another window. Personally I'm not bothered by scrolling descriptions, but I do think it's nice to have a fixed-position map.

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I think all this was potentially solved by MXP a long time ago (at least as far as you could say MXP solved anything, awful half-baked protocol that it is - there may be better alternatives), so it would be great to see some further standardisation on this front.
You could use MXP tags, but the current trend is to move that sort of thing to an out-of-band protocol.
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Old 08-03-2010, 06:27 PM   #75
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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The problem is, you need to nail both of these things, and the latter is not as much of a problem as the former.

My MUD (Abattoir) is pretty moribund. Hardly anybody plays on there now, yet there is still a steady trickle of new players. And when I watch those new players, some leave because they see the game is empty, but more often than not they struggle with the interface. They don't get as far as realising they're alone because they're too busy trying to work out what to do when the room description has scrolled off the top, they have no help button to click for a list of commands, there are some cryptic numbers that appear before each thing they type, and so on.

If we were able to keep 30% of our current newbies up to level 10 rather than 1% of them, we'd be as busy as we were in our heyday 10 years ago. In our case at least, it's not a lack of interest, just a lack of retention. And I think it would be both easier and more productive to improve the interface than to try and increase the number of incoming newbies by a factor of 30.

It isn't really about text per se; as several people have stated, most internet users spend most of their lives working with text these days. And many popular games on Facebook and the like are almost entirely text-based. It's just about how we present that text, and a typical telnet window is a pretty poor way of doing that.
A better interface can help a lot but I don't think its the main issue. Quite a few newbies that leave real quick are frequent MUD players who just weren't satisfied. I think bringing in more players to the community and informing them simply of what MUDs are and how they work could go a long way.

Having nice clients and interfaces to go along with that certainly couldn't hurt. However having a fancy interface isn't going to make much of a dent if most of the people seeing it are already still inside the MUD community instead of being a new face. It's just batting around the same people as usual.
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Old 08-03-2010, 06:55 PM   #76
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Having nice clients and interfaces to go along with that certainly couldn't hurt. However having a fancy interface isn't going to make much of a dent if most of the people seeing it are already still inside the MUD community instead of being a new face. It's just batting around the same people as usual.
Hrm but surely the idea is to bring in new mudders, and not just bat around the same people as usual?

A fancy interface means pretty screenshots, which you can use in your adverts on other gaming forums.
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Old 08-03-2010, 07:06 PM   #77
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Why would you need multiple servers?
This was a question related to my post quite aways down. It asks, why do you need multiple servers when you have large playerbases.

Answer: Game servers can only handle a set number of connections. This is due in part to memory, in part to speed, and in part to the basic internet limitations. A game server can handle (at last research) about 750 to 1000 players at a time. Once you get that high you have to have another server for the next group. It is simply the nature of the beast. Hence the reason WoW and Runescape have 100's of servers for 1000's of players.
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Old 08-03-2010, 07:12 PM   #78
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Hrm but surely the idea is to bring in new mudders, and not just bat around the same people as usual?

A fancy interface means pretty screenshots, which you can use in your adverts on other gaming forums.
Of course that's the idea. I just don't think having a fancy house (client, interface) in the middle of nowhere (MUD community) will cause party guests (players) to show up for the fancy party (the MUD) without first receiving some sort of invitation.

There may be some strangers who stumble upon this free party for anyone who wants to come but the vast majority of people who may have enjoyed it are ignorant to its existence.

Like I said a couple times before though I am all for you and others working on better clients and such. I'm not trying to rain on that at all. I am just saying there needs to be more done in general to bring players to the community.
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Old 08-03-2010, 07:47 PM   #79
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by Newworlds View Post
This was a question related to my post quite aways down. It asks, why do you need multiple servers when you have large playerbases.

Answer: Game servers can only handle a set number of connections. This is due in part to memory, in part to speed, and in part to the basic internet limitations. A game server can handle (at last research) about 750 to 1000 players at a time. Once you get that high you have to have another server for the next group. It is simply the nature of the beast. Hence the reason WoW and Runescape have 100's of servers for 1000's of players.
I thought you were referring to a game design issue. In fact you can easily handle several thousand mud players on one server. You may have to change a couple of OS parameters to allow over 1024, and it's cheaper to scale with UDP rather than TCP, but you can certainly run thousands of connections on one box. CPU, memory, and bandwidth resources aren't an issue - muds use barely anything in this regard.
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Old 08-03-2010, 07:48 PM   #80
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by iovan View Post
A better interface can help a lot but I don't think its the main issue. Quite a few newbies that leave real quick are frequent MUD players who just weren't satisfied.
On Abattoir at least, I'm surprised at how many people who log on are apparently new to MUDs (or at least to Diku-derivatives). You can tell them apart by the way they use (or fail to use) the commands.

Quote:
However having a fancy interface isn't going to make much of a dent if most of the people seeing it are already still inside the MUD community instead of being a new face. It's just batting around the same people as usual.
Indeed. I stick by my assessment that practically, you need both. More people is great, but don't underestimate the pain that a poor interface causes among the wider population. (And as you broaden appeal beyond the existing hardcore of mud players, that problem will be exacerbated.)
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