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General Category => General Discussion => Topic started by: Maeglin - RealmsMUD on December 07, 2017, 4:40 PM

Title: The fall of RealmsMUD
Post by: Maeglin - RealmsMUD on December 07, 2017, 4:40 PM
When I decided to do a "RealmsMUD reboot" earlier this year, I decided to do some serious introspection as to how a vibrant community with thousands of active users in the 90s and early 2000s could have, within a decade, dropped to a handful of mostly idle (ie: sitting on the mud idling, not actually present) users by the time I began running it on my server in 2011.

It would be easy to simply chalk it up to the changing times and most certainly, that did play a part in its decline. It isn't the only answer. As other muds have proven: even in this day and age, there are still plenty of people who enjoy muds - even text-only muds.

One of the most telling things I did was walk through the ghost town that is Realms and read the various bulletin boards - guilds, general, player, wizard, various areas... it was a very dark and depressing read.

- There were a lot of wizards making grand promises about work they were doing only to vanish from the mud without a word (heck I was one of them.) Every one of these "betrayals" had an impact: Oh, your guild is going to be something special once I rewrite it; I'm doing a massive area with all sorts of awesome stuff; blah, blah, blah...

- There were a lot of frustrated wizards who DID do work - or at least tried to. Mud management was either MIA (like me and all of the other "first generation" admins), or mired in beaurocracy (the second wave of admins). Some good ideas were implemented but bogged down in a broken approval process. There were too many wizards who waited months to get even small changes approved. Given those impediments, nobody wanted to waste their time working on new ideas - and why would they?

- There were some theoretically nice things done to help out - player/wizard liaisons would meet weekly with the players to discuss the state of things... except the liaison would go MIA for long periods of time and simply not show up for meetings they'd scheduled. Result? More frustrated players. Their opinions clearly didn't matter.

- There were a lot of... abrasive... personalities running various aspects of the mud. This led to more jaded wizards and players. The last thing anyone wanted to do was interact with leadership, and who could blame them?

- There was a big push to "perfectly balance" everything, which, of course, meant that everyone's guild abilities were seriously hamstrung. This was pretty much the downfall of guilds. We started with 20 or so guilds - some with really clever and unique niches. We ended up with 20 mage guilds with their same abilities to cause damage, reduce damage caused, and heal damage. That the message displayed while doing so was different doesn't matter. Likewise with that special sword suddenly not being all that special, and so on... This led to a lot more frustrated players...

In short, no wonder the mud failed.

Nowadays, we do have a trickle of people logging in and playing - and having a lot of fun doing so. But... I want more. I've spent the better part of this year rewriting the mudlib from scratch - not the content (yet), but the actual "how stuff works" part. I've started another thread about that, so I won't go into the details of the "what" here.

In order to appeal to a larger audience, I looked at what I could do:

- From a player side, a simple hack-n-slash MUD doesn't seem to have much staying power. That's what, at the end of the day, most LPs were. I looked at all the games that really "pulled me in" and dissected their elements: rich story, immersive world, intricate quests, lots to do outside of the story. For some players, immersion requires a first-person 3D world. For others, text and an imagination rule. I worked up a way where I could cater to both.

- From a creator side, to me LPmuds were great 25 years ago because of LPC. If you could imagine it, you could do it (this requires a HUGE caveat: you could only do "whatever" if you had the requisite software development abilities. Sure, you have the source available for any of the MU* provided you had the ability to go out-of-game and write/compile it.) I know there's a lot more options today, but after looking at my choices (including "rolling my own" driver from scratch in C#, C++, or whatever), I chose to go the LP path. It still feels the most flexible (to me!) while allowing me a small sliver of laziness in not starting completely from scratch. The down side of going with LPC? To create an area, you needed a rudimentary knowledge about how to write some programs in LPC (monsters, items, rooms, etc...) This was a pretty big barrier for many potential creators. My goal was to create a lib where someone who couldn't program could write a sophisticated world full of items, monsters, rooms, quests, guilds, etc... that could do just about anything without ever having to write a line of code while leaving the ability for that deeper dive open to those who could.

Over this year (I re-started MUD stuff in Feb), I did what I could to meet those goals and have completed most of my planned work - certainly enough to have a fully-functional lib where creators could create content without hitting any holes in the implementation that would pose barriers to what they want to do. There is still some ancillary stuff that needs to be completed (some player and wizard commands and other stuff that doesn't affect a creator's ability to create.)

The two attachments show small snippets of what my new lib can do without having to write much code to accomplish it.

The first is a small sample of the conversation trees. This is pretty brief/quick given the attachment size limit. In short, I switched from a "checking what people say" model to something more akin to modern graphical RPGs - just "talk" to an NPC and have a conversation menu.

The second is a very simple example of a fragment of the state machine stuff I put in. It's started after finishing the conversation in the previous image. As part of the quest, a user has to press a series of controls so as to make a pillar in the north end of the room white, west to green, east to blue, and south to red where each control changes the state of three of the four pillars in a different fashion.

[Note: this way-too-lengthy blathering really did have a point in my mind. I'd both be very interested to hear others' thoughts/experiences with mudly death throes as well as hear what people think about the technical stuff I've been working on.]
Title: Re: The fall of RealmsMUD
Post by: dbuckalew on December 07, 2017, 10:17 PM
So, I've read both of your posts over the past couple of days about RealmsMUD and your latest work on it. Are you looking for help? Or hoping people will fork it? Or... just looking to vent/discuss?

Just curious.
Title: Re: The fall of RealmsMUD
Post by: Maeglin - RealmsMUD on December 07, 2017, 11:35 PM
That's a fair set of questions.

I didn't come here to vent, though I can see why this particular post might come off that way. This was simply a "here's why this particular mud fell apart" and some of my thoughts on how to appeal to a larger audience and not make the same mistakes again.

I will eventually be releasing my core lib for anyone who wants to use it (still undecided on the story/content that goes with it) - but I still have a few features I need to complete before I'm ready for an official release. I have given a few people read access to my repo and am willing to do more of that for those who are interested.

It's been really fun writing all of this and if it's not used, so be it. That said, I have put about 1000 hours into its development this year (not to mention many thousands of hours on the client and story over the previous decade) and it would kinda stink for it to never see the light of day.

Some of this was also going to turn into education for those curious: I did what I think are some really cool things with respect to software quality assurance (the whole automated builds/testing on a Jenkins server through a repurposed instance of the driver that acts more like a standalone compiler) and wanted to spread awareness about how that works. Both writing tests to prove that your stuff does what you intend it to do while you're creating it and the ability to regression test when changes are made to anything anywhere in a mudlib to show if anything's behavior has changed has been really important in my dev (not to mention that doing that sort of thing is an industry-standard approach to software engineering.) Given what I've seen over the years and anecdotal evidence from others about "breaking stuff in muds", adding some of these facets to typical development processes others exercise will save a lot of headaches.

Last, I'm not actively recruiting people to work on the core lib with me. I've got a really clear set of requirements, architecture, and design in mind and I'm not sure how easy it'd be for someone else to jump in. HOWEVER, if people do want to start creating content for it (and thereby drive out ideas I might not have thought of), that would be awesome - and if it happened on Realms, even more so.

... and apparently I can't write succinct, short answers...
Title: Re: The fall of RealmsMUD
Post by: harroghty on December 08, 2017, 9:15 AM
Maeglin: thanks for the postmortem here. It's at least a good reminder of what's important. The podcast posted recently had some ideas about what keeps players engaged and your post here has some reminders about what turns them off. It's worth keeping in mind!
Title: Re: The fall of RealmsMUD
Post by: Ateraan on December 09, 2017, 11:06 AM
Liked the technical stuff, but like a long ass description of a player who can't help writing a page and a half on their arched eyebrows and blushed cheeks, I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much attention.  :-\
Title: Re: The fall of RealmsMUD
Post by: Maeglin - RealmsMUD on December 10, 2017, 5:18 PM
but like a long ass description of a player who can't help writing a page and a half on their arched eyebrows and blushed cheeks, I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much attention.  :-\
Fair enough. In the event that I do need to engage with you in the future, now I know that I should limit my dialogue to, "Ug. Me show stuff." I doubt I could bring myself to pay that much attention, however...

... or rather, that's how I COULD have responded, but I'm a better person than that. (Well, actually, I'm not - but apparently unlike you, I appear to have read and understand the TMC Forum Rules. Any reasonable criticism in your comment was lost in your inability to properly deliver it without you being intentionally antagonistic. There's far better ways to describe this, but I'd hate to get myself banned less than a week after coming back to this forum after all these years. Let's just end this by saying that the band Alestorm released an album called "No Grave But the Sea" this year and song #6... ummm... something about anchors? Yeah... that pretty much sums it up.)