Tuesday, September 9, 2014

MUD's Aren't Dead

With the recent 20th anniversary of the Realms of Despair there has been much celebration and nostalgia of the game's history and introspection about the future of it. A large part of the feelings of the future of the game and MUD's in general have been pessimistic with concerns about the number of players - both retaining older players and recruiting newer plays along with the competition of other games.

Around the same time I've been reading as much as I can about MUD's in general and the academic analysis of them. The most proficient writer in recent years is Michael "Drakkos" Heron. He is one of the people responsible for the new Imaginary Realities Journal. I've already written about my feelings on some of his writings in an earlier post. Today I want to write a few comments about his paper “Likely to be eaten by a Grue” – the relevance of text games in the modern era which is all about why text games are still important today.

The first point he makes about why people play the games is summarised in the quote below:
These kinds of games are fun in and of themselves.  They are not fun because they hark back to simpler days of game development and remind many of us of the games we played when we were younger.  If that were their only appeal, we would never have played them in the first place.
I love that quote. It really expresses how I feel about the subject better than I could ever say. The paper then goes on to talk about the advantages of a text game over other games, mainly:
  1. The low cost - it costs little in money to play/make a MUD. Along with this it is (at least in theory) possible to quickly modify and update parts of it.
  2. The ergodic nature of a MUD over other games adds a different dimension where your actions and choices early on can affect you character long into the future.
  3. Accessability - MUD's are accessible to people with disabilities with the text nature of them easy for other programs to interpret.
  4. The players generally have a higher than average level of literacy. While there is the odd exception to this rule this higher literacy and intelligence can lead the game to be better than many others.
  5. The use of imagination is required to visualise the world in a way that graphics which become outdated quickly can not. For example consider the following room in the Daichall area:

For Her Pleasure
Pain wracks every vein of life that enters this hellish domain. Lifeless eyes stare from every corner. Bodies lie heaped upon the ground, each torn from life in macabre defeat. The shrieking of countless souls rips through the air and shatters any hope of escape. No suffering goes unexplored in this place and whole new worlds of torture are opened for the victims who enter. Knelt nearby, a lone paladin still clutches a holy cross, fingers locked forever in rigor mortis, his plea unheard. Perhaps not even the gods themselves can wield power over such wretched despair. A crimson light seems to filter up from the
floor, though no source is apparent.
Exits: none
So what can be done to modernise MUD's without losing their history and charm of what them popular in the first place? Obviously there are ways to promote games through various MUD related sites and social networking sites. The Realms of Despair does a great job of this through the use of votes on the topmudsite and has twitter regularly updated along with facebook and google+ groups.

Then there is the aim of getting new players to go from experimenting with a new game for the first time through to making it past that early newbie stage to becoming proficient at the game before reaching the final mastery stage with several avatar characters. The Newbie Council and Guild/Order/Clan structure does a good job helping players through this though of course there is always room for improvement.

The most exciting part of the paper to me though is discussion of the use of MXP protocols. Basically this newer protocol goes beyond what is possible using telnet. There is potential to include some graphics, buttons and I can even imagine going down a path to making keyboards almost optional which would also make it easier to play on a tablet. The best part of the potential in this is that it would allow players to merge the old methods of playing with newer ways.

This is already available to a degree in the game though taking a quick survey of half a dozen players about it responses varied from it being the greatest addition to the game in recent times, to it being no big deal to what is MXP? The other big advantage of using MXP well in a mud is it will give it an edge over other MUDs. In short more accessibility can lead to more players than what is available to mere traditional means of recruiting and advertising.

Finally to end this post a quote from  Michael Darkkos Heron:
"I make this case for text gaming not because we lack the technology for graphical games, but because text games have a charm and appeal that is unique.  I make this case because text games are fun, and more people owe it to themselves to find out why."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bonus Weekend

This weekend I logged on to not one but two exciting events in the Realms of Despair. The first was a change to the announcement of the day to:

The second exciting event was the following questnews:

I didn't waste anytime with the summer breeze quest, logged on my ranger and started running around all over the place to find them. My first success was in Transylvania as follows:
A Trail In The Eastern Forest
As you push through the dense forest growth, you notice blood stains cover almost all of the forest floor.  The silence is ominous, and you wish for the peacefulness of more familiar territory.  You may travel north or south along the trail, or head west towards a lighter area of the forest.
Exits: north south west
A summer breeze drifts through the air.
A little brown bunny rabbit nestles into the greenery.

>g summer
You get a summer breeze.

>c id summer
Object 'a summer breeze found by Jessyl' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 51 treasure, weight 1.
Special properties:  none
This treasure has a gold value of 0.
I continued questing after this and found another four summer breezes between Northern Plains, Dunhill and a couple of other places. In the end I found my fifth summer breeze and handed in 5 minutes before the end of the quest:
Darkhaven General Assembly
This vast room--the largest in the whole building--was designed for meetings of massive segments of the population. Rows upon rows of blue-padded benches line the walls like bleachers, and a small stage rises above the floor at the south end of the giant room, lit by gigantic torches. The floor of the room is tiled  in glimmering silver-veined marble, and the walls are draped in luxurious gold velvet. Crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling like icy stalactites. Despite the ample seating, there is still plenty of room to walk, and grand balls have been held here in the past.
Exits: north
(Ascendant Goddess) (Red Aura) Destre is shrouded in a demonic aura. [Sanc]

Destre smiles happily.

You nod in greeting to everyone present.

Destre says 'all set :>'

>give summer dest
You give a summer breeze found by Jessyl to Destre.

Your glory has been increased by 10.

You wag your tail. Feeling happy?

Destre cheers you on like it's going out of style.

>say Thanks for the quest
You say 'Thanks for the quest'

Destre says 'welcome :>'
After this it was time to get into the levelling spirit. I started myself a new druid after losing the password to my old one and with the double experience I got it levelled up fast. One thing I found exciting was while levelling the druid I came across a low level quest I had never seen before:
 > The Darkhaven Bakery
Upon entering the Darkhaven Bakery, you find yourself surrounded by citizens of the marvelous city, each waiting in line for their daily bread.  Gazing eastward, you see a farmer's shop which sells all forms of dairy products.
A butcher's shop also lies to the west, while an opening in the tent to the south leads back out onto Market Street.
There is a small sign here.
Exits: east south west
An important looking scroll hangs from a wooden board.
Nimmith, Darkhaven's famed baker, is here.
Nimmith Looks you over.
Nimmith says to you 'Yes, you will do.'
Nimmith claps you rather roughly on your back.
Nimmith grumbles.
Nimmith goes on 'My usual shipment of flour from the Shire is three days late and I am running low. There will be some unhappy customers if I dont have their bread ready when they come in. I suspect marauders in the Forest of Tears. Go to the mill there. And hurry! I must have that flour.'
Nimmith rolls up his sleeves and starts kneading dough.
 This led to a short trip to The Shire for the following:

Bywater Road
You stand on Bywater Road, the busiest street in all of Shiredom.  The road
continues to the east and west.  A large, imposing building lies to the south.
You catch a glimpse of the Brandywine River to the north.
Exits: [north] east south west
The Miller is here, overseeing his busy mill workers.
'You're from Nimmith. I can tell by the flour dust all over you. No respect for personal space is all I'll say on the matter.'
The Miller chuckles politely.
'I knew that he would send someone when we were late. 
A wolf got my last delivery boy and I havent hired another yet. '
The Miller snaps his fingers and a millworker appears with a sack of flour.
The millworker gives the sack to the Miller.
The Miller gives you a sack of flour.
'Hurry now. Nimmith relies on these shipments.'
The flour was then returned to Nimmith for the following result:
The Darkhaven Bakery
Upon entering the Darkhaven Bakery, you find yourself surrounded by citizens of the marvelous city, each waiting in line for their daily bread.  Gazing eastward, you see a farmer's shop which sells all forms of dairy products.
A butcher's shop also lies to the west, while an opening in the tent to the south leads back out onto Market Street.
There is a small sign here.
Exits: east south west
An important looking scroll hangs from a wooden board.
Nimmith, Darkhaven's famed baker, is here.
Nimmith says to you 'Varlok, did I mention that the Western Trade Route would be the best way to go? Did you find the Shire?
If you have my flour, please give it to me.'

Nimmith says 'The Shire better bring that next flour shipment soon...'

> give flour nimmith
You give a sack of flour to Nimmith.
Nimmith claps you rather roughly on your back.
Nimmith exclaims 'Well done and just in time, Varlok! My thanks!'
Nimmith gives you 100,000 coins.
It is amazing the little quests scattered through the game you can easily pass over.

I thought it was great idea for the immortals to test the double experience out. It has been well thought out and advertised on the twitter account:

The proof of the success of this initiative will be when the mudstats site updates its numbers. I can't wait to see what new initiative the immortals have lined up next...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Arcane Adventures

I've been really enjoying myself in Arcanes lately. There's a great group of players who get along well, are active and I feel as if I'm contributing to the organisation while still getting something out of it. New members both experienced players and newbies are joining up, the Arcane Forums are filling up with information and there have been plenty of successful killing of some of the larger mobs in the Realms.
While I haven't managed to be online at the right times to join in with kills of the Fire Elemental I have joined in with kills at Justice, Corsterix, Percival, Overlord Graajchzrakil and an unimaginable nightmare. Out of these my two favourite kills were:
Your rending grip wounds Overlord Graajchzrakil!
Overlord Graajchzrakil is DEAD!!
Overlord Graajchzrakil utters an obscene shriek as its lungs poison their last breath of air. Its body falls out of the shadows, revealing a twisted blackened exoskeleton, slowly withering away.
Victory has been achieved as this source of death and decay has been defeated. But evil cannot be beaten this easily. Rest assured that this creature will be given unholy life once again. Evil is forever.
Overlord Graajchzrakil catches its guts in its hands as they pour through its fatal wound!
You get 84755 gold coins from the corpse of Overlord Graajchzrakil.
You split 84755 gold coins.  Your share is 28253 gold coins.
The corpse of Overlord Graajchzrakil holds:
     (Red Aura) A blood-covered cleaver
     (Red Aura) clinging strips of parasite fungus
Your slash gashes An unimaginable nightmare!
An unimaginable nightmare is DEAD!!
The shimmering forms coalesce into an aged gnome.
'Free' he says 'Of the nightmares, of the Demon Prince. But the nightmares he will unleash on this world, I pray my children survived what he tried to bring to pass.
The gnome spits black blood from his mouth.
The mage pulls a shimmering key from his rags as he slumps over.
The eyes of the mage close as he breathes his last.
An unimaginable nightmare drops the key of fear.
Light flashes over the gnome's hand, then vanishes.
An unimaginable nightmare hits the ground ... DEAD.
An unimaginable nightmare has no gold.
The corpse of An unimaginable nightmare holds:
     a ring of gnarled wood
I enjoyed killing the Overlord as it was a run I hadn't done in several years and I'd like to do more of for the items he sometimes pops (including his ring). The second kill above is one that I've had trouble with in the past getting to pop those rings. The unimaginable nightmare is an enjoyable kill as his combination of powerful attacks and his sleep attacks keep you on you toes. Previously I've done about 10 kills in a row without any rings popping but in recent weeks the pop rates have been better. Seems to be one of those mobs that you either have a lucky run with or no luck at all with nothing in between. I'm happy I've now got rings of gnarled wood for my cleric.