Friday, January 16, 2009

Would you play a text based game?

With the announcement of Zork coming back, it got me thinking about text based games (MUD or Interactive Fiction). There are many great writers out there who would probably love to have readers be able to play in the world they created. Sadly, creating a game these days is a huge effort that would leave little time for actual writing.

Text based games have always been much more content driven and flexible. Although they are not seen much anymore, they still do exist. So my question to you is:

Q: Would you play a text based game anymore (single player or MUD like)? What would it take for you to play one regularly in terms of features (assuming it is free to play)? Or have text based games ridden into the sunset?


After leaving WoW I played again a MUD.. There are still some out there and I have friends who still play them. So they are not completely dead. In the long run though I think that they will suffer from new players and this will mean that they will slowly die.

Would I play one? Depends on the game, but I will not exclude it. MUDs are really much fun to play.

I just can't see the MUDDING culture growing again with all the graphical alternatives. Ironically, if you want a game that you can "play on a toaster" these are perfect for you, but still, nostalgia aside, I don't see them getting popular again.

I played a top 10 MUD from 1996-2001 (MUME) and there were only 200 players on at the best of times. Last I checked, they were about half that. Granted, you can still have fun in a MUD with only a couple hundred players depending on world design. I think our MUD had 1 million rooms in it but you could still get from one side of the map to the other in about 10 minutes if you had "breath of briskness!"

Are you thinking of making one? It would definitely need to be free-to-play, though you might be able to work in an RMT model (practice resets, age resets, stat rerolls, etc.).

A few MUMERs went off and tried developing their own Warhammer-themed MUD back in the day but despite all their amazing ideas and excellent programming capabilities, it failed. You need a shitload of time to make good MUD, so I hope you have a good team behind you. :P

Make a MUD? Probably not. I have run them in the past and know how much work it takes.

I do have a prototype almost ready for a new type of text game. A mix of Interactive Fiction and MUDs would be the best way to describe it. It is more about stories than fighting (may not even be multiplayer in the traditional sense). More details to come hopefully.

You might be interested in Emily Short's Interactive Fiction blog, Werit:

Interactive Fiction surely isn't dead.

What about "Rogue-Likes" (Nethack, Moria, Crawl, etc) are you including those? I do play those semi-regularly.

That is pretty neat. I know there is some nice Interactive Fiction software out there too.

Yea, rogue's would apply too :)

My first response would be no, but as aI think about it, would I like to read a book that I could interact with a bit? How bout a lot? WEll there you go.

Hmm... was I supposed to have stopped playing text based games at some point?

To be perfectly honest, text is actually a hugely time-consuming medium. Much like 2D or 3D you have to walk a fine line between creating and implying, and writing isn't very re-usable. Also the methods we form of interaction with text draw our attention directly to the fierce limitations of a computer's ability to handle variable input.

At the end of the day, you then have to deal with the general attitude that text is somehow inferior.

But then again, it could just be that what we define as text-based has already seen it's own evolution. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, ARGs, all retain online communities built almost entirely on their textual components. Scripting engines such as can be seen in facebook widgets or MySpace pages, the ARG's inherent gamey nature, Twitter's user driven evolution to both social and serious work remind me of MUSHes, MUDs, and MOOs respectively.

On top of this we still have a large variety of browser based, text driven games centered around management and so forth. All of this existing alongside the myriad evolutions of MUD based engines. In many ways, the modern graphical MMO industry is still a small fish in a very big pond. Of course, traditional MUDs are a significantly smaller fish, but I like to think their contributions were big.

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