where are the mud developers?

While cleaning up the sidebar a little I kind of got down on the fact that there just isn’t a whole lot of mud design discussion happening in a public forum these days.

MudLab is quiet as can be, with it seems like one or two posts, maybe, a month. The Mud Connector and Top Mud Sites have the usual smattering of design discussion, but nothing really sustained or that diverse. Raesanos (or anyone else, really, you can’t put the weight on just one person’s shoulders) hasn’t posted to mudreading.com in six months, and so when I was trimming the sidebar I deleted the link.

So what you end up with are a few scattered posts among blogs and so on. Matt Adcock’s bc-dev.net has had some good stuff lately, but you can hardly expect a critical mass of people to migrate to one blog all of a sudden.

I know that the mud developers are out there; I’m consistently surprised to run across people developing muds from scratch. So I don’t think that there isn’t enough people to have a discussion. Writing a mud is still an attractive, challenging project for designers and programmers (and the iconic programmer-designer). I don’t know if it’s that the existing mud discussion forums simply are unattractive, or under-publicized, or too fragmented among different sites, or that people writing muds are more focused on the mud and just not interested in discussion (not an uncommon characteristic I’ve noted among programmers in general). I wonder if learning about mud design is now in its archaeological period, where its students are more akin to alchemists re-reading ancient texts in solitary towers than philosophers lounging around the forum debating contemporary, as well as ancient, theories. There’s no lack of discussion for games being made now with the technologies of the last five years. For muds, a 30 year old genre essentially unchanged in its basic characteristics, has the design discussion gone on so long that this lack of a prolific current discussion is the natural state of affairs?

I feel that the time is ripe for mud design to take advantage of synergies with new platforms and genres; the latest post at PlayThisThing on the game Elven Blood highlighted that feeling for me this morning. Here is a game whose features wouldn’t look that out of place in a mud. Indeed there has been talk at MudLab about this kind of design, and some brightness on the horizon for possible implementations are out there too with some new muds in development.

In my mind muds shouldn’t lose their essential nature of live writing and reading. But maybe there is a new design discussion poised to flower, based on the possibilities found between the pure text of muds and the quasi-text of browser-based games and mobile games. Not to say that browser-based games and mobile games can’t or won’t stand on their own two feet as genres of their own. But I’d be curious to find out what a new kind of mud would look like alongside its brothers of old.


3 comments so far

  1. Raesanos on

    The reason I stopped posting on mudreading was definitely because there were not a lot of other people to have the discussion with. I’d get responses to my ideas, but not a lot of other developers offering their own or wanting to write for the site. The project isn’t really interesting to do as a solo blog.

    So yeah, I want to know where the MUD developers are too.

  2. Matt on

    Glad you find my blog of interest George, and I tend to agree with you that there isn’t a huge amount of mud design discussion these days. Of the sites you mentioned I think TMS probably has the best quality discussion and Mudbytes is another site with a fair bit of developer discussion, although I find it a bit too inward looking for my taste.

    My impression is that a lot of the ‘from scratch’ projects are more about programming and technical implementation than game design. This is fine of course, but more and more the motivation to develop a mud seems to be as a hobby for programmers, rather than to express design ideas.

    I agree a mud is a great project for a designer-programmer, and is a much more practical way to express your ideas for multiplayer gaming and virtual worlds than trying to create a graphical MMORPG. However I wonder if many of those with the drive to innovate are tempted away by the twinkle of big graphical games nonetheless?

  3. kooneiform on

    MudBytes does seem centered around a core group heavily invested in the legacy codebases, but at the same time this has its plusses as well (a simple interest in mud development being one of them). I just started posting there and it seems pretty good so far, better than TMS in a way as there are more active threads.

    A ‘brain drain’ of mud developers as a result of greener pastures is a compelling idea; can we say that people who may have worked on muds 10 or 15 years ago are now going into the cRPG mod scene or even working on graphical MMOs (not to mention the flourishing indie game scene)?. It’s hard to dispute, but I guess it’s hard to prove either way.

    And congratulations on the new addition by the way!

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