Summer is about over and something that has rubbed me raw for the past several months are these skyrocketing gasoline prices. Where I live, gasoline costs more in this state (Illinois) than anywhere else in the U.S.A. (including Hawaii) where prices have topped at $1.89 a gallon for 87 octane ($2.36 in the Chicago area). For those looking for the cheaper gas, try this website: www.gaspricewatch.com. You should also lobby at local gas stations to start carrying E-85 fuel (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) if you drive a vehicle that has a V3 six-liter engine that is capable of running on that type of fuel. Surprisingly, most trucks can run on the new E-Diesel as well, which is diesel fuel mixed with 10-15% ethanol. I do by the way live in the top ethanol producing state in the U.S. and the world. For those people in other countries paying three to five U.S. dollars per gallon elsewhere, the reasons why you are getting ripped off so greatly is the service stations are charging by the liter. Roughly three to four liters make up a gallon, so they can better hide that high cost using smaller units of measure. See, not everything is so better under the metric system! Besides the smaller units of measure, the taxes in Europe are astronomically high to support all the entitlement and giveaway programs by the government. At least in France its gotten so bad that a tax revolt and blockade began early this month to try forcing a change in the tax code.
For those looking for an alternative paying steep prices for traveling somewhere for a vacation, theres the Internetwhere you can travel around the world but never leave your house. I should say, you do need to get out and exercise which was something that I had been neglecting for a long time due to my own time constraints. And look at this, there are terminals set up at the exercise bikes hooked up to the Internet! I can get a good workout and still be online for all that I need to get done, as long as I dont stop peddling.
For those of you who have to return to school this year for another nine months of pure torture, and for those of you who are trapped in one of those summerless year-round schools, I feel your pain. I had theorized that the public schools were created just so the parents would not have to baby-sit or get a babysitter. It was also the only job in the world that you had to go to five days a week and get paid absolutely nothing for it. No, grades aren't the payment. The way schools are run these days, you don't find out if you know anything until after you have left with your diploma and if you don't know anything, you can't sue the school for failing to teach you properly. At least when you get to college, you can pick and choose what courses you want to take.
Computer deals seem to keep getting better. Three years ago a 2.5GB hard drive cost me about $250, and today I get a 45GB hard drive (5400RPM) with a free web cam to go with it for $190. Weeks later I see the same drive being bundled with a free printer or a digital camera for the same price. The first thing I read out of the Sunday papers are the Best Buy, Circuit City, computer and office supply store ads looking for these deals. It used to be mail-order companies had bargain basement deals, but because of the added costs of shipping and handling those deals have become pretty bogus. eBay probably has a lot of these deals as well, but for some reason I have avoided eBay...probably because I would get out there and buy stuff like crazy. Heck, I have a lot of toss-out equipment, books and software right now to go through and setup for eventual sell at a hamfest.
And finally, since this is an election year in the United States...I must say the following. There are people that run around complaining that they are sick and tired of hearing people express political opinions and wish theyd keep their mouths shut. Well Im here to tell you today that political discussions are FUN. Theyre a lot of fun. In fact theyre an incredible amount of fun. And folks, if you don't enjoy taking part in them or are not very good at it, you need to get back out there and keep practicing until you become better at it. And for those who are completely turned off by politics, sooner or later politics will turn on you. Now there are those of you that chant "Oh there's not one bit of difference between the two parties", well there are conservatives in the Democrat party (seen and never heard) and liberals in the Republican party (ungratefully bashing the conservatives that led to the majority). But, if you look at seventeen core issues that define the candidate for what he is, you're gonna get a shock. There ARE major differences between the two parties, otherwise they'd agree on everything and pass everything without a dispute. So a challenge to all you apathetic and whiney people complaining about not have a choice. Visit www.selectsmart.com and take the presidential selector test, which includes all the third parties as well. The candidate the matches your views the closest will get the highest score, while everyone else--won't measure up and shouldn't be voted for.
Now that my commentary is out of the way, we have this month the results of the zone writing contest, what's happening with MUD Services, a discussion about those wanting to be powers and what's waiting for them, an interview about powership, and the usual mud news roundup.
Yahoo Redoes Webring.org
There's an old addage, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. So with everything else a larger company buying up a smaller company does to it under the guise of making it 'better', Yahoo decides to redo Webring. Because they've redone the webring system, now I have less control over the two rings I maintain...namely the Abermud and Betterbox webrings. Now EVERYONE who joins the webring will have to get a Yahoo ID. WHY?!?!?!?? All this does is make it more troublesome to join the ring, and put a major crimp in my ability to perform any necessary maintenance.
NBC Takes Over XOOM
If that wasn't enough, something that passed under my radar screen was the the merger between XOOM and NBC...of which NBC is now going to refer to everything as NBCI. And while they say all the URLs of XOOM will supposedly still work, everything now will refer to members.nbci.com instead. And another round of having to change URLs on a lot of search engines. If this meddling results in me having to move the site again, I may just seek a merger with a site that has their own custom URL and not associated with these fly by night free webpage companies.
Finish the Zone Contest
Well despite the advertising around the muds and newsgroups, the number of entries was not what I had hoped. However, we do have a winner to announce. Brynhild turned in an excellent version of Brookmere by the deadline to secure the victory. She will receive an award of a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.com that's if residents of Australia can use them. What someone says I never announced this as the prize? Yes, I thought of doing this as a surprise reward for the hard work put in what many consider to be a difficult task. Byrnhild's creation will appear on a mud in the upcoming months. The quest will be about three different tribes, the goblins, the orcs, and the gnolls who have taken over Brookmere, but have a very shaky alliance. Your goal is to get them to finally turn on each other so they become much less of a threat to the outside world.
New Downloads on TCAL
It has been a long while since Ive added files for download, so for the Incomplete Zone List Ive added Jonixs Enchanter zone for download, of which I have full permission to do that. Also version three of Bal Harbor was posted on the site for those reluctant to put version one in due to all the paranoia of political illustrations. I decided to also throw in the Yllythad Sea and the Northwest Beaches by Someone. The Yllythad Sea is a 300 room massive body of water of which you can attach numerous other land masses and islands including Bal Harbor. Another new release of Excaliburs Zone Writer program came out toward the end of June which is now at version 0.319b.
End of an Era for MUD Services?
The forefather of MUD hosting companies, MUD Services itself is leaving the business in a few months. As it stands now, MUD Services is not accepting new customers or upgrading packages of existing customers. The parent company, FastNet near the start of summer had undergone discussion on whether to keep the service going or phase it out because they are not making a sufficient amount of money from it. Ultimately because they felt they could not provide an adequate level of technical support service to its customers (of which there are many consumer complaints about it now) they are going ahead with the shutdown. Unfortunately there have been conflicting statements issued by various employees on whether current muds can stay or not. Some people are getting responses from Hostme that they can stay for as long as they like, others say they will need to move out in about 90 days. The most recent statement that was backed up by at least two employees was that there will be a notification letter sent out to all current customers within the next three months that they will need to relocate in 90 days. I am attempting to arrange an interview with someone working for Hostme and draw up an article that should be the official word on this whole matter. Publication of this interview will be made in either AA#13 or as an add-on to this edition, and it may be submitted to another wider in scope mudding newsletter such as Imaginary Realities. Five Abermuds are currently hosted on MUD Services, which will eventually need to find new homes if the latter is the case. Other MUD hosting companies are scrambling to attract those who would had signed up for or else are leaving MUD Services by contacting the remaining customers about getting accounts there.
On a related note, I have moved Promised Land MUD from MUD Services back to Betterbox in August. PL was housed at Betterbox previously but moved to MUD Services because they had a special MUD Gateway (mudlist) page so visitors would have an easier time finding the MUD. Betterbox at the time we moved did not have such a page at the time. I had volunteered to create such a site for them which would have only the listings customers submitted to me on a form apart from a brief listing of just the mud name and port numbers. Recently, the whole website underwent a complete makeover and the site administrator needed someone to take over maintenance of the brief listing also. The work involves running a port scan on all fourteen servers and making changes to the brief listing, which takes approximately one to two hours a week. I have agreed to take over this work, whereas I will be the sole maintainer of the Betterbox Mudlist and receive compensation of some form. Alas, that also means I will have less time for upkeep of my MUD, TCAL, and this newsletter of which I have a bit of a backlog.
News Roundup from the MUDs
Astral Plains recently added a pair of original puzzle zones (puzzles have been classified as a separate category from quests). The Whale puzzle by Dale has you finding the ancient book of dark majick, The Grzdhsh, to return it to the village library for safekeeping. And the Wildwest puzzle by Denial that has you traveling into the Old West, to bring back a fabled weapon.
Latest additions to Promised Land include some classic zones seen on various MUDs linked in new places and some original zones. The first is the Muryan quest for lower-level players, written initially by an unknown author and finished by yours truly, where the housemaster is blockaded in a tower afraid of an ancient heathen who kidnaps his family and holds them hostage. The city of Sundhaven which is a ZGEN convert has finally opened on the southwestern side of the Yllythad Sea, complete with some new shops and training center. No defined quests are associated with this zone as of yet, but there are puzzles to solve. In Sundhaven, you can take on the task of locating someone's stolen mule, breaking the curse put upon a legendary fighter, and attempt to claim a bounty on a wanted thief. We have new versions of Jenintog and Archbishop by Aso. Runners will now have to watch what actions they perform on mobiles, cause they might retaliate against them. And lastly, some mobiles will now be soulless--which is not good for soul collectors.
Asylum opens a new multiplayer quest that is not doable by a soloist like me called Rysling by Shi. The infamous Siege zone which also requires a small army to complete will be getting an update and made a lot harder to beat (how about a one player version for lone wolves???) and be renamed SiegeII. Thankfully, the coders came up with a risk-free way of attempting the zone with the ZSiege feature where players can create a Z character a-la a tournament character and run it. They also can multi-play a group of characters into the zone (I can't control two guys at once either! Arrgh!) For the single players, a quest that isn't as difficult was entered into the game by Herbert called Elderon. Hephestos, a once beautiful and peaceful island city has been overrun by demons and is isolated by a corrosive, sulphurous ocean. Reach the city, defeat its demonic overlord and sacrifice his orb of power to the Gods to complete the quest. The Asylum Friends (those who donate to keep Asylum up and running) have their own mobile that follows them around (much like Phoenixs familiars) but now they can send their mobile into battle to assist mortals. Something I glossed over in May that I should repeat this time around are the Arnie awards. As if we needed something along the lines of the Academy Awards in mudding, these cover solely one mud and not all abermuds (and why not have something like that?) Anyway, the winners are as follows: Nicest Mortal--Gwynn, Most Helpful Immortal--Shi, Favorite Quest--Icefortress, Favorite Mobile--Puff, Best Quest Author--Deep, Fastest Wiz Time--JoseyWales, Most Dedicated Player--Lumina, Power of the Year--Shi, and Runner of the Year--Jezebel.
Hysteria has finally settled on the names of guilds and opened them for membership, which include Aquarius, Prophecy, Knights, Anarchy, Ancients and Deathounds.
Inferno opened a couple of new quests recently. Meta has written the Order quest, which involves helping a village to the south restore order to itself by battling and defeating a powerful wizard who happens to be able to summon monsters at random from vast places across the mud. Johann has written the Shakir quest that involves finding the four lost swords to make the Sword of Hecktar. It is rumored that whoever can combine the Sword of Hecktar and survive is the rightful ruler of Armidia.
Phoenix has done something to give someone a genderless quality. CHANGE SEX NEUTER will make you an "it" so you will see things like "SoNSo hits you hard with its sword", "ThatGuy bashes SoNSo sending it sprawling", and the ever popular "SoNSo wipes its boots in the face of ThatGuy". A new guild has opened which are the Necromancers, which is a group of gothic mages. A new zone written by Sorisor and Aurian opens near the Nibelung area called Dragon Lake where the player is attempting to retrieve a special item that has some strange magical properties despite many obstacles in their path. Hope has also written a new quest called Gilgamesh that has as its prize the Jewel of Knowledge. This jewel has to be returned to the land of Uruk at the Garden of the Gods. Phoenix also sports another new quest written by Gimlet, called Sunfest which is based upon the celebration of summer and the history of Phoenix. The Sunfest begins with the lighting of a sacred bonfire and ritual sacrifices on the remote Isle of Solaria. This year the Solaris have misplaced holy artifacts and forgotten the rite. A brave adventurer must discover a means to light the sacred bonfire using only natural sunlight, find the artifacts and perform the rites properly. There is soon to be another character class called the Seraphim that is designed to counter the infestation of vampires throughout the land.
MUD Administration, Can You Handle It?
There are many people around whom run to wizard, then decide that they want to become archwizards, demigods, or other types of powers on various muds. Well, maybe its time to examine the question, so you want to become a power but can you handle it? I will explain what exactly it means to be a power, and the potential minefields you will be trodding through once you acquire this responsibility. I can tell you from personal experience that it is not easy, it is hard work, it can be an emotional drain, it can be very punishing to your mental state, and it is time consuming. I do not wish to scare people away from the job, but it may be a good thing to inform anyone what one may experience before they take the plunge, find out it wasn't what they thought it was, then quit after a short time. The first thing that must be known, running a mud costs money. Years ago when muds were not in the quantity they are now, many of them managed to find a server that would host their game for free. Today, that is rarely the case. Most people have to pay a monthly rate to rent a couple hundred megs of hard drive space and bandwidth, which runs between $25-$50 depending on the size and number of players on your mud. If you arent in the group putting up financial support to keep a mud going you can pass over this detail. The second thing that must be known is that keeping a mud going requires some coding talent, which consumes a lot of time. Resolving things found by people running on the mud that aren't working as they are supposed to is difficult. Trying to find how a mud crashes once in a blue moon on a section of code that works 99.9% of the time can whack your brain. If youre not a part of this group you can pass over this detail.
Now here is what part that encompasses everyone wanting to be a power. Every power will have the responsibility of enforcing the rules of the game. That can be a troublesome chore, because there are many people who do not like authority. Many people think because its only a game that they can cheat. And theres many people that look at the same person before they were a power much differently after they have been hired as a power, usually in a negative light. Ive seen friendly relations between people go sour after one of them gets hired as a power, which seems to be traceable to jealously, envy, or fear. And there are the troublemakers, people who dont come to your mud to play the game, but play with your heads. Stupid little morons log in, shout their desires for having oral sex cause they cant get any in real life, shout their racism, bigotry, and hatred of women because they would get beaten to a bloody pulp if theyd dare do it in a packed shopping mall, or shout every four-letter word that exists for the heck of doing so because theyd get their mouths bleached or thrown in jail if they lived in Wisconsin which happens to still have an anti-obscenity law. If you're lucky, one zap or exo will be enough to get rid of them. But sometimes these losers won't quit. They will keep logging in under a bunch of different names and continue their harassing of everyone on the mud until their site is banned. But then they may not have had enough so they hop to another site and telnet in from there (if they have one) and continue the harassment all over again. It's enough to drive you mad, if you aren't mentally prepared for it. Then there are many that come to the mud to escape their real world problems for a little while, but can't keep totally away from them. Because it is easier for them to express their problems online than in person and they have some level of anonymity, you will hear things from them that are shocking and outrageous from all over the world. And usually, you will become the 'shoulder to cry on', which is a tough thing to do because you are counseling someone on how to handle or resolve their difficulties without knowing all what is going on over there. I should know, I've taken this role a number of times, it's not fun, it's usually heartbreaking, and it's emotionally draining. Many times you don't know the answer and struggle to come up with some idea of what to do based on past experiences or knowledge.
Well, I hope I haven't scared everyone away from the job but weeded out those who would have been in over their heads and resigning shortly thereafter. It requires a lot of maturity, it is for the thick-skinned and not the weak of heart. It can be a thankless job at times, but without them, there can't be a mud. There aren't too many muds out there that run themselves.
And now to buttress the previous article, I recently did an interview with two of these long time powers, Seoman of Darkscapes and Highlander of XTC. Seoman had administered DarkScapes for the past two years, been an active power for the past five years and mudder for seven. Highlander has been a power on XTC for seven years, archwizard on Illusionary Realms for five years and mudder for ten years.
CF: 'The topic that has been pressing of late onto me has been mud administration...based upon your experiences what should the person who's itching to become one of these be expecting?'
S: 'Expect LOTS of work, running a mud is no easy task. Expect to NEED at least 1 cool coder, and more than three is too much.'
H: 'They should expect to be able to put friends aside and be able to make decisions based up the rules and not how well you know someone.'
S: 'You as Ruler/God/whatever can't always be your real life friend's friend...cause that would be unfair. If they misbehave, they pay the price and that makes it hard.'
H: 'They are expected to spend at least a couple hours a day on the mud and be as helpful to the players and be aware of there needs. They need to remember it is just a game and do not take it personally.'
S: 'Mud-God requires at least 1 skill, and that is social strong. Social losers, can't ever be good mud gods, no matter how good they are at coding.'
H: 'If the gods are not liked, the mud will suffer.'
CF: 'For the regular archwizard...there have been many friendships broken up because one of them became a power, and the other sees that person as...well, not the same...'
S: (nods) 'Very possible'
CF: 'Like they've changed for the worst.'
S: 'I try actively to discourage my RL friends from mudding here. I see them on muds where I am just a player too.'
H: 'If the person as the power did not realize that it may change their mudding experience they should never have been a power.'
CF: 'See I'd be getting as many people over to play my mud whether or not I was around them in person.'
S: 'I truly care for my RL friends, of course, and I fully realize that as GOD I can't be their friend if they somehow break my rules here. I don't want my real life friendship to suffer, because I can (and have to!) punish them.'
H: 'Most people who have friend gods believe they can get away with anything, this is why you have to break the link between friend and god if you really want to be a true admin.'
S: 'So instead, I pick a mud we both like, and I am not admin but player and we play there.'
CF: 'I think it would be easier to tell them of rule violations....'
S: 'No, it's easier to ask your friends not to play on muds you are admin. I've learned that from experience. I once quit my godhood, and left the mud for good, to protect my sanity on a mud I was god about 2 years ago.
H: 'Everyone has to remember it is just a game, I think being a god u should realize this and do not let things get too you.'
CF: 'Okay...moving on, you've no doubtedly run into a number of things...as I have...people with all sorts of problems. Has playing the "Dr. Laura" role taught you anything you wish to share with others when they end up having to play that role?'
H: 'Of course.'
S: 'No matter how sad, no matter how drastic the problems never loose sight of YOUR goal, to make the mud fun for everyone. If someone is too down to have fun, advise them to take a break.'
H: 'I have learned, if you make the mud fun, try to help the people, I have had people on the verge of committing suicide and just came to talk, I believe if you sometimes just talk to your players it makes the mudding experience much better.'
S: 'People who are down, but do not in any way hinder other player's fun...you can listen to. Helps a lot, to just listen to them.'
H: 'I have seen a lot of muds add these "specials" but if you think about it everyone that has been around a while does not come to a mud for new items or new zones, they come for the people.'
S: 'A mud does not consist of their code, a mud consists of their player base. If someone steals my code, and starts a new mud...fine, I wish them the best of luck.'
H: 'Like my first mud, it didn't even have color, yet I think it was the best mud ever made, the players make the mud.'
CF: 'Do you believe that a place like a mud is their best location to open up when they wouldn't in front of other people?'
S: 'Sometimes, because on muds, the people are all strangers. Sometimes it helps to talk to complete strangers.'
H: 'I have seen this a lot myself, people are more relaxed in front of there computers and the mud helps people talk, I know I wouldn't be able to talk about some of the things in real life that I do on the muds.'
S: 'That's very true, for most... the anonymity helps a lot, like AA.'
CF: 'But is this a good thing though?'
S: 'It is, if the mud is helping people, if all they can do is relish in their own sadness.'
H: 'Yes I believe it is in a way, as long as you do not give out too much information though like you said these are strangers.'
S: 'You have to be able to let go as admin.'
CF: 'Any funny situations with troublemakers you've encountered...stuff that makes you laugh as you look back upon it?'
S: 'Oh yes! I have one very cool one. At random points in time: the entire mud would freeze and I had no idea why. I searched for months, in code, and online to debug this error until one day I got lucky. I was sitting in the same classroom at school as someone else who played the mud but didn't know I was its god. He pressed scroll-lock on his keyboard and left to get a coke and THE MUD FROZE! I wanted to strangle him right then and there.'
CF: 'How did that freeze the mud?'
S: 'I still don't know, it was a rare combination of the socket implementation on the (DOS) telnet client before Zmud, and the windows era. Windows 3.11 was just out on the market, but school couldn't afford it so we had DOS only. It went away, once the school upgraded to windows, and the graphical telnet client that came with it.'
CF: 'Think this flaw is still present?'
S: 'Yes, I think that if someone uses this DOS telnet client...'
H: 'On XTC we ran into a nice guy a few years ago. Well this guy thought he was the "bomb" tried hacking into characters and insisted that we could not get rid of him and we would naturally zap him if he tried something but never did ban him. One day he said he was gonna take down the mud and we had a nice laugh at him. It made him angrier and he tried hacking again. Well turns out it was a high school student. We had some experimental IP tracing software and traced his host back to his and he had a little visit from a few mudders, and it scared him half to death. On their school computers they were each issued an account and it had his name on it. We knew exactly who it was. Had him suspended from school for a while ;)'
CF: 'Well looks like the 30 minutes is up....any parting thoughts?'
S: 'One parting thought though: IF you want to start a mud be sure to have at least 4 active players of which 1 has good coding skills and all good social skills. They will become your basic (starting) powers. Ideally, they will be scattered across 2 continents, to mix time zones effectively (USA-Europe, or USA-Australia or something).'
H: 'My parting words are as follows: Never let the mud get over your head and do not be swayed by "new mudders" saying they are gonna do this and that to your mud if you don't give in to them. Just have a positive attitude toward all your players and be able to handle the rules as best you can.'
CF: 'Whew...hardly to find those Trans-Pacific people...and for those lesser powers?'
S: 'One thing only: be sure to not overly help players with hints/equipment...the sense of satisfaction when they finish the game is much less if you do.'
H: 'Be sure to let your powers know you are still god and that the position does not give them the authority to do anything they wish.'
S: 'Oh, and NEVER EVER have more as 1 mud owner...that's bound for trouble.'
CF: 'Uh oh...my mud has had several.'
S: 'Not a problem, as long as in the end there's only 1 left. DarkScapes started with Marty as its owner.'
H: 'Yes if you have conflicting decision makers that could end up to be bad.'
S: 'Now it's me. Also *(but very hard to get)* is a retired mud owner who doesn't have the time to be god anymore but is willing to help out new gods. That's like the ultimate help, you can get. There's no snake in the grass (he used to have his/her own mud, but didn't have time anymore, so no ambition to takeover) and he/she knows how to run a mud, in case you are not there and there is an emergency. I helped Fulk out that way with Hysteria before I got control of DS.
H: 'Hysteria was part of XTC at one time'
CF: 'Ugh...Fulk didn't get much in the way of public relations'
S: 'True, but he means well, so I helped him out. But I know not everyone was quite happy when I resigned when he wanted it back...but lets not go there ;)'
CF: 'Okay...thank you gentlemen.'
Well that will do it for this issue and at a small 30K. School has started up again, with the college student crowd making their way back online if they couldn't have it at home. Its time to start attracting those people back over.
Issue completed on 9/10/2000. Interviews are edited for grammar, spelling, clarity, and readability. Click NEWS to read the previous issue.
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