Monday, August 8, 2016

Professional Game Master (GM)

Time to make a MUD ...

Back in the day, I was huge into Dungeons and Dragons. I fell in love with the red box edition from the mid 1980's. That's Original Dungeons and Dragons, formerly called Basic Dungeons and Dragons for all you Role Playing Game (RPG) historians in the crowd.

Playing Dungeons and Dragons was fun, but I really loved designing adventures for other people to play. I loved being the Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master (DM), or Game Master (GM) as he's called in many RPG's, is the player that acts as the story teller and rules enforcer for the Role Playing Game. One of the big roles of the DM or GM is to make maps of the world you're adventuring in.

Oh how I loved making fictional maps. In fact, I can remember drawing fictional maps from the time I was very young. Some how I thought it would be fun for people to imagine driving on the twisted, intertwining fictional road maps I drew. Drawing fictional maps are some of my earliest memories. (How's that for wierd ; - )


Once I started buying RPG rule books, threw all my efforts behind learning how to GM or DM games. I studied lots of Role Playing Games with a special emphasis on Dungeons and Dragons. I constantly studied Dungeon Master and adventure creation techniques. I knew it was impossible, but I dreamed constantly of finding a way to be a full-time professional Dungeon Master.

I happen to be pretty optimistic. Just because becoming a professional Game Master is impossible, doesn't mean it can't be done. However, at the time getting money for DM'ing wasn't easy. (Like it ever has been ; - ) I believe some DM's at gaming conventions did get paid for their work back in those days. Also, some DM's managed to sell their adventures to TSR and other heavyweights of the gaming industry.

I never considered using the internet to start a RPG based game. This was about 15 years before the Internet came into common use. Computer based RPG's were still pretty much nonexistent. This was in the days when some text based adventures began selling, but nothing too fancy.

Within 10 years you started to see Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs) appearing on the bulletin boards, and early internet. Some, like The Two Towers became fairly popular with nearly 100-200 people playing at the same time. This may not sound like a lot of players, but this has continued for multiple decades with a third generation of maintainers taking over the MUD last time I checked in several years ago. It shows the viability of creating text based fantasy role playing games with staying power and getting an audience that comes back decade after decade.

Typically, RPGs in a MUD format are not played by the general population because they are only accessible via telnet or special telnet applications made for MUDs. So that makes it even more impressive that hundreds of people would play a game when it was limited to the tech savvy for potential players.

It didn't take long after my first MUD addiction to realize this is the Role Playing Game format for the new millennium. 3D games are great fun—don't get me wrong. I love 3D RPG's. However, just because I love watching movies doesn't mean I stopped reading books. The same is true with RPG's. I love 3D RPG's, but I love a good text-based RPG, too.

I have over the years learned to program computers fairly well, so I started looking for an RPG / MUD engine that fit my skill set. I'm mostly a Java and services programmer, these days. I found CoffeeMud through my lengthy MUD search. It is well written and still supported after more than a decade of development.

I realized at some point, what the modern Internet user needs from a MUD is a good Web UI. There are already great UI's out there for other text based adventures like Interactive Fiction (IF), but I wasn't seeing non-applet and non-flash based UI's for MUD's. What the modern user of MUD's needs is a good HTML5 interface.

I toyed with several ideas for HTML5 MUD interfaces, and finally came to the conclusion that presenting the UI/UX as a HTML5 chat window with an AI GM and the player as the two occupants of a chat room would fit the MUD/RPG paradigm perfectly.

Creating the new MUD HTML5 interface from libraries and examples freely available on the web was pretty simple. The tricky part is integrating the new interface into and existing MUD engine that usually handles Telnet protocols rather than HTML5 and AJAX/JSON.

So, I've started the process of taking CoffeeMud and branching it for my own use. I've even got the MUD up on augmentwaste.com. It still needs a ton of work before I get serious about writing the final MUD. However, it's a start, and if it ever catches on, I can probably make a little money as a professional GM through advertising, in-game purchases, and maybe subscriptions.

Wish me luck!

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