[MUD-Dev] MMORPGs & MUDs

Michael Tresca talien at toast.net
Wed Dec 26 15:54:56 New Zealand Daylight Time 2001


Jeff Freeman posted on Sunday, December 23, 2001 6:34 AM

> Are you suggesting that the big graphical MMO's are more Artistic
> than MUDs, and that MUDs are "Mere Entertainment", devoid of
> artistic goals?

> 'Cause I just don't see that.  It seems just the opposite to me.
> It seems to me that Joe Schmoe typically puts up his very own MUD
> *because* he wants to express himself, artistically that is,
> without quite a lot of regard for whether it's going to appeal to
> the masses or not.

I think part of the difficulty in arguing any points around art,
entertainment, MMORPGs and MUDs, is that there is not a clear cut
separation between designer and player.  We like to think there is,
but the more customizability that is included in any game, the more
the player becomes the designer.

My argument is that big, graphical MMOs are artistic in their
implementation.  They are beautiful.  Impressive.  Massive.

  They are not:

    1) conducive to role-playing
    2) conducive to long-term gaming styles
    3) conducive to creating social groups
    4) discouraging griefers
    5) rewarding non-griefers

Players are partners in creating a social structure.  Failing to
recognizing that they, not the developer, ultimately sets the tone
of the game, is to be irresponsible.

My argument about art vs. entertainment is that, from a player's
perspective, he doesn't necessarily even perceive art.  He knows
what he likes.  It's a basic shameless, selfish need.  He's going to
do "what's fun."

Developers worry about much more than fun.  But insofar that I've
seen the concern over the inner workings of MMORPGs, the intricacies
seem wasted in light of more basic social functionality.  Who gives
two figs what color map is used for an umber hulk if you can't
create a game that people play "as intended"?  That's the art side.

But alas, as I said previously, I brought up Jessica's point, made
an off-handed reference to "no wonder why players complain about art
vs. fun" and her article now looms larger over the point I was
trying to make.

I believe that MUDs have a valuable, non-tangible lesson that has
yet to be learned by MMORPGs.  It's a lesson in human dynamics.
MUDs are managing to generate fun without graphics and have been
doing it for over a decade.  Instead of building on MUD errors and
failures (a road littered with the stinking corpses of a thousand
ill-conceived MUDs), MMORPGs are venturing into the universe of
multiple players unprepared because everyone thinks that it's a
different gaming paradigm.  It isn't.  It's just larger.  And on a
larger scale, the small, player-focused approach is critical in
ensuring player loyalty.

Flashy graphics, exciting gameplay, cool effects -- that draw
players.  Viable social communities keeps them there.

For my own curiosity, what's the average lifespan of a single
character (not player) on a MMORPG?  That is, how long does one
player play one character consistently before permanently retiring
them?

Mike "Talien" Tresca
RetroMUD Administrator
http://www.retromud.org/talien


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