I played Sindome for over two months, sometimes for several hours a day, and in that time, I became fairly familiar with the game. This will be an extensive review, so please skip to the end for a summary. This review will be divided into two sections, with the first discussing the mechanics of the game and the second discussing the intangible aspects of the game.
First, the mechanics. Sindome is ostensibly a roleplay-centric game, but the mechanics seem to act against that rather than reinforce it; in fact, the mechanics that get the most attention are combat-related ones.
Combat is simple, automatic, and mostly intuitive; unfortunately, it is also quite buggy. Combat is extremely lethal, requires little micromanagement, and is usually resolved fairly quickly, offering little to no opportunities for roleplay during it. Certain combat systems are so buggy that they cause PCs to disappear or come back to life. In one 2014 case documented on the forums, a staff member, less than a week after generating a new character, used his PC to kill three established PCs by exploiting a new, buggy combat system. Expect no apologies or restitution if a bug disrupts your play. Overall, the combat system does nothing to promote roleplay and would in fact be more at home in a hack- and-slash MUD.
The emote system is fairly cumbersome and unintuitive. There are several bugs in it as well: punctuation gets removed, dialogue gets replaced, and certain words are forbidden in emotes because they can break the system. Related to the emote system is the noise system; all rooms have a noise level, and nearly all public rooms are considered to be 'noisy,' which means no other characters will see or hear a PC speaking or emoting unless the character specifically targets those PCs. While in theory this system makes sense, in practice, it often just gets ignored by most players, who opt to have their characters address everyone in the room. A few players I have spoken with agree that it is unnecessary and detrimental to roleplay. GM-animated NPCs will hear PCs no matter how quiet they are, so the only purposes of the mechanic appear to be to provide a veneer of realism for realism's sake, frustrate players, and discourage roleplay.
Another remarkably bad mechanic is inventory management. Dealing with multiple items with the same name is time-consuming and frustrating, as the game engine forces you to specify the 'first' item instead of simply interacting with the first item. Among other things, this can make weapon sheaths immensely frustrating. There is also no easy way to deal with large numbers of items, requiring you to drop them or pick them up one at a time.
There are no good group mechanics by which characters can travel together. Due to travel times, the 'follow' command is a poor substitute compared to most MUDs, and the 'escort' command is buggy. In addition, due to the room noise mechanics, PCs who travel together have to re-address one another in each new room they enter. The lack of a good grouping mechanic is most likely intentional to prevent PCs from working together.
Sindome has a webclient which takes primary concern in development and, as a result of that, Sindome lacks support for real clients. Single-key input, such as directional pads, is banned. Standard client features, such as macros and triggers, are also banned. Sindome has an experience system that requires players to log in and play in order to gain experience. While this system sounds good in theory, allowing players to get a limited amount of experience each day simply from roleplaying without having to grind, in practice players end up spending sometimes as much as five hours of roleplay *every day* in order to get their full allotment of experience. The system also makes it near-impossible to catch up with older PCs. Players also must justify the way they allot their PC's experience; they are not free to spend it as they like.
Now on to a review of Sindome's intangible aspects.
Despite having no skillgrind, playing Sindome can still feel quite tedious. Your PC could be forced to beg over a course of real-life weeks, even months, to find a job, since the job system requires a GM to pay attention to you. As one player I spoke with put it: 'You know how some games have skill grinds and start to feel like work? Sindome has no skill grinds, but it still manages to feel like work. It's a grind that you don't meaningfully control. All of the grinding and none of the results.'
Players can donate money to Sindome in order to receive tangible in-character benefits: their character receives a rent-free custom apartment. Personally, I think the exchange of real-life money for in-character benefits in a roleplay-enforced MUD is distasteful and unethical, and it hints at something ugly about the MUD: not every player had to roleplay to get their PC where they are.
Thematically, Sindome successfully portrays a dystopian cyberpunk world: room and environment descriptions are well-written and evocative. True to theme, there's no opportunity for ordinary players to create their own story or to have their PCs accomplish anything noteworthy or change the world in appreciable ways. The staff use puppets and their own PCs to enforce this structure and to quickly restore the status quo should anything get out of hand, often leading to boring, contrived, and frustrating staff-run events that accomplish nothing more than disrupting interesting roleplay between players.
One previous reviewer of Sindome has described its staff in the following manner: 'rude, abusive, drunk with power and not afraid to show off just how much they have over you.' Regrettably, that is an accurate characterization. I have spoken to quite a few players about Sindome, and while they differed on a number of points, all of them agreed that the absolute worst thing about Sindome is the staff. From my own experience and from watching the way the staff treat other players, I can report that they are unprofessional, immature, touchy, and caustic, all of which fosters an unhealthy environment to play in. While it's understandable that in a grim, gritty, dystopian cyberpunk MUD that *characters* will get treated like dirt, it's unconscionable that the staff treat *players* that way as well.
Worse still, while not seeing it first-hand, I have heard from other players that the staff show favoritism to certain players, as well as their own characters, to the point where most would consider it cheating. For example, the staff allegedly generate items for favored PCs or for their own PCs, and they also play the most powerful, most influential, and richest PCs in the game while allegedly using metagame knowledge to their PCs' advantages (in addition to outright threats against other players). I can't speak to whether or not these allegations are true, and I don't claim that they are, but based on the logs and conduct that I have seen regarding the staff, I personally have zero difficulty believing that the allegations of cheating *are* true. From experience, I can say that there is a toxic environment in Sindome due to the staff and their favored players, and it's that toxic environment which ultimately made the MUD unplayable for me to the point of quitting.
That's not to say that my Sindome experience was entirely negative: apart from the handful of toxic ones, I quite enjoyed roleplaying with most players I met; they were dedicated, friendly, helpful, and very good roleplayers. I'm still amazed at the resilience of these players in sticking with Sindome despite the open abuse and hostility from the staff. I'm glad that I got the opportunity to meet those players and interact with their characters, and I'll miss them dearly. They deserve something better than Sindome, and I wish them the best of luck.
Summary: Sindome is thematically on point, but the mechanics mostly work against the experience. The staff are unprofessional and abusive to players and perpetuate a toxic environment. Despite the near-miraculous existence of a friendly community of good roleplayers in it, I still can't in good conscience recommend Sindome to anyone. Our lives are far too short to spend time around abusive people, especially in what is supposed to be a game.
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