Well now...here we are again with another edition of AA. Last issue was the biggest ever in size, so I've decided to write this one up now so I don't have as much stuff to report on, and as you can see, this issue is shorter than the last two. The clock is ticking on the amount of time that will be spent with this issue, with the goal not to exceed three weeks in writing. The focus of this issue will be toward what's been dogging the Aber community this past year, along with another major obstacle to mudding, your family's viewpoint of it. And of course, we have the usual happenings on various Abermuds.
Corrections...Delusion apparently isn't the first to run Intermud, Darkscapes when it was called Eradicated Worlds ran it four years ago...but dropped it because all the other muds on it were LPs, and there was some sediment that Abermuds were "immature" cause they weren't as advanced as LPs. I also refered to the Graye zone as a quest on Black Star, which was wrong...it never was flagged as such.
Falling Player Counts, Advertising Key Remedy
Fall and about winter is here, but the Abermud community has not seen the usual bump in players. Average attendance of the top three Abers being Asylum, Phoenix, and Northern Lights have stayed between 10-20. That is down from its peak in 1994-1995 of between 20-30 average and one at 30-40 average. What's going on? Suede of Asylum MUD recently posted this on his own mud:
"The Asylum Development team is actively looking at ways to popularize our world and have been examining a number of alternative MUDs across the Net to see how we can increase our player base. What we have seen is that DIKU-based MUDs do generally seem capable of sustaining a larger number of players than ABER bases. For a long time, we have sought to increase our base by tempting players from other ABERs - my personal opinion is that the ABER base cannot maintain higher numbers of players in its present form."
The number of Abermuds that are in operation is about 40, while the various brands of Dikumuds number 600, and that includes all Circles, ROMs, Smaugs, Mercs, and Envys. If that's all what people see and know of then that is what they will play, even though getting anywhere with better than average arms on those types of muds is painfully and frustratingly slow--and many are so heavily dependent on large groups and mud-macro software like TinTin+. As for my efforts to advertise, I've attempted to get listed on as many search engines as possible (with some success, but many just don't add every listing they get), joined multiple webrings, and put my site with a few of the banner exchanges. Newsgroup advertisements do work wonders, on my mud we had nearly no one around before, after the ads people began showing up. There are nearly 30 mud newsgroups out there to use.
Bottom line is this, whether we have the time or not to deal with it, the problem of all but three Abermuds having less than 10 or even less than 5 people online looms large. If there isn't an effort to attract people from other mud-types to the Aber codebase then it's practically not worth the programming time spent making the mud better and paying a mud hosting service for an account. The phrase "If you build it, they will come" doesn't hold if people don't know about you. Spend a good half-hour to an hour of your time to write up a good promotional text about your mud then when you're finished you can send it out over and over.
This however is what Asylum plans to do about it...
"We have not lost a great many players to other ABERs - we have lost them to other types of MUD. Asylum cannot continue to add quests and hope that our player base will increase at the same time. I feel that Asylum has done a great job in taking the ABER base as far as it has done and cannot go any further without RADICAL change. The powers team has been involved in some discussions about ways to make these changes and some designs are being drawn up for consideration. These ideas will be circulated to powers and FRIENDS of Asylum in the first instance for comment. What we are planning is that Asylum will begin to incorporate some elements of other bases of MUD so that we can radically increase our online numbers. Here is some of what we have in store....
* Dynamic Equipment (Marvin) - a system aimed at allowing players to retain their inventory when they leave the game --no more running around for equipment. The length of time that your kit will be kept for you depends on your level--but at the highest level, we envisage periods of several days for retention of inventory. Some form of area in core will be used to store your kit with a small price perhaps...
* Levels and Band (Suede and Shi) - Asylum has never been in favor of forcing players to join a guild (mage, warrior, thief etc) when they login. Now a new system is being considered which will allow a player to swear allegiance to a particular band and retain that allegiance for a period of time. This will mean that players can choose to become different types of character (or just maintain their current character instead) and change when they like - thereby picking up skills and spells in a number of areas. Five new bands will be created each with a larger number of levels within them. Quests in future may also be designed specifically for a distinctive band or group of players.
* Skill and Spell Proficiency (LiChen) - a system whereby a skill or spell is not learned and that is the end of it - in this concept your proficiency in it can be increased in time."
In other words, Asylum will add some more staples of the dikumud code, while retaining the Abermud feel. We'll see.
Paranoia Against Mudding, or "Cruel Doubt" on the Net
Last time I discussed those computer lab administrators who would be bent to keep you from using any computer in the college for anything other than homework. Now here's another part of the equation, and it could tie in with the overzealous network admin problem. What does your family think of you mudding? For the most part, when I tell someone that I help run a MUD, their reaction is "What the heck is MUD?" If it only goes that far, you should not be thought of as a loony tune. If it happens to go farther than that, where you are showing them how to play it, and the webpages you wrote about it, and some of the people you meet...then it could get real ugly. To make matters worse, if they aren't computer savvy, remember and fear situations like "Cruel Doubt" a few years back, and feel their religious convictions are being threatened by the mud against their children (that's you and me folks), beware. For those not familiar with "Cruel Doubt", this was a true story where players of a "Dungeons & Dragons" role-playing game allowed their role-playing enter the real world and commit murders of innocent people, a novel and movie were released about it. However, there have been claims that the ones convicted were already mentally ill long before they took up D&D and this allegedly was suppressed. There have been other films dealing with this subject--best known was the one that starred Tom Hanks.
Most of you know that I help run Promised Land mud...well, I've been trying to get members of the family over there to either play or visit with me instead of using long distance phone calls. My father just got Internet access during November, and they want me to teach them...although teaching is a pain, cause they keep getting lost on ONE mouse click. I had sent them an email on how to get in the game, they attempt a connect, but fail to log in, and they give up immediately (I discovered later that junky Microsoft Telnet program was starting up with nothing but the title bar, useless garbage program it is)! The next night I am there to "shout" instructions (they took offensive to that...shouting instructions...ick) and tell them step-by-step what to do. My dad reads a couple rooms, then wants to bail. After that I show the location of my mud's webpage. After seeing what I wrote for an introduction, he went ballistic! He said that my mud was promoting "new age" religious ideology, worshipping false gods, and attempts to turn people away from God and Jesus Christ. Furthermore, they thought my mud would suck people who are already adrift and lost in the head and get them worshipping phony gods and even into devil worship! The intro paragraph I wrote did refer to the original "Promised Land" that Moses led the Israelites toward away from the Pharaoh and slavery. Then I mentioned another Promised Land in a different reality...the virtual kind. Arrgh, how many fictional stories have there been written about myths and fairy tales? Quite a number, but I'm not aware of anyone actually worshipping Zeus or Odin.
Yes we have a religion system on our mud, and I think the only one in the Abermud community, but PLEASE...these "gods" are nothing more than mobiles that power you up when you do enough things that they want you do you. Our four "gods" aren't for real, nor do they come from mythology of the Greeks or Norse. We can knock them off the game any time we want. Yet, we have the unreasonable concern. And that makes me uncomfortable...I'm not turning away from Christianity...I'm not at a different level of involvement in it before the Internet came along. And if this thing called MUD was so bad for me and anyone else, wouldn't there been stories about people who went berserk in public before they mudded too much by now? I would have excepted parents to complain about someone mudding because it was hazardous to their GPA, not their mental health. And throw in players who can be considered by many to be a bad influence--I've met a lot. For the girl whom I talked about last month in her struggle against an out of control lab assistant, her problem has now incorporated her mother--who thinks she spends too much time on the computer and shouldn't be mudding at all. Arrgh. Well, I'm at my wits end. I'd like to trot to that college and belittle the intelligence of the network admins, but it's too far to drive. Emails aren't much help, cause they'd act against the person I'm defending before they'd respond to me. That leaves calling them on the phone, but no phone number on hand to call them. What about the calling on the Student Government or the Dean of Students to assist? Too much instilled intimidation to talk to them...arrgh!
So...what advice to get from others? I raised the issue over on the Mud Connector's General Discussion forum over the subject and got a wide range of responses. Some were by other Christians, some were by people who thought it was a ticket to bash Christianity, and some were corny jokes. Right now, it's developed into a fight over Christaphobia and whether separation of church and state was actually in the Constitution--somehow. From atheists, we get the point that your parents should not force their beliefs on you, and that you should get to think for yourself. Disagreement was whether it should be tolerated even if you were still living under their roof. Sadly the forcing of views by family actually MADE people become atheists. From another Christian father, he thinks many parents are trying to put blame on someone or something else for their actions...the object isn't bad in itself, it's the actions done associated with it. One scene that was brought up...the woodsmun role:
Create a class, call it the "woodsmun" (yes, mUn, I like it better than "woods-man/woods-woman") ... give them hunting, fishing, find water, find food, build fire, build shelter, axe skill, knife skill, trapping, and so on. Give them woodsmun only equipment, or make them not be affected by anything magical/supernatural. Start them out in a zone that is low level, nature setting with natural creatures. And ask your parent to play it. Ask them what is wrong with it. Then say, "Now, if there were to have say, a magic axe, that let them cut wood faster, would that be bad? Why or why not?" Then take it a bit further, "If they could use herbs to heal minor wounds, is that bad?", then a bit further, "If they had a natural gift for finding water, is that bad?", then, "If they had the natural gift to mend wounds, is that bad?" Find out what it is they think is so bad with it.
Here's what's bad with it...they refer to it as progression toward something...he used the example of Jack Parr of the Tonight Show was thrown off the air for telling a joke that by today's standards would not be considered offensive. Now we have people cussing every four-letter word that exists, doing sex acts, violent acts, etc. and of course, no one is throwing a fit over it. Desensitizing people to the point that NOTHING irks you and EVERYTHING deviant is normal. But now...times change, and not always for the better...even if I'm desensitized, I would not commit the acts of sex and violence.
The goofiest response was this: "I would start doing drugs, start sticking bits of metal through your face (I hear that is quite popular now), join a cult, buy a gun, if female, get yourself pregnant, if male, get some poor girl pregnant, hold midnight orgies involving bloodletting and barnyard animals. If, after that, your parents still have a problem with you using the computer, send them to a shrink." Thankfully he wasn't serious...but the point was made...there are worse things to worry about. Yes there are worse things...getting someone to worry about those things instead isn't always an easy thing to do.
To read and maybe join the debate...visit The Mud Connector General Discussion Board.
General News Items
Mudzine has reopened at a new location, the Mud Connector itself! It operates as a daily news format, dependent on people sending them news items via email. Not utilized enough in my view.
Another new mud magazine has started up, called The Mud Center. It will feature mudding news and reviews like Mud Journal, but right now it has some distance to go before their first issue is online.
Another mudlist to consider getting listed upon is http://www.gamecommandos.com which lists the games, and some reviews. Over 800 muds are listed with just the addresses, webpages and codebase type.
Grimm's Talker List is another listing that gears itself toward "talkers", but they also list muds. Only five abers have been seen on this list. Link checks occur hourly.
Talon's Gaming Network has finished their revamp of their site. It will be a central location to grab anything related to on-line gaming and muds. From what I've seen so far, the scope is it gathers URLs and categorizes them like Yahoo, but concentrating on gaming. Yours truly of course is listed.
Here is a list of the current mudding newsgroups, topics should be obvious, but some are obscure: rec.games.mud, rec.games.mud.announce, rec.games.mud.admin, rec.games.mud.diku, rec.games.mud.lp, rec.games.mud.misc, rec.games.mud.tiny, alt.mud, alt.mudders, alt.mud.lp, alt.mud.british, alt.mud.german, alt.mud.chupchups, alt.mud.cyberpunk, alt.mud.cyberworld, alt.mud.cyberpunk.cyberearth, alt.mud.eos2, alt.mud.tiny, alt.mud.programming, alt.mud.cellars, alt.mud.majormud, alt.mud.moo, alt.mud.bsx, alt.mud.island, alt.mud.crystal-shard, alt.mudders.anonymous, alt.flame.mud. Only rec.games.mud.announce is moderated.
pDirt is no longer in public distribution, about a month after it was offered publicly (or at least when *I* discovered it). No official reason was given for its removal (even after some prodding) or for what were the Darkscapes WebPages being deleted and a barebones replacement put in its place.
Nothing new to download this time around, only that existing zone downloads on my site are being updated as I add those zones to my own mud--so far Chess, Temple of the Bull, Batcave, New Sparta, and the Southern Desert have been changed, Graye is scheduled to be updated.
News from Individual MUDs
Promised Land opens some more new zones and quests, including the following: "The Great Southern Desert" which will allow us to expand the world from there in the future, meanwhile while you brave the desert, beware of the Indians. "Temple of the Bull" featuring a cult that worships a half-man half-bull like creature...no, not the Minotaur, but Taurus! The "Graye" zone previously featured on the former Black Star mud, whereas the adventurer must rescue King Relnor from the demon horde, but you better get your cliff-climbing gear ready and don't forget that holiness holds the demons at bay. And lastly, the "Ildharas" quest that we reported about last issue has been installed just recently. To recap this quest, it was written in 1991 by Kalivir and has not been seen on an Abermud since 1994. The prologue story to this quest can be read on her webpage at http://www.cyberverse.com/~kalivir/Ildharas/ildharas.html. Promised Land has moved to a new site on mudservices where the address is pizza.mudservices.com:6715 and our webpage is http://www.promisedland.mudservices.com.
Since they seem to get more coverage than anyone, here's the other big item Asylum has added: The Campaign zone takes place of the weekly tournies where you can play in an every-runner-for-themselves frenzy or as part of a highly organized head-beating squad. The possibilities are endless...no more "I'm bored" comments from idle wizards. The zone is available to all levels. Look at "info Campaign" for detailed information or just type "defend" at the Temple of Creation and start wandering. If you're familiar with Doom and Quake netplay, this looks to be a MUD-style deathmatch arena. Regular tournaments will occur on a once a month basis...dates and times are unnamed.
Delusion has been kind of busy too, what they've added lately are: The Beholder quest, this is an extension to the island zone and was a staple of the old Aber 4s, not commonly found on most muds. Remember that some games have a "boss" key, well Delusion has one now...so when you're mudding from work when you really shouldn't, you have a quick escape. Delusion has also become the first Abermud to join the Intermud chatline. Intermud is explained later on, but it operates like Aberchat. Also, if you hang out in extremely cold or hot areas or get bitten by something poisonous, eat the wrong food or something like that, you are most likely to suffer from disease for a while. It will most likely result in slower healing, feeling not so well, or even dying if you are not careful. Most of the diseases will vanish after a certain time, others require to be cured by a healer for a nice price.
On Hysteria, they have introduced a new immortal level. This level is only for the elite, the best of the best. It's the ultimate test of who is king of Hysteria's mortal realms. To achieve this rank, one must run several (8) different personas to the level of Wizard or Ceribus. All 8 must avoid the Way of the Leaf (Tuatha'an). 3 personas must prove their knowledge by completing all of the quests given to mortals. All eight must not be killed by another mortal more than once, and all 8 must prove their worthiness in the battlefield by slaying at least 2 other mortals. Once this is accomplished, then one can claim the rights of Heaven's Warriors. (Ick...run eight guys to wiz and not be wiped out by someone else while taking out other runners at random? Who's got that kind of time?) Beware of the personas whose names appear under Heaven's Warriors! Another recent addition to the mud is SCOPE. This command gives a detailed list of any mobiles or players within two rooms in any direction (this is a staple of Dikumuds). One noticeable change for runners is the decrease in points given for kills. You will only receive points for kills that are worthy of your level. This will increase the challenge of running to wizard. Since it's not exactly hard for a level 98 mortal to kill the Yeti, points (or the lack thereof) are given accordingly. Also be sure to read their own monthly newsletter...Bit of Hysteria.
Phoenix mud is still building...here's what they have this time: SPECIAL COLLECTION--Every library in the Land of Phoenix now carries a copy of our newly published volume Phoenician Rhyme and Rhapsody Archives. This very special work in progress contains the original poetry of Phoenicians from all walks of life, and we are indebted to all who have contributed to it thusfar and all who will in the future. Particular thanks to our Texan rose Tinker for the beautiful design and preface. If you have original works you would like included in this book, please mudmail your contribution to Sharky. For new zones, for players level 4 - 6 will find new territory to explore off the eastern coast, south of the Village Jetty, written by Armitage, they are the Southsea and Buccaneer zones. Gillybean created the Coven quest, a delightful adventure in a school for young witches. This is a large zone, rich in surprises and originality. For those who are tired of getting killed often, the Mishakal zone has help. Find her Temple near the Hidden Falls and bring her what she asks for, the reward is handsome indeed. From the charmed imagination of our red-nosed Demi-God Rudolph comes this clever little zone and its generous gift. And finally, mortals can have their own wizhomes before they wiz. See INFO PLAYERHOUSES and visit Katri's Properties and Fields in the village for details on how to purchase your own home. You do have to have run to a certain level to get one, and have sufficient cash.
And we have news from an Aber 5 mud, we don't hear much about them these days, but work was undertaken some time ago to provide sound support for Sleepless Nights. This is accomplished through the use of triggers that are designed to play .wav files after the occurrence of certain events. Unfortunately, you will only be able to take advantage of this sound support if you have a PC and a soundcard, and are using Zmud. Since the sound is provided through the use of triggers, it is necessary to use a MUD client that supports these triggers. Due to the amount of work involved in programming the sound files to work with the game, only Zmud is supported. Zmud is available from Zugg Software. Well, now that Sleepless Nights does sound, and Swords & Sorcery does graphics...maybe making them both do graphics AND sound together (with the Windows port of XClient modified to play sounds in the future?) could attract a lot of new attention to the Aber 5 codebase?
Inferno has changed its level system and wiz requirements to a multiple tier system. Most odd is required quests are considered regular, and unrequired quests are called altquests. (Aside, altquests in my book is zones with a goal but no quest flag assigned to them.) There are 15 required, and a couple dozen alternate. For new zones and quests, they've added the City zone, and rather long and difficult Vampire quest. Depending on what level wiz you're going for, higher wiz levels require more altquests being completed.
Ebb of Reality was featured in a local news broadcast the effects of the Internet on its users. Well, we all know what effect mudding has on its users...
Northern Lights opens a new zone, the Geyser zone by Shatterstar when you have to figure out why the famous geyser stopped blowing its top at its appointed time. And since it's Christmas, the Holiday zone by Hex makes it's once a year reappearance where saving Santa Claus from Santa Claws is a must if you want your presents this year.
Mud heists are rare, but they do happen. In this case, someone wanted to put a mud out of business and all the other websites on it. Thieves stole the computer that ran Nalle MUD and Abermud Central sometime in September. Fortunately for Abermud Central, it relocated to http://hem1.passagen.se/mullberg/Mudding/AberCentral/index.html. Nalle hasn't returned, and it may never return, considering free site availability is near null.
Hopes were dashed as the long-awaited successor to Virtual Sun called "Nightshade" has come to an untimely end. It was set to open up with initially 6000 rooms and some other unnamed goodies, but what killed the project was supposedly unfixable socket problems. Despite a sizable programming team working long hours, enough was enough, they decided that this program's embedded socketing was so badly hosed that cutting their losses was better than slugging it out, and that the next semester of school was starting soon. By the way, do not make bids to fix this program, as they stated they deleted most of the stuff. Alas, not all versions of UNIX are very good. Some are better than others, and some should just plain not be used. In this case, "Slackware Linux" wasn't very good for coding a mud. The other lesson to be learned...never EVER start a gigantic mud. Starting out with too much stuff will take you a lot longer to work out the bugs, and by the time you finish you won't have any time left to run the darn thing. The reason why Dikus can get away with starting 50k+ room muds is because they don't have to code any specials! It's ALL hack'n'slash. If you were one who contributed zones to this mud...I'd be interested in them...
A warning to those thinking of starting a mud, some versions of UNIX will not compile stock source code out of the box (well, I think a lot of you knew this already, but...). FreeBSD for instance won't do it, neither will Red Hat, who knows what others. For Red Hat, changes to the makefile are needed, cause the include files are in other places, some include files are handled by other include files, and some include files don't exist at all--requiring that you copy the missing ones from another version of UNIX over. FreeBSD has a number of incompatibilities, and only the old Dirt 3.1 code was gotten to compile after much wrangling.
A chatline that's pretty much been forgotten about that's available to anyone who downloads the code and installs it is something called "Intermud". This is a chatline that is used primarily by various LP muds to interact with each other, but Abermuds were always able to join in at any time. Now finally, one has...Delusion. Since Delusion joined up, I could now see what Intermud offered. The number of muds linked up under this service number about 125+, and commands are the same as Aberchat except each one starts with an "I". Unlike Aberchat, it features a finger and locate command. Should you get it? If you want to be able to chat with people on a couple dozen other muds of all different types (right now, just LP and variants) and believe there isn't enough activity on Aberchat, this might be for you...at least it's more free advertising of your mud. Where to get it...kove.hollyfeld.org has a copy of the client code on FTP to use. If and when I add it myself, it may go up on a few other places.
That will have to do it for this issue of AA, and will be the last one for 1998. Alas to get this issue over and done with, I had to hold off doing interviews with certain caveman and the owners of Cyrosphere. Perhaps an interim feature will be written up and posted separately--like an AA#72. Hopefully 1999 will be a better year for Abermuds, so get the word out and do those advertisements!