I'm one of the developers of TriadCity, so take my bias into account.
TriadCity was founded to answer the question, 'What if you take the text-based MUD/RPG genre seriously as literature?' We wanted to figure out what narrative techniques and styles of characterization would make sense in a medium which is by definition social, but at the same time is compressed into a computer screen. We've kept some of the defining genre traditions: you can still go around killing monsters. But, we've re-shaped those familiar pieces and subsumed them within a very different kind of fictional experience than has been typical of earlier MUDs.
The world is different. Instead of deriving from the traditional sources of DnD and Tolkien, we've based TriadCity on the 'universal city' idea of Modernist literature, especially Eliot's 'The Waste Land'. In TriadCity all cities of western culture and all historical epochs are present simultaneously, along with fantastic and surreal elements, blended together inside a framework which is essentially satirical. The fun of this is that we can ambitiously set out to take snotty pokes at absolutely everything, and have a reasonably coherent structure for doing that.
Player interactions are different. For example, we can impose various forms of subjectivity on character experience. Your character and mine may walk into a room together, and perceive that space differently, either subtly or radically depending on the intent of the author who created it. We don't know of that ever being done anywhere else.
Violence exists but is not privileged as a path to character growth. Death is permanent. There are unique roles such as Malopath, a kind of psychic vampire. Characters can advance by contributing to the game world, but that's not mandatory and nobody forces you. There's a lot of sophisticated AI going on, although it's intended to further our fictional purposes and is for the most part not shoved up your nose. The game world presents a high degree of cultural allusiveness, but doesn't demand a PhD.
We started TriadCity in 1999. Since then we've watched the mega-success of 3-D graphical MMOGs, especially World of Warcraft and Second Life. Although we very much admire a lot of the user-generated content in SL, we find the cartoonishness of the graphical experience off-putting. For us, our own ability to form excellent pictures in imagination is so much more powerful and fulfilling. We don't think this makes TriadCity retro. We think it makes it better. We frequently attract refugees from these cartoon worlds. They're very welcome.
There are a lot of down sides. The project is a commercial failure, thus we have only a very small volunteer group adding content and programming. There's nearly always work going on, but, compared with Blizzard's ability to throw a gazillion developers into adding new continents to WoW, forget about it. There are 17,000+ rooms in TriadCity today, but the world is just beginning to be fleshed out enough to sortof start to see how it all fits together. There's so much context missing that a lot of the features existing today really kinda make no sense. They will. But, maybe not this week.
It can be a rough ride for newbies. Really depends who's on with you. If nobody's there, which is often the case, good luck to ya. We're adding an optional opening tutorial which we hope will help with the rudiments of game mechanics and character maintenance. If you're familiar with the MUD tradition this'll be easier. If you're coming from an Interactive Fiction background, you may fail to get the parser working.
The good news is there's a vibrant long-term core of wonderful players who understand this world and love being part of it. Become familiar with them and they'll make your experience great. A lot of the writing is excellent. The place pops with inventiveness and great ideas. More than half the players are women. We're taught in university courses and are cited in The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism as their culminating example of postmodernist literature. Shoot an email to email@example.com and we'll answer your questions.
Thanks! Meet you in the City some day soon.
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