Free for All: Looking for the near-perfect MUD-like browser MMO

Browser screenshot
I need your help. If you are a reader, then I need you to open your memory boxes and take a look around at the bottom. Shuffle around where all the remnants of favorite past MMOs settle and see if you can find me something. If you are a developer who is reading this, then you might indeed have some special insight into my issue.

I need a game. A special game. It must fit a certain mold that is very particularly fitted to my very specific needs and wants. It's a tall order, to say the least.

Now, I understand how to use Google. At least once a week I am asked something along the lines of "Where do you find these weird games you cover?" I am always tempted to link the questioner to Google and walk away, but generally I tell him it is a combination of different efforts: some searching, some tipping from readers, and more than a smidge of good luck. Also understand that I have a lot of good titles keeping me busy, but I tend to become sort of obsessed with little projects along the way. So what do I need this week?

I need a semi-graphical, browser-based MUD-like MMO that features great customization for characters, text, and interface, that's what.

Die2Nite banner
I have a few examples of games that I think come damn close to the mark but that would be even better with a few of my very particular adjustments. If only the developers of these games would invite me to design their game for a month or two, I could come up with a game that fits my perfect and unusual needs.

Die2Nite has got to be one of the best examples I can think of currently. It is a game that simply asks players to survive a daily attack from batches of zombies. Players do this by wandering out in the surrounding desert during the day, hoping to avoid being caught by hungry undead. They scavenge and bring back the spoils to the make-shift towns that are peopled by at least 40 other players. Together, they work at fortifying defenses, surviving disease, and trying to avoid killing each other in the process. For such a simple game, Die2Nite can chill you. It is a great example of simple design that is also original. While there is a great bit of depth to the game, it is easy enough to pick up and go. Simple to learn but hard to master, as they say.

The most complicated image in the browser window during a game of Die2Nite is the radar map that players use to navigate outside in the desert. Everything else is done through text or simple links. If I find a cool weapon in the desert, I can bring it back and drop it into the communal bank simply by clicking on the text of the item. Floating tool-tips explain what everything is, and the sense of humor in the game is kept just under the annoying mark. The game continues to thrill me. I can access it from my phone, my netbook, and my gaming PC. It's a scary little thing to carry in my pocket.

Domain of Heroes banner
Domain of Heroes is one of those games that I really want to play more of, but the ugly colors and usual white text on a black background that so many MUD developers are fond of just bores into my eyeballs. I did chat with the developer, who said that although his team already has some ways to tweak the UI by using CSS and techy stuff, he is working on a more customizable interface for players like yours truly and for players who might be colorblind. If it only worked on my stupid old man eyes, I would probably be checking in every day.

I enjoy the in-depth character customization the game offers. I also enjoy the quests that send you around the lands but do not make you wait for long travel times or hopelessly confuse you with convoluted maps. This game wants to tell you a story and wants your character to grow slowly. Combat is basically a game of click to attack, cross your fingers, and occasionally interfere by casting a spell or special attack. None of it is animated. In my imagination, the fights are grand.

Magic Duel banner
Next up I would like to mention MagicDuel. Back when I looked at it for Rise and Shiny, I sort of slammed it. I feel bad for this, but later I went back and noticed how many players read my piece and how some changes were made to the game. I plan on returning to it in the hopes that some time away from the game has cleared a bit of the fog that surrounded me the first time I sampled it. Sometimes you can leave a confusing title and later have an easier time with it because you have already covered the basics. Perhaps this time I will be able to understand what everything means.

I mention MagicDuel because I love how I navigated the game using basic hand-drawn scenes. I love the penciled look of each scene, but unfortunately, I was confused by many of them. MagicDuel, at its best, made me feel like I was adventuring through a book with a group of friends. At its worst, it felt like a half-hearted attempt at creating something different.

So I am looking for the simple and clever design of Die2Nite. I also want the thrill that Die2Nite provides me. I want the character growth of Domain of Heroes, along with its long story-like quests that introduce me to new characters every time. The combat in Domain of Heroes is also a lot of fun, despite being nothing but a few animated lines. I also need the visuals of MagicDuel. I love the storybook feeling of that game and would love to have access to a MUD that felt more like a good Big Fish story game like Drawn: The Painted Tower.

I want to be sucked into the story. I want to grow a character. I want to be thrilled. I want it all to be customizable enough that I do not get a migraine while playing.

Tall order, huh? I told you. Don't be surprised if anything you suggest I have already investigated. I tend to look for games a lot, so there's not much left that will surprise me. In lieu of introducing me to an existing game, how about you just make me the perfect game I want?


Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to!
This article was originally published on Massively.