Of MUCK and Men

This week I decided to keep things short and sweet, and talk about something near and dear to my heart: MMOs and sandboxes!

To start off, I've been out of the development game for a couple of weeks now, mostly due to the holiday, so I don't really have any Shibe Warz updates to give.  Anthony has been hard at work on the art lately, and has been pumping out some really great assets.  I'm really impressed with how far he's come since our first project one year ago.

Speaking of being impressed with how far things have come, I played my very first MUCK today (and by played, I mean mostly fooled around in).  For those unaware (like myself), a MUCK is pretty much a MUD, a Multi-User Dungeon, and is the precursor to MMOs.  The ones that I played in had no questing or leveling system, no equipment system, and in fact were completely text-based.  They existed simply to provide a space for players to meet and roleplay in.  You navigate throughout the world using commands such as "go north", and are then presented with a wall of text describing the location you just arrived at and any points of interest.  This might not sound like much of a game at all, and is really just more of a sandbox for the players to fool around in.

In retrospect, I am very surprised that I had never touched a MUD before in my life, considering I spent the greater part of 4 years of my childhood playing EverQuest.  Within only a couple of minutes of playing a MUCK, I could see the overwhelming similarities between the two.  Emotes, whispering to characters, going out of character (OOC), traveling the world just for fun (and not for a quest), the list goes on.  It's really more of a sandbox than a game, and personally I think that is a large part of what made the first EverQuest so wonderful.  It had its quests, and it had its big bosses, and obvious things you should be doing, but the things I remember most of that game - more than 10 years later - are the times that I took the rules and did something unconventional with them.

For instance, I played an Enchanter in the original EverQuest, and one of my character's abilities let me transform into the nearest object.  Often this was a tree, rock, torch, etc.  I would stand outside of one of the most populated "newbie" towns (Freeport), turn myself into a cactus, and then shout, for all to hear, "First person to find me gets 1 platinum piece!"  This was a huge amount to a character just starting out, and I received no actual reward from doing it.  Yet I loved it, and I did it multiple times, and it's one of the most memorable parts of the game for me.  I had been on raids, run dungeons, did almost all there was to do in EQ, but I can barely recall any of those adventures.

Without sandbox elements, none of that would have ever been possible in EverQuest.  And that's basically all MUDs are, are sandboxes that allow the players to invent their own enjoyment, rather than go on endless pre-made quests and slay mob after mob.  It takes a lot more investment on the player's part, but can have a much higher return as well.  It can create lasting memories that designed games have a more difficult time doing.