Sunday, August 17, 2014

It's More Than a Game

Lately I've been doing a bit of thinking about my future including goals and what I'd like to achieve. One of these aims is to get a masters degree and then get into teaching at a higher level. While considering this possibility I had a long around online for some research papers on various topics including MUD's. Reading these papers I came across a research project titled "Ethnography of Online Role-Playing Games: The Role of Virtual and Real Contest in the Construction of the Field" written by Simona Isabella. It took me about five attempts at reading it before I could my head around it all. What I did find really interesting about this particular paper was that it made comparisons between the players of Realms of Despair and an Italian MUD called Extremelot. Here I am going to post my thoughts on Simona's conclusions - what I disagree with, agree with and parts I am still not sure about.

1 - Realms of Despair is a game.
I agree with this though there is more to it than just that. Getting the most experience, gold, equipment, glory, etc is a part of the game. This part of the game can be done to a large degree without much interaction with other players but it is required to interact with other players to get the best equipment either through working together as a team or finding someone to trade with. Adding this interaction and the relationships and friction between players adds another dimension that I believe makes more than a game.

2 - You can interact with people you wouldn't otherwise have anything in common with.
This is definitely true. One of my favourite quotes from the paper is:
"Lots of these people have good relationships through the text and we don't care if you are 150 tons … who cares!!!" (CA/13, F, 28).
This is completely true. A lot of the time I have no idea what other players look like, how old they are, education levels, wealth, race, religion or nationality. This is a good thing about the game and can occasionally result in some odd conversations with points of view I wouldn't otherwise see.

3. - A sense of belonging can occur.
This is a big point in the thesis. The idea is that people can feel as though they are connected to a community where they fit in and belong with others like themselves. Players can develop this feeling and I personally believe this is a big reason why a lot people keep playing this game. I think that this is the challenge to retaining players after they have levelled a couple of characters up to level 50. It also shows to me the importance of players being prepared to make new connections with other players as time goes on and some players leave.

4. MUDs are considered outdated games.
I don't fully agree with this statement. Especially when the writer says:
a very obsolete kind of game if we compare them with the modern graphic games (such as the famous War of the War Craft).
I think that a lot of the ideas behind the more modern games have been borrowed from MUDs. If you look at the money raised from some of these games (including the taxes raised and employment made) they certainly benefit the community. Without MUDs and research on them where would these games be? I certainly don't think they are obsolete.

5. Players are attached more some of their characters than others
I currently have 23 avatar characters and am working on a few more. I am only really attached to 3 of them. I doubt that many of the people who know me in the game can name any more of my alternate characters. I think most players feel a similar way about their characters.

6. Every player lives in Eastern Canada and is not welcoming of new comers
This is so not true. I accept that there are some cliques within the game and it is hard to break into them - but what do you expect from a game where some people have been friends for many years? I have met a handful of players and live about as far away from Eastern Canada as you can get. I know of several players from other parts of the world too - England, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa...

7. Mudders are geeky deviants
I laughed when I read this one. Very debatable. I was going to say this was definitely not true then I remembered I have a degree in mathematics... Maybe there is some truth in this.

The final conclusion of this thesis is:

Moreover, virtual communities like these created around MUDs can be considered as communities of practices: the participation is voluntary and the process of socialisation is more oriented to sharing experiences than to reaching common purposes. Members of these communities have in common the desire to take certain routes together, interpreting events as they come and create meaningful environments. They behave freely but always respecting some rules. The satisfaction that participants get from this union becomes a founding value of the community in itself.
It's an interesting thought and achievement to consider what has been done in the Realms of Despair over the last 20 years. The author has a PhD in part from her work in this. I like that the Realms of Despair is getting it's place in history and officially published in academic research. It also makes me think that perhaps Thoric deserves an honorary doctorate for his work and commitment over the years.

The Deck of Many Things (round 7)

After every reboot I have a look around for the Deck of Many Things. I hadn't seen it for a few weeks apart from two weeks ago when it was in The Village of Edo but I was beaten to it by a member of Dragonslayers. Today it was lying in a room in Cursed Lands. Here's what happened next:
Small Hut
These are the living quarters of these villagers.  Very simple looking, it is circular in shape with pots and pans along one side, an outhouse along another and miscellaneous items scattered about.  These people live a very simple life with no luxury.  You wonder how they entertain themselves.
The Deck of Many Things lies in wait for a brave soul.
The Deck of Many Things says 'If you can find a card within me, you might be lucky enough to draw something of value.
However, once you submit to chance, you put yourself at the mercy of the cards.
The Deck of Many Things winks suggestively.

>g key deck
You get the Key to the Deck of Many Things from the Deck of Many Things.
The Key to the Deck shudders menacingly.
You drop the Key to the Deck of Many Things.
Vl'aresch gives you one gold coin for your sacrifice of the Key to the Deck of Many Things.
Be Forewarned : You could lose all that you own.
Sashell has been given the chance to draw from the Deck of Many Things.

>g card deck
You get a card from the Deck of Many Things.
A mystical being appears and points at you. Your senses reel as you are flung through the void to another place.
The card twists and wriggles in your hands.
A great flash of light envelopes the room, blinding you momentarily.
When your vision returns, you see that the Deck of Many Things lies before you once more.
It is highly recommended that you examine the deck before drawing from it. When you are ready, simply take the card.

>g card deck
You get a card from The Deck of Many Things.
You see that you have drawn the High Priestess.
The priestess smiles enigmatically and steeples her fingers.
The cold winds of never rush through the void, whipping the card from your hand.

Your mind is racing...
Your head is spinning...
Your heart is pounding...
Exits: northeast northwest southeast southwest
(Red Aura) It is your turn to die at the claws of a mad raven!
A mad raven shimmers beneath an aura of dark energy.
(Red Aura) It is your turn to die at the claws of a mad raven!
A mad raven shimmers beneath an aura of dark energy.
The result was being transported deep into the Knights of the Round area. While I was there I thought I might as well kill a raven or two:
A mad raven's deathrattle fills the air as you drain its life...
Your suspiric grasp hits A mad raven!
A mad raven is DEAD!!
You search for a feather for Starre, but can't find a good one.
Maybe the next raven...
A mad raven's brains spill grotesquely from its head.
You get 107 gold coins from the corpse of A mad raven.
The interesting part here is the message about the feather for Starre. I've never completed her quest and I'm not sure if anyone in the game actually has. She requires four items - a feather from a mad raven, a chipmunk tooth, a Camelot coconut and a mountain clover. Last I heard no one could locate the mountain clover... I may have to look deeper into this one since the news item that brought in this quest mentions:
- Starre Mistril has likewise been doing some new research, which could
possibly lead to something quite lucrative...  (Also, she will have a special
reward for the first two players to complete her quest.)
I've been working on a few other tasks within and outside the game. More on them next time.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

14 Tips to being an Expert Explorer

Knowing the secrets of the game by solving all of the puzzles, finding the hidden rooms and items is a big part of the Realms of Despair game. Some knowledge is guarded and only told to trusted players so as to give their group an edge. With the following news item came this gold nugget of information:
As a side note, we will be trying to put in a number of new and previously
enjoyed Smaug areas (updated to modern standards) over the coming months.
Stay Tuned!
In this post I've written about some of the tips and tricks to exploring I've seen through out various areas of the Realms of Despair. While some puzzles are well known others I've been asking a few players about that they have not seen around. As a result I'm posting my tips and tricks in order of most commonly known to more hidden tricks.
Tip 1 - Have detect invis, hidden and traps
One of the most basic bits of advice is have these spells or the equivalent on when exploring. Gith characters start with detect invis imbued in them so make a good race for exploring lower level areas. Most people know this but it is always worth checking they haven't worn off or you never know what you will miss.
Tip 2 - Look/examine everything
Another obvious bit of advice but check everything when exploring. I think the first place I ever saw a use for this was when as a newer player I first explored Tullfuhrzky Manor and came across the following:
A Luxurious Living Room
You find yourself in a comfortable living room.  Beautiful artwork adorns
the walls, and you take a second to look at it all.  A crackling fire burns
in the fireplace.  A large, sturdy oak chair and a nice couch makes this
place feel like home.  Turning around, you see the curtains which prevented
you from looking through the windows.  There are also a few potted plants
sitting next to the windows, soaking up sunlight.  A beautiful grandfather
clock sits against the west wall.  A staircase leads up from here.
Exits: north east south up

>exam clock
You place your hands on the clock, moves!  There's a secret passage
behind here!

>op secret
You open the passage.
I felt like a real player when I found that around level 10 on my first character. What was even better is the secret passage led to some nice equipment that I could use to maximise my constitution stat for the first time. Just be careful to type in the full word for the item you are looking it. Also don't forget that you can look under some items as well.

Tip 3 - Bump
Bumping is the trick to finding hidden rooms by just entering directions that are not mentioned as exits and seeing if you bump into a new room or get a message about some door blocking your way. This works well with the scry spell. I have a scryall alias set up so that I can quickly scry in all of the main directions when I walk into a new room. An example of it's uses are here in the Tower of Despair.
The Library
The denizen that resides here has a great love of books and scrolls.  The
shelves overflow with tomes, maps, scrolls and treatises.  The width and
breadth of subjects is astounding.  The shelves throw long shadows across
the candlelit chamber.  A slight breeze cools your skin.
Exits: west
(Red Aura) A shadow from the bookcase metamorphs into a human form.

>l north
The bookshelf is closed.
The above shows that there is a secret exit hidden to the north behind a bookshelf.

Tip 4 - Search and dig everywhere
Sometimes there are pretty obvious clues to dig or search in a particular room. Often there will be a message about disturbed soil or something similar. Other times there will be no clues at all but something useful hidden away such as:
A Wind Torn Beach
Twisted, stunted trees line the beach, their tortured roots extending into
the waves as if seeking relief in the cool waters of the sea. Fluttering in
the gusts of wind that blow in from the ocean, grey spanish moss dangles from
the branches, enveloping the almost barren limbs in a funeral shroud.
Exits: west down northeast

You begin your search...

Your search reveals a coral monkey!
Also with that make sure you have a shovel item in your inventory to help with digging. I should also mention about searching containers. If you ever examine a chest and find it is empty but the description of it does not match up then there is something hidden inside it such as the following chest in Bartok Grove.
>exam chest
You take a closer look at a leather bound chest on the ground...
You see nothing special.
A leather bound chest appears to be nearly full.
A leather bound chest contains:

>search chest
You begin your search...

Your search reveals a pair of rose tinted eyeglasses!
Tip 5 - Break things
One of the newer commands and tricks is the break command. Try it out on anything you can your hands on because you never know when it will work such as the following in Winterlight Island.
A Snowy Pathway
The road is thickly packed with snow, drifts on either side encroaching each footstep, making the pathway little more than a railing-width of clearing for travelers to step upon. A nearly buried hovel has been left untended to the northwest, a possible shelter...but apparently not a popular one, as the rickety doorway is piled high with unswept snow. Thick icicles droop from the rooftop, melding into the drifts to create a cagelike sculpture of ice.
Exits: south northeast [northwest]

>exam icicle
The icicles are insanely long. You might be able to break one off, if you wanted to.

>break icicle
You easily snap off a long, deadly icicle.

You are carrying 8 items and have room for 12 more:
     the sigil of Vl'aresch
     a brown leather satchel
     a fate banshee's pouch
     a small birch chest (2)
     (Glowing) a rune-covered bag
     a small pick axe
     a long, deadly icicle

>c id icicle
Object 'a long, deadly icicle' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 50 thrusting weapon, weight 1.
Locations it can be worn:  wield
Special properties:  two-handed
Classes allowed:  Warrior Paladin
This weapon has a gold value of 0.
Damage is 6 to 54 (average 30).
Causes elemental damage: 'icy' 50%.
Affects damage roll by 6.
Affects resistant:cold by 5%.
Affects dexterity by -1.

>You take a closer look at a long, deadly icicle in inventory...
This monstrous icicle is nearly your own height, almost too large to consider using as a weapon... but with two hands, it might be possible to jab the pointy end into someone.
This seems to be a thrusting weapon.
It appears to be within or below your level range.
As you look more closely, you notice that it is in superb condition. 
Tip 6 - Eat things
There are a few cases in the game where you can eat an item to create another. One place where this works is in the area of Nevermore.
Jeanne's deathrattle fills the air as you drain her life...
Your suspiric grasp thrashes Jeanne!
Jeanne is DEAD!!
Jeanne hits the ground ... DEAD.
You get 215600 gold coins from the corpse of Jeanne.
The corpse of Jeanne holds:
     a floral printed apron
     a tray of freshly made buns
     a copper pot

>g buns corpse
You get a tray of freshly made buns from the corpse of Jeanne.

>exam buns
You take a closer look at a tray of freshly made buns in inventory...
The perfectly browned buns have been enhanced with a light apricot glaze.
As you examine it carefully you notice that it is fresh.

>c id buns
Object 'a tray of freshly made buns' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 37 food, weight 1.
Special properties:  none
This food has a gold value of 0.

You are carrying 10 items and have room for 10 more:
     a burlap sack
     the sigil of Vl'aresch
     a brown leather satchel
     a fate banshee's pouch
     a small birch chest (2)
     (Glowing) a rune-covered bag (2)
     a small pick axe
     a tray of freshly made buns

>eat buns
As you eagerly gobble up the warm buns, several crumbs lie unnoticed at the corners of your mouth.

You are carrying 10 items and have room for 10 more:
     a burlap sack
     the sigil of Vl'aresch
     a brown leather satchel
     a fate banshee's pouch
     a small birch chest (2)
     (Glowing) a rune-covered bag (2)
     a small pick axe
     a small tray

>exam tray
You take a closer look at a small tray in inventory...
The granular items lurking in the corners of the tray are crumbs.
As you look more closely, you notice that it is in superb condition.
It appears to be within or below your level range.

>c id tray
Object 'a small tray' is infused with your magic...
It is a level 2 armor, weight 1.
Locations it can be worn:  shield
Special properties:  none
This armor has a gold value of 0.
Armor class is 6 of 6.
Affects damage roll by 1.
Tip 7 - Sit, stand, sleep...
There are places in the game that are only accessible by first standing on items or sitting in a particular room. For example in the Barren Wastes there is a part of the area only accessible by first standing on a stone.
Behind a Small Shack
The back of the shack, much like the front and side, is void of any kind of entrance or exit.  The support struts seen at the side and front are constructed here as well, though a few large blocks seem to have fallen from the temple and landed on the ground near the shack.  The temple above provides a cool, dry atmosphere for this area, protecting it from the elements.
Exits: northwest
A large block of stone lies here near the shack, roughly square in shape.

>stand stone
You carefully climb atop the large block of stone.

>climb roof
You climb atop the roof with the help of the added height from the large stone block.
Tip 8 - Don't believe everything on Rodpedia
I use rodpedia a lot. It is the best publicly accessible site full of information about the game out there at the moment. It is made by contributions from the public which does mean that there are a few bits of information missing and just because there is a map of an area with a green completed status on it does not mean the map is complete. For example there is a room in the Desert of Despair that can be only accessed by sitting. I've marked it on the map below:

Inside a large tent
Wooden slats lain across sturdy woven baskets operate as tables in what appears to be a makeshift bar. On one side of the tent, a large burly woman stands serving liquids to the few folks that have made time to come in here. Each liquid is scooped from woven casks with a ladle and poured into small ceramic bowls. The patrons don't seem very rowdy. No doubt they have been working hard.
Exits: north
A thin woven cask sits against the wall.
The heavy, lonely barkeep stands behind her casks.

You sit down.
Pulling a small cask to a table, you make yourself at home.
A makeshift table
The large casks tied together form what some would call a table. Others would call them... well... large casks tied together.  The casks were long ago emptied and have since had knives, axes and swords driven into the wood.
Exits: none
Tip 9 - Talk to and bribe mobs
Some area have mobs that will interact with you when you mention the correct words or even better give them some gold coins as a bribe. It is often worth just saying every word you can think of to do with the area and see if they respond to any of them. On top of that it can be worth just giving them some gold coins to see if that will make them talk. For example again in the Desert of Despair:
>give woman 50000 coins
You give 5,000 coins to A rich woman.
A rich woman says 'You can throw away the pink stone from that wretched cook.'
Tip 10 - wait
In some areas you need to wait around for something to happen. At the right time of day a certain mob may pop up on a sneaky mission or a travelling merchant may pass on by.

Tip 11 - Use the where command
Whenever I go to a new area one thing I do is use the where command with an argument after it to try and find names of mobs that may be hidden in it. I always use the obvious words like dragon, guard, soldier, ogre, vampire, thief... I also use the names of anything I can think of that may be related to the area which can even show up the odd mob you're not supposed to see. Such as in Transylvania:
>Entrance Gate to Transylvania
You approach a large, rotting gate that stands about 15 feet in height. It seems that what was once a beautiful monument to a beautiful city, has decayed to the point of collapse.  Adjusting your eyes to the dim light, you can barely read the words, "Welcome to Transylvania".
You notice a bright golden plaque suspended in mid-air, and can't help but want to look at it.
Exits: north south

>where lestat
| Lestat is currently at Mao's Coffin
Using this to find mobs in the area gives you an idea of things you can try to track or portal to.

Tip 12 - Try killing with different classes, races, aligns or items
This one can be a nuisance. Some mobs in the game only pop items if killed by particular races, classes, aligns or if the person getting the killing blow is carrying a particular item. For example to make the Dragon's Bane sword in The Village of Edo you need to pop the hides from various dragons. These hides will not pop at all unless the person getting the killing blow is carrying a directive from the grandmaster in Edo. Without a directive the killing blow on Shimmergloom is:
Shimmergloom is DEAD!!
The huge black dragon's neck buckles, and its huge head crashes against the pile of treasure upon which it once slept.
Shimmergloom gasps its last breath and blood spurts out of its mouth and ears.
You get 1081600 gold coins from the corpse of Shimmergloom.
You split 1081600 gold coins.  Your share is 540800 gold coins.
The corpse of Shimmergloom holds:
     a shadowy pair of dragonscale leggings
     a shadowy pair of dragonscale arm guards
     a shadowy pair of dragonscale gloves
However with a directive there is no guarantees but you will get an extra line of text:
Shimmergloom is DEAD!!
The huge black dragon's neck buckles, and its huge head crashes against the pile of treasure upon which it once slept.
A piece of Shimmergloom's hide breaks off and shatters into thousands of pieces.
Shimmergloom screams furiously as it falls to the ground in a heap!
You get 1081600 gold coins from the corpse of Shimmergloom.
The corpse of Shimmergloom holds:
     a shadowy pair of dragonscale leggings
     a shadowy pair of dragonscale arm guards
     a shadowy pair of dragonscale gloves
While the successful pop is:
Shimmergloom is DEAD!!
The huge black dragon's neck buckles, and its huge head crashes against the pile of treasure upon which it once slept.
With a horrible tearing sound, a piece of the dragon's hide falls to the ground.
Shimmergloom catches its guts in its hands as they pour through its fatal wound!
You get 1081600 gold coins from the corpse of Shimmergloom.
The corpse of Shimmergloom holds:
     a shadowy pair of dragonscale leggings
     a shadowy pair of dragonscale arm guards
     a shadowy pair of dragonscale gloves

Tip 13 - Use socials
In some situations the trick is to use a certain social in the right room. For example in Daichaal there is a puzzle where you need to use the hshake social. There are clues to it:
Unadorned Offerings
A delicately chiselled alcove fills most of the room, edges limned by white
flames that flicker and dance. At the centre, a worn brass altar sits without
adornment. The walls are covered by velvet drapes of deep green and the floor
is of highly polished marble. No dust appears to have gathered, as if this
chamber is somehow immune to the passing ravages of time.
Exits: southwest

>exam altar
At first seeming entirely plain, the altar reveals more than expected upon
close examination. Etched into the worn surface of the top is a very faint
circle of ancient lettering...

                   Those who extend their hand in peace
                        Shall receive one in return

You look for someone to shake hands with.
The very air itself seems to thicken with anticipation.
A slender jade hand, palm outstreched, materialises in the air above the altar.
Some people I know even have aliases set up to use every single social on every mob when they go exploring.

Tip 14 - Don't be scared to ask for help
If you get stumped on an area a fresh pair of eyes can uncover things another may have missed. Ask a friend to have a look around for you. If you have no friends join a guild/order/clan and see if they can help you out. Do a google search for what you are looking for as there may be info on another site somewhere about it. Lastly use a public channel to ask for help - what's the worst that can happen besides silence?

I'm sure everyone who plays this game will have their own advice and tips to add to this list (I'm sure I'll think of things I've left off here over the week). Again if you have any questions about anything feel free to send me a tell.