Telnet is Poop


  • Admin

    The biggest barrier to entry for MU* when it comes to attracting new players is the telnet protocol itself. I mean sure, the the erratic placement of help files (to see the command syntax sometimes you +help $commandname, other times type it without arguments, etc) and even CGen in some cases doesn't help.

    But the average user has probably never been exposed to a command-line interface before at all. So that's an immediate hurdle right after installing 'a MUD/MUSH client' which to most people is just random gibberish. They are greeted by a big black screen with an ASCII logo or something and a prompt but you can't click on anything, what is this madness?!

    So to answer the OP's question... I've been on games where both coders and staff bust their asses to help new players out, and even some whose culture was newbie-friendly... but that's all to overcome that big ol' hurdle. It's through no fault of their own, there's only so much we can do until it becomes easy to migrate on a web platform for our purposes.


  • Coder

    @Arkandel

    Okay, I'm going to rant. Not at you this time, just in general because this keeps coming up.

    What in hell is the difference between typing in a Mu* client and typing in a web client?

    The game doesn't change. The commands don't change. How you get things done don't change. The only plausible I can think of changing is the extras, like how Zork Zero added to the tired Infocom interface. Some text adventures had a Wizardry-like interface to show as well as tell.

    All of this is interesting, but all I hear about is how "telnet bad, website good". Getting people quickly into a client and onto the game is good, but you're still using the telnet interface or one that looks identical to it I don't care if you're using sockets or telnet or AJAX or whatever you want at that point.

    I'm going to invoke @WTFE here, possibly because of the people I think of who are "anything but telnet", he's the most technical and educational of them. But someone please explain this.


  • Coder

    @Thenomain said in New Player Onboarding:

    What in hell is the difference between typing in a Mu* client and typing in a web client?

    The MU Client.

    No, seriously - I'm not trying to be a jerk here. But have you put yourself in the shoes of a never-MUSHed-before-in-their-life player and looked at what it takes to find, download, install, configure and connect to a game in a MUSH client? It's wacky, many of them don't have great UIs, and there are hardly a plethora of tutorials out there.

    I'm not saying it requires a degree in rocket science or anything, but compared to going to www.mygame.com and clicking 'Play'? It's not an insignificant barrier.

    And then once they get past that barrier, and a second barrier of actually finding a game to play on, then there's the third barrier of the command set itself. +finger, @desc, help, +help.... it's bewildering to a new person.

    And then there's the barrier of learning how to actually play ... the unspoken rules that vary so widely across games, as the MUD/MUSH culture thread so aptly demonstrated.

    Given the state of technology and culture in the hobby, I think the only viable method for new player onboarding is to have a very patient and outgoing mentor.

    Edit to add: Oh, but in the "something is better than nothing" category, there's my attempt at explaining "how to MUSH" to my writer classmates for a class project: MUSH 101.


  • Coder

    @faraday:

    @Thenomain said in New Player Onboarding:

    Getting people quickly into a client and onto the game is good

    So yeah, I agree.

    But this predicates that the culprit is "telnet". It's not. The culprit is the interface. When you're hitting this level of getting people to use your product, this is a critical distinction.


  • Admin

    @Thenomain said in New Player Onboarding:

    @Arkandel

    Okay, I'm going to rant. Not at you this time, just in general because this keeps coming up.

    What in hell is the difference between typing in a Mu* client and typing in a web client?

    A lot. The entire interface, including the client itself you're using to access the game. The presence of graphics and enriched text. The sense of familiarity and continuity from stuff you're already used to doing.

    For example the very first part of doing anything on a game...CGen. Anyone who's played an RPG could fill out a character sheet and over the web you can actually show them a character sheet then have them click on the dots or whatever they're increasing and it's all visual right there on a page. On a MU* they need a collection of arcane-looking commands, sifting through help files and asking on channels, right at a time when they might (and most likely) never have used either a command-line interface, know how to look at help files or know how to use channels.

    That's fairly effortless for seasoned players and not that hard to figure out for someone already hooked. But at that point they are not hooked; they heard from a friend or read something about these games and we probably have like 10 minutes' worth of their attention (I pulled that number out of my ass :) ) before they give up and go use a web chat or whatever kids do these days.

    The typing you are referring to, the typing we can't and don't want to be rid of, comes later - once they're on the grid and they need to pose, or when they are chatting with other players. And even that can be vastly improved - consider the difference between a modern PM Hangouts-like interface with a multi-recipient page command, people logging on/off who need to be taken off or added, names with spaces in them, etc. The simplest things are what we can't improve.

    Oh, and graphics. Making things actually pretty to look at. I don't need to tell you why that's important to gaining new users for a service. Have you seen some of the wikis folks like @surreality have been making? They look pretty damn neat - but they can't do much to improve the black screens with un-enriched text on them.

    This stuff matters.


  • Coder

    @Thenomain said in New Player Onboarding:

    But this predicates that the culprit is "telnet". It's not. The culprit is the interface. When you're hitting this level of getting people to use your product, this is a critical distinction.

    I agree. But at the same time... the restriction on game servers being driven by people typing into MUSH clients talking over telnet essentially chains you to the interface. Doing fancy things like graphics and interactive stuff becomes difficult. Not impossible, but difficult. So telnet is part of the problem, just not the problem.


  • Coder

    @faraday said in New Player Onboarding:

    @Thenomain said in New Player Onboarding:

    But this predicates that the culprit is "telnet". It's not. The culprit is the interface. When you're hitting this level of getting people to use your product, this is a critical distinction.

    I agree. But at the same time... the restriction on game servers being driven by people typing into MUSH clients talking over telnet essentially chains you to the interface. Doing fancy things like graphics and interactive stuff becomes difficult. Not impossible, but difficult. So telnet is part of the problem, just not the problem.

    Then the problem is the server.

    I don't disagree, but now what?


    To continue on my rant: This is not telnet's fault. This is a problem of implementation, considering there are Muds that have expanded on the telnet protocol to help us overcome its limitations. Mushlikes have too, but man is Pueblo annoying to code for. My point in my rant is that focusing on telnet is not getting us anywhere. I've been editing and re-editing this post to try and think of ways to say how I think it's been a distracting focus, even to the point where it's a pointless issue. We can agree that jerks are bad, but we can't decide what to do about it. Instead we could have spent that time (and have) trying to work out what's good to solve jerkish behavior.

    We have never really talked about how to solve this epidemic "telnet problem", just that it's bad. Almost never have we even said why it's bad. And so I once again see "telnet's bad, mmkay?" and I rant.

    If we're unwilling and/or unable to fix the problem, then can we please acknowledge it and come up with ways to do better in spite of it?


  • Coder

    @Thenomain OK, I get it, but are we maybe getting a little too hung up on wording? "Telnet's bad" vs "Our reliance on archaic clients using an input-driven interface over telnet is bad" ... is it a critical distinction towards solving the problem?

    Plus, is anyone actually arguing that telnet is good? I think this article pretty much sums up the general viewpoint on telnet in the tech community these days. In response to the question "Why would you use telnet in 2014" it says (emphasis mine):

    Accessing old-school servers that insist on using this protocol for remote connections. We're sure that there are some old-school UNIX servers left in the wild. Someone might be using Telnet to work with them. Sounds crazy, doesn't it?

    Umm... maybe this should be a different thread? It's only tangentially related to new player onboarding.


  • Coder

    @faraday

    My point isn't that telnet isn't bad, or how we phrase how good or bad telnet is, it's that we've beaten the point into the ground and here we are, still using what is essentially a text-in/text-out interface with no suggestions otherwise.

    We got here because part of the onboarding (a term I had to look up and caused me no end of eye-rolling) problem is in part an interface problem, and the interface problem is a server problem, and we've been down this road so many times that there's a Starbucks at the end.

    We aren't doing anything about the server problem, and while we can do minimal things about the interface problem we really aren't doing that, either. Yes, this rant was a tangent, but it was a tangent to illustrate that okay maybe "tenet bad" is a problem but if we're not solving it then it's a dead-end issue.

    There is another thread for this topic. It's the Evennia thread, and I'll find and link to it soon as I can find it.



  • @Arkandel said in New Player Onboarding:

    For example the very first part of doing anything on a game...CGen. Anyone who's played an RPG could fill out a character sheet and over the web you can actually show them a character sheet then have them click on the dots or whatever they're increasing and it's all visual right there on a page. On a MU* they need a collection of arcane-looking commands, sifting through help files and asking on channels, right at a time when they might (and most likely) never have used either a command-line interface, know how to look at help files or know how to use channels.

    Oh, and graphics. Making things actually pretty to look at. I don't need to tell you why that's important to gaining new users for a service. Have you seen some of the wikis folks like @surreality have been making? They look pretty damn neat - but they can't do much to improve the black screens with un-enriched text on them.

    I'm actually working on something that's a wiki-based CG-ish thing. I can't directly integrate it with the MUX right now, but I can make a form for CG, similar to the forms used for BITN's player pages. It can output a pretty sheet for character pages, and a CG-'paste me into the MUX' script for staff to use on the MUX itself. It needs a lot of debugging, and most importantly due to limitations with mediawiki itself it can only be used for games going open sheet, but it is something that, in very limited form, is not totally outside the realms of possibility.

    If/when it's possible to integrate that with a game directly? WIN. But there are at least some things that can be done, though they still need human eyes on them to check for pre-reqs and such as there's only so much of that it's feasible to do from the wiki side.

    (Also, thank you. I try!)


  • Coder

    Forked. Because telnet is poop.


  • Coder

    @Thenomain said in Telnet is Poop:

    We aren't doing anything about the server problem, and while we can do minimal things about the interface problem we really aren't doing that, either. Yes, this rant was a tangent, but it was a tangent to illustrate that okay maybe "tenet bad" is a problem but if we're not solving it then it's a dead-end issue.

    But when you say "we aren't doing anything" -- umm, there are people trying to do things. Evennia. AresMUSH. The reason I decided to make a from-the-ground-up new MUSH server is because I thought that it was better than trying to graft junk onto 30-year-old technology. Folks have talked about web-based clients and client-server interfaces, though I don't know if anybody's actively working on one.

    So I'm totally up for discussing different approaches to the problem. I waffle about how far to go with Ares in terms of catering to what's out there already vs making it easier for new players. But I don't think it's fair to say that nobody's doing anything to try to solve it.



  • I nearly quit when I came across my first mush. 'What is this arcane bullshit' was my first thought. Only persistent persuasion made me stick, and someone walking me through out to get rid of the input echoe and what the hell not. That various channels/pages/etc arent spawned by default is so crazy to anyone who isn't used to it.


  • Coder

    @faraday

    Didn't I mention Evennia? I did. I didn't mention Ares because I don't know it's acceptance rate.

    Tho good on catching me out on the hyperbole. Are you ready for the support needed to change a few dozen games over to Ares? I'm ready to start coding for other games.


  • Admin

    @Thenomain What do you mean by acceptance rate?


  • Coder

    @Arkandel

    Who's running it or developing for it.



  • @Thenomain said in Telnet is Poop:

    I'm going to invoke @WTFE here, possibly because of the people I think of who are "anything but telnet", he's the most technical and educational of them. But someone please explain this.

    The issue isn't of the technology directly, but rather of the barriers between the first exposure to a concept and the ability to play.

    To help strip some of the emotive things here, I'm going to step aside to a rant I wrote about programming languages. There's an unusual metric that is astonishingly predictive of when a language will be unpopular. (It doesn't predict popularity with any degree of precision, but it predicts when a language will be avoided like plague quite well.) The metric is "time to 'hello world'". In short, how long will it take to go from hearing about a given programming language to being able to run a program that says "hello world" (HW) in some form or another.

    Time to HW (TTHW) can be anywhere from seconds to days (!). Scripting languages (like Python or Ruby) tend to already be installed on Unix-like machines, you see, so it's literally seconds to get to HW. Even on Windows machines that goes to minutes as you download an installer and then seconds later have your HW running. Popular compiled languages have TTHW somewhere in the minutes range. You optionally install a pre-built compiler (or in the case of Unix-like systems either have it already installed or can install it in under a minute), you edit a file, you compile and you're there.

    Some languages, though, have very long TTHW. Rexx, for example, although an interpreted language with the advantages of other such scripting languages in actual use, is hard to find a working implementation for. It takes, say, half an hour for TTHW for an average person (going, again, from first exposure). Mercury, a compiled language, is even worse. Going from first exposure to HW takes a minimum of six hours. If you have slower hardware that could be closer to 48 hours. (That's how long it took me the first time!) Strangely, languages like Rexx and Mercury are rarely considered for anything out there, despite both of them having distinct advantages over more popular alternatives.

    Similar metrics apply for games. "Time To 'Hello Game World'" let's call it. TTHGW. An average MMORPG is "install this game, run it, and you're in, actively engaged". The support facilities in place after that point are icing on the cake. The key point is that you're in and playing often in minutes. Web games are even faster (presuming a decent network connection). You connect to the web site, you make your account, you're in.

    They also tend to look really pretty when you get there.

    MU*es are the Mercury of games. You encounter the concept and are faced with two paths:

    1. Use your native telnet client to try it out. This is a terrible experience and leads to people mostly going "WTF!?" and wandering off. Native telnet is the worst way to experience MU*es; it throws all the disadvantages into sharp relief while disguising the few advantages.

    2. Download a MU* client, install it, figure out how it works, set up your connection info (which is often not very well spelled out because people running and playing MUes forget what the newbie experience is like), to get the … marginally improved experience of using a MU client. It's time and "go/no go" choice points aplenty, and that before you get to the decidedly underwhelming visual appeal of @emit Hello game world!. It's better than choice 1, but not by a whole lot.

    A decent web interface eliminates the barriers for getting to the game entirely. It's a click (or from an amalgamated client site a selection from a drop-down list) and you're on the game. You go from concept to connection in a click or two. Sure you then face the other problem with the MU* interface and lose players that way, but the more you get to that point, the more will stick around simply by probabilistic calculus.

    And that's assuming just a web client interface to the creaking old MU* approach. With a web client that's modernized you have the option of improving the MU* experience tremendously. Like clicking on the name of a person to get their desc in a pop-up box. Or getting lists of exits you can see/use in button arrays. Or getting a map image displayed with a red X showing "you are here now". Or having online help that can be easily browsed to the side of the main game instead of using in-band signalling. Or a million other ways of improving the overall experience. But all of that is secondary to just getting people into your game so you can sell them on its virtues in the first place.



  • Hmm...

    So, two things:

    1. Have you met PhudBase Web Mud? http://www.phudbase.com/webmud.php

    2. I personally was brought into the MU' world by other MU'ers, so they walked me through how to get started, get a MU' client, etc... how are new people even finding MU's these days? Are people randomly coming across the concepts of MU's, or are they being introduced? Honest question, because I have no idea. I was connected to MU' after a friend who played on AOL RPGs also played on a MUSH, and he helped me get set up.


  • Coder

    @GirlCalledBlu I don't think random 'new' people are really finding MU*'s at all. They have zero real exposure to them and no way to really know about them now.

    Back before MMO's really took off like Ultima Online and EQ the online gaming community consisted mostly of chatrooms on AOL, IRC, and stuff like that until someone found a MU*. Usually it was through word of mouth, friends, etc that got someone into the hobby. Sometimes it was through searching for webpages on a book series, or game, or whatever that brought up a MU*.

    In this day and age though there's really not a /lot/ of new blood, and those we do get are probably gained from us bringing a few new people in now and again.



  • @Lithium That's what I thought... I mean, if it wasn't for having someone who knew what they were doing, I probably would have never figured out MUs. The whole grid concept was totally weird to me after being in chatrooms and using symbols to represent where in the RP world I was currently playing.

    I am very sympathetic to those who come into MU's without a guide, because I can't imagine how they figure it out. XD


Log in to reply
 

Looks like your connection to MU Soapbox was lost, please wait while we try to reconnect.