Imaginary Realities 1999 June Edition
Summary of June 1999 issue of Imaginary Realities. Imaginary Realities was an ezine dedicated to MUDs.
Summary of "Dynamic Room Descriptions" by Eli Stevens
Eli was a MUDder with over five years of experience.
The first time a player sees a room, they read the description. After the first time, they turn on 'brief' descriptions and never read descriptions again. This is because: 1) The descriptions are static, not dynamic, so boring after the first read; 2) the descriptions don't reflect what is happening in the MUD. If there is a blizzard at night, the birds should not be chirping in the soft sunlight. 3) Usually the descriptions are bland.
A MUD could use a markup language for descriptions. The markup would provide descriptions that are only displayed when the conditions are met. The following is a quoted example from the article of a floor description that would only be displayed if the player looked at the floor.
<FLOOR DESCRIPTION> <cloudless, hazy, partlycloudy, cloudy, darkcloudy> Cracked, dry and covered in a fine brown dust, </> <lightprecipitation> Slickened and streaked with a thin brown mud, </> <heavyprecipitation, storm> Awash with mud and refuse, </> the cobblestones paving the streets look worn. Years of use have cracked them and dug long ruts filled with <cloudless, hazy, partlycloudy, cloudy, darkcloudy> dust and pebbles. </> <lightprecipitation, heavyprecipitation, storm> dirty rainwater and rotting garbage. </> </FLOOR DESCRIPTION>
Using a system of description like above would provide better detail and realism based on the actual state of the current room. This does increase the builders' work when creating an area. However, in many areas, there is a lot of default text that can be reused, such as, the roads in adjoining rooms would look pretty much the same.
"These kind of touches are what make muds stop being scrolling text and become a world."
Summary of "Game Critique" by Marian Griffith
Marian is an experienced Role-playing gamer, and ran the Overloard project.
Ralph Koster points out that MUDs suffer from a lack of professional critique. The Mud Connector and Game Commando websites offer some amature reviews, but that is lacking a shared vocabulary and shared criteria for comparrison.
In order to improve general reviews of MUDs, a shared vocabulary must be provided. The author gave the following list of terms, partially based off the Mud-Dev list.
Acting - generally more immersive than role-playing
Artistic quality - The detail and richness of the descriptions and mechanics of the MUD.
Bartle's Suites - "Richard Bartle came up with an influential article about four distinctly different playing styles (this is published in the Journal of Mud Research). He named these after the suits of a card game." The four types of players are Explorer, Killer, Socializer and Achiever.
Consensual and Non-consensual - Do players get to choose what happens to their characters? Is there PvP, no PvP, or limited PvP based of area or arena? MUDs tend to exist on a spectrum of consensual to non-consensual.
Completeness - How much detail is in the game? Is the size of the MUD world large enough? Is the gameplay rich enough?
Community - Not designable. Community emerges due to the large number of players. "In general a greater variety of things that can be done and ways to express identity are enough to get the process started. If a common enemy is introduced or allowed in the game, that also is a strong way to encourage community forming."
Elder Games - Sequels to the initial goal keep the players entertained after the first goal is achieved.
Game Oriented Play, or GOP - the player tries to beat the game. Role-playing is not the goal. Leveling up, might be the goal.
Goal variety (Kill the Foozle) - Are there a large variety of goals the player could chose from? "In the typical mud, the game has a single goal (reach the highest level) that can be achieved in essentially one single way (kill the monsters). All other tasks are either utilitarian or boring (and frequently both)."
Immersive (game)World and (game)Play
Marian's Tailor Problem - "Marian's problems with the current online games is that there is no way to advance in the game without being involved in some type of combat... Then another concern, I guess, would be that even if you could advance totally without combat, what would keep the combat type players from seeing you as easy pickings..." -Brandon Cline
Open Ended Goals - Is there a single game-winning goal, or many obscure goals that can be solved in a variety of ways and keep the players engaged? The goals probably won't have obvious solutions until the game has been played for quite a while.
Player versus Player, or PvP - Players killing players in-game.
Policing - Rules enforcement. This may be handled by players, if given special tools. For policing to be effective, some sort of punishment system must also exist.
Realism - How much sense do the laws of the game's universe make? This might refer to monsters always being about the same strength when they are the same type of monster. "Another example of where the game fails to be realistic is when the frame of reference is mixed up. A game where smurfs, hobbits and Chtulhu wander side by side can not be considered realistic, simply because these different creatures do not belong in the same universe."
Role (oriented) Play, or RP - the player attempts to be part of an immersive, story-telling or acting experience.
Summary of "Games as art" by Raph Koster
Raph was the lead designer and programmer for Ultima Onlilne .
Art communicates something via the medium chosen. A MUD being written for entertainment does not prevent it from being an art form, too. "Mere entertainment becomes art when the communicative element in the work is either novel or exceptionally well done... It has the power to alter how people perceive the world around them."
More people must acknowledge MUDs as art, before they will get proper artistic treatments. Proper critiques of MUDs would help push the artistic aspect of the medium. "A review boils down to just, 'is it fun?' whereas a critique must consider things like 'is it ambitious? is it important? is it derivative? is it innovative?' "
The author would like reviews to include some basic questions. How many game mechanics does the game have? How easy is it to become part of the online community, and make, keep in touch with, and remain friends with people from that online community? How much of the game is recycled/reused from other games?
If MUDs are art, the artists have responsibilities. The artist has "the responsibility to pursue their vision." Different audiences will gather around different artistic visions.
Artist also have a responsibility to society. Art has influence. Choosing how to influence society is another artistic responsibility.
Summary of "Mud, a thing of the past?" by Matt Steed
Matt spent four years MUDding, finally settling on his favorite, Mudweiser. He loved helping newbies and finding new people to play.
The origins of the Internet were a means of communication. "The original muds were one way of communication, people logged onto the site and created characters that would travel and explore the world and interact with other people and mobiles."
Dungeons and Dragons style MUDs quickly spread across the internet. However, now the lists of MUDs are empty with no players on them. The ones that have players on them, have an aged player base.
Recently, games like Diablo, Ultima Online, and Everquest became available to Internet players. However, some people still play MUDs. This situation is similar to how some people watch movies, and others prefer to read books.
"Unfortunately, muds are not a mainstream part of the Internet and few people know what they are. It is up to the mudders to find new players and teach them about muds. mudding allows for creativity and imagination and creates an exciting social outlet. Muds by no means deserve to be a thing of the past, but it's up to the mudders to keep them alive."
One site that can help with teaching new players about MUDs is The Mud Connector
Summary of "Problems with mudlists" by Adam Wozniak
Adam ran Doran's Mudlist which later became Mudlinks.
Scott Goehring's "Totally Unofficial List of Internet Muds" stopped updating in 1994 with around 450 MUDs on the list. After that, came "Doran's Mudlist". It was written and maintained by the author. That ended around 1996.
Several other lists, like "Amberyl's Automated Mush List", came along. Andrew Cowan's "The Mud Connector" was the next big MUD list with around 1300 MUDs listed. It was the first big World Wid Web based MUD list.
Indium and the author revived Doran's Mudlist in 1997 with a web interface. This lasted until Indium became pregnant and both were overwhelmed by school and life.
The author came up with a new approach ... mudlinks://
"The problems of running a mudlist can be broken down into four parts: enumeration (how many muds are there?), classification (what do we know about each of these muds?), organization (how do we tell people what we know?), and maintenance (how do we keep our data up to date?)."
Being given bad data (in accurate copyright info) took up the most time when dealing with a MUD list.
mudlinks:// scans the web looking for MUDs. At the same time, it looks for a 'mudlinks.txt' file. "These files, after a bit of reformatting, are imported wholesale into mudlinks:// and can be searched like any other data file mudlinks:// maintains." mudlinks:// would scan the mudlinks.txt files for updates, once per week. Unfortunately, only 3 MUDs have included mudlinks.txt files out of 3400 at the time of the original writing.
Passive data gathering of data on MUDs is likely to only gather good information on limited numbers of MUDs. Active, human involved, MUD list creation will gather larger lists of MUDs, but not the depth of information that the admins could passively provide.
Summary of "Wear Grflx" by Nick Howe
Nick spent 5 years on Discworld as a creator and player.
This a parody of an article by Mary Schmich written for the Chicago Tribune.
The parody can't be done justice with a summary. It began with the line, "Ladies and gentlemen of the Century of the Fruitbat". The parody ends with the line, "But trust me on the Grflx scale."