I've little to no propensity for sugar coating things, so compared to most reviews one will find on TMC and similar sites, it may very well read negative to the general reader. Keeping that in mind, I'd like to be very clear from the beginning, before delving into personal observations regarding what Haven does right and what Haven does wrong, in saying that in my personal and (in my opinion) fairly unbiased opinion, Haven is almost certainly the best roleplay- and story-focused MUD out there, with little to no competition. But being the best does not mean that Haven is without faults, or room for improvement, so I'd like to embark on quantifying some of the things I think that Haven does exceptionally well, the things that make it the best, as well as some of the areas that could use some improvement.
The positives... well, they're numerous. First and foremost, in terms of its design and function, Haven is an ambitious project. It aspires to provide the greatest wealth of tools for customization, conceptualization, and story crafting possible, while tethering things to the grounded reality of code, and by all accounts, it succeeds at meeting this aspiration. From things such as customizable description formatting based on body parts and the exposure allowed by equally customizable clothing, to a wealth of resources for setting your characters' offline habits, histories, et cetera, Haven allows you absolute control to create your character exactly as you envision them-- while still utilizing the firmness of coded grounding to ensure that this customization is realistic; you can customize yourself a lavishly described and opulent tuxedo, but unless the coded cost of the objects in the suit reflect its luxury, its coded effect on your character will be detrimental, and as the cost is visible to all around you, other players may take note of the clearly knockoff ten dollar Armani suit. Your description and character model on the wikipedia may be Olivia Wilde, but if your coded attractiveness score doesn't reflect the beauty you endeavor to describe, you won't be taken as seriously as the Natalie Portman whose attractiveness score does.
Tools like influence, schemes, customizable factions, storyrunner positions, plots, quests, adventures, and territory abound, creating a lore-rich setting with equally empowering tools at the players' disposal to interact with it. The sky is the limit as far as goals and ambitions go for one's characters, ultimately limited by the resources at their disposal to achieve them, and the viability and merit of the story they endeavor to achieve through the accomplishment of those selfsame goals.
Putting a finger on the aspects of the game that prove to be something of a let-down is a little difficult without having truly explored the game, and probed and tested the limits within it. As far as the negatives go, most of them have more to do with the community than with the game itself, and Haven's create-your-own-fun environment has unfortunately fostered the growth of a culture with fairly bad habits. There is a sort of glass ceiling in Haven, engendered by the scarce resource of helpful and proactive players, and more particularly the way so many have been OOCly collected into friend groups to enable and support the goals of some players, and not others, based not on what sort of character they wish to play or what manner of concepts they would like to explore but on securing themselves a risk-free place amidst an OOCly preestablished group of collected and capable roleplayers.
Ultimately, in a create-your-own-fun environment, the risk of not finding the roleplay or story you desire is prohibitive such that the number of players who are willing to risk playing outside of these established collectives for greater freedom of exploring story are too few for the organic approach to cultivate success, regardless of the merits of individual ideas and roleplay, and so proactive and creative roleplayers that don't embark from the outset with a group of likeminded friends willing to help and enable are likely to encounter immense frustration.
Haven's made great efforts to put antagonism on a pedestal and reward players for undertaking it, but in so doing has created a competitive focus on coming out on top and a general aversion for risk-taking in its playerbase, because taking risks has no rewards-- nor does coming out of a conflict for the worse. Ultimately this has created a culture wherein conflict is primarily composed of code capable players in one group picking on code incapable players in another, and antagonism has a tendency to be pre-arranged or to occur between OOC friends.
To some extent, Haven's coded systems have more resemblance to a strategy game than to a role-playing game, and are almost utterly barren of mechanics that utilize greater or lesser quantities of random number generation, which can make coded exchanges extremely predictable, but in and of itself, I don't think that this is especially a bad thing; it's just something that new players may take some time to adjust to. The learning curve on Haven is steep, but such is always going to be the case on a game that aspires to empower players to the extent that Haven does.
Haven's staff is exceptionally dedicated to the improvement and development of the game, to such an extent that I think most other games would be utterly incapable of competing in terms of sheer codebase viability. That said, there's a tendency for implementations and adjustments to come in the form of knee jerk reactions, such as implementation of simple but useful coded tools to shore up seeming weak spots, which creates a bloat of distinct tools where systemic design could likely do better with a less steep learning curve, or balance changes that tend to seem targeted at empowering or disempowering a minority of the playerbase without extensive consideration of the game as a whole and the ripple effect that such changes can sometimes engender in other areas. But again, even with these disadvantages, the sheer dedication and willingness to improve upon the codebase exercised by its staff puts it miles ahead of any would-be competitors.
Haven is, simply put, a haven, for socially-focused players or roleplayers who are attracted to casting themselves in the role of an enabler, support, or victim character. Players who are comfortable with playing antagonists are highly sought after, but the competitive and risk-averse culture in conjunction with the steep learning curve may make this a frustrating task. Likewise, proactive and ambitious creators of content and story are tremendously desirable, but without bringing friends to enable and support them, they're likely to struggle. Regardless, I can't say I've seen a game out there that offers quite as much to a dedicated roleplayer as Haven, and taken as a whole, with both the beautiful and the ugly, Haven stands head and shoulders taller than the other roleplay-focused MUDs out there.
Use the following form to submit your comment. Please keep in mind these guidelines:
Expect bugs while we transition TMC to a new platform, please help us by reporting them!