Milestone: 365 Days Played

Earlier this week we officially passed the combined 365 days played mark, which is to say you all have officially racked up a year of time connected to the MUD in just the first 4 weeks of being open. You bunch of addicts!

Seriously though, we have been absolutely chuffed with the level of interest and support, and it has been good to see consistent 20-30 numbers during peak hours.

In that time, you guys have helped find literally hundreds of bugs and made innumerable suggestions that we never could have achieved on our own. I’m happy to say that we mostly seem to be marking off additional areas of the code as either functionally complete or known to be stable / approximately bug free, which is fantastic.

There are of course plenty of existing and known bugs to work on and an ever-growing list of suggestions.

My focus over the next month is hopefully going to shift out of as much reactive bugfixing as the MUD stability has improved and I don’t think we have many SUPER critical bugs left, and into content creation again. This will give you all more things to do in game and keep the interest levels high.

So once again I wanted to thank everybody for their support and hitting this super awesome milestone! Thanks!

Release

LabMUD is now open for players. We’re doing a soft release this weekend (as of the time of this post), where we’ll be accepting people and letting them get into the lab early. We’ll do a formal launch even next weekend where the actual metaplot will begin.

Note that during the first week I expect you guys to find a lot of problems leading up to the official release and hopefully we can sort them out. If you want a smoother experience, wait for next weekend.

Otherwise, please come join us in the Lab!

2017 State of Play

Hi everyone,

I thought that I would give a bit of a “Where the hell are we at?” update to mark the turning of the year. I’ll reflect a bit on the journey so far and talk about what’s next.

Journey So Far

2017 is 8 years since I got the idea of making the FutureMUD engine, and 5 years since the C# rewrite. It’s also the 3rd year of work on LabMUD and we’re nearly approaching 2 years since we announced we were opening LabMUD and then failed to do so.

It’s probably fair to say that we disappointed a lot of people along the way; it has been a very long time. The reality is FutureMUD is still a one man team, as it has been since 2012. I’m not a professional software engineer and I have proven to be really bad at estimating the time it takes to complete coding tasks, although the main issue is time commitment to the project.

One of the big time sinks has been becoming a father, something I wouldn’t change for the world. However having a baby (now toddler) around the house does not make for a very peaceful environment. I probably could have demanded space, time and solitude to work on FutureMUD but that wouldn’t make me a very good husband or father.

I’m also now 30 years old, and at the real prime time of my career – by day I am a District Engineer who looks after around 1500km/950miles of mainline railway track. I recently got an internal promotion as well. A lot of this has meant working longer hours, travel, networking, attending functions and such in what would otherwise be my free time.

Why does this matter? Well, from time to time people have floated ideas like “Why don’t you do kickstarter/patreon and get funding to work on the engine full time?”. The answer is y’all couldn’t afford me. RPI MUDs are pretty niche, and I have a history of over-promising and under-delivering. I couldn’t justify taking time off my job that pays better than $75 USD an hour (seriously kids, study STEM subjects…) for the likely starving artist or worse level of funding I’d get.

Nonetheless I do still find time to work on it all. Less than I’d like, but it has come a long way. According to my stats on Git, since May 2015 I have made 600 commits to Git, changing 290,000 lines of code – although the codebase itself is 95,000 lines (many of those lines will have been changed multiple times along the way, hence the large number).

Where are we now?

The codebase as it stands now is actually further along than what I had said I wanted to wait for when we delayed launch in May 2015; it’s probably more fully featured than SOI was when it launched in 2003 and almost certainly more fully featured than Atonement Alpha was. The only thing on my “List of Excuses not to launch List” that isn’t done is probably crafting, and that’s like 50% done.

In terms of building, LabMUD is mostly done for its phase 1 objectives. There is only one core area of building that needs to be worked on and it’s one of the “Gameplay Systems” that we wanted to launch with, one of the “Something to do to give people things to struggle with and fight over” type areas of content. It’s not far from being done either, just needs some solid time spent on it.

As most of you have stopped paying attention to LabMUD in the intervening time and I probably won’t even get all of you back for launch, a lot of the pressure to just get it open has been lifted. I’m sort of focusing a bit more on releasing a game that will be a little more on the “finished” side and a little less on the “test for the devs” side. At least, finished in the sense that it’s stable and reasonably feature complete. More of a beta than an alpha.

What’s the plan?

I’m targeting an Easter release at the moment. I’ll have crafting done by then, it’s the only big coded system that needs finishing (mob AI could probably use a bit of work, but I’d open without it). When I am ready to go, this time it’s for real, for better or for worse. This gives me a few months to do what I need to do, continue to fix bugs, and then get going.

Once we’re open, we’ll stay open and fixes will come in incrementally as well as new content. I’m hoping 2017 is the big year.

And thank you to those few diehards who’ve kept up with the project and have really driven the testing over the last year. You know who you are.

Server Migration: Yes, the forums look like trash.

This is Wolfsong popping in under the guise of Japheth here just to let everyone know that we recently migrated from a Linux server to a Windows one. It’s dramatically increased the speed of LabMUD, taking the boot time from about 2 minutes 45 seconds to 25 seconds, but the move has broke some stuff – website, forums, etc. We’re in the process of getting everything back to where it should be, though, so don’t stress. The MUD itself should be largely unaffected, but if you notice something, please do let us know via the forums, if you can bring yourself to navigate the forum in its current state.

Now, then, let the rampant speculation about why we’ve moved to a server better capable of handling, say, a released Alpha version of the MUD begin.

Character Creation Open

Hello everyone,

If you can read this post, character creation is live on LabMUD! You are all most welcome to create an account and submit a character. Character creation will be open for probably a little under a week and we speculate a full go-live date next weekend.

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to discuss the process on the forums or in our new chat widget.

Welcome to the Lab!

Staff Promise

In a previous post, I mentioned that I would be talking about our Staff Promise to you. Basically, the Staff Promise is a high level statement of our conduct as staff and the minimum standards that we set for ourselves. In many respects, it is the foundational statement for the MUD.

Below is the text of the Staff Promise (which can also be found here):

  • We promise that the game will be freely available to all, insofar as reasonably possible. We will never charge to access to the game, pay for perks, or ask for donations. It is our privilege to make LabMUD available to you and you do not owe us anything for participating.

  • We promise that we will not discriminate as to who may access the game, participate in the forums or contribute to the community, except in cases of gross misconduct such as harassment, threats, or extremely disruptive behaviour. If we must remove somebody’s access for any reason, we will ensure that it is fair, even-handed, transparent and in line with community eexpectations

  • We promise that we will make a reasonable effort to remove barriers to participation for individuals. For example, we will make a reasonable effort to consider the needs of vision impaired players using a screen reader. While we will use an application review process, we will also ensure that our focus in reviewing the applications is to correct errors and get the person into the game rather than forcing them to reapply.

  • We promise that we will maintain an immersive and internally consistent environment for play. While some suspension of disbelief will always be necessary for the introduction of new engine features or the discovery of bugs, we will make every effort to downplay the impact of these and maintain a serious roleplaying environment.

  • We promise that as far as is humanly possible, we will show no bias towards players despite their status, history or attitude. We will actively endeavour to spread our time evenly amongst all the playerbase, and we shall not make exceptions to the rules or create admin-initiated plots that directly benefit or harm individuals.

  • We promise that we will not play characters in LabMUD. You never have to worry about another PC being a staff PC because there are none.

  • We promise that we will accept criticism of the engine, the setting, the rules, our words or our actions with an open mind and a fair approach. You will not be punished for speaking your mind.

  • We promise that if you can do it in code, you are allowed to do it. As long as their is in-character justification for your actions, you should be able to use your character’s coded capabilities without fear of being labeled a “twink” or “cheater”.

Why LabMUD?

Hello everyone,

As you may have guessed from the title, today’s post is about why we are making LabMUD. We’ve already established that LabMUD is a “flagship” for the FutureMUD engine, but what does that really mean? I am sure that there are many questions as to how the MUD will be run and what you can expect as a player, and I will try to answer them here.

The story starts with FutureMUD, the engine that LabMUD runs on. I am the primary developer of FutureMUD, and that remains my main role. I won’t dwell too long on FutureMUD here, but in essence I have reached a point in the development of the engine where I need some hardcore real world testing – not just to find bugs, but to actually test the look, feel and balance of the engine itself. There is a limit to how much of this testing I as a developer can do, and I also know the engine intimately – so things that seem obvious and easy to me may not necessarily be so to someone else. So, I realised that I needed at least someone running an real live FutureMUD server to provide me with this feedback.

Once people start using the engine, they will have feedback – bugs found, issues raised, changes requested. That will drive development for a while, and that’s all good stuff! If that was the extent of it, I’d be looking at releasing a general Alpha right now. What has actually emerged though is that this is a new engine – and that means nobody is familiar with it. On the player side, it is very similar to existing Diku-style MUDs, and few RPI players should have any difficulty figuring out what to do, even intuitively. Unfortunately for admins, that is not the case from the admin side – it is very, very different. Additionally, I have not really documented a lot of this stuff and even I forget it half the time (and have to go looking in the code). Up to this point, I also wasn’t 100% sure what was absolutely necessary for the MUD to run – the bare minimum world file I could ship for instance.

As such, I figured it would be easier to have a Flagship MUD for the first few months. This would be like a limited sandbox for the engine – I could get the feedback and testing I needed without being TOTALLY overwhelmed by supporting a dozen people setting up a MUD in a brand new engine from scratch. It would also buy me some time to write documentation, and also to polish the admin/builder experience before the community got its hands on it. So, I started thinking about who should make the flagship – certainly I didn’t want to do it myself, because I couldn’t commit the kind of time and energy that the MUD needs without sacrificing development of the engine. Long ago when I first started thinking about this my idea was either to have Kithrater build something or Methuselah (probably the longest-serving and most active follower of the FutureMUD project). Kithrater however isn’t interested in MUDs anymore and Methuselah is now fully committed to SOI. SOI itself was also a candidate, and while I would one day love to see FutureMUD edge out the RPI Engine even for existing MUDs, it is most definitely not there yet.

So I asked Wolfsong (my wife) whether she would be willing to make a MUD. She had some conditions of the readiness of the engine, but we eventually got there and so it came time to select which MUD to make. Both Wolfsong and I have several MUD ideas for MUDs that may eventually get made. We mulled over making a few of them, but what we realised was that they weren’t good matches for this kind of project. I really didn’t want the pressure of the flagship being someone’s “dream”. If things didn’t go perfectly, if core systems weren’t in place, if there were bugs and instability…I might ruin someone’s shot (or even my own shot) at making that MUD they’ve always dreamed of.

We realised that the flagship MUD had to be nobody’s dream MUD. It should be a MUD that is easy to make, easy to document, easy for players to get into, and easy for everyone to shrug off or let go if it becomes necessary. It still would need to be gripping and engaging, but it didn’t need to be our Magnum Opus of world building and setting, a MUD that would stand the test of time. It just needed to be a place where players could go and explore the engine and tell a story.

LabMUD is just that – it’s a Lab. You all are the test subjects, and the engine is the test. The theme is designed so that we can introduce new engine features and have it be remotely in-character. It’s also designed to require very little day-to-day admin intervention (something I am a big believer in). Of course, we will run RPTs and events and such, but hopefully most of the game’s events will be player driven. In future posts, I will comment on what you as a player can expect (our promise to you) and also some thoughts on fairness in testing outcomes.

Just to clarify, Wolfsong is the Head Admin for LabMUD. She has the ultimate responsibility for decision making, building, plots and the like. I am also an admin here, but mostly to teach her about the engine and get a perspective on how people are using the engine. Krelm may be doing some building for us, but won’t be an admin once we open (his choice – he’d rather be a player).

Towards the end of the LabMUD project (which might be months or years – who knows), I will probably also invite other people who are serious about using FutureMUD for their own projects to the staff for the purposes of training them. I won’t be doing this at first though because I want to give the MUD a chance to be a real MUD before it is a training ground. Wolfsong and I will probably be the sole admins for the MUD for now.

A LabMUD Introduction

Hello Everyone,

I suppose the news of LabMUD has finally broken and pretty quickly people have been signing up and even trying to log in to the game. We’re not actually ready for people to begin logging in and making characters as yet, so this has highlighted the need for me to properly make a maintenance mode!

We are rapidly approaching a state where we would be comfortable opening, and we are looking forward to having you all join us. I am mostly focusing on engine development, whereas the MUD itself is effectively built and run by Wolfsong. You will hear more from both of us over the coming weeks as we approach readiness for players.

As a bit of a teaser for you all, I thought I would post the “Welcome Blurb” for character creation to wet your appetites. Much of this is similar to the existing introduction post, but this one is official!

LabMUD is the flagship MUD of the FutureMUD Engine (http://www.futuremud.com). Both the engine and the MUD itself are in Alpha status and both bugs and instability are to be expected. While every effort will be made to ensure that your playing experience will be both as high quality and as uninterrupted and smooth as possible, we cannot always guarantee that this will be the case.

You may feel free to discuss engine-specific topics on the forums at FutureMUD’s website, where you can also report any bugs or issues that you find (http://bugs.futuremud.com) – however, every day support should be sought through the LabMUD website and in-game. If you are interested, you can read more about LabMUD on the website at http://www.labmud.com/ or join us at our forums.

LabMUD is a roleplay intensive, permadeath MUD. That means that “in-character” actions (or, playing as your character, based on your character’s described personality, aspirations and physical limits, and not necessarily as yourself) are enforced at all times, and character death is permanent.

The setting of LabMUD is vague by design: your character, for reasons unknown to them or anyone, has woken up in a facility closed off from the outside world, with no memory of their past, and no familiarity with their current surroundings. For the sake of character creation, it can be inferred that the time period the game takes place in is roughly contemporary with present day, and that the game occurs either on Earth, or on a planet functionally identical to Earth. While your character should have no knowledge of specific events or places from Earth, they may be familiar with philosophical, political, social, even professional, concepts and ideas. Treat your character as akin to a highly functioning individual suffering from severe amnesia.

To play LabMUD, you will first need to create a character. You do so by completing, and submitting, a character application. Once submitted, your application will be put in for review by staff members or community guides. Once approved, you will be able to log into your character and play the game. This process may be almost instantaneous, or may take up to a day. While you wait, consider heading over to the forums at http://www.labmud.com/forum and introducing yourself.