This post is in response to Drakkos’ post Why We’re Here
Where is Hugo? Hugo’s here? Who goes there?
I want to speak a little about why I’m here as a developer for Epitaph Online, and why I think MUDs as a gaming medium still have potential even after all these years.
I keep track of games being made, being sold, games that are available. I read reviews and I read development blogs, but at the end of the day I never buy games. In fact, the last game I bought was Skyrim, and that was the first game I bought in a long time. When I was younger I used to play PC games quite a bit, usually adventure games as they were my favourite. Games like Monkey Island and Grim Fandango have stayed with me, and while I’m not actually inspired by them much anymore they were still the first games I remember that really showed me what a game can be.
I really enjoy the artwork for the Curse of Monkey island, and visually I think it’s one of the nicest looking games I’ve ever played. There’s just something so raw, so talented, and yet so simple about how it looks and feels. It was able to draw me into its world and story, and yet it also allowed my imagination to run wild. That is a key point for me in games, and even a good story – I like it to be able to test me and leave me wanting to expand on the world I just experienced.
But one day I found myself no longer enjoying graphical games the same way as I used to. I really believe the current gaming industry is so, ignore my wording here, cockblocked that we just end up with stale, useless gaming. Gaming can be used in many ways, and I don’t just mean as an artistic medium. I love themed games, even if I do not care for the theme that much. Pirates (real pirates, that is), for example, are dreadful. I dislike thieves, drunks and criminals in general, but a Pirate game can draw me in provided it has a nice flair and a solid direction. I think games now have lost all meaning and now if it’s not making money then in the eyes of the industry it’s not worth making. I do not blame the writers or the programmers for this.
And this now brings me to my point. Here on Epitaph none of us are getting paid for what we do, and yet in my opinion (as a developer and as a player) it is a thorough game that has more heart, more flair and more professionalism than the majority of games that have come out in the last five years. This isn’t me hyping the game, it’s me giving my honest opinion after being so close to this project.
And here’s the kicker:
It’s all done entirely in Text.
Even though I’m not new to text games I just still cannot understand how games that have been written in text can be so immersive and so engaging. I started Epitaph as a player, not a developer, and after becoming enthralled with how the game was being played out (on both a story level, gameplay level and technical level) I knew I wanted to lend my support because the game gave me that feeling that I longed for: I wanted to expand upon the world I was experiencing. I wanted to contribute because I knew the game was heading in a great direction, and I hadn’t felt that for a long time in any gaming medium.
I have a lot of faith in text games, but I am also very annoyed at how many of them are being run. I won’t name names, but many MUDs for me are an embarrassment and are full of arrogant twits who probably have less faith in MUDs as a genre than their players. For me Epitaph is not just about a game being made, it’s about building a community.
MUDs need a reinvention of terminology and reputation, and even if we don’t achieve that here then at least we can try and show people that MUDs can be more. MUDs can be creative projects for both their developers and their players. And the best thing about all this? It’s practically free. We actually don’t need a lot of resources to do what we do besides the obvious costs. What I mean is that text does allow us a sort of simplicity over graphical games in that we can put so much more effort into making something immersive and atmospheric without spending money or time on animation. We are allowed to jump right into what makes a game and a world tick. I’ll be fair here: we do lose a few nice things about graphics, but on the flip side we really gain something special. Look at any of the hundreds of MUDs around right now and each one will have features that World of Warcraft couldn’t even dream about. That right there is something special, and that’s what we are working with.
I know we will never be mainstream, nor will we ever have thousands of players, hell probably not even hundreds, but I’m fine with that. I’m happy even if we don’t get anyone at all, because it has been a wonderful experience to be able to work with such talented and creative people and that in itself is what I wish for the MUD community. I do however hope we can muster a small, even tiny community from all this. In fact, this is where the small size of the MUD community is both a curse and a blessing, because unlike mainstream gaming we know that small communities are wonderful and intimate. We only need a few good people to create an amazing community, and I’m here as a Epitaph developer to put in my piece and do my best to make MUDs what they should have always been.
 That’s probably a lie. Don’t hold me to it.
 The first 3 are my favourites. Escape from Monkey Island wasn’t my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean You may not like it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monkey_Island_(series)
 Does this mean I am anti-graphic games? Absolutely not, but I am the sort of person that can really get into a very low graphical game and enjoy it based on how the engine runs, the gameplay involved, and little cool effects and this excites me more than photo-realistic graphics. Dragon Age, and to a lesser extent Skyrim, for example are games that I find extremely tedious – sure, the games look fantastic, but they also feel like plastic and I feel I am not really part of any of it.
 I get excited a lot.