Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Rock Star Armadillo

It's been awhile, hasn't it? Work, illness and other stuff that's no fun at all, has been keeping me away. Hopefully we've turned the corner now.

So, because I'm feeling awful, I read comics to pass the time. One of my favourites is Penny Arcade, which deals with gaming issues in a more pictorial format than my artistic talents can manage. Anyway, in one of their commentaries, they touched upon an interesting topic that is something I've been thinking about quite a bit. Essentially, how one game, or more generally one example from any medium, can be interpreted in countless ways by different people - and enjoyed in many ways that perhaps the creator didn't plan for. To clip a bit from the article:

A good example of this playing out is in the guitars for Guitar Hero and Rock Band. When the Rock Band guitar is working, I vastly prefer it: its size and shape are much closer to electric guitars I have played, and the strum bar is thick at the outer edge to be gripped like a pick. Its operation is largely silent, without the characteristic click of a microswitch, designed (I am sure) explicitly to be quiet. Some people love that click, though - it means precision - and for the player who craves that fifth star, there is no higher virtue. Stars in single player are, for me, irrelevant. I'm sure this makes me a scoundrel. I only care about stars in co-operative multiplayer, where I see them as an index of our indomitable band spirit. I want a measurement of our unity. I'm playing the same game for an entirely different purpose. I wouldn't notice if it did click. When the song begins, I enter a trance. That's a pretty serious distinction - people who play games in order to excel at them, and those who play games as a conduit to fantasy - and its only one axis of the diagram.

I'm sure that no matter what game you play, you have noticed the same thing amongst your fellow players - that some play to dominate, to show their superiority over others, some play with the game designer's intentions in mind, to play "like it was meant to be played", some play for social reasons, to feel like they're a part of something, some play simply according to what they feel like doing on a particular day.

From the designer's perspective, this is fairly challenging - these are diverse groups, and very general ones. In fact, some of them are highly contradictory, most notably how can you please people who want to be sociable and get along with everyone, and still make things entertaining for those who demand a way to prove themselves better than any other? Unlike a game like Guitar Hero, the text-based environment is much more social rather than a simple mechanical structure, which slants the situation somewhat, but makes it no easier.

In essence, this is one of the problems that we struggle with, that mostly every game creator has or will struggle with. We all want to have as many as possible enjoy our creation, whether we create for money or for the pleasure of bringing something into existence. What do we do when players' goals are so contradictory that their existence pressures other players to not play? It is a very difficult balancing act, and the only solution that I have found is to produce so many new features, create so much enjoyment that nobody has to share. Even then, we have to rely on the goodwill of players to recognise their impact on others and on the game itself, and occasionally do what is good for the game, rather than focusing solely on selfish goals.

That, and sometimes I really wish I could play a guitar.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Does Not Play Well With Others

For many years, long before the great Karinthadillo emerged from the chaos of the shattered worlds and established hegemony over all that is right, just and bite-sized, I always thought I knew what roleplaying was about in this kind of MUD context. Roleplaying meant abandoning the out-of-character, focusing on your character and your character's aims and motivations, and playing from that viewpoint. Essentially trying to be your character, and doing what he or she would do.

Quite a while back though, I came across a situation where somebody got really quite upset with this and felt it was rude. They believed that roleplay was like a play script, to be shared amongst the actors ahead of time, and that it was antisocial to suddenly spring a negative scene on somebody. That, for example, if I had a character who was planning to overthrow the king, it would be impolite not to tell the king's player this plan before suddenly surprising both the character and the player with the attempt.

Personally, I don't buy that. While it might be proper for other genres and situations of roleplay, I believe that in our kind of MUD setting, the best way to avoid OOC influences is simply to avoid introducing them in the first place. That telling other players of future IC plans would simply encourage them to use this knowledge to thwart or otherwise influence them. That, in this example, if the king's player was informed, he would surely find one way or another to remove his character from that threatened position. Or, to pick a more benign example, roleplay would simply become the reading of a script, which while interesting for onlookers, would become static and boring for those actually taking part.

I feel that roleplay is best spontaneous and off-the-cuff, drawing on the players' skills at improvising, accepting that things are unlikely to go exactly according to their plan, and taking this in stride rather than demanding a do-over until they are satisfied. I believe that by having everyone come to a mutual understanding beforehand over what will happen in the end, removes the thrill and variability that make it worthwhile.

What do you think, though? Is it being antisocial to refuse to share these plans? Is it simply cynicism underlying this, that I don't trust the other players to keep this knowledge out of their in-character actions? Does any of it even matter?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Die Another Day

Another recent conversation on my new favourite discussion forum got me thinking: are games, specifically MUDs, specifically Karinth, too easy these days?

The story takes a nostalgic look at games that are long gone, where saving was difficult if not impossible, players regularly had to re-play the same level of the game over and over, or just start again from the beginning. Where the game was difficult, frustrating and completing each little section was a real triumph.

So, are we missing out? Is there something to be said for more severe consequences to one's actions, actually making things more enjoyable? Would people have more fun in the long run if there was a real danger that one false move could spell disaster? Clearly, it would make any achievement all the more special. Though, on the other hand, many would likely get frustrated and go play something else, if they could never get anywhere.

Personally, I kind of like things the way they are. I feel there are enough games that cater only to the superhuman player who has the best reflexes and tools and knows all the ins and outs. I like that any dedicated player can become someone on Karinth, without needing to be really much of a gamer at all. I especially like that we don't have permadeath - though there are successful games that do. I prefer a more relaxed style where the player can explore things at their own pace, without the pressures of knowing that each move could be their last.

But what do you think? Is recovering from death too easy? Could there be something in the thought that a more difficult game would be more rewarding in the end? Do we need more tension and risk? Leave comments!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

All Things in Moderation

In a surprising development, Top Mud Sites has become my preferred MUD forum hang-out as of late. After many years of The Mud Connector being the premiere gathering of the genre's great and good (and me), signs are pointing to this challenger having a legitimate chance of reaching those heights.


For me, personally, the change has been a result of the recent and noticeable increase in moderation there. The folks at TMS have been more visible, more hardworking and to be honest seem to care more. Of course, this may be an illusion: TMC's staff probably care just as much, but have decided to sit back and let everything pass in its own time. As a result, the moderated forum has become noticeably less full of trolling, flames, arguments and all of the other ills that seem to plague so many forums.

The trade-off, of course, is that some people don't like this: there isn't freedom, there's a perceived unfairness and of course those who find themselves at the wrong end of the stick do their best to stir this up and make themselves out to be victimised - similar to most parts of life, really. I've never been one to have a lot of sympathy for those who knowingly do things to upset those in charge, and then claim that the situation is unfair. There may be a place for crusaders for free speech, but I'd rather they found someplace else where it wasn't so obviously self-serving.

Of course, TMC has stayed the same as it always has been, which is excellent - those who can tolerate the back-and-forth quarrels (or even revel in them) can enjoy that atmosphere, whereas others who would quite happily trade a little enlightenment for a lot more civility, have such a place as well. I have found, though, that rather than stifling creativity in a web of censorship, the moderated forum has allowed more to voice their opinions, to take part in worthwhile discussions and share information, without fear of attacks either to them or to the train of thought in the threads.

It is often forgotten that all should have freedoms in equal measure, rather than the loudest individuals having them all.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quite Literally

So, here's an interesting question to tackle: don't you think it's really quite mean to look down on people who don't spell correctly on MUDs? I mean, spelling and grammar aren't as important as the message they convey.

Well, it's a fair point. After all, language is designed to get your point across in a manner that the other person (or, in this case, people) understand. Someone with the best command of the language still needs worthwhile things to say, otherwise they get annoying very, very quickly.

On the other hand, though, text-based games are just that - all text. Despite the fact that people have taken to chatting over the Internet in the same way that they would in real life - that is, casual, "fingers before mind" kind of stuff - we lack a lot of comprehension aids. We can't see facial expressions or gestures. We can't sense tones or voice effects. It takes a lot of effort to get a sense of "feeling" across.

This has two problems: firstly, roleplay is a lot about feeling. It is about evoking a scene in someone's imagination, and creating one in your own. The trick is that for things to make sense and play out seamlessly, this scene has to translate nearly perfectly. If two people are imagining totally different things, there isn't much hope for any kind of happy ending. In addition, there is a more general communication breakdown: if people can't understand what you're writing, they just can't communicate with you. They can't tell what you're saying, what you're asking for help about, what response you want to get from them. It isn't that they're trying to be rude or unhelpful, they just don't know what it is you are trying to get across. Part of this is, of course, that the sender has to realise that they are not the centre of the universe and people honestly don't care enough, nor should they, to spend ages trying to decipher the message. If they don't get it first time, it may as well never have been said.

Following on from that is the second problem: it just shows a lack of respect. MUD communities are a joint effort, like a novel being written by different authors, where each author has no editing power over what the others put in. Once it's said, it can't be undone by someone else. So if one person is spending two seconds on every sentence, the novel is going to look awful no matter how good the other authors are. And then what happens? Of course the other authors are going to think "well, why should I stay here and get dragged down by so-and-so who either doesn't know what they're doing and doesn't care?" - they go and find another book to contribute to. One bad apple can ruin the whole cartload for everyone.

So what do I suggest? Firstly, I like the above analogy a lot. Think about a MUD as being a co-written novel, a very flexible one that has no defined beginning or end. A work in progress. For all you know, someone is logging the goings-on for posterity, to look at later for inspiration or simply for enjoyment. Whatever the case, remember that a novel is a very fragile thing, and one writer can easily ruin the whole piece. If you feel that your writing could be better, then this is an excellent place to learn - surrounded by others who love writing, and want to help all the writers improve, so that the whole work improves. Just remember that in this medium, effort is vitally important - and it is just as important to show others that you are holding your end up in that regard.

"Bad spelling can be lethal. For example, the greedy Seriph of Al-Ybi was once cursed by a badly-educated deity and for some days everything he touched turned to Glod, which happened to be the name of a small dwarf from a mountain community hundreds of miles away, who found himself magically dragged to the kingdom and relentlessly duplicated. Some two thousand Glods later the spell wore off. These days, the people of Al-Ybi are renowned for being unusually short and bad-tempered."
-Terry Pratchett, "Witches Abroad"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

What Does "Free" Mean?

This came up on TopMudSites recently and I felt it was worth a mention.

Essentially the argument was about what constituted fair use of the word "free" in the MUD world, for example:

- a MUD where a player can play as long as they like and never be forced to pay
- a MUD where a player can pay to get items that could also be gained without paying
- a MUD where a player gains no in-game benefit from paying
- a MUD that refuses to accept any form of payment altogether

Karinth, of course, resides happily in the third section of that. But in the wider community as a whole, where's the boundary? Is it misleading for a MUD to call themselves "free to play" when there are some parts of game content that can only be experienced by those who have paid for them?

According to lawyers, not really. Commercial laws allows for the use of free in those circumstances due to the content being free (as opposed to everything in the MUD). Similar to how retailers can offer a special of "buy one, get one free" - clearly, there's no real difference between that and simply selling two products together at half the normal price: the buyer ends up subsidising the "free" product with the one they paid full price for, and that string can't be cut. The free part only becomes available once the price is paid.

Of course, the MUD community doesn't like commerce at all, for the most part. MUDs are meant to be a hobbyist utopia where mean Mr. Moneybags doesn't go, leaving them pristine and untouched by greed for eternity, or so the story goes. This, I think, is where the problem lies: it's all well and good to set high standards for yourself, to take the moral high ground, to proclaim that you're defending the gaming rights of the poor student or whatever else - but at the end of the day, you have to realise that you're putting additional restrictions upon yourself that do not apply to anyone else (assuming license compliance and all that).

I'm not disparaging "totally free" games - I am very proud that Karinth is one - but we have realised that we are doing so at a cost, that we are competing with paid individuals and that we are deliberately limiting what we can do. Like it or not, the MUD community faces many challenges, and not all of them come from outside where the much talked-about World of Warcraft can be found. Things aren't the same as they were ten or twenty years ago, and "big" business is a part of the community now. We can compete with it, knowing that we have placed ourselves at a disadvantage in some ways, but we certainly can't ignore it and pretend that our community is full of fluffy happy bunnies that want to see each other succeed.

Even amongst MUDs now, there's really no such thing as a free lunch.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Karinthadillo's Law of Momentum

It's funny how things snowball, isn't it? One moment things are going along just fine, and the next, things are at a standstill and it looks like a huge mountain has suddenly sprung up out of nowhere. Of course, it works the other way too - if you can keep things ticking over, even the largest task seems do-able as small pieces get picked off, and all of a sudden the most of it is done. I've found that managing momentum is one of the most important, and probably most frustrating, parts of what I have to do. It isn't simply activity, it's regularity and - hopefully - productivity. It's more than simply being very hardworking for a while, but finding that rhythm that allows and encourages it to continue at a manageable, yet useful, pace - except from my perspective, rather than motivating myself to do this, I have to motivate others.

There's a hump, I've come to realise, that once you power through it, things seem to come together by themselves and the finish line comes into view very quickly. Of course, until you can see over this hump, it looks like things are never-ending and it becomes difficult to believe that it will ever change. Hence the decision, as described in my last post, to take things on in smaller chunks, to get that sense of achievement and regular completion of useful things.

I can see this from the player's side too, that they too want to see things completed regularly (which they cannot control, as well), in order to keep their spirits up and justify that investment of so much recreation time. So, the work has these pressures, too. And to put a twist on it - what if you deliberately want to lose momentum? I mean, there are negatives too. What if you don't want someone to continue playing, if you'd really rather they lost interest and wandered off? Of course, the benefits to all of the others tend to outweigh this most of the time, though it still remains a constant thought back there somewhere.

Sadly, this is not a topic that I can draw a neat conclusion on, and it will likely remain that way for a long, long time. Momentum is a seriously fragile thing, in any environment or scenario, really. The easiest chore will, without it, become a lesson in needless procrastination. Learning how to produce, encourage, manage and control it is something that is definitely an ongoing, challenging process. Or maybe I'm just not able to see over the hump yet?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Short and Sweet

It's been a while, hasn't it? Sorry about that, I know I promised not to let this happen. Since the past instalment, I've moved approximately halfway around the world, and am just getting settled again. Thoughts are hard to come by when things aren't quite in their place, especially long ones. So, I thought it would be best to release smaller snippets of life on a more regular basis.

Speaking of which - that is very much the design behind a new way of looking at things, as alluded to in previous posts and definitely worked upon during the intervening period. Large areas take too long to build, they get stale and they usually end up as their own little island, rather than being a part of the world. The new mantra is to build small, and build many. Lots of variety, smoother boundaries. This works from both sides - not only will these areas be made to fit with the world, but the world will also be brought up to fit with the areas. Watch out for changes, these are exciting times.

Also a good time to be grateful for strong armour plates that protect from falling plaster, beams and gnomes.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


Ever had those times when you can move from the depths of despair to the heights of optimism and back, seemingly randomly? When everything seems to be really, really good, or just plain awful. To the extent that it ends up being difficult to accurately describe how things are, perhaps out of fear that mentioning them will cause them to change again.

This is why I haven't posted for a while. I get into the right frame of mind, all ready to put thoughts to paper... when suddenly they change, dramatically enough to make the planned writings totally unsalvageable. Which leads to rethinking, and a restart, only to encounter the same process again. Of course, dramatically enough so that I couldn't bear to write what I was planning to write, anyway.

The game is, of course, a major source of these peaks and troughs. Areas get completed, changes made, momentum gathered - and slowed by complaints, frustration, general problems and hearing about them. Then things swing back upward again, and so on. It seems like there should be a happy medium someplace: either that, or simply less sensitivity to what goes on.

One good thing though, is that it is an indicator of change and progress. A long time ago I was fairly set against this kind of thing, but not anymore. I'm hoping that things pick up for the summer, and continue on their way up. Hopefully some of the good things will stick around while the bad continue to be transient. Here's to hoping.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Back to the Beginning

Despite many hardships and even swimming upriver, a salmon instinctively returns to its spawning ground.

At the risk of sounding like one of those droning documentaries about nothing particularly interesting to anyone, this seems to be a recurring theme. My online life, as I know it, began on a very strict roleplaying game, although I long since thought that those days were past. I have grown away from the rules and norms, come to accept and appreciate other styles of play, and generally have broadened my horizons in a way that I would never have thought possible at the time.

However, I have, for the first time in two years or more, gone and partaken in some serious, deliberate, and very high quality roleplaying, on a game that even though I work on, surprised me with it. Karinth was the game that taught me, if you will, to be openminded and non-judgmental, and I always felt in the back of my mind that I had left behind the world of serious and detailed roleplay, and had best forget about it. Apparently this is not so, and I have high hopes for the future, which seems bright with the possibilities of kindred spirits, and enjoying such future events.

And it struck me, this is not receding, returning to old ways and habits, but in itself continued learning. Learning to be patient, learning that in such a wide and diverse environment, anything is possible. Learning that the future, at least in such a flexible medium, is indeed open: and also open to finding previously held preferences. In a new light, though, one that mixes the previous enjoyment with the more modern eclectic appreciations.

The world is what we make it, and what we seek is there to be found, somewhere, in some time, whether by our doing or another's.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Rubik's Cube of Life

It feels like that sometimes, doesn't it? You want to fix something, you turn the cube, and something else has suddenly popped out of position. You twist that into place, and again, something totally unrelated is suddenly taunting, demanding your attention. With each extra attempt to fix things, you can barely tell whether they're getting better or worse. Unfortunately, this is also one of those deluxe cubes, not the cheap ones that you can cheat by peeling the stickers off and putting them where you want.

By all accounts, things should be great. I've had a few significant milestones in the recent past. However, it seems like each time the top of the hill is reached, all it does is reveal more hills that it was obscuring from view last time. Throughout all of this is the undercurrent of frustration, that the goal keeps moving, and sometimes it seems difficult to decide what actually matters and what doesn't.

Game design is like that, too. You finish a project, it's amazing, you step back and admire it... and before the dust can settle, someone somewhere is demanding that you notice their amazing idea and make it come to life. I often wish that I was less polite. Almost as if being tolerant is a curse, an invitation for others to take advantage of it.

Much like the cube, though, it is impossible to really tell which path will end up with the best result. Until then, clanking armour plates will be good enough to keep things at bay, with the finger-rending gnash of armadillo teeth for those who fail to get it the first time. Fairly instinctive and uncontrolled in some ways, but then again I've never been very good at solving those cubes. Fortunately, mimicking their secure shape by rolling into a ball is always an option.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Three Rs and All That

No, this is not about a pirate convention.

As you may have noticed, the blog's sidebar looks a little different now, with a little area for friends' blogs. This is because, well, it seems to be spreading. First was the Karinth Updates one (since moved to the forums), then mine, then that encouraged the Owl, then that further encouraged another little creature who I shall refer to as the Sage. I have also affixed there a link to Fern's shopping blog, which has all kinds of special deals and so on. I have no idea who the next will be, but there you go. And here's the connection: first Karinth, then the Karinthadillo, then the Owl (another animal), then the Sage (Owls are wise, too)... then the Fern (Sage is a herbish plant thing as well). So, to carry this along, we should have another plant-related contributor. Of course, everyone is welcome, and may find themselves added to the list, plant-life or not.

Why has all this sprung up? Well, I believe that writing is therapeutic, and it's definitely improved my mood as of late, thinking of things to share. Of course, it doesn't hurt to know that people actually read it, a little ego boost there, maybe. The text-gamers among us are fully aware of the pleasures of writing (and the frustrations too, sometimes), because that's what it is all about when you get down to it. Expressing thoughts, feelings, ideas through words, and enjoying the process. Like a connoisseur, sipping the words, savouring the way that certain things are said, noticing the subtle nuances of language, the usage of words often overlooked in everyday speech, the way that tones and knowledge can carry across through the medium.

This is important, of course. As everyone knows, the text-based genre is slowly being squeezed by the advancement of graphical technology and the commonly-available hardware required to harness it. I have previously written about how it is my firm belief that text games can continue to survive in a market that is dominated by graphical ones, much like books have survived when (arguably) the big bucks are in Hollywood, plasma televisions, thousands of cable channels and so on. But it is not a given, we have to continue to remember why we will survive, and not take it complacently.

Due to the nature of the medium, foremost among these reasons is the language: to those who appreciate good prose, poetry and all forms, the non-graphical medium forces attention to the words, encourages their appreciation and for others to contribute with their own thoughts. In a game such as ours, where there are few visuals to assist, grasping a subtle hint in the words can make the difference between success and failure in a great quest, perhaps even the life of one's character. It is why we place such a great deal of emphasis upon the descriptions of rooms, creatures and so on. We appreciate the language, and wish to share that with you; those who have already indicated their appreciation for the same, by playing the game.

What does this all mean? Without getting too dramatic, I believe that our text medium symbolises one of the great bastions of language within the gaming world. We have all experienced the deterioration and misuse of language, and even the formation of deliberately grammatically-incorrect dialects: none moreso than within the realm of popular graphical games. Clearly, some of this is done for good reasons, as these games tend to be fast paced, with a great deal of action to draw the eye, and as such some variation of shorthand is required in order to keep up and get the message across. We do not have these limitations, and I can only see the differences growing. In order to maintain one of the real foundations for the text game's future, we must maintain the integrity of the text and language.

It may be old-fashioned, passé, whatever popular culture wishes to label it as: but let us be proud of it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Theory of Games

Game Theory has been a recurring and unexpected theme for me in recent days. I've had dreams (worried ones) about a course I took in it that is long since over, and I've managed to get at least one close friend hooked on the stuff. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with Karinth or any kind of popular game at all, but is a section of economics that attempts to mirror and explain interactions by phrasing them as a head-to-head competition, a game between two players with each using a selection of strategies in order to reach their goals.

One of my favourite theories is known as the Tragedy of the Commons (what is it with me and sad stuff?!). To give a brief synopsis, this game takes one of the most obvious economic goals (if you get more benefit than it costs you, it's good) and sticks it into a certain situation: where there is a common resource that is shared by many yet owned by none. The traditional basis for this was the centuries-old tradition of every village having some communal grazing land (the village green) where people could leave some livestock to feed. You could also substitute international fishing waters or whatever suits your fancy, really. Anyway, we have this little village that has gotten by for centuries on traditional, back-home values like hard work, respect, community etc etc. They've developed a healthy unwritten code where everyone is careful with use of the common land and helps to maintain it and ensure that it keeps in good condition for the future, and everything's happy.

But no! As time passes, the community changes. You get new folk coming in from different backgrounds: some city folk with summer cottages, some big farm produce wholesalers buying up land, or just a general deterioration in the community atmosphere and the development of a more "modern" every-man-for-himself mentality. So now what happens to the grazing land there? Well, clearly, the more people use (and abuse) it, the less valuable it becomes: more animals, less grass for each animal, less time for the grass to grow back, and so on. Hey, this is economics anyway, not farming. Just as clearly, these unprincipled new folks are going to keep bringing more animals to the commons as long as they get some benefit from it (it's free, after all).

So, the logical end result? Left to their own devices, the community will use, re-use and abuse the common land until it is totally worthless. This scenario still goes on everywhere: farming, overfishing, to the extent that it has been known to cause international incidents - think about the issues regarding endangered animals that are still hunted.

This blog isn't about the rights and wrongs of whaling, sealing, poaching or whatever. This blog is about Karinth and text-based gaming. We have a community: a free one, one where we trust all of you to your own devices with minimal interference, one where the community and quality of interactions between players determines the survival of a game just as much as the existence of good grazing land determines the fate of a village. Most of us have probably played games where members of the player community have tried to attain dominance by taking advantage of the game and other players, by undermining the enjoyment of others. The nature of this kind of game means that your behaviour as players will directly impact the enjoyment of others, and the value of the game itself. Think about it.

A quick shout out to the Owl, whose blog can now be seen in my favourite links area to the side there. Please take a look and say hi, but be forewarned: she's way smarter than me, so make sure your brain is locked down tight.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Karinthadillo Returns

I'm quite sure that this won't receive the acclaim that accompanied Batman Returns, but some loyal followers have been clamouring for more armadillo, and it wouldn't be right to keep the faithful waiting any longer. So, I'm sorry for the lengthy Karinthadillo-less interlude there, and we'll get right back into it.

Incidentally, to help keep things fresh and let my fanbase get involved, I'm very willing to take requests for topics that would like my input and discussion here. Any method of getting it to me is fine, the comment section here works, and I will try to add my insights into these questions in later editions of the blog.

One of the major strongholds of the traditional MUD, I believe, is the area. Everyone knows what an area is, they're everywhere, most MUDs are made up of a whole bunch of separate areas all strung together. There are many advantages to this, not least that it neatly lets builders focus on their own areas and get their work done. Everyone has their own little world to build, they beaver away at it, and then they all get attached to form the world at the end. As well, it neatly divides the world up and ensures that everything is tracked and attributed correctly.

So, why challenge this view of the game world, when it seems to have kept MUDs in general in such good stead for years? Partly because I'm just generally a rebel that needs a cause, but moreso: the MUD world, as previously discussed, isn't in such good stead as it was a few years ago. Players, generally, are no longer loyal to games that just do what used to be done, individual zones are no longer enough to keep the attention of those who could easily get them in colourful graphics if they so chose. One area that text games have an advantage over their more illustrious graphical counterparts, as previously discussed, is flexibility. We have the choice to do things differently, a lot more easily than those who are involved with having to design character pictures and so on.

The plan, then, is to create more of a world of its own merit, than one solely based on the areas that make it up. Essentially to break down the arbitrary delineations that separate one area from another, making them seamless rather than instantly recognisable as being built by different people. Having the NPC inhabitants of the area realise that there is a greater world outside, their knowledge not limited solely to their immediate surroundings. Encouraging the player to see this world as a world: something breathing, living, evolving; rather than a bunch of zones to go and kill things in. Well, everyone wants this, right? I mean, we'd all welcome increased immersion and an easier suspension of disbelief, where everything just seems to fit together and be placed logically.

Easier said than done, as with most things, unfortunately. Builders are different people, of course, and it requires a major change in focus to get away from the traditional, technical viewpoint of creating a standalone area, to one that encourages collaboration, knowing what everyone else is building, integrating your area with other areas that it would make sense to integrate with. It takes time, especially when trying to integrate with old areas whose creators are no longer with us. Time that could, following traditional rules, be used in building more areas.

But a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, they say. This is my first step. One small step for the Karinthadillo, one giant leap for MUDkind? Probably not, but let's go with it anyway.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Why Choose MUDs Over Real Games?

This question was posed on today, so I thought that I would share my answer, as follows:

I take that to mean "real games" as graphical MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, Neverwinter Nights, etc.

To get the easy one out of the way, cost. Almost all MUDs are totally free, including MUD clients. Other games include a purchase price of ~$50, and often have a monthly subscription. As well, they require additional hardware - a "non-gamer" can easily play a MUD on an outdated computer as long as it has Internet access, even with a 56k or older modem. They can even be played at libraries, schools, work and other institutions. Other games require a top of the line machine with cable or faster modem, which is not always realistic or worthwhile for everyone, for example highschool students.

Somewhat related, MUDs tend to last longer and are more economical over time. A lot of mudders play for 10 years or more, whereas the lifespan for a store-bought game is nowhere close to that. Someone who plays regular computer games is likely to have to buy new games or expansion packs on a regular basis: not only is this expensive, but it also means that you end up "starting again" on every new game. Many people dislike learning new systems and would rather stick with something they know, as long as it is still entertaining. What this means is that MUDs are potentially more attractive for character development - there isn't a pressure to get the new game out, so people feel comfortable staying in the same place for a much longer time. Due to the low-tech nature of MUDs, there isn't really much to be gained by trying a new one, whereas with regular games the graphics are always evolving, gameplay improves, etc. and you really get left behind if you're playing last year's version. With some good coders, MUDs can evolve and give new features to their players without requiring them to get a new version, or in anyway disrupt their experience.

So, most of that deals with cost and convenience: I'd also argue that in some ways, the product is better with MUDs.

Firstly, they're a lot more flexible: as alluded to before, they just require a couple of good coders, and you can be adding new features all the time. With MMORPGs, you just don't get that. It's a lot more difficult to get new features in, just because of the amount of work. You have to wait until developers release another patch, and the whole thing is a very time-consuming process that players have no say in. With a MUD, it's very possible for a bug to be noticed and fixed on the same day, whereas players of a store-bought game will likely have to live with it for weeks or months, unless it is critically serious.

There is also a lot more flexibility from the player's standpoint, as there are more tools that the players can use to develop. For example, almost all MUDs allow players to write their own character description, using all the words they want to use. With an MMORPG, your character looks like what the developers wanted it to look like. Sometimes you get a choice, but in the end every elf looks the same except with different hair colour and clothes. It is just too difficult for the developers to create a thousand different choices so that everyone can get their character to look exactly how they want. I would argue that the more a player is able to "create" their character and define everything about it, the closer link they feel with it, and as a result the more loyal they are to the game.

Also, text can be a huge advantage. Carrying on from that, roleplayers on MUDs can easily describe what their character is doing in great detail, just like a book's author. Again, in an MMORPG, that just isn't possible, the player does not have that power as the game is not flexible enough to allow it. On a good MUD, it really is like a book written by the players, and that allows a great deal of imagination and cooperation and lets players really take part and develop the game and it's story. On an MMORPG, for the most part, the story is static and often described in full through a single-player campaign. Players are simply players, they use and enjoy what the developer has written - on MUDs, I would argue that it is a lot easier for players to take part in the development process. Many MUDs are close to their players and encourage suggestions, and form a much closer-knit community than any commercial game: almost like everyone is a hobbyist and enthusiast, rather than "players vs. developers". This tends to create a much friendlier community, encouraging interaction and making people feel as though they are part of an online family, rather than just "paying subscriber #75892".

To sum it up, I suppose: television didn't make books obsolete, even with the huge amount of choice now of DVDs and so on; I don't see any reason as to why graphical games will make MUDs obsolete. Sure, fewer people will play them, but as long as they keep some sustainable advantages over MMORPGs, I think that they'll always have an interest base.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

If Greatness Only Comes Once an Era...

So, continuing with my recent theme of "topics discussed on mudconnector", here's another hot one (and I know it's hot because it kept me awake to write this): what makes MUDs great, players or developers?

Clearly it's highly subjective and depends on why someone plays a game. Also, just as clearly, some degree of development is required by someone at some point, otherwise there is no game to be good, bad or indifferent. As a result, there's no real point in arguing a general case since those are basically indisputable and totally varied for each individual. So, here's a neat segue into what I think, which is what you all wanted to hear, right? Right.

In my mind, both logically and from personal experience, it would totally be players. From a player's perspective, of course. I have played MUDs that are awesome technically, yet I didn't enjoy nearly as much as virtually stock MUDs that had a "better" playerbase. I don't enjoy mechanics in the least, in fact, I'm much more likely to stop playing a game because the mechanical side is too complex. I hate leveling but at the same time I prefer standard "boring" grinding because I would rather zone out and level rather than be forced to think about anything mechanically related in order to advance.

So why don't I just play a MUSH or chat in forums or something? Well, at the root of all of this, the reason I play MUDs generally is in order to achieve. To get somewhere, to be somebody. And in order to do this, there needs to be an independent, unbiased arbiter: the developer who wrote the code that applies to every player in the game. I have no interest in making up my own future without boundaries, because that has no credibility: it would just be unadulterated bragging without any backing whatsoever. I need this fair and unbiased source to tell me that I managed to kill my enemy, rather than just me making the story up.

To draw an analogy from my personal life, I am currently a university student for a couple more months before I graduate. I do not consider myself an "academic", although I have a lot of respect for academics. I am here to get a piece of paper that lets me get a (hopefully better) job in the future. I do not see assignments as something to broaden my horizons nor do they inspire my inner being or anything like that, they are obstacles to overcome to prove that I am worthy of gaining that piece of paper. On the other hand, they are necessary because they are unbiased proof that I actually did something. Much like attending a prestigious institution rather than a party school, it lends credibility and creates something to be proud of. I couldn't gain satisfaction from my achievements otherwise.

Essentially, from where I stand, the code forms a basic layer. It creates the rules, the physics for the world and forms a platform for player interactions. It is necessary for any enjoyment, yet does not especially increase enjoyment once it passes that necessary level of competency. In order to be truly great, in my opinion, a game needs a fitting playerbase, high quality interactions - whether they be roleplay, questing, killing, chatting or anything else. For those who would rebut this by saying that there are many great single-player RPGs out there: potentially, yes, although I have never enjoyed any of them.

How does all of this come together? It's another example of something fundamental yet flexible. Many of you will probably have different opinions, both from me and from each other. I'm willing to bet that if there was some way to plot all of these on a chart, we'd have a scatter similar to the last time I played darts while drunk. Yet we all play and enjoy the same game, that has numerous features yet encourages various interactions. One that includes both tremendous effort on the part of developers, as well as a great amount of loyalty on the part of players who shape the world from the other end.

Is it great? Whichever one you are, let's make it so.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Strange Magic

Just thought I'd check in with a small preview of what I'm working on right now (on the mud, that is... let's not get into the thousand pages of assorted crap that I'm supposed to be both writing and reading at this very moment).

Basically, I've been dubbed the new 'magic guy', meaning that I somehow took on the responsibility of coding all of the changes having to do with the magic system for the next little while. I can't discuss exact specifics just yet, I can say that expect to see some improvements in the next few days. These improvements include:

- Changes (for the better) to a few of the mechanics of the magic system. Nothing earth-shattering, just some improvements that I know you'll appreciate.

- Modifications to a few existing spells to make them, well, actually useful. I'm sure most of you can guess which spells are getting overhauls, since you either don't bother to train them or train them to 1 degree. The move to get rid of '1 degree wonders', as they're known in staffland, began with the abolishment of recall and it's going to continue. Don't worry, though: the new versions of the familiar spells are good.

- Finally, some new spells are going to be introduced. Some aligned with spheres, some not. A few might even require pre-requisites.. who knows. Stay tuned.

The point of these changes (and this is only the tip of the iceberg - there's a lot planned for the future) is to make the 'mage' a more self-sufficient player - in other words, not just a melee fighter with some spells, but someone who can more or less survive dedicating hours primarily to magic. I always like to hear new spell ideas, by the way, so if you've got any just send 'em along.

In other news, the much anticipated styles revamp is coming along well, thanks to the hard work of Tarn and Falknor. I hope you're all enjoying stage one of our favour implementation - there's a lot more planned for that too.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Hunt for Red October

Or more accurately, "good roleplay". Although roleplay does not have the secret technology that allows it to remain unseen, many MUD players probably feel that it is just as difficult to detect and latch onto. In many cases, especially on smaller games, any kind of roleplay is a huge bonus, which leads to many interaction-motivated players going frustrated. This came up briefly on The Mud Connector.

So, what's the solution? In a word, it seems to be patience, closely followed by insight. The problem is that with the large number of games combined with a lesser number of total players (as described elsewhere in this blog), the MUD population is a lot more spread out than it used to be. This makes it harder to find quality interaction in at least two main ways: there are more "bad" MUDs interdispersed with good ones; and also there are fewer players around who make up the interactions that everyone wants to be a part of. This means that the likelihood of two or more "good" players meeting on a "good" game is fairly remote.

What this leads to is the danger that with all players constantly searching for interaction, they will not find any at all precisely because of their constant search. They try a new game, find no interaction, and move on regardless of whether they thought the game itself was good. The search for interaction is the driver, and no amount of code quality can make up for it. Or, they meet some other players and have some fun, but unfortunately the MUD itself is not good enough for them to stay for. With all of this going on, it is unsurprising that people can't find a satisfactory experience, as it seems as likely as all the planets being aligned at once.

Which leads us back to a solution, or at least a suggestion: find your place first. Good MUDs are by definition oriented towards the long-term, and will not disappear or become unplayable. Once you have found your place, stay there. Drum up interaction with others who wander by. Encourage like-minded friends to join you there. In time, the interaction will join you, and you will have found your home.

Remember, this is not the MUD world of ten years ago. There is no Shangri-La waiting out there just for you to stumble across if you wander long enough. The community is not overflowing with well-populated games that are bursting with the latest features. There may be many MUDs out there, but the landscape is more like a desert, with only cacti for company. If you find a small town by an oasis, it makes no sense to abandon it because it has no major-league ballpark, because that just isn't on the agenda. If you want a place to be great, the times dictate that you will have to put your faith in it and make it so, and help to build your new home amongst the dunes.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Theme Song

Armadillo, armadillo
Armadillo, armadillo
Armadillo, armadillo
Rock me armadillo

Yes, there is now a Karinthadillo theme song, just because it seemed fitting. Also, because I have been somewhat happier as of late. More people have been playing, more people have been playing with each other, and just generally there has been more activity, which is always good. Would be nice if this didn't also mean so much chatter on the OOC channel, but you have to take the bad with the good, and on the balance of things, we're good.

Why? Well, you people, really. We get a few people who stick around and want to spread the word, and before you know it, the word is spread! As I have remarked previously, the Karinthadillo, though wise and insightful, just can't afford to do things like advertise for players during the Super Bowl. Much of our playerbase has to be attracted by word of mouth, whether directly through friends, or via reviews on game sites. This works out, of course, due to the greater likelihood of someone staying, compared to if they had found the game just by clicking on an ad. That's why the referral rewards are so generous: they mean a ton to us.

Logically, then, does this mean that reviews aren't worth anything to us? No, not at all. We would love to reward for reviews as well, however fairness is important to us: we believe that what you decide to post is really your own business. I know that some games do "pay" players to post favourable reviews, but that has an odour of bribery hanging around it, which in turn makes player-written reviews more like regular advertising, which in turn ruins the community just that little bit more. If your friends think you tried to pull a fast one and recommended something you didn't believe in, they'd let you know, and likely in a fairly forceful way. Some random person on the internet, though - well, he would probably just feel disenheartened and go play Counterstrike.

But this isn't a time for sadness. Things are moving along. And of course, Karinth is meant to be played to lighten the spirits, not spread black clouds of emotional distress. Give yourself a hefty pat on the back for helping the community to grow, and let's do what we can to build on this.

Kind of like getting better gear when you level, if we get more players then I'll come up with a better theme song.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


OK. This is off the cuff - no editing. So here goes.

Let's lay the cards on the table first: I develop Legends of Karinth for fun. I want to see it grow; I want to see it made into a better game. I was a player for a long time, and now, as a staff member, I have a chance to see all of the fabled 'someday in the future' systems come into effect. As the main coder for Karinth right now, I'm responsible for most of the changes that come in on a day-to-day basis. So, let me clarify a few things.

We are still in active development. Now, I don't want to come across as the bad guy, but this means that, like it or not, changes ARE going to happen. And, like it or not, some of them ARE going to be drastic. We still have the 'beta' tag, which means that lots of our planned systems aren't in yet, and many of the ones that are in need fixing up. Just because a command, a skill, a system, or whatever doesn't seem 'broken' on the player end of things, it could very well be totally buggy, causing crashes, dealing with memory poorly, and so on. A good example are flymounts. Contrary to popular belief, the code WAS horribly broken. You may not have always seen it for yourselves, but it was. The tethering system caused horrible crashes, strange bugs, and lots of other things. Removing flymount saving cleared them all up. What you also didn't see was a whole lot of back-end stuff changing, which makes them easier to store, easier to access, etc.

The beacon/gateway system is another example of that. Both of them had major problems, especially when it concerned saving them in the playerfiles. So, to clear them up, we changed how they were stored. Yes, this meant some changes to user-end gameplay. But we thought that we balanced out the change in distance pretty well by (A) making beacon a whole lot cheaper, (B) increasing the max number of beacons by a ton, and (C) removing the need to train gateway as a separate spell. So, again: it was a NECESSARY change that will benefit the game a lot in the long run.

Which reminds me - you need to keep in mind that not all of the changes we bring in are designed to make the game easier, and they're not designed purely with "now" in mind. We're trying to balance the game for the long run, meaning that when we bring in a change to something like repairing, it's been designed with a long-term view in mind.

Speaking of which, most players probably don't realize how much we discuss things up in staffland. We're not just bringing in changes because we feel like it, or because we want to screw the players. No. Virtually every change is a result of hours, days, or even weeks of discussion involving basically the entire staff. We have lots of stuff planned for this mud, and eventually it'll all be put in. We take into account the future when we're bringing in new code, and that's not going to change.

And of course, we welcome constructive criticism, suggestions, and all that stuff. Players are just as important to the game as staff are.But please, if you're going to criticize, don't just talk to one staff member. We're all responsible for the changes. Use the QA channel, send a note to 'staff' or 'immortals', etc. But verbally lambasting in private isn't good for anyone. It accomplishes nothing and only serves to antagonize. At the very least, if you ARE set on talking to one person and one person only, then at least talk to the person who's bringing the changes in: me. But, talking to one person is NOT going to accomplish anything. So, don't do it. Talk to us all. That's why we're here.

Finally: don't forget that we're fans of Karinth just like you are. We play the game too. We're volunteers. We're sacrificing our spare time - hours a week, even hours a day in the case of a tireless coder like me - to try to make this game better. Where am I going with all this? Exactly where I started: expect change. It's going to happen. And it's good. It might be shocking sometimes, but trust me - we do our homework.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Because The Pot Just Needed Stirring

So, here I am, reading MUD forums in the wee hours of the morning, which I realise is unadvisable in and of itself, when my tired mind decided that it would be controversial. In case you don't follow the major forums, the hot topics of the day (hot because they're full of flames) are things like how to mitigate the loss of players to graphical games, how to set up new MUDs and persuading the skilled ones among us to contribute more code to the community and not be put off by things like licensing.

Great, right? All noble goals.

Except (and here is where my head decided to be contrary just for the sake of it), could it be that the assumed equation (more available code = more MUDs = more players) is flawed?

One of the other constant issues in the community is that of wholly unsuitable Admins (yeah, yeah, very funny) starting up games using basic stock code and essentially pulling down the reputation of MUDs in general by powertripping, cheating, whatever you want to say. They get some players just out of sheer luck or connections, and these players either stay with the game or get totally put off and leave with a bad impression of the genre. Either way, they act as a kind of sink-hole to remove players from the "useful community" that is already feeling the pinch.

So, my somewhat shaky and reactionary thesis would be something like: wouldn't it be better if less code was freely available, so that would-be game owners would actually need to be capable and/or have capable people in order to develop their game and just get on the playing field. Natural selection, in a way. Where "stock" just totally can't cut the mustard, and gets ignored off the bat, someplace that no-one would ever want to play and is just embarrassing to attach your name to as an owner. Games would need competent staff just to exist, which in turn would mean that there were fewer games in existence (since someone couldn't just stick up a stock codebase and have themselves a MUD), which in turn would lead to the current pool of MUD players being less spread out and therefore the existing good MUDs would have more players.

As it is now, let's face it - good games are few and far between, and in the middle is a deluge of games that just aren't worth anyone's time. Of course, it's hard to tell which is which until you've spent some time playing them, which not everyone has or is willing to invest. Interestingly, this all leads to the conclusion that a less friendly community might make MUDs more successful, as fewer people would start new ones up, and ones that couldn't support themselves in terms of expertise would fail, resulting in the (fewer) slices of the pie being larger.

This is all rather hard for me to comprehend, being such a nice and friendly person and all. And to be honest, it may well just be outright wrong. But it's an interesting thought, at any rate - what we really want is for the good MUDs to have all the players, and the bad ones to not exist. Otherwise, we end up with a whole range of good, bad and ugly MUDs, each with about 10 players, which is just neither here nor there.

So, here's my public service announcement for the day: you know that Karinth is a good MUD. Heck, you're reading a freakin' blog written by some random person with an armadillo complex just because he plays the game. So take heart, spread the word, tell your friends and let's get our share of players. If the MUD world is going to be facing a crunch - and signs indicate that it will - we're determined to be one of those left standing. Armadillos can withstand a lot, you know, but they're always happier with friends.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Results are in!

Somewhat surprisingly (although this is a good thing), there was a lot of common ground between responses. People mentioned freedom a great deal, the ability to do what you really want to do, the openness of having a vast world that doesn't judge you, the unlimited possibilities.

If I had to condense all of the answers into one word, I would have to say epic. A huge world filled with opportunities, where you have the chance to make a difference. Where there are just so many dimensions that anyone can find their place and be where they want to be. A place where the story is constantly evolving, and written by those within it, an ongoing masterpiece rather than a simple short story forced to go where the creator wants it to. A land where heroes can forge their names, and where legends are born.

So, along the lines of breaking open the world and forging names, land costs for homes and society halls have been greatly reduced. Actual building prices remain the same, but now it is much easier to have that family homestead (or would that be gnomestead?) over in Rejkehad, or a grand castle to keep back the ogres way down south. Whether a legend in your own time or in your own mind, everyone can now have a place of their own.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What Is Karinth?

So, here I am, vaguely studying for a Marketing midterm tomorrow, not overly concerned due to me being overly confident about graduating. I felt the need to apply some concepts though, and I'd like to know what all of you think:

How would you define Karinth in 3 words or less?

Essentially, what captures the Karinthian essence and makes us special? What does the Karinth "brand" mean to you, more than anything else? What separates us from all the other games out there?

And to sweeten the deal a little, anyone who sends me an in-game note with their little phrase will get a prize, just for answering. Both new and old players are equally welcome to get their thoughts in. There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but this comes pretty close!

Anonymous results will be collated and posted here after a while. Let's see what you think!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Some game aspects get designed, get developed, and get implemented smooth as glass, gliding into place with the grace of an Olympic-ranked ice skater in a triple lutz. Every twist and turn is seamless and beautifully executed; each aspect of the performance is a joy to behold. The costumes are perfect; the music is absolutely right. The crowd goes wild, the applause is deafening, and the medals stack up galore.

What the crowd doesn't see are the years of 6:00 AM rink sessions and after-school practices that stretch out into the evening dark. They don't hear the harsh yelps of the $150/hour coach dragging his Olympic hopefuls through repetition after repetition of routines, alternately begging and scolding, pleading and cajoling until his preteen victims collapse in tears of frustration and hapless tantrums. They don't bear witness to the wrenched ankles, bruised behinds and taped knees.

Routines are never perfect the first time they are executed. Even a seasoned pro has to spend quite a bit of time working on a new dance.

An immense amount of redesign has gone into styles, from the inside out, the bottom up, the core to the surface. Virtually nothing of the first attempt will remain when this new approach gets into place. Tarn, with his incredibly detailed design and plan - and Falknor, with his incredibly detailed code and implementations - are taking this aspect of combat to an entirely new level.

I'm willing to bet that this new dance will be an amazing joy to behold.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

On the Wings of a Review

With her sharp eyes and ... receptive leaves, Fern spotted a nice word that someone had for the game:

"Perhaps THE MOST robust character creation and combat systems that I've ever stumbled across resides in a custom built MUD called Legends of Karinth -- With everything from combat stances and styles to the ability to make your own spells, this game rules. It is an entirely skill based game. No classes. You can train in any skill you desire. You can establish organizations and trade routes. Check out the site for info. Of course, people used to playing games with graphics will probably not be convinced to try it. But I highly recommend it."

I have no idea who posted this, but it is definitely one of the things that keeps us going. Unsolicited reviews and word-of-mouth not only get the news out there and attract new players, but also help to keep us motivated with that little sense of pride. We're people too, you know. Just as complaining about things we do gets us down, these little proclaimations of enjoyment are like gems for our treasure chests of accomplishment. We like to see people happy and enjoying what we've made. So, to whoever you are - thank you, and have an armadillo day.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Truffles do have Tridges

They're expensive, hard to find, apparently delicious... and now they also boost your personal experience gains. No longer is the elusive experience boost solely a once-a-month occasion! Quite exciting, really.

As well, we have to give a big hand to Greyanhk, our newest member of the staff. And he's a builder, too! Hopefully this will help speed up the projects we have going on. High level areas especially are very much in the pipeline. Watch this space, and leave some comments!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Whyfor the Armadillo?

Valid question, and one that I've been asked quite a few times. So, here we go, with three hypotheses that have factored into the decision:

1. Popular opinion. Apparently people like it. In fact, people demanded more armadillo.

2. Nostalgia. There was a Disney cartoon entitled Pluto and the Armadillo which I saw when I was little and all. As I recall, it involved Pluto chasing a ball and mistaking it for a rolled up armadillo, which teased him by rolling around and generally being irritating. So, after chasing it into the bushes, he pounces on it (well, the ball actually, which he's found again) and tears it up, and you get the shock/horror that he thinks he's killed it. But in the end, the armadillo smuggles itself in Mickey's bag and everyone's friends.

3. It actually seems to make some logical sense. Well, I think it does, anyway. Armadillos are the sort of animal that seem kind of neat the first time, being all armoured and able to roll up and just generally interesting. But there are tons more popular animals out there: tigers, elephants, polar bears - you name it. Similarly, MUDs aren't mainstream anymore, these days. People are more likely to be found playing things like World of Warcraft, or shooters on their Xbox. It takes a special kind to appreciate the text-based environment, as well as the armadillo. As well, despite years now of not getting a whole lot of love from the gaming community, we still keep plugging along, and will keep doing so. Armadillos are a loyal breed.

So, now that I'm in this rather philosophical mood, my tune of the day is by The Fox in the Snow by Belle and Sebastian: thanks Dr. Mel for this one. Someday I promise I'll stop scrounging off you and get some new music of my own. It's a great one, though.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Blame Canada?

Seriously. It's ridiculously freezing out there today, and I don't seem to have any hot water. Cold showers tend not to get me started well.

Anyway, now that things have settled a little, how's about an inside peek at what's on my plate:
  • finding more builders to help us get things finished faster, or failing that;
  • getting more areas built with our current builders, or failing that;
  • changing the levels of our current areas to make it look like we have more areas.
Currently it looks like option 3 is the most probable, seeing as we have a whole bunch of areas clustered together at low levels, and very, very few at high levels. As we've now limited the max level to 1000 partly so that we can better cater to all of those levels, well: looks like we gotta cater to them, eh? Not many people enjoy spending 500+ levels in the Wilderness.

In addition, there's the whole can of worms relating to:
  • get off your backside and build some damn areas yourself!
Yeah, I know. I'm currently looking at a few different ideas to see what develops. As of right now, the plan is to re-work some of the older areas that need a re-work, and raise their level if the area would fit well with a higher level.

And talking about level, grats to our newest Admin, Aelius and all his new code. Unfortunately, this further highlights the need for #1 above. Aerosmith is telling me to take a Permanent Vacation but I just want some builders, and maybe some hot water too, if it isn't too much trouble?

Designing Woman

Yeah, that's me. Mostly what I do is think of stuff, and focus on keeping things moving toward the game in its final form. Most of what I do involves envisioning things and writing stuff down, and 94.7% of what I do is completely dependent on the skill and grace of our coders like Falknor and Aelius.

This week I'm focusing on getting the dragon lairs back into the game, with some major twists. Soon as we get a few stones out of our shoes, those will be available for the a-levels (achievement level titles), starting with black for Venturer.

In my spare time, I'm sketching out public ship routes. A public ship will either sail a circle route or a ferry route between two or three points on a predetermined schedule. Anyone can board one, though nobody can take control of one.

I'm also working to come up with a better way to shop. This is still in the dream stage, but is taking shape rapidly, so more details as it becomes more coherent.

I'm also evaluating object loading patterns so the mob-available and shop-available gear gets into balance (it isn't now).

Also working on website preliminaries for the new styles project (see Aelius' post). Also still rethinking the menu system on the website, since it seems to behave for some and not for others.

It's also getting to the time of brushing off the favor system and seeing if it is going to work or if it is going to take major redesign.

Ditto herbals system.

Hrm. Strange. Reading that, it doesn't seem like I'm all that busy.. wonder why I'm so tired at the end of the day! A well - my motto has always been the same: If you can't get your job done in 24 hours a day... work nights.

The Insider's View

Well, I guess I'll add my bit to the opening of this thing.

As the resident active coder at Karinth I might let out a tidbit every now and then about what's being done behind the scenes. For example (ooh, juicy stuff already!), Falknor and I are working on some new stuff related to combat styles (think: complete overhaul). Keep your eyes open.

You'll probably have to put up with some (semi-)personal stuff on here from me too, which people seem to like in an oddly cryptic sort of way. It'll be lots of hockey, beer, and maple syrup stuff I'm sure, mixed with crying about my thesis which magically isn't getting any longer as the deadline gets nearer. Funny how that works out, eh?

I can't speak for the others on this blog, but I know that I'll probably need a place to vent fairly regularly, so you'll have to put up with that. But for now, stay tuned, and don't forget to, well, forget about the real world and enjoy a little Karinthian goodness.

Roll the Bones

For a few minutes, there was some debate: Just what sorts of topics could we possibly address in a Karinthadillo-oriented blog (read: Staff of Karinth). Well, in a word, LOTS. I'm sure at least a few people wonder what we do up here all day, what we're working on, why we do the crazy things we do. Hopefully this accumulation of thoughts will help clear that up a bit.

At the very least, it may generate some new rumors to spread around the muddy ground.

Opening of the Cave

So, it seems as if I have finally succumbed to this whole blogging thing: so you'll have to excuse the first few tries. For those not accustomed to the lore of the Karinthadillo, this semi-mythical creature resides deep undersea in an air-pocket cave, eats the occasional annoyance and does very little else. Until now, that is.

Henceforth, the Karinthadillo will be broadcasting (or webcasting) his personal news, views, comment and analysis right here: on the goings on at Karinth, behind-the-scenes and most likely about other somewhat related topics as well.

So sit back, relax, and always, always, feed the armadillos. And vote.