(paging @balooga) ...or, at the very least, the last in a very long time. This is not an article, this assortment of impressions is not meant to form a cohesive whole. That is my attempt at...
...or, at the very least, the last in a very long time. This is not an article, this assortment of impressions is not meant to form a cohesive whole.
That is my attempt at leaving these thoughts and impressions behind.
The MUD community does not wish to be saved
Historically, the genres that maintain their purity either disappear or become an eternal niche. The film-noir is a kind of crime fiction made in the United States between the 1920s and late 1950s. It cannot expand over these limitations — similar movies after 1959 are, by definition, "neo-noir". The western is circumscribed to certain folk tales of the pre-20th century American frontier. Some stories outside of that are considered "neo-western", or some other kind of western. Those genres still exist, of course, but their presence in culture was greatly reduced.
That was not the case with genres such as comedy (which wasn't even necessarily humorous for much of its existence), action, or suspense. These are meta-genres par excellence, and their survival is a consequence of their promiscuity. Meta-genres will lay with anyone and are prolific in their offspring. Their malleability makes them hard to kill. So we have action-comedies, comedy horror, suspense noir, etc. The combinations are endless.
MUDs are in the purity spectrum. Most active MUDs were created in the 1990s, and their design is representative of that era of gaming. The vast majority of the users are entirely adapted and satisfied with how these games generally function. The term "graphical-MUD" was an intermediary, but it obviously didn't stick (nowadays, they're essentially MUDs with rudimentary graphics on top of them). Retroactively speaking, MUDs are text-based MMORPGs. They're defined by a relationship of similarity and opposition to MMOs. Proposals towards the implementation of additional functionalities that are not text-based will be promptly labeled as one of the following:
- Graphical MUD
- Persistent Browser Based Game
Because most of the mechanical and narrative features that used to characterize MUDs were adopted by MMOs, the MUD community settled on the notion that MUDs are defined, first and foremost, by their (1) code-bases, and (2) adherence to a very specific set of text-interfaces.
MUDs are also in opposition to interactive fiction, given their focus on complex mechanics and systems (chiefly the ones related to combat). In IF, gameplay exists to support the story, while in MUDs the story exists to support gameplay.
MUDs are entrenched, with existential threats encroaching from all sides. This perception serves to reinforce purist attitudes in the community. The desire to maintain the integrity of their games prevents innovation, and the adherence to outdated designs makes it hard to achieve a wider audience. Notorious games survive with a player-base of 10 to 15, those with 30 people or more are considered successes, and only two or three ever cross the threshold of 100 concurrent users.
But still, their core base is satisfied so there are no efforts toward renewing the audience. The general attitude is that you should adapt to MUDs, and not the opposite. If that means maintaining a game with less than 10 highly-dedicated old-timers, so be it.
For the average MUDer, disappearing is preferable to change.
This makes me think: what would I have to gain by making a MUD game?
I gotta be honest, I don't like books all that much. That's just the truth. So the first thing would be the opportunity to craft a vast, living, and breathing fictional universe. As a game. Not many genres will allow a single creator (or a small team) to make a game of that scale. Making a MUD is the closest I could ever get to making an MMORPG, and to me, there's nothing as fantastic as a true MMO.
Ultimately, I'd want to show just how far MUDs can go when you approach them as you would any other modern game.
The potential is thrilling.
If I made a game with all the changes I envision (and I'm not talking about graphics!), odds are that no one would play it. MUDers would feel uneasy with systems they do not recognize. Non-MUDers are unlikely to play a text game regardless of how cool and modern it is. MUDs are really meant to be collective affairs, and I'm afraid that even the best MUD in the world would probably be played by no one.
The best alternative, in my view, would be to not make a MUD -- or at least a deceptively MUD game. By that I mean: pick up a MUD engine, deeply integrate it with either Godot or Mudlet, ship everything as one awesome package and explicitly do not call it a MUD. Yep... I can see that working beautifully.
That's it, I shall never write about MUDs anymore. Unless..
 To be clear, I'm not announcing that I will actually do a MUD game. For now that is largely hypothetical.