Category Archives: TorilMUD

The Elemental Glades

I’ve put off doing this post for a while… which probably just means I’ve forgotten more of the details over time… because the Elemental Glades were… intricate.  That is really the only word I can think of to cover the zone.

Way, way back in the day when we poor elves started in TorilMUD, only to find ourselves trapped on Evermeet until we hit level 20, we didn’t have a lot of options as where to adventure.  As covered in past posts under the Leuthilspar Tales tag, we only had three zones to adventure in.

I’ve written about Kobold Village and the Faerie Forest already.  Those were the zones where we spent the lion’s share of our time, taking on the Kobold miners, or running the Taskmasters and Bandor circuit, with the roots in Anna’s cellar along the way if we had a healer.

But the Elemental Glades… we rarely set foot in the place.

Sure, everybody on the island went there at some point.  It was just at the end of the path from Leuthilspar.  Not only wasn’t it hidden or hard to find, it was hard to miss.  You could easily wander in there accidentally.

The zone itself was strange, with a series of rooms, in clusters of four connected by a path that ran through the zone.  Each cluster had its own sort of tree.  And if you went too far down the path you would run into the su-monsters, evil psionic primates of Forgotten Realms lore that would not only assist each other but would come in from adjoining rooms to get you.  Many a young elf died to the su-monsters and getting that corpse… and the accompanying equipment… back safely was a challenge.

But mostly we avoided it because there wasn’t anything in the zone worth our time.  What gear there was lacked redeeming stats or, save for the “ridiculously tiny cap,” comedic value.

A small girl who looks something like a halfling, only smaller. She is
dressed in a short brown tunic.
The brownie is a small-sized level 15 Faerie.
She is in excellent condition.

<worn on head> a ridiculously tiny cap

Katumi tells you ‘a ridiculously tiny cap (Head) AC:0 Armor:-6 Hp:7 * Wt:0 Val:0p * Zone: Elemental Glades * Last ID: 2011-01-22’

Some things seemed neat, or filled slots that might otherwise go empty.

The fairy is a tiny version of a woman, but with wings!
The fairy is a small-sized level 15 Faerie.
She is in excellent condition.

<worn around neck> a pouch of fairy dust on a string

Katumi tells you ‘a pouch of fairy dust on a string (Neck) AC:0 Svpar:-2 * Wt:1 Val:0p * Zone: EM Roads * Last ID: 2007-03-17’

But most of the stuff wasn’t worth the effort and the mobs were tough and gave poor experience.  An elf would only go hang out in there if they were bored or desperate… or had a group strong enough to kill the su-monsters.  And even that wasn’t good experience, just cathartic.

And if you went past the su-monsters you were in danger of getting stuck.  The east exit from their square of rooms was a strange corridor.  If you went east you went into a normal room, but if you move back west you ended up in an elemental area with a castle and a hostile mob to kill.  Well, we found out about the hostile mob later, as they were behind a locked door in each zone.  A young elf getting stuck in these areas was always a chore to rescue.  We just told people to stay away and did so ourselves.

As time went on however, as we leveled up and left the island, a couple of our fellow elves began to return to the zone to try and figure out what was really going on.  As I recall Chandigar, ever the quest hunter, was the one who went in a deciphered what was going on.  I only explored and mapped the place.  And, thanks to digging out ZMud a bit back, I now have an annotated map to share.

Elemental Glades – Main Level

One of the first things discovered, aside from the layout, was that if you went up past the wombat into the ethereal tower and killed the wraith up there, it would drop a cube of ethereal matter.

To get to past the wombats and up into the ethereal tower you first had to get through Boabob trees, a section of the zone where all the exits were hidden by default  I recall somebody getting in there and being in a panic because there did not appear to be any way out.

Southwest Corner of a Grove of Baobab Trees
Exits: None!

You had to search until the exits showed up.

Once past that you had to slay the wombats, which were aggro.  Bad wombats!  Then you had to do in the wraith.  Easy enough as a druid as my sunray spell was extra potent against undead.   Then, once you looted the cube you could then take the cube to the forrestal over in the maples and he would give you the greenstone earring.

< > give cube forrestal
You give a cube of ethereal matter to the forrestal.
The forrestal takes the box and his eyes grow wide with wonder. ‘I was told once, long, long ago about a substance like this. I might be able to use this to heal my grove! Thank you, brave adventurer!’ He casts about as if looking for something. ‘Well hmm. I must, as a matter of honor, repay you for your service. Take this earring! It will serve you well in the different worlds you may wander.’

The forrestal gives you a greenstone earring.

‘I’m going to go tell the dryad the good news,’ he says. ‘She’s been worried since I’ve been upset over the trees.’ Whistling a merry tune, the forrestal vanishes into the woods.

The greenstone earring was crap, but it gave you full fire protection.  However, that turned out to be a vital aspect of the whole venture, as you needed that fire protection to get through the flame bathed elemental castle of fire.

Meanwhile, the location of the keys required for these elemental sub-zones were discovered.  Two of them were hidden in rooms which I have marked on the map.  I have completely forgotten where the other two were hidden, but we used to know and would grab them and run the individual elemental towers.

The towers mobs holding the towers dropped some loot.  Nothing really worthwhile.  I remember a flaming bastard sword or some such coming from the elemental tower of fire, a weapon with a name that far outpaced its stats.

So there wasn’t much in the way of rewards.  We ran them pretty much just to say we had done it a few times or when there was nothing else to do.  After they were done there was an exit in each that dumped you back in the Elemental Glades in the area with the sprites that matched the tower in question.  So for the fire tower you ended up with the fire sprites.

We were that far.  We could run those bits of the zone and ended up with a bit of gear we could vendor.  But we also ended up with a stone from each castle.  That looked like a quest item to somebody.

As it turned out, heading back up to the ethereal tower, there was a locked door that had a niche the shape of the stone looted from the earth elemental guardian.  And after that there was another door with a niche that matched another stone, and then another and another.  Four stones to unlock four doors.

And after that last door was… well… I forget.  There might have been a mob in the room to fight.  There probably was.  But I cannot recall even a glimpse of what the mob might have been.  But once past the fight, if there was a fight, there was a chest, inside of which was the reward for the whole quest line, an obsidian dagger.

Katumi tells you ‘a jagged obsidian dagger (Wield) Dam:1 Hit:2 * (Weapon) Dice:1D8 * Float Hidden Magic !Mage !Priest * Wt:4 Val:0p * Zone: Elemental Glades * Last ID: 2006-02-26’

The dagger was crap.  By the time we were doing that any rogue or assassin that was even trying a bit had the then all powerful Glowing Crimson Dagger from a quest in Havenport that was both interesting and easy enough to do with a small group that it got done nearly every boot that allowed enough time for people to get there.  Even the current, post eventual nerf stats are much better.  It even has a proc.

Katumi tells you ‘a glowing crimson dagger (Wield) Dam:2 Hit:3 * (Weapon) Dice:3D5 Crit:6% Multi:2x (Class: Simple, Type: Dagger) * Procs: Crimson Strike – Stat Drain * Magic * Wt:1 Val:35p * Zone: HP (UQ) * Last ID: 2010-12-04’

That was the answer to the questions about the zone.  It was essentially built in service of a single quest.  It was also clearly from another era.  Rumor had it that the zone was something somebody built for another MUD and brought it along with them when Sojourn became a thing.  It was further said that it got tacked onto the Evermeet zones because it sort of fit in and all we had was Kobold Village and the Faerie Forest.  And it gave us some place dangerous to get lost… because to Kobold Temple of the Unholy wasn’t enough I guess.

And, as a final note about the item stats quoted, they come from Katumi, and in-game bot that you can send tells to for such information.  Something I would have never dreamed of back in the old days.  If you log in be sure to send Katumi and tell with just a “?” to get the info about how it works.

Reviving ZMud 7.21

Posting something from my long, ongoing series of memories about TorilMUD always brings out a few of the usual suspects, and my tale of the economy of Waterdeep was no exception.

Xyd, who got me into TorilMUD back in 1993 asked when I was going to post about the zone known as the Elemental Glades.  A strange but essential part of the Leuthilspar Tales series, I have meant to get to that for some time.

The request set me on a path again, but I did not have enough information.  Memory is fleeting and it has been more than a decade since I probably did anything in that zone.  I could sketch a basic outline of the zone, the role it played for us as young elves on Evermeet, early attempts to crack into what the zone really was, and the eventual successful discovery of what the place was really about.

But, for me, a story like that needs details.  It is often the little things that trigger more memories and add depth to a tale.  And to get those details I would have to return to TorilMUD and visit the zone, walk through the rooms, and rediscover the clues left for us.

Actually logging in wasn’t a big deal.  I use Cygwin every day from my Windows box at work to log into our linux servers to run installs, grab logs, and what not.  The command line interface isn’t dead, it isn’t even resting yet.  So getting to the TorilMUD is as easy as typing in:

telnet torilmud.com 9999

The TorilMUD site tells you about it.  I even remember my login credentials.  Piece of cake.

The problem is, again, one of memory.  The mechanics of simply getting into the game are easy.  Finding things in the world… more difficult.  Much more difficult.

Individual rooms in the game can be quite memorable.  Even a few routes, like the one from Finn to Anna’s cottage, are etched into my memory.   But general navigation of the world can be a chore.  People who make MUDs aren’t always very creative with room names.  As I pointed out in a post about eight years ago, there can be a lot of repetition in room names.  Examples from the ZMud map database in that post:

  • 94 rooms named “Inside a Large Grove of Shadows”
  • 79 rooms named “A Bend in a Passage”
  • 58 rooms named “An Abandoned Mine Tunnel”
  • 57 rooms named “A Wide Dirt Road”
  • 53 rooms named “A Passageway”
  • 36 rooms named “A Rocky Trail”
  • 29 rooms named “A Trail Through a Forest”
  • 22 rooms named “Dense Forest”

So a lot of the time you’re just sitting there with a room name, some info about the size of the room, and the exits.

The Pathway of Peace
Room size: Large (L:30 ft W:75 ft H:500 ft)
Exits: -N -E -S

That wasn’t a ton of help on its own when I was playing the game every day.  A decade after I last did anything serious there and it might as well just say, “Yet Another Room!”

I could piece together how to get to the Elemental Glades, but I would be wandering essentially at random in a zone where there was some danger for even a high level character.

So I felt I had to get ZMud back up and running and with it all of the maps I so carefully made over the years.

In a timely coincidence (I had already written the Waterdeep post but, it not being time sensitive, I actually queued it up to post more than a week later) an old member of the Shades of Twilight guild, Oteb for those who might remember, dropped me a note asking if I still had the stash of information that once outraged the MUD, it being posted openly on the internet, as mentioned in yet another old post of mine.

That got me digging through some external drives in search of some pretty old files.

I did not find the files Oteb asked about, but I did dig out a backup copy of ZMud I had archived away.

Liked being able to connect to TorilMUD, having a copy of ZMud isn’t exactly a challenge.  Good old Zugg still has his site up and you can still download/buy a copy of ZMud or the newer CMud.  Not bad for a little company that has been selling a MUD client since 1995 or so.

The configuration files and, most importantly, the map database file were a big deal.  And it was ZMud 7.21, the final version of the client, so it seemed likely to be somewhat up to date.

I dragged that over to my main drive to see if I could get that going.

The first thing it wanted was a registration code, the 30 day free trial period having ended a long, long time ago.  I am not even sure that ZMud includes that trial any more, given how much Zugg is trying to push people onto CMud.  If you buy a copy of ZMud today you get a copy of CMud in the bargain.  It is a pity that my attempts to migrate to CMud have all failed on the maps part.  And without maps there is no point in moving.

I couldn’t find the license key, but Zugg has a way to recover it on his site.  I also couldn’t remember my password, but you can recover that too.  Fortunately I still have the email address I was using back in 2002 when I bought my current copy.  (I had to rebuy it in a similar situation back then because I did not have the previous email address.)

I was able to run through that and register my copy of ZMud again, but when I went to actually run it, it errored out on a memory addressing issue.  And, of course, Zugg has been very clear on support for ZMud on Windows 7 and beyond:

Because of the new release of Windows 7, we are getting more and more questions about this. So I wanted to make a sticky topic to make this perfectly clear:

zMUD is not supported on Vista, or Windows 7, or any other future version of Windows. Use CMUD instead.

zMUD was originally written for Windows 3.1, then Windows 95. zMUD was kludged to run on Windows XP. Some people might be able to force zMUD to run on Vista and Windows 7, but it is not supported. Beyond just installation and running problems, there are other severe memory limits and other problems with zMUD on newer versions of Windows.

The newer CMUD client was written from scratch specifically for Windows XP, Vista, and newer versions of Windows. CMUD is the only client that is fully supported by Zugg Software at this time.

But I was not deterred.  I have made it run on Win7 before.  I set it up for WinXP compatibility and, when that did not do the trick, set it to run as Administrator, the usual “make it work” solution for older software.

Just work, would you?

That was enough to get it going and I was able to launch, log in, and get the mapper running so I could find my way around.

ZMud lives!

Man, that UI is straight out of 1997, but it works!

And with that I was set.  I could run out to the Elemental Glades and begin work on that post.

So there it is, probably a new low in writing, a post about the work I did so I could write another post.

But I am happy to have ZMud up and running again and there is always the temptation to start playing TorilMUD some more.  We shall see.  First I need an xp group because I deliberately died a bunch of times at one point and dropped from level 50 to level 47.  Those last levels were easy to lose back in the day (you no longer lose levels now) but hard to get back, and you need a group to do it.

Yelling and Selling in Waterdeep

I remember way back in the early days of what is now TorilMUD… or perhaps I should say, what persists today against the odds as TorilMUD… back when it was called Sojourn, back past the 20 year mark and into the first half of the 1990s, wanting to make sure I got online on a Saturday evening because that was the best time to buy and sell things.

The place to be was in the northern part of the city of Waterdeep, which is where most people idled when they were not out in the world grinding mobs or running zones.

As for how to sell… well, you would just yell out what you had, some stats for it, and your opening price and wait to see if anybody would send you a tell with an offer.  You might want to sell an items straight up, but usually people wanted to auction things in order to get the best price.

In the event of an auction, once you got a tell… or a few tells if you were lucky… you would then yell out your item for sale again and the current bid, and maybe the name of the first bidder if several people came in at the same price, just so they knew who was currently going to get the item.  Then people would send tells upping the price, which you would yell out again when it hit a lull.  Eventually you would hit a point where you had a high bid and nothing else.  Then you would give the three yells, going once, going twice, and finally SOLD with the item, price, and buyer.

For a good item you might go through several iterations of the last three yells, as some people with money would wait to see where the bidding had settled before throwing their hat in the ring.

It was an interesting system that actually worked fairly well.  Auctions happened in a very public space, so were essentially conducted in front of a crowd.  A yell would only go a across a single zone, so you had to be in north Waterdeep, which wasn’t always as simple as it sounds.  There were certain rooms that seemed like they ought to be, but for whatever reason they were actually part of the south part of the city or the tunnels underneath.  And some rooms in the zone filter out yells.  But most people would figure out where to hang out to hear what was going on.

The public aspect meant that a lot of items had a price associated with them, so for some regularly farmed items… as I mentioned in a past post, most items of any value only spawned once per boot and the game would have to crash again in order to obtain another… you could tell if you were getting a good deal or if somebody was asking too much.  That suit of dwarven scale mail armor went for a regular 400p for a long time.  Every caster had to have one. (Old stats shown, like everything good it has long since been nerfed.)

Name ‘a suit of dwarven scale mail armor’
Keyword ‘armor suit mail scale dwarven’, Item type: ARMOR
Item can be worn on: BODY
Item will give you the following abilities: NOBITS
Item is: MAGIC NOBITS
Weight: 13, Value: 1
AC-apply is 20
Can affect you as :
Affects : HITPOINTS By 20

But somebody asking way too much would often hear a counter shout about how much the last couple copies of that particular item sold for.  It was also a way to figure out who had money.  You  could see who was getting rich by how they bid on things.

It was also in most people’s best interest to be around during prime selling times.  As I mentioned above, Saturday evening was a key time.  A lot more would be for sale then and a lot more buyers would be around.  You could probably find an auction going on most days, but the weekend was worth waiting for if you had a mind.  During the week you would only sell to get rid of an opportunistic find that might be too common come Saturday.

People actually adapted very well to the system for quite a while.  People were mostly patient with their auctions, making sure only a couple were going on at once so as to avoid confusion.  People were sincere with their bids and handed over their item at the bank when they were given the right amount of platinum.

Basically, for an online where having 200 people online at once was a big deal, it was an adequate system of exchange.  It wasn’t all hugely expensive stuff either.  It was early enough in the cycle of the game that most people were still poor, so selling something for 5-10p was generally a worthwhile venture.

There was also a way to play on scarcity in a way.  My friend Xyd and I started as elves who, until a recent emancipation, were stuck on the isle of Evermeet until level 20.  It was life of privation on the isle, something I recounted in the Leuthilspar Tales series of posts, collected under a tag of the same name.  Equipment was scarce and we would wear just about anything under the theory that an equipment slot filled with something was better than an empty equipment slot.

But elves who had hit level 20 and made it through the elf gate and on to Waterdeep would return… a hazardous journey for any but a druid or a cleric, as those classes could use “word of recall” to return to their guilds on the isle… with items to sell their poor cousins still stuck on the island.  How we longed for a tiny silver ring, which was AC5 +1 hit, to replace that crappy piece of string from the goblin’s junk pile in the Faerie Forest or that strange ring from the Elemental Glades (I need to write a post about that zone still) that turned out to be crap.

Not only were we short of equipment, but identify scrolls were about ten times as expensive in Leuthilspar than in Waterdeep, so we had to do without.

We would later learn that pretty much everybody had a tiny silver ring in Waterdeep, it being one of the few useful items that spawned on a several mobs each boot.   And they spawned near the inn at the south end of the city, so they were farmed after every boot.  We didn’t know that, we were just anxious to hand over whatever we could scrape together to buy one… or two… oh, to have a pair of tiny silver rings.

The only problem with that return trade in Leuthilspar is that we, as elves of Evermeet, were dirt poor.  We didn’t live in the wild because we loved nature, we lived there because that was what we could afford.  Even the rent in Kobold Village was too much.  (Just kidding, there was no cost to rent at the Inn in Leuthilspar, but the innkeeper used to say something that staying was free for now, as though there might be a charge some day, a threat that used to keep me up at night in the early days.)

But we did have some items on the isle that could be sold in Waterdeep.  As Xyd and I learned once we had been through the elf gate and into Waterdeep.  After hunting buffalo, skirting lake Skeldrach, and walking the salt road… and finding ourselves still dirt poor… we found that we could enrich ourselves by carrying over some common items from the isle.

Bandor’s flagon was a favorite.  In a game where you had to carry around food and drink, having a large, lightweight drinking flagon in your bag was just the ticket.  For quite a while it was the drinking vessel that everybody rich or poor sought.  We could easily sell one for 20-50p every boot, and sometimes 100p or more if the market was hot, which seemed like a hell of a lot of money to us back in the day.

There were some other items that would sell reliably on a Saturday when enough people were around.  The Cloak of Forest Shadows from the Faerie Forest would go for a few plat, though I think more because it sounded cool than because of its somewhat modest stats. (Also, you couldn’t vendor it, so anything we got was good.)

The cloak is still there in the Faerie Forest last I checked

The Elven Skin Gloves from Vokko at Anna’s house was good for a few plat as well.  Again, not a great item, but for an elf hater the material made them a must have item.  The mods later changed them to Kobold Skin Gloves on the general idea that we ought not to have to tolerate that sort of thing on Evermeet.

The cloak off of the Kobold Shaman in Kobold Village was sometimes worth something.  I forget the stats, but casters could wear it and I seem to recall it being +HP.  And the Boots of Water Walking from the Kobold Fisherman could go to somebody who hadn’t picked up the Skiff from the Tower of Sorcery just north of Waterdeep.

So we would collect these items and head through the elf gate to town to join in on the sales, all the better to gear ourselves and our myriad of alts up.  Even when I hit level 50 and had my fair share of decent equipment and was able to go on runs to Jot or The City of Brass fairly regularly I would still recall back to Evermeet on an occasional reboot to snag Bandor’s Flagon to sell.

Of course, things changed over time.  Somebody tired of us shouting in Waterdeep all the time.  At first they coded a limit as to how often we could shout.  Later shouting auctions were banned and relegated to an auction house… literally an auction house… before somebody finally coded what now passes for an auction house in MMORPGs, a board where you could deposit items then list them for sale to the highest bidder, with a minimum bid and such.  All very modern, and it showed up well before WoW was a thing.

And then there was the economy which, as with every primarily PvE MMORPG with many faucets and few sinks, went to hell.  It is called “MUDflation” for a reason.  As noted above, everything was beautiful when we were all mostly poor.  But once people started to accumulate platinum, things went the usual haywire.  Aside from identify scrolls, a few quests, and the rare vendor item, there wasn’t much to spend money on in TorilMUD save for equipment.  And just hanging around you would eventually accumulate a pile of cash, so the price for items going for auction climbed well out of range of any new player, to the point that platinum lost its value for any rare item and people would hold out for trades rather than just piling up more useless platinum in the bank.

It didn’t help that there were some holes in the system.  I made some early seed capital hauling things from one vendor to another because the pricing was messed up.  They fixed that.  Later, after the last pwipe, I found some alligators that dropped an item that could be turned in for a 30p bounty, plus they tended to have 5-10p in their pockets… odd gators… so I harvested them whenever I could because, due to somebody not setting a flag right, they respawned with the item rather than having it only on the first spawn.  I grew pretty well off on that before they fixed it.

But that was all from another time.  We mostly left TorilMUD to play EverQuest II when it launched, then moved on to World of Warcraft.

However, you can see the seeds of the future of MMORPGs in what happened there in the 90s.  The tunnel as trading ground in the Commonlands tunnel… I remember going there at specific times when it would be active in order to upgrade my gear… was clearly foreseen by our yelling out auctions in Waterdeep.

The Plane of Knowledge kills all this…

Meanwhile the auction house that replaced our loud economy was also a precursor to what we now find in World of Warcraft.

Anyway, another tale from the “good old days” of TorilMUD.

The Age of the Full Zone Respawn

More memories from the depths of TorilMUD lore.

Being one of the proto-MMO MUDs, and the MUD in particular that influenced the creation of EverQuest, TorilMUD included early/crude/simplified versions of many of the MMO mechanics we have come to love/loathe.

One of these is, of course, the respawn.

Oh, the respawn, one of those quirks required of a shared world.  You can’t just kill a thing and expect it to remain dead in a game where a hundred or a thousand other people might need to kill the same thing… or ten of the same thing… as well.

And so we have grown used to respawns, spawn tables, rare spawns, and all of that in our MMORPGs.  The sight of slain mobs reappearing on the field is nothing strange.  I remember when the two hour respawn timer for mobs in WoW dungeons used to be an issue, back when WoW dungeons took longer than 20 minutes to run.

(Even the term “mob” dates from the MUD era, when it referred to a “mobile object,” which is all our orcs and dragons were back then.)

But back in the MUD era, things were less sophisticated, resources more restricted, and even drive space could be an issue.  Back then there wasn’t any process keeping track of every single trash mob in the world, respawning them one by one on individual timers.

Sure, there might be a bit of code keeping track of a very special boss mob or a rare world spawn, but for the most part respawns were handled at the zone level.

Kobold Village - Surface

Kobold Village Zone – Surface Level

A zone back in TorilMUD… back in DikuMUD… was something of an autonomous process.  I tinkered with zone creation at one point and have forgotten most of what I once knew, but I recall that they were discreet areas that contained all the data… rooms, descriptions, objects, and mobs… that they contained.  There could be a lot of zones in a MUD.  You can see a list of zones from TorilMUD on a previous post I did.

When actually playing TorilMUD, it could sometimes be difficult to tell where one zone ended and another began.  The world was seamless in its way, probably more so that WoW, where you can see the change in geography and color palette as you move from one zone to another.  You had to look at the style of the text in the zone.

Sometimes it was obvious.  An old or connecting zone might have no ANSI color characters in it or the writing style in room descriptions might change dramatically.  And, sometimes, there would be a sign announcing the area, often including a warning about dangers ahead. (See the sign on the fence outside Kobold Village for example.)

Within a zone, all the mobs would respawn at the same time.  The standard timer in TorilMUD was 20 minutes if I recall right.  When off on a experience group, grinding levels some place like Kobold Village, the buffalo fields, the pirate ship, or even on the walls of Waterdeep, where elite guards gave great experience, it was important to establish a flow that worked with the respawn timer so as to limit down time.  We used to come up with regular cycles and move from mob to mob, winding up back where we started just in time for the respawn.

Some zones were different.  There were a couple of zones that were set to not respawn.  Once they were done, they were empty until the game crashed and restarted.

Other zones… the special zones like City of Brass that required a full group of 16, correctly balanced… would not spawn until empty.  That is, nothing would respawn until there were no players left in the zone.  That could lead to difficult times if there was a full party wipe.  With everybody dead and back in their own respawn points… their class guilds in most cases… the zone would respawn and all the mobs between the players and their corpses… corpses which had all of their equipment… leading to difficult times.  It was not uncommon to bring along an extra person just to sit in the first room and “hold the zone” for the group to keep it from respawning in the event of a wipe.

And there were, of course, some oddities with the full zone respawn, like spawn order.

Any unique mobs in a zone were likely just that, unique.  There was only one and they had a specific spawn location.  But more generic mobs, guards or patrols, or other trash if you will, might be a single mob that was set to spawn at a list of points.  At respawn time the zone would then refill any missing mobs from that batch starting at the top of the list of spawn points.

This meant that if you killed a generic mob from the second spot on the list, when respawn time came it would respawn in the first spot.  The process was simple.  It didn’t check what spots were empty or keep track of which mobs had spawned in which spot.  It just checked to see how many of that mob were left and, if the count came up short, it spawned more of them to fill out the desired number.

This could be painful if somebody killed the wrong mob.  Spawn order was serious business.

For example, I mentioned the elite guards on the walls of Waterdeep.  Those were tough mobs, but they would not call for help or trigger a city-wide alarm if you attacked them.  And they were excellent experience and dropped a decent amount of cash.  But they were generic mobs and you had to be careful to kill them in spawn order.  If you didn’t follow spawn order, or missed the respawn and kept killing in order past the first spawn after a respawn, you could end up with two elites in that first room.  And while elite guards wouldn’t call for help or set off the alarm, they would assist each other, so now you faced a double spawn.  And given that you probably setup your group to maximize experience, which meant keeping it as small as possible, a double spawn would be then end of things unless you got some help.

And so it went.  As I recall, the reavers on the Pirate ship were the same way as elite guards.  You needed to kill them in the right order or you ended up with overlapping spawns.

Anyway, that is my MUD memory of the day.

Up All Night in Leuthilspar

Syl wrote about day/night cycles in MMOs a couple of weeks months years back.  Clearing of the drafts fodler here, as you might guess. Of course, one aspect of that is how long such a cycle should be.  At one end of the spectrum is World of Warcraft, where Azeroth turns on a literal 24 hour cycle, and server time is in-game time.

EVE Online also runs on a real-world 24 hour clock, though I am not sure that a day/night cycle makes much sense there.  It is always night in space, right?

Anyway, in Azeroth that means if you are like me… I live in the US Pacific time zone but play on a server in the Easter time zone, 3 hours ahead of me… you might spend most of your time in WoW playing at night.

Not that night is all that big of a deal in WoW.  Every single instance group screen shot has been taken during the night cycle and most of the time you couldn’t tell it was night.

The lair of Lockmaw

This is night. Stars in the sky.

There is, as Syl noted, a nice sunset period if you are on at the right time, and likely a similarly pleasant sunrise, though I’ve never seen that.  I’ve been online when it has happened, I was just deep in Uldaman at the time.

Other games have a much shorter cycle.  In EverQuest you passed through the day/night routine every 72 minutes if I recall right, 3 minutes per in-game hour.  That could leave you running around in the dark a few times in a single long play session.

Scarecrows in West Karana

Night, when the Scarecrows come out in West Karana

And at the extreme end is Minecraft, which has a 20 minute day/night cycle, which means if you play for an hour… and who plays Minecraft for just an hour when you’re into something… you will spend half that time in daylight and the rest in the dusk, night, and dawn portion of the cycle, during which time the night life will be coming for you.

Coming to get me...

Coming to get me…

Of course, the Minecraft example brings up what is probably the key question when it comes to a day/night cycle; should it have impact on game play?

In World of Warcraft there is almost no impact on game play.  As noted, you can barely tell it is night as the moon over Azeroth apparently reflects 80-90% of the sun’s luminosity during the night time hours.  And I am hedging by even using the word “almost” there, because something in the back of my brain believes there was a “night only” spawn at some point.  But that could be me.

At the other end of spectrum is Minecraft, which isn’t an MMO but is MMO enough for this discussion, where the transition from day to night changes game play dramatically.  It actually gets dark out, so lighting matters.  But even more so, as noted above, things come out at night.  Bad things.  Things that seek to kill you or blow you up.  So you either hunker down and wait out the night… or sleep if you’re alone on your server… or get out there and fight the encroaching zombie/skeleton/creeper menace.

Maybe that is an extreme example.

But I do hear calls now and again for not only a day/night cycle in MMORPGs, but that the cycle should impact game play, that night should be different than day, and that NPCs should behave in a way attuned to the cycle of the world and their lives.  They should go to bed at night.

That last bit… that is one of those things that always sounds better in theory that it does in reality.  And I say that as somebody who has lived a bit of that as reality in an online game.

Back we go again, back through the mists of time, back to TorilMUD and the days of text, triggers, and ANSI color characters as a substitute for graphics.

All text, all the time

All text, all the time

I’ve written about TorilMUD many times before, and specifically about the hardship of the elves of Evermeet, stuck until recently in their own little corner of the game until level 20 with few zone choices and not much in the way of gear available.  The sorrow of the eldar is never ending and all that, as my Leuthilspar Tales series has illustrated.

But we did have one advantage there on Evermeet, and especially in the city of Leuthilspar.  For the most part elves don’t seem to need any sleep.  Shops were open all night long and even the city gates, which the guards closed and locked at sunset, could be passed through after hours if you spoke the right word. (It was “peace.”)

The rest of the world however…

It was a sure sign that a player was fresh through the elf gate and in Waterdeep for the first time when, locked outside of town, they would stand there saying things like “peace” and “please” and whatnot trying to get the gates to unlock so they could pass through.

And imagine to confusion in the a poor elf’s eyes when a vendor in town suddenly announced they were shutting up their shop for the night and wouldn’t be serving customers until the morning.

Outside of Leuthilspar, shops had business hours!

The vendors wouldn’t go away… though I think one in Baldur’s Gate used to move into another room… they would just stand there as usual.  However, when you attempted to interact with them, they would announce that they were closed and admonish the player to come back later.

In a way, it sounds quaintly archaic in today’s world.  But TorilMUD, measuring from its predecessor Sojourn MUD, is past the 20 year mark as well.  It was a simpler time and a different audience in an era when game devs sometimes felt the user ought to conform to a much more rigid set of rules.

I couldn’t imagine a MMORPG today putting something like that in place.  But TorilMUD was smaller than even the most niche MMORPGs we’ve seen.  I would guess that maybe 10K people created accounts on the game over its lifetime.  During its peak it could get a couple hundred people online at the same time, which was considered quite the crowd.  In that sort of small, self-selecting environment, you can set different rules.

And the vendors didn’t just have hours, but would also only deal in specific goods at times.

But, at least the day/night cycle was short.  The ration was one real life minute to one in-game hour, so a day went by in just 24 minutes.  Not as fast as Minecraft, but close.

Anyway, such were the was of the past.  How niche would a game today have to be to get away with that sort of thing?

Elves Unchained in TorilMUD

I have not written about TorilMUD in ages.  Honestly, I haven’t even logged in to check up on the place in a long time.

TorilMUD_logo

But the old world of text that I started playing in more than 22 years ago lives on and gets updated from time to time.  The last time I mentioned it was when they announced the end of their harsh death penalty, which was the model that EverQuest used back in the good/bad old days.  That was about a year back.

That have had a couple of other updates posted to their Tumblr news site since then, but last night one showed up that I had to mention.

The main topic of the update was the introduction of a new class of spells called “cantrips,” which my brain immediately parsed as “can trip.”  Hrmmm…

But what caught my eye about the update was this item listed under “other changes”

Elves can now start in Baldurs Gate and Silverymoon. They can also use the Leuthilspar elfgate as early as level 1. Free the elves!

Free the elves indeed.

For those unfamiliar with the game… which is probably everybody reading this… one of the quirks of TorilMUD up until this change was that elves had a single home town in which they could start.  That was Leuthilspar, on the island of Evermeet, a location those familiar with the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting might recall.

But elves were not just required to start in Leuthilspar, they were required to stay on the island of Evermeet until they hit level 20… because… well… level 20 was a special level back in the day.  It was the “coming of age” level.   You could petition for a last name.  You were finally allowed to see your stats as numbers rather than possible ranges.

Do I take Heroic strength?

Do I take Heroic strength?

And, if you were an elf… or a half-elf that chose to start in Leuthilspar out of some sense of masochism… you were finally allowed to use the elf gate at the east end of town and leave Evermeet for the big city, Waterdeep.

This was a significant moment in the life of any elven character because, back in the day, Evermeet was a bit of a dump.  There was the town itself, where the guards would slaughter you if they caught you fighting… and remember that whole harsh death penalty thing.  So, for adventures you had to head out to Kobold Village, which was fun but contained its own perils, the Faerie Forest, a place to get lost in, and the Elemental Glades, which had its own issues.

Short of starting in one of the evil race home towns, which were designed to be a challenge for experienced players, Evermeet was the worst of the home towns.  This wasn’t because its local area was bad.  Starting as a gnome, a halfling, a dwarf, or a barbarian meant having absolute crap content to hand.  But they could all head to Waterdeep, around which there was ample content for leveling up, content with plenty of drops that groups could tackle from levels 1 through to about 40.

Leuthilspar Locations

Leuthilspar Locations

Elves had to make do with what they had, and while the zones were not bad, they lacked in equipment drops.  You could always spot a newly arrived elf in Waterdeep because of the paucity of their gear.  They might have a bronze sword, a pearl earring, a bit of string tied around their finger, and the inevitable cloak of forest shadows.  And, of course, these elves would be gawking a the locals, amazed at all the gear they had.  Good gear.  With actual bonus stats and such.

Of course, the newly arrived elf couldn’t afford to buy any of that gear, because they had likely left Evermeet with only a few coins in their pocket and not much of value to sell or trade.  And it was always some work to get into groups because you couldn’t compete with the well geared locals.  But if you persevered, you could close the gear gap and catch up with the rest of the world.

And you were a member of a special club.  You had made it through the privations of the elf homeland.  You would, of course, help any new elf you saw standing at the gates of Waterdeep, trying to unlock them after they had closed for the night saying the word “peace” over and over. (That unlocked the gates of Leuthilspar at night, but for Waterdeep you needed the key that Lord Piergeiron carried on his person or a rogue with a high lockpick skill.)

And, as an elf, you might never go back home.  If you were a cleric or a druid, so your word of recall spell would bring you back to Leuthilspar, you might frequent the place after level 20.  But other classes had to take a ship to the Moonshaes and travel quite a ways in order to find the elf gate that would return them to their original home.  It generally wasn’t worth the effort.

Because I started most of my main characters on Evermeet, getting through those first 20 levels is very much a part of my memories of the game, much more so than any of the early zones in the main world.  I even wrote a series of posts about them under the tag Leuthilspar tales.

Over the years the lot of the elves was improved.  One of the players Xyd and I started playing with way, way back in the day, Rylandir, went on to become one of the game admins for a while and created a number of zones for Evermeet.  The first in, the Eldar Forest, was especially helpful, had some good quests, and dropped some gear.  Level 20 elves eventually stopped showing up in Waterdeep looking like beggars.

And now… well, elves can run straight to Waterdeep… which is probably a good thing.  The population of TorilMUD has dwindled over the years.  No longer can you log in on a Friday night and find more than 100 players online.  But there does seem to be 20 or more around whenever I take a moment to check in.

But there was a time, long ago, when the life of an elf of Evermeet was desperate and poor.  Somehow we survived.

Now that I look at my list of Leuthilspar Tales, I think I need to go back and finish it up by writing something about the Elemental Glades, the third… and strangest… zone of Evermeet from back in the day.

And, if all of this talk about the old days of TorilMUD has you in a nostalgia reverie, here are a few other choice posts about the good old days:

Or you can just look at the whole TorilMUD category.  There are only 56 posts total.

Some of those posts are old enough at this point that I am even feeling a bit of nostalgia for the point of time when I was able to remember that much about the game.  Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

And, of course, if you are interesting in the game… because it is still up and running… you can find out more about it at their web site.

Not for Attribution

Posted as part of Blog Banter #65.

Attributes.  They are an ingrained feature of our role playing games.  I am sure they were around long before Dungeons & Dragons, but that was the starting point for many of us when it came to the concept.

It was an attempt to quantify the essentially unquantifiable.  Sure, Strength seems easy enough to translate to numbers I suppose… in Tunnels & Trolls you could carry ten pounds of whatever for every point of strength you had… and maybe Intelligence as a general measure, if you believe in IQ tests I suppose.  But Constitution or Dexterity, that gets a little trickier.  Charisma?  I think that delves into the human psyche too deeply to be represented by the result of a 3d6 roll, and what constitutes Wisdom in any case?

Still, we rolled with it… ha ha… because it was what we had and at least numbers were solid, which gave some of us the thin edge of the wedge from which to launch an ongoing career in rules lawyering.

And while the whole idea did not begin with Dungeons & Dragons, it seemed to multiply from there and soon some set of attributes that guided ability and access to classes or roles or whatever seemed to be in about in force.  There were variations, and sometimes even multi-tiered systems where basic attributes allowed one to derive secondary abilities or stats.

So it went, and when role playing games came to computers, attributes were not far behind.  After all, numbers are what computers do best.  So the tradition of “rolling up” a character carried on in electronic form.

The actual importance of stats in various games varied.  I remember writing up a character rolling script and letting it run for hours in TorilMUD, so important were your starting stats in the game.  And, just to make things a bit more tricky, the stats were obscured.  You couldn’t see the actual numbers, just a description that indicated the range they might fall into.

Do I take Heroic strength?

Do I take Heroic strength?

Heroic strength sounds great for a warrior, but the hierarchy of importance for all characters in the game put constitution first, as that influenced hit point gain as you leveled.  At level 20 the game relented and actually showed you the stats.

A Barbarian warrior of mine... 484 years old!

A Barbarian warrior of mine… 484 years old!

You’ll see by the table above that I was content with merely “good” strength, because +str gear was very common, but insisted on”mighty” dexterity (affected hitroll) and agility (gave an armor class bonus), while holding out for “heroic” constitution.  Plus there was a hold dynamic of how racial stats, where 90 str for a barbarian was equal to 100 str for a human and so forth.

The attributes were important, but there was a shadow of the future in that.  I let strength slide a bit because I knew warrior gear would eventually include some +str bonuses as I got into higher levels, so that attribute would be rounded up eventually.

As late as the launch of EverQuest we were at least pretending that base stats mattered.  I remember going in and tinkering with the points allocated to attributes with my first few characters because gear with attribute bonuses were not all that common.

But somehow in the five and a half years between the launch of EverQuest and the launches of World of Warcraft and EverQuest II, gear changed.  Rare now is the piece of gear that drops that does not have some attribute bonus to it.  Within two score of levels, your base attributes start to seem insignificant compared to your gear bonuses, and at the highest levels… in WoW, at least before the great stat squish… individual pieces of gear start being worth more than your initial attributes.

Back when EverQuest II removed weight as a concept in the game… you would no longer be weighed down by carrying too much coin or too many banker’s boxes… I pegged the change as being related to the inflation of basic attributes through gear.  Your average character’s strength grew so much through gear progression that weight essentially lost its meaning anyway, so the whole concept only had impact on low level alts and new players that hadn’t progressed far enough.  Why punish new players with something most of your player base doesn’t even think about, having essentially geared their way past it?

All of which, some 700+ words later, brings us to EVE Online.

EVE Online, now past its 11th anniversary, was created during the age of attributes, when we still seemed believed such things were essential, almost literally a requirement, for a role playing game.  And so, EVE Online characters have attributes.  You can see them in my character sheet, which I have grabbed from the Neocom iOS app:

Wilhelm Arcturus

Wilhelm Arcturus

There are all my current essentials.  Down to almost 2 billion ISK, my training queue is over two years long, being largely made up of level V skills at this point, I’m down in the Curse region in a Tengu, and at the very bottom are my character attributes.

My attributes are flat.  I leveled them out over a year ago because I was going to train up a series of skill that would be all over the map and so favoring one attribute over another would potentially help me on one skill only to hurt me on another.  So I figured making them all about the same would even out the hills and valleys.

Because here is the strange thing about EVE Online attributes; unlike World of Warcraft or EverQuest or TorilMUD or Tunnels & Trolls or Dungeons & Dragons, those attributes at the bottom of that screen capture have absolutely no direct impact on how my character performs in the game.

Having greater perception won’t make my guns track any faster, having more willpower won’t make my missiles fly any faster, having immense intelligence won’t make my shields hold out a moment longer, and having all the charisma in the world won’t let me talk my way past CONCORD once I shoot at somebody in high sec space.  None of those matter once I undock from a station.

Yes, sure, they matter indirectly before I undock.  Those attributes affect how fast a given skill trains on a character.  That impacts what ship I undock with and what modules I may have mounted on it, but when I actually undock that is all history and does not affect the here and now.  You undock with the ship you can fit now, not the ship you may wish to fit at some later date.

So this month’s Blog Banter, number 65 in an ongoing series, asks the question:

Does Eve need attributes? It’s been discussed a lot recently. Unlike other MMO’s your characters attributes don’t make a difference in day-to-day gameplay. They simply set how fast you train a skill. Is it time to remove attributes from the game or totally revamp their purpose? Do they add a level of complexity to the game that is not needed? If you really need to use a 3rd party application to get the most from it should it be in the game? Should they be repurposed with each attribute adding a modifier to your ship? Are attributes a relic from the past or are they an important part of Eve – You make your decision and deal with the consequences?

My gut response is “No.”  They should go the way of learning skills, now five years gone from the game.  They are an excess complication that does not add anything to game play.

But I am not so sure when I think about it further.

Yes, I have spent a bunch of time fussing about attributes.  You only get a neural remap once per year, which lets you adjust your attributes, so I have set out training plans in EVE Mon and tried for an optimized configuration.  But the next training plan that I don’t interrupt almost immediately with some new skill I suddenly feel I need will be the first.  I often can’t go a month without changing it up, so asking me to commit to a year is impossible.

And then there are implants.

CCP maps out the anger and resentment nodes in the capsuleer brain

CCP mapped out the anger and resentment nodes in the capsuleer brain

You can boost your attributes… and thus speed up your skill training… by inserting implants.  I have a clone with a set of +4 implants in high sec and when I know I am going to be off for a few days I will jump to that clone to boost my training.  But implants cost ISK, and good ones cost a lot of ISK, and when your ship gets blown up and you get podded, those implants go with it.  A set of implants can be worth more than the ship you lost… a lot more… if you get podded.

So balancing against my gut feeling is a sense that there is a certain amount of strategic planning and depth that goes with attributes.  You can optimize them, if you’re willing to commit for a year, to get ahead faster in an area of training you wish to focus on.  Or you can flatten them out if you want to play a more conservative game.

Likewise you can speed up your training as long as you don’t mind flying around with millions of ISK plugged into your pod.  Losing your pod without implants is essentially free, but you start plugging some in and, as noted, you’re head can quickly become more valuable than your ship.

So while attributes cease to have any direct impact once we undock… our choices are made when we hit that button, and the skills we have are what we have… I am going to fall on the side of attributes being, if not strictly necessary, at least very much a part of the makeup of the game.  The planning and commitment aspect of the training queue along with the risk versus reward part of the implants are, for lack of a better term, very EVE Online.

Of course, that also sounds a lot like “but we’ve always done it this way!” something I wouldn’t condone.  They cause us to make choices… are they interesting choices or not is more the question I suppose.

So I will say that I would rather keep attributes than just eliminate them wholesale.  But if somebody can come up with a plan for an alternate use for attributes or how to make them more relevant to the every day capsuleer experience, or the choices surrounding them more interesting (for whatever definition of “interesting” you prefer), I am all ears.

Meanwhile, others have added their opinions to the mix.  You can find the Blog Banter #65 launch post over at Sand, Cider, and Spaceships, the new host for Blog Banter, along with these other posts on the topic: