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.


owl said...

It is a problem, that many players seek that interaction. It classifies a place as being alive, vs a beautiful but possibly dead spot.

It takes investment to grow a place from being small to having people. And it's human to want to have instant gratification instead of having to exercise patience and effort.

So, keep it in mind and work when you find that place that just needs life. You constitute one life, and can spawn many others by simply bringing them. Remember, other RPers also want interaction. Be there for them when they arrive.

Martindale said...

Absolutely correct on all points. MUDs require a community to be worth playing. People come before features. We've had the same trouble with RolePlay Gateway, until we got some users. It really is a struggle to get something off the ground. You can have the best service in the world, but it isn't worth anything until you have a community.

Karinthadillo said...

That's definitely what we've found here on Karinth. We've had some very nice features and a better game staff (if I do say so myself ;) than many other MUDs, for quite a long time. It's always been the playerbase that has eluded us, mostly because people log in, see that we don't have many people, and then leave. It's been looking up recently, so hopefully we have (or will) reach that "critical mass" of players for it to be busy enough for new people to stick and give it a chance.

In other news, I thought only diehard Karinth players read what I was going on about here. This is all new and exciting to me that someone else is reading. I should post more often.