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Just a link to one of Aaron William’s (Nodwick, PS238) newest endeavors… (In case you aren’t familiar with his work… Mr. Williams is a legendary gaming/RPG cartoonist from the early days of Dragon Magazine… Nodwick the henchman has been around for decades.)

Backwards Compatible

From the strip for Feb 13, 2008 (I’ll try to get the direct link for posterity’s sake later):

“MMOs are practically Barbie Dolls for gamers… it’s all about having the hottest outfit, whether they’re armored or have a cape.”

On the mud-dev mailing list, Mike Rozak wrote…

Several amateur MMORPG development kits are now on the market (Multiverse, Realmcrafter, Torque), with more to come. Some amateur authors are using the toolkits, but despite the fact that there are around 100x as many MMORPG players as MUD players, there only seem to be 10x as many amateur MMORPG authors as amateur MUD authors. Why is this? Where are all the amateur MMORPG devs?

Number of worlds as a metric:

MudConnector lists 1500 text MUDs. Sure, a lot of them are dead, so let’s assume the real number is 200 (just to be on the completely-safe side).

Those 200 MUDs are supported by a community of (my guestimate) 200K players. (It used to be 400K(?) pre MMORPGs.)

In other words, there is about a 1:1000 ratio of MUDs to players. Given a guestimate of 5 contributers per MUD (could be only 2), that means that 1 in 200 players are contributers. Or it could be 1 in 500 (if only 2 contributers per MUD on average).

There are approximatelly 20 million MMORPG players (100x the number of MUD players). Why aren’t there 200×100 = 20,000 amateur MMORPGs out there? Why aren’t there 40,000 amateur authors contributing to these worlds?

Yeah, sure, MMORPGs are more difficult to create, etc. So why aren’t there just 2000 worlds (not 20,000)? Or even 200?

The tools are available, albeit not very stable/mature: There’s Multiverse, RealmCrafter, and Torque. Metaplace is coming. My own toolkit (kind of MMORPG-like) is coming.

And there’s NWN 1 & 2, which actually do have around 200 worlds. Multiverse lists around 25 worlds, with (as far as I can tell) only a few being public, and none (as far as I know) are actually done. Realmcrafter’s forums are only accessible if you purchase RealmCrafter, so I haven’t been able to gague their developer population, but from posts elsewhere (and searches), it seems like only a few worlds are limping along. Torque has Minions of Mirth, and a few groups proudly displaying screenshots, but not much else.

Forum posts as a metric:

Watching the forums, it feels like hundreds of amateur authors (maybe a thousand) are out there. Not 40,000. MudConnect and TopMudSites get 10 (?) developer/author posts a day. Multiverse and MMORPGMaker are around 20-ish each. Even the NWN1 and NWN2 forums, while more active that MudConnector and TopMudSites, are not super busy (50 dev posts a day?).

Given 100x the players (MMORPG to MUD), I’d expect 100x the amateur authors, and 100x the forum posts… that’s around 1000 posts a day. My rough count is more like 100 posts per day on all the MMORPG-ish development forums.

Why haven’t amateur authors flocked to these tools?

For my part, I would respond with 3 points…

First, MMORPGs are a more visceral experience than the text MUD.  While there is possibly a similar ratio of discontent and interest in exploring alternatives for both MMOs and MUDs, I would suggest that there is far greater “low level” participation in the MMO realm… which I would define as people who are interested in being entertained, nothing more…. because it is easier for the typical individual to relate to and interact with the visual elements of the interface.  Such individuals, upon growing discontent, do not look to create their own alternative, but rather simply turn to some other form of diversion.

Second, MMO creation is difficult, particularly because it is multi-disciplinary in nature.  Not that writing a decent MUD is simple: however, it really only requires a fair amount of imagination, programming skills, and an ability to write engaging prose is a plus.  By contrast, a decent MMO requires artistic ability to generate sprites, models, animations, and what-have-you; some sound effect and music compositional skills are helpful; and knowledge of user interface design techniques is highly relevant, all in addition to the skills for the MUD developer above.

Most of the packages mentioned make few attempts to provide a comprehensive set of graphical elements as part of their distribution.  Help files and documentation is often highly technical, and fairly spotty to boot… meant more as a reference than a guide.  Examples are rudimentary and relatively poor in terms of leading interested parties through the process of generating a sample world to begin to flesh out.  In some cases, costs can run into the $500-1000 dollar range just to get a rudimentary world in place with a handful of models to animate.  In short, they are not currently situated to truly encourage widespread amateur use.  (Much the same is true in the MUD realm, and even arguably more so in some ways… but the simpler nature of the task, combined with the more focussed skill set requirements and cost-free access to materials, still equates to a far lower barrier to entry, I suspect.)

Finally, the question as posed in the email essentially assumes the the MUD/MMO crowds are fundamentally separate, that there is no crossover whatsoever between the MUD and MMO sets of participants.  I don’t believe that is really the case.

While it may be true that a large percentage of MMO participants are relatively uninterested in MUDs (see point #1), I question whether the reverse is the case.  Is it not likely that an individual with an interest in creating an MMO might not start by investigating MUDs, as a simple, relatively straightforward introduction to the endeavor?  They might quickly move on, or become discouraged and drop the idea entirely… but they’d still be counted in both MUDs and MMOs, not just one or the other.

Anyway, those are some of my random thoughts on the topic… anyone out there with a different take?

… Boo!

Okay, it only seems like it.  As you may have guessed, real life got in the way for a while there.  Pesky stuff.  To borrow from Night Court… “but I’m MUCH better NOW.”

Of course, getting back into the groove is harder than it seems.  Sadly, I haven’t even been keeping up with my usual round of blogs.  I have no idea where the conversations are now… ah, well, I’ve always been a bit off the beaten track anyway.

Random stuff, to start…

  • If you have a fascination with disasters-in-the-making, I am currently scheduled to run a roundtable at the IMGDC.  At least it’s a roundtable (I shouldn’t have to talk much, praise heaven), and on a topic I have some claim to experience with: the concept of roleplaying, and how it might apply to MMO design and development.  I’ve even got my own little picture and promo on the presenter’s page, if you can believe that.  (WARNING: my visage has been known to induce screaming fits in small children.  View with caution.)
  • I can’t remember if I’ve ever linked to this in the past, so… is a site I ran across a bit ago that links to a variety of indie, free-to-play MMOs, “engines”, and the like.  Might be of interest, in case you’re casting about for something to fill some time or offer inspiration.
  • It being election season here in the U.S. (is it ever NOT election season?), I’ve been shoehorning in a little candidate research, and ran across this WoW-related gem (titled “re: Your Brains”) on a couple of political blogs.  Not sure if it’s made the rounds on the MMO blogs yet… I thought it was quite humorous.

Well, more tomorrow.  I’ve actually had a few topics building up steam of late… I may actually have something of potential interest to pontificate on!  (That’d be a change, huh?)

Through the magic of the 4-sided die (first time I’ve rolled one of them in a while), the winners of the drawing for the IMGDC passes were determined to be Ethic and Emi.  (Apparently the letter of the day was “E”?).  Drop me a line at huberc -at- frontiernet -dot- net, and we’ll get the registration process figured out.  My apologies to those not selected… if I could, I’d spring for more.

(One more week of “crunch time”… it’ll be nice to get back to normal.)

Old news at this point, I imagine, but I weaseled my way into the latest SUWT, kinda by accident… the show is available as part of the Virgin Worlds podcast collective here (with links and show notes) and on iTunes.

Darren – Common Sense Gamer


John – Ancient Gaming Noob
Dennis – Potshot
Michael from MMOG Nation, etc.

… and me.


    • Introductions
    • Listener mail/What we’re playing
    • Cheater cheater, pumpkin eater
    • Predictions for 2008
    • Out of the Gate
    • We all get a hug

    Blog of the Week:

    This might be a bit early, but I thought it might be best to get these out there before everyone is buried in end-of-the-year holiday preparations…

    Gabe and Tycho over at Penny Arcade are organizing the Child’s Play toy drive once again this year.  From the Child’s Play site

    Since 2003, over 100,000 gamers worldwide have banded together through Child’s Play, a community based charity grown and nurtured from the game culture and industry. Over two million dollars in donations of toys, games, books and cash for sick kids in children’s hospitals across North America and the world have been collected since our inception.

    Another option that is available again this year is the MMO Calendar 2008, being offered by the folks at, proceeds to benefit the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  If it is anything like the 2007 edition, it will have some pretty nice game-related art… it made a nice addition to my study here at home.

    As I run across additional ideas, I’ll post links.

    Adele tagged me with this meme, and I’m a little short on time and inspiration for a post today, so here goes…


    1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
    2. List eight (8) random facts about yourself.
    3. Tag eight people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
    4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving them a comment on their blogs.

    Hmm, 8 random facts about me, presumably of some possible interest…

    1.  I have started or been a founding partner in 3 businesses over my 40+ years, and I feel justified in stating that I am currently batting .667 in terms of success (so far)… one was bought out (less than a year after I’d sold, worse luck), one closed due to lack of sales (it would have helped to have an actual salesperson), and my present endeavor which is still going relatively strong after 12 years.

    2.  I’m a cat person… who is allergic to cats.  My life in a nutshell.

    3.  I was a National Merit Scholar, scored 99th percentile in both sections of the SAT back in my high school days (one short of perfect on the math, dang it).  Got a decent scholarship from Gustavus Adolphus out of it, and proceeded to fail to take full advantage of it.  My options at that point were: start getting paid for a full-time job in my chosen field immediately, or pay someone for 2 more years to teach me so I can… get a full-time job in my chosen field.  It seemed a no-brainer at the time… sometimes I wonder, though.

    4.  Between family trips as a child, and my business travel as an adult, I have visited and stayed at least overnight in 41 of the 50 states, as well as 4 Canadian provinces: I’m missing Alaska, Hawaii, Arkansas, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Delaware, and Maryland from the U.S.  Places I’ve spent a least a month “visiting” over time include Chicago, IL; Missoula, MT; Spokane, WA; Houston, TX; and Worchester, MA.  My actual place of residence (“home”) has never yet been outside of Minnesota, tho, and no travel outside of North America (yet).

    5.  I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was almost 21.  I didn’t really need it until then, didn’t have access to a car anyway (my money went to college and gaming)… and was morbidly afraid I’d lose control of the vehicle and hurt someone.  So, of course, now whenever I have a long trip to take, I love to drive it whenever possible, usually in a single straight shot.  I’ve done the Minneapolis-Houston drive (20-22 hours, depending mainly upon KC and Dallas traffic) multiple times… longest one was Minneapolis-Boston (28 hours straight due to traffic jams in Chicago and Cleveland… yes, I know it was stupid).

    6.  I’m a teetotaler… I just practice, not preach.  I just get weird enough without chemical assistance, thank you very much.  (Actually, I suspect I would be a very morose drunk.)

    7.  My grandmother on my mother’s side was born in a covered wagon headed to Minnesota: all 4 of my maternal great grandparents were born (and married) in Norway, and emigrated to the US shortly before 1900.

    8.  My favorite music is a light breeze rustling the trees, waves rhythmically bouncing off the shore, birds and crickets adding notes randomly as the mood takes them.  Beethoven, Anya, Toto, and Sting aren’t too bad, either.  😛

    Good grief.  8 people.  Can’t I just let people opt in themselves and link back?  I know, I know… hmm, how about recent or past commenters that either provided or I know their URL off-hand…  Talyn, Lars, AaronMythokia, Daocrucidor, Tuebit, Kanthalos, and Ethic (who never posts anymore, but hey, I tried).  I suspect many of them already did this at one point or another.  Anyone else that wants to join in, feel free….

    I’ll get around to rule #4.  Really.  Soon…

    So here’s the thing… (my phrase for the month, I guess)

    Again and again I find myself a little frustrated trying to find some old post or comment I know I’ve seen somewhere else on someone’s blog that I want to refer to… but I have no idea where or when.  There’s enough content and commentary out here at this point that some sort of rudimentary index might be useful, right?  Having good ideas and examples fall down the memory hole might make a bit easier to blog regularly, since we can go over the same ground over and over and over again, but doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose, sorta?

    So… my idea was to try to set up an “MMO blog and podcast index” over at, specifically in the gaming section.  It needs a better name than that, of course, and it would need a significant number of people willing to help maintain it… even just doing all the blogs on my RSS feed and blogroll would take me more time than I have.

    I’d love to be able to just go to “Design: Guilds: Interface” and get a chronological list of links to various blog entries on guild management interface ideas and problems, or “Experiences: Everquest 2” and have links to various in-game travelogues and stories of triumph and woe.

    Maybe something like this already exists… if so, _please_ let me know where.  If not, does anyone else think it might have some merit, and want to help me get it established… or is it too much effort for not enough effect?  All comments are welcome, as always…

    Buried at the moment, so just some linkage today (sorry)…

    Aaron at Anyway Games had good followup post on the HAM commentary that didn’t register a pingback for some reason, so I wanted to at least to link it…

    As Cuppycake first announced yesterday, Raph’s new project unveils today at 4pm.  Any pre-reveal bets on how wrong we all were with our original guesses?

    Raph has another great post further defining his take on microtransactions, RMT, and the like.  There was an interesting thread on the Areae forums at RLMMO on the topic as well, with a bunch of back and forth.  I never quite find the time to write the epic post that could explain my own feelings on all those topics… and given the length of some of the posts I have found time to write, that is saying something. 

    The short version… I’d love to see more microtransactions in certain ways (added character slots, EQ2-like “modules”, game time by the hour; I’m less thrilled about but would be willing to look at certain types of game item purchases and the like; and full-on RMT, where the game company essentially starts to become a money-trading venue ala a commodities house or Western Union, doesn’t thrill me at all.

    Brian Green (Psychochild) has a good post on which lessons have really been learned from WoW.  (I love the analogy of the investment advice for those with $50 million or more to invest…)

    That said, Damion Schubert (at Zen of Design) somewhat demurs with a response that makes sense as well.

    I personally think both of them (as well as Moorgard, of course, who actually started all this) have a point.  It is easier to get a product out the door “when it’s done” when you’re not wondering where money for the next payroll will come from.  Also, having built a brand where you get a truckload of pre-orders on little more than “we say this game will be cool” makes things a bit easier, too.  On the other hand, money alone doesn’t get you a solid, enjoyable game… it takes a level of vision and execution that is far from easy to achieve, money or no.

    SUWT #9 podcast is up, and I think it is one of the best ones yet, to be honest.  No, not just because my name was mentioned (tho that was nice, too 🙂 ).  Also, Brent’s newest podcast, Virgin Worlds #86 is up… however, I haven’t finished it yet due to interruptions, I’m afraid.

    Got to get moving… more later…

    A co-worker sent me this link today.

    I just gave it the once over… the verdict?  It has several problems.

    1. Crafting sucks… boring, repetitive, and very poor payout until you hit high levels;
    2. Professions are wildly unbalanced;
    3. Takes forever to level up;
    4. The end game?  Haven’t gotten there yet, but it looks like 90% of it is spent staring at walls.  Boring…;
    5. It’s dang hard to find a decent group, and even harder to keep it together;
    6. Combat is way too twitchy;
    7. The economy… OMG, you thought EQ was bad…
    8. Loot tables need a major re-work;
    9. Most quests are repetitive, and don’t scale well for groups;
    10. The lousiest implementation of perma-death you can dream of.

    This one was obviously released _way_ too early. 

    On the other hand, I don’t think I’m going to unsubscribe, nor complain too loud.  Not sure I really want to know what a patch day might look like…

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