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Keep on Dreaming

by Kazumba

Everyone who has been around in "mud"land long enough, has dreamed about creating his or her own mud, and I'm no exception. About five years ago I thought I'd seen it all: playing, wizzing, administration (LPmuds mostly, as I am a bit too much of a game-oriented player for a pure role play mud, though I do enjoy role playing as part of the game). I enjoyed it all a lot and I got fed up with things just as often. Back then I lacked the resources to start my own mud, and in retrospect maybe that was for the best. Helping people out building a new mud turned out as bad experiences for various reasons. Eventually this all led to me turning my back on mudding completely for several years. But the fire of mudding kept smoldering in the back of my mind and eventually a bit fresh air rekindled it again.

The fires of mudding

The fires of mudding, sometimes like a campfire.

So I started playing again a little, but soon I noticed the same things that made me turn away from mudding before. To be fair, I did find some muds I really liked (and still enjoy playing) and noticed courageous attempts to more or less successfully develop really new and different concepts-- and hats off to the people behind them! What I dreamed of was shaping my ideas into a mud to fit in this select group.

Past experience taught me that setting up a stock mud and just start recoding is a dead end. To grant myself any chance of success I structured my ideas like a proper project, with three major divisions: game development, technical setup and implementation planning. The first two aspects I could do a lot of work on myself, creating an outline and filling in essential details. The aims I set were to work my own thoughts into rules and settings for a consistent, challenging and fun game, and to put these into a project document that would allow others to build from and expand on with a measure of autonomy while keeping in line with my original ideas. Following are a few game design decisions to give you an example of what I had in mind:

Mud theme: Fantasy cyberpunk. Not an implementation of the ShadowrunTM RPG, but my own ideas of a cyberpunk world which incorporates a kind of magic.

Focus: Detective work in the broadest sense (combat will play a minor, though challenging role). This can be for quests, in search of ways for personal development, for role play, for trying to influence the game world or building a reputation.

Consequences: the need for an dynamic system to keep track of information flows; intelligent NPCs (not true AI, but capable of a situation-specific response within limited contexts, and based on attitude, coded biases and treatment by PCs); next to a basic set of skills and items plenty of hidden ones for players to discover and develop (this should be done in a personalized way so that no concrete solutions are available, but teaching and hints are); fixed random quest and area generation (for the same reasons); such areas should fade only after not being used for some time to maintain consistency in case of changes of usage of different parts of the game world; such quests (in addition to wizard run quests) preferably require a combination of specialists for easiest completion (but several solutions and outcomes must exist); implementation of power structures outside PC control (i.e. PCs are typically in an underdog position in the world, even though they may hold a pos! ition in a given scene) but with intermediates that have PC interactions, which in turn may affect those power structures; dynamic world development with medium to long term consequences of the combined players' actions; etc.

Unique features: body switches when accessing the matrix, the astral, or through worldly magic (the matrix and astral will be parallel worlds that will affect the "physical" world); effects of drugs, cyberware, modern technology based communication and detection systems; world perception biased by racial and biotechnical specifications; crowd systems (non-individual people in the world in addition PCs and NPCs); NPCs for hire (who may or may not have their own agenda); orbital stations where different rules of physics apply; high cost economy but with many interesting features for PCs who are broke or on a bad luck stroke; high reward-high risk quests which require a lot in the preparation phase and need a long recovery period; lots of activity even when PCs need to keep low profile; etc.

General issues: death rules (perma, but with safety catches); rules for creation ability; player accounts with multiple characters, history, graveyard and ooc-features; spatial representation andmovement rules; implementation of time and speed; etc.

Here I presented just a few of only the game-related topics I came up with, lacking many details. I have enjoyed working at it for several months and now I find myself with a reasonably well categorized and detailed 50+ page document describing a large part of my dream. A hardcopy is thicker than some books I own and yet it's nowhere near complete.

I sit back, perplexed. Is this the game I want to play and run? Well, yes, it is. But this project is HUGE. How in the world am I ever going to get this gargantuan beast to run? Even with a good team this will take years of work. Sure I tinker with some code for this or that tiny feature, but at the moment I am too impressed by the sheer amount of work to take any concrete steps in planning to build it. Well, maybe someday I will gather a good team and start building. And maybe it will never come to pass.

But I will keep on dreaming...