[MUD-Dev] Hoping for more... (interfaces)

Ling Lo ling at slimy.com
Thu Aug 2 12:06:57 New Zealand Standard Time 2001

On Wed, 1 Aug 2001, Matt Mihaly wrote:
> On Tue, 31 Jul 2001, Tommy Wang wrote:
> > In a text-interface game (such as a MUD, and all its derivatives),
> > I consider interface among one of its most hindering qualities.
> > As I understand, we want to "immerse" a player in an online
> > environment, via means of text.  Lets just assume, for a moment,
> > that 99% of your players DO read the descriptions, and
> > whatnot....does that truly build an immersive environment?
> In my experience, only about 5% of the players read any significant
> proportion of the room descriptions, incidentally.

This reminds me of an interview with an author who I can't recall at the
moment.  In this, he spelt out the rules for writing which pretty much
avoided description if possible.  Personally, I have to admit I agree.
I've never really paid any attention to room descriptions except to get
around those pesky quests.

Lucky for me, descriptions in a mud tend to be a one line location title,
prose, obvious exits then items present.  I personally scanned the
location title (becomes mental keyword for this location), skip the prose
and obvious exits, check the items present for anything I could kill, pick
up, eat, tinker or chat up then leave through one of the exits.

The author suggested creating a texture for your characters through
dialogue alone.  To back this up, he cited a book where the sole physical
description of a couple was something like "she placed her hat on the
table".  That's not even a description.  It does, however, place emphasis
on the plot as opposed to the environment.  I'll admit this doesn't really
help since it would be nice to have descriptions for rooms and those rules
just tell you to not to.

At this point, I also have to say I form mental images of people I meet in
muds through the way they talk, and perhaps act.  For example, on MUD-Dev
I imagine JCL to look like the butler from Batman (the films) with a cane.
(FYI, it's all those long words, latin thingibobs and references to the

Impression Formation in Cyberspace: Online Expectations and Offline
Experiences in Text-based Virtual Communities

For reference, the rules included: never use the word suddenly; never
start a book with the weather unless it affects a character; avoid
prefaces since there is already a foreword, introduction (note: with
respect to muds, how about putting the introduction into the theme after
starting at key points of the newbie experience); and avoid Hooptedoodle,
or rambling about stuff that really does not add to the story, as coined
by John Steinbeck who titled certain chapters of his book as such (i.e.
you could skip those chapters entirely); and never use anything other than
said for dialogue since anything else would divert the attention of the

Exceptions are, as ever, allowed since there are always good writers who
break the rules.  Caveat: Times moves on, the usage of the English
language change, your mileage may vary.

PS: All those rules by the author are his rules by whoever that guy was.
Nothing to do with me, I can't write stories.
  |   Ling Lo

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