Jun 272008
 

As part of the ongoing raking over the coals of Richard Bartle for saying the obvious (yes, you can tell what side I am on in those debates!), Steve Danuser says over at Moorgard.com » Sacred Cows

I get tired of people implying that today’s MMOs owe their entire existence to the MUDs of yesteryear. Sorry, I disagree. The gameplay style of EQ or WoW is obviously influenced by MUDs, but I propose that MMOs would have evolved anyway.

And Ryan Shwayder posts in comments saying

Ultima Online is a direct descendant of what MUD? I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m just saying that I don’t know what particular MUD had a profound influence on that game. It seems like the MMO industry was born of different influences; EverQuest from DikiMuds, Ultima Online from Ultima games. Not all MMOs have a lot of direct comparisons to MUDs, so I think he’s right that they’d exist whether MUDs did or not.

Well…

There’s little doubt that MMOs would have evolved anyway. In fact, they actually DID evolve anyway. MMOs were created simultaneously and independently by a dozen groups at once. The folks doing Meridian 59 did not know about the folks doing Kingdom of the Winds, and so on. Not to mention older antecedents like Habitat. MUDs, in fact, were also invented independently at least four times, as Bartle himself has stated many times over.

That said:

  • The early Everquest developers played Diku derivatives in the form of Sojourn and children muds such as Duris and Toril.
  • Early folks on Meridian 59 played Diku derivatives such as Worlds of Carnage.
  • The original core team on Ultima Online was a mix of two LP Mudders, a MUSH/MOOer, and a few Diku-folks. And one Ultima guy.
  • I could go on — The Realm and many others also had those sorts of antecedents.

The result? Today’s MMOs are mostly reskinned muds. It is very very hard to find an MMO that doesn’t have a direct comparison to a text world. Yes, even EVE, even A Tale in the Desert.

And, I must point out, even today much of the leadership behind the MMOs today is still from that “old guard” (though not necessarily from the mud world)the designers and executives of the mid-to-late 90’s are still the ones determining what you play in many ways, from Mark over at Mythic/EA to Damion, Rich, and Gordon over at Bioware, to Kim Taek-jin and the Garriotts at NCSoft…

If they had been invented independently, they would be different.

What did MMOs really bring to the table, designwise?

  • Greater sense of spatiality. This mostly affected aggro management, and it did make combat significantly richer.
  • More advanced raiding — it existed, but it lacked all of the support infrastructure that eventually popped up.
  • Much heavier use of instancing — it was a very unusual and rare technology back then.
  • Lots of cool support features — like, adding quest logs to quests, for example.
  • Dancing.
  • Pictures.

In the recent discussions, a lot of folks have cited stuff like WAR’s upcoming public quests as new, or the Tome of Knowledge. These people have clearly never played MUME. Or maybe not Everquest, which had public quests too. Or…

I think it’s easy to be dismissive of history, and say that it’s not relevant. I’m pretty sure I have heard a quote somewhere about the consequences of that. Moving forward without knowledge of the past is far more likely to result in going in circles. MMOs have removed more features from MUD gameplay than they have added, when you look at the games in aggregate.

The fact that people can cite things like “big boss battles in a public zone” or “really rich badge profiles and player stat tracking” as truly differentiating features mostly speaks to how narrow the scope of the field has gotten in the public’s mind. This is like arguing over whether scalloped bracing in acoustic guitars is a defining characteristic for all of music, when in fact it has zero relevance to MIDI controllers. By analogy, Bartle, like many of us, is arguing from the perspective of all music — all virtual worlds. And his detractors are people who only listen to indie rock from the Athens, GA, area circa 1989. All Richard is asking for is for someone to please play some jazz.

Failure to evolve more radically isn’t a flaw — in that sense, I agree completely with Moorgard. But then, I tend to think that all the current MMOs in the game industry are already the Old Guard relative to the new webby folks. I think the mudder crew is already the Older Guard anyway. So in a sense this is kind of like an argument between art rockers and disco musicians. :P

  121 Responses to “MUD influence”

  1. or EA to make a conscious effort to make a game nobody wants to buy? Why complain about a game like Diablo 3 being developed, if we already know that millions of people will buy it and enjoy it? A few people might have preferred Blizzard to developa text MUD instead, but we all know that only a handful of people would have played it, even if the idea would certainly be original. Adam Smith said “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their

  2. or EA to make a conscious effort to make a game nobody wants to buy? Why complain about a game like Diablo 3 being developed, if we already know that millions of people will buy it and enjoy it? A few people might have preferred Blizzard to developa text MUD instead, but we all know that only a handful of people would have played it, even if the idea would certainly be original. Adam Smith said “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their

  3. like many of us, is arguing from the perspective of all music all virtual worlds. And his detractors are people who only listen to indie rock from the Athens, GA, area circa 1989. All Richard is asking for is for someone to please play some jazz.Go read the whole thing. Very much worth it. Raphs in a particularly good place to support Richards arguments, of course, as hes working on Metaplace – which may, if it turns out right, allow all of us to play whatever

  4. Raph Koster is one of those few members of the industry who is really outspoken and keeps in touch with the community and expresses his thoughts in a way that is accessible to anyone. It’s fitting that we share his argument here.On the topic of MMO’s evolving from MUDS:Theres little doubt that MMOs would have evolved anyway. In fact, they actually DID evolve anyway. MMOs were created simultaneously and independently by a dozen groups at once. The folks doing

  5. isn’t a flaw,” said Koster. He finished up by positing that all the current MMOs “are already Old Guard,” and that “the mudder crew is already the Older Guard. So in a sense this is kind of like an argument between art rockers and disco musicians.”Read| Permalink | Email this | Linking Blogs | Comments

  6. It is an interesting conversation, and something of a broken logical progression. From a historical standpoint I think it is more supportable to say that had the current designers of modern MMOs not fallen in love with the interactive world context of MUDs, those modern MMOs would not exist in their current shapes.

    Some of us are still in love with MUDs, and deep down frustrated with modern graphical games for not being them. ;) While still enjoying the pretty.

  7. I remember way back when I was in high school, myself, and a friend of mine, would go SCUBA diving on the weekends. While we traveled, we discussed many things, and one day, we thought of how COOL it would be to have a computer game where the players were all connected to one another. Each person would control one avatar, and whatever happened in the world by way of conflict would be totally player generated.

    We had NEVER played MUDs, MOOs or MUSHes. I don’t even think we knew they EXISTED at that point. We had a solid background in C64 and Amiga CRPGs, as well as PnP games, so with that in mind, the existence of the early multiplayer games doesn’t seem to me to have really been NECESSARY for what we have today…except in that those who have started what we have today DID have the MUD/MOO/MUSH experience as well as the opportunity to take those early elements and turn them into something real…as opposed to two guys theorizing out of thin air.

  8. Thanks for commenting on the… commentary. I had planned to post a rebuttal to Richard’s critics on my blog, but that “catastrophic hard drive failure” on the server was confirmed to have resulted in a total loss of data. I’ll have to find my old backups… Anyway, I’m heading out to an independent game developers’ meetup and will be back in a few. I’ll post my less formal rebuttal here instead at that time.

  9. This is like arguing over whether scalloped bracing in acoustic guitars is a defining characteristic for all of music, when in fact it has zero relevance to MIDI controllers. By analogy, Bartle, like many of us, is arguing from the perspective of all music — all virtual worlds. And his detractors are people who only listen to indie rock from the Athens, GA, area circa 1989. All Richard is asking for is for someone to please play some jazz.

    Amazingly well said, and this quote in particular drove it home. I agree whole-heartedly with Mr. Bartle’s and your take on this situation, though I cannot speak from a great deal of experience with the “MMO” industry as I’ve only ever played EQ and SWG, and then only for a short while in each.

    – John

  10. I think the real issue is that Bartle is an opinionated person and comes off as such. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s opinionated. He’s exactly whom you want to have on your panel to stir some controversy. It’s questionable if you want him on your board of advisers if the best he can do is express his thoughts in disparaging remarks or offer no constructive input.

    Enough of the “this is wrong”. Let’s hear some “this is right” or “what about doing it this way?”

  11. Bartle does do that though Tim, just not always at the same as he’s lamenting the state of things. But more important than solving the problems, he’s trying to get people to look at them, and that’s the most constructive thing he can be doing until someone drops a load of money in his lap and says go make a game. Any diversification that we get going forward is going to come from a multitude of sources doing a multitude of things, but if no one’s *looking* at the status quo as if it’s an issue, nothing at all ever gets done.

    You don’t need to have the answers to pose the question, but if no one asks, nothing gets resovled.

    As to the rest of this, Raph is so spot on that I can’t understand how anyone that’s even looked into this stuff could think otherwise. Sure we’d have some sort of virtual world, that sort of thing would have indeed been inevitable. But it wouldn’t be what we have now, that’s for sure. Hell, weren’t there some suspicions early on that EQ had swiped some diku code? Didn’t amount to anything, but that’s how *similar* things were.

  12. Time wrote:

    Enough of the “this is wrong”. Let’s hear some “this is right” or “what about doing it this way?”

    To take a famous quote from a movie:

    Col. Nathan R. Jessep: You want answers?

    Lt. Daniel Kaffee: I think I’m entitled.

    Col. Nathan R. Jessep: You want answers?!

    Lt. Daniel Kaffee: I want the truth!

    Col. Nathan R. Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!

    People, such as Raph, are posting new and innovative ideas all the time. For the most part, people don’t listen because the ideas are so far outside their understanding of a MMO (aka: WoW-clone) that the ideas don’t register. This same idea myopathy exists with much of the VC that provides the money.

  13. The problem appears to be related to how developers and designers normally earn their living.

    Its a positive feedback cycle defined by investors and publishers which herd all productive talent in the same direction. Not very dissimilar from how domesticated plants increase their by humans desired properties by being domesticated.

    In the end only indies or hobby developers have the environment where change is not a lethal gene. But it will take dozens of generations for any of these changes developed in that environment to become desirable to the investors. Until then it might make sense to aim your ambitious alternative mmo design towards another genre and avoid comparison with the domesticated designs.

  14. @Wolfe, well, that’s generally true, but I mean there are some maverick companies that totally buck the old ways of doing things. Like what Nintendo did with the Wii. It’s not *impossible* to pull off, though you may need to make some budget sacrfices. But you’re right that few people take risks in the game industry. Thing is, considering how well some of the people that do take big risks end up doing (like Nintendo), you’d think people’d try it more often.

  15. Isnt that because the decision needs to be taken by the highest ranking project sponsor?

    And to boot most of those are so far elevated from the actual design process that in the rare case of them having a real innovative idea its impossible to avoid risk aversion through the chain of command and end up with the standard solution anyway.

  16. I’m never bored by comparing MUDs to MMOs, but people who “implying that today’s MMOs owe their entire existence to the MUDs of yesteryear” are over simplifying. Rogue type games and D&D were the two greatest influences on Sherwood. I didn’t play MUDs until well after launch, mostly because I met Matt Mihaly. However, someone could say there’s Diku influence on Sherwood and they wouldn’t be entirely wrong. I was influenced by Diku’s influences. MUDs, early RPGs like Ultima, Rogue type games and D&D are all part of an established set of best practices or required reading and giving all the credit to only one of them is unfair. I think that’s what rubs some MMO developers the wrong way. Richard’s point of challenging old best practices, whatever their origin, is still a good one.

  17. The same people who act like graphical MMOs didn’t evolve from MUDs are pretty much the same folks who seem to think that there were no games before PC games.

    This argument would be humorous if it wasn’t for the poverty of much of modern computer game design.

    Even if graphical MMOs did not evolve from MUDs, it would be very worthwhile for MMO designers to look at what was tried, what worked, and what didn’t for these other game frameworks.

  18. I think the real issue is that Bartle is an opinionated person and comes off as such.

    This.

    I’m almost always on Bartle’s side, and when I’m not, it’s kinda fun because the stuff being argued about is interesting and he’s making me think. (When I’m on his side, I either cheerlead, fall asleep, or get annoyed by his style.)

    It’s not really in what he’s saying at all; it’s what it looks like and sounds like when he says it. He’s not good at spin. Especially, it seems, when taking interviews in person. And while that’s hardly unique to him, it’s something I feel he should think about and work at improving.

    There’s a comment, here, that I think might help: Request video interviews. You have precious, precious few videos of your face and body language. That might help.

  19. Much heavier use of instancing — it was a very unusual and rare technology back then.

    Depends on how you see it. Was often used for mazes in MUDs, but wasn’t really needed. And a world without intrusive instancing does provide the better experience.

    Dancing.

    The first MUD I used had a disco called Zeitgeist with disco-lights and a bar. I also created animations for my avatar in 1993/1994. So no, MOOs didn’t introduce this.

    Pictures.

    The first MUD I used was graphical.

    That said there was a significant number of single-user games in the 1980s which could have been adapted to multi-player, so I won’t say that you wouldn’t have had MMOs without MUDs. I think D&D has more of an impact, overall.

  20. “Dancing” was somewhat tongue in cheek. :)

    It definitely existed prior… but it’s such a visual thing, I don’t know of any muds which took it as far.

    Just like crafting existed prior. But the sort of crafting we had in UO, which is now sort of the default in all the MMOs, was taken from the LegendMUD crafting, which was inspired in part by the DartMUD crafting.

  21. Michael Chui>I’m almost always on Bartle’s side

    Yes, me too!

    >He’s not good at spin.

    I don’t even try to spin. Spin is an attempt to trick people into thinking something that isn’t true. I just try to answer honestly, or, if I can’t, then I say why I can’t.

    >it’s something I feel he should think about and work at improving.

    I am who I am. Part of who I am involves a dislike for dishonesty, and I regard spin as dishonesty. Another part of who I am concerns a great distaste for boastfulness, which means I’m hopeless at self-publicity (not that you’d know it, given some of the recent comments in blogs). Sure, I could try to “improve”, but even supposing I succeeded, I’d necessarily change in other ways.

    >Request video interviews. You have precious, precious few videos of your
    >face and body language. That might help.

    It wouldn’t make a lot of difference when it was reproduced in text, though. The Massively interview was taped, but it wasn’t a podcast. If it had been a podcast, I doubt many people would have listened to it anyway.

    Richard

  22. Raph>from Mark over at Mythic/EA

    Lest readers gain the wrong impression:

    Mark Jacobs is one of those handful of people who invented his own virtual world independently, which means he can legitimately claim his work isn’t strictly part of the MUD tree. I know very little about Aradath, but it wouldn’t surprise me if you could track some of what he was trying to say with it through Dragon’s Gate, DAoC and Imperator to WAR. Ironically, given the way the argument about similarity between MMOs unfolded, he’s one of the few designers who has every right to make WAR an evolutionary advance on earlier MMOs, because he’s basically continuing his long-standing oevre.

    Also, Gordon Walton cut his MMO teeth playing Avatar on PLATO, so he, too, comes at this from a different angle. Indeed, Bioware’s MMO is one of the two large-scale worlds currently in development that I’m really looking forward to seeing in action (the other one being what CCP is working on).

    The point about the invention of MUDs (or MMOs, for those who think they’re unrelated) being obvious is one I raise myself, as you say. Look at the golf thread in a talk I gave last year in Spain to see what I mean. We were always going to get these things. However, almost all the ones we did get can trace their ancestry back to MUD1 (for reasons I explain in the above talk), whether their designers like the fact or not. It’s just the way things happened.

    Today’s virtual worlds are the leaves of a tree, and to deny the relevance of the branches and the trunk is to miss out on an understanding not only of how we got where we are, but also of where we’re going.

    Richard

  23. No, actually I think it all comes from the Bible.

  24. MMOs have removed more features from MUD gameplay than they have added

    and

    Look at the golf thread in a talk I gave last year in Spain to see what I mean.

    Harkening back to ye-olde-evolution discussion. These remind me of mass extinction:

    1) There is a stable ecology. (Pre-MUD or pre-EQ)

    2) Something comes along (a meteor) and kills off most of the animals, leaving a lot of empty uninhabited land. (Introduction of PCs, or introduction of 3D accelerators)

    3) The survivors multiply, lots of evolutionary experimentation happens. Such as giant centipedes or flying fish. (List of first 10 MUDs, or first 10 MMORPGs)

    4) Once the land is repopulated, overpopulation occurs. (DikuMUD clones, or soon-to-come MMORPG clones)

    5) Most experimental species die off. (DikuMUD wins out, XXX wins out)

    6) Back to a stable ecology awaiting the next meteor. (Or paradigm shift)

  25. […] president, MetaPlace developer, and all-around-MMO-authority Raph Koster wrote up a blog post about the influence of MUDs on today’s graphical MMOs. The post is part of the broader, cross-blog discussion that began with our interview with Richard […]

  26. Weren’t MUDs basically an attempt to put D+D into computer processing?
    And speaking of instances, P+P games were all instanced.

  27. I should have had a paragraph break in there — I didn’t mean that Mark was a mud vet, but that he was one of the execs of the 90’s. in fact, he’s one of the survivors from the generation prior… not to many of those still active in the industry.

  28. @Amaranthar, actually, iirc Bartle’s been on the record as saying about the only thing inspired by DnD was using levels. So I’m pretty sure MUDs don’t really have that much to do with DnD, at least in terms of how they evolved. It’s more coming from the high fantasy roots that dnd also grew off of. Tolkien is likely a bigger influence in this stuff than Gygax was.

  29. “Weren’t MUDs basically an attempt to put D+D into computer processing?”

    That is the third time D&D has come up in this thread. If “today’s virtual worlds are the leaves of a tree”, as Richard says, it’s D&D that’s the trunk. It binds not only the many MUDs, but also Rogue, Net Hack, Adventure, Moria and many others. I agree with Richard: we need a sense of where we came from, but we are getting fixated on one of the branches. What was more significant or revolutionary? D&D or the MUD? Bartle or Gygax? It would be as easy for table top RPG gamers to claim that MUDs are just obvious evolutionary change from pen and paper and THEY deserve all the credit for today’s MMOs.

    “Today’s MMOs are mostly reskinned muds.”

    And yesterday’s MUDs are reskined D&D.

  30. Apologies — I haven’t written in trackback functionality yet. No need to approve this comment. I just wanted to let you know!

    I linked to and partially quoted your work here over at WGFriends, as I found it somewhat related to a separate discussion. Hope it’s not a problem!

    – John

  31. “Today’s MMOs are mostly reskinned muds.”

    And yesterday’s MUDs are reskined D&D.

    I have argued at length before that muds actually did a poor job of capturing the spirit of D&D — much like Wizardry missed it too, getting the rollplay and not the roleplay.

    But nobody denies the immense impact that D&D has had. That said — muds were as diverse in style as the entire pen and paper roleplaying segment. There were “diceless” systems, there were GURPS-like ones, there were Star Frontiers-like quasi-wargaming ones. Yesterday’s muds were, I repeat again, more diverse than the MMOs we have now. More than just reskinned D&D.

    This goes back to the early days, even. The earliest muds often had “scavenger hunting” as a major element, for example — more inspired by Zork than by the levelling games.

  32. John — no problem. & I checked out the site and saw a LegendMUD feature (!).

  33. I have to say, Mister Koster, I do agree about functionality in regards to MUDs versus MMOs being less in MMOs at least from the end user point of view. I remember even in MUSHes being able to tinker with soft-code, character descriptions, description/text parsing, and room building. Granted, an MMOs today it would be abused with all the worse than LOLcats sort of crowd that stalk about in the MMO customer base, but it would just be neat just to have more customization within reason. Even UO and SWG have the fun room and building customization options, but yet every other MMO seems to avoid this altogether save for LOTRO. It’s just strange how MMOs lack that depth and yet MUDs are really beginning to expand on it through new kinds of combat systems and skill progression models (some are level based, others are percentage based). I know one MUD that’s technically roomless and zoneless as well, which is great but confusing since it’s still a text based interface.

    Anyways, spot-on in this entry. :)

  34. Meh, I still don’t see D&D as being a good starting point for MUDs. As Raph said, if that’s what they were going for, they failed miserably. I actually would submit that they failed for a different reason than Raph posits though.

    D&D, especially the early D&D that would’ve been contemporary with early computer games, has a very narrowly defined intent in how it’s to be played. It’s entirely about small group situations and specifically about dungeon crawling. Anything else is built artificially around those game mechanics by the players, not by the system itself. D&D’s greatest impact came not from D&D itself, but from the fact that it inspired the players of it to examine things from a different direction. Even D&D mechanically didn’t do much to engender what we’d call roleplaying today… that was all the players adding things that didn’t exist in the rules and weren’t really even encouraged by the system. It provided a window into something else, but the players were almost completely responsible for building the door and going through it; going beyond it’s mechanical strictures to create something greater. Nothing really reskinned D&D, because D&D itself wasn’t the core of that experience. It was only the framework around which that experience was created. The real core was the gaming group, the GM and the interaction with the players.

    MUDs have very little to do with that intimate 3-8 person group that goes around rolling dice to stomp monsters. It’s got more to do with the visualization of worlds and the attempt to populate them with real people. As Raph brings up, the questing systems had more to do with text based adventures than D&D style leveling, and you see elements of that in many different areas. The concept of a persistent world that you can move around in and effect state changes in is more representative of those early text adventure games than it is of the typical D&D group. Wandering from room to room in a MUD is much more evocative of that than anything else. Even more damming to the comparison is the loss of the GM. While D&D would have you running a game for other people, custom designing and modifying the gameplay to their tastes, character abilities, and playstyles, MUDs basically replaced the GM with what amounts to the Z-Machine, making it more closely related to a large scale multiplayer version of Zork than anything else. It became static rather than dynamic, bound to the conceits of the mechanical systems and pre-existing development work.

    The group dynamics were different too, if only because of scale. Competition became partially institutionalized in a way that it rarely would be around a game table. Economy became a factor, something that never really comes up in D&D (and I’m not talking buying equipment with gold when I say economy). You ended up with worlds where people would come and go at will, never really being locked in to the same group of people for the same adventures, but all sharing the same space, something that was just plain impossible with D&D. You lost that intimacy of the gaming group, the extremely personal way that the game was played with a small close knit group of friends. And you instead got a whole community sharing the same world. You might not like all of your fellow players, you may not agree with all of them, and you might not even play the game with most of them… but they were still there, part of the same world you were playing in. It’s not even remotely comparable of an experience to sitting around the game table playing D&D, and it has nothing to do with a hyperbolic comparison of how much people pretended to be someone else in them. They’re just not the same beast, and they *can’t* be no matter what you try to do. Scale assures that.

    So I see early MUD development more as “Hey, let’s create a world and fill it with real human beings” and less as “Hey, you know, it’d be cool if we could do this D&D thing over a computer network”. I’d go as far as to say that D&D’s influence on gaming was similar to Tolkien’s influence on D&D itself; something that got people interested in the topic but that ultimately had little to do with creating a line of derivation that built on the specifics of what it did. Tolkien’s elves and wizards look nothing at all like the elves and wizards that he inspired once you go beyond the surface similarities that can at best be called stereotypes. CRPGs and MUDs look nothing at all like what D&D actually does beyond that most superficial layer as well. You have levels and classes and “roleplaying” but the experience and ultimately mechanics are not even remotely similar.

  35. Should the concept of Genre be related to production technique or artistic message?

    According to the music industry the genre primarily dictates production technique. The artistic message is almost unrestricted but some messages are more dominant than others.

    Looking at mmorpg’s the genre dictates both, this would appear to be an industry wide accident.

  36. Gene Endrody>If “today’s virtual worlds are the leaves of a tree”, as Richard says, it’s D&D that’s the trunk.

    Roy Trubshaw never played D&D. I’d played it quite extensively, but I took very little from it; the main thing was the level structure (and I did consider other possibilities; I went with D&D’s because it gave me what I wanted). D&D didn’t really have a great deal of impact on MUDs until DikuMUDs, which really took D&D structures (but not the gameplay) to heart. In terms of trees and branches, MUDs/MMOs and D&D are branches off the Tolkien tree, along with Fantasy literature and Fantasy movies/TV. Going further back, Tolkien’s work itself was a development of myth and religion.

    >What was more significant or revolutionary? D&D or the MUD?

    Significant to whom? The “worldliness” that separates MUDs/MMOs from other forms of computer entertainment isn’t a consequence of D&D at all, it actually owes more to a role-playing game I created and played for my own amusement when I was in my early teens (before I – or possibly anyone else outside of Gygax & Arneson’s gaming groups – had heard of what was to become D&D). Now the class system we see in today’s MMOs was indeed ripped out of D&D, and therefore you can legitimately claim that D&D is an ancestor of today’s MMOs; however, it’s not an ancestor of what makes MMOs MMOs. Likewise, the graphics in today’s MMOs can be traced back to Spacewar!, so Spacewar! is an ancestor of today’s MMOs; however, it’s not related to the “MMOness” of them – that which distinguishes how they inter-connect with one another, yet are separate from other forms of computer game/product. That central core of what an MMO “is” does, however, inherit from MUDs. What’s more, it stops there.

    >It would be as easy for table top RPG gamers to claim that MUDs
    >are just obvious evolutionary change from pen and paper

    and THEY deserve all the credit for today’s MMOs.

    “Today’s MMOs are mostly reskinned muds.”

    And yesterday’s MUDs are reskined D&D.

  37. […] Raph Koster has been around long enough to know most virtual world history. He’s raised some interesting points about MUDs and MMOs, stating that the latter have “removed more features from MUD gameplay […]

  38. Bah, I hit a tab and a return and posted my message before I’d finished typing it…

    >It would be as easy for table top RPG gamers to claim that MUDs
    >are just obvious evolutionary change from pen and paper

    Easy, but not how it happened. MUDs may well be an obvious evolutionary change from pencil & paper RPGs, but that wasn’t an evolutionary change that took place.

    >And yesterday’s MUDs are reskined D&D.

    This is the sort of remark that looks as if it should be true, but isn’t. You can’t use such assumptions as a basis for an argument; you have to use observations that actually are true. You especially can’t argue this way when talking to someone with personal experience of the matter.

    Richard

  39. […] added:Areae president, MetaPlace developer, and all-around-MMO-authority Raph Koster wrote up a blog post about the influence of MUDs on today’s graphical MMOs. The post is part of the broader, cross-blog discussion that began with our interview with Richard […]

  40. @Richard,

    Reskinned D&D might be a bit over the top but let’s face it, the core gameplay mechanics of most CRPGs, singleplayer or massively multiplayer, stem from P&P games. P&P games provide a “visual” context with which to observe things like skill systems, dice rolling mechanics, class balance, etc., etc. All of these influenced the current crop of MMO designers in some way or form. I’ve heard arguments all of the web about thing like, “The Shadowrun dice rolling mechanic would make a good underlying system for an MMO.” Ultimately, that gets a designer thinking and their experience with P&P games is an ingredient in the formula that becomes their MUD or now their MMO.

    So while I can understand your statement that “And yesterday’s MUDs are reskined D&D” is not actually true, I don’t think it is quite as black and white as you’re making it out to be. Designers look to lots of sources for inspiration and P&P has traditionally been a treasure trove of nuggets to be leveraged in an MMO.

  41. “You can’t use such assumptions as a basis for an argument; you have to use observations that actually are true.”

    I agree with both you and Raph. I’m not going to attempt to rewrite the timeline of events and I’ll acknowledge the MUDs massive impact. However many of the designers I’ve met consider D&D THE big influence. Every time I open a character screen in a game and see attributes like “Strength” or “HP” I’m reminded of D&D. So many designers have a copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide sitting beside their “Designing Virtual Worlds” and “Theory of Fun” :)

    It just seemed to me like this post got dangerously close to sounding like: “We former MUD designers did it all by ourselves and hereby lay claim to all MMO history.” You created an environment and a way of thinking about things that spawned the MMO. However the pen and paper guys also created an environment and way of thinking about things that spawned the RPG and made a major impact on MUD.

    “D&D didn’t really have a great deal of impact on MUDs until DikuMUDs”

    But it did have a massive effect on todays MMOs, despite the fact that we’ve never been able to capture D&D’s true sprit in a computer. You could make a family tree for MMOs with MUD1 at the trunk and it would be right. But you could also make a family tree with D&D at the trunk. It would look a little different, but it would be just as right.

  42. @Eolirin

    Like I said to Richard you guys are right in that MUDs and MMOs are not reskinned D&D, but it’s not as black an white as the two of you are letting on. Small anecdote from my MUD days here:

    I was at the UMass Lowell for most of my CS undergrad work and we had a VAX VMS system there with some form of a social space on it. The game was a very basic MUD in that it had rooms, chat channels and the ability to move about the world. The game was called “Monster” even though it was devoid of so called monsters. For all intents and purposes this game existed without the influence of D&D even though many of the admins for the game played in a weekly D&D session including myself. When it came time to expand the world and evolve it to the next step, the admins used their D&D experience to plan how to evolve the game. We were able to get beyond the basics of setting up objects (what properties should they start out with), combat (what dice rolling system needed to be implemented, skill system design) and eventually NPCs. (what attributes do they have) All of this was prototyped in the first version by implementing what we knew from D&D and other P&P roleplaying games like GURPS, Shadowrun, Paranoia and Call of Cthulhu.

    Without those games and that knowledge, the process of creating the evolved game would have been significantly harder so it was and is very difficult to ignore the influence of P&P on our MUD. I kept this experience with me as I moved to admin other MUDs through the 90s. I would venture that this line of thinking and decision making in early MUDs was more prevalent then those that shunned all form of P&P influence to create a world with people in it. On the same token, I do not go so far as to say that MUDs tried to recreate the D&D experience online. The only game I know that tried to do that was Neverwinter Nights. If recreating D&D online is what MUDs we’re trying to do then they failed for all the reasons you mention. We built something new by picking apart the remains of a P&P experience and using elements from it that helped accelerate development while discarding the rest of the P&P experience as not needed. Still, we used our P&P experience to make it happen and knowing where you came from is just as important as having a vision of where you are going.

  43. Looking at mmorpg’s the genre dictates both

    Looking at them as a genre is part of the problem. DikuMUD is a genre. Virtual worlds are a medium.

    It just seemed to me like this post got dangerously close to sounding like: “We former MUD designers did it all by ourselves and hereby lay claim to all MMO history.”

    The post is in response to claims of irrelevance, not an attempt to say that everything is from MUDs. Ultima DID have a huge influence on UO, for example, and there’s little doubt pen and paper was an influence all over the place.

    The game was called “Monster”

    Monster was actually one of those “simultaneous inventions” that we cited — it is not actually based on MUD in any way, and was an independent invention.

  44. @Wolfe, I think dictates is the wrong word, because yeah, the lack of difference in terms of feel and intent is pretty much “accidental”, and it’s not at all manditory. It’s just a high risk investment, and it’s expensive, so no one innovates much, or even tries different things. But EVE and WoW have very different “feels” or if you want to call it artistic message, and going back closer to the beginning, UO and EQ did too. So it definitely doesn’t *have* to be like that.

  45. @Derek, you may be missing my point then. That doesn’t actually go counter to what I was saying. If MUD and MMOGs are part of the same tree, then D&D is the rain that helped it grow and mature. As Bartle says, D&D’s influence on MUD1 was minimal, but… there’s a strong possibility that ADVENT was inspired by it, and thus DUNGEN, as well as Zork… and all sorts of other stuff that did play a bigger role in MUD1. But there’s definitely nothing much in the way of mechanical pillaging until much later on, which means the whole concept of what a MUD is had little to do with D&D at all, even if you can trace a line back showing inspirations and influences that stemmed from there if you take a circuitous enough route. This is again, very similar to the position of Tolkien in the foundation of modern fantasy work. Lots of inspiration, lots of influence, but very little in the way of direct descendence, at least in the way that you can trace most modern MMOGs back to MUD1. Anything stolen from D&D is more about flavor and alternate implementations of core MUD1 type concepts. The line comes from MUD1 and those few other independent developments; D&D is something that got people more interested in playing around with the stuff, not something that’s actually part of the same tree.

    It’s importance in doing that cannot be understated of course. It made people interested and curious and willing to try out these neat things and gave them a way to look at implementation of certain things, and that it did that is very important to the growth of the genre… but it can’t get creator’s credit here either. The stuff we see is inspired by it, not derived from it. And that’s the key difference I was trying to highlight.

  46. “That central core of what an MMO “is” does, however, inherit from MUDs. What’s more, it stops there.”

    Ok, I’m not going to disagree because as pioneer, you get to define the terms. Hovever when I’ve thought about Sherwood’s family tree, D&D and Rogue were impossible to ignore. WAR, WOW and EQ also sit in the RPG family tree. Whether these games are a unique type of RPG or whether they are a unique type of virtual world is just a matter of perspective. From the perspective of an RPG, you’re left with a different central core that pays homage to a different family tree. I ask the gamers: Were you playing RPGs like Baulder’s Gate and Diablo before you got into MMOs? or was it the MUDs that got you into this?

  47. … And it case it’s not clear why it’s important that that distinction be drawn… it’s because the mechanical systems that were pillaged from P&P games ultimately are just dressing for the core experience and focusing on them is more likely to cause hideous problems than not. It’s vitally important that the core bits that make virtual worlds (to use the catch all here) unique are clearly understood or the mechanical bits won’t serve their purpose properly. That’s what they’re *about* and focusing on the trappings to the exclusion of the core is a recipe for disaster.
    P&P games are very good for mining for mechanics that can be used to fill specific needs in a MMOG, but they’re very poor at teaching about that core experience, because that core experience isn’t even remotely the same. That’s why it’s wrong to say that MUDs and MMOGs have a line of derivation from D&D rather than “merely” being heavily influenced by it.

  48. @Gene, that’s an irrelevant question though.

    Zork and then the Lucas Arts adventure games got me into computer gaming in general, so you could say that Day of the Tentacle and Sam and Max are responsible for me playing World of Warcraft, Half Life 2, StarCraft, and coutless other completely unrelated genres and games. As a player, something that interests me can have tangental ties into other (mostly) unrelated areas.

    But that does not mean that those other areas are all that important in terms of being able to *make* those things though. Useful maybe, important, not so much. BG and Diablo aren’t even remotely comparable to UO or WoW in terms of what needs to go into building them and building them well, though Diablo and WoW are closer to kindred spirits. But no matter how you look at it, the core systems are so completely different in terms of what they end up providing the player that the more specific lessons learned from one cannot be ported to the other and trying to make the games with the same mindset would be doomed to failure. You can grab a useful mechanic here and there, but you need to understand what you’re really trying to do and what you’re really offering and need to be offering or you’ll botch it up.

  49. […] post here by Raph, countering some claims by some newer developers that MMOs don’t owe as much to text MUDs as […]

  50. I’m not sure I can get behind the idea that MUDs are reskinned versions of D&D. Some MUDs are, to be sure (particularly the DIKU family), but others bear very little relationship to D&D. For instance, some MUDs have very heavy socio-political elements in them that are core to the gameplay and have no precedent in D&D. Others focus on player-created content in a way that also has no precedent in D&D.

    I’d agree that to some extent (a very limited extent in some cases), the monster bashing portions of MUDs derives somewhat from D&D but it’s a pretty tenuous connection (in some cases, such as Avalon or the Iron Realms games, the connection pretty much starts and ends at the ideas of scalar health and mana. In the Iron Realms MUDs most of your abilities won’t even work on NPCs, in fact, as the games revolve around complicated PvP.)

    Of course, other MUDs don’t even have monster bashing (some of the MOO branch for instance). Shangri-La, for instance, a once-popular sexually themed MUD, didn’t have any killing at all that I recall.

  51. “That’s an irrelevant question though”
    Point taken – you’re right.

    “But that does not mean that those other areas are all that important in terms of being able to *make* those things though.”

    You mean from a technical standpoint? I have coded a number of smaller MMOs – small in size, not traffic. It was RPG stuff I found the most challenging and I was speaking from personal experince. Yes there are traps, but RPG designers and coders cross over into MMOs just fine.

  52. And MUDs are reskinned Dbase III+ databases. Right.

    When we talk about something that is both art and technology, it’s difficult to separate the two. And I’m not sure it’s important or helpful. The goal here, it’s been said, is to either “innovate more” or at least avoid doing the same old things the same old way. I’m not sure those things are either; A) possible, or; B) to be directly sought after. Why?

    Well, you can use a tool without understanding its history. In some cases, in fact, if we’re looking for innovation, it’s good to *not* have a perfect idea of the past use of the tool. One can become too focused on comparisons with the past. For example, we have people here talking about which features, specifically, are in MMOs vs MUDs vs. DikuMUD vs… etc.

    A hammer and a saw both have a handle. Does that mean one is the forerunner of the other? Or that they share a common, grandtool? Maybe they do. Or maybe the guy that first put a handle on one tool then said, “Yowza. Let’s add this to the other sharp rocks.”

    My point is that when it comes to games (as opposed to more directly quantitative studies), lineage matters much less to me than comparison, regardless of what influenced who. Is there an element of fun in live, D&D games that can be replicated in MMOs? Yeah. Cool. That’s great, then. Is there something of the compulsive, numerological “this-always-goes-there” building from MUDs that is (for some) a neat part of MMOs and (for others) a quirk that dates back from the “database-y-ness” of earlier games? Sure.

    If a new “Web kid” comes along who has some interesting ideas for how to use Flash for these games… does he have to go back and play text MUDs to make sure he’s not recreating the wheel? No! Wheels work really, really well. And he may learn something from the recreation process.

    This form of art/leisure (like so many others) is so heavily influenced by so many forms that to require a distinct pedigree is, I think, something of a waste of time. The fact that you show examples of how similar, successful games were created independently of each other seems, to me, to be a proof of this. “Game ABC did XYZ and it was influenced by game DEF. Game GHI also did XYZ, but independent of DEF.” OK… So… what was the point again?

    Not that it isn’t fun watching the fur fly ;-)

  53. […] influence of history – designers and gamers Raph Koster posted an interesting blog entry related to the latest discussions that popped up regarding the Richard Bartle transcript and the […]

  54. @Eolirin,

    I might have missed your point. I do agree that MUDs can’t be directly descending from D&D or any P&P RPG. That’s pretty easy to see so we’re in agreement that as long as you do not trivialize P&P’s impact on the development and evolution of MUDs you’re good. That’s what I thought Richard was doing in his comment. In the end it might all be semantics though as it seems that the web of influences is hard to put into a straight line of branches and leaf nodes. The whole thing is more like a weighted graph where the weights change when viewing the graph from a different angle, thus obscuring the ability to choose a single vertex as the center of the graph.

    About the only pattern we can make out if it all is that P&P generally came before MUDs which came before MMOs and there’s some sort of connection there that’s rather tough to define. Let us not forget that P&P != D&D. P&P covers many more forms of gaming than rolling dice and bashing monsters.

    http://www.dyasdesigns.com/roleplay/dicelessgames.html
    http://www.sjgames.com/toon/
    http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/rpg/series.php?qsSeries=19

    The multiplayer aspects of MUDs(Diku, Moo, MUSH, LP, …) and MMOs are important but so too is the world that provides context for the players to exist and that context is heavily derived from P&P. The rules that govern how hundreds of players play together in a MUD or millions in a MMO all seemingly have been influenced by the rules governing how a few friends would sit down together and play a P&P RPG. Direct descendancy is tough to prove but heavily influenced is just a weaker connection along the same lines of descendancy and with the case of P&P and MUDs it’s difficult to truly say if MUD is a direct descendant or merely heavily influenced by P&P. Depends upon which angle you’re looking at teh graph.

  55. […] Raph’s Website » MUD influence Not to mention older antecedents like Habitat. MUDs, in fact, were also invented independently at least four times, as Bartle himself has stated many times over. (tags: http://www.raphkoster.com 2008 mes5 dia28 at_home MUD Bartle raph_koster blog_post history games MMOG) […]

  56. Derek Licciardi>the core gameplay mechanics of most CRPGs, singleplayer or massively multiplayer, stem from P&P games.

    There’s certainly a way you can look at a lot of MMOs and a lot of single-player RPGs and say yes, these share mechanics with D&D. If you look at another dimension, say graphics, then many of them share this with other computer games. If you look at yet another one, say tactics, then some have much in common with wargames. They aren’t all bound by any of these, though. What all virtual worlds – from WoW to EVE to Second Life – have in common is some kind of “virtual worldliness” factor that separates them out from everything else.

    Now if you’re talking about today’s big Fantasy MMOs then yes, there is a direct line to D&D through the DikuMUD gene. If you were talking about a single-player Fantasy game like Oblivion then I dare say there’s a link there, too (I’m just speculating, mind you). So if your particular interest were D&D derivatives, it would make sense to say Oblivion and WoW were both cut from the same cloth. However, even though Oblivion and WoW are similar in many ways, they are different in a way that WoW and Club Penguin aren’t.

    >I’ve heard arguments all of the web about thing like, “The Shadowrun dice rolling mechanic would make a good underlying system for an MMO.”

    So it might. Designers aren’t restricted to inventing original mechanics for everything they do. Mechanics aren’t what makes an MMO an MMO, though.

    >It just seemed to me like this post got dangerously close to
    >sounding like: “We former MUD designers did it all by ourselves
    >and hereby lay claim to all MMO history.”

    Well, without us MMOs would have had a different history, but yes, there were lots of influences from elsewhere. However, when you look at the MMOness of MMOs, there’s an audit trail from almost every one of them stretching back to MUD1. WoW to EQ to DikuMUD to AberMUD to MUD1. If you want to consider the Fantasy elements, then you’d have a different trail: WoW to EQ to DikuMUD to AD&D to D&D to Tolkien. If you want to look at the combat mechanics, it would be as above except continue from D&D to Chainmail. There are many different tracks you can follow depending on what interests you. If it’s the “real-time, automated, persistent, shared, imaginary places you can visit through the vehicle of a character” definition, though, you’re pretty well going to end up at MUD1.

    >However the pen and paper guys also created an environment and
    >way of thinking about things that spawned the RPG and made a
    >major impact on MUD.

    It wasn’t a major impact. Tolkien was a much bigger impact, if you want to credit someone else.

    Gene Endrody>when I’ve thought about Sherwood’s family tree, D&D and Rogue were impossible to ignore.

    So you were trying to create a rogue-like D&D, and the fact that you made Sherwood an MMO was only a secondary consideration?

    >I ask the gamers: Were you playing RPGs like Baulder’s Gate and
    >Diablo before you got into MMOs? or was it the MUDs that got you
    >into this?

    This is like movie-goers whether it was Titanic and Sleepless in Seattle that got them into watching emotional movies or The Battleship Potempkin. Few movie-goers will have heard of the latter, but most of the directors will have, and if you ask them about montage then they’ll tell you all about it. Sure, it may have been silent and in black & white, but it informed most of today’s movies through its innovations. Its not having been seen by most of today’s movie-goers doesn’t render it irrelevant. Likewise, the MUDs that came before UO and EQ and Kingdom of the Winds are not irrelevant merely because today’s players didn’t play them.

    Eolirin>The game was a very basic MUD in that it had rooms, chat channels and the ability to move about the world. The game was called “Monster” even though it was devoid of so called monsters.

    Yes, that was Rich Skrenta’s creation, I know about it (I cite it in my book as one of the occasions when virtual worlds were invented independently). It did actually feed into the MUD tree through the development of TinyMUD, although sadly for the D&D-influence case all the game elements of it were removed for this purpose.

    Matt Mihaly>in some cases, such as Avalon or the Iron Realms games, the connection pretty much starts and ends at the ideas of scalar health and mana

    D&D didn’t have mana, it had one-shot spells ripped out of Larry Niven’s Warlock series, so mana isn’t actually a D&D influence.

    Richard

  57. “And yesterday’s MUDs are reskined D&D.”

    Uncle. I’ll retract the statement. (Does that ever happen!?) I winced when I posted it. I was playing devils advocate because Raph’s post did not ring true for me until P&P was acknowledged. MMO vs MUD felt so similar to the P&P vs MUD debates of the past that it had to be brought up. Combined with Derek and Richard’s comments, I think we’ve better captured the spirit of that time.

  58. […] post here by Raph, countering some claims by some newer developers that MMOs don’t owe as much to text MUDs as […]

  59. “So you were trying to create a rogue-like D&D, and the fact that you made Sherwood an MMO was only a secondary consideration?”

    Sounds a little silly the way you put it, but Sherwood was a simple fantasy themed avatar chat room where you could swing swords at each other and it didn’t do any damage – very silly play fighting. Laugh it up, but I was at over 300 simultaneous players average at that point. It was Rogue that then provided an alternative approach to content that gave players something to do besides chat. Made the hobby into a company and 300 into 5000+

    D&D provided the first abstraction of a hero character into tangible values you can work into a system. Every computer game that abstracts character values, like strength, HP and armor must recognize D&D in it’s family tree. It doesn’t mater if the system behaves like D&D – the moment you define a value to something like strength or intelligence, D&D is there. That was it’s major contribution.

  60. @Gene, D&D kinda swiped that from wargames though no? :) What D&D brought wasn’t representation via stat – that’s a much older concept, I mean hell, Baseball has been using statistical abstractions to define it’s players for ages and it’s essentially the same concept – it was the concept that those stats could grow and change over time. It’s character advancement via leveling and not statistical abstraction that’s the real mechanical innovation of D&D’s systems. And yeah, leveling was a *huge* thing that’s influenced a lot of stuff, even MUD1. Important contribution to be sure, but not something vital to MUDs or MMOGs in terms of what makes them MUDs and MMOGs. I’m kinda arguing from the same position that Bartle is here, that the mechanical bits that are used to fill various needs in a virtual world are pretty much interchangable and replacable and don’t speak to the inherent core of what actually makes them virtual worlds. D&D has had an awful lot of use in providing specific mechanics to fill those various needs, but it’s the needs that define the genre, not the solution to those needs. And the needs are not at all the same even if the systems to fill them can be co-opted.

    MMOGs don’t need D&D to be MMOGs, though D&D has been very useful in helping to solve various design issues. This isn’t about minimizing the importance of D&D in terms of gaming as a whole, just about isolating out where it’s contributions actually *were*. And they’re not in the same places that Bartle is talking about.

  61. @Derek,

    D&D was the only possible influence on MUD1, because none of those other games existed yet. And D&D’s direct influence was pretty much limited to the level system. MUD1’s influence was arguably much greater in terms of defining the commonality of what came after rather than the specific implementation of that commonality. D&D’s contributions were all primarily in implementation of various subsystems. Implementation isn’t as important in defining a game as intent though. The more abstract concept ends up defining feel much more.

    And I’d very strongly disagree that the rules governing the *interactions* of MMOG scale playerbases had anything at all to do with the rules governing the interactions of people around the gaming table… those interactions have very little to do with the character to character interactions. Persistent state worlds, guilds, community structures and player economies have vastly more to do with the large scale playerbase interactions than the combat and character advancement mechanics. Even on the smaller scale there are many vital differences, class balance suddenly became important, characters needed to be interchangable, content needed to be repeatable on some level, and more importantly, everything had to feed back into the above large scale interactions.

    If P&P allowed designers to easily drop in mechanics and content it did so by morphing it to fit the core of what defined the virtual world, not the other way round. So yeah, it’s been important in terms of what it’s done for these game worlds historically. But it’s not intrinsic to them, and you could replace them entirely, and they’d still be virtual game worlds and still need ways to do the same jobs. D&D and P&P have been useful abstractions to steal from in solving various design issues, and they’ve perhaps gotten more people interested in the genre in general, but they’re not much more than that.

  62. “D&D kinda swiped that from wargames though no?”

    D&D abstracts character traits like charisma, intelligence and wisdom in a way that describes the attributes of a hero beyond impersonal units on a battlefield. Yes, there were attributes assigned to units in war games, but the purpose was purely for combat. D&D was the moment that gaming went from distant generals fighting strategically on a battlefield to epic heroes, seemingly out of the pages of a novel, fighting for honor and living lives of adventure.It went from war time strategy to character driven narrative. It went from impersonal to personal. The character sheet had the effect of creating a personal attachment to your hero and allowed us to imagine personality traits. The difference between the War Game and the Role Playing Game (the RTS and the RPG) is the perspective. The RPG is played from the perspective of the hero, not the general, and D&D was the first to do this. It defined the space and everything else followed. We take this all for granted now, but in 1974 this was a new idea.

  63. (darn notebook…I wasn’t done)

    So the two key questions are: Is it played from the perspective of the hero? Does it abstract character attributes? If the answer is yes to both, then you have D&D in the family tree.

  64. We take this all for granted now, but in 1974 this was a new idea.

    D&D’s use of character attributes as a storytelling device was not a first.

    People have been doing that for centuries.

  65. […] Its called World of Warcraft.”  or somesuch (I’m too tired to link the quote).  Raph Koster has weighed in and said that MMOs left more features of MUDs behind than they implemented.  A […]

  66. Richard Bartle wrote:

    Now if you’re talking about today’s big Fantasy MMOs then yes, there is a direct line to D&D through the DikuMUD gene. If you were talking about a single-player Fantasy game like Oblivion then I dare say there’s a link there, too (I’m just speculating, mind you). So if your particular interest were D&D derivatives, it would make sense to say Oblivion and WoW were both cut from the same cloth. However, even though Oblivion and WoW are similar in many ways, they are different in a way that WoW and Club Penguin aren’t.

    CRPGs like Oblivion clearly harken back to Wizardy I and Ultima I. Before them were less-successful CRPGs (on the Apple ][ at least) of “Temple of Apshai” and another proto-Ultima one whose name I’ve forgotten. Wizardy I and Apshai were obvious D&D implementations.

    Another game to note was Eamon – kind of a single-player DikuMUD, although it came first. I wouldn’t be suprised if the DikuMUD authors played Eamon. From a functional (not matrilineal RNA heritage) POV, DikuMUD is very similar to Eamon, but its complexity is akin to Wizardry I. Multiplayer is a relatively small conceptual leap from there.

    My point: There has been a tremendous amount of cross-species DNA exchange. Lineage gets fuzzy. It’s an interesting discussion that goes nowhere… except that it points out to current WoW players that the same basic game goes back nearly three decades… and is getting a bit stale.

  67. I’ll readily agree that mmorpg’s are a medium rather than a genre, but I dont see much of the rest of the world ready to accept this. Review sites, retailers, publishers and gamers alike appear to consider mmorpg’s as a genre.

    To do something about this we need to establish this long desired grammar which draws the line between medium and genre. And between artform and medium. Its already done for music and working relatively well there. However in music you dont use the word music for anything with any level of precision.

    In games we still need to develop the foundation which in music separates “in key” from “in tune” and “on time”. A Theory of Fun has gotten a lot of people down the road of using the same language. Which is awesomely useful. But you still see new games failing on the most primitive aspects of wrongs, its like your opera is played on violins which are out of tune. Even the most radically different and spectacular story will fail when this happens. In games it happens always if the development is stressed for time or budget. Hence the solution is to avoid innovation and copy functional pieces from history.

    Here I find that clumping a concept such as levels to be mandatory is a blatant flaw made by the designer. Its like saying all operas need exactly the same harmonic progression as The Wedding of Figaro or they will fail. This is just a viable trick to replace a competent composer with someone elses artistic expression.

    However the nature of the industry has driven almost all modern mmorpg projects towards designing by blueprint copying and minor adjustments for their local culture. What Dr. Bartle and a lot of other oldtimers appear to say is that this makes boring games for those who already grokked the patterns.

    But after all this gibberish I have to ask the real question:

    How do you get a well funded mmorpg project on the road which is free enough to develop something based on idea diffusion rather than blueprint copying?

  68. @raph: Yeah, some things comes more of a result of the quantity of players than design (raids, dancing and crafting). If only 5% of the population enjoys a collaborative activity (dancing/crafting) most MUDs (perhaps peeking at 40 simultanous) would have problems sustaining it as part of the culture.

    I can’t think of a single significant feature in MMOs that I haven’t seen some version of before, but yes, scale matters and you get something different when you change the scale.

    I still think D&D has the most influence because I assume most who create MMOs have played it and thought “wouldn’t it be cool if we could create this fantasy world in a computer simulation”. Then they went on a build a MMO where you can build a character… I think most of the rest would follow from that pursuit. The essential features aren’t that advanced.

    When it comes to MUDs I think many who went on to create their own MUDs were inspired by single-user text adventure games in addition to D&D. That’s how they felt to me anyway. The MMOs don’t feel that way, at least not the ones I’ve seen or read about. The depth appears to be lacking.

    (The “quote this commen in your reply” link seems to provide the wrong text.)

  69. “D&D’s use of character attributes as a storytelling device was not a first.”

    Ok, so you’re basically saying that Gygax didn’t invent the RPG? and the D&D wasn’t the first? I’m game. What’s your proof?

  70. [quote]
    How do you get a well funded mmorpg project on the road which is free enough to develop something based on idea diffusion rather than blueprint copying?[/quote]

    You have two choices:

    1. Become independently wealthy first and then self-fund it.

    2. Garner enough of a reputation/history of success that you can successfully demonstrate to investors that you’re able to execute (ideas are easy, execution is hard).

  71. dammit. i’m late to the party and bartle takes all my points.

    [quote post="1787"]In terms of trees and branches, MUDs/MMOs and D&D are branches off the Tolkien tree, along with Fantasy literature and Fantasy movies/TV.[/quote]

    [quote post="1787"]So if your particular interest were D&D derivatives, it would make sense to say Oblivion and WoW were both cut from the same cloth. However, even though Oblivion and WoW are similar in many ways, they are different in a way that WoW and Club Penguin aren’t.[/quote]

    tho, he’s substantially less sarcastic. you guys’ll just have to pretend there’s a lot of “comma dumbass!” in his posts, i guess.

    /sigh

    i got nothin’ now, richard. thanks.

    stupid metastream discussions. taking all my brainpower over the weekend.

    m3mnoch.

  72. Oh, I should add that you have to also find investors with an extremely high tolerance for risk since what you’re proposing adds extra risk onto an already extremely risky endeavor.

  73. [quote comment="138760"](The “quote this comment in your reply” link seems to provide the wrong text.)[/quote]

    This reply is partially a test — but it seems to be working.

    Now, it did an interesting thing earlier — Richard’s comment was held for moderation for some reason, and in the admin panel, everyone who quoted him showed their quotes as “moderated.” Still earning the ins and outs of this new plugin…

    It does seem to autoquote the last comment made…

  74. [quote comment="138766"]

    You have two choices:

    1. Become independently wealthy first and then self-fund it.

    2. Garner enough of a reputation/history of success that you can successfully demonstrate to investors that you’re able to execute (ideas are easy, execution is hard).[/quote]

    Both of these would appear tricky if you want to achieve innovation by Idea Diffusion, the first one because its mostly unlikely. The second one because it basically means you have to go down the path of Blueprint Copying.

    I guess for several reasons, but the primary one is that a success story is not associated with an individual but the whole team, company and business behind the result. For an investor to be able to rely upon a previous success you’ll have to prove that you will use the same successful process for developing the new title.

    This in turn becomes a positive feedback loop which makes it impossible to follow up on Bartles wishes of inducing change to the artistic expression within the medium.

    So what remains is the third choice of finding investors willing to take big risks. I guess you will need to present a development team with some significant industry experience even in that case. And preferably also have some guidiance from veterans without falling back too far on the standard sollutions just because its cheaper to implement these?

    More likely we’ll see changes to the industry come from some unexpected source.

  75. [quote comment="138748"]“D&D kinda swiped that from wargames though no?”

    D&D abstracts character traits like charisma, intelligence and wisdom in a way that describes the attributes of a hero beyond impersonal units on a battlefield. Yes, there were attributes assigned to units in war games, but the purpose was purely for combat. D&D was the moment that gaming went from distant generals fighting strategically on a battlefield to epic heroes, seemingly out of the pages of a novel, fighting for honor and living lives of adventure.It went from war time strategy to character driven narrative. It went from impersonal to personal. The character sheet had the effect of creating a personal attachment to your hero and allowed us to imagine personality traits. The difference between the War Game and the Role Playing Game (the RTS and the RPG) is the perspective. The RPG is played from the perspective of the hero, not the general, and D&D was the first to do this. It defined the space and everything else followed. We take this all for granted now, but in 1974 this was a new idea.[/quote]

    For the benefit of those with short attention spans the following two paragraphs are simply supporting evidence for the following statements: D&D didn’t invent as much as it inspired. And it did it by wrapping up old concepts in new and more accessible ways.

    I’ve never really looked at Wisdom, Charisma, and Intelligence as anything other than power stats for spell casters and bards, at least in the early verisons of D&D. Early D&D never did much for me though, and I’m a product of a younger generation that had access to things designed to foster more story based games from the get go. I don’t have that veil of “damn this was really awesome and I’ve never seen it before, and I can do x, y and z, and it makes me think about all this stuff I haven’t thought about” so I don’t see much functional difference except that the scale was shrunk from squads of units to individuals. This isn’t because I take that for granted, but because I have the emotional distance to examine it solely for mechanics and not how it made me feel. And I’m not willing to call this a huge leap in terms of doing things. If anything it’s solely a cognative shift from wargaming, or a mechanical shift from “playing make believe”. D&D put them together in a way that a lot of people wouldn’t have thought about, and that was an important step, especially because it gained a huge amount of traction and thus got people thinking about this stuff… but it’d be silly to assume that the actual process of building a “ruleset” for dealing with “make believe” interactions is somehow unique to D&D. People have been doing *that* for a very long time, but always very informally, and usually with as close to zero math as they can get away with. D&D simply decided to use wargaming as that ruleset instead of something much less formal, and it worked really well, because wargaming rulesets allow for quite a number of interesting interactions, but more importantly because of that formality. And that’s something that was very much lacking from the equation up to that point. The lack of formality in how you’d go about playing something like that predominately reduced the act of roleplaying to little kids and psychologists (well, and fetishists, but I don’t really want to go there). Throwing math and numbers and dice rolling into the equation was much more appealing to people looking for something beyond the kiddy games of let’s pretend.

    But it’d be a rather large mistake to assume that the wargame’s core is the only way you can codify interactions that aren’t really happening (and hey, there are lots of systems that don’t use anything resembling wargaming, even to the point of not using dice at all), and more importantly it’d be a huge mistake to think that we wouldn’t have any of those alternate systems if D&D hadn’t existed, because the instinct to generate some sort of rules for play of this nature is an extremely obvious one. You see kids do it all the time when they’re playing things like cops and robbers, and you see the need for it when they start trying to argue over why their friend pointing at them and going “bang bang” didn’t hit them this time. Maybe they wouldn’t have had as much reach, or as much success without D&D paving the way. Just like less people would be interested in fantasy type stories that have existed for hundreds if not thousands of years in various cultural myths without Tolkien paving the way.

    So D&D’s real success is not the concept but the implementation. And that implementation’s reach was huge, and vitally important, but it doesn’t necessarily deserve credit for the general concept of a formal system for make believe interactions. Again, the position here is very similar to Tolkien’s. Tolkien had a lot of influences in myth systems and hero cycles, even if they weren’t clearly defined as such. A lot of stuff is culled from a vast number of historical sources from many cultures, especially Norse, Finnish, Celtic and Old English sources. The names of most of the dwarves are even lifted almost direct from the Old Norse Prose Edda. Myths and legends like the ones that Tolkien’s works emulate are not new, and were not new even then, but people weren’t into them in the same way. But no one was reading those things. And Tolkien gets a huge amount of credit for getting people interested in them. D&D is the same way.

  76. Richard, you trace back to Tolkien. Shall we cite Dante for his important contribution of “levels”?

    More seriously: Asheron’s Call, too, was conceived by MUD fanatics. We called it a “3D MUD” before the buzzword “massively multiplayer” was coined. I found — and find still — that ex-MUD developers/players are quickest to embrace the core skills of MMO design. (I call it Applied Social Anthropology.)

  77. What’s the point of this quote-comment system if we aren’t told who it’s quoting?

    [quote comment="138765"]“D&D’s use of character attributes as a storytelling device was not a first.”

    Ok, so you’re basically saying that Gygax didn’t invent the RPG? and the D&D wasn’t the first? I’m game. What’s your proof?[/quote]

    I’m pretty sure D&D was the first game to. Morgan, I believe, is pointing out the concept of heroism itself—the concept of hero as cultural ideal, which predates written history. He said “storytelling device”, which is important. D&D wasn’t “just a game” anymore than MMORPGs are. It was what the sonnet form was to poetry; the point wasn’t merely to game: it was to act, and D&D provided a structure for the play. Play, in both senses of the noun.

  78. [quote comment="138776"]What’s the point of this quote-comment system if we aren’t told who it’s quoting?[/quote]

    I can actually turn that on and off. The weird thing, though, is that it breaks all the quotes made without attribution thus far.

    I’ll turn it on and you can see. :)

  79. “it’d be a huge mistake to think that we wouldn’t have any of those alternate systems if D&D hadn’t existed, because the instinct to generate some sort of rules for play of this nature is an extremely obvious one.”

    I agree. And “real-time, automated, persistent, shared, imaginary places” are also obvious. That doesn’t take anything away from either Bartle or Gygax. Both were significant accomplishments.

  80. I would add these are obvious to us now with the benefit of hind sight. I’m a huge fan of both people and I don’t see the need to trivialize the RPG to bolster the MUD.

  81. [quote comment="138766"]
    [quote]
    How do you get a well funded mmorpg project on the road which is free enough to develop something based on idea diffusion rather than blueprint copying?
    [/quote]

    You have two choices:

    1. Become independently wealthy first and then self-fund it.

    2. Garner enough of a reputation/history of success that you can successfully demonstrate to investors that you’re able to execute (ideas are easy, execution is hard).
    [/quote]

    Damn, you beat me to it. Independently wealthy really just implies having the resources to build the game. The modern day MMO equivalent is Curt Shilling of 38 Studios and yourself. You’re building an MMO from the Iron Realms profits right? I wish I never sent the AoA business plan to Curt so many years ago…. :( Raph is the other side of your points. I’m curious to see the output from all of these ventures in the vision of hindsight because they’ll test this theory pretty solidly.

  82. This new quote system is not working as intended. It misquoted the “How do you get a well funded…” in the above. Wolfe actually said it and the blue is Matt’s response.

  83. Derek Licciardi wrote:

    Damn, you beat me to it. Independently wealthy really just implies having the resources to build the game. The modern day MMO equivalent is Curt Shilling of 38 Studios and yourself. You’re building an MMO from the Iron Realms profits right? I wish I never sent the AoA business plan to Curt so many years ago…. :( Raph is the other side of your points. I’m curious to see the output from all of these ventures in the vision of hindsight because they’ll test this theory pretty solidly.

    I would certainly not put myself in the independently wealthy league. There’s at least an order of magnitude between my level of wealth/income and Curt’s. We used Iron Realms profits to get our game to a certain point and then took a few million in VC funding. We’re also explicitly not trying anything evolutionary. We are, very much, about very small incremental steps and that’s it. It’s also worth pointing out that:

    1. We’re not trying to do anything revolutionary. Incremental changes to the DIKU model, at best. There are a couple of twists but they’re evolutionary and not radically so. Why? Because it’s risky and I have a lower tolerance for risking my own money than an external investor does (as my investment into Sparkplay represents a much larger portion of my total wealth than any external investor would likely commit).

    2. I wouldn’t call our sub-$5 million budget “well-funded” for an MMO, at least when compared to AAA retail titles.

    Wolfe wrote:

    I guess for several reasons, but the primary one is that a success story is not associated with an individual but the whole team, company and business behind the result. For an investor to be able to rely upon a previous success you’ll have to prove that you will use the same successful process for developing the new title.

    All game efforts are, of course, team efforts but there is a MASSIVE difference between being the Will Wright on the team or a low-level guy on the team. The former rightly gets all sorts of credit for the success of games produced by his teams, while the latter gets very little.

    Rob Pardo, for instance, may be just one person on the WoW team but were he to announce that he was starting his own MMO company investors would line up to give him money because the level of his influence on WoW is/was significant.

    –matt

  84. I have no idea what happened in the above post…..I was trying to quote Derek and Wolfe but it didn’t work apparently.

  85. [quote comment=""]I have no idea what happened in the above post…..I was trying to quote Derek and Wolfe but it didn’t work apparently.[/quote]

    Not too happy with the quote system at the moment. Certainly seems to have lots of weird behaviors.

    I am going to turn off the attribution part again, which seems to be obviously broken.

  86. [quote comment="138765"]Ok, so you’re basically saying that Gygax didn’t invent the RPG? and the D&D wasn’t the first? I’m game. What’s your proof?[/quote]

    That’s not what I was saying at all, and Michael Chui somewhat explained my comment, but you said something here that I should counter.

    People were playing role-playing games long before Gygax and Arneson even had grandparents. Are those role-playing games the sort that are typically labelled “RPGs” today? Probably not. If you’re going hold Gygax so high on a pedestal, however, at least be specific about what he and Arneson accomplished.

    And don’t forget that there’s a world outside games, a world in which we live… and game designers live — a world that inspires people to create. “Invention” is not creation in a vacuum.

  87. [quote comment="138781"]“it’d be a huge mistake to think that we wouldn’t have any of those alternate systems if D&D hadn’t existed, because the instinct to generate some sort of rules for play of this nature is an extremely obvious one.”

    I agree. And “real-time, automated, persistent, shared, imaginary places” are also obvious. That doesn’t take anything away from either Bartle or Gygax. Both were significant accomplishments.[/quote]

    Which is cool, because that’s not what I was actually trying to say. Gygax is hugely important, but not because of the mechanical systems of D&D, and not for the statistical abstractions. As Morgan says, we should be specific about the accomplishments that D&D was actually responsible for. Again, I have to fall back to Tolkien. His work is extremely infulential, and it’s importance cannot be understated in terms of what it did for fantasy literature… but his themes and much of his material is rooted in work that predated him by centuries. This doesn’t diminish his impact, but it does give you a way of more clearly seeing why Tolkien was successful in a way that his source material wasn’t (with a modern audience anyway). Looking at it in those terms is vastly more useful than simply worshiping him. No different here.

    And note, I say it’s an extremely obvious instinct, because people have been doing it for forever. Just not in the same ways, and not as formally. They haven’t been doing the “real-time, automated, persistent, shared, imaginary places” thing though. Because you need technology for that one. Without the computer, and without some sort of network, MUDs can’t exist. That being said, the concept of networked multiplayer is pretty obvious, as indicated by the fact that someone started working on it almost as soon as there was a network to work with. :P

  88. [quote comment="138789"]

    Not too happy with the quote system at the moment. Certainly seems to have lots of weird behaviors.

    I am going to turn off the attribution part again, which seems to be obviously broken.[/quote]

    Going wildly off-topic here now, but I really don’t like the quote system at all. I did see the attribution part before you turned it off, and was puzzled when I went back to look for it when I made that initial post.

    It’s a good idea (see vBulletin’s implementation–stellar), but it’s just… really poorly done. =/ Unfortunately, I’m not willing to mess with building a WordPress plugin myself, or I’d do something about it.

  89. “Gygax is hugely important, but not because of the mechanical systems of D&D, and not for the statistical abstractions.”

    I don’t think I’m with you there. Michael Chui said, “the point wasn’t merely to game: it was to act, and D&D provided a structure for the play. Play, in both senses of the noun.” Using war game fundamentals, but shifting the perspective to the hero’s was more than just a new game with a solid implementation. The entire experience changed because an intimate relationship was created between the player and his/her character. We still called it a game, because at the time we didn’t know what else to call it. But it was one that you don’t win or loose and it evoked a different kind of emotional response. It wasn’t like a novel because the player’s participated, but it wasn’t like most games either. Yes, actor’s role-play and novelist’s create stories and you can find parallels everywhere but this was a new hybrid mixture of other art-forms and math, At the time it was new.

    I’m not going to argue the point too much more. It was mainly because I was getting the impression from some of the comments that people thought if you added a mana system and changed a few algorithms, all of a sudden your game is no longer influenced by D&D. In my opinion making an RPG without D&D influence is really, really hard because it’s influence runs very deep. I don’t have classes in Sherwood and don’t share any algorithms – doesn’t matter – D&D’s influence is still there.

  90. Yes, actor’s role-play and novelist’s create stories and you can find parallels everywhere but this was a new hybrid mixture of other art-forms and math, At the time it was new.

    The math is irrelevant to character attributes as a storytelling device. I’d also say that player-facing math is the single, most significant fup in the history of game design for games that were intended for storytelling purposes.

    Can you imagine Homer describing Achilles as a CL80 Warrior with 800 Agility and mastercrafted gear, providing a 400-point bonus to his final strike ability? Homer was a far superior communicator and storyteller. Words, not numbers.

  91. “The math is irrelevant to character attributes as a storytelling device.”

    D&D is not FOR story telling device. That’s just an attribute of it. Maybe that’s why people keep comparing it to Tolkien. The math makes it accessible, allowing the introduction of random chance and turning it into a form of improv with the DM – something we’ve never been able to capture with the computer. The dice are there for a reason.

    As just a story telling device, D&D is not great at all, because the improv lacks any form of traditional structure. It’s a great experience to the people who play, but too a third party the narrative wanders with the whims of the players and DM.

    It’s not storytelling, it’s not math – those are just attributes that when mixed the way D&D and other RPGs that followed did, something special happened – but don’t expect it to do what a novelists does. If you do, you’re missing the point.

  92. “the improv lacks any form of traditional structure”

    What I meant was that it doesn’t deliver a three act, mythical narative structure. The game itself is structured.

  93. “D&D is not FOR story telling device.” Crap! I do that a lot, but that one’s particularly bad. If you see MaidMarian.com advertising for a writer, now you know why.

    D&D is not FOR storytelling.

  94. Gene says:

    D&D is not FOR story telling device. That’s just an attribute of it.

    “Being a good Dungeon Master involves a lot more than knowing the rules. It calls for quick wit, theatrical flair, and a good sense of dramatic timing—among other things.” (Dungeon Master’s Guide, 2nd ed, Introduction, The Fine Art of Being a DM)

    I don’t have a copy of the 1st edition handy to make a quote. There are a dozen other excerpts I could have chosen, but this was the most succinct.

    Saying that storytelling is just an attribute of D&D is like saying leadership is just an attribute of being the President. Sure, it’s “just” an attribute: the only one that really matters. In White Wolf games, they drop the pretense and just call the guy a Storyteller.

    As just a story telling device, D&D is not great at all, because the improv lacks any form of traditional structure.

    This isn’t true either. It certainly lacks it in the core rulebooks, just as a skeleton does not necessarily define the shape of someone’s life. If D&D provided all of this, then what’s the point of having a DM at all? You might as well play Oblivion or Final Fantasy.

    Think about it. The reason a DM is a necessary innovation (gee, we missed that, didn’t we?) in D&D from Chainmail. Why don’t you instead have players crafting their epics through their own devices, as equals, as you might in Warhammer? The players are actors; the DM is the director. The DM isn’t responsible for telling the players, “Okay, roll a 20-sided die now. Okay, now roll three d6’s. Okay, as a result, you failed to drink the potion, but you slashed a Sagat-style scar down the goblin’s chest.” The players can do that themselves. The DM’s role is to be responsible for the roleplay itself. To tie strands of heroism into a single epic. To take Achilles, Agammennon, and Odysseus and put them on the same beachhead.

    It feels like a novel after you’re done playing. After the smoke has cleared and the parade is done. If it was done well.

    (Disclaimer: I’ve never read the rules for either Chainmail or Warhammer, but some quick Googling says they didn’t have DM-like roles.)

  95. D&D is not FOR storytelling.

    Roleplay is a storytelling device. Planned structure isn’t integral to story.

    Refer to “improvisational theatre.”

  96. […] in Juli 1, 2008 von geraintcb Eine interessante Diskussion findet derzeit auf der Seite von Raph Koster statt. Vereinfacht gesagt, es wird darüber diskutiert, was denn jetzt wovon der Vorreiter war, wer […]

  97. I could not help but think a bit about the relevance of genre.

    Raph said this in an old entry:

    MMORPG: an MMOG where the game presented is an RPG.

    Going by this we have a structure something like:
    __
    In Games:

    Game -> Virtual World -> (mmo)RPG -> Game (levels, story, influences etc) -> Interface

    __
    Abstract as

    Artform -> Medium -> Genre -> Message -> Performance

    __
    In Music as

    Music -> CD -> Rock -> Lovesong -> Great? (as in goosebump factor present)

    __
    Now, this is most likely not going to fly with game people because it lumps all conventional “art disciplines” of game development into the interface. Models, music, animations and everything. But they lie beneath the problem of stale evolution not above it.

    Its fairly obvious that mixing up the artform with the message is going to create a lot of confusion.

    In the music world I would consider the responsibility of having a valuable performance depending on the medium and genre (ok, extremely reductionistic but the finer points of music production does not belong here). If you go with a CD it is to a great degree production technique which determine the value of the performance while the artist is primarily developing the message. This would appear to be somewhat related to game development where the main risk is failure with the things here lumped beneath Interface.

    Looking at how the genre has been evoling lately it does indeed appear as if most successful developers have been defensive enough to develop both the performance and the message by production technique.

    There are more interesting things in this little structure such as most people confusing Casual with Correct and Hardcore with Defect.

  98. eep! something looks borkled with te quoting thing. The Raph quote from the old “What is a virtual world” entry should be:

    “MMORPG: an MMOG where the game presented is an RPG.”

  99. [quote comment="138811"]
    I don’t think I’m with you there. Michael Chui said, “the point wasn’t merely to game: it was to act, and D&D provided a structure for the play. Play, in both senses of the noun.” Using war game fundamentals, but shifting the perspective to the hero’s was more than just a new game with a solid implementation.

    -snip-
    [/quote]

    See, I was refering to the specific implementation. I.e. that it used wargame mechanics. That’s the bit that’s not important. The specific type of structure isn’t important, just that there was structure. And many people hadn’t thought of it in those terms, so it was important for raising awareness that you could do it. But it didn’t invent the concept of structured roleplaying… it just refined and popularized it. It may have been the first place many people ever saw it, but not the first place it existed. Beowolf and Prose Edda and Kalevala all existed before Tolkien. Myth cycles all existed before Tolkien. But few people paid any attention to them before Tolkien. As a source of inspiration D&D is a *hugely important* achivement, just like Tolkien was. And it’s again important see where they came from, because it gives you a much deeper understanding of why they were so successful, and more importantly how they really work at a fundamental level.

    When you realize that the important bit is in fact the existence of structure, but not the specific type, then you can start examining how structure is important, and how you can mess with the structural elements without damaging the core. You can begin to examine alternate systems of implementation that have precious little to do with the actual mechanics that D&D gave us. Do we need math? Do we need specific features? Do we need a seperate special player who runs things? These are all things that can more easily be examined if we distill things down to the most basic core, which is structured collaborative storytelling, then we can remove all preconceptions of what that requires. This is important, and it’s easiest to get there by looking at what inspired D&D to begin with rather than looking directly at D&D. Because D&D didn’t give birth to these concepts, just as Tolkien didn’t give birth to myth cycles. Ignoring that is a mistake, even though it is very clear that both were hugely important in the works that followed; anything that gets people interested in things they haven’t thought about before inherently is. And very few things have gotten the number of people interested in these topics as those two did.

    That’s why I say D&D was so very important not for the mechanics, not for what it did with it’s systems, not for what type of structure it brought to the table… but because it captured the imaginations of so many people, because it got so many people thinking about things in a new way. There is no greater value than that. Nothing can ever reduce the importance of that, or eclipse it in this field. Looking past it to see it’s roots is not a slight, because if it hadn’t had the impact it did, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But looking past it to see it’s roots is so very useful to the process of understanding, and of learning how to do things better.

  100. @Michael: Perhaps my definition of story was to simplistic and I was not casting the net wide enought. Storytelling was to me more of a telling of events, emotions, lessons after they happened. D&D was more like living your life. It happens as you play and you can’t skip to the last page because the ending has not been written yet.

    My most memorable moments mostly involved bar fights at the Vulgar Unicorn as a halfling with my half ogre sidekick. It was insane fun, but there were no trancendent moments of the quality that a good writter can craft. When I read Paul’s sacrifice on the Summer Tree in the The Fionavar Tapestry, it really made me wonder if D&D was really capable of these moment.

  101. Me>D&D didn’t have mana, it had one-shot spells ripped out of Larry Niven’s Warlock series, so mana isn’t actually a D&D influence.

    Duh, Niven’s warlock series is where the idea for mana came from… What I would have said if I’d been paying attention to what I was writing is that D&D ripped its magic system out of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series. Sorry about that.

    Richard

  102. Eolirin>That’s why I say D&D was so very important not for the mechanics, not for what it did with it’s systems, not for what type of structure it brought to the table… but because it captured the imaginations of so many people, because it got so many people thinking about things in a new way.

    It did, but none of that was a factor in MUD1, nor (judging by the way they didn’t tap further into D&D’s mechanics) many of the worlds MUD1 immediately inspired. Its main influence on today’s MMOs didn’t come until much later with DikuMUD, and that was through its mechanics. There may have been a lot of indirect influence, though, through the fact that many players had played D&D or AD&D and they brought the culture of D&D with them into MUDs etc..

    Richard

  103. @Gene,

    Storytelling was to me more of a telling of events, emotions, lessons after they happened. D&D was more like living your life. It happens as you play and you can’t skip to the last page because the ending has not been written yet.

    Yes. Thus, you might consider D&D to be an innovation in storytelling. One where you participate in the craft of it, even the irrelevant details like exactly how many goblins you managed to slice and dice in that epic 10-000 person melee. “The Dragonlance Chronicles” were written in this way: Hickman created the campaign scenario, ran it through with a bunch of players, and then partnered up with Weis to right a couple books on it. Did he stick to the exact facts? Of course not. Real life is not good entertainment; it is not art. But selected pieces of real life, coupled with a touch of fancy, is what makes a story good.

    Are all stories in book format? Many stories are better told orally, where the speaker has total control over pacing, and skipping to the last page isn’t an option either. That’s largely how DMs must do it: they tell you the story as it progresses, but they focus on delivering a perfect third person limited perspective, forcing you to be aware only of your character’s situation.

    My most memorable moments mostly involved bar fights at the Vulgar Unicorn as a halfling with my half ogre sidekick. It was insane fun, but there were no trancendent moments of the quality that a good writter can craft.

    Why does a story have to be filled with “transcedent moments”? Just because a story doesn’t measure up to Don Quixote doesn’t invalidate it; there’s crappy fanfiction and horrific romance and painful sci-fi/fantasy titles all over the place. A tale is told in the context of its audience, and if you recount it among other D&D enthusiasts, then it’s a good story. As Will Wright says (and I paraphrase): people love to tell stories about their lives, so games should help them do that.

    I mean… “I jumped out of the way and spun in mid-air to crash through a stained-glass window while explosions filled the air behind me,” is a good enough story for action movies. Why require a higher standard for D&D?

    When I read Paul’s sacrifice on the Summer Tree in the The Fionavar Tapestry, it really made me wonder if D&D was really capable of these moment.

    Of course it is. I haven’t read it, but based on your sentence, I can craft the situation in D&D. First, you need someone playing Paul. If he’s not a PC, then the whole thing is irrelevant. So he’s a PC. Second, he needs a character history. In other words, he has to end up in a position where his sacrifice is poignant for whatever reason you thought it was. Third, that critical moment must be well-presented by the DM. And fourth, the player has to have to the willingness to actually do it.

    D&D is perfectly capable of it. Your DM, yourself, and the relationship between the two of you and the other players? Possibly not capable. But also possible.

  104. My word. Did your plugin set my post to moderated because I used the blockquote tag instead of their arcane pseudo-BBCode? It switched out all my quotes to “Moderated”. Pfft.

  105. The plugin is now toast.

  106. @Bartle,

    I am aware, and said as much earlier on in the thread. :) I’ve read the note from you in the timeline saying as much. But… if you look at the timeline, you’ll see that ADVENT was created shortly after the people who worked on it had started playing D&D, and ADVENT lead to both Zork and DUNGEN, no? And DUNGEN and the other stuff had a bit to do with the development direction of MUD1, right? So there’s likely indirect influence coming from that direction too. Again though, none of the structural elements remain, but none of the structural elements were all that important to begin with. Again, the key concept behind D&D is that you can structure roleplaying formally. Even MUDs rely on that concept, though it’s about all the have in common in terms of the experience. And it’s obviously not a concept unique to D&D, but D&D was the first thing to popularize it and show just how far you could go with it.

    Even if D&D had absolutely zero influence on MUD1 at all, it still would’ve been very important if only because of that. MUD1 may not have had as big of an audience without D&D, though that’s of course hard to gauge accurately. It’s kind of that “all boats rise with the tide” concept. Even things only tangentially related to D&D benefited from the attention it gained.

  107. This historical discussion is nice and all, but if you really want to “win,” create a Game Genome Project akin to Pandora’s Music Genome Project. Add a flow-charting capability so users can see evolutionary convergence and divergence at work. ;)

  108. Eolirin>And DUNGEN and the other stuff had a bit to do with the
    >development direction of MUD1, right?

    It was more ADVENT than DUNGEN – I didn’t get to play DUNGEN/Zork until decades later, and although Roy had been shown it I don’t think he’d actually got to play it. He went for DUNGEN in the name of MUD partly because he got a good acronym out of it, and partly because he thought that, DUNGEN’s being the better game, the genre would come to be known as “Dungeon games”. Since ADVENT came first, though, they were eventually called “Adventure games” instead (and even if they had been named after DUNGEN, they would almost certainly have been called “Zorks”). I called MUDs “MUAs” for a number of years to try to correct this impression (and so that people didn’t that it was me who was boastfully propagating the MUDs name), but it never caught on.

    If you look at ADVENT, though, it has very little to do with D&D. Even the role-playing aspect of it is one step removed, as the opening instructions make clear: “I will be your eyes and hands. Direct me with commands of 1 or 2 words. I should warn you that I look at only the first five letters of each word …”.

    >Again, the key concept behind D&D is that you can structure roleplaying
    >formally.

    I agree that D&D does this, but it never made it through the ADVENT membrane. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I’d played single-player RPGs of my own invention before I’d ever heard of D&D – it was one of the reasons I wanted to buy D&D when I first got wind of it. I didn’t have “experience points” – that bit of MUD1’s design I did consciously take out of D&D – but I did have the notion of characters improving through their deeds (becoming a better shot, knowing more about science, not being as fast at running as they used to be – that kind of thing).

    >Even if D&D had absolutely zero influence on MUD1 at all, it still
    >would’ve been very important if only because of that.

    Yes indeed. If you play one of today’s RPGs, you can still tell that it’s the same kind of thing as D&D, and there’s pretty well guaranteed to be a direct audit trail back to D&D. I’m a big fan of D&D, even though I don’t get much time to play it these days; the DMG, MM and PH for version 4 are on the shelf right behind me as I type this (albeit still waiting to be read).

    What I am saying is that when it comes to what makes an MMO an MMO, D&D doesn’t play all that large a part. Tolkien plays a bigger one.

    >MUD1 may not have had as big of an audience without D&D, though that’s
    >of course hard to gauge accurately.

    I’m sure there will have been some people who played MUD1 and its descendants because they had played D&D, so they would have had an input into the culture of MUDs (and thence MMOs). However, the number would not have been as great as you appear to believe. Back in 1978 in the UK, D&D wasn’t a widespread phenomenon. If there was a D&D group at Essex University when I was there, I never heard of it. My own copy was bought on 6th May, 1976 (according to the receipt in the box), and it was among the first available in Britain. When I set up my own D&D game at the university in 1982, all the players but me were first-timers. D&D wasn’t all that well known here back then.

    >It’s kind of that “all boats rise with the tide” concept. Even things
    >only tangentially related to D&D benefited from the attention it gained.

    Some of the articles in magazines in the mid-1980s did mention “Dungeons and Dragons”, because by then the game was becoming better known but hadn’t yet reached “game teaches kids black magic” disfavour. We did almost certainly get some players who had extensive experience of D&D around then. A few of the MUDs that followed MUD1 in that period did have a D&D flavour to them, too. The main injection of D&D was not until DikuMUDs, though, which really went to down on the AD&D mechanics that dominate commercial MMORPGs to this day.

    D&D did have an influence on most of today’s MMOs, it’s just that this influence does not extend to the “MMOness” of them.

    Richard

  109. […] the fog of battle finally cleared, Raph Koster the resident Yoda and Zen master of virtual worlds weighed in on the Richard Bartle controversy. I knew it was just a matter of time before Raph would deposit […]

  110. @Morgan: Oh yes, that would be very scientific, wouldn’t it? Guessing about where ideas come from… and stuff.

  111. @Ola

    Eh, Pandora doesn’t make suggestions about where the ideas came from for the songs it categorizes, it only talks about commonalities in the sound. Such a project for MMOGs and MUDs would be quite useful because it’d effectively ignore all this historical discussion and get back to the core of what the games are *like*.

    That’s honestly a really awesome idea Morgan. :)

  112. I’ve become so jaded with current MMO’s and their stale, repetitive gameplay and lack of things to do, that I’ve gone back to playing a MUD.

    I played this MUD many many years ago, and it’s still going pretty strong. There are 600 people on at once in the server and the game is more enjoyable and has more to do than any of the other MMOs out… and I’ve tried about 90% of them.

    Anyone interested, I’m talking about Gemstone IV from Simutronics. They also have Dragon Realms.

    http://www.gemstone.net

    I’m hoping someday we will have an MMO that is more than just grinding mobs and rolling for drops.

  113. > What I am saying is that when it comes to what makes an MMO an MMO, D&D doesn’t play all that large a part. Tolkien plays a bigger one.

    > D&D did have an influence on most of today’s MMOs, it’s just that this influence does not extend to the “MMOness” of them.

    I think Cronuss makes a good point.

    Maybe I’ve become overly cynical about MMOs today — or maybe not — but I see them as more closely related to D&D than to Tolkien because, like Cronuss, I define today’s “MMOness” as something like “gameplay rules for allowing a player to work with other players to increase the numeric statistics of a character.”

    In other words, today’s MMOs seem to me to focus far more on numbers-play (i.e., game) than on story (i.e., world). If there’s story, or a world setting in which a game’s characters live, it’s only there as a backdrop for the numbers-based leveling-up gameplay that’s front-and-center on the stage. That seems much closer to the “rollplaying” mode of D&D than to either the emotion or the deeply-realized setting of Tolkien’s stories. Leveling up seems to be what matters most to MMO gamers, whether they’re playing an elf or an alien or a robot as a character. MMOs in this analysis are basically D&D without the spontaneous human DM-guided storytelling.

    I’m not criticizing D&D or similar RPGs here; with a good DM I think they could achieve a unique balance of numbers-based gameplay and epic storytelling. What I’m saying is that I think replacing an imaginative human DM with prescripted quests as MMOs do eliminates most of the storytelling, Tolkienesque or otherwise. That leaves MMOs with only the “gotta level up!” numbers-chasing.

    It would be interesting to see an MMO designed to enable storytelling to play an equal or larger role than the numbers-chasing part of D&D. Perhaps the next “revolution” in MMOs will be a design that provides storytelling tools to players, allowing some of them to act as DMs for their friends, enabling a deeper roleplaying experience than dinging to Level 70.

    Maybe we can call these players “wizzes”… and hello again, MUD1. :)

  114. They also have Dragon Realms.

    If anyone is interested in a look at this from inside a game, Dragonrealms is currently having an epic forum-fight over whether or not to cap skills some way, somehow, somewhere.

    http://www.play.net/forums/topics.asp?forum=20&category=1

    It’s primarily in the second and third “folders”, though it has leaked out a little to other places.

  115. Raph:
    I think it’s easy to be dismissive of history, and say that it’s not relevant. I’m pretty sure I have heard a quote somewhere about the consequences of that. Moving forward without knowledge of the past is far more likely to result in going in circles. MMOs have removed more features from MUD gameplay than they have added, when you look at the games in aggregate.

    The fact that people can cite things like “big boss battles in a public zone” or “really rich badge profiles and player stat tracking” as truly differentiating features mostly speaks to how narrow the scope of the field has gotten in the public’s mind. This is like arguing over whether scalloped bracing in acoustic guitars is a defining characteristic for all of music, when in fact it has zero relevance to MIDI controllers. By analogy, Bartle, like many of us, is arguing from the perspective of all music — all virtual worlds. And his detractors are people who only listen to indie rock from the Athens, GA, area circa 1989. All Richard is asking for is for someone to please play some jazz.

    Just as MMO’s have gone backwards in their own sphere. UO had allot of things that MMO’s have been slowly discarding. Sometimes out of need, other times out of goal.

    But the one thing that sticks out to me, over the last years since MMOs came out, is that the players expectations are where to direction and movement is. Yes, players expectations have been funneled by developers too, but it’s still their expectations that the industry is driving to.
    And that’s like having the inmates run the asylum.

    You can have no leadership where the masses run things.

  116. […] own dislikes or that of the marketeers is hard to tell… But in the current discussion about how MMOs have been dropping more MUD features than innovating new features themselves, it regularly comes up to debunk the ‘PvP is hardcore’ myth that surrounds PvP in MMOs. From MUDs […]

  117. […] to some degree to the discussion previously begun on MMOs vs the World. Read on!Quoted from Raph’s Website: As part of the ongoing raking over the coals of Richard Bartle for saying the obvious (yes, […]

  118. […] Diablo 3 was announced, Raph restates the obvious, and I find a correspondence between the two: Diablo was for RPGs a bit what WoW was for MMOs. Take […]

  119. […] Readers who pay attention to commentators writing about MMO design or industry questions at large may be familiar with Raph Koster’s statement: […]

  120. […] it seems like everyone else is talking about it, so I suppose I will join in while I buy a bit more time delaying the next […]

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