20 Years of TorilMUD November 22, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, MUDs, TorilMUD.
Tags: Forgotten Realms
1 comment so far
Lord Piergeiron is looking for brave adventurers to fight off the trolls!
If you can help, form a group and head south.
-Town Crier, Waterdeep
I was shuffling through old posts, as I do every month to pull together the one and five years ago bits for the monthly review post, when I discovered that I wrote that post about playing TorilMUD for 15 years about five years ago… which means that I’ve hit the… wait… eighteen, nineteen… the twenty year mark since I first I first blundered into Leuthilspar and got hung up at the fence leading to Kobold Village.
It barely seems possible that I was playing TorilMUD so long ago. And the town crier has been shouting the same thing every few minutes for just about the whole time. Granted, there was a gap of a couple years in there when the game was down at various stages, but it always managed to return.
Still, I started playing TorilMUD a long while back. Twenty years ago was the era when the Intel 486 was king and the new Pentium (not 586 as so many expected) was the new kid on the block. Apple’s incredibly popular PowerBook laptops were just introducing a model (180c) with an 8-bit active matrix color screen that was actually usable. (Don’t get me started on the 165c.) At work I was just starting off on project that would end up with a five month long crunch cycle, during which NBA Jams would be our lifeline to sanity. I was playing Civilization I am sure and was running a BBS, which in a way was the spiritual successor to this blog.
You grab Piergeiron Paladinstar, Servant of Tyr in a headlock, and give him a furious noogie.
I think I may have beaten the back story of myself and TorilMUD to death at this point. I have written up posts about the history, the stories, and the influence of the game in the past. Here are a few of my favorites:
- 15 Years of TorilMUD
- How Information Access has Changed
- The End of a Trigger, The Expansion of Information
- The Salesman of Waterdeep
- The Way Questing Used to Be
- On Greater Challenges
- Echoes of a Crashing MUD
- Hauling Bronze Through Forgotten Realms
- Great Moments in Exploits – The Resurrection
- Nineteen Years Without Raising the Level Cap
- Leuthilspar Tales
There are more posts under the TorilMUD category, though that includes posts where it is referenced, but where memories of the game perhaps not the main topic of discussion.
More amazing still is that, not only is TorilMUD still there, but that it continues to be a work in progress. Bug fixes, new zones, a web client, and a conversion to a system more akin to the current Dungeons & Dragons combat model continue on. The whole thing reflected D&D 2.0 rules back when I started. The help file for THAC0 is still there.
THAC0 is an acronym for “To Hit Armor Class 0.” THAC0 is a number every player and monster has, and it is dependent on level and class. It is ranged between 0 and 20. THAC0 is the method that the MUD code uses to determine whether or not you have successfully “hit” an opponent while in battle. It is calculated for everyone fighting, for each and every combat round. For THAC0′s, the lower the number you have, the better success you will have at hitting.
For Example: let’s say your THAC0 is 10, meaning you have to roll between 10 and 20 on a 20-sided die in order to hit an enemy with an armor class of 0. If you are fighting a monster with an armor class of 1, then you need to roll between 11 and 20 to hit that mob. If the mob’s armor class is 8, you only need to roll between 2 and 20 in order to hit that monster. You can affect your THAC0 by using magical items that give a positive hitroll bonus. This bonus will enhance your THAC0 and therefore your ability to hit a monster.
The help entry for AC (Armor Class) further explains how this hit/miss system works. See also: AC
I don’t think it still applies, but it did at one time. A bit of history in the help files.
And, most important of all, people still play TorilMUD.
It isn’t the 100+ people we used to have on at once back in the day. But when I log in now and again to see what has changed, I always see between 15 and 30 people online. Enough to form up a group generally and go raid a zone now and again. As with any game based on progression via levels, almost everybody on these days is at or close to the level cap of 50. Occasionally I see somebody in their 20s or 30s. And sometimes it isn’t even an alt of a player that already has a few level 50s.
I poke my nose back in every so often. I still see people I remember. And time continues its relentless march forward.
Anyway, just to archive something away for a later date, after the cut you will find the credits output for TorilMUD. The bulk of the credits is a list of zones in the game, their level range, and the creator. That will give you a little insight into how vast the world is that has been created over more than 20 years. I started playing 20 years back, but the work started before I ever showed up.
Sure, the “world stat” command will give you the summary:
Total number of zones in world: 348
Total number of rooms in world: 65985
Total number of different mobiles: 19975
Total number of living mobiles: 46001
Total number of different objects: 19000
Total number of existing objects: 98257
Those are some big numbers. They have added something like 4,000 rooms and 29 zones since I last posted that output back in 2009. But actually scrolling through the list is more impressive.
More information can be found at TorilMUD.com.
The Call of Aradune November 1, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Camelot Unchained, EverQuest, TorilMUD, Vanguard SOH.
Tags: Brad McQuaid, Mark Jacobs, Shroud of the Avatar
The sword of Aradune has been drawn. Brad McQuaid is back in play.
The word is out. Reports are popping up around our little online neighborhood.
Brad McQuaid is putting together a project for Kickstarter, which he describes:
The game is high fantasy and if you’ve played EQ 1 and/or Vanguard, you’ve got a general idea of what the game’s about…
And part of me reads that and goes, “Whoo-haaa!” or some other loudly affirmative interjection.
After all, there was a time and place where we were clearly on the same page when it came to online gaming. We both were playing TorilMUD back in the day and he, along with a group of talented people, many of whom also played TorilMUD, and created EverQuest.
To this day I cannot describe the combined feeling of newness and amazement mixed in with equally strong feelings of comfort and a sense of being exactly where I wanted to be when I first started playing EverQuest.
And that is what springs to mind right away when I think about Brad McQuaid.
Unfortunately, he also brings up Vanguard, which is sort of the antithesis of EverQuest to me.
There were certainly a lot of things that went wrong on that path. The list of mistakes… with I can sort of sum up as “too much breadth, not enough depth” or “too much big picture ambition, not enough focus on the details”… was long. And it was crowed with arrogance that I found off-putting. It was the spiritual forefather of Tabula Rasa or Warhammer Online, the big draw based on a reputation that failed to pan out.
I suppose that Brad McQuaid can get a little satisfaction out of the fact that his creation outlasted those two titles. But it damn near did not. While I was happy enough for SOE to step in and save Vanguard, I couldn’t tell you if that was the best business decision for SOE. It is certainly not obvious if SOE made much money with the game relative to the effort it took to fix it, and less certain is what SOE could have done with that money. Finish The Agency maybe? who knows?
Anyway, I bring up those two other titles, Warhammer Online and Tabula Rasa for a pretty obvious reason. Mark Jacobs and Richard Garriott both had initial successes in the early MMO market, turned that into big projects that failed to meet expectations, and then turned around years later to do smaller, Kickstarter focused projects allegedly based on what they learned on their respective roads through life.
That, in turn, required them to come clean on what they actually learned in their failures and how they would apply that to the current projects, Camelot Unchained in the case of Mark Jacobs and Lord British’s Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues, which they did with mixed results.
Richard Garriott spent a lot more time blaming EA, NCSOFT, and people less talented than him along with playing the nostalgia card rather than going into much detail. Mark Jacobs was more forthcoming, especially in terms of focus and what the Kickstarter financing really meant to the project. But then he had to mention how Warhammer Online still had a great rating on Metacritic, which was something of a face palm moment, as well as a reminder of the value of pre-release reviews around something like an MMO.
So that time is coming for Brad McQuaid.
He is going to have to stand up and not only be able to talk about his new project and where he wants to go with it, but also what he learned from Vanguard and how those lessons will be applied to this project. I realize that he has spoken frankly before about what he felt went wrong at Sigil Games when they were working on Vanguard. But that is always the easy part. Now is the time to talk about practical application of the lessons learned. How will he keep these things from happening again.
And I am expecting to hear a lot about focus and managing expectations and keeping things small to start with and then building upon a solid foundation.
Anyway, that should make for some interesting reading when it comes to pass.
NBI – To All The Guilds I’ve Loved Before… October 22, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, TorilMUD, Warhammer Online, World of Tanks, World of Warcraft.
Tags: NBI, New Blogger Initiative, Newbie Blogger Initiative
Doone’s Permanent Floating New Blogger Initiative II has been up and running for a while now. It has forums and goals and things to do and participants and all that.
And while I signed up as some sort of sponsor, I have so far completely failed to anything very sponsorly.
Of course, I was a bit glib the first time around as well. In part that is because I have trouble swallowing some of the advice people throw out for bloggers. And, also, because I have trouble taking myself seriously in this regard. So while I came up with some bits and pieces of things that worked for me, my only real advice is to be the blog you want to read. If you look at your blog and cannot answer the question, “Would I read this if it was written by some stranger?” then you might be doing it wrong.
Anyway, I thought it was about time to earn my so-called keep as a sponsor . Doone has a couple of blogging activities for the month, including something called a “Talk Back Challenge” that appears to be an attempt get a few people tackling the same subject. One of them happens to be about Guilds in MMOs.
Guilds: What For? What functions to guilds serve in games and what kind do you prefer? You can talk about your experiences in guilds, what attracts you to them, and their role in the games you play.
Rather than going about this by describing what I think guilds should be about and such, I thought I would do a bit of research to see what guilds I am still in (or which still influence me since I have left) and try, from that, to derive some indication as to what a guild appears to actually mean to me.
Because this is just a list of guilds with a few comments, I will hide this after a cut so as not to make the front page a mile long.
Great Moments in Exploits – The Ressurection September 20, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Dungeons & Dragons Online, entertainment, MMO Design, TorilMUD.
There were corpses all around the great fountain in Waterdeep.
Not that there aren’t usually a corpse or three sitting around there, preserved and waiting for a resurrection. There was one there even as I started to write this.
But this different. This was a lot of corpses. And they were all from the same player who, I recalled, was a high level barbarian warrior.
Even as I stood there pondering the corpses the warrior, whose name I cannot recall all these years later, entered the room and attacked the elite guard. He was killed almost immediately and another corpse joined the pile.
This went on for a while, the corpse count growing, while several of us pondered what he was up to. Was this an attempt at an epic rage quit? Was he working on some sort of corpse based art project? Was this some sort of science project?
After a while, with many corpses on the ground, he gave up and went away. Somebody was casting preserve on the corpses so that they would not rot and disappear as quickly, but otherwise we had a bunch of empty player corpses and some speculation about what had just happened.
As it turned out, of our possible answer, the last one turned out to be correct. It was MUD science in action.
The player in question had apparently discovered that, in the character database, the key unique value for any character was the character’s name, as opposed to some unique never-seen number. And why not? Names were supposed to be unique in the world. So what linked anything in the world to your character… equipment, corpses, money… was your character’s name.
The player had also discovered that when you die, part of the information saved with the corpse was how much experience it should restore to you if you received a resurrection. When you died, you lost 25% of the experience of your current level. If you got a successful ress, about 80% of that lost experience was returned to you.
And, finally, the player had noticed that when you deleted a character, any corpses that character left behind remained in the game. The corpses were not tied to the character but were just objects in the world related to the character only because they were flagged with the character name.
Do you see where I am going with this?
So the player had taken his level 50 barbarian warrior, a somewhat common sort of character in the game and one of the easier classes to get up to level 50, and turned it into a pile of experience laden corpses strewn about the streets of Waterdeep.
The player then deleted what remained of that character, leaving the corpses behind.
The player then rolled up a new character, an enchanter, one of the most in-demand and difficult to level classes in the game. He gave this character the same name as the warrior he had just deleted. This character and name was approved by the admins… the naming rules were rigorously enforced by the people who ran TorilMUD… sort of… and this fresh level 1 enchanter entered the world.
This newly minted magic user made his way to Waterdeep, where a friendly cleric began resurrecting the corpses left behind by the old character. And it worked. The enchanter leveled up rapidly with each resurrection. The enchanter did not make it to level 50, or even level 40 if I recall right, but he got far enough into the level curve to get past the awkward “got no spells” and “got no useful spells” points in his career and straight into the “I have key spells that make me useful to a group” zone, wherein he could expect to find experience groups easily and be able to make his way to the level cap with some diligence.
Except, of course, for the whole part where he got caught almost immediately by the game admins.
The admins get a little message every time somebody levels up if they have the right feed turned on. So while I understand that the player in question waited until no admins were visible online, there were a couple on that were hidden. And they swooped down on him right away.
Now, this did not happen in the bad old days, when he likely would have been banned for life from ever playing TorilMUD. There was a time when the admins would ban whole blocks of IP addresses just to rid themselves of one person, occasionally screwing over somebody else in the process. But he had still be caught red-handed using an exploit to his own advantage. He lost his new enchanter, all his experience, and probably some equipment along the way. He was no doubt put on probation and might have even been given a temporary ban. But if I recall right, they did not actively seek to ban him for life or burn down his house or anything that might have happened if he had tried this in the early to mid 90s.
And, shortly thereafter, a fix went in that wiped out any corpses remaining in the world when you deleted a character.
Or so I recall.
That is the rub here. This happened nearly a decade ago. I was not directly involved. Everything I heard at the time was second or third hand and might have included a fair amount of speculation being passed off as fact. And, of course, my own memory might have enhanced the tale as well. The details might be totally out of alignment with what actually happened, and if you know something, feel free to correct me in the comments.
The essence of the tale is true though. Somebody got their character killed repeatedly, saved the corpses, deleted the character, created a new character with the same name, and received repeated resurrections that rapidly leveled up the new character. And I was around for bits of the whole thing. Well, at least the killing and corpses bit.
And the whole event certainly does say something about players. I am sure that this is covered somewhere in Raph Koster’s list of Laws of Online World Design.
I had actually forgotten about this event in TorilMUD history. I was only reminded of it when I read Psychodhild’s post about the reincarnation game mechanic in Dungeons & Dragons Online. That trigger the memory of somebody really attempting to recycle a character in order to bring it back as something new.
Which brings up the question if players ought to be allowed to do something with level cap characters that they do not play any more. Could you use that as a re-roll mechanism that bestowed some benefit or which acted as a gate to new content for another run to level cap?
Decisions and Inventory Management July 8, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, MMO Design, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
Tags: A lot of words, No Real Point
Why doesn't every MMO have a "sell all trash" button… first thing I notice when I play one that doesn't. Bag management is not fun ever.—
Belghast (@belghast) June 27, 2013
I must agree. I love that button. I feel that pain all the more because I am playing Lord of the Rings Online at the moment, which makes vendoring items about twice as annoying as most other MMO I have experienced. Meanwhile, Rift has put that button in the cash shop, so you can rid yourself of vendor trash wherever you may be.
Well… at least I agree at that instant, gut reaction, convenience level. Long live the button!
Hell, as one person responded to that tweet, why have gray items at all? If you want to reward players, just drop coin and be done with it.
But then I start thinking about how we got there in the first place, which seems to me to be a convergence of a couple of things.
First there is the reality of currency and the fact that wild animals rarely ever carry any at all. If you want to give your players a currency reward for every kill, then you have to do it indirectly with item drops or explain why your wildlife feels the need to have coinage on them at all times… and how they carry it.
Granted, these sorts of drops do not necessarily have to be vendor trash. LOTRO has turned those gray remains into quest items that generate a little experience and a small boost with the local faction, though in the end I still vendor them most of the time because I usually need cash more than faction.
I will call that the lesser reason for gray drops. It could be worked around it in all sorts of ways if you set your mind to it.
Then there is what I think of as the greater reason, which is essentially to drive us crazy.
Well, not explicitly. That is just a side effect for some.
It really is/was a way to put constraints around the game to force us to make choices rather than simply having things our own way. This aspect has some deep roots.
Much meandering on that after the cut.
The Feedback Issue – Which Weapon Should I Use? June 24, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, MMO Design, TorilMUD.
You were to adventure in the world and not focus on min/max or optimizing or beating the numbers. You were there to group up to go forth and find adventure. Your mind needed to be on the world described, not on some die roll.
Me, attempting to sum up the early philosophy of TorilMUD
Potshot latched onto this quote in a past post where I was going on about changes in TorilMUD.
The context was around the fact that TorilMUD is exposing more numbers to players.
The game, based on the early philosophy I mentioned above, strove at times to hide what we might consider some of the most basic numbers in the game. Rolling up a character required accepting stats that were not numbers, but just descriptions. You might see “average” or “above average” or “mighty,” each of which mapped to a range of values. The numbers were eventually revealed once you hit level 20, by which point you were presumably committed to a character, though if this was you 4th or 5th character, you probably had enough equipment stored away to twink them out, and enough knowledge of where to go, to get them to level 20 in maybe just 8 hours of game time.
That started to change over the years, especially during the latest incarnation of the game. And the changes were primarily justified as being about providing feedback to the players.
The first thing to change was how you could check on your level progression.
Back in the old days, you had to go all the way back to your class guild master and check on your experience, which resulted in messages like this:
The great druid Kaladan is ready to show you how to become one with nature.
Your guildmaster says ‘You are still a very long way from your next level.’
I think that meant I was between 20% and 29% into my current level. There was a different message for each 10% graduation per level. And while some of the messages were more obvious than that… before and after half way said just that and for the last 10% your guild master grinned in anticipation… it was still a pain to travel all the way back to town just to get a reading on your progress.
So that changed to a text version of a progress bar, then to a simple percentage read out, and, just recently, slaying mobs began reading out both an experience point value and a percentage like this:
You beautifully slash a burly sailor into two parts – both dead.
a burly sailor is dead! R.I.P.
A burly sailor slumps to the ground.
You receive 40,573 XP (1.07%) experience.
Your blood freezes as you hear the rattling death cry of a burly sailor.
So there you go. It is now possible, 19 years after the MUD first started, to directly assess the value of a given mob. And the “exp” command tells you how much you need to get to the next level.
You are 5,101,956 XP (94.48%) away from your next level.
The problem is that we have now moved from levels being something of a mystery to levels becoming a mathematically precise certainty, which is a clear step away from the original philosophy of the game. The next step would seem to be to expose hit point values and damage rolls. Right now those are still hidden with verbiage.
You parry a burly sailor’s lunge at you.
A burly sailor’s attack only grazes you as you maneuver your mount!
A burly sailor slightly wounds you with his average hit.
Your mighty slash slightly wounds a burly sailor.
Your attack only grazes a burly sailor as he dodges aside!
Your strong slash barely wounds a burly sailor.
< 400h/427H 210v/210V >
< T: Kigev TC: few scratches E: burly EC: small wounds >
But is that the right direction? Must we always move towards exposing more numbers?
Certainly that is the easiest way to express feedback in a system that is made up of numbers. And if you are going to try and hide numbers, you have to come up with an effective way to provide feedback on some things that we might otherwise not consider, such as how to tell which weapon you ought to be swinging.
Weapon comparisons have been done with numbers… which pretty quickly got summed up in DPS ratings… for a long time now.
But could you do it without numbers. Could you look at a weapon, equip it, maybe try it in a fight or two, and get enough feedback to say whether or not this is what you out to be swinging.
I decided to check TorilMUD to see if perhaps weapons gave enough description for that sort of thing.
Certainly some do. The description for my Paladin’s holy avenger lets you know that this sword is something special.
This heavy sword has been crafted out of an unknown metallic alloy, the exact nature of which is known only to the gods. The long blade gives off a soft and warming radiance, even as the edges glint dangerously. A hilt long enough for two hands to grip firmly has been decorated with kingfishers and the pommel is crafted to look as though a dragon maw is gripping a brilliant pearl. Flaring crossguards sweep up, masterfully tapering into the appearance of talons that meet the bright blade.
After the long quest to obtain it, you were probably pretty sure it was going to be hot stuff in any case. But what about further down the food chain? I decided to look at weapons that new players might pick up, to see if I could correctly pick the best weapon by looking at the description. In order to limit the range and to keep to places I knew well, I focused on the areas outside of Leuthilspar, the elven starting area.
In some of the old haunts I was able to pick up five weapons from various mobs to see what their descriptions said.
Name: a bronze sword
Description: The sword is fairly small yet broad, with a thick leather handle. It looks perfect for close in encounters.
Name: a small sword
Description: The small sword seems to have an inscription of some sort.
Name: a long sword
Description: you see nothing special
Name: a cudgel made of stonewood
Description: This blunt, short club is made from a special type of wood which is hard as stone. Crafted by the special skill of the faeries the club is impervious to damage.
Name: a wooden spear
Description: This wooden stick is almost but not completely straight, it is about two feet in length. Sharpened to a point it makes a crude but usable weapon as demonstrated by the dried blood on its tip.
So, given those five choices, which would you choose, assuming you have chosen the warrior’s path and are thus likely not to face any class restrictions?
Actual stats after the cut.
TorilMUD offers a Web Client June 12, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, MUDs, TorilMUD.
Tags: HTML 5, Web Client
The crew running TorilMUD just announced that they have a beta HTML 5 web client available for people to try out. It offers some pretty reasonable features.
- Scripts in the Cloud: Create aliases and triggers once on the web client and use them from anywhere.
- Script packages: Organize scripts into “packages” that are shared throughout your account and usable by every character.
- Aliases: Create aliases with support for variable matching and multi-line commands.
- Triggers: Design powerful triggers with the use of full-featured regular expressions.
- History: Recent commands can be easily traversed via the up and down arrow keys.
- Scroll lock: Auto-scrolling intelligently pauses whenever you begin manually scrolling, and will resume when you scroll all the way down or enter a command.
- 256 Colors: Goodbye 16 colors – the web client has 256 colors all the time.
Right now the Web Client is only usable if you have created an account and rolled up characters through a traditional telnet client, but I imagine that if things go well, all of that will eventually be included.
The URL for the web client is in the article linked above, and it sends you to an account login page.
Logging in gives you a list of the characters you have associated with your account. The concept of an account login is still somewhat new as well. Back in the day, every character had its own login and password. Once logged in, you get a list of the character on your account.
Once you choose a character, hey presto, you are in the game.
From there, things look very much like a standard MUD client that supports ANSI color. That used to be one of the big things about TorilMUD, and its predecessor Sojourn, the full on support and usage of color in their text.
My old main character was still there.
You can go about your business in game, or camp out and select one of the other characters associated with your account.
And it all looks good and responds quickly.
Now color is great, but not really required to play the game. You could open up the Windows command prompt and telnet into TorilMUD and play it if you so desired. Why people don’t do that instead opting for a purpose built MUD client is for things like triggers and aliases.
Triggers are automated responses to text coming from the game. I mentioned those the other day. The simplest ones can be things like drinking from a container when you get the “You are thirsty” message.
Aliases are short cut commands that set off more complex actions. One of my oldest ones would let my type in “cpff Rarik” which would then output “cast ‘protection from fire’ Rarik” to the game.
These two items are not required to play the game. I played Sojourn/TorilMUD for the first five years with an ANSI terminal emulator that supported 10 simple macros I could configure on the fly. Everything else I just typed by hand. (Which made me a very fast typist in time.)
But life is definitely better, especially doing zones… the TorilMUD equivalent of raids… when you have 15 other people in your group and you have set responsibilities and need to both see and respond quickly to situations in the midst of what can be an incredibly spammy flow of text. Buying zMUD back in the day was an investment I do not regret in any way. I think at one point I lost my key when a machine died and I just bought a second copy. It was totally worth it.
And the beta TorilMUD web client supports triggers and aliases.
You can create groups of simple triggers and aliases to help automate some of the more mundane tasks in the game.
And, anything you create gets saved in
my butt the cloud… well, on their server in any case. People throw around the term “cloud” pretty loosely, despite it having a pretty specific meaning. (Hint: If my data is on a single server or in a single location, it isn’t in any sort of “cloud.”) Anyway, scripts you create are there for you when log into the game from other locations.
Leaving aside some bugs in the current implementation, the HTML 5 web client for TorilMUD is like that basic Craftman tool kit you buy for somebody when they first get their own place. It has a couple of screw drivers, an adjustable wrench, and a few other items that will cover very basic situations.
A MUD client like zMUD, on the other hand, is like the super deluxe Snap-on tools setup that has you covered for just about every obscure need.
So with zMUD I can have conditional triggers, triggers that parse multiple terms in a single statement, triggers that turn off or on other triggers, triggers that highlight text, triggers that parse data and write to a log or a database, triggers to generate statistics, a whole world mapping subsystem, the ability to pipe specific data to other windows, and a myriad of other things that let you create your own custom client and UI.
Plus… and this is a surprisingly important point for me… zMUD maps the 10-key pad on your keyboard to be movement keys. The almost immediate, fall flat on my face moment for me with the web client was moving. I had to think about how to do it. I have to press “n” and then return to move north, rather than just spamming out directions on the 10-key as I have been trained to do for the last 15 years. Ah well.
No, what this web client represents is a way for new players to see a MUD in the best possible terminal emulation while giving them some of the basic tools of the trade, all within a browser interface.
It is an easy gateway into the world of MUDs. And for that, it is a fine solution.
See the TorilMUD web site for more details.
The End of a Trigger, The Expansion of Information June 5, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, TorilMUD.
While I do not play TorilMUD any more, I do watch their for updates and remain interested in how the game continues to change and evolve nearly 20 years after I started playing its direct antecedent, Sojourn MUD. (Interesting that they distinguish the two now.)
An update went out last week around some new changes that included this item:
The “You receive your share of experience.” death message has been replaced with a new message that shows you the exact numerical XP gain as well as the percentage to two decimal points.
That was notable for me on two fronts. The first has to do with triggers.
I miss triggers.
In a MUD or like game (MUSH, MOO, whatever) a trigger is generally something set up in the client you use to connect to the MUD (in my case, zMUD) that parses the text scrolling by on your screen waiting for a specific set of characters to which to respond. There were endless useful and silly ways to use them, and they totally failed to translate into the graphic MMORPG world. Macros and log parsers and such are neat, but triggers were a world apart.
In the case of the bit above, one of the first triggers I made back in the day was to save when I got experience from a kill. As we have discussed before, MUDs crash to the point of dictating player behavior… and influence the whole MMORPG genre. However, most MUDs I played, including TorilMUD, did not save the state of your character to the database on every change event. Rather, there was a timer that would save your character every 5-10 minutes.
You could see it happening. Every once in a while a little “saving” message would appear which, aside from being mildly informative, made a great base for a keep alive trigger to keep you from being disconnected for sitting idle too long.
Anyway, if you gained experience, looted a mob, or generally benefited from you actions and failed to save… and the auto save hadn’t rolled around yet… and the MUD crashed, your character would be set back to the last save point. (In the perverse nature of such games, all the really bad things… death, corpse destruction on a resurrect attempt, and so on, included a save point. A crash couldn’t help you there!)
So, on obtaining a decent MUD client, one of the first things you would end up doing was creating a set of “good thing happened, save now!” triggers, giving you things that looked somewhat like this.
There is the “You receive your share of experience.” message that was part of the quote above. The “save” after it, in yellow-ish text, is the trigger response to parsing that string. I think I picked up zMUD over 15 years ago (having used a simple terminal emulator before that) and have had that trigger ever since. And now it no longer works. It is like the end of an era.
Not that it is the first trigger of mine to fall by the wayside. The first mildly complex trigger I had to create was to retrieve a fumbled weapon. You used to drop your weapon on a bad roll. You would get a message like:
You fumble and send an inlaid silver longsword flying!
The trigger would have to get the weapon off the ground and then equip it again. That was easy enough to create, just copy the line to trigger off of, and then put in a response like:
Piece of cake!
Then you would find a better weapon and suddenly the message would be:
You fumble and send the flaming holy flamberge of the efreeti flying!
Your trigger would just sit there. No match. Back to the drawing board.
You could just make a trigger for each new weapon. Or your could be lazy in the long term and work hard in the short term and create a trigger that knew which part of the message was the name of the weapon… the red part in the above… would save that in a variable and then parse out of that the right word… or just take the last word… and use that for the get and equip commands.
You had your universal trigger!
Then you would get a weapon where the visible name had none of the keywords for the weapon and curse the immortals and the perversity of the universe. I had a couple of different “longswords” that had keywords “long” and “sword” but not “longsword.” At one point you could use the generic term “weapon,” but that would pick up the first weapon on the ground, which might not be yours, and swearing would ensue.
The fumble mechanic was one of the things that never made it into the live version EverQuest… I expected it might, but am very happy it did not… and eventually it got turned off in TorilMUD, so I need not worry about that one any more.
Enough on triggers. Now the second front on which that initial quote was notable for me, and that has to do with information.
The idea that, in TorilMUD, you would be told exact experience gain numbers as well as percentages down to two decimal places… well… at one time it would have been Bizarro world insane to suggest it.
The founders of TorilMUD had a specific philosophy on how you should play in their world. And included in that philosophy was the idea that all the underlying numbers… and as many of the character level numbers as practical… should be hidden from the user.
You were to adventure in the world and not focus on min/max or optimizing or beating the numbers. You were there to group up to go forth and find adventure. Your mind needed to be on the world described, not on some die roll.
And so when you rolled up a character, you were shown only vague descriptions of your stats. Your charisma might be average, your strength excellent, but your constitution above average. Do I take that character to be a ranger, or do I roll again. (Roll again, anything with less than excellent CON is not worth having, as I learned the hard way.)
Once you were in game, the stats got more precise descriptions at level 10, and you got to see actual numbers at level 20, and by level 25 all of the stats you were going to be allowed to see were finally visible to you. The thinking here, I gather, was that by 25 you would be committed to the character.
The reality was that a lot of characters hit 20 and never went forward.
Likewise, you couldn’t see gear stats directly. You could guess the armor class by seeing how that changed when you put on an item… unless you were below level 20, where there were only descriptions at every 10 point increment, so unless you crossed a boundary, things would remain the same. And +hit or +dam on any weapon could only been seen after level 20 as well.
The only was to get the stats on a weapon was to use a scroll of identify, which were prohibitively expensive for new players. But if you could afford them, it would give you a read out like this:
Name ‘the flaming holy flamberge of the efreeti’
Keyword ‘flamberge efreeti flaming sword holy’, Item type: WEAPON
Item can be worn on: WIELD 2H
Item will give you the following abilities: NOBITS
Item is: MAGIC NOBURN NO-CLERIC NO-THIEF NO-MAGE NOBITS
Weight: 25, Value: 100000
Damage Dice is ’7D4′
Fire : 5%
Can affect you as :
Affects : HITROLL By 6
Affects : DAMROLL By 3
Special Effects : Flaming Ball
You had better copy and save that off, because once that data scrolls off screen, it only exists in your memory.
You can see the keywords to which I alluded before. And that, but the way, is a weapon with about all the stats you can expect. It does 7D4 damage on each hit, is +hit, +dam, will proc fireball randomly, and applies resist fire. I always think of this when I get equipment drops with a laundry list of stats and bonuses.
Oh, and the value is the base vendor value in copper coins. But since vendors were eventually set to buy at a fraction of the base price (and sell at a multiple, to prevent
fraud exploits ambitious money making schemes), that number had little practical value.
Anyway, if you were lucky and could afford it, you could get that much information… unless the item had the “NO IDENTIFY” flag, in which case your scroll of identify got used up and you got nothing.
Basically, information was hidden as much as practical and players were encouraged not to share information they learned in any general way. And the idea that you would publish data in a public fashion was, as I discussed in the past, practically an anathema. The idea that there would ever be an online stats database was just crazy talk.
And that applied to experience earned.
In the early days all you got was the message at the top, indicating that you earned some experience. To find out how far into a given level you were, you would have to go to town and visit your guild, where in response to your query you would get one of ten responses that indicated how far along you were. Somewhere I have all those guild leader messages saved.
Later, in the most recent age of TorilMUD, players were allowed to see their experience progress in the “score” result, first as a series of has marks, each representing 2% of a level, and then later an outright percentage.
Now you can see raw experience.
And I couldn’t tell you if that makes the game better or worse. If more information is always good, or if hiding things away made for a better game.
The latter certainly kept us busy trying to figure out the stats… which I guess meant we weren’t playing the game right.
Charting the Relative Natures of MMO Economies May 28, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, Guild Wars 2, Lord of the Rings Online, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Charts and Graphs, I could make a little list, MMO Economy
I think that by this point in time, some fifteen years down the road from the launch of Ultima Online, having a player economy is one of the hallmarks of games I consider to be MMOs, at least when I use the term.
If there is no player to player economy, then the game is something else to my mind. World of Tanks, not an MMO in my book. EverQuest certainly is.
And desire for a player driven economy stems from the deep in the roots of the genre.
In 1993 I was playing TorilMUD, arguably the precursor of EverQuest, which was very much a gear driven game. Despite there being no mechanism at all to handle or encourage a player economy, one spontaneously appeared. The desire to exchange gear for trade or coin, the need to create an economy, was so strong that an unofficial one was started and developed its own rules and customs. And it became popular enough that there were standard prices for certain items. We would sit around in Waterdeep and people would do shout auctions for items, which you would bid on with a direct tell to the seller. And it you were looking for something, you would shout out a “want to buy” or WTB.
The economy become very popular very quickly, to the point that the people running TorilMUD were not quite sure what to do with it. First they tried to contain the amount of spam it caused in town, putting a limit on the number of yells you could do over a given period of time and then by trying to get us to do this in a single room rather than shouting across a whole zone. Eventually, an auction house was implemented, though the devs put the auctioneer in out of the way places, as I think they were still suspicious of the player driven economy.
This suspicion came, in part, from the fact that the player driven economy pointed out flaws in the game. With little to spend the in-game currency on besides items from other players, some people began to amass huge quantities of cash. This, of course, drove up the price of everything in the player economy because the long term players could afford to drop a lot of coins on things they wanted for themselves or alts.
But the whole sinks and faucets and inflation aspect of the currency is another discussion.
Likewise, when EverQuest launched, there were no tools to drive a player economy. It formed around the Commonlands tunnel where people would go to buy and sell, very much in the model of TorilMUD. This popped up again for a bit on the progression servers, at least until the bazaar showed up.
I was thinking about all of this and trying to fit MMO player economies into a two dimensional system for comparison.
What I came up with was how much of a requirement the player economy was to play the game and how much friction there was to engaging in the player economy.
The first seems pretty reasonable to gauge. Can you play the game, or can you get very far in the game, without engaging in the player economy. For example, in EVE Online, you have to use the player economy to play the game. You could, I suppose, try to avoid it. In fact, it might be an interesting experiment to see what you could do without it. But I imagine that it would be a long, slow grind to completely avoid the market and it would limit what you could accomplish.
Most other MMOs make the player economy somewhat optional, and have moved more in that direction over time. The combination of quest rewards and game difficulty have moved in the direction of keeping players independent of the player economy.
Friction, on the other hand, encompasses a whole range of things, such as:
- How easy is it to access the market?
- How easy is it to buy and take delivery?
- How good is the UI?
- How high are the fees/taxes on transactions?
- How stable is pricing?
- Do enough people use the economy to make it viable?
And it is with this that you start to get all over the map. For example, Guild Wars 2 and EVE Online are oddly similar in how easy it is to view the market. You can bring it up in the UI wherever you are. On the other hand, while GW2 shows you everything on the market in the game, EVE limits you to your current region.
Anyway, in order to compare these, I made a little graph and put down where I thought certain games might sit on those two continuum. This is what I ended up with.
The X axis is friction, and the mixed bag of items that represents. The Y axis is how much of a requirement it is to engage in the player driven economy. For a few games I made entries for past states of the game and how they seem currently.
EVE Online is, of course, the game furthest down the required end of the spectrum. I also put it midway along the high end of the friction scale. On the one hand the market is chopped up by regions, there is no delivery so you have to go get the item from the station in which it was listed, this leads to interesting price differentials based on convenience, there is a double tax/fee system, and then there is the whole contracts economy to confuse the issue. And pity the poor capsuleer in the middle of nowhere in need of something.
Mitigating that friction is that if you go to the right system, usually Jita, you can find what you want to buy, and there are so many buyers and sellers competing that there is price stability.
At the other end of things is Guild Wars 2, where you can list to sell anywhere and just have to find the right NPC to pick up items you have purchased and proceeds from sales. The friction is so low that low that lots of people engage in the economy, so commodities for crafting and the like are readily available at reasonable prices. How much a player is really required to participate is a wild guess on my part. Gear provided by your personal quest line seemed good if you kept up, but I have no idea if that carries on through the game.
In the middle, well, a few other games. I ranked LOTRO‘s friction higher than most because of the low participation and the annoying locations and mediocre UI of the auctioneers. On the other hand, you don’t really need it, and doubly so since Turbine started selling very good armor in the cash shop.
EverQuest II was high friction at launch in some ways… you had to be online to sell, sales were restricted to the storage space of your home (which you had to have to sell), and fees pushed players to go visit players directly in their homes. And, if you were crafting at the time, there was the interdependence of the crafting skills that required you to use the market or use up your four character slots to make crafting alts. On the other hand, when you buy something on the broker in EQII, it appears right in your inventory. A lot of that got smoothed out over time, but dependence on the broker went with a lot of that.
EverQuest started at high friction, you had to be online and see the right person on the auction channel selling something you wanted. Later the Bazaar came and you could get a listing, but sellers had to be online, in the Bazaar, and you had to go find them. Finally, things got to offline selling in the more recent expansions, though I think you still have to show up at the Bazaar.
I ranked TorilMUD even higher on friction, if only because the player base was so much smaller. When your player population is a few hundred, and only 256 can be on at a time, your buying and selling options are pretty limited.
And in the middle there is World of Warcraft, which used to have a segmented market, but which has since been unified. The UI for it has gotten better over time, and the addons for playing the auction house have grown more sophisticated, but the need for the auction house has diminished over time as quest rewards in the form of gear have become more regular and standardized through the leveling process.
So there is my chart. It is pretty much a gut-level, unsubstantiated work at this point. Where do you think I am right and where am I clearly wrong? And where would other games fit on the chart?
And, of course, where do you think MMOs should sit on that chart? What would be ideal, if anything?
Dangerous Travel May 24, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, EverQuest, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
Travel is always a hot button issue. Long have been the debates between convenience and seeing, or making people see, the world. What is a waste of time and what builds character and all that.
And opinion has changed on it over time.
For example, in WoW, you used to have to go and find flight points on foot (or on a mount) before you could use them.
Later, Blizzard decided to open up any flight point at your level or below without having to visit them.
Then, more recently, Blizz changed their mind and now you have to go find them again.
Clearly not a settled issue.
But what about the more dangerous methods of travel? What about stuff that can get you killed?
A friend of mine who is back playing WoW sent me a pic of his new favorite toy in the game, the Last Relic of Argus.
It will send you to one of a list of locations. His first try sent him to the bottom of the Golakka Hot Springs in Un’Goro Crater. He set it off and walked away from the computer, only to find himself drowning upon his return. Always good for a laugh.
That reminded me of the engineering device from the Wrath of the Lich King era, the Northrend Wormhole Generator that would put you in some pretty odd places when it was working right. And when it wasn’t, you would end up high in the sky and hoping you remembered to attached the flexweave underlay to your cloak so you could deploy it as a parachute.
And then we moved on to the old days of TorilMUD and the spell planeshift.
Some of them were clearly dangerous locations. The astral plane was always good for a wipe. Somebody might wander into the wrong room and elicit this zone wide shout indicating things have gone horribly wrong.
Juiblex shouts ‘You will pay for attacking me mortal worms! Denizens of Darkness, Come and Feast upon Thanti!
And the plane of Fire could also be bad news. Just for openers it was, as the name implies, on fire. You needed a powerful fire protection object just to survive long enough to worry about who lived there. And even if you did have such an item, the dread Moritheil might get you killed before you got back to the City of Brass or other destinations.
Other planes were more benign. There was a plane of smoke where nothing was aggro. You needed protection from gas to stay there for long, and you had to be flying to move around. But it wasn’t a big deal.
The ironic twist in the whole planeshift spell was that the most dangerous place to shift to was the prime material plane, which was basically the world where we all were most of the time anyway.
The thing was that, while shifting to the other planes was sort of random, there were limited locations that allowed it, and none were at the big mobs that I recall, shifting to prime could stick you in any room that allowed teleport. And there were a lot of dangerous rooms which fit that bill.
At one point, when I was last “done” with the game, I used to take my level 50 druid and play what I called “the corpse game.”
I would pile on a bunch of coins and maybe some good gear and then planeshift between smoke and prime until I landed in a room with something I couldn’t solo and died. Then people would have to find my corpse in order to claim the loot.
I think the most times it took me to die was 10 shifts to prime, which given the number of possible rooms, says something. And I did it enough times to fall back to level 47, losing a quarter of a level of exp with each death.
So what other dangerous travel methods or devices have there been in MMOs?