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.