25 Jan, 2013, roguewombat wrote in the 1st comment:
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I've had this idea in the back of my mind for quite a while now that it would be interesting to explore MUD design from a minimalist standpoint or, perhaps from another angle, by choosing a particular feature to exaggerate in a game of a smaller scale than typical MUDs. As a casual player checking out new MUDs, size and scale can be quite daunting. Additionally, I have such a nostalgia for Rom MUDs that I have a very hard time acclimating to other MUDs with a different "look and feel."

However, there are things I'm interested in trying without having to worry about the trappings of a codebase as vast (and as … quirky?) as Rom's, without worrying about balancing huge worlds, skill sets, and economies, even without worrying about creating a persistent game designed to be played in perpetuity. If these sorts of experiments have been discussed and executed elsewhere, feel free to link me away, but I'd love to hear thoughts here if they haven't.

By way of example: one thing that hinders my enjoyment of MUDs is the fear of death. There are consequences for dying, right? Gold lost, experience lost, equipment lost. Maybe all at once, maybe not, depending on the MUD. The greater the consequence, the more conservative of a player I become, seeing even a single death as a major setback - even if in reality I shouldn't. I stay PK safe to avoid being killed unexpectedly by an unpredictable game element (other players! : ), sit around at the healer being bored between excursions, and stay close to home to avoid wandering into unusual territory.

So, what would it look like to build a smaller game where death wasn't a hindrance but was possibly even a mechanic? Perhaps I can interact with my past lives to open new abilities or areas. Perhaps the game resets every day, and you either complete the objective of the day or die trying, not hoarding equipment or gold. Perhaps on a global scale so many deaths must occur before an event unlocks. Who knows?

Another example: what sorts of activity could take the game beyond the Telnet connection? The Internet is full of tools for collaboration, exploration, and more - how could a MUD play on the strengths of these things so that the game isn't self-contained in the MUD server but doesn't suffer for it?

Another way of looking at this would be to what extent can Micro MUDs (i.e. non-epic, intentionally scope-limited games that explore an exaggerated or a novel feature) be used to develop new ways of engaging with MUDs, with other players, and particularly with new players? Can you create a series of MUDs that are easy to "try" or even to "complete" in a limited amount of time, and can they be a tool not just for trying ideas but for engaging a new audience - some of whom, perhaps, would go on to immerse themselves in a more robust world.

Or, just what crazy game could I develop without having to satisfy even my own desires to build a vast, complex, and interesting world, the likes of which I'd never have the time to maintain? :D
25 Jan, 2013, Rarva.Riendf wrote in the 2nd comment:
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Part of your post really reminds me about 'choose your own adventure' books.
25 Jan, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 3rd comment:
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It's a bit of a double-edged sword isn't it, since the reason many players prefer muds is that they're complex, engrossing, detailed, and so on. There are plenty of casual RPGs out there already.

I wonder if you've played any of the Story Nexus games, they seem to have some of the feel you're talking about.
25 Jan, 2013, roguewombat wrote in the 4th comment:
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Rarva.Riendf said:
Part of your post really reminds me about 'choose your own adventure' books.

Funny you should mention, because I was just fiddling with the beginnings of a dialogue system in a MUD that could enable a game's progress to be driven through NPC interactions in much the same way as a "Choose Your Own Adventure." Was thinking how that might influence character creation, such that the choices you make during those "first five minutes" while you get oriented to the MUD influence your characters statistics / class / etc. as opposed to a traditional character creation process.

Idealiad said:
It's a bit of a double-edged sword isn't it, since the reason many players prefer muds is that they're complex, engrossing, detailed, and so on. There are plenty of casual RPGs out there already.

I wonder if you've played any of the Story Nexus games, they seem to have some of the feel you're talking about.

Hmm, I haven't played Story Nexus, thanks for the lead. And yeah, it can be a bit of a double-edged sword, but I think there'd be value even to players who love the immersion to get a feel for what new types of player / environment interactions could look like and begin to dream how they might make the more complex MUDs even more engaging.

Comparison to Roguelikes

I think of it like the roguelike genre. Rogue was such a seminal game, that its hallmarks - including the arcane user interface and key pressing complexity - began to define the genre. Hardcore roguelike players began to crave more, and so we entertained ourselves with ADoM, ToME, and more. Now I see a looot of experimentation in the genre, with games adopting graphics, squad control (as opposed to solo), movement mechanics, different worlds (fantasy, sci-fi, surreal, post-apoc, etc.), and even messing with some of the hallmarks of the genre (i.e. permadeath, item identification, food management). Even with all the experimentation, you still have cames like Brogue, my personal favorite, trying to go back and iterate on the original without giving into the monstrous scope / complexity but still delivering an incredibly rewarding roguelike experience - and attracting new players through its simplicity and (imo) ASCII beauty. :smile:

You can also look to the Ludum Dare contests where game developers have two short days to whip up a game around a topic, oftentimes using the opportunity to test a new game mechanic and sometimes going on to produce a larger game from that.

New Player Mechanics and Emergent Behavior

An example of a feature becoming mainstream (for better or worse) could be double-jumping in platform games. We all understand platformers, are familiar with the types of puzzles, power-ups, and goals they afford. But change the primary mechanic subtly and suddenly you have opportunities for upgrades (start w/ single, upgrade to double), new timing puzzles, and even new pitfalls. I'm sure there are common MUD tropes that could be explored in a smaller setting to refine a mechanic that may make its way out to the mainstream, affording developers new ways of engaging players and seeing them work together.

One of the things I think about, with respect to Rom MUDs at least, is how to get out of the "here's a thing, and this is what it does" box. In other words, when I was hacking on them (granted, it's been a while), we coded things for a purpose, and you didn't have in-game opportunities for new behavior to emerge when existing items, players, or pieces of the environment combined in unexpected ways.

Another things that keeps coming to mind is the idea of a cyclical MUD - a world designed to reset, whether that's on a timing condition, and end-game condition, a combined player action, or whatever. A player wouldn't have to commit to the game endlessly until they got bored, and a new player would be free to jump in without a severe penalty for coming "late to the game." Could it even foster greater collaboration like you see in games like Realm of the Mad God where everyone strives for the same goal (kill the monsters, beat Oryx!) with death coming regularly and often, so there are plenty of folks handing out equipment and knowledge to the newbies to bring 'em onto the "let's win this thing, team."

Cyclical MUD Concept

Combining these ideas with my fear of player death thoughts above, and I came up with this concept MUD:

In a small game world, the players are trying to attain a goal, let's say to escape from some sort of confinement. In order to escape, they have to make it through a cave populated by monsters, scripted battles or conversations, and perhaps environmental puzzles. They have limited inventory slots, let's say 8 total (including worn or held items), and have to find the items in the world they think will help them survive the cave. The person who breaks out first wins the round, attaining some sort of benefit for the next round that incentivizes them to not share what trials await - or to only do so for a price. If they fail in the cave, they die, and with each death, rumors of how they died leak out of the cave to be discovered amongst the NPC inhabitants of the game world. The player can be restored, perhaps explaining that they were pulled senseless from the cave by the NPC retrieval squad who then went on to spread whatever the "dead" player was mumbling as they slipped in and out of consciousness.

Other players can use these clues to prepare for their own attempts, though the order of the challenges would be either intentionally randomized or at least non-linear so you wouldn't be assured of an advantage on your next run if you were the character who died. By dying often and politicking with other players, even a new player could develop the skill and solve the puzzles fast enough to win early rounds, and by limiting the inventory and number of ways a puzzle might be solved, you can influence players to think of how various items they can wear or carry might combine to help them complete all the puzzles that await them.

So there you'd be able to explore a cyclical MUD (reset on win) where death is not the end but actually influences how NPCs act and other players interact with each other. Players may even make ad hoc alliances to complete the dungeon together and then choose to uphold their end game promises or go back on them. Perhaps the end game reward is even randomized, enticing players to break their promises if the reward proves too great or is not sharable. The nature of the main goal and type of inventory items would further allow emergent behaviors to evolve to solve puzzles in unexpected ways (or perhaps let players give bad advice to other players, hoping they will die and thus reveal a new secret of the cave to the rest of the players).

Final Thoughts

Maybe micro isn't the best word, since that would be a very code intensive project requiring a lot of game design. In scope, it would be much more limited than a broad open virtual world, so it's micro in that sense, but on the whole it would be more of a "concept" MUD that may not even be fun to play for months on end but could spark ideas that would spill out into other larger MUDs.

One last example from Brogue. Roguelikes have been around for a long time, but until Brogue I'd never seen the incorporation of adventure game elements into a roguelike to such a great extent. It's not just that there's a pit trap - there may be a lever you have to search to expose a bridge, a weight you have to press down, a bush you have to burn with a spell of fire or incendiary dart, or any of another dozen adventure game concepts you have to explore in the game to open a treasure vault. I'm not sure if he was influenced by Spelunky (arguably a roguelike, certainly an adventure game), but it's a very tight, clever integration of new concepts into the genre - and it's for features like that that Brogue continues to impress me.

And it's in pursuit of innovation like that - if indeed it is innovation; I'm happy to play existing games that pursue these ideas! - that I want to explore the idea of Micro or Concept MUDs. :biggrin:
25 Jan, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 5th comment:
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I'm a huge fan of Brogue as well. The comment about combining gameplay in unexpected ways strikes home for me, and I think there was a thread about that around here (or maybe Mudlab?), though I can't recall it at the moment.

Another advantage of a micro mud (I can't think of a better word either, though it is an interesting play on Major Mud ;D ) is, like what you see in Brogue, how much more polish you can add to it.

Most of my mud ideas have been smaller in scope lately too (this, this, and this). Over at Temple of the Roguelike you might have seen that RL incubator thread, it might be neat to have something like that for smaller muds. A unified playtesting and advertising effort or something like that.
25 Jan, 2013, Nathan wrote in the 6th comment:
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I think death as a penalty is an important bounding box in traditional play. It teaches the player to exercise caution, thought, and planning, at least in theory. Also, it seems like MMOs, and lots of MUDs have a problem where some parts of it are designed to require a group, but there aren't enough subtle pressures to produce a group before it is needed. WOW does an okay job, but it's an obviously OOC attempt. That is to say there is usually little benefit besides say being kept from dying and maybe in some games not losing your gear to recommend a group.

I guess what I am getting at is that something like death is not necessarily to be removed, but the impact of it and the gameplay it promotes/encourages ought to be considered carefully – the same is true of any game mechanic.

Maybe you could go with some kind of rebirth model, kind of like DDO Eberron's reincarnation where you can tweak aspects of your previous character or even reuse all the experience you earned to make a new character. I.e. when you die, you don't come back, but the "soul" is the same, and so there's some kind of benefit to rebirth. You can then be someone, something else, but retain "memories" like where things are, etc.
25 Jan, 2013, Scandum wrote in the 7th comment:
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roguewombat said:
However, there are things I'm interested in trying without having to worry about the trappings of a codebase as vast (and as … quirky?) as Rom's, without worrying about balancing huge worlds, skill sets, and economies, even without worrying about creating a persistent game designed to be played in perpetuity. If these sorts of experiments have been discussed and executed elsewhere, feel free to link me away, but I'd love to hear thoughts here if they haven't.

You may want to look into interactive fiction. The games have a clear beginning and ending, and are typically single player. I think there are online version of Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork out there, from an adventure perspective the games are more interactive and challenging than your typical MUD.

This approach could be mimicked for MUDs in an adventure / puzzle solving / quest setting. I think there's a definite niche for a Prince of Persia (Sands of Time) style codebase. Some TinyMUD derivatives may do something along these lines, but they are so flexible, like PLMuds, that they typically lack proper game mechanics as everything ends up getting hacked together.
25 Jan, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 8th comment:
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@rw, you should look up Kerkerkruip for something along the lines of what Scandum is talking about.
26 Jan, 2013, roguewombat wrote in the 9th comment:
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Idealiad said:
@rw, you should look up Kerkerkruip for something along the lines of what Scandum is talking about.

Will do, thanks for the leads. I get around to IF every now and then, typically when Rock, Paper, Shotgun posts about the IF competitions and the best of class. Similarly, I really only get around to trying new roguelikes after 7DRL competitions. I always set out with the goal to play and review as many as possible, but that only worked out once. :tongue:

Nice ideas in the Google Docs, too. Seems like exactly the same direction I'm thinking, and I do agree about the benefits of a shared community space where such experiments can be publicized. The other thing IF and 7DRL games have going for them are simple formats (IF) and killer libraries (libtcod). Again, my background was Rom, but I'll be darned if it doesn't get unwieldy to share code between MUDs! However, if we're going to rapidly prototype, mix and match, and build on others' ideas, that's just gotta get easier.

As I've thought about the Micro MUD idea, especially if they're meant to be playgrounds to test new gameplay mechanics that ought to be expanded and incorporated into other games, I've also thought about how to make a truly modular MUD codebase. No patching to implement a new feature, just a file in a directory and maybe a config toggle, and you're there. By day I'm a Drupal developer, where, even if we don't have the best modular architecture, it's still lightyears beyond patching a codebase and fiddling with tables that get compiled into an executable. You can only do that so many times before you just can't any more. (Prior to Drupal, I was maintaining a large osCommerce site… boy, did that get unwieldy.)

I don't want this thread to get sidetracked, so I'll leave it at that, but I suppose there's no harm in having a "Concept MUD" based solely around trying to implement a modular architecture either. I'll be exploring that for a local youth programming convention (ideally embedding Node.js and a simple codebase on a Raspberry Pi : ) and will be sure to report back if that goes anywhere.

Your castle inhabitants idea sounds great, btw. It's almost like a Tower Defense MUD that goes above and beyond the standard shooting tower to defend your territory… like if you could wire it with tripwires, lay landmines, and summon guardians with secret weaknesses to keep those baddies out. :cool:

On Fate, where we're teasing out the dialogue idea, Salindor just posted a link to a fine listing of adventure game patterns, and many of these would be easily implementable in a MUD. The trick is to sort out how much builder effort is required, how much can be randomized, and what can be left to emergent solutions.
26 Jan, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 10th comment:
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Here's that topic on unexpected gameplay I was thinking about:


I agree a really modular mud would be cool, but it's a huge can of worms. There's so many codebases out there at this point and some of them are decent enough at sharing code. What we need are, as your topic basically states, more games :).
26 Jan, 2013, salindor wrote in the 11th comment:
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You know an idea I have been playing around with is a webmud. When I tell my coworkers or friends I am making am mud, the first thing I always get is 'a mud?' your working on getting dirty?

So I have been thinking do you have to use telnet to log in to play? Is ASCII art really the limits to what can be done with a story based game? Can we attract the common folks as well as the elite gamers without losing what a mud really is? I mean I have heard some arguments that if a particular system is good because it keeps the stupid people out. I am not convinced that is the case.

Or what about allowing a picture per room similar like what a book has. (I am not talking about a graphical mud as the primary form of communication is still text and you still need to type to do commands just like you are familar with now). But now the advantage of such a setup is I can provide an interface those with sight will find pleasing, and/or an interface for the blind and have both play the same game without sacrificing for just one group.

Or what about making a mud such that its completely audio. I mean, not hook a reader to it, its meant only be listend to and spoken to. Maybe it turns on the microphone and by saying "kaboom" that means cast a fireball. (prolly not a good idea to play at an airport though… but minor details).

26 Jan, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 12th comment:
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I think all those things are good to try. An interesting thing about what ifs like these is usually they all have been done to some degree. Have you seen PlainText? Have you seen KaVir's GUI snippet? Have you played Entombed?





I think where things fall down is people don't build on previous efforts, not necessarily technically by using the same codebase, but just conceptually by knowing what past efforts have been. Instead they recycle concepts from their first mud or something like that. I guess it depends what your goals are, for some games that's OK but for making something new and interesting I think that doesn't work so well a lot of the time.
26 Jan, 2013, roguewombat wrote in the 13th comment:
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Great leads, and great links, folks. I'll be looking into compiling PlainText and playing around. :smile:

Some other ideas coming to mind: a world whose areas are seeded by players using some sort of artifacts that determines the type of area and strength of its inhabitants; in this case, a player is essentially terraforming a planet using a system that doesn't get too cumbersome for newbies but could lead to interesting combinations of seed elements as players progress. NPCs that are ghosts of PCs - i.e. you track PC behavior over time, determining their in-game behavior (not OOC behavior), and having their "ghosts" perform similar tasks (hunting, buying and selling, greeting, etc.). Ever expanding procedurally generated worlds in the vein of a Minecraft world.

Wonder if there needs to be some sort of RogueBasin analog for MUDs to be able to track and relate this stuff. Does such a thing exist?
26 Jan, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 14th comment:
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Other than here at MB, which does have a wiki-like articles section, the closest thing was Mudpedia.org. Unfortunately it seems to be not resolving at the moment.
26 Jan, 2013, KaVir wrote in the 15th comment:
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Yeah Mudpedia seems to be dead, which is unfortunate, I added quite a few notes about protocol stuff there. If it's down for good it might be an idea to start adding protocol notes to the MUD Wiki.

EDIT: Fixed the link.
26 Jan, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 16th comment:
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I think the url got pasted wrong there, you mean this one?


It's better than nothing but all the ads aren't that great. Maybe we should bite the bullet and start a wiki similar to Roguebasin? ( http://roguebasin.roguelikedevelopment.o... )
26 Jan, 2013, KaVir wrote in the 17th comment:
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Thanks, yes, I must have got mixed up replying to two posts at once!

I agree with the ads, but the owner of the Wiki is pretty active, and it doesn't look like it's going to vanish. No reason why the information can't be mirrored on multiple sites - the important thing is that it doesn't vanish.
26 Jan, 2013, roguewombat wrote in the 18th comment:
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Hah, thanks. I was trying to figure out where in that other thread I was supposed to see a wiki. :tongue:
26 Jan, 2013, Idealiad wrote in the 19th comment:
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Was it Scandum who had the mudpedia domain?
27 Jan, 2013, Scandum wrote in the 20th comment:
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I had mudpedia hosted on a free server, then I lost root access, and some time later the server went down. I guess that's what you get for being too lazy and cheap to properly host it yourself.

The server might come back up, in which case it may be worth the trouble to salvage the data as I lost most of my interest in MUDs.

An old backup of mudpedia is available here: http://www.mudbytes.net/file-2743 which should be a big time saver for anyone interested in starting a wiki, particularly the time I spend thinkering with categorizations and templates.