[MUD-Dev] code base inquiry

Matthew Mihaly diablo at best.com
Thu Feb 17 13:55:58 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

On Mon, 17 Jan 2000, Richard Woolcock wrote:

> I wrote:

> I'm not just talking about charging to play - what about accepting donations 
> (like Medievia or Threshold), for example?  Is it so hard to believe that - 
> if restrictions were removed from existing codebases - most of the successful
> muds wouldn't start offering in-game perks in exchange for monetary donations?
> Once a trend had been set, it wouldn't be long before the majority of muds
> would start following the example of their larger brethren.  Given a year or 
> two, it would come to be accepted as the "norm" - same stock situation as we 
> have today, accept real-life money could be used by players as an alternative 
> to skill, time and effort.

The paying playerbase is not there, I don't think. And, haven't you said
that you don't WANT to charge? Presumably there are others like you, who
would still just not accept donations. 

> I know that Realms of Despair has peaked at over 650 people online at once,
> but certainly the majority of pay muds have larger playerbases than free
> ones.  Personally I do not judge a mud to be either good or bad simply by
> the size of its playerbase.  Obviously a commercial mud has the financial
> capacity to promote and advertise itself in ways that a free mud would be
> unlikely to.

Oh, right, definitely. I agree that numbers do not equal quality. I was
just pointing out that size is one thing commercial muds do better than
text muds.

> Would this would be the same big muds that capture the interest of people 
> who don't even know that there is any such thing as free muds?  Perhaps
> the same players who think that a graphical mud is like a huge Quake/Diablo
> deathmatch, except with swords and spells?

Most of the Gemstone and Dragonrealms players I've spoken to know about
free muds, and those are both large commercial muds. Further, as has been
pointed out, painfully, many times, a game like UO is much more than a
Quake/Diablo deathmatch. This pretension that graphics somehow destroy the
mudding experience is without justice I think. The future of mudding is

> I lose track of how many people I encounter on free muds who say "Well, I 
> originally started playing such-and-such pay-to-play mud, but then someone
> introduced me to these free ones..."

Well, naturally those are the people you are going to hear from. Likewise,
I mainly hear "Man, I went to check out those free ones and realized how
good I've got it here. They're all the same!" That's meaningless though,
because if they liked the free muds, they wouldn't come back, and I'd not
hear about it. Similarly, you aren't going to hear from the people who
check out free muds and go back to commercial ones.

> > Perhaps we have different standards of quality, but I, for one, really 
> > like things like customer service, which free muds are laughably poor at
> > in general.
>   "So here is a guy running a business who still feels free to act in a way 
>    that is potentially hurtful to his business, because he feels like it. 
>    It's his business. Likewise, I'm willing to do that sometimes with my 
>    commercial game, because, well, I can. My business, my world, no public 
>    shareholders to answer to".
>    -- Matthew Mihaly, 17th Feb 2000
> Customer service on free muds is generally bad, but from what I've heard
> from pay-to-play players, the customer service on commercial muds is rarely 
> any better.

Well, I'll give you an example of what I consider to be good customer
service. In my world, if a player is willing to pay for it, he or she can
get nearly anything that won't make him/her an unstoppable killing
machine. Elaborate houses with custom servants and bartenders, pets who I
will code to respond specially to the player's friends and enemies, and so
on. I've never seen a free mud (which doesn't mean they don't exist) where
individual players can get this kind of attention. Now, granted, that sort
of thing is not cheap, but it's like a really nice hotel. Not everyone can
afford it, but if you can, you get fantastic service. Our game is slightly
different in our charging structure from most of the commercial muds, in
that we are not pay-to-play. All paying is voluntary. Pay as little or as
much as you want (of course, rewards are commensurate with what you
pay). Naturally, the best customer service in this situation will be going
to the best customers, whereas non-customer players will get service that
is not as good (though still pretty good I'd say, as we value them due to
the fact that they make the game more entertaining for the big customers). 

The flip side is that people who are playing Achaea as essentially a free
mud (ie they never become customers...we do have 1000 hour+ players who
have never paid a dime) are less valuable, and the threshhold of
punishment-worthy behavior is lower for them.

> > Right, so you run your mud with an eye towards driving away players,
> > right?
> Putting words in my mouth again?  In answer to your question, no, I run my
> mud in the way I feel it should be run.  I do not back off from players out
> of fear that they will leave the mud, nor to I try catering to their every
> need.  I have my own agenda - I am trying to construct my own "dream mud" -
> and I will not change that agenda just to make a little extra pocket money.

I was being sarcastic. I doubt anyone serious enough to be on this list
runs his or her mud with an eye towards driving off players. What you are
describing is exactly what I meant with the restaurant example. I love
Achaea, and put a lot of effort into it that has little effect on the
bottom line (check out our extensive mythologies and
histories....particularly the history of the Seleucarian
Empire...http://www.achaea.com/history/history.html), and it sometimes
ticks off the players, who would prefer we spend more time doing exactly
what they want. I'd get too bored running Achaea that way, however. I have
to remain amused as well as the players. That, to me, is the great thing
about running a small commercial world. As long as you can maintain a
certain level of quality, you can make money and still have reasonable
freedom to do what you want with it (of course, this assumes that some
segment of the mudding population shares your idea of what is fun, but
that is not unlikely I would say).

> > Not arguing that, and I have no problem with quality free muds. If you
> > want to cater to an audience of 100, go for it. Power to you.
> Actually I am catering to an audience of 1.  If anyone else wants to play,
> more power to them - they're welcome to join me.

Ok, fair enough, but I guess to me, muds are about community, with most of
the content being provided by the players. You just need to provide them
with constructive ways to provide interesting content. I know that Achaea,
for instnace, would be deathly boring with only 1 person.

> > I don't recall ever saying that all muds should be profit-making
> > ventures.
> True, but you did state that muds should be free from restrictions.  What
> other restrictions did you have in mind?

Just because there is no restriction on profit-making doesn't mean it's
going to be a commercial venture. A couple other people have pointed this
out in this thread. There are codebases with no commercial restrictions,
and people still run free muds. To me, codebases are useful commercially
only insofar as they allow a developer to avoid the psychologically
difficult stage of having no players. You'd have to do a lot of work with
an eye towards differentiation on stock codebases to turn a profit.

> > 90% of muds demonstrate such a low level of seriousness that they would 
> > just fall on their faces should they try to turn a profit.
> Arguing numbers gets us nowhere, as this is all a matter of opinion anyway.
> However even if only the most popular 10% of the muds on the mudconnector
> decided to start charging, that would still be over 150 muds - and there
> are probably that many muds again that haven't bothered to register with 
> the mudconnector.

Yes, I was just throwing a number out there. I don't think 150 commercial
muds could turn a profit with the size of the current audience (because a
few muds grab the vast majority of the audience).

> [snip]
> > It's not as if it's possible to haveone game with all the 'cool'
> > features. To some people, a cool feature is unrestricted PK'ing. To
> > others, a cool feature is no PK'ing. These are completely incompatible
> > arrangements.
> Agreed - but you'll usually find a majority of players like a particularly
> combination of features.  For example, you'll probably find that most 
> commercial muds have PK in some form or other, because there are a lot of
> players that like killing each other.  However in most cases the PK will
> be restricted or penalised in some way, because you don't want to turn away 
> those players who *don't* want to PK.  Graphical muds, mostly attracting
> the sort of players who are used to Diablo and Quake, would - I imagine -
> lean more towards PK than text-based muds.

Right, the big commercial muds have to cater to large segments of the
population, which leaves small segments left to be catered to by smaller
commercial muds.

> > If codebases had no commercial restrictions, nothing would stop you from 
> > from running for free. If you can't attract any players in that environment, 
> > then you have no business running a mud. 
> Once again you're assuming that the goal of my mud is to attract a large 
> number of players - it's not.  My mud is *not* a commercial venture, I do
> not measure it's success in the form of money or number of players.

I didn't say a large number of players. I said _any_ players. Maybe I'm
off-base, but if a mud has only 1 player, it's not a mud, as the
multi-player aspect is what differentiates it from Zork. A mud needs to
have at least enough players for the multi-player aspect to come into
play. Someone described earlier a 'mud' run completely by NPCs. To me,
that's not even a mud, but a simulation.

> > My only reasoning for thinking that codebases should remove commercial 
> > restrictions is that money provides the best motivator
> And this is the root of our disagreement.  I make plenty of money from 
> my real life job - creating the mud is my hobby and my escape from the 
> pressures of other people.  You make your money from your mud.

Right, you have a job. You can't spend 50 hours a week and employ other
people to work 50 hours a week on your mud. Chances are, if you were
independently wealthy, you'd still not spend 50 hours a week working on
your mud. I don't know what you do, but if you were independently wealthy,
do you really think you'd work as hard, as regularly, and as steadily at
your job as you do now?


MUD-Dev maillist  -  MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

More information about the MUD-Dev mailing list