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Of mice and MUD clients. Part 2 of some number.
Written by Fiendish

I'm writing this series in part due to a response from Richter to my call for ideas. See, I wasn't joking.

In the first article I wrote about the reasons for introducing scripted visual elements into your game experience. In this one I'll talk about the existing ways that you can overcome various deficiencies in the game experience by constructing windows into the game world. Next time, if the world hasn't yet caught up with my brilliance, I'll demonstrate how to do it wrong and how to do it right.

Alright fruitcakes, here's the dirt, the skinny, the low down, the truth that will set you free. You're here because you want to learn how to enrich the MUD experience. I'm here because I have the answer.

 

I'm not going to lie. When I think of this kind of game I imagine something completely different than what you see. I think about the game world itself as a real world, and it depresses me how poorly text represents its richness.

I grew up with games like this:

Taskmaker

(props if you recognize it)

Those kinds of games were great. Forget Zork and other text adventure games. MUDding is actually nothing like them. MUDding is more like NetHack and other Roguelikes. It's a dungeon crawler. Even the very first dungeon crawlers knew that you needed some visual representation of the world. And yet, for some unfathomable reason, MUDs were designed like a cross between an Infocom adventure and an IRC channel. It's such an extremely wrong paradigm, no one should be content with it.

See? Look at how awesome that is.

But the computer game world didn't stop with Rogue. People knew a good thing when they saw it, and they kept advancing. Pretty soon games started looking like this...

T.O.M.E.

(Wolfe will like this one)

And suddenly you've got a vibrant, colorful world to play in. Game world representations advanced steadily over the years, developing the good ideas and discarding the bad ones.

Avernum

(A more recent favorite)

This is about the end of the line in terms of small budget dungeon crawler development. So this is what we should aim for. Take a look at the top right corner of that last image. Look familiar? Hey! A map! How novel! Now look at the top left. Oh wow! Status indicators and health/mana bars! Now look at the bottom. Well, you can't really see it well, but that pixelated area is text. Look at how small the text area is compared to the rest of the image. And yet this presentation just makes sense. It tells you everything about the environment in the most intuitive and easy to comprehend form. It SHOWS you.

And that makes sense. Why not know the status of your character instantly? Why not know what's around you instantly? How does anything else make any sense? And so we must begin to set up the MUD client to show all of these things.

Status indicators:

Look at every single massively popular game ever. Ever! What do they all have in common? They all have status indicators. Diablo, Starcraft, Myth, Halo... Any game where you have little men getting hurt, you find health bars. Why? Because it sodding works.

 

Overhead map:

You need to see your surroundings. You see your surroundings by...SEEing your surroundings. Sounds obvious, right? And yet it doesn't happen surprisingly often. There's a reason why text adventure games died out as soon as graphics became available.

(For now this is as good as you're going to get. It's sad, I know. Petition for unique tile strings so that we can make proper tilesets.)

 

A View of the World:

The world is a big place. You need a mental image of where you are in the world at all times. You can't build a mental image until you've seen the real thing. So see the real thing.

 

Party Members:

You want to group and you want to group with other people. You really want to know how the other members of your party are doing. Are they sick? Are they blind? Are they about to die? How are they doing on mana? All of these are important details that you SHOULD be able to see at a glance. Unfortunately, this is a tough one because there isn't support for it yet. YET. But there should be. Nay, there will be. Support idea # 1903. Until then, you can look and dream.

 

"But Fiendish, I already have all of this stuff."

Yeah, well piss on you. You wouldn't have any of this stuff if not for me. And now you think you're bee's pajamas because you have a map window. Well sit your ass down sonny-jim, because daddy Fiendish is here to learn you something. Except not right now. You're going to have to wait until the next one. OOOH THE SUSPENSE!

Next time I'll demonstrate how to do it wrong and how to do it right.

Hint: The current Aardwolf MUSHclient package does it wrong. Sorry, but it's true. With some large amount of luck maybe that will change before the next edition is published.


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