Imaginary Realities 2000 November Edition

Summary of November 2000 issue of Imaginary Realities. Imaginary Realities was an ezine dedicated to MUDs.

Summary of "A Contiguous World" by Natalia

Many games and MUDs present worlds that are not contiguous (AKA dense maps). You find a hot jungle literally one step away from a frozen tundra in a way that makes no sense.

When it comes to MUDs, non-contiguous worlds happen because the worlds often come pre-built that way with the code base's starter world. Then, all the effort goes into adding new features to the MUD, instead of focusing on world development. "When time is spent on the world you get one of two main actions: (1) revisions of existing areas to change names and modify the equipment or (2) addition of new areas that are just thrown into the morass anywhere that is convenient ("just link that new zone off the north end of zone xyz... it doesn't matter if it makes sense, but we need another low-level zone close to the home town")."

A renewed emphasis on Game Masters (GMs) could fix this issue. GMs design worlds on paper before presenting them to players. Even a pre-existing dense map can be fixed to make more sense with proper design and planning.

Suggested world building steps:

  1. Decide on the kind of world, including races, continents, oceans/lakes/deserts. What is the geography separating major cities? Consider the existence or non-existence of icecaps. Is there one big city that is the entire world? Or, is the world made up of islands, and no continents? Get inspiration from your favorite author.
  2. Create a paper map of the world. Commonly, MUDs have 5k-10k "rooms". However, remember to start small to avoid burnout before finishing a first version of your world.
  3. When creating a MUD, start from scratch. Strip out any prefabricated rooms, and use your own world's design to make all zones and rooms.
  4. "Start building the world based on your map. It will obviously change as you put it together, but the more detailed your map has the faster this will go. If you already have a game online, create this new world and areas in a separate part of the game." If it is an existing world, start by adding a new starting town, and add new areas and rooms around the town, slowly moving the stock areas to more, and more remote areas, until you can remove the stock areas without much notice.

Summary of "A Proposal of Marriage" by Kerry Jane

Kerry Jane frequented Ackadia MUD and other games involving stories

After getting a couple of in-game marriage proposals (one a joke, and one serious), the author contemplates the ramifications of in-game marriage. Does the commitment stretch into the real world, when you really aren't roleplaying the character? Does the concept of marriage in-game interfere with the in-game character's life and fantasy adventurer career?

Summary of "Creating a viable virtual ecosystem" by Patrick Dughi

Patrick was an experienced programmer, MUDder, RPGer, etc. He also owned his own claymore.

Virtual ecosystems are an attempt to copy the intricate network of life's and nature's checks and balances into a virtual world. This is in contrast to your typical game where the monsters in a room refresh simply by leaving and re-entering the room. A virtual ecosystem needs to be simplified more than the real world because the complexity of the real world is impossible to reproduce virtually.

First create a massive world with lots of empty spaces. A million rooms is a good start. These are the areas that wheat grows and mobs reproduce. Most MUDs shy away from large empty spaces, but they are necessary for virtual ecosystems.

Next, add terrain. Use our own planet as a good reference to what terrains exist with their locations and proportions. Follow that by weather that is based off the terrain. Then, add renewable and non-renewable resources to your world.

Cap the maximum amount of resources in an area. Have both renewable and non-renewable resources regenerate. However, renewable resources should regenerate at a slower rate than they can be harvested, and non-renewable resources should regenerate at a much slower rate than renewable resources.

Make terrain, vegetation, mineral, resource, and weather maps. The vegetation map should be a union of some sort of the weather and terrain map.

"Vegetation is the first mutable factor in our theoretical ecosystem. We need vegetation to feed creatures who will, in return, feed other creatures and so on. Your players may be only indirectly involved in this, as they will normally prefer to purchase food in its prepared form (bread, instead of wheat, or pixy stix instead of sugar cane). However, that will not change it's impact on the players - if there is no wheat, the players will not get any bread. The crawlies - humans, bears, wolves, all the creatures in your world affect, and are affected by vegetation - they are your second mutable factor.

"Remember above where I claimed you needed a huge area? Well, this is because of the size of land needed to support one person. At best case, a sq. mile of farmland can sustain 30 people." The author assembled several charts with land usage necessary for sustaining humans and different types of animals.

After carefully constructing a well balanced ecosystem, your players are likely to come along and kill everything that moves. The trick is only to allow the players to see or find a small percentage of the animals that are present. Make random encounter charts based off the animal populations in the area, and that is all the players can find to kill. The rest are hidden from view.

If animals in an area start dying off due to disease, weather, or starvation, modify the random encounter chart to have them encounter animals that are already dead. This could be expanded to include trees, crops, and herb--both living and dead.

Allow for players to plant crops, after razing a forest (room) and driving out the animals from that area. This could be part of city building or trade and commerce systems.

Summary of "How to Write Effective Mud Help" by Sheila Summers

Advise on writing help systems is nearly non-existent. The author's article focuses on technical writing techniques that apply to writing MUD help systems.

Make help files concise and consistent. Use visual signals. Put one person in charge of help files.

The following is an example of a help file by the author.

  help <topic> : displays help on the topic

  Our help system contains over 1000 entries, so if you have
a question about a topic, try the help files.  If more than one
entry matches the topic you enter, a list will be displayed.

Note: Every time you use the help
system, we log the topics
you try to access.  We use this information to help improve
our help system.

  help help : displays a list commands useful for obtaining help
  help a    : displays all help topics that begin with the letter a

Related help topics: Index

The heading and colors in the above sample are examples of visual signals. This helps players scan through the help article and save time finding information. Whatever the format is, all of your help should follow the same format with same colors and sections. Use indentations to further help people with trouble seeing colors. Use the same template for all help files.

Avoid common mistakes. Don't overuse color. Never use more than three colors, and use them sparingly. Don't put headings in caps.

"Most People Were Taught in Grade School to Capitalize Nearly Every Word of a Title. Journalists call that "up style", and most don't use it in headlines or headers anymore because it is difficult to read. Use "down style" in your online help: only capitalize the first word and proper nouns, and the titles of books or other complete works if they are cited."

Keep explanations short, and paragraphs short. Document every command, even if it seems obvious to you.

Write every entry as if a newbie is reading it.

Above all else, ... "Be consistent, concise, clear, complete and accurate."

Summary of "Mei Manifesto" by Savant

In the past, celebrities came in the form of sport heroes, and anyone that had their face on a Wheaties box. These days, the heroes are the game creators and skilled game players. As the new hero, you have a responsibility to guide the next generation on to a productive future. Don't ignore them, even when they're annoying. They need their new heroes to help them make the best of themselves and pursue their dreams.

Summary of "The Mud World" by Jonathan Untied

Jonathan Untied was the main coder for Shattered Worlds MUD.

MUDs are essentially RPGs or adventure games. The game never really ends, so keeps players longer than classic RPG games. Players would stay even longer, "if the game kept changing."

"If room descriptions were created based certain elements such as flora and structures, they could be easily altered due to player interaction or the passage of time. For example, a tree in a room would be different in the winter as opposed to the summer. Rivers could dry up, streams could become lakes and flood other rooms. This also adds an element of realism to the game."

Let players make changes to the world, like building shops or cutting down trees.

Add a game engine that writes or rewrites areas and rooms on its own. Have it create items, quests and MOBs. Room descriptions couldn't be ignored, because they would change at random times, and the change would be meaningful.

The game would never end, keeping players indefinitely. Even adding more powerful monsters and items would happen automatically to match the players' needs.

Summary of "The Word Game - Reactions" by Selina Kelley

Selina Kelley was an Imaginary Realities editor, and a player of Prophecy MUD.

The author started playing MUDs online before anyone even had computers. The one friend that had a computer only used it for Word.

Times have changed. Now everyone is Internet savvy. However, they all want to play 3D graphic games, and mock playing text-based MUDs.

Then and now, most people don't understand the great allure of playing an anonymous game with or without friends, just to relax with no real danger and just fun. It would be nice if more real life friends would join in the fun, though.