FiranMUX does some things very, very well. There are some problems, however, and some key differences in philosophy from most MU*. Players interested in joining the game would do well to understand just what they are getting into.
On the positive side, Firan is 'newbie-friendly'. They even won an award certifying this. The reasons behind this are probably threefold: First, the helpfiles. Firan's news and helpfiles are the most complete and thorough documentation I have ever seen on any game. Secondly, the game maintains a large staff of wizards and player helpers who constantly man the Help Channel and provide friendly answers to just about any possible question (usually by referring the questioner to the already-written helpfile on the topic.) Finally, it is easy to 'jump in feet first' in the game because all characters are pre-generated with detailed backgrounds, statistics, character secrets, and most importantly, a set of relationships to other characters which provide hooks for future roleplay. The many coded systems can be a challenge for a newcomer, but with patience and the helpful assistance of players and staff, most can be learned as-you-go without difficulty.
Countering these positives are a series of systemic problems. Most obviously, the many coded systems are flawed and do not serve their apparent intent. The intent must in many cases be arbitrarily imposed by the staff. For example, the listing page advertises 'social, economic, and physical combat.' The social combat system is one of the most laughable. Coded systems of gaining and losing points are trivial in amount compared to the massive social 'hits' and 'gains' imposed by staff. It is easily observed that the best way for a character to 'climb the social ladder' is to not have a player. Characters on the roster make no mistakes, and thus do much better in a system where mistakes are penalized much more often and more heavily than good behavior is rewarded. Perhaps the most glaring proof the system is flawed is that periodically staff will go through and arbitrarily assign social 'hits' to people who have simply accrued too many points, calling them 'social climbers'. It seems useless to have a competitive system which rewards success by putting you back where you started. While the reasoning for this (to keep the middle class below the nobility) seems reasonable, the reasoning also negates the need for the system at all.
This same arbitrariness is found in the game's economic system. The advertisement to 'use your economic skills to ... deplete the city's supply of a given resource -- driving up the market, or instigating riots and strikes!' is not really possible. Food riots are sparked primarily by OOC player inactivity and neglect, rather than anyone's IC use of coded economic skills. Additionally, the most efficient way to 'make' money in the game is via an OOC means: logging on at least once every 6 hours to have your character sleep and nap, storing up 'energy reserve' points which can then be sold completely independent of the game's market. Again, the staff has on at least two recent occasions arbitrarily taken money from commoners and handed it out to the nobility (once completely arbitrarily and on another occasion citing 'building repairs'). Other arbitrary economic changes keep trying and failing to fix the system, such as making gems ten times as valuable overnight, adding 'tolls' for commoners which do little economically but suppress gathering in central locations for roleplay, and deciding that there's an iron shortage which can only really be enforced by arbitrary external rules, not code.
Physical combat is driven by character statistics, and has many flaws. One key problem is that players are allowed to raise their (IC) skills by accumulating (OOC-earned) experience points. Characters who have had active players thus have better skills than characters who are on the roster. While this seems a nice way to reward longevity with players, it unbalances the combat system. Another key problem in the combat system is that while many aspects of combat (hit/miss/how hard) are determined by character stats and a roll of the dice, combat is regulated by timers which are entirely deterministic. If your character's stats aren't as good as the other character's, he will always fight faster than you and can easily take advantage of the engaging/disengaging rules to prev2ent you from ever landing a hit.
In addition to the problems outlined with the coded systems, Firan is showing signs of 'age'. While at its inception, with a small playerbase, small roster of characters, and fresh plots, secrets, and active 'heroes' who drove the initial storyline, it was no doubt an outstanding game. Through no fault of the staff, a major event occurred in January 2003 where a player (through cheating) essentially incited a massive civil war and caused the common enemy to invade and essentially ended the story. Staff was faced with several bad choices in trying to recover the game, ultimately choosing to make much of the event a 'dream from the gods' and to advance the timescale to try to get the next generation in power. Unfortunately, this still left much of the damage from the dream event, such as the outing of many of the key characters' secret plots and intrigues, and the game has never recovered.
Also part of the 'age' problem is the large roster of characters, which easily grow out of date. While the staff makes an effort to keep these updated, there are simply too many to possibly keep up with, and these out-of-date characters present a challenge to new players, who rarely stick around to play them consistently. Active players with relationships to these characters must constantly make excuses for why they're not around. Inevitably, the 'honeymoon' period for a new character ends with some of the characters' closest relationships going back on the roster and never being consistently played again, leading to frustration. While in many cases a character 'abandoned' by most of their family would likely go with them, the practice of 'alt-hopping' is strongly frowned upon, and thus players are pressured to 'stick it out' with situations greatly lacking in potential.
Another problem of the game's age is the constantly expanding staff. Most of the best players end up joining the staff, which results in them being so overwhelmed by their staff duties that their characters, usually some of the most important feature roles on the game, become very inactive. To the staff's credit, they do spend some time trying to run plots and generate roleplay, but are more frequently overwhelmed by simply trying to monitor, some might feel, too closely.
Monitoring is one policy point where Firan differs greatly from almost every other MU* I have played: there is no expectation of privacy. Staff can, and does, spy on roleplay, allegedly to reward excellent roleplay or keep tabs on running plots. Almost everything done in the game is logged in some manner somewhere, including a staff bulletin board which records every time two characters have carnal relations.
Another key policy point players ought to be willing to abide by is the chief wizardess' 'living room' philosophy. She treats the online game as an extension of the tabletop game originally started in her living room, and players are guests there. It is poor manners to complain about your hostess, even if you walk outside to do it, and you can be banned from the game for public or private criticism of the staff. Even by posting this somewhat negative review here, I fear such a reprisal. But just as if I had people in my living room I'd probably have different standards for my old friends and new guests, there are varying standards on the game for these categories of people. There is most definitely a clique of players (staff and those few privy to the staff gossip) and those who are forever on the outside (usually the subject of the staff gossip, where negative opinions are constantly reinforced leaving little room for change). Just don't try to point that out in any forum where it can be attributed to your name.
A final policy point stemming from the living room philosophy is that of fairness to repeat victims of harassment. In any individual situation, staff strives to act fairly, but this is sometimes difficult in a 'he said/she said' situation. Most disturbing, staff has actually posted a policy where a player can be penalized for 'taking too much staff time.' Even if you have done nothing wrong, but have been wronged by a clique of several other players picking on you, making complaints about each of them puts you at risk of overusing scarce staff resources and receiving a punishment. Sometimes a player doesn't even need to actually do anything at all, but if their name comes up in an argument between two other players, it can count against them. As with complaints about staff, sometimes it's best to keep your mouth shut and endure the inequity.
In summary, Firan is a large game that's easy to step into (if you don't happen to get a stale character), has many excellent roleplayers (if they're not too busy staffing), and has many coded systems (that you can pretend are balanced) to try to enhance the realism. If you are willing to give up your roleplaying privacy, your ability to complain, and don't mind the occasional arbitrary staff decisions, you might enjoy it. Personally, I would caution against getting too involved in an aging game which has lost its lustre and simply outgrown and outlived the days of its prime.
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