[MUD-Dev] Re: CGDC, a summary

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Thu May 14 17:58:03 New Zealand Standard Time 1998


On Mon, 11 May 1998 13:01:12 -0400 
Caliban Tiresias Darklock<caliban at darklock.com> wrote:

> On 10:59 AM 5/11/98 -0500, I personally witnessed Holly Sommer
> jumping up to say:

>> Why would newbies hate a mud school? 

> 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. 

Exactly.

..deletia...

> 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. 

..deletia...

> But here's what has, in my opinion, led to the hack-and-slash
> culture that pervades MUDs -- there's nothing going on! 

I see it as contributory, not the sole cause.

> 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.

Bingo.  Nail.  Head.  Hit.

Additionally the puzzle oriented, explorer oriented, and others also
leave.  I certainly did.  All that's left are the punks, or the
punk-tolerant.

Its probably worth looking back at Shades here.  Shades is incredibly
playable.  Magazine reviews from its era stated such regularly, as
have more recent comments (not all from me).  Its simple, its
simplistic, its often annoyingly crude and limited and limiting, but
its playable.  

Why?

Lotsa reasons.  One to start with:

  A new player logging into the game for the first time can instantly
do everything a top-level player who has been playing for months can.
They can use all the spells, they can fight all the monsters, they can
solve all the puzzles, they can do everything -- they just can't do it
as well.  A high level player might have his summon spell fail one
time in five.  A newbie will be lucky to have it work one time in
twenty.  A high level player needs to get the brass key to be able to
get into the city (yes, I know about the other route).  So does the
newbie.  Both of them are equally capable of getting the brass key --
its easily found -- and both of them are equally able at opening the
city with it.  Newbies are just as capable of finding the rope, using
it to fix the bridge, and then getting into the Manor as high level
characters -- high level characters just have an easier time carrying
more treasure out of the Manor, and needn't be so scared of the hound
or the dwarf in the Manor.

Its _playable_.  Its simple, its obvious, and its playable.  If any
other character can do it, then so can the newbie.  He can copy.  He
can duplicate what he sees others do.  He can observe the obvious and
then do that same thing himself and have a damned good chance that it
will either work, or that he'll get a response from the game telling
him that it *might* work next time.

  "Ooo!  Panda just summoned me to the Castle so he could talk to me.
I wonder if I could summon someone?  Lets try!"

It doesn't take a genius, and the fact that Hazeii initially weighted
the scales so that newbies first ever attempts at spells were
extremely likely to succeed (just that once), acted as a very strong
incentive to exploration, trial and error, and learning (that feature
has been removed by the current crowd alas).  

> 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.

Shades has a MUD school of sorts.  When you log into the game you
start at the end of a long tunnel which leads out into the game
proper.  Everyone starts there on ever login.  There are several
points along the tunnel where its possible to take side trips.  One
for instance leads thru a set of rooms whose descriptions are
instructions for how to write areas for Shades.  Just keep walking
"out" and you get the next "chapter".  Enter "out" (or :north")
commands really fast and you get out PDQ without further effort,
mental or otherwise.  

Another side venue is a brief and cursory introduction to the game,
again done thru room descriptions.  Go thru it as fast or as slow as
you want.  Mostly it gives a high level overview, the most useful
aspect of which is that it also gives a sense of the __shape__ of the
land, where things are in relation to each other, and what might be
functionally important within the land (UOL's famed cloth map
undoubtedly serves a similar function).  More importantly, you can
progress thru it as rapidly as you want, and it requires NO
intelligence or observation to move to the next "stage" of the
tutorial -- much like a book you can flip thru it to the point you are
interested in.

> 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... ;)

Shades does this by having a central room in its tutorial system which
has many exits, each of which leads to a room sequence which covered a
different topic.  One covers combat, another picking up and using
objects, etc.  Each one is mechanically simple -- you just walk thru
them reading the room descriptions for the bit you're interested in.
No clevers, no artful code, just simple rooms.  All of them lead back
out the the game world by just hitting "out" enough times.

But, as you say, its optional.  Factually I'd been playing for months
before I discovered they existed, and the only reason I did discover
the tutorials was that I was drawing a map of the world and thus went
about checking every exit from every room.

> 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 difficult.

<nod>

I note that I do a lot of that.  I also note that my favourite MUDs
continue to be direct Shades derivitives (which mostly limits me to
Abers).  Abers and Dyrts are not at the bleeding edge of technological 
MUD progress.  They are however very very playable, almost as playable 
as Shades.  There's little waste and frippery there.

--
J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

--
MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.



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