INN . The Realm . Stick in the Mud
I've gone from a graphical interface on INN to MUDs to newer online games like The Realm to Ultima Online. Sure, INN still is the best online network (it had a dialup network, so that helped too), but MUDs beat them all. Why?
MUDs rely on text input and output right now, even though some graphical MUDs are being built right now. All the games I've played online, and I keep coming back to MUDs. Perhaps because I am one of those folks who likes to read, I prefer the versatility that an area designer can employ to create interesting room descriptions. Words have so much more meaning than pictures do, in my opinion. Diction and word sounds make all the difference in the world when setting a tone. Graphics are static and don't do much beyond what the artist can do.
So what the fluidity of text allows is a better area allowing your imagination to do the work. The development of an area's theme is great to watch -- the rooms fit together, unlike The Realm's loose-fitting screens.
The Realm relies on screens, each of which must be designed separately. This is incredibly inconvenient and time-consuming. Any changes which will be made in the future will be difficult to implement, since the screens must be redrawn to reflect the changes. And separate artwork takes up disk space! Ultima Online depends on objects like trees and grass which can be coded to fit in certain places on the map. This is more versatile, since you just need to code the tree object to go here instead of there. Yet Ultima Online still is limited to the number of available objects that have been drawn.
MUDs are coded such that anyone who knows how to write an area can do so. Implementors can choose to put in any area they wish, from an impressive selection. This can be done in minutes, or longer if the Implementor wishes for quality areas.
MUDs are text-based, meaning that even a 286 with a modem will be sufficient for mudding. Games like The Realm or Ultima Online rely on huge Win95 16MB RAM computers to run. MUDs are the equalizers in a world full of different speeds of computers and different incomes.
MUDs also take up no space on your hard drive. The Realm takes up close to 15MB and it's only in alpha! So MUDs are convenient wherever you are in the world.
And finally, it's easier to learn to type fast and then pick up MUD commands which can be typed in at the prompt. In a graphical interface, a series of buttons must be pressed before just casting a spell! MUDs require only a "cast 'magic missile' ogre" to do so. Much simpler!
Perhaps if these new online games offered a prompt to type in commands, we old-fashioned types would like them more. But unfortunately, graphical games are limited by technology at this point, so MUDs will still reign for many years from now! Long live the MUD!
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