[MUD-Dev] Text Muds vs Graphical Muds

John A. Bertoglio jb at co-laboratory.com
Sun Jun 16 12:42:12 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

From: "Philip Loguinov (Draymoor)

> To take off on a tangent from the ownership thread, if the major
> difference between graphical and text muds is personal preference,
> what accounts for the discrepency in their popularity.

> It seems to me that graphical muds have 1 to 2 orders of magnitude
> more players than even the most popular text muds (I can't think
> of a single text mud with even 1000 players). Is it better
> advertising, or perhaps that there are just more people who's
> preference is graphical over imaginative?

I think the real issue is one of user interface and accessibility. I
suggest that the major reason why text muds will continue to be
minor niche players is the Telnet interface they all have in
common. Mud clients offer a number of features to advanced players,
but are essentially just command shells around the telnet
interface. I have had several computer-literate teenagers tell me
they tried a few muds but just couldn't figure out how to proceed
after a while. Virtually all my (16 year old) son's friends have
tried muds.  None have stuck with them. All have played one or more
graphical games.  (Interestingly, all are anxiously waiting for the
release of Shadowbane!)

Computer users have been trained themselves to figure out programs
by poking around in the user interface. When presented with a
command line interface, they do not have the slightest idea how to
proceed. Most muds do a decent job leading the user through the
character creation process but then dump them into a world with no
idea how to proceed.

Why do users prefer Windows (or MacOS or X-Windows) over the command
line?  The same reasons they prefer graphical games over command
line muds. What is the solution? Build muds that can be played from
a menu-driven interface.  Use the command line as an "expert mode"
and to enter spoken text. I prefer a HTML thin-client approach but
any interface building technology would work. (Delphi/Kylix looks
like an interesting combination).

I suggest that while a text-based world has the POTENTIAL to be more
immersive than a graphical one, this can only happen after the user
interface becomes second nature.  While you are struggling with
learning the game, the world is no more immersive than a Linux shell
script. Most graphical games excel at getting the user past the
initial learning curve in a few minutes.

My experience in computer consulting has taught me that people
REALLY don't like feeling stupid. If you design a process that they
cannot figure out quickly, you will have an unhappy client. The fact
that there are often compelling reasons to build an initially
cryptic interface (such as data entry speed) are irrelevant. High
training costs in the corporate world translate to low user
retention in world of gaming.

John Bertoglio
(503) 781-3563
jb at co-laboratory.com
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