[MUD-Dev] Graphic MUDS/Ultima Online
Tue Jul 29 10:58:49 New Zealand Standard Time 1997
On Monday, July 28, 1997 9:25 PM, Adam
Wiggins[SMTP:nightfall at user2.inficad.com] wrote:
Well, gosh, turn around and there you are discussing my game. :) Well,
mine and a bunch of other folks' anyway. Hopefully nothing I say in
this post will fall under our esteemed list-owner's rules about
commercial mud boosterism; I'm just trying to respond within the
context of the discussion, and self-critically as well.
> [Matt C:]
> > On Mon, 28 Jul 1997, Jeff Kesselman wrote:
> > > >Ah, but is it a MUD? I've heard claims on newsgroups that
although it is
> > > >very pretty, it doesn't make for a very good MUD, in terms of
the kind of
> > > >flexibility, language input, etc. that people expect from MUDs.
> > > >tell us anything about that?
Does it have the amount of language input? Absolutely not. It is also
far more lacking in environmental adaptability, because it's plain
harder to make a limited graphical tileset adapt to circumstance than
it is to make text do so. Those who are used to the flexibility, and
yes, greater options (certainly less man-hours per nifty effect), that
text provides will find it to be a shallower experience in that
> The main point of the thread was asking whether Quake or Diablo
> as muds. I said no, because they are missing a very important
> of a mud: permanency.
If you do not have a persistent world, you have no mud, is how I've
heard it said. Of course, persistence is relative. Are the
periodic-wipe-of-world-state-model muds not muds? PKMud? Heck, the
original MUD? Let us not forget that many muds throughout the years
have been based around a periodic full-world reset, some even to the
extent of wiping character standings altogether.
While this sort of mud is far from as popular as the model which saves
some form of standing, let us not forget that there are still many
disparate approaches to "persistence" in muds today. Ex: early LPs
that saved character attributes but not equipment. Classic Diku
architecture muds (ROM, Merc, Envy, blah blah blah) which save
characters and equipment and the like, but do not save world state.
Evolved Diku models which save some elements of world state (say, add
player housing on a Merc). Full world-state saving a la
MUSH-derivatives, etc. What defines persistence?
Which is not, btw, to say that I disagree with the point made; simply
want to toss a few more variables in the equation. :)
> (The artificially low number of participants per
> server is also a factor, IMO.) What makes a mud a virtual world
> 'just' a game is that there is an ever-changing world which the
> can enter, interact with, and leave.
Many muds do not have a changing environment *save as a social
construct among players*. Their database is static. They use respawn
systems for NPC repopulation. Even in the case of world-state-saving
models, such as MUSHes, the database is often static because of other
concerns (workload, for one!). TinyTIM is a marvel of interactivity,
but it does not change much once something is added. I don't know any
publicly released mud architectures that are not essentially static in
So there is a changing player environment. This will happen anytime
that you gather people together in a community, regardless of
interface or setting. There is changing environment itself. The rooms,
the details of interactivity with objects, the evolution of "toys."
These aren't done much by anyone far as I know. Then there's that
middle layer, of developing, changing, and evolving
storylines/creatures/etc. And this is quite within technological
reach, and has been for some years. Almost nobody does it, of course.
Boy, should they. I'd love to see more discussion of this on the
> When they return at a later time,
> effects of their previous visit are still in place: things they
> interacted with stayed that way until changed by another character;
No Diku-architecture muds do this. Are they less muds for it? I don't
think so. This is only common to full world-state saving engines,
which are far more expensive than a Diku-style mud for this reason,
> own character's skills, attributes, scars, and whatever else are all
Many pkill arena muds do not do this. :) They have periodic wipes to
set people at a level playing field for beginning the game again. Are
they muds? Good question.
> Characters age independant of play-time, but instead in terms of
> The difference boils down to, I think, that a 'game' is a
> world, whereas a mud is just a world. When any given player or set
> leaves, the world continues on its merry way. When all players
> 'normal' game, the game ceases. This is simulated in D&D by having
> the DM say, "Well, while you were gone..." In a mud it's for real.
Interesting. We ought to get into the Bruno
Bettelheim-Bartle-Costikyan-whoever-else-ya-wanna-drag-in debate here,
the one about "play" and about "gaming," about "competition" and about
"hobby" and about "dominance" versus "socialization." Many muds are
not "worlds" in this sense, they are merely settings, merely
environments. They acquire some degree of the social aspect
inevitably, but it is not their focus.
> > > Let me just say this: Its a game with a ver primitive and
> > > system,
Well, lemme think. We've got a simple interface certainly, equivalent
to typing "kill X" and leaving the keyboard. We do not have the
"interventionary" style of combat. Latency is one reason why; graphics
[An aside; since we do client-side prediction for a lot of stuff, we
can "swallow" latency up to around 500ms without visible effect except
when the prediction screws up. For those who have played, the lags
you're seeing are from other causes, mainly server-side load. Now back
to the topic...]
However, we have limb-based calculations, equipment damage,
health-fatigue relationships figured into speed, variable speed
attacks based on skill and weapons, weapon weight, range, etc etc. All
in all, it's about as sophisticated a system as most muds use. It's
just not really visible to you. You can feel the effects of it all
with experience, of course, and "grow" into the system through
experience. Can you lop off an arm in the midst of a fight? Nah, I
don't like limb-based health, it makes fights too quick and
contributes to "trophying" which I find repellant. :)
Hmm, don't mean to get up on a hobbyhorse of defending the system. I
too wish that we had more interactivity in it, and more ways to see
feedback, information like "Grogan's blow hits your breastplate and
dents it deeply... you have trouble breathing now that your chest is
constricted, and a haze falls across your eyes as you are obliged to
gasp quickly and shallowly (increased fatigue from here forward,
penalty to hit, possible subsidiary damage to chest if fight goes on
too long)." But interface-wise, ugh. Not in a graphical system, not
easily, and not for the general public. :(
> > > a detailed world full of lots of little "toys" to learn to play
> > > with and manipulate and rpetty good charcter-customization
> I hardly think a combat system is necessary. Perhaps a better
> would be a world full of internaly consistant systems, the most
> common of which are combat, spells, and guilds. The 'toys' bit
> upon a deeper point - level of interactivity.
You've missed two very important ones that are intrinsic to UO as a
world, and to my mind are intrinsic to future mud development into
virtual realities (which is, btw, where I think this genre is headed
in the future).
UO has an economic system that goes from raw materials to finished
goods, and players can make any step of it.
UO also has an ecological system that handles creature repopulation,
Both of these are intrinsic to the game, far more so than combat or
spells or guilds. They are the simulation layer under that, and
despite repeated calls for "mud evolution" not many take up the
gauntlet to work on this sort of thing further. Yet I remain convinced
that adding a simulation layer to muds is where the genre needs to
Now, I know the arguments against it; it's expensive (man hours,
money, computation, space, etc). You can trick the player into
thinking it is there when it really isn't, far more cheaply. (And in
fact, we have used "cheats" many places where portions of the model
were deemed less important to actually simulate, but we needed the
appearance). But having a solid sim layer enables so much... and it
renders future growth possible. For one thing, the next direction
which I would like to take it is towards conquering that last barrier
of "staticness"--changing the setting based on simulated environmental
factors. Given a good model, there is no reason why roads could not be
formed by players as they walk on the grass repeatedly and kill it.
And so on.
> Matt covered this (below)
> anyhow, so I've not much more to add. The last bit - character
> - is also important, although I'm not sure what a really solid
> would be. At the very least you need something where you can
> a lot of options to personalize your character, then have that
> use those abilities to grow, change, and learn new abilities, all
> which are 'remembered' by the game. This can include anything
> from your skill with long blades to scars to your character's
We use a classless, levelless system. Skills atrophy from disuse. It's
not to everyone's taste. It seems to be working, so far. Whether it
will retain the totally goal-oriented players is yet to be seen, since
it does not provide a long string of milestones, but rather obliges
the player to create milestones for themselves at intervals.
> > Well.. thats not what makes it a mud, IMHO. Its the level of
> > between players (and NPCs), as well as manipulation of static
> > quake would be a mud, were it not that the scenery is only 'cover'
> > can only manipulate very, very limited parts of it, in absolutely
> > ways. This is quite an interesting point to explore in a more
> > environment than usenet.
You can't modify the environment on MOST muds. :P You can manipulate
some objects in limited fashions. They tend to go back where you got
them from, or reappear there as a duplicate. In general, environment
modification requires "immortal"/"wizard" capability and is a slow and
tedious process. At best you can move a few objects around, like in
Quake, only the objects are more varied.
> Yeah. I'm tempted to say, "Many muds aren't much better than
> but actually that's not really true. Even stock ROM has a lot more
> widgets to tug on than that.
Ah yes, but they are still widgets. :) None of those actually turn a
more significant knob.
Many have compared Diablo to Gauntlet, but what it really is is
Hack/Rogue/Moria, with a lot fewer random factors and features. No d's
you can turn into D's with a potion. :( Now, if you truly made
Hack/Rogue/Moria as a mud, its feature set and capabilities would
certainly rock the world of hack n slash muds a lot. :) It's got a lot
more widgets than most ROMs.
> Ultima Online I've yet to actually play, but
> I've heard very good things and of course I have every confidence in
> friend Ptah, since he was the creator of one of the best muds to
> grace the internet. (IMO, of course..)
Well, thank you. :) LegendMUD is still around, by the way
(telnet://mud.aus.sig.net:9999 and http://mud.aus.sig.net), and we're
still working on its goofy Diku-becoming-an-LP sort of system, though
I have a heck of a lot less time to devote to it. For the record,
Sadist aka Wyrd Dragon aka Rick Delashmit, lead programmer on Legend,
is also a lead programmer on UO; and my wife, Kaige aka Kristen
Koster, is also a designer on UO.
> > > How GOOD a MUD it is i wont address, but the goal abnd work was
> > > fuocused on building a world ratehr then a game, whcih is why I
> > > a MUD but not NWN or DSO.
Not sure what this last sentence means. Does it mean that NWN and DSO
are focused on being games?
As far as it being a good mud... well, it's I suspect, up to par with
run-of-the-mill muds in most ways. In other ways it's a heck of a lot
more ambitious. Bt then, doing ambitious stuff is why I came here
where the funding is. ;) In other traditional areas of "mud
measurement" it's gonna fall way way short. A discussion of what
exactly the metrics are for something like this would be quite
interesting. How do we evaluate and judge muds?
UO is certainly focused on being a world first, and a game second. The
social aspects also fall secondary to this. Hence the lack of
easy-to-implement, obvious social enhancers such as long-distance
communication, embedded mail system, and global chat spaces. All of
these things are major social enhancers, but (usually) outside the
fiction and reductive of a game OR world experience.
One reason btw why we went with this approach was that a focus on
world tends to capture the "explorer" types as Bartle defines them, or
in Bettelheim's terms, encourages open-ended play. Or to put it in
other words, having a varied, evolving setting (even though it only
evolves in that "middle layer" of NPCs/creatures/economy) encourages
roleplay, encourages exploration, encourages alternate styles of
achievement, and rewards it with changed circumstances rather than
with a milestone.
The problem with "game" style design in a mud setting is that you run
out of game. Games are finite. In a fiscal sense, you wanna keep folks
around as long as possible, of course, to get their money, and the
more "infinite" the game is, the better. Remember that most mudders
only play for around 3-6 months, and even dinos tend to give up after
2 years or so.
> > This is probably another qualification towards the mud side -
> > plenty of muds are 'just games' (read: Lots of stock muds are this
> > and many never get changed significantly).
One reason why there may be so many is that when you beat one, but
have not exhausted the desire to play, you must find another, so that
you have fresh milestones to conquer. Many muds try to compensate for
this by adding levels, races, and other small milestones (beat the
game as a thief! Beat it as an elf! We have 10,000 levels--at which
point the milestones become insignificant or repetitive enough to be
It is difficult for a player of any <game> (using game in a broader
sense now, as in game design, as opposed to "game"-style <game>
design, boy I hope that made sense) to make the transition between
methods of approaching the game. For one thing, not many games have
the flexibility to be played in truly different ways. One of the
reasons why Sid Meier is a master game designer is that he has a knack
for open-ended play that has milestones that can be freely ignored.
Yet it is rare to see a Civ player who plays once for conquest and
again for cooperation and again for mastery of a particular area and
again for social stability etc etc etc... the game design supports it,
the *individual player* does not. But the *audience* does.
> > The goal of 'building a
> > world/environment' is something that appears to have evolved
> > readership here (not that its a bad thing by any means! Its a
> > conceptual step forwards, IMHO).
It's also a really old conceptual leap forward. :) I'm glad to see
that this list is embracing it, but I remember arguing with Orion
Henry and Mike Sellers (who did Meridian 59 and is now freelance I
think) and others about it on the newsgroups a LONG time ago. Like,
over two years. "What is the MUD State of the Art?" I think is the
question I posed back then... it is STILL a valid question to ask,
because I suspect that if the mud community gathers as it has on this
list, and actually manages to make all the disparate great ideas come
together, we'll see some mud evolution.
> I've always thought this way. It was more a mistake than anything I
> when I logged onto my first mud, saw the way I could interact with
> environment and actually have things *stay* the way I put them;
> the immorts talk about building their zones; heard all the stories
> the incredible happenings (most of which were no doubt greatly
> I got this picture of this horendously complex, completely
> and self-maintaining world. Of course, that was hardly the case -
> recall that mud crashed not less than every five to six hours, and
> about the furthest thing from consistant there is. Still, that's
> feeling I got when I first played it, and that vision has stuck
> me ever since. So to me it's actually kind of amazing that others
> play the game and consider it just a big game of Zork with lots of
> around to talk to.
That vision is exactly what I wanted to bring to UO. And lemme tell
ya, on a personal note, it's great for me to log into this game and
try to go make a living as a tailor who wants to be a bard, have the
character respected and in demand for the character's skills
(everybody wants to look special, so everyone wants custom dyed
clothes), be frustrated because there's a shortage of dyes in town,
ponder getting backing to bring a trade caravan into Trinsic to see if
I can make a killing on dye pots, and go kill a bear in the woods that
I KNOW won't be there tomorrow. There's something oddly liberating
about how different it feels to take for granted sim-based design
rather than static environments. How many of you are working on this
sort of thing in a text environment, where it could be pushed so much
further than in graphics? (The possibilities boggle the mind there)...
I'm curious, because I'd love to see what designs you come up with.
Game design is an art and a craft, and like all arts and crafts, it
has techniques and approaches, and that implies that it can support a
criticism; said criticism exists though it is not very sophisticated.
Mud design is also an art and a craft, and it also has techniques and
approaches, but there is no criticism, no self-evaluation, no
standards defined, no study of what has gone before. And without
self-critique, it cannot improve except in fits and starts. If this
genre is to evolve into more than game design, which I firmly believe
it has already begun to do, then it will have to support at least the
critical apparatus of game design, and preferably the critical
apparatus of many disciplines that most people do not bother to link:
server design, and writing, and hypertextual theory, and art (for
graphics are coming *and will dominate*, it's not worth fighting
over), and psychology and sociology... Game designers today generally
do not know even the short history of computer game design; we must as
a community educate ourselves and each other if we want the community
and its art and craft to grow.
-Ptah at LegendMUD
aka Designer Dragon
aka Raph Koster, Creative Lead Designer, Ultima Online
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