I have played LOTJ for awhile now with some breaks between firmly addicted sessions. I do have some criticisms of the place, but the most important thing to note is, in my mind, that I keep coming back.
Space Travel - The flight system is one of the most enjoyable mechanics on LOTJ for me. I loved it the first time I wandered into a public taxi on my first play-through, swiftly realized that after launching I had no idea whatsoever what to do that I was drifting slowly toward a sun, and found myself panicking while scouring helpfiles for how to contact other characters to rescue me. I ended up finding a way to send a radio message to other ships in my immediate vicinity, and whoever it was that answered after several such desperate hails guided me step by step, little by little, into getting into planetary orbit so I could land again. I'm sure this might SOUND like complaining, but it was actually one of my favorite experiences on a MUD, ever. I went from 'I wonder what this nonsense does' to suddenly finding myself immersed in the moment and setting, having to explain that I didn't take any naval courses at the academy, I don't want to fly into a sun, HELP.
Flight is complex but not so complex that it's unapproachable. Even with a good understanding of how to use the system now, there are layers and levels to it well above what I know. Orbital bombardments, tractor beams that actually work, capital ships that require multiple players to properly use... The list of what ships and 3D gridded space travel can do for every player from a diplomat with a personal shuttle to a smuggler with a beat-up freighter, then all the way up to a major government with several capital ships is pretty endless.
The Timeline System - This was difficult for me to comprehend, coming from games where the timeline is the timeline and it's always moving in a linear fashion, but it's actually pretty darn fantastic once you get a feel for it. The immortals design a three-part (each part is called an Era) storyline that extends across a couple real life years, then release the players into the often fully redesigned world to do their thing. There is usually a trigger point for the Era turnover, such as one major government managing to destroying the other. Throughout the course of the timeline, the three Eras play out. If you're still with me and don't get why this is a good thing (I didn't at first!), you have to think about it within the context of how Star Wars stories typically end - dramatically, and with massive destruction. Having a timeline means that that timeline will eventually end, which means that the players can (and probably will) destroy the ENTIRE GALAXY without it needing to be prevented by Staff so the game isn't ruined. With a finite story in mind, the players really can do anything. Being able to play within a plethora of different overarching stories and time periods is an added bonus.
Staff - The immortal team are about on par for what you would have expected from a MUD staff 15 years ago. They aren't awful by any means, but expect some unprofessional decorum. There are game-wide echoes with threats to the playerbase, flexing the ole immortal fist over this or that issue. A recent one was an immortal not liking that people were reporting building errors in their clan bases. While a simple, 'Guys, please report issues to your clan leaders so they can contact me with a list instead of spamming channels' would have sufficed, instead it threatened to Hell ('punishment'/jail room) the next person who reported a problem, and ended with 'You have been warned.' I get it, to an extent. I'm sure it was annoying to deal with. But there's professionalism and then there's that. I tended to feel the culture around MUD immortals having that attitude faded out long ago, but it's alive and kicking on LOTJ.
The flip side of the immortals being unprofessional, however, is that they're fun. You can joke around with them on Discord or the OOC channel, their news posts to the players with updates are often funny (DILLY DILLY!). Despite not always knowing what will push the wrong button and admittedly being a little wary as a result, I have no real complaints about the immortal staff. If the worst thing I can say about the imms is 'I don't understand why the tone of an occasional gecho has to be hostile' then we're in good shape. They're active, they're invested, they don't cheat or spy on players. That's all you really need.
Roleplay - When I'm recruiting friends or acquaintances to try out LOTJ I tend to tell them it's 'SMS RP.' The vast majority of roleplay I've seen during my time on the MUD has been over comms, which are spoken-word messages sent out over your comlink to specific frequencies, clan frequency, or the public frequency. Should you roleplay in person, you'll be using socials and the 'say' command. It IS roleplay in the sense that you are speaking for your character, but it isn't roleplay in the sense that most players of RP MUDs (RPIs, in particular) will expect. There is some variation, of course, where you'll find somebody who uses emote to do some of their own writing, but for the most part roleplay is socials, 'say,' and comms.
Coming from a background of heavy RP MUDs I was pretty disappointed at first, and I definitely struggled for immersion without the benefit of imagery or context. Over time, however, I have come to respect what people can accomplish using the aforementioned tools. It isn't my preferred roleplaying style, but there are many (most?) players on LOTJ who wield it to great effect. There are some who wield it so well that they invoke incredible amounts of personality without ever writing an emote. It's different and it's probably not what you would expect of an RP MUD, but that doesn't make it bad. Unique isn't bad.
I hesitate to dub anything strictly 'bad' about LOTJ, but I think it's reasonable to list what I would change if I could.
Skill Grinds - Holymoly the grinding. First you'll be rolling through quests to get your 'levels' complete, which for most character archetypes won't be too awfully bad. Skill levels are just time-consuming enough that you'll be getting tired of it when you finish, and you'll come away with a feeling of accomplishment. For most archetypes, besides practicing with a few of your more finicky skills over time, you're good to go. For engineers, scientists, or slicers, you have a good two, maybe even three real life weeks ahead of you of either botting or entering the same two commands over, over, over and over again to get slivers of skill percentages at a time. The science grind takes about a week of solid 24-hour botting. The slicing grind, which involves entering 'slice (thing)', waiting a couple minutes, then entering 'secure (thing)' over and over, can take multiple real life weeks to finish, and cannot legally be botted.
While I can't argue against the idea that making these things so incredibly long-winded also makes them infinitely more valuable to have, I do tend to question a game mechanic that requires the player not to play the game, especially over an extended period.
Helpfiles - LOTJ needs some variety of helpfile searching system. 'Help search (keyword)' or something would raise the bar on my experience tenfold. It can be difficult to find helpfiles and many are outdated or insufficient. You can often get the information you need by phrasing it as IC-ish as you can and asking other players over comms, but it's best to have solid helpfiles. It would prevent a lot of the frustration of learning something new as a player that your character should already know, and it would stave off some of the more awkward IC questions that can be immersion breaking for roleplay.
Summary LOTJ is a charming game with a horde of satisfying systems and a unique roleplay style. Don't expect perfection, do expect fun.
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