[MUD-Dev] Text Muds vs Graphical Muds

Edward Glowacki glowack2 at msu.edu
Mon Jun 17 14:21:40 New Zealand Standard Time 2002

On Sat, 2002-06-15 at 11:01, Philip Loguinov (Draymoor) wrote:

> 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?

People don't like to read, and graphics have a lower barrier to
entry for players than text.

Given a text mud, you pretty much have to be a decent reader and a
somewhat competent typist to be an effective player.  You have to
read text quickly as it scrolls off the screen, especially in
crowded rooms or during combat.  You have to be able to pull out the
relevant information from the mass of text, process it, decide what
to do, then type out your commands.  Speaking of commands, the main
way you figure out what you can do within the game is either have
someone train you what to type or read the intro/help/FAQ materials.
Then you have to remember the precise syntax of the command to do
something, because the command parsers don't deal well with typos or
ambiguities, or any of the other weird inputs they might receive.
It's a relatively steep curve for new players to climb.

Given a graphical mud, the only real requirement is some eye-hand
coordination (a prerequisite for typing too) to move the mouse.  You
don't really need to be able to read or type except to communicate
with other players.  You can generally figure out what actions you
can do by simply experimenting with clicking the mouse on various
parts of the screen.  Also, humans are definitely visually-oriented
and we get most of our information from our eyes, so visual
representations of what you are fighting are much easier to
understand than trying to read text, process the characters into
words and sentences, then form a mental image of what's going on.

Basically in almost every aspect, graphical muds are simply easier
for players to play.  In contrast, a text mud can perhaps allow for
better role-playing since you can describe your character much more
accurately and metaphorically, and a more mentally stimulating
experience by engaging your imagination to create the world.

Honestly, I think that my holy grail is somewhere in-between.  My
ideal game draws heavily from muds in terms of using keyboard
interaction, while taking advantage of the things that can be done
very well in a graphical environment.  For example, perhaps you have
to type "cast fireball boffo", but you can drag-n-drop players
around a grid to create your combat formation (tanks in a V up
front, mages in the back, and those skeletons you summoned forming a
curly-Q on the side...).  Perhaps you have to type "east ; east ;
east ; open door" but you can hit ~ to get a graphical map of the
area that can zoom from 3 rooms square all the way to showing the
whole game universe, complete with "You are here: X" marker.  The
trick is using the right tool for the job.  Some things are just
better done with text, others with graphics.


Edward Glowacki             glowack2 at msu.edu

"A wise craftsman never blames his tools." 
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