[MUD-Dev] User centered?

Benjamin D. Wiechel strycher at toast.net
Tue Apr 13 14:41:13 CEST 1999

A few days behind replying to this one.

----- Original Message -----
From: Ola Fosheim Grøstad <olag at ifi.uio.no>
To: <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
Sent: Thursday, April 08, 1999 5:12 PM
Subject: [MUD-Dev] User centered?

> Are mud designers adding features, for the sake of adding features, or is
> the aim to optimize for the user's experience?
As I saw in a couple of other posts, it would seem to be a combination of
both.  Some code for the players, some code for themselves.  I try to
balance the few (since it needs to be fun for both sides).

> For instance, in a recent thread there was a discussion about implementing
> in-game languages by translating the messages into something which
> be interpreted by players without the language skill.  When focusing on
> MUD as a coherent fantasy world this sounds nifty. But wait!  The receiver
> won't know what the sender said, so what he receives does not matter at
> Presenting some random strings would have the same effect for less
> implementation cost, and indeed why present anything at all?
Interesting that you saw that point.  Actually, what I've run into is that I
can come up with all sorts of neat and interesting toys and ideas, and fully
1/2 of them will be hated by the players because "change is bad".  We've
fought this with our game balance.  The mud I refer to now, Synergy, did not
necessarily have a good sense of balance, throughout the first 5 years of
its existence.  We have spent the last year balancing and fixing bugs in the
code, and as of today, it is mostly functional.  And we've found out that
our item balance isn't the greatest.  So over the weekend, I implemented a
daemon to handle the new balance system we want to use, which is more or
less a variant on the original.

The results of this implementation were..... interesting.  The daemon is
slick, and has some really interesting, nice features, including being able
to adjust balance from a command line on the fly.  The bad news is, it
demonstrated in a very clear sense that our balance system, while very cool,
had a lot of deficiencies, and the players on during the test were seriously
ticked off at it.

So do we keep it, or ditch it?  We've opted to keep it, but augment it with
other gear.  Since our balance system primarily relates to magical items, we
can augment the now rare magical items with other less magical items, or
non-magical items, resulting in more toys for the mortals.  The primary
reason we have chosen to keep this (for now at any rate) is that it allows
us to attach a value to less magical items that would be balanceable within
this system, whereas they were not under the old.

This is one of many instances in our history, this one being the most
recent.  But many changes, even though they seem cool, offend the players
because it disturbs their perceived goals.  "Change is bad" is a frequent
perception by at least our players.

> My next question is... Do players use these features? Or do they in fact
> private tells (paging) if it is available?  How many MUDs have for
> implemented a mostly unused yell or whisper command? For languages which
> race based... Do players care about race when they choose their friends?
> Meaning, do they have any need to selectively communicate with a race?

Honestly, we have races and languages, and very few ever train their
language skills.  Those that do, rarely, if ever, speak in foreign tongue.
People select race based on the stats they receive from their race.  People
band together not based on race, but based on guild, or based on who has the
best gear to give away.  Only time anyone seems to care is when they're
goofing around with the language commands.

> It is my opinion that the interface should be kept small and effective. I
> think designers easily make the mistake of thinking "feature richness will
> buy me a rich world". However, understanding the individual user's
> experience and perception is the key to making a rich world. Experience
> isn't about what is present, but what the user expects and what he

There have been numerous posts about LegendMUD IIRC, which is apparently
very popular despite the fact that it isn't a technological wonder.  I'm
going off a bad memory, so I may be wrong, but I thought that was LegendMUD.

> So, what if designers "roleplay" their design before they implement it?
> Probably difficult.  Does anyone have any ideas about how to test out the
> soundness of ideas before implementation? Mockups might do it, but you
> face the trouble of seeing your design as the unsuspecting user would see
> it.

I never test my own code, I always have someone else do it.  Why?  Because I
use it the way I coded it, and people that don't know how I coded it use it
how they logically think about it.  I've found about 4-5 people that are
really good at that on each of the two muds I work on, and I let them test
my code for me.  Sometimes we test it live, sometimes we test it on a dev
site, depends on how big of an effect the code has on the world.

Synergy Mud

MUD-Dev maillist  -  MUD-Dev at kanga.nu

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