As you may or may not know, MUDs are often considered the early precursors of our modern day MMOs and exist in a distinctly more diverse variety than the branch (diku) that inspired and spawned the graphical games we play today.
There is also the common perception that MUDs are either dying fossils that few people play today, or very niche games with even tinier communities still clinging on like barnacles – an image which presumably might contribute to that decline in popularity.
A number of people just shrug and say “Oh, nobody plays a text game anymore,” which appears to be used as a handy excuse to do nothing about this state of affairs.
This is in interesting contrast to another genre of text games, the text adventures and choose-your-own-path and interactive fiction corner of the web, whose community, niche though it might be, really tries to promote the hell out of their favourite interactive medium with hobbyist websites and community competitions and active academic research and addressing usability issues with newer and different coding/programming languages and parsers and clients to enable the writing and playing of said genre across different platforms.
A friend of mine and I got into a little debate and discussion the other day about MUDs and their perceived decline.
He’s curious as to whether this is really the case or no, and is driven by this curiosity to do a little research about it.
a) Does the decline exist?
and b) if it does exist, why?
As for myself, I’m rather convinced that most MUDs are very much in decline (with perhaps a very few commercial exceptions really making an effort to market themselves and reach out to new audiences, on new platforms.)
We brainstormed up several possible contributing factors:
Is it the fact that most MUDs are pure text, with little to no graphics, making them immediately unappealing or inaccessible?
Could it be the control scheme? Typing out commands and navigating in cardinal directions is very much a DOS-like holdover.
Is it simply the lack of advertising and marketing, meaning that many people may not even have heard about many MUDs out there, or know how to access them, or what features they may offer over graphical MMOs?
Maybe it’s the archaic look of many MUD websites, which look like they were made during 1997 in the Geocities’ heyday?
Perhaps it’s problems with the client? These days, Windows doesn’t even come with Telnet. So scratch one mode of access. It’s usually a downloadable client – which may make some people pause – or a web browser client, which may have its own host of issues?
Or maybe there are so many small, hobbyist MUDs out there that the population of people who are willing to play a text-based game are all distributed among them and spread out too thinly? That they all feel they owe allegiance to only their one particular MUD and view the rest as competitors, thus presenting a disunited community face to the world?
It may very well be all of them are valid and contribute to the overall problem (though it’ll be interesting to know what the percentages are and what primarily turns many people away.)
While we don’t have access to all MUDs, and thus can’t do an overarching survey, our prior history with one MUD did give us a little insider access to an immortal/developer source, whose game logs and metrics register that on the average, 1-2 new players try this specific MUD out -every- day (a game that tends to lack heavy advertising or promotion, and yet new players do stumble across it), but just as quickly, around level 2-3, they quit, never to log back in again.
Since newbie retention is one end of the funnel that determines whether a game faces growth or decline in population (the other end is veterans dropping off from attrition,) this subject is what we’ve narrowed down to exploring for now.
My particular interest is in how similar or dissimilar this might turn out to be from factors affecting newbie retention in MMOs – we see developers scrambling to provide more guided experiences, as in GW2’s latest New Player Experience, which caused a certain hue and outcry among its veterans, or as Bashiok remarked regarding WoW’s barriers to entry, “Well *I* consider the biggest barrier being it’s a 3D WASD game with a moveable camera,” suggesting the control scheme might be an aspect to consider as well.
Problem is, neither of us are exactly newbies to MUDs, especially not -this- MUD in particular, even if we did stop playing it for a long time.
What we really need are fresh perspectives and new eyes to take a quick gander around and simulate a newbie (even better if you have zero MUD experience) and then share with us the point at which you might quit.
My assumption is that you’ll only spend 5-30 minutes of your time at the most.
Log in, look around and explore, and at the point where you feel that you might close the client and never return, come back here and post a comment as to where that point was, and why it irked you to the point that you might quit.
No obligations. Wherever the stopping point was for you, is what we want to hear about.
You needn’t even have to make it into the game. It could be “I looked at the website and it was butt ugly, so I stopped” or “I couldn’t find one bit of useful info about wtf the game was, or how to even start playing” or whatever gut response made you give up.
Could be “the client didn’t run” or “I couldn’t get a name I wanted” or “there was too much reading I had to do” or “I got lost and didn’t know where I was” or “I didn’t even know how to navigate or move around” or “it was too overwhelming I didn’t have a clear objective as to what to do” or “I wandered somewhere and died” or “I met someone and they scared me away” or “I never even saw anyone to talk to and got bored” or “levelling up was too slow” or whatever it was for you that prompted a quit response.
Maybe you didn’t get such a response and would be perfectly okay playing the game, and/or it was simply lack of time and too many other games on the plate competing for your attention – we’d like to hear about that too.
If you can’t spare even 5 minutes of your time to play a text-based MUD, I would also like to beg one favour from you:
To leave a comment here stating why it did not seem worth your time to even try a MUD out for 5 minutes – whatever it was that ran through your mind, be it “eesh, text games, I don’t play games without graphics” or “I’m already playing X game, I don’t have time to start another” or “I don’t want to download a new client” or “this is just a sneaky way to promote and advertise this MUD and I’m not falling for it!” (full disclosure: I quit this MUD in 2004 and have zero interest in its health or lack thereof, my friend may be a little more fond of it and I’m mostly doing him a favor with this outreach to my supremely limited blog audience) or whatever it was that prevented you from even clicking on the link and cranking the client up.
This isn’t an official academic social research project of any kind, it’s mostly to sate our curiosity and get a small sample from the group of MMO players that also happen to read gaming-related blogs.
The more responses we get, the more we’ll be able to get a grasp on some of the possible issues, so your help and your time is very much appreciated!
Truth is, it’s going to take me a while to absorb everything that just came down in a big info dump in the Game Update patch notes.
I haven’t quite made it through all the profession changes yet, just sort of went through the guardian notes that are my primary interest and glanced at the rest.
The Collections are interesting, if a tide underwhelming at present. I’d been under the impression that many little tchotchkes would become easy collections to get some achiever dings over – things like food, or drinks or bags of loot.
Instead, the only fun one seems to be the junk collector with the Honorary Skritt title and the rest look a little more laborious. There’s -some- food, but only steak so far. No burgers, no pizza, no soup or vegetarian collections or stuff like that.
There’s certainly potential to expand, and I hope it will soon(TM), but at the moment, I’m finding it more attractive to offload some of the named exotics I’d been hoarding in the bank, wondering if they’d ever turn into precursors – looks like they won’t, but at least they’re collectibles now – at the currently inflated prices.
The Combat Log is something I’d really like to gush over.
I think it’s gone unnoticed by many, but it’s actually USEFUL now.
The color scheme used in the combat log is a touch eyebrow raising, but sort of oddly reminiscent of oldschool MUDs where stuff is color-coded with a bunch of esoteric meaning. Presumably, since only those interested in the technical and numerical stuff would ever look at it, it’s ok.
Purple is being used for condition damage and orange for direct damage and green for healing, as far as I could tell from a quick glance at it.
All the condition damage is being reported *swoons in ecstasy* and even my clone damage from exploding was captured, so I presume other professions’ pets are also getting logged. That’s really really sweet.
I don’t know if someone will figure out a way to parse this yet, but there’s at least some -clear- data here.
One still can’t see other peoples’ damage and so on, which I think is for the best, since that might lead to comparisons and exclusion, but in the interests of -personal- improvement or optimization/efficiency, this is at least a tool that can actually be read and used now – rather than having to video record stuff and manually count white damage numbers and guess at other things.
The Miniature changes are surprisingly underwhelming for now.
I bound a few of my favorite minis that had been sitting in my bags, but was mildly dismayed to see that it was likely going to be hidden all the time (even from me!) on my toaster settings anyway.
Considering how I normally struggle with frame rates, perhaps it’s for the best that I don’t even see my own puppy following me most of the time. (Though if I’m alone and wandering the open world, even if the map is crowded, you’d think I ought to be able to see my own mini until I walk into the equivalent of world boss or WvW zerg congestion on my screen.)
The Trading Post changes have been mildly disorientating.
I’m not sure if it loads faster, and I kind of miss the tab that was just for taking items away from the TP. Right now, I have to load the whole damn TP and extra info just to collect some money, feels a little more clunky in that respect.
I -do- like the new filters, though it takes a bit of getting used to, after you’re accustomed to the old way of doing things.
Searching for armor my new mesmer alt could wear, within his level range, and with some Power on it, was a lot smoother and gave easier to choose from options.
But then again, I tried to type “Superior rune of the flame legion” into the search box and ended up cut off before being able to specify “flame legion” – which led to a whole bunch of other superior runes displayed.
Instead, the right keywords to use are “sup rune flame” or something oddly truncated like that.
That character text limitation is a little annoying to work around.
-Selling- things feels like one has to absorb a lot more info than before.
Having to drag a slider bar when one could previously just click a button to sell all is a step up in annoyance.
Sure, you list both fees now, but you don’t even helpfully provide a net profit summation, so now we’re expected to mentally subtract both fees ourselves. I think it’s -far- more likely that more people will be deceived by the total price and continue to pay TP tax without realizing it.
It’s more than a bit annoying to see that only the last 5 prices are visible at any time and that you have to scroll down to see the rest.This is a lot more game-able than the old system which let you see more prices at a glance, -if- you looked up the buy prices. Many won’t bother to scroll down. Expect traders to put up little honey traps in groups of 5 to knock the old prices off visibility.
Take, for example, this random rare dagger that drops as random loot.
The first trap is easy to spot, someone posted one for 64.46 silver when the rest are selling at 66.46 silver.
If you take the trouble to scroll down past the 66 silvers, there’s a jump that’s almost invisible here, between 66 and 69 silver.
It is entirely possible that someone may buy up daggers up to this price on a fairly regular basis and that if you post this dagger for anywhere 69 silver and under, it’ll sell. How many people will be bothered to look through this, scrolling through a pathetic 5 prices at a time? Much less than before, I suspect. Expect lots of lazy selling at whatever minimum is offered.
I don’t know if all the changes really made anything clearer or not, it just feels like there are different places people will get caught out, and different places wily traders can come in to profit from those too lazy to work it all out.
And finally, the New Player Leveling Experience.
I’m not really radically against it, like many screaming over the forums and on Reddit.
I took a new charr mesmer up from level 1, playing through like a complete newbie, up to about level 9.
The tutorial tips that show up seem to be quite explanatory, with the option of leaving it up or quickly closing it via pressing the ‘X’ for close window. This catches that group of slower tactical learners who want time to read through instructions over just jumping in and doing it.
The leveling experience at low levels does seem to have been sped up slightly, which means that those used to the game can very quickly speed through the most limiting and annoying ‘locked weapon skill’ stage past level 2 and 4.
In truth, the only time I really chafed at the weapon skill lock was when I was trying to tag mobs in a crowded Defend the Armory from Flame Legion event, which had somehow attracted a good seven veterans or so – presumably in search of the new hearts. Only having mesmer scepter skill 1 is NUTS, it is so SO SLOW when you’re trying to tag or cleave as many things as possible before all these crazy exotic-geared 80s blow everything up. I got about 2 of every 4 mobs that spawned, if I was lucky.
I was really happy to finish that heart and get the event xp and then run as fast as my little clawed feet could take me out of there and go back to slowly and methodically single-targeting random mobs to death.
Going from heart to heart following the content guide did offer a more streamlined experience than previously, rate of experience gain included.
The profession loot seemed to be working for me, as I got a number of white and blue drops that were usable upgrades. Some +Power clothes that I could wear, and very attractively, new weapons like a sword, pistol (level 2, but not usable until level 7 when offhand unlocks, *gasp*), a greatsword and a staff.
Since I was getting bored out of my mind with the slow rate of the scepter autoattack – but the torment isn’t half bad if you can successfully block with skill 2 and layer 6-7 stacks of torment on , and the skill 3 confusion stacks are SICK, thank you combat log – I took advantage of this to swap and try out the other weapons, presumably as intended, though lord knows if new players will figure it out if it isn’t spelled out for them too.
Plains of Ashford apparently had two new hearts added to it. My memory isn’t the best, but it appears to be the cows immediately next to the starting drop-off point and the skritt/cannon area, which I did always think was a little weird that the area had nothing but a skill point and a dynamic event up there.
The clarity and fanfare with each level up does feel more pronounced now.
Around level 9, I started getting a bit restless with the pace and took a break away from the content guide, heading into the Black Citadel and for the nearest Trading Post. Why they removed the handy one near the starting drop-off point is beyond me – too confusing for newbies? A little subtle proding to veterans seeking convenience to pop one if they want to use one, maybe?
There I grabbed all the usual twink gear – the cheapest +Power stuff at the off-level of 6, minor runes of +Power and level 10 +Power jewellery, wandered off the beaten track to hit a few yellow mobs and push myself to level 10.
Then I went through the Personal Story in a big chunk and rather enjoyed it. Mobs stayed at level 10, even as the Personal Story completions were awarding XP and pushing me through the levels, so things felt more doable and there was less of those old ‘stuck’ points where you were facing a +3 level challenge and unwilling to go off and get more levels before coming back, leading to repeated deaths and restart at checkpoints. I was level 12 by the time I finished.
Considering that I hadn’t even map explored through half of the Plains of Ashford, -HOPEFULLY- this will finally stop those ridiculous complaints of “help, I’m underleveled and have completed my starting zone” and the equally ridiculous advice to jump through portals and map complete another race’s starting zone to fix that. HOPEFULLY, newbies will find themselves level 15 at the point they’re really supposed to transition to the level 15-25 zone.
The one thing I did find a little disappointing was skill points being pushed so far back to level 13. This invalidates a number of skill trainers in the starting zone, which give you the “successfully passed” message and is somewhat disorientating, especially when you realize later that you’ll have to retrace your footsteps -back- to them to get SP. That’s… more than a bit weird.
So far, so good, I guess. I got to level 13 in a couple of hours, which -seems- like the pace that newbies would expect.
The biggest mixed feelings I get from this new player experience is the distinct sensation that we’ve moved over from stressing an Explorer experience to focusing on an Achiever one.
Personally, it doesn’t disturb me too much either way because I have tendencies in either direction. I can adapt to Achiever signposts if a game chooses to go that way, and I can jump into a sandbox with the best of them and explore and go read third-party wikis and websites to figure out what to do next.
I’m an EASK, after all, both playstyles are my primary and secondary, and I’m also strong enough an Explorer to figure out how to set the defaults back to the way I prefer it.
I mean, if I really let my inner elitist speak, I’d say, “If folks aren’t Explorer enough to figure out how to shut the upper-right compass off, then they’re the subset that the straightforward little arrow was meant for.”
That was the FIRST thing I went for, when I logged into my level 80 main and went, OMG, what is this awful thing in the corner, TURN IT OFF, TURN IT OFF.
So I brought up the Options menu, read through stuff, saw the new “Content Guide” drop down bar option, and promptly set it from Default to Off, glancing through the other options in the process and thinking, ok, those might come in useful when I’m leveling a new alt or going on focused map exploration. (It -would- be handy if we could set it per character, and not a one-size-fits-all account setting though.)
Then I went for my regular jumping puzzle visit, popped an Enchanted Map piece, went “Kewl, a sekrit to explore!” and promptly ran around visiting jumping puzzles I hadn’t visited for a long time, hoping to pop another map piece. Somewhere in Diessa Plateau, I overheard mapchat complaining bitterly about compass arrow, how it was hand-holding and so on, while another person asked if it was possible to turn it off, and the complainer went ahead and said something like, oh, I don’t think it’s possible until you hit level 80 or complete the Personal Story or something.
Rolling my eyes with the utter INCORRECTNESS of this, I had to speak up over mapchat and pointedly “handhold” the map into looking at Options => Content Guide, whereupon they realized, OH, we -can- turn it off, after all, while other people went, oh, these other options might be useful for map exploring, etc.
No, really, some things -aren’t- obvious to everybody, and I don’t see too much harm in clearly spelling it out for them if they require it. The clearly demarcated dodge tutorial, for example, at least ensures that more lowbies will figure out that they do have a dodge button. If that’s what they need to learn, so be it.
The only sadness I get is that it’ll be a bit trickier to guide an Explorer down this Achiever centered road now. Gone is the “world is completely open and ripe for the plucking” feeling from having weapon skills unlock from use, from having a wealth of skills and traits and options at an early stage. What is “overwhelm, too many options, too little direction” to an Achiever or a newbie is the “world is my oyster, ooh, so much complexity and depth” discovery feeling for an Explorer.
We somehow have to get the message out that it’s still going to be okay to turn off the Content Guide and strike out cross-country, immersing into the world, poking one’s head into every nook and cranny.
I know I will, on my other alts when I want the exploration and world immersion feel, but I’m used to the old way of doing things and can figure these things out for myself.
Maybe I guess it’s better to trust that the Explorers will know how to tweak settings to match their preferences over the Achievers. Maybe.
Did we want to risk losing the Explorer cohort in favor of the Achiever crowds? I guess one subset pays better than the other? Or many of the Explorers are already here and past the lowbie experience… the novelty of new content is still pretty far away in November, though.
Dunno. Certainly there’s still one thing Explorers can explore. The entire new level up system, its rewards and the whole ‘feel’ of taking a character through it.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see on how it plays out over time, once the knee jerk reactions to sudden change are done.
Most of the Reddit posts following the announcement are all in full-on bitch mode about how this change doesn’t affect or cater to players already at level 80, grousewhinecomplain, etc. so it’s hard to share any enthusiasm over there.
See, every so often in either Reddit or the GW2 forums, there’s always going to be this one scared newbie post about “help! I’m level X and I can’t level anymore / don’t know where to go next / getting bored shitless of these hearts.’
And these are the ones that actually bothered or dared to post, looking for help because they want to enjoy the game but don’t know how.
How many others just shut down the game and left?
Only Anet’s metrics know.
Somehow, these players aren’t connecting the dots.
I can’t fathom it personally myself, how hard pressing M and finding the next promising area to wander around in (of which, there are always at least two valid choices for each level range) could be, or what it is they’re doing exactly that’s leaving them bereft of xp.
My first character, I was just so thrilled to be standing in the GW2 world and able to -jump- that I combed every corner and talked to every NPC just because I could. I killed stuff along the way, did hearts until I got tired of systematically following them and then just went hog wild across the world instead, following the personal story through the open world, doing crafting, WvW, dungeons, the works.
Since then, I’ve been guilty of twinking up lowbies with +Power runes, food and wrenches, and those ubiquitous XP boosters and just running through packs of mobs that no one ever touches and gaining 2 levels every hour or less, never bothering with any goddamn stupid heart if I didn’t want to, so I guess my perspective is somewhat skewed by the leveling sandbox that is the open world.
Personally, I know I lost one RL friend to the leveling experience. Said friend came in after much persuasion, made an engineer, kinda halfheartedly got through Caledon Forest complaining the engineer felt weak and then I never saw him again past the start of Brisban Wildlands.
Might be he just didn’t feel like he had enough time to play an MMO, but I don’t think the leveling experience did him any favors either.
For -my- personal purposes, I’m pleased as punch to see the paragraphs:
“Players who don’t need direction can ignore this system and go exploring in any direction they want, do content in any order, and play any content they want exactly as they can currently in Guild Wars 2 as it’s available today.
There are advanced settings in the options menu for more experienced players that will allow you to change the functionality of the content direction system. You can select to disable it if you like the way the game UI functions now, or you can select “world complete” mode, which will focus only on providing direction to areas for world completion.”
That’s me. I level the explorer way, with my world at barely 41% complete before I’ve hit level 80, wondering how the hell do people run out of ways to get experience?
So I’m really really happy that they’ll now have a developer-guided signposting experience that will give them the giant glowy arrows and immediate to-do Achiever list that these less-familiar-with-game-that-allows-exploration people seem to require.
It is, after all, an option. Different strokes for different folks.
Some people really need those warm fuzzy feelings from getting a guitar riff and trumpets blowing when they level up. Whatever helps them stick with the game and come to appreciate it more.
As long as the end result is more players playing GW2 and new blood coming in, what’s the harm?
(I can only hope that they won’t hit level 80 and become utterly confused and adrift at the perceived lack of endgame and no more signposting. But hey, WoW’s already given them an expectation of a bait-and-switch, so I guess they’ll just have to adapt to learning how to choose their own goals when they hit GW2’s endgame.
Worse come to the worse, they’ll have plenty of Living Story chapters offering a clear directed experience there too. Step 2: Pay 200 gems to unlock each! Step 1: Earn gold to afford 200 gems!)
A better extended tutorial experience that spells out systems so that lowbies coming in can learn and appreciate each nuance can only mean slightly more informed newbies when they hit max level. That’s a good thing, since they’re going to have to keep pace with practiced veterans getting older (and more burnt out or jaded) with each patch.
Hell, I’m excited to take at least one more character through the whole experience just so I can see if these new rewards are any more fun.
Maybe I’ll ditch the boring human mesmer and make a fun charr mesmer with a transmuted necro skull mask and run around confusing and tormenting all the things – new mesmer meta, yaaarrr.
Plus, a better paced Personal Story that actually gives you story chunks, rather than getting stupidly staggered out between levels where you’ve totally forgotten what happened previously by the time you’ve gone and helped some random Norn, fed feed to cows and cows to Charr, turned into random animals, fallen off some jumping puzzles, and now have got to go back to the Personal Story NPCs again.
Of course, the one worrisome casualty from this may just be key-farming. I guess those level 20 experience scrolls I’m accumulating will eventually have a use and equate to a few more keys.
Time to get a few more 20-minute runs in before the feature patch, methinks.