TMC Reviews: DragonStone

(Review Date: October 30, 2002)
TMC Reviewer: T.M
Mud Theme

The game of DragonStone is set in a medieval style world of adventure, magic, and strange happenings, though apart from the brief (and very interesting) introduction story telling the tale of the DragonStone on the website there's very little in the way of a world history present. There's little mention of what type of world this game is supposed to be set in reference to such influences as political, religious, and economical stability, although there is a comprehensive list of prominent hard coded clans. The character creation process is fairly well detailed, with help files available along the way. Their MUD school is very informative, but I didn't like that I couldn't backtrack through it in case I forgot something. I found the command list to be awful. There's no structure to it whatsoever, and as a confusing addition it doesn't just list the commands available to you, but the commands available to everyone, including class skills and a few Immortal commands. Though the help files for all of these commands aren't complete, the one saving grace is a command called helpfind, which will search the entire help file database for all help files containing the supplied keyword, and list the files for you to choose from. Thank Gods for that!

Mud World

The building on DragonStone is very comprehensive and well laid out, though there's quite a few places where it fails to be cohesive without explanation. The game world is a good size, and my only gripe with this aspect of the game is the writing in the descriptions. I noticed a lot of illogical filler in the room descriptions, such as a specific stretch of road where a cart is perpetually rushing to get somewhere. I couldn't help but think the driver must get tired of driving up and down the same piece of road, day in and day out, year after year. It would be nice if once, just once, my character could walk down that road at some point in the day and not feel obliged to duck out of the way of this run-away wagon with a terrible driver. Maybe if he went and got some sleep he'd be able to control his horses a bit better.

Mud Atmosphere

My first time logging into DragonStone was a rather confusing experience. I've always found ansi colour to be a good feature for MUDs, not only to add to the realism of the game, but also as a tool for players to take in excess amounts of information in a comprehensive fashion. On DragonStone, I feel they take this to a gross extreme. Within five seconds of logging in, my scrollback was spammed with thirty different channels in thirty different colours. After figuring out how to block most of it, I proceeded to check them out one by one as I made my way through the MUD school. In the end, I left most of them off, as they did little else but distract me from roleplaying and fill my screen with information I could easily access if I wanted to, such as a global notice every time someone either logs on or off the game. Coupled with a "who" command to see who's online, that extra bit of bold colour flashing on my screen was just an annoyance I didn't need.

The game boasts a variety of ways to communicate with other players, both In Character and Out Of Character, though I found the global IC communication channels, as well as remote socials, emotes, and item transferring very unrealistic, and more of a hinderance to roleplaying then a compliment. During my time on the game I spoke with three separate Immortals, and I asked each one about the purpose of such channels and commands, and if there was a good In Character explanation for them to exist; not once did I receive a reply. Although the code provides for both IC and OOC communication, I noticed nearly everyone I encountered used both types of channels for OOC. Roleplaying here really is an opt in sort of thing, and both the rules and commands reflect this fairly well, though there is far less emphasis on roleplaying then there is on good old hack'n'slash powergaming.

The one place where the code provides a safety for roleplayers is through an opt in PK system that limits player killing to those who want to participate, though I found much of the rules governing the system to be heavily influenced by a powergaming mentality and far too much emphasis put on the importance of phat lewt (read: special equipment).

Very few of the players I encountered were willing to help me out with information, though quite a few were quick to hand me equipment, and although the game has a channel specificly designed for newbies to ask for help most questions I posed were left unanswered. Needless to say, this made the learning curve a very large one indeed. On the plus side of things, as long as the discussion wasn't game related the players I encountered were very friendly. It seems they're just there to have a good time, and a large part of that good time seems to focus on chit-chat.

Additional Comments

Although the game lists itself as roleplaying encouraged, I didn't see much in the way of encouragement going on. Both the game policy and commands offer very little in the way of roleplaying support, which is unfortunate in itself as the world does have an intriguing plot. I can't really comment on the roleplaying ability of the players as I didn't encounter anyone who was actually roleplaying. In the developers favour, their website is chock full of useful tidbits, such as a large selection of area maps. Seeing as how these are also available in game, I thought this was a good addition to the website, as it's easier to load up a map in your browser then it is to type out the commands to look at it every few minutes in the game.

Summary

I tend to stick to very RP heavy gaming environments, and in truth after my first voyage into the world of DragonStone I was tempted to write off the experience. However, I'm glad I stuck it out. It's been a long while since I've played a game from strictly a players view, as well as plunging myself back into the world of hack'n'slash. In its own quirky way the initial torture turned out to be a fun experience. With the flood of colours, excessive communication channels, and strong emphasis on chit-chat and powergaming, this definately isn't a MUD for anyone looking for a good roleplaying challenge, though I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fun place to hang out and poke sharp pointy objects at critters while you chat with your friends.