[MUD-Dev] DESIGN: Role playing and Voice Chat

Lydia Leong lwl at black-knight.org
Thu Oct 27 03:38:38 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005

On Oct 25,  5:45pm, Lachek Butalek wrote:

> I must thank you wholeheartedly for your MUSH Manual
> (http://www.godlike.com/mushman/) which contributed to so many
> hundred hours of now long-lost buildings, characters, code, and
> worlds. :)

You're welcome. :)

Heh. I remember being out on a blind date a number of years ago, and
sometime in the middle of the conversation, talking about online
stuff, it came out that the guy went, "Wait, you're _Amberyl_?
You're the reason I flunked out of college."  ;) (No, there was no
second date.)

> I'd be hard pressed to call the MUSH implementation a computer
> moderated combat system, though - at least the implementations I'm
> familiar with are very human-moderated, partly due to a degree of
> mistrust from the direction of the user towards having a
> user-manipulatable object being capable of reducing their
> character's hitpoints (or whatever).

The quality of such systems varied. There were some that managed to
avoid being human-moderated, but coding such systems was
time-consuming and required a high degree of skill.

> I would like to see a modern-day innovative MMO implement a true,
> turn-based, system-moderated strategic combat system, along the
> lines of turn-based CRPGs, while still allowing for some posing
> within this framework.

The problem is that genuine role-playing (in the storytelling and
character development sense) is a niche market. Turn-based is also a
fairly rare bird (Dofus, and some Asian MMOGs, are turn-based, but I
believe all turn-based games are 2D isometric, not 3D). Time is a
big factor.

> On a broader scale, it would be interesting to see innovation in
> all areas of time shifting - nobody looks forward to the
> killing-rats-with-sticks grind, nor the four-hour (realtime) trek
> on foot across the barren wasteland to eventually get to the
> mysterious temple ruins.

MMOGs use timesinks in lieu of more hours of content. That four
hours that you spent trekking is four hours that the MMOG developer
didn't need to build actual content for. I'm reasonably certain that
at this point in WoW, I spend a whole lot more time running than I
do leveling up.

> On a related note, being an ex-MUSHer, I often think about how
> many cool systems and solutions the MUSH community came up with
> while using the barest minimum of code and computer moderation. It
> sometimes makes me really disgusted to see the multi-million
> dollar MMO productions so sorely lacking in features implemented
> in 6-month old MUSHes with no budget and a codebase that could fit
> on a couple of floppies. Definitely worth thinking about, for
> anyone implementing an indie game today.

That's true of many innovations from the MUD base in general.

The vast majority of MMOGs today -- and probably the vast majority
of MMOGs that will be released within a five-year timeframe -- are
whack-a-mob treadmills. They are ever-fancier, more polished,
richer, deeper, wider whack-a-mob treadmills, but they're still
whack-a-mob treadmills, even if they've got extra shinies on the
side (crafting, sieges, whatever). Consuming the entire budget of a
whack-a-mob treadmill game is trivial -- you can eat it all, and
more, in art and level design, because you need to generate a
gargantuan number of content hours.

More broadly, the code involved in implementing something in a 3D
more-or-less-realtime massively multiplayer platform is an order of
magnitude more complex than implementing it in text. And the
middleware platforms for MMOGs are still in a state of extreme
immaturity, which means that every development team ends up more or
less re-inventing the wheel.

Also, MUDs are small enough that there's some reasonable sense of
community.  PernMUSH, at its largest, had a player base about
equivalent to the size of a single World of Warcraft realm, but with
a peak login count about equivalent to one-tenth of WoW (people who
are paying play more often).  This intimacy creates a very different
type of dynamic. The community enforces many norms and codes of
conduct, which means that you can resolve far more based on implicit
rules rather than explicit, programmed rules.

Small indie MMOGs have plenty of room for innovation by expanding
the genre (applying the massively multiplayer aspect to something
other than a traditional RPG structure), but I think that the big
mainstream MMOGs are likely to only be incrementally innovative.
It's like comparing big-budget action flicks to indie arthouse

I think, by the way, that there will eventually be mainstream MMOGs
on the WoW-or-larger scale, drawing a broad general audience, that
don't look anything like the current generation of MMOGs. But I
don't think the market conditions are right for it yet.

	-- Lydia
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