Thursday, 4 September 2008 reading list 5

Looking back at the last summary post I made, it feels a little like I was "phoning it in" to a degree. I'll try and give a little more detail in this section. I am also wondering if I should be adding a little more detail, for instance the number of posts in each thread.

1999-12-23: Promoting mudding in general

A proposal for a community effort to promote mudding. Discussion about the perceived value of a free-to-play MUD. The appeal of graphics again. Comparison to Ultima Online. Suggestion of some approaches after which the thread peters into waffling about the support different MUDs have for colour.
2000-02-20: Dungeon runners is getting even easier
No content of note. Just thought it was interesting to see that there was once a MUD with the Dungeon Runners years before the MMO came about.
2000-02-29: After how much coding can you release your own dist
Addresses taking an existing code-base and changing it a subjective amount, then deciding it has been changed so much it no longer resembles the work it was derived from.

Unfortunately, where the poster says "have altered it so that pretty much all that remains original is the area format", in my experience people who ask this question tend to have a detached view from reality of the scope the changes they made. If it were up to me, I would say never.
2000-03-05: I am a builder
The thread starts off with someone asking for a building position on a MUD. The peanut gallery chimes in with pithy commentary. Then the thread gets into a discussion about the proper way to write room descriptions. Should "you" feature in a room description? Some consensus that it is bad in a static room description.

This gels with what I remember from reading something on Discworld MUD long ago, what if someone is being scryed and a third party sees a description of the room they are in. Then it is going to be confusing, with any use of "you" referring to the target (first party with regard to the description) being scryed.
2000-03-01: Gay Programmers Wanted
This thread isn't worth reading in and of itself, but there are some interesting posts made within it. The best quote I include below. Only the first dozen or so posts stay on topic, after which the thread drifts.

George Reese [post]: "Although, one wonders about the need for a mud targetted at gays since, face it, aren't all muds these days just a bunch of teenage guys pretending to be women and having mud sex with each other?"

Right on George, right on.
At around this point, the "Shade" problem became evident in this newsgroup. I will avoid covering with this and note that this was a pedophile who ruined a lot of good threads both by his presence, mention of his predilections and reflection on both of these things by others. It was hard to find a thread which wasn't tainted. Or at least, that was how it seemed to me at the time.

2000-07-04: Need interesting threads (shade-free)
A thread I started after a long shade-free drought in the newsgroup. Exhibits the Google Groups problem, where a response appears before my post in the archive.

Initial post suggests a range of topics of interest to me. The superiority of layered 2D to actual 3D implementation of a game world. Whether the compass directions were a design flaw or a band-aid for problems with the text-based media itself.
2000-08-29: Declaring the Rights of Players
A topic brought to the newsgroup from the MUD-Dev mailing list by Raph Koster. This is not a topic whose discussion I found interesting, so is not summarised, but is included for the sake of completeness.
2000-10-03: Realistic travel times in muds (shade-free thread)
Covers methods of creating the feel of realistic travel taking time, including varying definitions of what realistic means in this context. Dynamic room descriptions. The scale of movement time to in-game world time. Justification for different travel time in different locales (crowds in the city = slower, uncrowded countryside = faster). What players would do during the long travel times (be logged off?). Scripting of character behaviour while its player is logged off. What would players do if magic were arcane and rare? Action and fun while online, your character does the grind while you are offline. Definitions of playability and the repercussions.
2000-11-26: A Discussion of what makes a good RP MUD
Starts with a subjective list posted by the thread starter. Whether RP has to involve good versus evil. Roleplaying professions. The potential of soap operas as inspiration.
2001-12-18: What is a good Description?
Use of 'you'. Forcing emotion on the player. Assuming things about the player.
2002-03-07: Advances to MUD's
A blind query about what should be done differently. Make as much as possible configurable online. Use of database backends. Mapping of an object model into SQL. Use of web UI to make character creation or building easier/better.
2002-05-02: Original MUD Association?
A suggestion that people creating original MUDs band together to share resources, promote their games and more. Subjectiveness of originality. Measuring achievement as a membership qualification. Diverges into value of writing a codebase from "scratch".
2002-09-09: Text vs Visual - Are UO, EQ, and DAoC killing text-based muds?
A short thread about the possible death of MUDs. Allusions to other subjects which are supposedly strangling their competition. References to MUD listing numbers over time at relevant websites.
2002-10-23: Goodbye RGMA
Mock announcement of the official death of this newsgroup given the lack of traffic. Discussion about where the discussion went. Surprisingly, there are no mentionable posts made after this point.
Current position: September 3rd, 2008 / done.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008 VM to Demo LPC Muds

Link: VM to Demo LPC Muds

I don't know about you, but compiling MudOS has never been a pleasurable activity for me. There was a time when I considered the *nix compilation process a character building measure, e.g. compile, encounter error or missing package, recompile, repeat until an insurmountable problem is encounted or successful. But these days, I just don't have the patience for it. And the building of MudOS is complicated by the ability to configure features out of/into driver at compilation time, you need to have the right set for the mudlib you plan to use. Add to that my use of Windows, and the need to use something like MinGW and the pain adds up.

So the idea of having a VM, where someone else has taken the time to build the driver for each mudlib supported within it, is a very appealing one.

saquivor: [link]

As part of getting ready to actually getting restarted on my GUI tool, I decided to build a VM to run DS2 so that I can easily manage a DS2 setup via my Windows machine.

Anyway it got me thinking that it might be a good idea to create a VM image for all public lp mudlibs. I use VM images a lot at work and they can be very handy from everything to developing, testing, playing and even live usage.
saquivor: [link]
Ok first release is available for testing. VM will run Puppy Linux 4.0, and currently has ds2 and tmi2 installed.
saquivor: [link]
I have upload another version of lpmud VM. See links above for downloads.

Added discworld and also changed how the muds are started. In that I have written an ncurses menu front end to control starting the muds and connecting. (It will pkill any running copies of driver and then start your selected mud.) ...

A failed attempt at an evaluation of UltiMUD

I was reading one of the MUD forums, where a poster inquired about being able to build one without coding. Someone responded pointing out UltiMUD.

UltiMUD is a telnetable MUD server, with visual and graphical world building tools built into it. At a distance, looking at the screenshots and web pages, it looks quite nice. A tool which allows you to graphically edit your game world and also to visually add things like commands. Properties look to be editable in a "Visual Basic" style. The built game can be started and stopped via the "play" and "stop" buttons. Logged on players update in the GUI and can be snooped on. Etc.

In order to gain some inspiration for my own hobby projects along the same lines, I decided to bite the bullet, install it and have a play with it. I had a lot of trouble figuring out how to do any world building with it. The help option unfortunately brought up a web page on the UltiMUD web site, sadly not one which addressed anything I needed help with in a useful way.

Attempting to build a world

How do I create an area? No idea. Okay, there's a obtuse page on this on the UltiMUD web site. I try and follow the directions, and manage to create something which looks like a forest with a starting location in the middle. Most of the properties for the selected object have strange names whose purpose I can't begin to guess at.

How do I allow a player to look around? Well, having tried to start a game with no world and nothing else edited, I was informed that without commands, a player won't be able to do anything. So having created an area this time, I tried to create a look command. Adding a command is one thing, but what do the properties for the command mean? Script? Apparently UtiMUD uses Lua. I found a look command written by the author via Google, having been unable to find it on the UltiMUD site myself. I _guess_ I am supposed to add the command to the "script" property of the command I have added. But where does the additional supporting script go? I can't add scripts to the game - the "scripts" folder has no context menu. And however I add a command, script or no, I get the shown error. At this point, UltiMUD is now in a broken state and stopping a running MUD locks it up otherwise that error just keeps coming back.

Final thoughts

To me, UltiMUD is unusable. It looks like a well made tool, which a lot of work has gone into. But I feel like anyone who wishes to use it needs to have some "idiot savant" ability to divine required information which hasn't been provided.

It is not a code-less world building tool. Case in point is the commands. UltiMUD does not come with built-in commands - it is up to the user to author them, and the only way the commands can do anything beyond trivial effects is via attached Lua code. This is just an observation, code-less developing is clearly not a feature of UltiMUD.

Apparently version 2 is coming out sometime after mid last year (July 2007). But this won't address the reasons why I wouldn't use UltiMUD. Even if it were usable, it implements a fixed model for any game world built on top of it. And being implemented based on the authors own ideas, this unavoidably forces what seem like arbitrary constraints on anyone who uses it. To someone who doesn't have world building experience, this might be fine. But having my own idea of how a game world should be able to be built, this is not suitable for me.

Webinar: Sirtuins, Aging and Disease

A recent post to the CR Society mailing list pointed out a video recording of a seminar which aimed to "introduce people to sirtuin biochemistry," and was freely available (not counting the tedium of having to register with their website) to watch.

A lot of the posts to the mailing list are summaries of recent research and mention things which seem beyond my understanding like sirtuin. Normally, I stare at them until I realise I don't really know enough to understand them and delete them, feeling a little guilty about missing out on useful information. Because of this, I couldn't justify deleting the email and left it sitting in my inbox. As I've been having a clean out today, I found myself watching the seminar so I could get rid of the email.

I found it quite an educational hour. It covered a range of topics of interest to me, in relation to sirtuins; particularly calorie restriction and resveratrol supplementation. I've let my calorie restriction slip since I left Iceland. I am however, supplementing with resveratrol which I bought on a whim.

After watching the seminar, I feel like recommitting to calorie restriction again. And given that the seminar mentioned that resveratrol needs to be taken in large doses, I suspect that I am undersupplementing and should look into that.

Anyway, the company which provides the seminar will apparently be shutting down at the end of the year. So if anyone would watch it, they need to do so before then.