This week I dove into yet another MUD in the hopes of finding even better gameplay than I found in titles like Gemstone IV and Threshold RPG. It's a bit of a daring attempt for me, especially considering that I often suffer from migraines when I have to concentrate on text on my monitor so much. Funny enough, when I get a MUD client set up just how I want, I have no issues and can play for a few hours at a time. MUDs are relaxing much of the time and don't feel as rushed as standard MMOs do. That relaxation must help with the migraines!
At first, I was bit hesitant in saying Aardwulf MUD is akin to the titles I have covered in the past. Something about the site, and the fact that the game did not force roleplay, turned me off, and I was determined to find it lacking.
Luckily, I was proven wrong and even suckered fellow Massivelyite (Massivelyian?) Jeremy Stratton into the game; he's contributed a few of his thoughts today too.
The key to my success with MUDs has been access to good clients. There are many, many choices out there, but MUSHclient and the Stormfront client that comes recommended for Gemstone IV really make a difference. Sure, I got funny responses when I told people I wanted black text on a white background, but eventually I found out how to adjust the clients to my lacking. Aardwolf MUD gives you a link to download what I believe is just an adaption of the MUSHclient, but I had to spend most of my time tweaking and twisting it to feel right.
One of the most important things to do, in case you decide to try out MUDing, is get the client and set up figured out. If you have normal, human eyes and are fine with the default setup, great, but I haven't talked to a single player who does not adjust the client in some way or another. Don't worry about playing the game until you set the client up. As I said, even with a full week I am still adjusting things. But as I have grown to learn, everything in a MUD takes time. That's part of the appeal for me.
Also, make sure to remember that the help channels in many of these MUDs are not really that helpful. Yes, you will find some of the most attentive and caring individual players in these ancient titles, but "helpers" in Aardwolf MUD often just tell you to look up the answer to your question in a help file. Help files are mountains of text that might provide an answer but a lot of the time just lead to more confusion. I was surprised at how little the helpers in game seemed to want to help me, especially when I compared it to other MUDs. At the same time, I understand that a player who has been playing a game for so long and has worked her way into the ranks of the helpers might grow very tired of the same 12 questions that can be found in a tutorial. Again, I'm not saying the community as a whole is non-helpful; I'm just saying that in Aardwolf MUD, you will be reading more help files than anything at first.
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I was also greeted with a thorough and fun but bloated newbie tutorial that took me through almost every aspect of the basic game. It was nice to have a tutorial that didn't just push me out into the game in 10 minutes. I actually worked my way through the newbie quests all week long, spacing the steps in between exploration, reading on the website and exploring different client options, including one for my iPad.
While I really dislike the fact that the non-roleplay aspect encourages and gives the thumbs up to a title like "the retard," the quests are all written well, and grammar is respected. None of the newbie tutorials is too long or boring, and many of them sent me on fun, quick quests to show me the way. The only way the newbie experience could be better is if someone would take a week and make a set of videos to go along with the experience. Unfortunately, it appears as though the game is running on fumes; the developers have even cut off donations, according to the newbie chat. I was eager to plop down $15 or so just because I like the MUD.
Combat is pretty standard, at least in the low levels. You attack, and everything goes by quickly. I'm sure that in higher levels and in groups and raids, the combat becomes much more in-depth, but it will be a while before I see anything above my teens. The great thing about MUDs, from what I have experienced so far, is that they don't make you worry about combat if you don't want to. I can make an explorer, a crafter, a player killer... whatever I feel like making. I can customize my titles and how people "see" me in text, and I can even customize my weapons. Gemstone IV still holds the crown when it comes to true character customization, but Aardwolf MUD gives you several free tools to work with. You can even own a house and customize the environment, although I have barely a clue as to how those work.
So what did Jeremy think about it? About the same as I did:
"After playing a handful of MUDS, I've come to see AardwolfMUD as a great game for first-time MUDers. By using the MUSHclient, I get a user interface with robust customization features, including a visual map, changing fonts to suit my eyes and more. Aardwolf MUD has modern-day sensibilities it seems to have inherited from current, popular MMOs but can just as easily give veterans that classic MUD feel. It's a MUD for the uninitiated, with well-structured help files that are easy to understand. It provides this newbie-friendly package while still being a large, engaging world with numerous levels to obtain and many features to sidetrack you as you level."
Granted, Aardwolf MUD was created in 1996, but I know exactly what Jeremy means about this happy union of classic and modern. And in Aardwolf MUD, I found what appears to be a pretty typical MUD exeperience in a lot of ways. All of them take time, a lot of time, and can be very rewarding if you find your groove. If not, or if you cannot fathom "reading" a game, then skip it. There is something great, however, in slowing down, creating a character, exploring, and imagining the "graphics" in your head. So while I would like to tell you more about the game, several hours of gameplay just will not give me the details I need. It would take months just to get my game to play the way I want it, and then I can start down the path to greatness.
A player asked me in chat whether I will continue to play. Funny enough, he didn't know what "MMO" stood for, if that gives you a clue to the age or dedication level of many of the game's players. Will I continue? I think it's possible, and the free nature of the game makes it tempting. But the forced roleplay of Threshold RPG makes that one more attractive. Still, Aardwolf MUD has a way of making you feel a bit more like you're playing a standard MMO than reading a book, so that's a good thing. Heck, I have room for both in my life, as long as I don't expect to level any time soon.
Next week, I will jumping back into Uncharted Waters Online. It's been a long time, and a new expansion was released since my last peek at the game, so come watch my reentry on our Twitch.tv channel on Monday, the 9th of July, at 5:00 p.m. EDT!
Each week, Rise and Shiny asks you to download and try a different free-to-play, indie or unusual game, chosen by me, Beau Hindman. I welcome any suggestions for games -- drop me a note in the comments or email! You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook!