Tuesday, September 29, 2009

RP Classifications for MUDs

In an earlier article I've defined what roleplaying (RP) actually is. Understanding what roleplaying is is key to understanding all the different game classifications. Roleplaying is adopting the role of a character. Roleplay classifications determine how much a player needs to stay "in character" while they play.

Non-Roleplaying game

If a game is listed as non-roleplaying then they do not wish their players to roleplay at all. Being in character or adopting a role is not wanted on the game. Most of the time players speak very openly about the game and its mechanics in speech, over channels, and via tells. Talking about the "real world" is not normally restricted as well. Anyone who tried to roleplay on one of these games could likely be ridiculed by the player base, so it is good to know what type of game you are on!

Role-playing Accepted
Roleplaying is accepted on these games but not really expected in any way. But if a player choses to develop a character a bit and RP being someone in the role that their character is it wouldn't be discouraged. In an RP accepted game pretty much any playing style is accepted. Players can interact with the game and play as they wish.

Roleplaying Encouraged

If a game is classified as RP encouraged then the game designers want players to RP and adopt special roles for their character. Encouraged means that RP is not strictly enforced. There are more restrictions to how players communicate with each other and likely distinctions between modes of out of character (OOC) and in character (IC) communication. But some players may chose not to spend much time developing their characters or acting out a personality that is different from their own.

RP Enforced or Mandatory
On a game that is RP enforced or RP mandatory it is expected and required to roleplay. Not only is it expected the staff (and sometimes players) will take measures to make sure the rules surrounding acceptable communication and game behavior are followed. The game will also be designed to facilitate roleplay. It is important to learn the rules on such games so that the integrity of the game world is maintained. Players are encouraged to immerse themselves into the unique game world through their game play.

Understanding the difference between different types of games will help you find the game environment you will particularly enjoy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Acclimating to a MUD Quickly

I've talked about how to make a MUD newbie friendly for administration on a game. But if you are a player you might be interested in how to acclimate to a MUD quickly. After all you want to make the most of your game time!

The first thing you should do when trying out a game is to check and see what online web resources are for a game. Information can be sketchy in a game itself but the information on the web is always accessible. The game staff may have even created an extensive new player guide for their website.

Another good online resource are game forums. Sometimes those forums are accessible to the public and full of answers to questions from new players. If the players are passionate about a game they may have information about their favorite game on their own sites. Sometimes that information may even be more helpful than what is on the game site, so taking a few minutes to see what is out there on the web can be very worth it.

Once you have information from the web it is time to start the game proper. Sometimes the creation process can be very extensive and you will be happy you have all that information available. You may be excited about getting into the game proper but make sure you use the creation area to its full extent. A well designed creation area will give a player a lot of valuable information.

While looking for information on the web for the game and going through creation try to determine what way you can directly access help from a live player. Sometimes things are so confusing a player will need that extra help and attention. Just don't overtax the individuals that are there to help you. Try to discover as much on your own if you can. Most of these people are volunteers!

Don't be afraid to ask your fellow players for help. A brand new player to a game is going to make mistakes just accept that. Existing players a lot of times have a wealth of information. Just try to determine the appropriate way to ask another player for help. It will vary on different games. Don't worry how you might appear to others, everyone was new to a game at some time! If worse comes to worse you can always start over with a fresh new character, but with a lot more information.

Getting acclimated to a game does not have to be a frustrating process. Just find and use the tools that are specifically built for you!

Good luck!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

5 Tips to Making a MUD newbie friendly

With so many games for players to chose from, the first couple of hours they play a game could well determine whether they decided to keep playing the game. That is why it is important that a game is "newbie friendly". There are many things that the staff and administration can do to help make a game friendly for new players.

1.) Design a helpful creation area. As a player goes through creation they should be taught very basic MUD commands if they need them. It should be very clear to players what needs to be done to progress. But don't force players to input a multitude of basic commands, if you don't make the learning optional then you might frustrate those veteran players out there.

2.) Make game information readily accessible. Some players like to learn by doing or wish to be taught by another player, but there are plenty of players that like to learn independently. Appreciate these players because they will take up less of the time of those who help new players. To keep these players happy information should be available both in the game and on a game website. I would suggest extensive help files or systems in the game itself. It is a good idea to create a new player guide for the game website with valuable information for players to reference when they need.

3.) Appoint trustworthy, active players to specifically help new players. There should be a group of knowledgeable players that are willing to devote their time to answer questions of new players and guide them. Have game information accessible can reduce the need for a group of newbie helpers but even the best designed help system has gaps. New players should be able to send questions to these helpers at any time. Since players from around the world MUD it is important to diversify your helper staff so that someone is always available.

4.) Create some means for the new player to directly ask questions. One good way to do this is to create an Out of Character (OOC) channel that new players can ask questions on. This could be a channel that is accessible to all the game (to ensure coverage) or just to the helpers and staff of the game. Another way to facilitate this is to allow new players to send messages directly to the helpers or staff. If this method is used then the means by which a player accesses the staff should be intuitive, mentioned in creation, and mentioned again in some way in the new player areas.

5.) Create new player areas. Have areas of the game specifically for new players to progress and learn the game. These areas should reinforce the skills that will be needed for the player to become successful. They should also give a good feel of the atmosphere of the game and what the player can expect in the future. I highly caution against completely isolating new players in an area by themselves. If you isolate them from the player base how are they to truly know if they will like the game? MUDs are interactive games after all.

Players leave MUDs all the time so the survival of a MUD depends on getting and retaining new players!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mud Resource Website

I've gathered together some valuable information on MUDs at my website MUD Adventures. The website like this blog is meant to be a resource for the new and veteran online text gamer. At MUD Adventures is a number of longer and more substantive articles on MUD topics. There is an extensive list of resources to aid those seeking more information on online text gaming.

It is a work in progress, but I hope you find it very useful!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Making Your Mark on an Online Text Game

At some time or another, players often find that just playing an online text game is enough for them. They want their characters to be famous or make a significant impact on the game. I've successfully been able to gain leadership positions on three different MUDs including gaining a staff position. I'll warn you, my advice is not for the faint of heart!

1.) Be considerate of your fellow players. If you are playing a roleplay enforced game and your character is a jerk that is fine, but in all out of character interactions treat your fellow players well. Some people may find it interesting to play with or against a confrontational character, but no one likes to be treated poorly out of character. If you markedly different than your character's personality you will get a lot of respect from your fellow players. If it is not an RP enforced game then just be nice. It is game. People are there to have fun.

2.) Be mature and consistent. The administration of a game or the player base are going to want to place someone inconsistent and selfish into a leadership role. Consistency will instill confidence in others and create trust. People who evidently have more than their own desires on their mind get more respect then those who don't care about others.

3.) Work hard. This is probably one of the most important things that will allow you to get and maintain guild positions. You simply need to be willing to work and contribute to the game organizations or the game itself. I have seen many staff, builders, and leaders come and go very quickly because they were not willing to put hardly any effort it. Positions are not just about fame, they have a price. If you don't enjoy or aren't willing to do work then you aren't going to be very happy in a game position and no one will be very happy with you!

4.) Create an interesting character. In a sea of gorgeous or buff characters, dare to be different! Find an RP niche that honors the consistency of the game world, but is unique. If you can pull off an outlandish character all for the better. People will remember you and enjoy RPing with you if you add something special to the game. But don't try to play a character that possesses qualities you don't have in some degree. Most people have a horrible time roleplaying what they are not.

To be truly influential on a game and popular, you truly need to be considerate, mature, consistent, and unselfish. Players that are brash and selfish may make a mark only for a short time. You don't want to be a flash in the pan!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What is Roleplay?

There seems to be a bit of confusion in among the MUD administrator community of what is roleplay (RP). Even RPGs (roleplaying games) can be devoid of what is real roleplay. The term RPG seems to classify these days any game that has a storyline and is played from a first person perspective. For instance MMORPGs are mostly devoid of any form of RP.

So what is roleplay anyway? RP is simple adopting the role of a character. An apt way to define roleplay on an online game is cooperative improvisational acting. A good roleplayer will take their character's motivations and temperament into account with every word and action. If a player is truly roleplaying they are setting aside their own motivations, wants, and desires for their character's motivations, wants, and desires.

An important step to aid in roleplaying is to develop a character properly. The character's family and friends, history, past occupations, social and economical status, and nationality or race are all important factors to the way they look at the world around them and how they interact with it. Well developed characters will fit into their game world. Don't forget the vision of the game creator! Good characters compliment not clash with the world for which they were created.

Just as we evolve and change from our experiences, characters on games should as well. A good roleplayer will let a character change based on what happens to them during game play. Sometimes characters can even evolve in ways that are unexpected or not originally envisioned.

To maintain a true roleplay environment it is important for a player to stay "in character" at all times (unless there is a means to out of character (OOC) conversation.) Just like an actor would not begin talking about the latest ball game during acting in a play, someone who is roleplaying while playing their character.

It is important to those active in the MUD community to understand what "roleplay" (RP) means when classifying, choosing, and playing on a game.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Mud Connector

The Mud Connector (TMC) is without a doubt one of the best MUD (text gaming) resources on the web. TMC provides an extensive MUD list, articles, game reviews, discussion boards, and a robust resource list.

TMC likely has the most updated MUD listing on the web. They keep track of both permenant and temporary closing of text games. Better yet, you can check the connection to a game directly from their website in its listing. Text games can be found by name, catagory, or through advanced searching.

The advanced search features allows for the user to search over 40 game features to find the game they are looking for. Some of those features include code base, country of origin, language, player killing options, world size, size of active playerbase, roleplay options and a multitude of more specific game features.

The directly on the MUD listing is links for checking connection, official game website, player reviews, and even connecting to the game itself. Included in each game listing is an brief explaination of the game and a detailed listing of its features.

The Mud Connector has a top 10 mud list. Honestly, the best use of such lists is to see how active and passionate is the player base and game administration.

The Mud Connector has plenty of resources for the gamer including articles, list of MUD and programming books, and an extensive listing of websites on MUDs and gaming.

The community at TMC is active with forums and reviews. TMC has the most updated and extensive player reviews for MUDs. Knowledgeable members post on a daily basis.

Whether you are just getting into the world of MUDing or an experienced player, the Mud Connector has something for you!

Keep up the good work, TMC!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Developing a Character

Whether a game is roleplaying enforced or not, fully developing your character can enrich your playing experience. There are two main ways to develop a character - working forward or working backward.

Working Backward
Once you have decided on a game what class and race you wish to play or what type of character you wish to play, then you can decide on what would motivate an individual of their race or background to seek the life that they did. Is it a traditional path for your character's background or non-traditional? Did their family influence them in some way to take the path by direct encouragement or indirect action? Was there a significant event that occured that led them to become an adventurer?

Working Forward
If you have an idea for the background or race of your character then you can consider how they were raised. What was a typical life for a person of that particular race or region? Was your character's life different in some way? Based on their experiences and temperment what course would they take in their life? Depending on the game, it could be possible to enter the game without knowing what path your character is going to take. Sometimes it can be very rewarding to let the character development evolve based on their most recent experiences.

Either way the more time you take in considering character development the easier and more instinctive it will be to play your character well on a text based game. The game play on multi-player online text games happens quickly. Knowing more about your character's background and motivations helps you to decide on what they would do in any given circumstance.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Selecting an Online Text Based Game

There are a hundreds of MUDs and online text based games. Sometimes the process to finding a good game can be overwhelming at times. Having tried more than my share of new games, I know that can be it can be overwhelming at times. But every game has an ideal type of player it is suited for. There is a perfect (or near perfect) game out there for you!

The first key to finding a new game is to determine what is the most important things you look for in a game and what are your "deal breakers". (This may change in time as you try out new games.) Both Top Mud Sites and The Mud Connector have advanced search options that allow you to eliminate the games that don't fit your criteria. Some of the main catagories on both sites are world size, average online players, RP environment, if player killing is allowed, how a character "levels" on the game, and whether it is a free or subscription game.

Please keep in mind that the game owners and admins chose what areas that they game fits into. You won't truly know if the game fits the bill until you try it. I personally keep the search criteria fairly broad and add more until I get a manageable list.

After get a manageable list begin to read the player reviews. Personally, I believe the best place to read reviews at this time is The Mud Connector (TMC) though you can read older reviews at Top Mud Sites (TMS). You will get a much better idea of games from what players say about them. I tend to take the overly glowing or overly critical reviews with a grain of salt, but you can gain some valuable information from player reviews.

If an active playerbase and/or game administration is important to you then a way to confirm this is to see what the ranking of the MUD is on both TMS and TMC. If the game administration is active and wants to see their game promoted they will regularly encourage their players to vote for their game. If the playerbase is active and passionate about the game they play then they will vote for it.

Using this information will give you a good idea of what games might be a good fit for you. But like a lot of things, you don't really know until you try!

Happy Hunting!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Top 5 Mud Clients

Your personal needs and system requirements will determine what MUD client is best for you. Though there are a lot of great MUD clients, below are the some of the best clients out there. The good news is that all the clients below are free or offer at least a free trial!

Best Free Client
MUSHclient is one of the best free clients out there. It is full of a lot of special features such as client side aliases, timers, and triggers. It has an amazingly long searchable buffer which helps you keep track of past gaming. MUSHclient is also extremely customizable. MUSHclient works on operating systems from Windows 95 to Windows Vista.

Best Pay Windows Client
If you plan to do a lot of scripting, CMUD is the client for you. CMUD is designed for fast and easy scripting with the functionality to share them with others as well. It has one of the best automatic mapping systems of any MUD client. The full version of CMUD presently costs $29.95 with a free thirty day trial. If you don't need or use many special MUD client features then I would recommend trying a free client, but if you want to compete on a MUD that allows scripting CMUD is likely the choice for you. CMUD works on Windows XP and Windows Vista. (For a good scripting client for older systems check out ZMUD from the same company.)

Best Mac OS Client
Atlantis and Savitar
I couldn't help but give a tie in this catagory. There are much older Mac OS clients out there, but unfortunately they are either not very user friendly or out of development. I've read a lot of good things on these clients from Mac Users. Both are worth a try!

Best Linux Client
KMuddy is reccommended by many Linux users as the best MUD client on these machines. This client is relatively new but is growing in popularity. It has many regular MUD client features such as timers, triggers, speedwalking, and client side aliases. Many of the clients in this catagory can be difficult to use, but KMuddy is touted as being much easier to use than most.

Best Client for Blind Gamers
Vip Mud
Vip Mud has a lot of the features of other clients including vibrant scripting capability, but aslo a lot of special features for the blind gamer. It is designed to work with most screen reading software right out of the box. There are also voice features such as silmultaneous voices and the ability to program different voices or even screen readers for output. Vip Mud has the functionality to gag both spam and ASCII art. Vip Mud is $30 and has a 30 day free trial.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Top MUD Sites

Traditionally one of the best MUD resources out there in the world wide web has been Top MUD Sites (TMS). Hundreds of MUDs have registered with Top Mud Sites and a potential player can search Top Mud Sites database and control the results through advanced searching. There is an active community on the TMS forums. Many of the members are MUD administrators, staff, or veteran players. This is a good place to ask for general help or to search more specifically for a game you like. There is a MUD article database with topics on roleplaying, storytelling, and building MUDs.

One of the most useful tools I have used when trying to select a new MUD to play is TMS's top MUD list which is located on their home page. Honestly, this is not an indication of the best built MUDs on the web or the best environments. It is more of an indication of how active and passionate both the administrators and players for a MUD are. From my experience, a MUD will not even get listed on the front page for the top 20 MUDs without having an active and larger player base. There are still many MUDs out there that have few players at all. If a MUD is not within the top 40 on TMS it is a good indication that the MUD has a very small player base, likely too small for robust interactive play.

Unfortunately, what I deemed one of the most useful features of Top MUD Sites has gone inactive. TMS has not been accepting new MUD reviews from players since September of 2006. While the old reviews are still there, I had found it historically useful to read what players liked or hated about a game. It is true that some disillusioned players could write scathing or untrue reviews or admins could write over glowing reviews for their game, but the discerning reader can weed through both extremes to find some semblance of the truth about a game. I hope that this is a feature that they reinstate soon, though with the amount of time it has been down I'm not holding my breath.

Even with this inactive feature, Top MUD Sites is still one of the best MUD resources out there today. I've enjoyed many years of researching, writing, and reading on the site.

Hats off to you, TMS!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Roll play vs. Role play

I’m borrowing a bit from old table top gaming terminology to make a point. What I will be addressing in this post is the long time dispute between gamers who like adopting a role and fleshing out a character and those who like to bash down doors and hack other characters into bits. Are you the type of gamer that likes adopting a role or do you prefer the roll of the die?

I’ve played in many gaming groups and on many games in my time and had plenty of experience seeing players on all ends of the spectrum. On one end of the extreme enters the hack and slash gamer. It is all about the game mechanics for him. The kill. The win. He wants to spend his time fighting monsters, solving quests, and gathering phat loot and gear. He wants that next level, that next shiny new object.

On the other end of the spectrum enters the roleplayer. His main focus is on developing his character. He will spend a lot of time on character histories, descriptions, and mannerisms. He prefers spending his time interacting with other characters or the game master (as the case maybe). He may even roleplay when no one is around. (I’ve really known people like this!) He is the master thespian.

Deities help you if you have both extremes in the same gaming group. Ultimately no one will be happy!
Most players are a combination for these two extremes, though sometimes it feels like roleplayers are a dying breed. Maybe they have just given up when they haven’t found others of their ilk. If you are among this endangered species I encourage you to try out “roleplay enforced” MUDs. There are still some roleplayers alive and kicking out there. Flee from “roleplay encouraged” games true RP is not to be found in these dens of RP mediocrity. Not all “RP Enforced” or “RP Mandatory” games live up to their name I fear, but they are out there!

There is an environment for everyone out there. Are you a “roll player” or a “role player” or a happy combination of the two? I’m personally a happy hybrid myself and won’t settle for a game that doesn’t have a combination of both strategy and roleplaying. There is a game out there for us all. It is just a matter of finding it.

Happy Hunting!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why text based games?

With there being so many graphical online games out there why would someone still play a MUD or other text based game? In the world of gaming MUDs seem rather archaic. Why are MUDs still thriving? Why are new games being built every day? Why are new players finding these games?

From where I'm sitting as a MUD veteran, I can see several really good reasons why MUDs are still popular.

The first thing that comes to mind is that MUDs are very portable gaming. Mudding is for serious gamers that want access to their game nearly anywhere. Anywhere you can access the internet, you can access a MUD. Some games have java or flash clients on their websites that you can access. For the hardcore mudder, any number of MUD clients (which in my experience don't take up much space) can be saved and run from a flash drive. Since MUDs are text based it is far less obvious that all that scrolling text is actually a game. Phones with net access, netbooks, laptops, and public computers will all run MUDs successfully.

MUDs don't require a lot of system resources to run. MUDs have been running on computers for years. Even older computers will successfully run MUDs and any special software that may be required or used to enchance text gaming does not take up much memory on a computer at all. Those with older computers or slower internet connections from around the world enjoy online text gaming as sometimes their only multi-player internet option. MUD updates happen on the game server and no update downloads are needed by players.

Most MUDs are free. There are MUDs out there that charge monthly fees or have pay for perks systems but the vast majority of the games are free. I'm not talking about cheap gaming but absolutely free gaming. Let's face it, it can be really expensive keeping up with most console and computer gaming. We aren't even talking about the software or the monthly fees, but also upgrading to a new console or computer system to run the latest games.

MUDs are very accessible. Blind, sight impaired players, and deaf players can easily play MUDs and get nearly the same gaming experience as everyone else. With no sound or graphics, MUDs level the playing ground.

Finally, the reason I am playing MUDs after all these years is for the better social gaming environments they provide. I have never seen a larger graphical game successfully create a roleplay enforced environment. Most staff on online graphical games chose not to police their players and the game environment greatly suffers for it. Players are MUDs are generally kinder and better behaved than those on the graphical games and MUD administrators are more apt to remove disruptive players. Social interaction is a large part of online gaming and that interaction is only worthwhile if it is positive.

The bottom line is that MUDs are still around and thriving. For these reasons above and more they've kept me captivated and entertained for years.