Saturday, May 2, 2009

Stay awhile, and listen...

So, who remembers Deckard Cain? Wizened old fellow choc-full of wisdom from ages passed... nice at identifying items in a pinch. Seems like he'd be practically brimming with mage-ish goodness that would make him fairly useful in a fight, what with being the last of the Horadrim and all.

Until, that is, we see that he has been enslaved by some level 2 XP-fodder when a bunch of scrub demons invade the town. Turns out that Cain, for all the hot air he blew out, clearly was not the awesome old Gandalf figure that we assumed he would be.

So, anyway, Richard Bartle.

Richard Bartle, like, totally came up with the first MUD or something. And I'm sure that everyone on the development team for early MMO's such as Everquest and Ultima Online actually played... hmmm, really?

MUDs are, honestly, pretty awful games. I played one once a few years ago when I was really bored. I don't know ANYone who actually played one during the "glory days" of which Bartle is so fond of pontificating over, you know, when those 75 people who played MUDs were totally pioneering the modern day MMO and everything. Yes, you can find older bloggers around the place who played them, but, clearly, they were not mainstream games.

Judging from the amazing way that modern MMO developers completely ignore developments to the genre made by anyone except for WoW, I can only assume that their design 'research' consists of raiding WoW 5 nights a week. So I kind of find it hard to believe that the developers of, say, Everquest, sat down and played MUDs and became influenced by their awesome gameplay.

Ever heard of parallel evolution? This is where two different species evolve the same trait, presumably because it seems like a useful trait to have. My theory - of course I have no proof - is that these completely retarded modern day MMO game mechanics actually evolved twice, independently... first, with Richard Bartle and his cohort of 12 people who played on MUD1, and years later, with the pioneering graphical MMO's.

The text MUDs needed gameplay that was slow due to their text-based nature, and grindy carrot-on-a-stick-ness because it was easier than making a strategical combat system. Early graphical MMO's needed slow gameplay, I assume, due to server limitations with such a giant number of people connected to them (unlike MUDs, which nobody played). And they needed grindy gameplay so that people would continue giving them monthly fees (which I am assuming after doing no research that MUDs didn't have, because, well, lol if they did).

Different reasons, same outcome... crummy gameplay.

So, I'm not sure why we're giving Dr Bartle all the credit here.

But, somebody will probably post some complete history of MUD-ness here and attempt to prove me wrong. To this I say.... whatever. *Even if we were* to give him all the credit... what are we giving him credit for? Shouldn't he be under a rock somewhere hiding from our collective wrath? If MUD1 DID cause all that came after, we have Richard Bartle to congratulate for a bunch of retarded soul-sucking gameplay. I mean, Achiever/Explorer/Socializer/Killer.... did he ever hear of actual gameplay?

There are people around the place who vehemently defend stuff that Richard Bartle says. They seem to attribute a lot to that first MUD. I don't get it.


Gark said...

It's pretty widely known that the developers of Everquest actually were inspired by Sojourn.

I don't know how they would have learned their game design skills from playing WoW since time machines do not exist and even if they did, I doubt the government would let game designers use them to go into the future to play games that haven't been released yet.

Melf_Himself said...

Widely known? By who? Point me to a reference?

Also, I was not implying that EQ copied WoW. Reading comprehension is key.

Gark said...

Here, let me Google that for you.

Of course, you could look at all the other things like statements from developers and all of that, but it probably would have been better to do that before you posted that the idea was ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

retarded modern day....????
what are you talking about and why do you use the word retarded? that is just wrong on so many different levels.

Melf_Himself said...

Thanks for that link Gark.

My point is, statements like that from Raph don't show anything. UO had completely different gameplay to "Diku" games and to games such as WoW, and since UO was the only pioneering game that Raph worked on, any statements he has to offer are pure theory. Just like all the other ones I have seen.

You talk about "statements from developers and all of that", which WOULD be compelling evidence, but I'd just like to actually see some. I've wondered about this for a while, but haven't been able to find any.

My other point is - let's say some EQ designer comes by and says yes, Richard Bartle was a great inspiration to me. This, to me, diminished the respect that should be afforded Dr Bartle further, as it means that his poor design decisions have ruined a genre that has wonderful potential.

Anonymous, I was speaking of several different aspects of current MMO gameplay, including but not limited to tank-healer-nuker gameplay, 1-2-3 button mashing gameplay, boring repetition gameplay (kill 100 foozles), and general lack of dynamic tactics necessary or lack of twitch skills, etc.

I use the word retarded because it is difficult for me to fathom how several of the design decisions in such games were made.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that Richard Bartle and what he created would have been a direct inspiration to EQ or UO developers - there were a few generations of MUD-type software in between.

Everquest had so many similarities with DikuMUD that there was legal actions considered until Verant produced a sworn statement that they had not reused DikuMUD code. (

Certainly inspired by Diku even though they probably did not use existing Diku code.

A number of the Ultima Online game mechanics had its origin in LegendMUD, which also was designed by Raph Koster and his wife.

Designs are not inherently good or bad, they must have a context. The problem is and has been that many designs may have been adopted without properly understanding why the design decisions were made in the first place.

One of the good things about bartle is that he understands this and can reason about these designs and ideas.

This problem is not unique for games, it is everywhere where there is software development and you get crappy solutions because people just adopted some implementation/solution to solve their problem without understanding why this particular solution was chosen for the original problem.

Raph Koster said...

Melf, there are plenty of sources out there. I can personally vouch that developers on UO, EQ, The Realm, DSO, Meridian 59, Lineage, and Kingdom of the Winds all played MUDs. This can be confirmed with some research -- it's all out there. For a blog post more specific on this issue, try this one:

In addition, developers for many of these were on the MUD-Dev mailing list.

This doesn't mean you can lay all the flaws of modern MMORPG gameplay at Bartle's feet. MUDs were around for 15-18 years before the MMORPGs came along, and branched and evolved in many different ways, almost entirely not under Bartle's direction in any way. The primary influence on the MMORPGs is the Diku variant, which wasn't created until 1992, over ten years after MUD1.

Melf_Himself said...

I'll buy that Raph, in lieu of reading through 62 MB of archived MUD-Dev mailing list material :)

I think my care factor as far as listening to 'Deckard Cain' is still minimal, though.

I have thought of an even better analogy. Let's say that Isaac Newton came back from the dead. Although his knowledge of physics was unparalleled at the time he was alive, by today's standards he'd have a lot of catching up to do (what with relativity and quantum physics and such). But, the man was a freaking genius. I'm sure he'd be able to catch up and then even offer some insights that we could benefit from today.

But Deckard Cain over there? He's still living in the past man. Does he have the genius to transform the present day, or was he somewhat of a one trick pony?

My point is that everyone treats him like an Isaac Newton, but I just don't see it.