On Everything

I actually wrote a post since the last, but it was unexpectedly lost in an absentminded reboot.

My friend Adam has his site back up. Much randomness, just as a heads up for those that used to read it. Also, the non-profit my friend Mike has been working on for the past few months now has a site up over at http://www.highlandeducationalcenter.com. Another site worth noting is The Gizmo Project, which is another VoIP/SIP netphone system that’s pretty slick. Crossplatform and a halfway decent interface for once. I’m TheNadreck or 1-747-627-6040 on it.

School is going slowly but steadily. I pounded through Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun the other day, and really enjoyed it. I think he had some really interesting insights into the nature of game design; I also completely agree with him that the state of story writing within the games industry is by and large at the level of high school. There’s vast room to improve, but i’ll be writing more in depth about that in another post over at my other site real soon now. I’ve also been actively reading a pretty good array of design blogs, notably TerraNova, Video Game Media Watch, Greg Costikyan’s blog, and of course GamaSutra.

Something really interesting and worth reading that was recently posted over at GamaSutra was Eric Zimmerman’s A Game Developer’s Bill of Rights. Again, more insight on that soon over at Critical Games. One last school related tidbit before I move on: the author of one of the books on my bibliography dropped me a line on here a little while ago, which I think is awesome… just goes to show how interconnected the internet is, even if only through Google. Marcus, if you’re reading, I’ll definitely be talking to you later! Online social engineering and communication is a topic near and dear to my heart above and beyond this particular semester.

My relationship with Erica is going smashingly; she’s simply fabulous, and I hope things continue to grow for a long time to come. I’ve been spending most of my weekends down there with her, watching movies and just in general spending time with her. It was kind of weird not going down this past weekend, but it being Thanksgiving, she was in NY with her family anyway. One of these trips, I’ll need to actually get ahold of the family I have down in Rhode Island.

In Vermont, things are going well. We’re all pretty well settled into the house in Montpelier. Good music, good food, interesting conversations… and I heat my room entirely with my computers. Uri and I have been MUDding a fair bit on AvatarMUD, as he’s been making a push to finally Lord (8 years after he started… looks like it should be doable by before Christmas, as he’s finally big enough to really pound through the levels). It’s been interesting, because playing has gotten me back into the MUD in general, after a long hiatus as a staff member. I’ve been active and visible quite a bit, helping with basic sundry stuff (lost passwords, setting altofs, helping with corpse retrievals for linkdead characters, et cetera), and also finally finished one of the areas I started 3 years ago. I’ve also been playing some of the new classes that have gone in since I last really played, like Paladin, and Fusilier.

I still want to write my own MUD, though. That’s on the backburner until I get more programming under my belt, however, since I want to write from scratch (the point isn’t to make the same mud with different content, the point is to do something unique within the genre).

Things have started to settle into something resembling a routine at this point, so hopefully I’ll be able to get back into writing regularly again. I guess time will tell.

4 thoughts on “On Everything

  1. Coding your own MUD sounds like a blast. I was thinking about MUDs in general and how I always wanted something along the lines of a “SimMUD,” if you will. Basically, the problem as I see it is that most MUDs (or most that I’ve played) start off amazingly easy (to be accessible to newbies) and slowly ramp up until they hit a point where “kicking ass” becomes synonymous with “barely competent.” Sim* games never make me feel barely competent … I’m always fine and in total control, but I’m likewise always engaged. Neat new stuff is revealed to me, and eventually I have enough resources to use that neat new stuff. Bad things happen to me relative to the extent that I’ve screwed up: bad things do not happen to me relative to how powerful I am or how long I’ve been playing.

    Low levels on any given MUD are like a Sim* game: I fly through levels and keep getting neat new stuff. Everything I get is neat relative to what I’ve gotten before, and there’s more neat stuff on the horizon. I can keep getting & using new, neato gear. I don’t fear death: even when it happens, it’s like a fire in SimCity: easy to fix. Then (to use Avatar as an example) pretty soon new stuff comes only every five levels. Then the stuff stops being quite as neat. Then it just becomes a longass slog with little reward. Death becomes more stressful, like a major disaster. That’s why I have 40 lowbie characters and only 6 or 7 heroes, and no lord. I get sick of the plateau. Plus a group is pretty much always required. I know I could make certain builds that don’t require groups, but I don’t tend to like those builds, and I don’t see why I should be penalized for that.

    Hopefully, it’s obvious that I don’t mean to suggest that everyone’s like this, or even that a significant number of mudders feel this way. And I played Avatar for quite a while because it’s a really amazing MUD. But if you built a mud that felt like SimCity while you were playing it, then everyone who likes SimCity and medieval themed games would stand a decent change of liking it. I bet I’d like it a lot. I started thinking about building a MUD like that, where the emphasis is on making players feel cool instead of challenged, where the fun comes from finding neat stuff and skills and being able to make your character whatever you want. The skill tree and equipment would be, by far, the most critical elements. Diablo II is not altogether unlike what I’m thinking of, though I’d like more class options, and I’d like the skills to come together more quickly. And multiclassing. Crazy shit.

    OK, I’ve blabbed long enough. Hopefully it’s semi-coherent.

  2. Definitely coherent, man, very worthwhile insights in my opinion.

    What you’re talking about is actually pretty close to what I’d like to do. I’d like to implement a “levelless” MUD, where you get lots of incremental gains, rather than be based on reaching milestones before gains are achieved. I think this would open up gameplay quite a bit, and allow for a more consistent experience across the game. It would also open up the capability to reward players for exploration and social engineering; more ways to encourage playing vs powerleveling.

    Think about it: you kill a monster, and gain an ability point, which you can apply to strength, agility, or even new skills et cetera. It would work best in a visual representation (ala Final Fantasy X), but I think it could still be done using prerequisites (e.g. “Ogre Smash” requires 10 strength). Do away with classes and possibly races as well.

    The point is that the mechanic is the same throughout, and uniformly rewarding. Smooth escalation, no curves.

  3. Bil: I love the levelless idea. That way you can have variable rewards, so it’s not crippling to build a character based on something other than being the most absolute badass possible.

    Getting rid of classes was also one of the conclusions I’d come to … maybe some occasional, slight encouragements to a class-oriented selection of skills (synergies or combos or something) but really, you should be able to pick any skill you want. You no longer have to worry if SmiteOfTheGodly fails to measure up to WickedEvilFirestorm, because anyone can pick either one. I always liked that concept in multiclass muds. But most of those didn’t seem like they had the areas or the playerbase or some X factor to measure up to muds like Avatar.

    And hell, get rid of races. Have shapeshifting skills instead. Become a dragon, change back, become a gnat. Neato!

    Can’t wait to play it. Let me know when it’s done. Will it be ready next week? :P

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