[MUD-Dev] Re: Motivations for Creating Mud-Like Worllds and Servers | Was: Re: whitestar Crossfire MUD

John Bertoglio alexb at internetcds.com
Mon May 4 16:08:32 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

-----Original Message-----
From: Koster, Raph <rkoster at origin.ea.com>
To: 'mud-dev at kanga.nu' <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
Date: Monday, May 04, 1998 7:36 AM
Subject: [MUD-Dev] Re: (fwd) AD: [custom graphical] whitestar Crossfire MUD

<Much Snipped>

>I'd be curious to hear what the motivations of those on the list are.
>Or as a broader topic: what do people see as motives for people
>crafting muds? One of the primary motivations I have seen in the past
>is, "to make a game like the one I used to play until they changed it
>on me." How much of the stagnation of mud development do you think is
>attributable to this motive?

Worthwhile thread to start.

Since I have no real roots in the academic-UNIX-mud world I can't directly
relate to the "game I used to play" motive. However, I suppose this kind of
motivation is present in most people if you broaden it to include
literature, personal experience, other kinds of games and dreams of all
stripes. Perhaps the most influential product on my design thinking is the
computer game Civilization. Despite poor AI, it continues to be fun to
play. I have had more powerful RP-like responses (like..."damn, I hate the
English, they are so sneaky") then any roleplaying game I have ever played.
Lossing a transport full of troops in Empire provokes a (minor but real)
feeling of failing those silicon life forms who trusted me to lead them.
The "Dream Park" novels where gamemastering becomes big business are
another major influence. Westworld is another minor influence. The notion
that people want to experience the thrill of danger without the
consequences of real failure creates a huge potential market.

There are several general reasons which motiviated me build a system:

Financial potential. Given the choice between paid work and paid play, I
(all other things being somewhat equal) will always choose the latter.
There is a potential here to build anything from a couple a thousand dollar
a month side business to selling the system to TransGlobalMegaIndustries
for serious dollars. The former is more likely but wierder things have

Technical challenge. The thrust of my day job is designing internet
database applications with a browser front end. Having to convert our
system from a persistant connection BBS to the web created a body of
technology which made a web-based mud world possible. Most attempts at
using a web browser as an interface have either used Java-based persistant
connections or fixed hypertext linked pages. I know I can do a better job.

Professional advantages. The technology and programing solutions developed
for the mud system directly impact the quality of my products at work.
There is something about "screwing around" with code on a
nonmission-critical project that seems to make insights come easier.
(Example: <Ace programmers start laughing here> I have looked at flags in
various mud programming guides and figured they were the equivalant of
logical fields in a dbase. So when I need a lot of binary switches I build
lots of logical fields. Upon studying my documentation I discovered the
bitwise functions which allowed me to store and retrieve 31 binary values
in one integer field. Without the mud, with thousands of flags ultimately
required, I would have lived with the less efficient and tedious method
</end laughing>.

Marketing challenge. The fewer (unnecessary) obstacles you put in the way
of consumers, the better your chances of success. Building an online world
using a stock webserver and browser client opens up a huge potential market
for people to hit a site and be roaming around in the world in a few
seconds. This give an accessibiliy advantage which can be exploited.

Intellectual curiosity about world building. The kind of world I want to
see work does not currently exist, so I am willing to build it. I think it
could be endlessly fascinating to watch the world develop. I would like to
build a world diverse enought that it could be a site for social research
which might have value outside of the game world.

Emotional satisfaction. This one is the payoff if nothing else works. It is
fun to create and build. Building tools is especially satisfing because
tools make building other things easier.

Some additional (and perhaps boring details):

--Why build a game system and/or server plus clients?
Clearly, many already exist. Many are available for free development.
Problems: core server written in C. Don't know C, have no professional
reason to learn it. Java is more interesting...no memory issues, kinda C
for wimps...but no finished code bases. Hate telnet model. Like http model.
Licensing: I have commercial aspirations, therefore the various GNU-type
licenses are to constraining. While I respect the those who believe
"software should be free", programming is too much like work to me to give
it away.

--Why did you choose the cliche-ridden medivial sword and sorcery setting
for the world.
Actually, I am not a major fantasy literature fan. Read Tolkien and a few
of the classics but I am far more interest in science fiction, science non
fiction, business and marketing books, history, etc. The reason the D&D
type world is so interesting is the ability to model a world which seems
*realistic* without the constraints of a more modern world. Subtle things
like the nature of combat, the power of magic to create plot devices and
the interdependent nature of feudal world are also advantages. Modern
weapons (18th century and later) are too lethal and accurate to make
personal heroism play very well in a fictional setting.

--Why use a web browser? Why not just craft a custom client?
First question: Because they are free and make building complex user
interfaces a snap. RAD is an important factor for a one-man shop. On a
custom client: Most important: I don't really have the skill to do so.
Further, there is so much unexplored capability in the brower it will be a
while before I run out of tools. Possible compromise: The release of
netscape 5 source code might make a custom browser/client possible.

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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