Imaginary Realities 2001 May Edition

Summary of May 2001 issue of Imaginary Realities. Imaginary Realities was an ezine dedicated to MUDs.

Summary of "Cartoon - The Mud Slinger" by Rebecca Handcock

Unfortunately, these cartoons seem to have completely vanished from the web.

Summary of "Don't Help" by Natalia

Natalia (and her husband Ilya) ran Game Commandos.

The author has suffered from three types of toxic help:

  • Power Tripping Help - As an example, a wizard casts all kinds of powerful, helpful spells on you, then brags about how powerful he and his spells are until they expire and you're bored. "What was the point of this exercise? Power Tripping. You get no help, and the wizard feels like a really great guy."
  • Give 'em a Fish Help - A player comes along insisting he helps you level up. Sometimes you die in the process. Even if you live, and level up, you missed out on the experience of playing the game to level up. The fun parts of the game are missed.
  • Tour Guide From Hell Help - When asking for ideas on where to explore, or hunt, a player has you follow them. You end up going 50 steps (that you won't remember) to get to place three steps away, or other places you've already explored. Or at the other extreme, you follow to new locations; do as you're told; get lots of experience, but have no idea what just happened, or where you've been.

There are good types of help. "When I ask for ideas on an area to hunt around in, just tell me a name and perhaps a general direction. Telling me "recall then 7e,5s,2e,s,2e,s,d,s,11e, get a boat, e, e, and you are there" does me very little good. Maybe tell me to try going through the woods southeast of town, keeping a lookout for a moat and drawbridge would be better. Tell me what I might see along the way. Warn me one or two things to watch out for. That is fine. Maybe even give me an errand to run for you ("Hey, bring me back that nice rod from the shaman on the second floor, will ya? I will pay for it."). It could make things interesting without giving away the farm."

When asked about game mechanics, giving your opinion might not be the best help, but doesn't hurt. Give advise, and let the person needing help make up their mind on what advise to take.

Some players are not like the author. They are overly needy. Please don't get mad at every player that asks for help, just because some can't do even simple tasks without asking for help.

Summary of "Fingerprints" by Wes Platt

Wes Platt created OtherSpace MUSH.

Story-focused MUDs must allow players to interact with the story in ways the creator of the MUD does not intend. Don't force everyone to experience the story only in the way you want them to.

Players should be allowed to participate in the creative process. "Let them share the fun of fleshing out the universe. This does two things quite effectively: First, it takes some of the workload off of you and your staff, and second, it puts the participants' fingerprints on the universe and gives them a sense of ownership and impact."

You can't be as creative, as you and your player base working together can be. They bring experiences and ideas to the creative process that you don't have. At lease, let them pitch ideas that you can use (or not use.) First, you have to trust your players.

If a participant's idea is accepted, give them credit in an online newspaper, on your website, or in some other way.

Summary of "Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit Muds" by Richard Bartle

Richard Bartle arguably had more influence on the development of MUDs and virtual worlds than any other creator of his generation. This article was extensively read and studied by creators for over a decade. I recommend reading the full text at Richard Bartle wrote the first MUD.

There are four non-exclusive approaches to playing MUDs: action, interaction, world-oriented, and player oriented. Muds also fall into the categories of social MUDs and game-like MUDs.

Because of their history, most MUDs are considered games. However, they have a lot of practical application for non-game use. Even the MUDs that are formally games could sometimes fall under the categories of pastimes, sports, or entertainment, rather than game.

This paper came out of the summary of a six month long "heated discussion" among the most involved players of a prominent commercial MUD. The MUD allowed PvP play, but that didn't convince players that it was really a game, and not something else.

People generally enjoyed the following about playing MUDs.

  • Achieving self-set goals within the game, such as leveling
  • Exploration of the game world, and eventually the game mechanics
  • Socializing and possibly roleplaying in the MUD
  • Imposing on others in the game. Occasionally, this is in helpful ways, but usually not nice
The labels given these four types of players in this paper are: achievers, explorers, socializers, and killers. "An easy way to remember these is to consider suits in a conventional pack of cards: achievers are Diamonds (they're always seeking treasure); explorers are Spades (they dig around for information); socialisers are Hearts (they empathise with other players); killers are Clubs (they hit people with them)."

If the balance of player types gets out of balance, then all types of players start leaving the game. Keeping the balance between all four types of players is essential to server player growth and sustainability.

The author includes a diagram showing the balance of Acting vs Interacting, Players vs the World, and Killers, Achievers, Explorers, and Socializers. The point being that Achievers like acting on the world, Explorers like interacting with the world, Socializers like interacting with other players, and Killers like acting on players.

Equilibrium of player-type balance, infers a constant number of each type of player, not necessarily equal numbers of each type of player.

The balance of Players vs World and Interacting vs Acting can be changed by how the MUD is written. Number of social commands, size of the world, depth of help system, depth of leveling and class system, the number and complexity of in-game puzzles, and even how many quality builder you have can all affect the style of play emphasized and encouraged by your MUD.

Currently MUDs fall into one of two categories: game-like and social. The distinction is so strong, that many social MUDs are not called MUDs, but MOOs, MUCKs, and MUSHes--collectively MU*.

Here is a overview of typical player type interactions.

  • Achievers vs Achievers - friendly competitors
  • Achievers vs Explorers - Look down on explorers, but find them useful, sometimes.
  • Achievers vs Socializers - "Typically, achievers will regard socialisers with a mixture of contempt, disdain, irritation and pity, and will speak to them in either a sharp or patronising manner. Occasionally, flame wars between different cliques of socialisers and achievers may break out, and these can be among the worst to stop: the achievers don't want to lose the argument, and the socialisers don't want to stop talking!"
  • Achievers vs Killers - Achievers dislike killers.
  • Explorers vs Achievers - Explorers consider themselves the next step above achievers.
  • Explorers vs Explorers - Explorers like knowledgeable explorers, and dislike unskilled ones.
  • Explorers vs Socializers - Explorers tolerate socializers if the are impressed by the explorer's achievements.
  • Explorers vs Killers - Explorers find killers to be tiresome, though an interesting source of information about the killing craft. Irritated explorers tend to be far more deadly than killers.
  • Socializers vs Achievers - Socializers tend to like to talk about achievers, not talk to them.
  • Socializers vs Explorers - They tend to both like to talk, but about different things.
  • Socializers vs Socializers - They love talking. Give them a topic as an ice breakers, and get out of their way.
  • Socializers vs Killers - Socializers have a strong distaste for Killers.
  • Killers vs Achievers - Achievers are Killers' natural prey.
  • Killers vs Explorers - Killers avoid Explorers, because they are dangerous and don't care if they get killed--not fun.
  • Killers vs Socializers - Killers find Socializers fun to kill.
  • Killers vs Killers - They avoid each other in combat, because one of them will suffer a loss of reputation.

More killers means less of all other types of players. More socializers means more killers. More achievers means more killers. More socializers tends to encourage more socializers to join.

MUDs tend to fall into four categories.

  1. "Killers and achievers in equilibrium."
  2. A socializers dominated MUD.
  3. All types in equilibrium.
  4. Dead, either because of too many killers, or not enough socializers to make it fun for other socializers.
Types one and two are the most common, successful types of MUD.

"To answer the questions posed in the preface:

Are muds

  1. games? Like chess, tennis, D&D?
    Yes - to achievers.
  2. pastimes? Like reading, gardening, cooking?
    Yes - to explorers.
  3. sports? Like huntin', shooting', fishin'?
    Yes - to killers.
  4. entertainments? Like nightclubs, TV, concerts?
    Yes - to socialisers."

Summary of "Simulation versus Shoot-em-up" by Krrx

Krxx was a storyteller on Armageddon MUD.

The secret to intensive and realistic MUD roleplaying is proper preparation. Convince the players to think of the game as a simulation--as in a flight simulator. Simulations are complex, are hard to master, require self-imposed limits, rewards are delayed, and success is a bit more vague.

If you attempt to play a simulator with the same attitude and prep as you play a shoot-em-up style game, you will crash-and-burn.

When playing a roleplay-intensive game, spend more time imagining what you read, and learning the game itself. Stay in character when making decisions. Do what your character would do, not what you want to do. "Be prepared to have a major sense of achievement only after you have worked at something for a while; do not expect instant success. There will be quiet times, just as in real life." The experience, rather than XP should be your gauge of success.

As a creator, flesh out the MUD, thoroughly. Provide helpers to help new players learn the MUD. Make sure players know that just because the game lets a character do something, doesn't mean the player WOULD do that thing. Give players small rewards along the way to keep game play fun. Also, hide standard measures of success, like skill percentages. The goal is an intensive roleplaying experience, not shoot-em-up experience.

Summary of "Spatial Representation of a Virtual World" by Raph Koster

"The heart of a mud is the map: the world the mud represents." Maps are of two types: room-based models and continuous maps. Room-based describe usually one exit to one entrance for navigating from a map to another map. Continuous maps allow the transition along the whole boarder they share with the neighboring map.

Room-based maps have rooms which are nodes, and those nodes have links to other nodes. The links are called exits. Labeling a link as north or up gives the illusion of space, but they are just links to nodes stored in a database.

Most MUDs do not have an established scale associated with rooms. In fact, in many MUDs, if the map was put on paper, it would look illogical and fold back on itself in impossible ways because of inconsistent room sizes. Individual area (collections of rooms) might map out well, but if multiple areas were put on the same map, the inconsistencies of size become apparent.

This means that areas usually only have a limited number of exits to adjacent areas. Geographic realities prevent every room adjacent to a different area from having an exit to the next area over. Often a road is used to connect areas, for simplicity.

Wilderness areas often do have consistent room sizes, but this is for memory management of large areas. A player's room description is based off the coordinates of the room in the wilderness.

"The current trend in more cutting-edge mud development is to move away from room-based models in favor of continuous maps. This means that the assumption of spatiality includes the concept of a 2d or 3d space handled with a Cartesian coordinate system. Depending on the implementation, the dataset for the map may be sparse or dense-meaning, the map may actually have data for every point on the grid, or it may only have data for specific landmarks on the grid."

Graphical worlds tend to use continuous maps more than MUDs do. The downside is that expanding on a continuous world is more difficult than a node-based world. One way around this is to make towns on the world map take the player to a zoomed in town-specific map. Another problem is that there tends to be a lot of boring open space on continuous maps.

"If it is axiomatic that muds are about other people, then a map which keeps people apart is an undesirable thing. Perhaps because of this, the three major commercial graphical environments today all offer instant teleportation facilities for getting quickly from one location to another."

Summary of "Top Ten Reasons you are coding on the Wrong Mud" by Michael Thompson

Michael Thompson was a coder and a cynic.

  1. Last time anyone logged in, your 386 CPU was cutting edge.
  2. Your version of MUDLIB only crashes 24 times per day.
  3. All to posts on your message board contain the word "testing".
  4. The creators are AFK so much, they all include "Idle" in there ranks.
  5. You're on your second room you created, and those are the only two of the supposed 5000+ that actually exist.
  6. The discover the admin retired months ago.
  7. The MUD has been in pre-alpha for three years.
  8. "You posted a question to the learning board on how to code an NPC 3 months ago and you still are waiting on a response."
  9. The new lead of MUDLIB development to 2 1/2 months to complete his training, and has only been onboard for three months.
  10. "The head mudlib coder makes entries in the changelog like "Fixed spelling of 'Gratan' to 'Grathan' in the header comments of /std/npc.c"