[MUD-Dev] Re: CGDC, a summary

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Mon May 11 13:01:12 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

On 10:59 AM 5/11/98 -0500, I personally witnessed Holly Sommer jumping up
to say:
>Why would newbies hate a mud 
>school? It lets them collect their wits, and prepare for the rest of the 
>game. I can't see anything wrong with that, as a concept, nor with the 
>functionality of the "original" mud school itself.

Well, there's nothing wrong with the concept, and there's nothing wrong
with the functionality of the original mud school. But... the real question
here is, why do newbies hate mud schools? 

Needless to say, I have some thoughts on this, from the perspective of a
player. It's sort of hard for me to put myself in the position of someone
who has never played a mud before... spent many years at this, of course...
but I'll do what I can.

When I turn on my computer and start a game, I want to play. Yes, I want
some sort of way to learn my way around. But the last thing I need is some
condescending, fourth-grade level tutorial. Think about it; you go out and
find a mud, and you log on expecting to play an exciting, immersive game.
And you get "Welcome to Avilard! Avilard is a MUD. MUD stands for
Multi-User Dungeon. Avilard is a place that lets you take the role of blah
blah blah blah, please step through the next door to continue." So you go,
"cool!", and you step through the door and get "You can interact with other
players in the game blah blah blah please move along" and you move along
and get "When you see a monster, you can fight with it blah blah blah" and
about eight rooms later you have absolutely no idea how much longer this
goes on and YOU'RE NOT READING ANYMORE. You don't care. Your patience has
run out, and you just want to get through this damn class so you can go
play. But this part is important, so the administrative staff makes sure to
ask interesting questions that require the user to read the descriptions.
But they're not interesting anymore. They're tedious and annoying and by
the time the user gets to the end of the introduction, he's not happy and
confident and ready to play and better prepared to do so. He's pissed off.
He's annoyed and disgruntled by being forced to go through this pedantic
crap, and may not even want to play anymore. Even if he's read all the
stuff on the intro, even if he's not upset by it, he's probably a little
overwhelmed. Because to put it bluntly, it's too long, and it's too much. 

Some people will immediately jump up and say "but that isn't a mud school!"
-- because they're thinking of the academy, where all the easy bits and
pieces of information are kept so the user can go get them. I don't
consider that a school, but more of a library; in a school, you are taught,
while in a library you tend to teach yourself. The academy falls into the
latter category. But I'll take a look at the academy, too, and why people
dislike it.

The academy is terribly annoying. You walk in, and there's almost no
possibility of death, which is of course a rather good thing for the new
player. But here's what has, in my opinion, led to the hack-and-slash
culture that pervades MUDs -- there's nothing going on! All there is to do
is wander around in a maze and kill monsters. You can't effectively go out
and do anything else, because you're too weak and too broke and too badly
equipped. So you get trained, and very effectively trained, to ignore the
rest of the players and just kill anything that looks like you might get
experience for it. You don't read descriptions. You don't even really read
monster names. And you don't talk to anyone, because you need to stay in
here building up your strength LONG after you're ready to go out and handle
the world from a mental standpoint. Most of the people in the academy,
therefore, are not interested in conversation, or even in holding still
long enough to be spoken to. They just want to find the next thing they
could kill. So it's almost impossible for the player who wants to talk to
find other players he can talk to. When he does, these people have once
again been trained by the same interface and the same culture not to talk
much to other people. So the socially-oriented player ends up dissatisfied,
and leaves. 

The problem with mud schools is not with the way they're designed or with
the fact that they're in the game. The problem is that they take too long
and don't serve the needs of the player, plus... you can't avoid them! You
have to go through them, every time, no matter what your experience level is. 

Personally, I'd fix this by making the initial training optional, and by
more effectively designing the areas around the city. By this, I mean an
incremental difference in the difficulty of areas when you go farther from
town. The academy should be just what it is, a library; you go in, and you
can look around and find out what you need to know. Divide it into both
broad and specific subject areas. Use some logical system to define how
everything fits together. Sequential access doesn't work for something like
that. There are a lot of different ways to learn and a lot of different
ways people like to be taught, but I think we can safely assume most people
logging onto the average text-based mud are capable of learning by going
and looking something up. The Dewey decimal system is probably overkill,
though... ;)

Obviously I'm thinking of the way things work in the old-style muds that I
tend to like. The newer things a lot of people are doing these days just
annoy me most of the time. There's an awful lot of innovation that doesn't
really do a whole lot for the player in the end, it just makes things

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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