[MUD-Dev] MMORPG Construction Kit

Lee Sheldon linearno at gte.net
Fri Jul 27 11:57:05 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

-----Original Message-----
From: mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu [mailto:mud-dev-admin at kanga.nu]On Behalf Of
Koster, Raph
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2001 7:42 PM
To: MUD-DEV (E-mail)
Subject: [MUD-Dev] MMORPG Construction Kit

> Well, here's what looks like the second graphical mud kit
> available commercially. (Firts one I know of was Catware's
> _Shattered Light_). Next one is of course the much-followed
> _Neverwinter Nights_ from Bioware.

> A quickie look at the features seems to indicate that the
> scripting is not very robust, and that some key design choices are
> made for you, much like a Diku but without the ability to dive
> into the code to change things. But that's what you get for only
> $14.95.

I've been playing with this for a week or so now, and can offer a
preliminary review.  I've got it loaded on a P4-1.4 with 256mb of
RAM, GeForce 2 (32mb), and a Soundblaster 64 Value card.

You get a CD-Rom for your money.  Documentation is a file that
prints out to around 25 pages, not counting title page, TOC, etc.
The first 6 pages are devoted to running the Client, essentially
getting started in the included game, or games you may create.  The
next 13 pages give an overview of the Server software.  The last six
cover the Mapmaker.  Doesn't sound very complex, does it?  It's not.
And neither is the game you can create.

First the good /archives/meow?group+ you -can- create your own multiplayer 2D
isometric world.  (Massive?  Hmmm... top limit appears to be 50
players...  although I haven't tested it beyond me playing alone...
Not exactly what I would call massive.)

I now have a large map (50x200 tiles) that physically approximates a
starting village and surrounding countryside from The Gryphon
Tapestry, a world I worked on a couple years ago.  I was able to add
merchants to buy things from, monsters to slay, and three-step FedEx
quests: get told what an NPC needs, go get it, bring it back for a
reward.  Links between maps are purple tiles you step on.  If you
want a building with a roof on it, you'll have to link to explore
inside.  You kill stuff to level.  Stats increase with leveling.
And that's about it.

It's very obvious the original intent was to do the demo game
Trinity of Darkness as a commercial product: to make your own world
you are stuck with the tile sets and creatures of that very specific
world.  Not too restricting for rocks and rivers and trees, but
buildings and creatures are very limited.  No humans, btw.

The tools are buggy and eccentric.  An employee of a company making
a world with its proprietary toolset might have to put up with it,
but commercial customers shouldn't have to.  There are selections
marked TEST, graphics in tile-selection menus that are simply
placeholders, actions that don't take until you try them several
times.  Sound files don't always trigger (I have a long river with
several trigger points to hear rushing water.  Only one of them
actually plays.) Graphic anomalies (The tile window often smears all
the tiles when you scroll.  You need to move the cursor outside the
window, then back, sometimes multiple times to reset it.  If that
doesn't work, you have to close it, then open it again. Note: this
doesn't seem to happen on my son's slower computer. <shrug>)

No warnings to save your work.  And the documentation tells you
-what- most things are, but rarely shows you how to use them, or
provide an example.  And yes, do something wrong, and you crash to
the desktop, losing your work since the last save.  The
documentation warns you that if the mapmaker runs out of memory, not
to save the file, you may corrupt it.  I spend a lot of time
reloading the product to continue work.  Being a professional writer
I have to mention that yet again we have here prose both in the
documentation and in the kit itself that could have used a good copy
editor.  Thief is not spelled "theif."

There's no provision for skills or activities beyond killing things
and the simple "quests." You can create riddles and passwords to
restrict access to different maps, okay in a solo game, but of
limited value in multiplayer.  You can also restrict access based on
level though, a welcome touch.

Interaction with NPCs is limited to merchant activities, a simple
text response when you click on them (signs are also considered
NPCs, heh), and 3 text boxes for quests: "Go get me a dagger." 
"Thanks for the dagger, here's a reward." "Thanks for getting me the
dagger."  So apparently no repeat quests.  I just put in my quests
last night, and haven't tested them yet, so I'm not positive about
the lack of repeatability.

The mapmaker doesn't have a zoom feature.  You can't see the entire
map at a glance, and end up doing a lot of scrolling.

Server app: allows you to send system messages, keep tabs on
players' stats and items, teleport players, ban them, and other
interesting stuff.  But this app in particular doesn't feel ready
for primetime.  Some changes aren't always sticky.  It doesn't seem
to like your map unless it's named "startup," and your server is the
ToD default.  Crash.  Crash.

Bottom line: It -is- a construction set for a muliplayer game.  They
did after all develop it to build -their- game.  It's fun to wander
around a world that looks superficially a lot like UO, but that I
built myself.  And it's nice to have basic systems like combat,
economy, magic, etc, all set up so you just have to punch the
numbers in to make changes, or type in a new monster's name.

But the tools are problematic, and the worlds you can build are
extremely limited by the specific graphics sets (no ability to
import your own graphics or sounds), and nothing beyond the most
basic hack 'n slash gameplay.  Also, tile-based is fine, but give me
some completed buildings!  I'd much rather concentrate on
interesting quests than building a generic inn or hut brick by
brick. (There apparently -is- a way of exactly duplicating a
building by entering its coordinates in a database, but that's too
complicated for me.)

These are my first impressions, and I intend to continue to play
with the MMORPG Construction Kit.  Not being a programmer, I'm very
frustrated by not being able to create my own worlds.  Every single
game I've worked on in my seven years in this industry has been at
least based on somebody else's ideas.  I'm dying to do one (even a
piece of one!) of my own from scratch.  This kit is definitely a
step in allowing me to do that.  But it is still way too limiting.
I don't want to step.  I want to leap.


P.S. If anybody has a specific question regarding the MMORPG
Construction Kit, I'll be happy to try and answer it here on the

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