UX: It's time for The Talk


  • Creator

    Listen, I know that I'm not some ridiculously experienced coder, but this is a talk that needs to happen. I decided to make this post after I responded to a comment Thenomain made.

    For years, since I even got into this hobby, I've noticed just really monstrously shitty design practices. One of the most grave shitty design practices is just what I can only describe as a complete disregard for UX design.

    Coders, time and time again, seem to code things that are simple to coders. Rather than simplifying the code or looking at a more efficient way to do things, they write like 4 help files on how to use one feature. I don't care what anyone says, 4 help files is a manual.

    Players should be focusing on ways to apply a tool, not spending forever figuring out how to use it. It should be in some way intuitive how a piece of code works after a few short lines of explanation. Anything further than that should be advanced functionality that builds on top of the basic functionality, and this itself should also be intuitive, not confusing syntax that takes forever to remember.

    I'm sure plenty of people are gonna go "But that's impossible!", especially considering how many times I've talked about how complicated a piece of code was, and a coder was like "That seems fine to me". Well, no shit, you're who coded it.

    To anyone thinking like that, I say play literally any MUD. Even the most shitty MUD has common sense UX. You can typically get basic functionality with very minimal file reading, and more advanced functionality over time, as you need it, and then it just becomes intuitive.

    Where initiating combat in the average MUSH with a combat system requires knowing like a million goddamned pieces of syntax, in a MUD it's like "attack <thing>", then something like "kick <thing>". And more advanced things build on top of this common sense syntax and functionality. Some go so far as to even have an intuitive text interface that makes it even simpler, where the average MUSH requires you to know even more syntax to do something like check your health or whatever.

    The point is, the more stuff you're gonna pile into a game, the lower the difficulty of actually using and figuring out how to use it needs to be. Think about how someone who has never been in a MU before would interact with your code. My first MU was Dragon Ball Evolution (they named it that before the shitty movie came out), a MUD. Everything made sense after a very short while.

    I didn't get into MUSHes until possibly nearly a year later, because the barrier to entry just seemed massively higher. Huge, intimidating apps, the idea that some stranger was going to tell me that I sucked and can't be in their game (this is not the case, obviously, but outside of MUing the RP communities are far more brutal). Syntax just seemed like this crazy confusing mess to figure out, where in a MUD I never really thought about it. In a MUD I focused on what to do with the tool I was given, I didn't spend forever trying to figure out how to use it.

    I'm not shitting on MUSHes and saying "Fuck you guys I'm going back to MUDs", what I am saying is that we can do better, and there is precedent that we can do better. Are we going to let MUDs beat us?

    Do you realize that in MUDs they think that all people in MUSHes do is sit around is talk, and that we don't RP? They have the same stereotype about us that we have of them.

    Don't take that shit laying down! Let's show that we can do better.

    I'm ready for the flames.

    pixel flame


  • Politics

    @HelloProject said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    Where initiating combat in the average MUSH with a combat system requires knowing like a million goddamned pieces of syntax, in a MUD it's like "attack <thing>", then something like "kick <thing>". And more advanced things build on top of this common sense syntax and functionality. Some go so far as to even have an intuitive text interface that makes it even simpler, where the average MUSH requires you to know even more syntax to do something like check your health or whatever.

    In Faraday's system, you simply use a +combat command.

    I don't even know what you're getting on when it comes to a CoD game. Is it so tough to ask the other player for their Defense, and then typing +roll Strength+Brawl-Defense?



  • This is honestly a pretty interesting topic.

    I've played quite a few muds. I even played the one @HelloProject mentioned, years ago. (Headwiz Ozma?)

    I've almost never encountered anything on a MUD that is hard to figure out how it works.

    Meanwhile, so many 'basic' commands on a MUSH have like 3 pages of helpfiles describing it. Like...goddamn man, I just want to set a fucking +note on my character, or do an xp spend.

    As somebody who knows 0 about code, I assume MUSH code is archaic and sort of hack-jobbed, since it varies wildly from game to game, and outside of the copy/paste WoD games or FS3 games, etc, MUs flat out have 'custom code' that somebody just made in their free time.

    MUDs are generally based on some other codebase (ROM/DIKU/whatever), and the flavor/theme around the code is just changed. Sometimes massively changed and almost unrecognizable, but they still had the same foundation.

    Not to insult anybody or anything, but I'm going to go out on a limb and just say MUD coders are probably better coders, or at least have way more time to code. Like that just seems to be a very obvious conclusion, as somebody who knows nothing about the inner-workings, but has expansive experience with both systems. I can only imagine a MUSH has maybe 1/50th the code a MUD does, if not way less.

    Personally, I find culture variances between muds/MUSHes pretty curious. Little things like how a huge chunk of the MUSH population can't be fucking assed to read the bboard even once a week, where MUDs have forums/etc dedicated to the game and people are commenting about things on the game hourly, nevermind in-game noteboards that get checked p.much every time you log in.


  • Pitcrew

    @Ganymede I get what she's saying. I seldom ever get equipment on CoD MUs because staff rarely ever writes up the process to do so. I'm often frustrated on MUs in the disconnect between what you're expected to know to do and what's explained to you. MUs are not user friendly, not because telnet (although that to), but just because they don't tell you basic things and almost always assume some level of base knowledge, instead of assuming no base knowledge.


  • Politics

    @Lisse24 said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    I'm often frustrated on MUs in the disconnect between what you're expected to know to do and what's explained to you. MUs are not user friendly, not because telnet (although that to), but just because they don't tell you basic things and almost always assume some level of base knowledge, instead of assuming no base knowledge.

    So, this really has nothing to do with UX, or MUDs, or MUSHes? It has to do with the lack of communication by staff when it comes to their policies.

    I'm good with that.

    But that has nothing to do with UX, or MUDs, or MUSHes, right? It has to do with the slipshod way many games arise, or the poor way games explain how to go about making a PC.

    It's about communication, if I'm following you.

    If that's a case, then shouldn't the topic be: why the hell can't staff be assed to properly document shit before rolling it out?



  • @Tempest

    MUSH code is archaic

    Well, that, and in the olden days it was VERY difficult for anyone to share code, and so much code was 'reinvent the wheel' because of various reasons. In many areas, anyway.

    As far as the 'can't be arsed,' I think that's also a specific culture of a subset of MUs. I have never experienced this on the big MUs I was on prior, though I admit I am very inactive on many MU*s nowadays.

    As far as @HelloProject 's point, I feel like it's spot on. It's one of the things I'm endeavoring for HotBMUSH's code, in that the +help isn't byzantine or crazy (and also, is searchable), and gets the point across. Even if I plan to have some semi-necessary options for combat.


  • Creator

    @Ganymede

    I'm talking about problems that have persisted across at least a few hundred games. Just because every game doesn't have atrocious syntax, doesn't mean most of them don't. And for every thing certain games do get right, then then make some other aspect of the code needlessly complicated.

    And, incidentally, compared to other ways in which code could be simplified? Yeah, actually, that +roll is more than I genuinely believe is necessary. There are layers of abstraction that are being entirely avoided for no reason. Hell, even before I played MU's, I created macros on Byond Tabletop that had higher levels of abstraction than that. So, yes, it is too tough, because it's not as simple as it could possibly be. If something is more complicated than it needs to be, it's too complicated. The answer is always yes, if something can be simpler.

    @Tempest

    I think a lot of the cultural differences can be chalked up to the importance that staff places on those things. I've said this many times, but those minor details matter. If staff treats everything as secondary and doesn't work it into the overall design and culture of their game, then the players are also going to treat those things as secondary and unimportant. It takes more than just saying "read the board", players have to want to do those things, and it's up to the creator to craft a game in which players want to do all of those things.

    All of those MUDs you're talking about have staff who place an emphasis on all of those things, and crafted a game where reading that stuff enriches your experience rather than seems like a chore. This is not an impossible or difficult thing to do on a MUSH, creators just choose not to because so many refuse to see the importance in detail.


  • Pitcrew

    @Ganymede I'd argue that in a MU, providing directions on how to navigate the game and use its systems is part of UX.


  • Creator

    @Ganymede

    All of these things are a part of UX. UX means user experience.

    But also this does have plenty to do with MUDs and MUSHes and how people code things, because, again, things are frequently made needlessly complicated in MUSHes. The fact that so many things need mountains of documentation is a design failure. Even if you do properly document something, needing like 4 files for one feature is a failure. How many video games have you played that actually required you to read the manual to understand the controls beyond a basic tutorial? And in very good games, beyond a level designed to act as a tutorial.

    Being text is no excuse for the extra difficulty, because, again, I've played plenty of MUDs where the barrier to entry was no where near as crazy as so many MUSHes with complicated syntax, despite the fact that MUDs often have significantly more complex code.


  • Politics

    @HelloProject said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    All of these things are a part of UX. UX means user experience.

    I hope you understand the irony here.

    You have the luxury and privilege of having a diverse set of experiences, I think. And that's fine. I do not, and I know where I have spent most of my years. The implicit onus on WoD games has less to do with the code and more to do with the storyline you play in. I would wager that many games don't really give a crap what equipment you have; as long as the participants in a scene don't care, no one cares -- and it's not a problem. This is different on a MUD, where, in my experience, if you don't got it, you don't got it.

    For you, this is frustrating. I get that. For me, it isn't. And while there could be code improvements, when it comes to CoD games I'm far more interested in seeing whether it will try to create a political or economy system that would eventually create its own RP. Because I've seen it happen before, and I know it's possible.

    Show "them" we can do better? What's the point? This isn't a competition. And I'm not one to condescend as to the choices of a particular community. I may think that people who play superhero games are masturbatory wanks, but that doesn't mean I think that WoD gamers are any better or worse.

    What I've learned in a short few weeks is that there's a whole world of experience and gamers I've never played with, and I like them, and I'd rather adapt to their expectations than have them try to meet mine. And I think if more people embraced that attitude, we'd have fewer incidences of OOC drama.


  • Coder

    Most MUSHes and MUXes are WoD, that I've seen. And they're all cookie-cutter replicas of how the game before them did it, and the game before them. They use the same systems, the same code, the same OOC grid layout, the same CharGen...

    So of course hundreds of them persist the same problems!

    They are mostly catering to people who have outlaid sometimes hundreds of dollars in source books to get into the culture, and can talk the talk on the channels. It's a recycled crowd and recycled MUs.

    With that said, however, it seems like a decade ago MUs had rooms dedicated to learning how to MUSH. How to page, talk on channels, do the commands and so on. Some time, it became a +help file (but no help in the initial connect room on looking at +help), then it just sort of disappeared.

    This was one reason why I didn't like Evennia's lack of cohesive "How do I do" screens.



  • @Ganymede said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    will try to create a political or economy system that would eventually create its own RP. Because I've seen it happen before, and I know it's possible.

    The one easy, glaring exception to needing metaplot to prevent sandbox on a WoD MU is....make a vampire game and let the players get involved in politics. It just needs staff there as a mediator and also probably as the initial prince/whatever (unless you maybe did some storyline with them being wiped out and new people filling the praxis), and then it'd probably be pretty self-sustaining if there were systems for territory/feeding.

    The barrier is, I'm guessing, that you can't make that game and then be involved in the actual politicking shit yourself if you're staff, so nobody's done it.

    People have sort of half-ass tried this. Fear and Loathing has player politics, supposedly. Hard to have any interest in when they just let people randomly app in at 150 XP or whatever as 'guest stars'. And they're using some weird hodgepodge of 1e/2e. And they have other splats and dragging other splats into sphere-politics is just meh.


  • Politics

    @Tempest said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    The barrier is, I'm guessing, that you can't make that game and then be involved in the actual politicking shit yourself if you're staff, so nobody's done it.

    It's been done, and we both know it. There's a sacrifice to it, but that's part of it.

    There are still better models than that, though, that have not been explored.


  • Creator

    @Rook While there are certainly quite a few WoD MUSHes, there aren't anywhere near enough WoD MUSHes to say that most MUSHes are WoD. Out of the 200 something MUs I've played, I think only 4 of them have been WoD, five if you count Windy City as a glorified WoD MU.

    @Ganymede

    I'm a bit confused about your point, because my entire argument is "make shit simpler" and "things could be simpler". What is there to disagree with? I'm not saying don't add new features, don't innovate or try new things. I'm saying that if you're gonna do it, don't make it a complete mess that needs 5 help files to explain how to use something.

    I would assume that if you logged into a game that you want to play, and you thought it was way simpler than previous games you've played, while having the same basic functionality, you would think it was an improvement. I highly doubt you or anyone else would go "Well, shit, I miss when my syntax had needless complications".

    edit: @Tempest

    Fear and Loathing is so far the best WoD game I've played, because shit actually happens that isn't just one person's explosive drama and OOC bullshit leading like every single thing. And the game isn't sectioned off like it's multiple MUs, it actually feels like a community of people who want to play together. Like, seriously, if people want a Mage game or a Vampire game or whatever, just make one. If people are gonna make a multi-sphere game and section it off, requiring mountains of untrustworthy staff members, people should just freaking stop.



  • @Ganymede

    Let me fix what I meant to say. "It's not being done currently, and I assume because of that barrier."

    Yes, it has been done.

    It'd require a very mmm..."giving" staff, though? Case in point, Shav did not have PCs on RfK and did not allow other staffers to pursue titles/etc, as I recall?

    Even CoFaB pulled off the political thing pretty well, I thought. My only (glaring) issue with that game was that Chimera got way too involved in stuff as her PC and Staffbit both. Aside from that, the game got a lot right.


  • Politics

    @HelloProject said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    I'm a bit confused about your point, because my entire argument is "make shit simpler" and "things could be simpler". What is there to disagree with? I'm not saying don't add new features, don't innovate or try new things. I'm saying that if you're gonna do it, don't make it a complete mess that needs 5 help files to explain how to use something.

    You're presuming that people want it simpler. This is not always the case. People may want to simplify how things are done, but this doesn't necessarily mean keeping "things simple." As an example, people on Arx seem to want to add complexity to it.

    I would assume that if you logged into a game that you want to play, and you thought it was way simpler than previous games you've played, while having the same basic functionality, you would think it was an improvement. I highly doubt you or anyone else would go "Well, shit, I miss when my syntax had needless complications".

    Presuming that it's within the same system, sure. That'd be nice. But CoD isn't that clean when the powers have different rolls. It'd be very hard to boil it down to FS3's level of simplicity. And I can appreciate the difference, and not try to wedge a square block into my round hole.

    It hurts.


    @Tempest

    Shav made her staff give up a lot to get her system working. And it did, for a while. She just did not want to relinquish control, and elected not to. That doesn't mean that RfK's political system was flawed.

    CoFaB was also pretty nifty and workable.

    We could pull lessons from these places and work on the ideas. We haven't. That's what I'm more interested in than "how can I make +roll simpler?" or "how can I make +jobs more user friendly?".


  • Creator

    @Ganymede

    I'm aware of the mountain of complications that is WoD or any other tabletop. And I can honestly say that I have to this day not seen anyone offer anywhere near the most simple code solution that could be offered.

    Going back to MUDs, again, I have seen MUDs with magic, attack, and skill rules monstrously more complicated than WoD, but it was simple to deal with because the code had layers of abstraction and didn't just dump it all onto your lap to have to figure out.

    I can't see any particular reason why people would not want it to be simpler to do the things they're already doing. Unless you're talking from the perspective that I talk about rice cookers. I only hate rice cookers because I think they're lazy as shit when you can get a pot and learn to cook some freaking rice. But I don't really see where the pride is in not simplifying code syntax so that people can focus on doing things rather than how to do them.

    You get literally the same result, except faster. What is the problem with this? There's no barrier, people simply choose not to code a game this way and people have been conditioned to believe that things can't be better.

    And to the potential question of "who are you to say what is better", I'd say that anything that harms no one, makes doing something simpler, and gives you all of the options you had before without the mess, and most likely faster than before, is objectively better.

    @Ganymede said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    We could pull lessons from these places and work on the ideas. We haven't. That's what I'm more interested in than "how can I make +roll simpler?" or "how can I make +jobs more user friendly?".

    Alright but I'm interested in lowering the barrier to entry into this hobby, and getting rid of all the nonsense people think is perfectly acceptable, which is why I made this topic and other topics. If you're not interested then what do you solve by expressing your disinterest? Why does one area of improvement infringe on another area of improvement? If you're interested in something else, make a thread for it and promote that. More than one thing can be improved simultaneously.


  • Pitcrew

    @Ganymede said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    @HelloProject said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    I'm a bit confused about your point, because my entire argument is "make shit simpler" and "things could be simpler". What is there to disagree with? I'm not saying don't add new features, don't innovate or try new things. I'm saying that if you're gonna do it, don't make it a complete mess that needs 5 help files to explain how to use something.

    You're presuming that people want it simpler. This is not always the case. People may want to simplify how things are done, but this doesn't necessarily mean keeping "things simple." As an example, people on Arx seem to want to add complexity to it.

    People might want complexity in the system, but that doesn't actually mean people don't want the commands to interact with the system to be as simple and intuitive as possible. The difficulty of figuring out Arx's command syntax is a regular difficulty throughout the playerbase there.


  • Creator

    @Roz said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    @Ganymede said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    @HelloProject said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    I'm a bit confused about your point, because my entire argument is "make shit simpler" and "things could be simpler". What is there to disagree with? I'm not saying don't add new features, don't innovate or try new things. I'm saying that if you're gonna do it, don't make it a complete mess that needs 5 help files to explain how to use something.

    You're presuming that people want it simpler. This is not always the case. People may want to simplify how things are done, but this doesn't necessarily mean keeping "things simple." As an example, people on Arx seem to want to add complexity to it.

    People might want complexity in the system, but that doesn't actually mean people don't want the commands to interact with the system to be as simple and intuitive as possible. The difficulty of figuring out Arx's command syntax is a regular difficulty throughout the playerbase there.

    This is pretty much my entire point, yeah.

    More time doing and less time thinking about how to do it.



  • @Ganymede said in UX: It's time for The Talk:

    I'm a bit confused about your point, because my entire argument is "make shit simpler" and "things could be simpler". What is there to disagree with? I'm not saying don't add new features, don't innovate or try new things. I'm saying that if you're gonna do it, don't make it a complete mess that needs 5 help files to explain how to use something.

    You're presuming that people want it simpler. This is not always the case. People may want to simplify how things are done, but this doesn't necessarily mean keeping "things simple." As an example, people on Arx seem to want to add complexity to it.

    I think it might be fairest to say people want tools to effect meaningful change on the game world, and are willing to tolerate the added complexity to get the coded tools to do that.


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