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<  MUD and Game Theory  ~  Richard Bartle and MUD

Posted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 9:28 am Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 02 Dec 2007 Posts: 220 Location: ...somewhere outside the asylum
Richard Bartle in 1985 left full time lecturing to work full time on a text-based MMO that he called MUD, the current incarnation is still running and is called MUD2. MUD brought together elements of an emerging game (Dungeons and Dragons) with networked multiplay, roleplay and hence the MMORPG was born.

He is recognised as a guru in the "Virtual World" design and has long bee an advocate of TEXT over IMAGES, arguing quite rightly that the imagination will always be the superior rendering engine. Richard is still actively writing and researching, is a celebrated author, games designer and has a large www presence also.

You can find out about his works through the following links:

This guy is important, and interestingly enough approachable. Wonko emailed him a couple of times and he wrote back:


>I have begun reading your writings on virtual environments and it
>startles me to realise that you were a founding father (with MUD1
>and MUD2 etc) yet I have not connected the dots to your name before.

It's not surprising, this is the 30th anniversary of the writing of the first MUD. All this happened a long, long time ago.

>yes, hackneyed I know, but remarkably theraputic as a teacher to imagine
>the workplace blown up, and design gamespace so kids can play amongst
>the ruins.

Be careful: http://newlevelgaming.blog-city.com/student_arrested_for_making_a_counter_strike_map_of_his_scho.htm

>I just thought i would pop over a note to say thanks for your writings.


>I am tring to put together a "Why MUD" page for my forum/help guide/newbies
>notebook and have a lot of anecdotal evidence that thinkers play MUDs,
>typing for your life is a good way to get familiar with the keyboard and
>kids can imagine monsters much more effectively than a geek using 3dStudio
>max can render it photo realistically.

That's all true, but the basic problem is that newbies just won't play them unless they have a friend already playing them. They expect computer games to have pictures, they regard MUDs as computer games, they don't have pictures, therefore they won't play them.

>I concur it is much ore difficult to construct an engaging 3d sim of
>something that could be done textually and engage the participants

Text allows you to determine what is important. A "room" could be a cupboard or a mountain - it's the significance of a region of space that makes it a room, not its dimensions in 3D space. Anything that relies on 3D space, such as velocity, can be finessed through this. Thus, you can cross a vast ocean in 12 moves in a textual world - and feel like you've crossed it - but in a graphical world you have to teleport or board some vessel that pretty well teleports you.

Of course, there are some things you can't do in either: MUDs free you from the normal constraints of space, but they don't do it for time, whereas a novel can free you from time, too (although you lose the ability to change the plot).

>Sorry if this was a waste of your time, but know there are poeple out
>there doing game design and harnessing the brain of the participant,
>not just their mouse-clicking finger

It's not a waste of my time at all - I'm always glad to hear of people flying the flag for text! I still believe it delivers a superior experience to graphics; the problem is in persuading prospective players to give it chance.



>School admin are well aware of the scenario, it is "battline" not killing,
>"defeat not death", retirement not suicide" - great paind have been taken
>to ensure the command set is non inflammatory, places are treated with

The sad thing is that they feel these precautions are necessary.

>I agree - the biggest challenge is the interface and that you have to
>type the commands

You feel that's more of a challenge than having to read room descriptions?

>I tried letting kids build in the MUD but found them incapable of
>understanding the balance between effore and reward, their areas
>degenerating to free-for-all give away centres or pits of doom that
>offered no return.

Yes, that's the classic approach of first-time D&D dungeonmasters too - either "Sale of the Century" or "Dungeon of Instant Death".

>not sure I understand your point on being unable to break free from
>the time constraint, care to elaborate?

In a single-player game I can do time travel. This can happen in two ways:

1) As part of the gameplay. I enter the time machine, go back into the past, make some change, come back to the present, and the change has had the knock-on effect I wanted.
2) I save the game, try something, it fails, so I reload the saved game and try a different way.

I can't do of either of these in a virtual world, because all the players have to work to the same timeline.

>Some links that might illustrate:

This is the most interesting one - a nice piece of MUD evangalism!



What a nice guy...

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Posted: Sat Aug 23, 2008 9:32 am Reply with quote
Site Admin Joined: 02 Dec 2007 Posts: 220 Location: ...somewhere outside the asylum
Interesting read on how NEWBIES are often the driving forces behind Virtual World development

... some home truths and interesting tensions mentioned here [and interestingly, many issues that tmux has wrestled with since it began]


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