(or, as they are now called “MMORPGs” (massively multiplayer online rpg’s)
I don’t think you need to worry about the graphical Internet rpg’s killing off text muds. Graphical muds will not appeal to all the text mudders there are. Serious roleplayers, such as many MUSHers, will feel severely hampered by the restricted set of actions available in a graphical system. Those who enjoy the fluidity and flexibility of text will stick with text muds. Those who enjoy the constant expansion and alteration of the game will stick with text muds. (None of the graphical muds have the ease of expansion that a text mud does).
One thing to remember is that many of the people working on graphical muds love text muds just as much as you do. I can personally vouch for the extensive online time on text muds, and serious study and discussion of them, for the following people: Scott Phillips, Rick Delashmit, Kristen Koster, Todd McKimmey, and myself on Ultima Online; Damion Schubert and Mike Sellers at 3DO and Meridian 59; Dr. Cat and ‘Manda Dee with Furcadia/Dragonspires… and I am sure that the other major players in the field also have similar backgrounds. We’re not out to kill text muds–we’ve spent years of our lives caring deeply about them. Deeply enough to want to make the essence of mudding–which is not text, but the interaction with other people in a virtual world–our careers. Hopefully it is no crime to want to not only try to make a living off of something, but also to wish to tackle the medium with the resources that funding can offer…
Because that is another thing to consider. I know that our team, at least, reads this and the other mud newsgroups religiously, and considers all the design issues posted. In many ways, the graphical stuff coming out is attempting design elements that have not been tried much on text muds in the past, and perhaps our work (with all the money and resources we can throw at it) can raise the bar for text muds as well, making that form as well a more interesting and fun game. It’s sort of interesting to note that a very large proportion of the posts seeking to establish what the state of the art is in muds, or what are interesting directions for innovation, have come from folks who are looking at muds from a commercial perspective. Having the big companies join as players won’t necessarily hurt the mudding community, as everyone has things to learn from the ways everyone does things.
I won’t bother getting into the issue of paying money for the commercial ventures… it really boils down to this: pay if you want to play the game, don’t pay if you don’t want to. It really is not worth getting into a flamefest over. I doubt that any of the major companies expect text muds to die, and I doubt that any of the major companies would be so arrogant as to think that the contributions of the hobbyists on text muds are not worth anything either. We read the Journal of Mud Research here at work. 😉