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Old 04-18-2008, 04:25 PM   #1
lotusofro
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Question The "Health," of Muds

Over on another site that has limited participation I've been responding to KaVir and his weird logic that Muds are healthier now than ever before. The subject was brought up by a poster stating that MMORPGs are doing better than ever and more and more space is becoming available from the servers offering Mud space. He thought Muds were fading. He was immediately attacked by users over there for this opinion. I'm posting it here, because over there it's the same few people posting and they worship KaVir.

I believe Muds aren't healthier on a whole than ever before. I believe we're starting to see a "downcline," in users as well as Mud numbers. Users is really hard to prove. Mud numbers is easier to prove.

KaVir provided a list of how many Muds were created on the TMC listings and in what year:

Date New Total
1990 15 95
1991 31 126
1992 40 166
1993 36 202
1994 60 262
1995 76 338
1996 91 429
1997 71 500
1998 66 566
1999 133 699
2000 72 771
2001 61 832
2002 67 899
2003 74 973
2004 71 1044
2005 64 1108
2006 70 1178
2007 102 1280
2008 61 1341

He also has provided data that 802 Muds were "Removed," from the listings in a series of purges in 2005. From September of 2005 to the last purge (end of 2007) 208 muds were removed.

My logic states that 1010 muds were removed since 2005. While 297 were added. Certainly some of the 1110 muds were created in that time frame. Even if you go back to 2000, the number is 1010 vs. 642. Obviously quite a bit of the 1010 were created since 2000. Occam's Razer says it's easier to believe more muds "died," than were "born." I admit the hole in my logic is we don't know when the purged muds were created. We just know that 1010 muds that once existed but currently do not and that 1341 muds are currently listed by TMC.

KaVir says my logic is faulty. To quote KaVir "252 muds were added since September 2005. 208 muds have been purged since September 2005. Therefore there must been 252+208=460 muds added since September 2005, in order for there to be 252 left after 208 were purged. 460 is twice as much as 208. Thus more than twice as many muds have been added as have been purged in the last 2.5 years"

I say KaVir's logic is faulty.

If we dismiss the 802 that were purged in September 2005 my point is still proven by my logic. We know from KaVir that 252 muds were created since September 2005. We know 208 muds were purged at the end of 2007. Since they only purge every few years we have no idea how many muds should be purged since the last purge. We can use the data from September 2005 until December 31st 2007:

191 New Muds. 208 Muds Deleted.

My logic says more muds deleted than started. KaVir's logic will say that 399 muds were started.

Whose logic is better and since we finally have some statistical data about Mud Health getting worse: What are your thoughts?

I've been doing a lot of research and I think we can adapt and grow again. First we just need to acknowledge the downcline and figure out what universal changes can make up for it. I in no way believe Muds are obsolete and or inferior entertainment. I think that some issues just need to be addressed that could turn things around.
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Old 04-18-2008, 05:24 PM   #2
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

MUDs will be around for years to come. They may not, however, be things of success without falling into certain categories.

What I mean by that is, the average "MUD" is a thing of the past -- this is your run-of-the-mill, hack-and-slash, fresh-out-of-the-box Diku that allows players to run around and kill stuff for experience and to socialize over channels. These are being replaced by MMOs, of which now there are a large number of freebies and games that are capable of being played over any sort of connection. They will always be around, of course, in theory -- so long as the code is out there, people interested in playing around with code of experimenting with the idea of running their own game will be setting these up until they finally get bored with them and shutting them down again.

The MUDs that will survive will be your Pay-to-Plays (*shivers and gags*) that are financially backed and offer high-quality customer service and development. RPIs will also strongly survive: despite all the shiny things an MMO can provide, nothing graphical has yet to hit the market that can offer the creative and descriptive freedom of roleplaying on one of these types of games. They have cornered the niche market, but will suffer from fierce competition among one another as more and more of them open and vie for already-thin playerbase. Players who choose these types of games are also usually very loyal (atleast in my experience) and are not easily swayed by shiny advertisements.

MUDs will be around for a while yet, but they'll be evolved from what they were in the 90's.
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Old 04-18-2008, 06:50 PM   #3
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

I just did a graph of the numbers, and it's fairly clear what's happening: Barring statistical anomolies in 1999 and 2007, the new-muds-per-year graph has a quick run-up until 1996-1999, and gradual decline. The number of MUDs is basically a linear ramp over time.

In 2006 I did a similar analysis in MMORPG.com and found the number of new MMORPG/year was still increasing. In 2006 it was around 24 new MMORPGs. I don't know if MMORPG creation has leveled off yet, but I suspect not. I expect with Multiverse, Realmcrafter, the Hero Engine, etc. that a flood of MMORPGs will appear over the next few years, probably equivalent to the DikuMUD spike.

Another thing to think about:

(a) The work involved in a MUD = an huge amount of up-front work + continuing maintinence (admin and server fees). Diku greatly reduced the initial up-front work. Cheaper servers have reduced continuing maintinence. Better (GUI) tools have also reduced up-front work and maintinence.

(b) The amount of people available to do work on MUDs = the overall MUD population x the 1% to 0.1% who are willing to work on content. (Each MUD, in turn, requires 1-20 contributers. Meaning there is someplace between 1 MUD per 100 players and one MUD per 20,000 players.)

(c) Therefore, the number of people playing MUDs is proportional to the number of MUDs TIMES how difficult it is to create/maintain a MUD.

(d) Since 1990, MUDs have gotten easier to create, easier to maintain, and cheaper to maintain... which means more MUDs per player.

(e) The graph of number of MUDs has been fairly linear, which (if MUDs were just as difficult to create/maintain as ever) would imply a linear increase in the number of players. However, since MUDs have gotten easier to create/maintain, another factor needs to be included...

If you assume that it's half as much work to create and maintain a MUD in 2008 (when there are 1341 MUDs) as it was in 2000 (when there were 771 MUDs), then then there are rougly the same number of players now (1341 * 1/2 as hard to create/maintain = 670) as in 2000 (771).

If MUDs are MUCH easier to create/maintain, there are far fewer players.

If MUDs are only slightly easier to create/maintain, there are slightly more players.


As a percentage of the number of people on the internet, there are certainly fewer MUD players now than in 2000. Compared to the number of MMORPG players, there are fewer MUD players per MMORPG player.



2006 info from MMORPG.com:
Year New MMORPGs (MMORPG.com) Subscribers (MMORPGChart)
1996 2 10000
1997 5 30000
1998 2 150000
1999 3 800000
2000 1 1500000
2001 7 2800000
2002 8 4000000
2003 19 5000000
2004 17 6500000
2005 22 9000000
2006 22.66666667 13000000
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Old 04-18-2008, 07:07 PM   #4
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

If forgot to mention:

Once a MUD is created, the amount of work to maintain it can be far less... or at least this is the case with MMORPGs. Many failed MMORPGs cost millions to create, went bankrupt, but were resurrected on a "shoesting budget" of only hundreds of thousands (per year) to keep alive and (barely) kicking.

If you assume (wrongly) that all the work goes into creating the MUD, then the number of players is proportional to the new MUDs created per year (a slowly declining 60-ish) times the difficulty of creating a MUD.

If you assume (wrongly) that all the work goes into maintaining the MUD, then the number of players is proportional to the number of MUDs still alive (1300 and counting) times the difficulty of maintaining a MUD.

The true number is someplace in-between.
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Old 04-18-2008, 07:54 PM   #5
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by lotusofro View Post
Over on another site that has limited participation I've been responding to KaVir and his weird logic that Muds are healthier now than ever before.
Nicely twisted and taken out of context. But let's put this into perspective, shall we? This is what you said on the other forum:

Quote:
In 1994 I read an article saying there were nearly 1 MILLION players on muds. The Article was about Origin Systems and their plans for MMORPGs future. The article also said there were thousands of muds.

Still I'm guessing someone at the time did their research and came up with those numbers. I think it is realistic there were thousands of muds back then and your average mud would have 30+ on at all times. Then you had your muds that had 200+ on. Around then my mud had around 1500 players and 20,000 PCs.

Are you trying to tell me there are more than 1M mudders now?

I bet the number is less than 50,000 now.

1M players to 50,000. 5% of 14 years ago.

You can't possibly believe MUDs haven't "faded," over the years in popularity.

Explain why Iron Realms is moving towards MMORPGs?
I responded that "the total number of muds has grown since that article was written, and the number of "big" muds has also grown".

You disagreed, claiming that your mud used to have 256+ players online at all times. I provided a usenet post demonstrating that the figure was actually 60-80.

You claimed that AxL's DikuMUD list had "nearly 180 muds" in 1994. I posted a link to his 1994 list on usenet, pointing out that it actually had only 73.

You continued to post such figures, and became increasingly angry as they were each disproved, claiming that we were lying, that the usenet posts were wrong, or simply attacking us with direct insults.

That is the real reason why you were laughed off the other forums.
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Old 04-18-2008, 09:23 PM   #6
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

I first encountered MUDs in the early 1990s. At the time, most any game I visited, even "brand new" ones, had a huge playerbase, compared to the average MUD of today. I would even venture to say that there are more MUDs with what I would consider to be huge playerbases today, than there were back then. The difference being that today, there are seemingly thousands of MUDS that have from zero to very few regular players. Just because your every-day up-and-coming MUD has trouble bringing in new players, is no reason to believe that MUDs- as a whole, are on the decline. Yes, there are games that die off and go away. There are also games that sprout up and pull in a ton of players.

My impression, through no scientific research; just what I've seen over the years, is that there are infact more MUDs and more MUD players today, than there were in the early '90s. You can argue the percentages, but until MUDs become true anachronisms in today's society, I'll hold firm to the belief that any MUD developer willing to put in the time and effort towards making a game succeed will be rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing that he or she has provided quality entertainment to to a group of persons that will appreciate what he or she has done.

-obit
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Old 04-19-2008, 12:32 AM   #7
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by obit View Post
There are also games that sprout up and pull in a ton of players.
To be fair, there are no text MUDs today that even come close to the playerbase size of the biggest text MUDs historically. That's just one angle to look at this from though, so take from it what you will.

--matt
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Old 04-19-2008, 12:48 AM   #8
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by obit View Post

My impression, through no scientific research; just what I've seen over the years, is that there are infact more MUDs and more MUD players today, than there were in the early '90s. You can argue the percentages, but until MUDs become true anachronisms in today's society, I'll hold firm to the belief that any MUD developer willing to put in the time and effort towards making a game succeed will be rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing that he or she has provided quality entertainment to to a group of persons that will appreciate what he or she has done.

-obit
I'm not claiming the early 90s were the "best days," but that muds are on a "decline," right now compared to 1998 to 2005. I also believe as I stated at the end of my post that Muds should be able to adapt and grow again. Certain Muds seem to be doing things that most Muds aren't and they also seem to be getting the rewards of a healthier playerbase for those differences.
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Old 04-19-2008, 12:53 AM   #9
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by the_logos View Post
To be fair, there are no text MUDs today that even come close to the playerbase size of the biggest text MUDs historically. That's just one angle to look at this from though, so take from it what you will.

--matt
Matt,

That is what I thought. Thanks for pitching in. I think it says wonders actually. I don't think Muds are as healthy as they were and I think there are reasons that perhaps can be fully overcome.

I've spent the last 3 months logging into over 100 muds and tracking pbase numbers as well as playing the muds and seeing what the differences are. I've noticed distinct differences between the muds with 200+ on and the Muds with less than 5 on (as well as a Mud with 20 on). I've got a theory that I plan on testing out on my Mud. If it works I'm planning on sharing the changes with the community, but maybe I'll throw it your way first as I for one have always appreciated what you've done for the community.
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Old 04-19-2008, 01:10 AM   #10
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Here is something relevant to the conversation. I am not sure how accurate it is. But it is interesting.

MUD Listing Trend Graph | FindMUD

I was originally directed there from Raph Koster's site.

Raph's Website MUDs peaked in 2003?
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Old 04-19-2008, 01:22 AM   #11
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avasyu View Post
Here is something relevant to the conversation. I am not sure how accurate it is. But it is interesting.

MUD Listing Trend Graph | FindMUD

I was originally directed there from Raph Koster's site.

Raph's Website MUDs peaked in 2003?
Thanks Jeremy!

It actually matches some pages I found with the way back machine. As the link mentions the purge time for TMC isn't a constant thing. Still it is the best data we got and it also shows what I was thinking that around 2005 things started to decline.
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Old 04-19-2008, 02:44 AM   #12
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by lotusofro View Post
I've spent the last 3 months logging into over 100 muds and tracking pbase numbers as well as playing the muds and seeing what the differences are. I've noticed distinct differences between the muds with 200+ on and the Muds with less than 5 on (as well as a Mud with 20 on). I've got a theory that I plan on testing out on my Mud.
Tips and tricks for producing more successful MUDs, particularly those that attract and entice non-MUD players, would be helpful to the community, whether or not MUDs as a whole are declining, holding their own, or growing.
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Old 04-19-2008, 08:08 AM   #13
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by the_logos View Post
To be fair, there are no text MUDs today that even come close to the playerbase size of the biggest text MUDs historically.
If you're talking about Gemstone, etc, then I did actually go into that on the other forums as well (it's difficult to summarise a 24-page thread in one post)

"The big pay-to-play text muds are losing popularity, but I see nothing to suggest that the popularity of text muds on the whole has decreased."

"I've not seen many adverts for the pay-to-play text muds, but the largest of them (Gemstone IV and DragonRealms) have fewer players than they did a decade ago. However the big pay-for-perks muds of today either didn't exist or weren't yet making money a decade ago. And there are a larger number a 'big' free muds than there were a decade ago."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avasyu View Post
Here is something relevant to the conversation. I am not sure how accurate it is. But it is interesting.
It looks like an accurate representation of the number of listings on TMC, but I'm not sure how well it reflects the actual number of muds (back when the number of listings was around the 1800 mark, I recall complaints about how so many of them were unreachable).

Also, as has been pointed out, if the question is the 'health' of muds as a whole, a lower number of muds would probably be preferable. For example, after the original GodWars code was released, new ones kept appearing all the time (and vanishing just as frequently). There were around a hundred of them listed at one point, but even the most popular of them never came close to even half the playerbase of the original mud. When there were only three muds using the codebase, all of them did well - but when there were dozens of them, none of them did well.
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Old 04-19-2008, 09:48 AM   #14
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

I do not think TMC listing numbers is a good way to track the "health" of muds. There are far too many variables there. We do not know exactly when muds were purged, or why.

Also, historically, a huge percentage of the muds listed on TMC are at best developmental, and at worst pure stock clones that will never have more than 5-10 total people on them.

If there were a way to track the player base sizes of the top 100 muds, that would be a useful figure.
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Old 04-19-2008, 10:49 AM   #15
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Surely this whole issue is almost impossible to prove one way or another? You could go round every single MUD listed on TMS or TMC, gather average player numbers, and it would still be pointless because no-one did it 10 years ago. This is assuming, of course, that every MUD admin told you the truth. Otherwise you'd have to spend a week or so at each MUD to figure it out yourself accurately, and you'd have to do it twice in a year since MUD player numbers generally go up during the big school/uni breaks, and does anybody really have the patience and interest to do it?

You couldn't even say "Let's do a census now" because how, exactly, are you going to get every MUD admin involved? Not all of them read the TMS/TMC boards. Many of them wouldn't be bothered, many wouldn't want you to discover their listing of "Average online players 10-25" is more like 2, and some are insular enough that they have no interest in the MUD community as a whole. Some may even allow or encourage multi-playing, in which case the 10 characters online might only be three or four actual players. How are you going to determine this if you're not able to check the IP address of everyone connected?

Extrapolating based on a selection of different MUDs, whilst an acceptable statistical gathering tool, is one of the reason statistics are often distrusted and are mentioned at the end of the phrase "Lies, damn lies, and statistics". If you select your representative sample carefully enough, you can get statistics "proving" ANYTHING.

Most of the argument seems to stem from certain people believing the number of MUD players hasn't declined but just spread out more as the number of MUDs has increased over the years, whereas others argue that just masks the fact the number of actual players is in decline. At the end of the day I don't see any statistics that either prove or disprove any of the theories, and I don't think any will be forthcoming either.

Last edited by Xerihae : 04-19-2008 at 10:52 AM. Reason: Spelling & grammatical errors
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Old 04-19-2008, 12:27 PM   #16
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xerihae View Post
Most of the argument seems to stem from certain people believing the number of MUD players hasn't declined but just spread out more as the number of MUDs has increased over the years, whereas others argue that just masks the fact the number of actual players is in decline. At the end of the day I don't see any statistics that either prove or disprove any of the theories, and I don't think any will be forthcoming either.
I think (but could be wrong) that one thing we would all agree on is that, as a percentage of the total number of active internet users, the number playing traditional text MUDs is massively lower than 10 years ago. Your "market share" can decline 90% but if the market increases 10-fold you look like you're staying even : 1% of 10,000 == 10% of 1,000, etc.

I still believe a big part of the problem is awareness. Someone made the light-hearted comparison to clog dancing in another thread. The difference is, while I don't know much of the details of clog dancing, I know it exists and have enough of an idea of what it is to know I probably don't want to join a clog dancing forum.

Anecdotally, 2005 sounds about right for the start of the decline, but I wasn't involved in TMS then other than as a member and when your focus is a single mud you never really know if it's just a local decline or a wider issue.
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Old 04-19-2008, 01:45 PM   #17
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lasher View Post
I think (but could be wrong) that one thing we would all agree on is that, as a percentage of the total number of active internet users, the number playing traditional text MUDs is massively lower than 10 years ago.
I'd agree with that, but the argument here is that there are actually fewer muds and mudders (not as a percentage, but in actual numbers) - lotusofro was even claiming that the number of mudders had dropped from nearly 1 million in 1994 to less than 50,000 today, which (to quote his post) meant the total number of mudders today would be "5% of 14 years ago". That's what I disagree with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lasher View Post
Anecdotally, 2005 sounds about right for the start of the decline,
2005 being the year when Icculus purged 802 muds for being unreachable, following years of complaints about how so many of the listings were out of date. I'm afraid I have to agree with Threshold - that the TMC listings include too many variables to be reliable in tracking the health of muds.
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Old 04-19-2008, 02:48 PM   #18
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by Threshold View Post
I do not think TMC listing numbers is a good way to track the "health" of muds. There are far too many variables there. We do not know exactly when muds were purged, or why.

Also, historically, a huge percentage of the muds listed on TMC are at best developmental, and at worst pure stock clones that will never have more than 5-10 total people on them.

If there were a way to track the player base sizes of the top 100 muds, that would be a useful figure.
While we can't know exact data it is interesting that in 2008 there are less than 1400 muds listed for the first time since 1999.

Not knowing exactly when muds were purged or why doesn't alter the fact that you can see that TMC was purging muds as early as the year 2000 when you see a slight drop in total number of muds listed.

So the fact that currently the list is lower than it has been in 9 years does show some data that proves there are less muds today than before we just can't know a true rate of attrition or other facts. Just that there are less today.
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Old 04-19-2008, 03:05 PM   #19
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

Quote:
Originally Posted by Xerihae View Post
Surely this whole issue is almost impossible to prove one way or another? You could go round every single MUD listed on TMS or TMC, gather average player numbers, and it would still be pointless because no-one did it 10 years ago. This is assuming, of course, that every MUD admin told you the truth. Otherwise you'd have to spend a week or so at each MUD to figure it out yourself accurately, and you'd have to do it twice in a year since MUD player numbers generally go up during the big school/uni breaks, and does anybody really have the patience and interest to do it?
All I'm going on is logging in at different times in the day typing who or similar command and counting people seen. Which is a rough estimate to be sure. Although I'm not doing it to "prove," anything but to see which muds seem "popular," and comparing them to the "unpopular," muds to see what they may be doing differently.

As for "health," we can prove there are less muds to day than in the past. The graph that has been put up on here shows that TMC is at it's lowest point since 1999. While we have no idea exact numbers we can learn from it that there are without a doubt "less muds," we just don't have solid numbers. We just know there are less.

Combine that knowledge with the knowledge that Matt provided that there are no muds currently running today with a pbase like the best muds of years past. We have an idea that the market is in decline.

This doesn't mean the market can't have another upswing. My findings are that it may just be possible to get a major upswing going. Unfortunately with the coding, etc. I won't be done to test this until June or July.
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Old 04-19-2008, 03:52 PM   #20
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Re: The "Health," of Muds

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Originally Posted by lotusofro View Post
As for "health," we can prove there are less muds to day than in the past.
No, we can only prove that there are fewer listings on TMC today than there were at certain dates in the past. Whether there are also fewer muds is a completely separate question, and something we only speculate about - there are, after all, currently 1771 listings here on Top Mud Sites.

Also, as has been pointed out already, "more muds" doesn't necessarily mean "healthy". If every stock mud were to vanish overnight, I suspect the mudding hobby overall would benefit.
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