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.

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