As a staff member, you should expect a heavy bias in my review, although I will say first and foremost I want to give you facts about the game, I dont want to pull punches or make any false promises. So here goes.
First the shortcomings:
1) Code changes. These occur very slowly, so slow it frustrates even me in fact. We have changes announced 6 months ago that still haven't been completed. So that's a real negative I think. Some of the players are quite disgruntled with this, which I think actually hurts the process back in turn, a vicious cycle. As you can imagine, if you are an Imm on a mud, you want to have fun to, and if you're being pressured to get changes done, you're probably likely to stop finding that fun to do and find something else. This is bad because all the change go through the single owner. It has the enormous benefit of the game's classes all being done in the same vision, wonderful for game balance. So its not all bad. In the past, Imms have had disagreements about the direction the mud should go in, and this would lead to a 'too many cooks spoil the broth' syndrome, some classes being really diesel and others notably over-complicated. Now its all sorted out, already, lucky for new people.
If you were new to the game, this wouldn't be bothering you for a year or two, because the mud has too much unique material for that. Down the road.. yes. Some classes are bland after the second play or so, as they haven't received their polishing yet. Others, like warriors, you can play with every race (and there's 16) and receive a different experience from it. That's pretty amazing. Hopefully all the classes will eventually get there.
For me this is the biggest negative with AR. It quite literally used to be triple digit back in 1998, the mud's heyday. Then its dropped off quite quickly, max 80 in 2000, 60 in 2001, etc.. I'm looking at 7 logged in at the moment, max on of 25. This was a mud that had so many people on it when I started, and most vets remember that time, so there's some tension over it. Now some places have a lot worse, that's for sure, but you wish for what you got 'used' to, if you understand what I'm saying.
Main reason that's a problem is that the mud was primarly pk, so, say back in 2000 when you were level 30, you would have 16 people in pk range. Scary. Now you're lucky if you're not the only one in that. Although there are cabals to join, and since they have to wait at 30 for applications, you are guaranteed someone in pk if you wait around. And I do believe it is worth the wait. I'm always looking for the next big thing to make those ranks more fun, but there's no real substitute for another human being, as you'll no doubt know.
3) The pk/rp merging of genres.
Here you see a rift between the mush-like people who seem to just want to rp / kill mobs and hate pk, and the pk-happy people who hate them back and won't do any. Result: neither group is satisfied, although the guys that actually enjoy this quirky blend of rp/pk do seem to love it. The playerbase sure could use more people like that. I think this counts against the mud in this phase of its existence, as I am seeing a dominant group of mush-types, with a few skilled pkers. The mud is straddling the divide nicely I think, but a lot of players dont seem to be doing that quite so well. I might be misjudging this one being a pker type myself.
It is with a tinge of sadness that I say this. There are muds that, no joke, have better playerbase than AR because they market themselves a lot better. We don't do banners or anything, we rarely bother with mud reviews. I see other muds pretty darn similar to ours thriving because they're getting the word out. Kind of a reason why I posted a review too. I would especially encourage you to drop by and try this mud if you've never heard of it. You might be surprised. Very surprised. This mud is the proverbial diamond in the rough in my opinion. Hopefully we'll get an ad-banner one day.
Now the good points about the mud.. they're numerous gameplay-wise, as any good mud should be, and the website does a nice job of introducing those to the browser. I'll give a few:
Racial legacies -- this was the best thing added to the mud in the last five years period. Suppose you pick, say, a duergar thief. Then you get two unique skills due to your duergar heritage, that aid your thievery. Why is this great? Because duergar thief having a vuln to water makes it an otherwise unpopular choice. This puts them in the mainstream again.
The 'raid' areas -- Winter, the vast underdark, volcanoes, vampire haunted mansions, all sorts of fun and dangerous places to go in. If you dont explore these, and you played this mud, honestly you are missing out on a great experience. My only complaint about those areas would be they are designed for big groups, and since the game is a competitive one, it sort of goes against the grain. Areas built for two people to handle might have been wiser. Though I haven't seen much complaint about this to be honest...the camaraderie is really high amongst the guys that run those areas. I just personally prefer it to see people kicking each other's guts out.
Newbie friendliness -- i won't say its unmatched on muds, what I will say is its competitive... I think AR is leading the genre in newbie friendly amongst the *truly* free muds like this.
Game 'pk' balance -- whenever I play the game myself (now remember, I am on the staff, since I'm a major contributor) I sometimes get quite euphoric about the game's balance. I can't help that feel that the game is done ...just right. You have to equip your character and that's an important task, but you have to equip it the right way. That includes procuring rare items from other player's corpse. Then in battle, you have to worry about things like, is my weapon quite appropriate against his? Since flails will beat daggers easily, given equal eq. Skill can overcome eq disadvantages, but only by so much, and with experience, you can tell how much. Now of course, if you fight outnumbered (e.g. 2 on 1) your character cannot possibly get strong enough to stand a great chance against that, its seldom that anyone can dominate the playerbase, and the best players will definitely go down 3 on 1. I think that's the way it should be.
I'll skip the rest of these, and just move on to Imms. The owner is a creative genius, which is probably due to his liberal arts backgrnd. If nobody is playing a class due to lack of interest, you can be sure he's got plans there. I'm a coder, and obviously I'm around a lot so that whenever Imms are needed (e.g. to fix a bug, or deal with rule abuse) there's often me online. The rest of the Imms are more like gofers for us two, helping the playerbase out with questions and doing some roleplaying stuff. In the past, Imms have gotten impatient with the other Imms, and you could definitely see the effect that was having on the players as well. Imms are picked quite selectively, but somehow this still happened. As of now, AR has a good solid Imm team where everybody gets along 100%.
Well I dont want to hit the 10k word limit so I'll end there. I hope that this has been informative.
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