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Old 01-28-2016, 06:58 PM   #1
MightyK
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Reinvigorating MUDs

Hey everyone

It's been a while since I've posted, as I'm not much of a forum-goer, but I've been involved in mudding and helping run muds for most my life now, and I was wondering if there was any interest or dedication among any coder or coding team to do something on the level of game development software for MUDs on mass commercial OSes like Windows and OSX.

It's my opinion that one of the main problems facing MUDs is there just aren't enough good new ones being made these days, and a lot of that has to do with creative and energetic people being unable to create MUDs because they're unable to code. There is nothing essential about MUDs that make this problem unsolvable, there has just been a lack of attention put towards creating a developer kit that does not require any coding.

CoffeeMUD goes the farthest by far that I've seen, but it can still be feature heavy and hard to dive into, and it has baked-in limitations to things like character limits, etc that require coding to change. It's still an exceptional library though, as a lot of the mudlibs out there require a fair amount of tinkering just to get running properly.

I understand that muds started from programming hobbyists and it still runs in that same vein today, but I think if there is to be any big reversal in the dwindling trends of mudding I think there needs to be a layman's developer software or engines in the same vein as Unity, GameMaker, RPG Maker, etc.

Has there been any projects floating around of late that aspire to this? Are there any significant barriers perceived to the creation of such a software product?
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Old 01-28-2016, 09:41 PM   #2
Pymeus
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Re: Reinvigorating MUDs

On one hand, you have code that restricts you to adjusting what the programmer expects you'll want to adjust, in the ways in which he expects you'll want to adjust it. You're bounded by a box that the programmer built.

On the other hand, you're programming. Maybe it's been dressed up to look like some other activity. (see: visually-based trigger scripting systems for various mainstream games) But whatever it looks like, you still need the cognitive tools to figure out how the pieces of your system interact and react to each other to effect serious change.

And that's the problem. As a software system becomes more and more configurable, its configuration becomes more and more like a program, which is exactly what you set out to avoid.
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Old 01-29-2016, 04:19 AM   #3
Orrin
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Re: Reinvigorating MUDs

I remember using something like this once but I can't remember the name - it had a GUI where you could create rooms and place mobs and script behaviours etc., as well as create skills and spells, along the lines of RPG Maker or Eclipse type engines. The problem with these things I think is that it's very hard to remove the need for programming without making it so all the games end up looking the same.

Besides, I don't think it's a lack of tools that is holding back new mud development, if anything people seem to be far more interested in developing tools than they are muds - just witness the numbers of half finished code bases that keep popping up in various languages - at one time it was ruby or python or lua, now it's node and javascript etc.

I think the real disincentive to new game development is that it's a lot of hard work to put together a good playable game, as much in content creation as in programming, and that there's really not much of a pay-off at the end. A lot of programmers enjoy tinkering with new codebases and features and it doesn't matter to them if the game never opens, but there don't seem to be as many writers willing to spend hundreds of hours creating an original world that the chances are very few people will play.

Where new games can be successful I think is when they already have an established audience either from a familiar IP or a feature set that appeals to existing mudders (eg. RPI).
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Old 01-29-2016, 09:03 AM   #4
shevegen
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Re: Reinvigorating MUDs

> I understand that muds started from programming hobbyists and it still runs in
> that same vein today, but I think if there is to be any big reversal in the
> dwindling trends of mudding I think there needs to be a layman's developer
> software or engines in the same vein as Unity, GameMaker, RPG Maker, etc.

I don't fully see this as-is.

I have seen many MUDs fail because of egoistic or selfish coders, who make
changes that impact players negatively and ruin their fun.

This is a "social" factor in that some game designers are clever, but it is
a problem of whenever a game designer is NOT clever.

MUDs became popular during an era with less competition. I remember at
the time when I started, the game Quake became popular. This trend of
games impacting text-based games such as MUDs, is a given.

Plus it can take a lot of time away, which is more difficult for people
who are getting older - since they often end up having more responsibilities
too. Work, family, other activities...

The programming requirement should not be the biggest hurdle, with
scripting languages being really fairly easy to learn.

I think one of the bigger problems in general, aside from the social factor
described above, is that a text-based MUD depends heavily on players
comitting time to/into them. And when you don't have these players,
the MUD will instantly become less interesting for others too.
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Old 02-06-2016, 08:36 PM   #5
plamzi
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Re: Reinvigorating MUDs

Quote:
Originally Posted by MightyK View Post
Has there been any projects floating around of late that aspire to this? Are there any significant barriers perceived to the creation of such a software product?
Orrin's post echoed my perspective exactly on game builder tools. If you remove the coding / scripting, you end up with the same formula, no two ways about it.

Besides, I feel it's too easy to put up a clone-able game out there, call it a game maker, and lure people in with "you don't have to code to be a game designer". Most efforts in that respect have been south of mediocre, and they just waste people's time.

My own take on a game builder framework has been to focus instead on ease of content creation, and ease of customization of a good amount of out-of-the-box features. You can build a good-sized world (mobless) in a day using the open source Wesnoth map builder. To get a feel for the extendable modular design, you can look at actual spell & affects examples, quest examples, crafting examples, powerful mob scripts, etc. The world is stored in a standalone RDBS by default, and the documentation includes ways to point web interfaces to the db for building by non-coders.

In addition, the server works seamlessly with my web client, which is also available on GitHub.

Bottom line is, though, that this community is so small nowadays that I'm not sure any offering has the power to "reinvigorate". Which is why my own contribution is more targeted to people wanting to create text-rich realtime web games than old school MUDs that are happy with telnet.
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Old 02-09-2016, 11:37 PM   #6
nyanko
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Re: Reinvigorating MUDs

I believe there are many ways that MUDs can expand their player base to reinvigorate themselves.

For example, Alter Aeon has done a wonderful job in making their MUD friendly for blind and visually impaired players. It works with a wide selection of screen readers. Alter has been rewarded by having an active playerbase of 70 to 100 plus players on-line at all times of day and night. Many blind players consider it to be an audiogame, with lively sounds and music. Having so many players to chat with makes it fun for blind and sighted players alike. More MUDs could definitely tailor their structure to work well with screen readers and attract blind players.

Another method to gain more players is to advertise for players at colleges. English majors love to read and write and can up-load their poetry and stories to their favorite MUD--keeping to the theme of the MUD. I, as an example, used poems and stories to do my guild requirements in Imperian; it was fun to have a fantasy-themed outlet to practice poetry and writing skills. If every MUD advertised at one or two colleges in their home state, it could help them attract a small but steady influx of players.

And why stop at colleges in the United States? Part of the fun of a large and active MUD is to chat with players from all over the world. Many people from other countries like an English language MUD in order to practice their English skills in a fun, fantasy environment. A MUD could potentially advertise for players on a foreign college's website or make contact with the English department to provide an exciting way for their students to practice English with native speakers.

Even being listed on huge gaming websites like Kongregate.com can gain a few players. Personally, that is how I first discovered MUDing, and once I tried MUDs, I never went back to graphical games.

There might be no one easy and constant method of MUDs gaining a wider audience, but there seems to be almost unlimited ways for them to reach out to new groups of people. I, for one, don't think there is any reason for gloom and doom in the MUDing community. MUDs are still relevant and have a lot of potential.
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Old 02-10-2016, 05:14 AM   #7
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Re: Reinvigorating MUDs

My take might not represent the community at large, but this is what I do:
Players come in as non-programmers, they can buy things, and learn how to customize the messages that object produces, say a container that becomes Daveys locker, after that they can add widgets, canned software that adds fucntionality, like a push button that can do some other action. One player made a an electronic fly-zapper using this technique. beyond this, there is some hand-holding and more training, but it leads to programming after a time.
Some people are happy to just wander a world, while others do like to do more, and the trick of allowing programming or building-like things without the full actual $builder or $programmer class gets interesting. I let my advanced players handle this through a special membership in an architectural review board, where players can promote other players, based on reviewing existing works.
There is a special $progression DB that tracks how far along each player is, and they can create a certain number of things based upon this score or value, and as they progress they get more.
There is also Apartments for rent, where some special compensation has been made for a renter to customize things like the main room desc, seating, etc, all resettable to a default. in this way, a renter can customize their place, but when they leave it, it can be easily reset for the next person that rents this space.
All of this teaches the build process, and encourages people to try to do more than just see things from the outside.
Each MUD is vastly different, and as such, how such a thing is implemented would be very custom, but this is my way to see who has the potential to become good builders, a little at a time.
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