I've played a handful of MUDs over the years, spanning back to around 1992, generally all Dikumuds. Through the years, as the codebases became more and more custom, the MUD would slowly lose that 'Diku feel' and become something else. This would not always necessarily be a bad thing, just different.
There is a certain nostalgia to playing a DikuMUD, especially if you played on one with a near original codebase 'back in the day'. I was one of those people, and had more or less grown accustomed to the newer, more modern MUD designs being developd by ambitious programmers trying to keep the MUD fresh.
After having a falling out on a MUD I had played for about 14 years, I decided to give RoninMUD a try, as I knew a couple people playing there. One of the things that immediately struck me is that while Ronin did have a decidedly custom codebase, it definitely kept that 'Diku feel' firmly in place. A strong sense of nostalgia washed over me, and I suddenly felt back at home, on a MUD I had never played.
Now, before I get ahead of myself, it should be said that Ronin, like many but a small handful of MUDs, has a much smaller playerbase today than it did in its heyday. An average day will have 1-2 players on at a time at minimum and up to 5-8 players at its peak. This may be but a drop in the bucket compared to the larger MUDs out there, but one major thing to take into account is the limit of 3 characters per player. Those 8 players turns into 24 characters, and suddenly things look a lot more populated. This is both Ronin's biggest advantage to keep up with a waning pool of people who like and want to play MUDs, and simultaneously one of its biggest detractors.
Many people are, to put it bluntly, unable or unwilling to play 3 characters at once. For someone who had played a single character for 16 years prior to starting on Ronin, it was daunting at first, but quickly became one of the most appealing reasons to continue playing. There is something about that level of micromanagement that keeps the MUD from becoming stale, because rather than standing there, spamming the same ability over and over, you are tasked with controlling three separate players, handling all interaction between those characters in order to create a cohesive unit. This alone is a challenge unto itself, and adds a lot of spice to the game.
The players are, for the most part, very friendly and embrace everyone, especially newcomers. For obvious reasons, the existing playerbase wants to see some fresh blood, and are as accommodating as they can be in order to keep new people around. The MUD scales rather well for beginning to older players, and new players will find that while some active players have been there for a good many years, that the design of the combat system is done in such a way that including newly minted players is possible, in mostly all but the highest end content available.
The combat system, while very reminiscent of the original Diku system, has been modified to bring some more modern elements to diversify combat, and take it away from the simple 'start fight, wait, heal, collect loot' routine. Throw into the mix the possibility of hundreds of different 'multis' (the common name used for a group of 3 characters controlled by 1 player) and the combat varies greatly from player to player. There is no one 'best' combination of classes, but the choice alone offers a single defining way to determine how you will experience the game.
The most notable low point of the MUD is probably the bottlenecked development pipeline, where machine access has more or less fallen to a single individual, who constantly struggles to balance life with the duties of implementing the various wants of the players and staff. Development of new content is generally always ongoing, but the rate at which it is brought into the game can sometimes be quite lackluster, and as such the MUD can at times seem stagnant. However, with the droves of available content, players are still hard pressed to not have something useful and entertaining to do, and it is that variety of gameplay that keeps the MUD's gears turning.
The most appealing aspects of the MUD, in this player's opinion, are the diverse ways of playing the game, combined with a lot of original, interactive content, that even in it's most repetitive form, is still a lot of fun. The community, for lack of a better word is simply great, the immortal staff of the game very often strives to keep things fresh, between the occasional quest to simple things like tossing a bit of NPC roleplaying into the mix.
And lastly, on the topic of roleplaying, the mud is practically devoid of it. The game is more of a meeting place for friends, to have fun and pass the time, and is not meant to serve the needs of roleplayers, for which there is no shortage of choice in options. To many, this can be an obvious turn-off, but to those not wanting to get wrapped up in a world of drama and backbiting, the lack of RP serves to make for a more relaxing environment where one can simply cut loose and be yourself, not constantly feeling the pressure to be something you're not. For me, I couldn't really ask for much more.
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