Category Archives: MUDs

Solonor Saves the Elves with the Elder Forest

After all the news yesterday it might be time for a quiet Friday.  So I have finished up one of my TorilMUD drafts to continue on with the tale of the elves.

My Leuthilspar Tales series so far has been mostly about the hardships and disappointments faced by the elves and half-elves of Evermeet in TorilMUD. Isolated on the island, unable to take the elf gate to the mainland until level 20, the elves were left with the three zones I’ve written about before, Kobold Village, the Faerie Forest, and the Elemental Glades. The latter was more of a hazard to young elves than anything, the su-monsters killing many an unwary elf in their day.

Later we got the Sylvan Glades, a zone with much to recommend it… unless you were an ill-equiped elf under level 20. Then it wasn’t of very much use at all.

What a young elf needed was a place to accrue experience, get some gear, and maybe indulge in a bit of questing along the way.

Experience was they key of course. In the old school world of DikuMUD and its derivatives, of which TorilMUD was one, gaining experience and leveling up was a primary task, and slaying things was the main way to do this. Quests in TorilMUD were almost exclusively about equipment, and quest givers were rare, unmarked, and sometimes exasperating to deal with. And getting to level 20 was a prime goal. Not only could you get through the elf gate to Waterdeep, with its open air market selling gear you could only dream of back in Leuthilspar, but you also got to see your stats as numbers for the first time (Up until that point your stats were words like “good,” “excellent,” or “poor” that represented a range of values, “perfect” being the only one to map to a single number, and many a character was abandoned upon hitting 20 only to learn that the you were at the low end of the range for some key stat, so were screwed.) and you could petition a GM for a last name. (Something else EverQuest borrowed.)

But getting to level 20, something that probably takes an evening in World or Warcraft these days, could take a a couple of days of play time. I think my first TorilMUD character had five days of play time… that would be 120 hours logged in… before he hit level 20. (And his stats were bad. Also, he was a ranger. A ranger with bad stats is like a double curse.) That was in part because I was learning the game and the lay of the land. But it was also because I had crap equipment and the competition for mobs was pretty fierce. And when I say “fierce” I mean there might be a dozen other people sharing the whole island with me also trying to level up.

Eventually I found people to team up with. People other than Xyd. He was a freaking magic user when what we really needed was a healer. But if somebody was doing the mob rotation for groups… there was set of mobs you could run between in Kobold Village and the Faerie Forest and slay in a single spawn cycle for maximum experience… and wouldn’t let you in, it was hard times. Solo mobs were slow times. If they were worth any decent experience they beat the crap out of you and you had to rest between fights… oh, the Kobold miners… and if you could kill them without resting up they were probably not worth much experience at all. Not that you could tell. Back then you had to go back to your class guild leader to get a vague statement about how far along you were in your level. They key was if the message included a grin. That meant you were within 10% of leveling.

So much complaining, I know. The upside was that shared adversity builds bonds. I played video games with people I met on Evermeet for years after the fact. A few still show up here and leave comments now and then. Our WoW guild was originally founded in 2006 by a group of TorilMUD players after we moved from EverQuest II.

Anyway, the problems of Evermeet could have been born had they not been isolated to our island. But if you started anywhere else in the game, you could walk to Waterdeep and partake of its bounty. Tiny Silver rings were as common as water, a few spawning on every reboot at the south end of town, coming with 5AC and +2 hit stats, a huge item for a low level player. That was the first thing an elf would buy in Waterdeep, to replace that +4hp pearl ring and probably that piece of string that boosted your save versus paralysis… and there was nothing paralyzing on Evermeet. So we felt justified in our resentment against the rest of the Faerun. Why couldn’t we have nice things?

One of the players I met back in the early days was a elf ranger named Rylandir. I think he was a ranger. He might have been a warrior. I just recall his attempt to get a full set of gear all in ANSI green, which makes me think ranger. Anyway, I caught up with Xyd down in the Kobold mines on day and he was grouped up with Rylandir. Xyd introduced him as “speaking in the ways of our ancestors” or something like that, a sign which I immediately picked up. We had ourselves a role player.

Which was fine. I try to be role play compatible, even if I cannot carry it off myself. I fear I am much more a “roll player” at my core, a reformed munchkin who can’t quite let go of the mechanics side of thing.

So I joined the group and we slew kobolds together for quite a stretch and he became part of the league of shared adversity.

What made him different that Xyd or Meclin or myself is that he didn’t just bitch about the problem and then move on once he hit level 20. He actually did something about it. After playing for a while he started looking into what it took to design a zone. He was going to be part of the solution for the elves.

Meanwhile the TorilMUD staff tried to throw us, and the leveling population in general, a bone by planting some special XP Grid zones in the game. These were square zones populated by a semi-random set of mobs of various levels, the idea being that there would always be some mobs to grind if your favorite areas were being camped. The zones were generic, tacked onto various zones around the world, identical, forgettable, and, worst of all, not very good experience.

We got one of those zones on Evermeet. I remember when they made their appearance all over. And after some experimentation they were declared to be not very useful.

XP Grid next to the Elemental Glades on Evermeet

The xp was poor, there was no loot, the coin drops were minimal, and there was nothing compelling or even midly interesting about the locations once you had wandered through. One explanation I heard was that the mobs were all generic, not having been assigned a class, so they could be randomly generated or some such, at that classless mobs did not give much experience. And that might have been true. But in hindsight I suspect that the whole thing was set up that way on purpose so as not to pull people away from the real zones in the game. Because if the XP grids had been a worthwhile alternative, people whole have flocked there, and these grids were not what the game was about. So it was a deliberate “better than nothing” solution that didn’t even rise to that level of quality.

Rylandir’s efforts paid off however. He was now the immortal Solonor, the Forest Hunter. I seem to recall that he did a couple of small zones initially, but his first masterpiece was the Elder Forest on Evermeet.

It was, and remains, a magnificent zone, just the sort of area that the wee elves of Evermeet needed. The text of the zone was all done very nicely in ANSI colors. There were plenty of mobs in levels that rose the deeper into the zone you went.  There were only a few key aggressive mobs.  There were quests and the zone itself told a story in its room descriptions and through the behavior of its mobs.

It is also a multi-level zone with lots of hidden doors, mobs, and items that you have to search to find.  Without searching you would barely get into the zone.

Entry Level of Elder Forest

The theme is that of a musty, abandoned place, where the dead were laid to rest only to rise again.

First Level of Elder Forest

But it isn’t all undead.  There is an open area at the back and a hill around which a few different types of mobs reside.

The bottom level of the Elder Forest

And the levels interconnect, as you can see by the levels of the map (which go from top to bottom both in the post and in the game) and there is even a path over a hill that connects back to the same area, something that became part of the leveling loop later on.

It is hard to describe what a nice, well put together, tight zone is like in a MUD.  Things just work and flow nicely and you get a good sense of place.  There were also random atmospheric messages that varied with your location.  They might announce a blood curdling scream or a sense of being watched in the underground sections, or the sound of fighting or the ring or swords in the distance up on the hill.

It is also a bit difficult to describe the zone with the same emotion that I have done with others, like Kobold Village.  This is because the Elder Forest came along much later in my time in TorilMUD it doesn’t have quite the same attachment for me that the older zones do.  We ran through it many times during the current iteration of TorilMUD, which went live in early 2003, but I ran dozens of elves and half-elves through Kobold Village and the Faerie Forest during the 90s.

And the rework of the forest road outside of Leuthilspar did not help.  Once it was just eight rooms down the road and turn south.  After the change it was off in the distance.

Leuthilspar and Vicinity

And then, of course, there was the emancipation of the elves back in 2016.  The requirement to stay on Evermeet until level 20 was lifted and the elf gate at the east end of Leuthilspar was open to all elves.  They could leave the island and head to Waterdeep, which is where most of the population of the game tends to congregate.

Now the Elder Forest sits mostly silent.  Most low level zones are pretty quiet these days as the online population sits between 20 and 30 players and most of them are level 50.  But the Elder Forest is especially quiet.  It isn’t on the way to anywhere, unlike some of the mainland low level zones, and it is on Evermeet, where only those born there may freely tread.

The Elder Forest has become what it was designed to look like; a hidden tomb from a time past.  But for a short time it was a happy, active, and interesting zone to play in and explore.

Windows 10, ZMud, and Other Options

Having gotten the new system up and running and most everything transferred over, it was time to start looking into what was working and what was not.

Some things I opted to install over from scratch anyway.  The Zinstall transfer utility copied things to the matching drives on the new system, but since I had a small SSD there, meant really for Windows, the page file, and whatever absolutely HAD to go on the C drive, that meant some software I wanted on the new, 1TB SSD would need a fresh install.  World of Warcraft and EVE Online were the primary candidates for that.

WoW was, of course, easy.  It installed, found my settings, and got on with life.  EVE Online though… well, I got it going, but the profile options it gave me all seemed to be very old.  I was only really worried about my overview settings, and now I have something that is at least a year old, from the point when you could only have six overview tabs.  But at least the settings were basically there, I just have to remember to go in and check the box for ship types that were added since that time when I pull up a pre-set.

Other things could just live where they were placed, so long as they ran.  So, for example, Steam and all my games from that live on the 3TB D drive.  The same with an assortment of other MMOs that I do not play currently.  Most seemed to work, though the copy process seemed to have broken things from Daybreak.  EverQuest and EverQuest II won’t run, erroring out when the launcher comes up.  Such is life.

And then there were the oddball things.  I have dragged a lot of stuff forward from computer to computer over the years.  I’ve dug out stuff from the late 80s when sorting through archived directories.  Most of that is made up of documents.  I think there are a couple in there that I might have copied from my Apple //e to my MacSE way back in the day.

But there are some old apps that I have carried forward or acquired.  There is a copy of Civilization II – Gold Edition that I had to pick up on eBay when I moved to Win7 64-bit and found that support for 16-bit executables, like my original copy of Civ II, wasn’t a thing.

And then there is ZMud, which has been around for a while.

ZMud – Version 7.21 from October 2005

I have been running a copy of ZMud since the late 1990s.  Back when I was working on Macintosh products a friend at Apple got me the Windows compatibility card so I could run Windows in a window and ZMud in that.  It was such a giant leap ahead of the terminal emulator I was running on the Mac.

Later, when Apple looked to be dying and Michael Dell was suggesting that the company ought to liquidate and give the money to the investors and having Mac experience on your resume was just slightly better than McDonald’s, I managed to find a spot in a company that enterprise software on Windows NT based mostly on my experience with telephony, modems, and ISDN.

Since I prefer to have the same setup at home as the office, I too moved over to Windows, and have been there ever since.  And so I could run ZMud natively.  Since I was playing TorilMUD as my main game, I invested a lot of time in customizing ZMud with triggers and shortcuts and aliases and such.

But most of the value in the client was in the maps.  When I do posts about zones and such in TorilMUD you can see screen shots of the maps.

Kobold Village – Surface Map

In a MUD you cannot “see” the terrain, you can only see what is in the room with you and the exits.  It can be hard to keep your orientation, especially when a wily zone designer doesn’t stick to an absolute perfect grid.  And while long experience with some zones means I have some paths memorized, a lot of my ability to get around in the world of TorilMUD depends on those maps.

So you can imagine the sick feeling I had when ZMud wouldn’t run on the new system.

Okay, I knew it wouldn’t run straight out of the box.  It is from a different era of computing.  But I had fixed it up and gotten it running before, the last time being less than a year back.  All I had to do was set it to run as Administrator and set the compatibility profile for Windows XP SP2 and I ought to have been set.

But then it still wouldn’t run.  It was throwing MDAC, or Microsoft Data Access Components, errors.  That was a different problem altogether.

ZMud keeps its maps and its character database in what we used to call the Microsoft Jet Database format.  That, too, is some pretty ancient technology and has long since been superseded in the Microsoft lineup, but the backward compatibility used to always be there.

Database problems are not my area of expertise.  I am the person they make the GUI admin tool for.  But I figured somebody else must have had this problem before, so started the Google trek to find a solution.  A few hours and several utilities later however, things did not look good.  I went to bed thinking all that data was lost.

However, something I did seemed to have done the trick and the one final shut down and boot made it take effect, because when I resumed the next day the client launched and I was able to log in.

Still, I feel I am on borrowed time with ZMud.  While I managed to get the MDAC error solved by whatever means, it still doesn’t launch correctly every time.  I suspect there is some conflict that comes with another app loads a particular DLL, though I have to narrow that down.  It does seem to run if I do a reboot and launch it first.

Zugg came out with a replacement for ZMud called CMud, which itself is now more than a decade old.  I have tried to move over to it, as you’re supposed to be able to transition your data from ZMud, however I have not been successful with that on a few attempts over the years.

One client out there I want to take a look into is Mudlet.  It looks a little more modern, but more importantly it looks like there is a path that allows you to move your ZMud maps and such into it.

And, if nothing else, TorilMUD has actually added some level of in-game maps.

The new map in the Hive of the Manscorpions

For now though I am setup again with ZMud so I can finish off a few more posts about zones I want to remember.

Fox Tails, Goblins, and Bandor’s Flagon

The MUD just crashed!

Hurry, you need to reconnect!

Come on young elf!  This is your opportunity to get a piece or two of badly needed equipment!

Run run run!

Forget Kobold Village.  There probably isn’t anything there you need.

You must run to the Faerie Forest with all haste!

That was the rhythm of life on MUDs in general and TorilMUD in particular.

Most of the NPCs in the game load up with equipment only after a crash or a reboot.  Once slain and looted their most valuable reason for existence, contributing to your wardrobe, is gone.  You can get experience from them sure, but you can do that when the MUD has been up for some horribly long time.  The entire economy of the game rested on a level of instability that would allow a crash at least once or twice a day.

That was the pattern into which I was indoctrinated all back when I rolled up my half-elf ranger in Leuthilspar more than 20 years ago now.  You had to get out of the inn and to the right mob as fast as possible, and the Faerie Forest had the most opportunities.

First you had to get to the dark path that lead to the zone, which meant searching for the hidden entrance.

< > A Large Clearing in the Forest Room size: Large (L:40 ft W:40 ft H:25 ft)
Exits: -W

< > You don’t find anything.

< > You find a secret exit south!

And then there were the wood rats.

< > A Dark, Hidden Path Room size: Mid-sized (L:75 ft W:5 ft H:500 ft)
Exits: -N -E

A scruffy wood rat is here slinking around in the gloom.
A scruffy wood rat is here slinking around in the gloom.
A scruffy wood rat is here slinking around in the gloom.

You had to get past the wood rats.  The tunnel rooms were flagged as narrow, so players could only go through one abreast and you couldn’t just spam past any mob as you would bump into them.  If you were quick and lucky, you could lay day (recline) and pass under the wood rats.  That was how you had to get past other players or reorder groups in rooms so flagged.  It does make you wonder how big those wood rats were, given that a full grown male half elf with a sword and motley collection of armor could pass beneath them.

And if you were not lucky, well, you had to take the time to kill the wood rats.  They were not tough.  I think they were level 1 creatures.  But you had to stop and take a few swings to slay them.  On the bright side, the next young elf trying to make it to the treasures of the Faerie Forest would be stuck behind you.  You couldn’t pass somebody, even when reclined, if they were in combat.  So you would be killing wood rats while they were bumping into you.

Eventually though you would win you way through and into the Faerie Forest.  Having spent time lost there, I made a map and soon knew my way around to all of the key locations.

No exit on this map

The Faerie Forest

What you needed dictated where you would head first.  Very early during my career, which came just after a pwipe, having a light source was of vital importance.  If you did not have one, you might want to go find the Silver Fox.

The Silver Fox’s tail, which you could loot from its corpse, was flagged as being lit, so you just had to have it in your inventory and any room you entered would also be lit.

A silver fox is here hunting in the forest, looking for a meal for her young.
Your blood freezes as you hear the rattling death cry of a silver fox.
You get a silver fox tail from corpse of a silver fox.
a silver fox tail (illuminating)

This was a huge advantage over torches, which had to be held in one hand (so you couldn’t then have a shield, a second weapon, or a two handed weapon) and which would burn out quite quickly. (Unlike those who started in Waterdeep, elves didn’t get magical torches that never burned out.)  I suppose this was a missed opportunity for role play, having to fumble with torches.  But since every priest class got the spell Continual Light at some point, torches were never going to be in great demand in any case.

CONTINUAL LIGHT
Spell
Area of effect: <object> | Room
Aggressive: No
Cumulative: No
Duration: Permanent unless dispelled
Class/Circle: Cleric/Druid/Shaman 6th, Paladin 8th
Type of spell: Enchantment

“Continual light” allows the spellcaster to enchant an item by giving it a light flag, making it a permanent light source. Not specifying an object causes the whole room to be permanently lit by a magical light. It is one way for spellcasters to create light in the darkness if they have no other lamps, etc. This spell can be countered (in rooms) with a “darkness” spell.

See also: DARKNESS

Once Continual Light became common, people stopped running to find the Silver Fox.  But for a short time it was a key item.  You could sell it to somebody who was desperate and who couldn’t get to the Silver Fox or the fire at the tinker camp that, when search, would yield another illuminating item.

a glowing stick of faerie wood (illuminating)

There actually used to be two sticks of faerie wood, one in each of the fires.  The second one, which was an orange ANSI color if I recall right, had stats, so if you held it you got some benefit along with light.  It was something like a few hit points, but it was better than nothing, especially if you didn’t have something to hold in your off hand anyway.

Meanwhile, while you were down by the Silver Fox, the next big thing was the scrawny goblin who held the bag of snatching along with a few other goodies.

You get a bag of snatching from corpse of a scrawny goblin.

The bag was useful because… well… it was a bag.  And it was bigger than the bag you were handed as part of your new player kit.  And it was also displayed in a cool, dark ANSI color which I cannot quiet replicate here.  It was cool enough that even after we all had bags and had hit level 20 and moved out into the world, we could still sell the bag to people in Waterdeep simply because it looked cool.  In the end, I think it was heavy and only as good as a backpack you could buy from a vendor in town, but style sells.

The goblin was also the gate keeper to the room with the pile of trash.  Searching through it would yield a series of dubious treasures.

You find an ancient stone tablet!
You find a bit of string!
You find a wand of thunderous rage!
You find a moldy loaf of bread!
You find a steel shortsword!
You find a very dead rat!
You find a bronze dirk!
You search exhaustively and conclude there is nothing to be found!

Each had its use, if you include “able to be sold to a vendor” as a use.  The wand of thunderous rage was a particular heartbreak.  I knew people who held on to several of them until they hit a difficult battle, only to find that they didn’t actually do anything.  Wands were always strange birds in TorilMUD, though there was a wand of magic missile that was amusing to use from time to time.

But they key item in the Faerie Forest was Bandor’s Flagon.

a huge, drinking flagon

This flask looks like it could hold more liquid than possible. It must be that Tinker magic; making the most of space not even existing.
When you look inside, you see: It’s more than half full of a golden liquid.

When eventually everything else in the zone became just so much vendor trash, Bandor’s Flagon remained something you could sell in Waterdeep.  It was, for a long time, the largest drink container in the game.  And even when it was eclipsed, the flagons that replaced it were not so easy to obtain and did look quite so cool.  You just had to remember to pour out the alcohol in the flagon, lest you get drunk on Bandor’s brew.

And while there was certainly more to find in the Faerie Forest, from Habetrot’s stonewood cudgel to Vokko’s iron armor, the race to get those was never quite as intense as it was for Bandor’s Flagon.  It remained the one easy to get item that actually held value in the game.

20 Years of TorilMUD

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.

TorilMUD_logo

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:

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.

Continue reading

Quote of the Day – On Existence Before MUD1

There wasn’t anything before MUD1…

Richard Bartle on MUDs, from the Birth of MMOs interview

That is the best I could do in trying to extract an inflammatory, out of context quote from the article. (Hey, it inflamed at least one guy.)

That aside, the linked article is an interesting read, though you may already know the tale of how we got to World of Warcraft and beyond from MUD1, plus the whole Bartle Types thing.

And the article ends up with something of a “But what of MUDs?” theme, where it is pointed out that the very limitations of MUDs make them easy to use.  It is all done in text, so it is much easier to whip up a virtual world when you do not have to worry about art assets, something that lead to an explosion of MUDs during the late 90s.

As for an audience for MUDs.

Sure, they’re not going to have the success they once had if people have been conditioned to judge graphics as being the mark of a good game. They will still appeal to connoisseurs, lovers of language and people with vivid imaginations, though.

Somebody will play them.

Left unanswered: How are today’s MMOs impacting MUDs?

I know I have seen changes in TorilMUD over the years that have clearly been because of what has happened in games like WoW, things that would have been anathema a decade or more back.

TorilMUD offers a 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.

Welcome to TorilMUD

Welcome to TorilMUD

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.

A few of my choices

A few of my choices

Once you choose a character, hey presto, you are in the game.

And you're in!

And you’re in!

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.

100 days of play

He used to be level 50

You can go about your business in game, or camp out and select one of the other characters associated with your account.

The in game list

The in game list

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.

Script UI

Script UI

You can create groups of simple triggers and aliases to help automate some of the more mundane tasks in the game.

Creating a 'cast armor' alias

Creating a ‘cast armor’ alias

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.

So is this the end for dedicated MUD clients like zMUD or Tintin++?

Probably not.

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.

Rambling About Motivation and What Makes a Good Story

Anybody can use public transport, darling!

-Edina Monsoon, Absolutely Fabulous

Warning: this post does not actually lead anywhere and may not actually make sense.

Freedom seems to be a theme since the launch of Guild Wars 2.

Freedom from ever having to find a group.

Freedom from ever having to find a mailbox.

Freedom from ever having to stand still while casting a spell.

Freedom from much of the baggage of past MMOs, like subscriptions and the holy trinity and levels that get more difficult as you progress.

Not that this freedom drive is anything new.

World of Warcraft, which now represents the status quo from which we are being freed, was once the harbinger of freedom.

It offered freedom from corpse runs and experience loss, freedom from having to find a group to advance your character at all past level 10 or so, freedom from fighting over who gets to run dungeon or raid content on a busy Saturday night, and freedom from simply grinding mobs for most of your leveling experience.

Not to mention freedom from relatively onerous system requirements.

And of course, EverQuest itself offered up its own vision of freedom in its day, freeing us from the text of its DikuMUD ancestors.  Rather than descriptions and colorful text we had a 3D world full of monster and sound and music.  West Karana wasn’t just a room with exits (-E -W), or a set of boxes on a crude map.

No exit on this map

Welcome to the Faerie Forest

West Karana was a huge expanse where you could range at will, with hills and valleys and buildings and monsters wandering hither and yon.

Pondering the choices

How far we have come in the last 21 years. (DikuMUD launch in 1991 to GW2 launch in 2012.)

Even DikuMUD offered some freedoms.  Unlike similar code bases, it came with content ready to run out of the box.  And, of course, it did not cost any money to play unlike games on GEnie of CompuServe, the popular online services of the time.

And yet here we are in 2012 and I am mildly disappointed in Rift which appears to have gotten noticeably easier with patch 1.11, I am uninterested in World of Warcraft in the post-Cataclysm era, and I feel absolutely no desire to play Guild Wars 2.  I must hate freedom.

My peak MMORPG enjoyment over the last month seems to be mostly from a 2006 version of WoW on a private (or, if you prefer, pirate) server, which serves up content from back when WoW was easy only relative to EQ.

Tesh and Rowan wrote about the motivation of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.  Tesh said he favored intrinsic rewards and pointed to how he likes Minecraft because it just lets him go do stuff.  Which, oddly enough, is the exact reason I do not like Minecraft.  Aside from survival mode, the game bores me.  And survival mode became a chore once I figured out how to survive.

I am clearly extrinsically motivated when it comes to games.  I like to have a goal in a game, to work towards that goal, and to eventually accomplish that goal… or fail gloriously.

I kid myself that I am an explorer, that I like to see what is over the next hill.  I certainly always go and look.  But I am clearly further into the achiever quadrant.  I go look over that hill because I want to know I have seen that bit of the map.

And I like achievements.  I love achievementsWoW introduced achievements just before the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, and I have managed to capture in a screen shot almost every achievement I have earned since then.  But even before that, I was already creating my own achievements.  You will see in every pre-achievement instance group post on the blog, a screen shot of the group standing by the corpse of the final boss in an instance.  So it was perhaps fitting that my last act in WoW was to get an achievement.

So achievements are a big draw.  But are they a motivator?

I certainly won’t go out and run after achievements that I do not think are fun.  I am pretty self-regulating when it comes to fun.  I will do things that I say aloud are not fun, and I simply cannot bring myself to log on and do things that I tell myself are fun when they are not.  It is like I cannot be trusted to say what is fun and what is not at a conscious level.  But my behavior doesn’t lie.  If I won’t log on to do it, it isn’t fun at some level within me.  But if I do log on to do something, it must fun, even if it is at some deeper level my conscious mind cannot really grasp.

You can trot out the cognitive dissonance argument like Jester, but I don’t think things are that simple all the time.  I am notoriously lazy, so it is generally easy to spot the things I am kidding myself about by observing my own behavior.  I talked up Star Trek Online, for example, but couldn’t bring myself to log into the game long before I could admit I wasn’t having fun.

Likewise in LOTRO, I seem to consistently run out of steam in the game somewhere between the Forsaken Inn and Rivendell.  Yet at a conscious level I want to play the game.

I think I see where the fun stops…

About a year ago I wrote up a bit of history around our regular group and LOTRO.  It pretty much comes to an end around level 30 time and again.  I have actually made it to Moria with one character, but stopped playing at level 52.  Draw your own conclusions.

Then there is what makes for a good story.  That is, quite frankly, one of my requirements for an MMORPG, though it is hard to quantify what makes that happen.  And the good stories are often the ones that involve not having anything that can be remotely defended as fun.

For example, I went on several structure shoots in EVE Online last month.  Structure shoots are, objectively, not fun.  I stopped writing about them in general unless they represent significant milestones in a war.  Unless, of course, something fun happens, like we decide to moon the bad guys in their home system, get caught with our pants down, and have to run for our home as fast as we can.  That, too, is objectively not fun.  But it is funny and makes the story worth telling to my mind.

Likewise, overcoming the petty trials that used to face us in WoW… basically being able to relive the past… seems more interesting to write about than, say, 99% of my battles in World of Tanks.  I think I have mentioned two battles in posts total.  And it is certainly more interesting (to me) than my solo quests or instant adventures in Rift.

As this blog will attest, I have a lot of stories that focus on the past and times when things were more difficult.  There is a series posts about TorilMUD, the direct predecessor to EQ.  I will go on ad nauseum about EverQuest of old and the Fippy Darkpaw server and trying to relive the past, while telling tales from the old days.

Basically, it seems to me that when we face constraints, when we face difficulties, when things go wrong, when we face failure and hardship, those are the times that also generate the memories and the stories, those are the bonding experiences that become the touch points, the guide posts that create the continuity of the story of a given game.

An oyster that is not irritated does not produce a pearl.

As we sat in our fleet the other night, with TiDi at 10% so everything was slowed to a crawl and the UI started bugging up as the client balked at being told to slow down at one end and speed up at the other, in what was objectively a low ebb for fun, where we were just waiting on the game, that was where the stories start to come up about how bad things have been in the past.  The jokes start to get told.  The witty observations become sustenance rather than a distraction on coms.

Watch this video I made of a fleet stuck in TiDi trying to get to a battle.  That, in my experience of such situations, is pretty standard.  It becomes a shared experience.  A bonding experience rather than something that pushes us away from the game.  I haven’t heard anybody rage quitting over TiDi, though I haven’t been out searching for such people either.

Which makes me wonder what all this new found freedom really buys us.

Of course, I’m not ready to go back to MUDs.  And perhaps not everybody is as interested in their gaming experience generating stories and memories.

Some people just want to have fun.

How about you?  Where does your motivation lie?