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Consider the means of social interaction we commonly build into a mud:
(When I speak of something "bolted on" I mean something that the designers concluded was necessary despite the fact that the actual design of the system doesn't provide for it within the environment's context. So if you have to buy a note in the game, mail it at a mailbox, and wait a while for the courier to deliver it, it's in context, and not bolted on.)
Obviously, the first one is the strength of a mud. And the latter is also very well-suited to a mud. The others are essentially very different paradigms that have been implemented within a mud context. Usually they shatter the fiction. And a global namespace is essential to their functioning in this bolted-on manner...
Now, given that the global namespace immediately provides social context, what do you do about providing the social context that tell or channels provide? It's a rather tough question.
Now, yes, all the commercial efforts place a premium on low barrier to entry, of course. They have to compete within the game market with many games that offer the same low barrier. Gotta grab that customer quickly... and yes, generalist interfaces, and interfaces that lead you step by step through processes, are very important in that regard. And UO is getting criticized in some quarters anyway, for the number of interfaces required for the various crafts and the like, despite the fact that they are all either (double-click) or (double-click, then target). It's amazing how simplistic something needs to be for the general public.
However, the social context you have when logging into UO is actually more than minimal--it's practically nonexistent. We don't have who. Or tell. Or mudmail. Or channels. We have the bulletin boards, but lacking the others, they see little use. We don't have unique names (which is rather disturbing to old mud hands). We also have thousands of people per world, less "spatial binding" because we don't have "rooms," and a rather large space to run around in.
Hence one of the biggest lacks in UO at the moment--social fabric. It's very easy to get lost in a crowd, make friends and later lose them altogether, be unable to find them, get somebody to even stand still to talk, etc. We're working on this by making more in-context social fabric however. Among the tactics:
additional communication elements:
I mention all the above to point out that we're running into lots of interesting implications of the lack of global namespace that I doubt people have usually tended to consider.
Where do these social bonds form?
...You [would] assume that the social systems are character-based and not player-based. MOST of them are player-based. Only a few are character based--largely the ones in the category I call "context embellishment." But how many of these are truly critical to your social experience? Remember, mud social bonds evolve from the fictional towards real social bonds; if you have good community ties they will be OOC ties, not IC ties.
The term "global namespace" was coined by J. C. Lawrence, and refers to a globally unique identifier attached to a given object within the game world--e.g. a unique name for a character that is not shared by any other character, and which can be referenced by other players as a means of identification.