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Old 08-03-2010, 10:21 PM   #81
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

There's also a third major factor.

Imagine someone knows how to read, but doesn't read novels for fun. You say "Hey, dude, read a book. It's awesome fun!" and then you hand them your favourite book.

What book is that? The bible? Tale of two cities? Neitzsche? Animorphs? Lord of the Rings? - all great stories, for their appropriate target audience, and all really terrible choices for the wrong audience.

So even if you *can* get someone to try a mud, and even if they can get past the hurdle of the new, often clumsy, interface, you still need to hope they "hit on" a mud that they are going to enjoy. For me, it doesn't matter how great the hack & slash is, if a mud doesn't enforce roleplaying, I'm not going to stay. For most players, enforced roleplaying is something new, and probably daunting.

The difference between MUDs and books is that, as has been pointed out, we use our first long-term mud as a measuring stick. I'm not properly able to give advice about which muds are good, because I haven't truly experienced them to the same degree that I've experienced my own mud.

Maybe we need some sort of "choose your own adventure" type of selection tree. A new player finds a mud, and we can have a handy warning: "Various games can be very different to each other. Follow this link to answer some questions, and we'll recommend a game you might like." - we could then get some idea of the new player's tastes. Direct them towards a more graphical game if that's important to them. Towards a fantasy or sci-fi game if setting makes a difference. Towards PVP, PVE, or socializing games.

For that to work, we'd need participating muds to quite actively direct players *away* from their own mud. Which is a hard thing to ask. New arrivals to my mud would be told "Hey, we might recommend a different mud. One you might not even have to pay for. Why would you stay here?" - in the long term, any player losses would be more than made up for with a larger mud playerbase. And player tastes do change.

In Skotos, we have a collection of affiliated muds, one account gets you access to all the games. I notice that players regularly get "burnt out" on one game, and move to another game. They'll stick around for a few months, then usually go back to their original game. Sometimes they'll stay at the new game. It seems that this "set of games" effect helps keep players. Instead of a player being so burnt out or frustrated that they leave, they stay as part of the same community and focus their efforts elsewhere.

Of course, I can't see the behavior outside of the skotos community - for all I know the people who leave skotos keep playing other muds elsewhere.

But even so - I don't *want* the players who don't suit my mud. Players who are looking for something different might contribute to the game, but are also going to pull it in an undesirable direction. They're going to actively work against the goals staff are trying to achieve. I'd much rather direct those players to a mud that suits them, and if that mud does the same, directing players that suit my game to me, then we're both winning. And most importantly, the player is winning, by finding a game that is more likely to be enjoyable for them.
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Old 08-03-2010, 10:55 PM   #82
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

I get the feeling that the TMS community, mostly made up of developers, is sort of missing the point here, and I think it's related to an observation you could make about the mudding community. Namely, where are the sites/forums where players talk about muds they play?

In every other game community you'll find developers talking about making games, and players talking about games they play, specific games. But apart from the usual advertisements, recruiting ads, and flamewars, I can't even think of one forum thread where I've seen a player post up with something like, 'hey, Achaea, let's talk about it. Who's playing it?' etcetera.

These are the kinds of things, in my opinion, that would get other players -- both veteran mudders and people coming in off a Google search -- interested in checking out a game.

Sure, you have your forums for specific games, and you'll find this in other game genres as well. But there's always player forums in other genres where the focus is on what are you playing, what's new, what should I try.

Why is this so? Is it related to the strong community focus of most muds? Does this make each individual mud community more insular? There are plenty of online multiplayer graphical games with strong communities, but still general sites where players will talk about all FPSs, or all RTSs, etcetera.

Is it the low number of players not being able to support the forum activity? Mud developers have at least three forums, and surely the players outnumber the developers (or do they... ).

Are mud players, for some reason, simply not interested in talking about muds? Maybe this does tie back into the first question, about the strong community focus of muds. If someone is happy in a community, maybe they're just not interested in other communities. But I think you see many players hopping from one game to another or trying a new place out (this especially seems popular with the IRE players, but IRE has wisely captured this migratory instinct by consistently rolling out new games).

In any case, something to think about.
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Old 08-04-2010, 12:46 AM   #83
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ide View Post
I get the feeling that the TMS community, mostly made up of developers, is sort of missing the point here, and I think it's related to an observation you could make about the mudding community. Namely, where are the sites/forums where players talk about muds they play?
Ide, I was thinking of this very concept today. Ultimately, I think MUDs reached a "community critical mass" long ago... and that critical mass has cooled ever since. Perhaps "cooled" not by its own entropy, but instead cooled by the fact that more and more folks were hopping on to the internet and building communities around other games -- and those communities have ultimately drowned the voice of this relatively small group.

I don't know of too many games out there that have communities of players spouting said game's benefits outside of the game's own supporting website. I believe that games that have reached such a status are newsworthy --- they are newsworthy simply because they have a tremendous and somewhat passionate playerbase - one that is large enough that it can expand into the far reaches of the internet and STILL find other players with which to exchange ideas. MUDs as a whole aren't there any more - they are no longer newsworthy to anyone outside of the development circle.

This is not to say, though, that the MUD community is not still "growing" --- its growth is simply not keeping up with the growth of other online game genres, however - especially in comparison to the overall growth of potential players.
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Old 08-04-2010, 01:49 AM   #84
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by Ide View Post
I get the feeling that the TMS community, mostly made up of developers, is sort of missing the point here, and I think it's related to an observation you could make about the mudding community. Namely, where are the sites/forums where players talk about muds they play?
Those forums are found at each individual game.

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Sure, you have your forums for specific games, and you'll find this in other game genres as well. But there's always player forums in other genres where the focus is on what are you playing, what's new, what should I try.
I think this speaks to the diversity of muds, and longevity of player retention.
I might play a FPS, and then move on to another FPS in two weeks time. Thus, my "gears of war" community is going to overlap with my "battlefield 1942" community, and so on. It's worth talking to the "broader FPS community" about what games sport which features.

With muds, I might play one mud for five years. I won't have enough spare time to give any other muds a serious attempt, and if I do hop muds I'll loose the community that I've become part of. I'm only likely to leave due to real life pressures that stop me from playing, or due to being so annoyed at that specific game that I stop playing it, and sacrifice my involvement in the community. Unlike a FPS, where I can play battlefield for a few weeks then go back to gears of war.

The differences between the games also means that cross-game player communities are hard to build. Can I talk to you, player-to-player, about my opinions on the noble house of Bisclavret? Or even the game mechanics to do with social advancement? No. It won't make any sense unless you've played my mud. I can tell you about an exciting new feature, but unless the feature is really exciting enough to make you try out my mud, it's not going to be a very meaningful conversation. So why bother? I'll just go to my mud's forum, and talk player-to-player with others that know what I'm talking about. You knowing about the feature isn't going to help you out, best case you might be able to tap an admin and suggest they add the feature. Knowing about a cool new feature in an upcoming FPS might convince you to try out that game. The "cool new feature" in the FPS will also make sense to someone that hasn't played, because they have a similar enough shared expectation. "This game has grenades that suck opponents into a black hole" - that makes sense to you. You know what I'm describing. "This game has a hunger system that modifies your ability to resist disease modifiers" - that sentence makes sense, but what does it *mean*? What it means will depend on the type of mud, whether it's PVE or PVP, how diseases work, etc. - implement that same system in different muds and it will have wildly different effects. Implement that grenade, and it'll essentially do the same thing in any FPS. Without this shared experience, a wider player-to-player discussion is mostly meaningless.

The mud developers, on the other hand, tend to be a special case. They're actively seeking out new ideas. They may not have the shared experience, and may not truly know how the ideas would work (just look at the thread where I made comments about Ironclaw's prison system, which gave an extremely misrepresentative impression because I hadn't explained other systems that help balance the system) - but we can still discuss ideas. And we are still interested in discussing ideas - because we're in a position to take those ideas, modify them for our games, and implement the interesting ones. An average player isn't in a position to do anything with this information.

In fact, an average player interested in the wider mud community is likely to discover a whole lot of fun-sounding features and gimmicks that their preferred game is missing, and that is likely to motivate them into creating yet-another-mud to add to the list. At which point they would continue to participate in the discussion, but would be considered "a mud admin."

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Is it the low number of players not being able to support the forum activity?
Yes. Partly.

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Mud developers have at least three forums, and surely the players outnumber the developers (or do they... ).
They do outnumber the players. But they are also more motivated to participate in "external" discussions. They're intentionally looking outwards.
Players who want to discuss their game are going to want to find other players that know what they're talking about. So those players will look inwards, to their own game's forum.

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Are mud players, for some reason, simply not interested in talking about muds?
Judging by Ironclaw, players are very interested in talking about the game.
Some players are so interested in the game mechanics that, just from testing, they have a better idea of the balance and hidden dice rolling than most of the staff. I shudder to think of the amount of time they spent testing.

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Maybe this does tie back into the first question, about the strong community focus of muds. If someone is happy in a community, maybe they're just not interested in other communities.
I think this is true.

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But I think you see many players hopping from one game to another or trying a new place out (this especially seems popular with the IRE players, but IRE has wisely captured this migratory instinct by consistently rolling out new games).
This also happens, but when they migrate, I think players leave their previous community behind. I think they would like to take the community with them, but it's just not practical. Instead, they'll keep in contact with their friends through IM, and the like, or they'll continue to post on the old game's forum. (We have many ex-players who still participate in the forums)
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Old 08-04-2010, 01:50 AM   #85
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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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.
Your kidding right? What would design have to do with anything? You ever run a game with over 100 players, let alone a 1000? You can't take the resources a game has with 10 people and multiply it by 100 and get the CPU/Memory/bandwidth cost for 1000 players. Doesn't work that way. When you are running a game with several thousand players on one server gimme a shout out with your specs.
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Old 08-04-2010, 05:37 AM   #86
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Your kidding right? What would design have to do with anything? You ever run a game with over 100 players, let alone a 1000?
I work for a company that makes MMOs, so yes.

Quote:
You can't take the resources a game has with 10 people and multiply it by 100 and get the CPU/Memory/bandwidth cost for 1000 players. Doesn't work that way.
I know. This is why you have to manage areas of interest and do level of detail management. But even so, the bandwidth for a typical mud player is about 1/10th of the bandwidth that you use on an MMO.

Quote:
When you are running a game with several thousand players on one server gimme a shout out with your specs.
I don't know the hardware specs - I just write the software. It's a quad core Dell blade, I think. But there is just one game server process on one physical game server.
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Old 08-04-2010, 05:56 AM   #87
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by Ide View Post
I get the feeling that the TMS community, mostly made up of developers, is sort of missing the point here, and I think it's related to an observation you could make about the mudding community. Namely, where are the sites/forums where players talk about muds they play?
I've stumbled across the occasional general gaming site where people start threads on muds, asking for suggestions and offering advice. You usually get a few former mudders who talk about the games they used to play, and a few current mudders who promote their current favourite.

But the community is small enough that whenever someone starts up a dedicated mud site, you'll get admin and developers joining in.

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When you are running a game with several thousand players on one server gimme a shout out with your specs.
The most I know of was Kingdom of the Winds, which peaked at 12,263 simultaneous players in a single world - I don't know their server specs, but as this was in 1999 I imagine they weren't too impressive by today's standards.

More relevant for us would be Gemstone, which used to have over 3,000 simultaneous players during peak hours. Once again this was quite some time ago - they've been leaking players for years now.
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Old 08-04-2010, 12:27 PM   #88
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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The most I know of was Kingdom of the Winds, which peaked at 12,263 simultaneous players in a single world - I don't know their server specs, but as this was in 1999 I imagine they weren't too impressive by today's standards.

More relevant for us would be Gemstone, which used to have over 3,000 simultaneous players during peak hours. Once again this was quite some time ago - they've been leaking players for years now.
That is impressive. This was the era I was on the building team for an MMO graphic game similar to WoW but inline with Meridian 59 (frontal view 3d rather than birdseye). We found that we topped out at around 1000 players at at the time all the big boys like Ultima Online only ran between 500 and 1200 players per server. I'm guessing Kingdom of Winds were using a daisy chain and I'm betting Gemstone was too.
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Old 08-05-2010, 03:24 AM   #89
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by Ide View Post
I get the feeling that the TMS community, mostly made up of developers, is sort of missing the point here, and I think it's related to an observation you could make about the mudding community. Namely, where are the sites/forums where players talk about muds they play?
I think they're on the general gaming sites where they talk about all the games they play including muds. I see a lot of posts about muds on places like Reddit, PvP, and even IGN. It's all hidden in there with talk about the triple-A titles and the Plants vs. Zombies posts. They talk about muds where they talk about all their games, and it's a larger community. Most of the mentions, though, seem to be "Oh, yeah. I used to play those kinds of games."

TMS is mostly made of developers because MUDs are the most important type of games to us. We think about them all the time, and we like to talk about them all the time. I think for most players, muds are just another type of game they play.
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Old 09-05-2010, 01:46 PM   #90
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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But the community is small enough that whenever someone starts up a dedicated mud site, you'll get admin and developers joining in.
Not to mention the fact that every other MUDder thinks he/she can make their own MUD. This happens especially often once they venture off to a site like TMC/TMS, start reading about development, and get intrigued. Furthermore, if they are already comfortable PLAYING a game at a command line, moving into a *nix interface is less intimidating.
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Old 09-06-2010, 12:10 AM   #91
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Not to mention the fact that every other MUDder thinks he/she can make their own MUD.
This is true and is similar to anyone thinking they can write a book or in our day of HD Cameras for mere thousands, every college student thinks they can make a movie. Unfortunately, thinking you can make a movie or write a book and actually making a good movie or book are hugely different as shown in a review of any film festival and the millions of books rejected by publishers.

Just go see "The American" for an example of complete crap produced by a big production company and an A-list actor.
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Old 09-06-2010, 07:26 AM   #92
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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This is true and is similar to anyone thinking they can write a book or in our day of HD Cameras for mere thousands, every college student thinks they can make a movie. Unfortunately, thinking you can make a movie or write a book and actually making a good movie or book are hugely different as shown in a review of any film festival and the millions of books rejected by publishers.

Just go see "The American" for an example of complete crap produced by a big production company and an A-list actor.
Yes, except the difference is:

Imagine if when you rocked up to your local cinema, every wannabe college student could put up a poster for their movie alongside the Hollywood blockbusters and screen it.
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Old 09-06-2010, 07:39 AM   #93
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Just go see "The American" for an example of complete crap produced by a big production company and an A-list actor.
I haven't seen the movie but it seems to get decent score on The American (2010).

Does getting a book rejected by a publisher actually suggest the book is bad? Would e.g EA reject one of the top MUDs if it tried to be published?
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Old 09-06-2010, 09:53 AM   #94
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Does getting a book rejected by a publisher actually suggest the book is bad? Would e.g EA reject one of the top MUDs if it tried to be published?

EA would definitely reject one of the top MUDs if it tried to get published simply because the numbers aren't there. Even with EA's marketing power, I'm not sure that a mud could pull more than a couple thousand players at a time. (Unfortunately, you gotta know how to read to play MUDs.)

And some of the top authors have had their first books rejected over 100 times before they get published because the publishing world operates in a very specific way. Most manuscripts are rejected without ever having been read. This creates the necessity for agents who represent good manuscripts and go to the publishers to get them published. It's a pretty inefficient way of doing things, and of course, the person who loses out on their cut to the agent is the author, not the publisher.
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Old 09-06-2010, 12:33 PM   #95
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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I haven't seen the movie but it seems to get decent score on The American (2010).
Go see it. You will laugh (because you think it's a comedy), cry (because you find out it's not), and hurl (because you wasted 10 bucks).

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Does getting a book rejected by a publisher actually suggest the book is bad?
Yes. At least bad for marketing. Won't bring the numbers, uninteresting to the market at the present time.
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Old 09-06-2010, 12:47 PM   #96
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

It seems I need to clarify my post about books and movie production and how it relates to MUD creation. My point was not that only professionals can write a book or create a movie. My point is that it takes a lot of commitment, experience, and talent to do so with quality.
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Old 09-07-2010, 03:18 AM   #97
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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It seems I need to clarify my post about books and movie production and how it relates to MUD creation. My point was not that only professionals can write a book or create a movie. My point is that it takes a lot of commitment, experience, and talent to do so with quality.
So MUDs have more developers than the graphical RPGs. Sounds like a good thing. Not everyone has to be at the top of the skill level.

I think what should be worried about more than low quality MUDs is how projects like MudStandards break down. It is projects like that that move the games forward.

Last edited by Aeran : 09-07-2010 at 03:29 AM.
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Old 09-07-2010, 02:59 PM   #98
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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So MUDs have more developers than the graphical RPGs. Sounds like a good thing. Not everyone has to be at the top of the skill level.

I think what should be worried about more than low quality MUDs is how projects like MudStandards break down. It is projects like that that move the games forward.
This is true. Having a standard and minimum quality is a good thing. As for more developers, I would say not, but probably more singular projects, yes.
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Old 09-07-2010, 08:22 PM   #99
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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EA would definitely reject one of the top MUDs if it tried to get published simply because the numbers aren't there. Even with EA's marketing power, I'm not sure that a mud could pull more than a couple thousand players at a time. (Unfortunately, you gotta know how to read to play MUDs.)
Jagex (the makers of Runescape) approached EA and other large publishers and didn't get very far:

Jagex: We Had to Self-Publish | GamePolitics
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Old 09-07-2010, 10:53 PM   #100
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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I've been sceptical to statistics ever since i read a book titled 'How to lie with statistics'. It seems people - politicians in particular - can and do twist statistics to fit whatever they prefer them to show.
If you want to get technical, the facts can't and don't lie, unless someone is doing something stupid, like collecting them wrong. Most polls are a bit like this, intentionally creating ambiguity with the answer they *don't* want, then presenting it, when ever possible, to people in areas where they feel that its likely to a) get responders with the *right* answer, and b) little or no responders who are willing to give the ambiguous one. This is often seen either in a skewing of the poll in favor of the *right* answer, or a large number of people in the "I don't know" category, due to it being the least offensive response, for anyone not already biased towards giving a thumbs up to the poller's intentional distortion on the issue. Its also why online polls are completely idiotic, since you can't, usually, prevent people you *don't* want to have answer it showing up in huge numbers to screw up your pre-intended result. lol

That said.. What you are dealing with is a bit like Books vs. TV vs. videos, with obvious differences. Used to be, a lot of people owned a few favorite books, you went to very specific places to find them, and wanting something obscure was a good thing. More to the point, you didn't rely on some "top 20" book shelf in Walmart to pick a good book. TV came on the scene and "everyone" bought TVs, though many people also still read books. However, at the same time, you started getting "top 20" lists/shelves in pretty much any store big enough to also have a magazine rack, and true enthusiasts **don't buy from those**. Everyone else... picks up the latest bit of drivel from the "big names". Muds have such "lists", but they don't have their product scattered every damn place people look, trying to "sell" those. So, unlike books, you don't see a whole lot of people running around looking to pick up some "light mudding". lol WOW is the TV of the game world. Its accessible to every one, you don't really need to spend anything, other than time, on it, and a lot of people that would never spend the basic time needed to do newbie quests in a mud *will* play WOW. Some of the newer ones get more like the video store. You buy what you want, when you want, how you want, and you are not semi-passively leveling to the max over 48 hours, like you have in WOW. Heck, ones like Eve Online, you can't do much more than get shot flying through a bad neighborhood in 48 hours.

Then you have things like SL, when it worked well, or when you are on a grid that manages better than Linden does. You get to write the story, design the theme, dress up any way you want, etc. Its books + TV + video store + amateur pron, all rolled into one, and the fact that it does the first "a lot" more poorly, due to lack of resources going to helping do that, than any mud can, its **still** going to be more accessible than looking for the 1942 edition of "Some book I want", written by Somedude, of which only one copy is known to exist, in Stix, Middleofnowhere, Zimbabway. Unfortunately, for most people, muds *are* that book, and its not going to change when the next generation of virtual worlds comes out, and that turns out to *include* something like MUD/MUSH code, as a means to do the thing SL, and the like, do only barely, right now. Why spend time looking for a good book, if you can buy a bad one easier, or join up with like minded people and write one? Better yet, why read, if you can watch the video, as almost ever high school student has almost always thought, every time they got an assignment. lol

I am not sure how you solve the problem, without getting people in the industry to admit it hasn't become some fringe at this point, or giving up on pure text, and making WOW II, instead.
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