[MUD-Dev] Text MUDs; in need of an (r)evolution?

Mike Rozak Mike at mxac.com.au
Fri Nov 18 15:40:12 New Zealand Daylight Time 2005


John Mauney wrote:

> This topic is for the discussion of the current state of text
> MUDs, and I am posing the question, do text MUDs need some kind of
> (r)evolution?

Actually, I'm working something that (if you squint) could be seen
to be what you're talking about. The main way it differs from a text
mud is that is uses static 360-degree graphics and
text-to-speech. When I was designing it, I wanted pictures, but as
soon as I added them, text side-by-side with pictures became
"difficult" to read (using vision for both reading and seeing seems
like a brain task-switching problem). Therefore, I added TTS, and
while I can show a text log, most users won't display it.

I expect some text MUD users will like the system I'm designing, but
a large number won't because (a) it only runs on Windows (not Linux
or Mac), (b) it actually uses more than 32K of memory for the client
(quite a bit more, in fact), (c) it's not text, using yucky
text-to-speech and showing imagination-disrupting images, (d) there
won't be many worlds for it at first (chicken and egg problem).

I suspect that any endeavor that you being will ultimately add
static graphics and sound (Z-mud already has limited graphics/sound
capability). It's a very slippery slope, and you'll soon be looking
at basically the same feature set I'm working on. This feature set,
in turn, will alienate many current text MUD users (as I described).

Furthermore, it's very difficult to keep from sliding further and go
into full blown animation, at which point you're competing against
WoW, but with an infinitely smaller budget. Take a look at the
Minions of Mirth demo; it's a "MMORPG" (kind of) written by a
handful of people. I'm impressed by what they managed, but it's a
long-long way from WoW.

Some specifics:

>  - Text MUDs must no longer be limited to Telnet based. For one
>  thing, the Telnet protocol has not evolved. Another reason I
>  believe Telnet is holding the genre back is because text MUDs
>  ought to be just as easy to get started on as any other game
>  downloadable from the net, or purchasable from the shelf. Also,
>  Telnet is very limiting in terms of text formatting and
>  presentation.

Yes, but then you need to write a client that will run on Windows,
Linux, and Mac. That's a fair amount of work, and plenty of
compatability issues. (Does Z-mud even work on Linux and Mac?)

Of course, a custom client requires that you write (or significantly
modify) a text MUD to support it, and then create enough content for
the text MUD that players will actually play. This is even more work
than writing the client.

>  - Text MUDs should no longer require any kind of previous
>  knowledge with the genre. As a new player, I should be able to
>  start the game instantly and never feel as if I'm lost in some
>  arcane activity of which I have no clue where to go next. MUDs
>  are notorious for having poor help files, or help files that must
>  be read entirely out of context to the situations of which the
>  documentation describes.

Help files? Real users don't read help files... I know what you're
saying though. I put in a nice online help system. Again, this
requires a custom client and code on the server.

Another problem that you have is that, by in large, text MUDs are
populated by savvy users. They don't want a dumbed down
interface. Players that want/need a simple interface are probably
playing Myst and/or Yahoo cards, and don't even know that text MUDs
exist. Again, if you add graphics, you make the UI simpler and
potentially attract Myst/Yahoo players. If you look on
http://www.mxac.com.au/mif/screenshots.htm, the small cyan menus
underneath the pictures pull up context-sensative menus that provide
a choice of the most common commands for the object, such as
"Examine" or "Open". This simplified the UI while retaining the
power of a NLP command line (located in the lower-right corner of
the screen), but it requires a custom client and signfiicant changes
for an existing text MUD.

Myst/Yahoo players don't want to spend 20 hours a week playing a
single game either, so if you do target them, you'll have to change
your gameplay to support their requirements.

>  - Text MUD creators should consider implementing gameplay
>  concepts he/she has seen in non text based games.

I agree, but this requires programming skill and development time. I
suspect most (99%) of the 1700 MUDs on mudconnect are run by people
with very limited programming experience. Then again, most MMORPGs
can't seem to stop copying one another either.

You might look at some of the stuff the IF community is doing,
particulary the IF competitions where authors make IF titles that
can be completed in 2 hours or less. A 2 hour game can be written
fairly quickly, and encourages experimentation.

Mike Rozak
http://www.mxac.com.au
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