The Death Of Telnet: Is It Time To Face The Music?


  • Pitcrew Banned

    Roleplaying is far from dead. I have personally seen a resurgence of interest in the topic all over the place, ranging from the live-ins at the fraternity I joined to to numerous corners of the Internet where it goes on in some form or other. It's a flourishing hobby with millions of active participants globally. People love it, and it's finally really reaching outside the Anglosphere.

    But there is one place within the roleplaying world that is stagnant: the MU* world. The world that relies on Telnet, that archaic command line "protocol," if you want to even call it that, where the most sophisticated output you'll get from the server is a blob of ANSI text. There's really nothing wrong with this, and frankly, I'd love to see it flourish just as much as the rest of the roleplaying world.

    So let's face facts: new roleplayers aren't coming to MU*s. They're finding random Internet forums (like this one) to do play-by-post. They're meeting people on Discord servers. They're on /qst/ posting under temporary tripcodes that evaporate with the thread, leaving them free to do as they please in the short term with minimal consequences long-term. They're on private World of WarCraft servers, and in IMVU chat rooms. They're in the roleplay tags on Omegle.

    But they aren't starting up a new instance of TinyMUX, and they aren't joining any of the established games, either, unless they're showing up specifically for World of Darkness or some kind of capeshit. Most "new" players are just very old players who have long been banned or ostracized hoping to get a fresh start. MU* users and administrators are steeped in so many nuanced, implicit cultural cues that some random person falling into it would get lost and in most cases almost immediately just leave. It's an elaborate world, built for people who are already entrenched in it and not for people who are just showing up., and it's getting smaller

    My instincts tell me it's time to face the music: Telnet is on its way out, and with it, MU*'s. It is the Internet equivalent of AM radio, except less relevant. If I were to start a roleplaying community today, I would make a Discord server, because I'm convinced people actually use that program for now. I wouldn't create a new instance of RhostMUSH, and I wouldn't write my own custom codebase, for fear that the command line would scare off perfectly sane, intelligent, capable, fun roleplayers. Clicking on things is just more straightforward to people. It's more comprehensible and frankly a superior interface to memorizing a thousand ad hoc commands. I love MU*'s and they will always have a special place in my memories but I think it's time for us to admit it: we lost the argument, this medium is going to die with us in our nursing homes, at the latest.

    So, this thread is here to raise the question if I am right, and depending on the answer to the question:

    • If I am wrong, how can we get the vast swath of roleplayers to join existing MU*'s and create their own?
    • If I am right, what platform should we jump ships to?
    • Should we even jump ships, or accept our fall into extreme RP obscurity?

  • Pitcrew

    I've said before the reasons why, but people think I'm just some evil horrible wrong person who is wrong. ;)

    It's not the format. It's largely how we play. If you look at a lot of those places, their play style is vastly different from ours. They don't roleplay like we do, at all. I've tried a few of those. Hell, I had to moderate one of the forums, for my job, for a handful of years. I was neck-deep in it 5 days a week. I know those kids. Very well. Back on Livejournal days someone tried to drag me into that realm... It's a completely different mentality.

    It's not a matter of 'ditch telnet and you get dozens if not hundreds of new players!' ... it's ditch sheets, ditch +roll, ditch our entire culture for theirs because it's a whole other world. The 'app' style, the pose style, the resolution style. Most of those forums, tumblrs, and so on? Are full of power posing and that's just the way they play. They pose what they do to you and your reaction and you just go with it. It's like the twinked out kids on 90s games all over again except... these kids like it that way. What's cringe-worthy to us is their fun.

    But it's not us. We are 'old school.' If we really want them... we're gonna have to shed a lot of what we do, culturally.



  • @Auspice
    ^
    What she said.

    Telnet is just an Internet protocol. It has zero to do with the culture of things. It isn't some digital disease that is keeping people out. Even if we did this in a browser format we're not likely to see a huge influx of new people. It's not the tech, it's the lack of appeal of this type of play.


  • Pitcrew

    @auspice When the MU I was on shut down, I had nowhere else to really go. Wora was... well. WORA. This place didn't exist yet, and I wasn't really aware of any other MU that had the right feel or setting or sense of community. Eventually I found it in Arx, but there was a 2-3 year period where I didn't have anything.

    After about a year of no RP, I accidentally ran into an RP group on FFXIV, and I was so excited I just wanted to RP again and get involved in something. It is nothing like what I was looking for at all. Everything you said is true. It's all power posing and just... I did it for a while because I was starved for it. It was a port in a storm.

    That was basically the kind of RP I did before MU, which I'd only discovered about 8-9 years ago. Sure, I'd found MUDs before then, but I quickly lost interest when all the most popular muds were devoid of any kind of role playing, and were just all about mob grinding basically the antithesis of everything that I am.

    @Moonman Mentioned that they're on internet forums doing play-by-post. That's how I got started. Back when I was 16, there was a random Star Wars RP that started up in a forum that doesn't exist anymore. I got hooked on the concept and when the board went defunct I looked for other places to RP, and found a Wheel of Time based community. I liked it but there was something missing. I hated the pacing and there was never a feeling of risk to it. Everything was safe. If a character died, it's because they decided to write their characters out. Well my friend introduced my to a MU she had been playing on the side. As it turns out, this was exactly what I had been looking for. Sure, to the rest of the MU community it was a cesspit that should be avoided at all costs, but I didn't know that!

    The point of all that is simply that, if it weren't for these other avenues of RP I never would've been drawn to the hobby in the first place. There are other potential MUers out there, and they don't even realize it. They need to be introduced and brought in, and that's part of the problem. This hobby is virtually invisible unless you know it's there. Sure, different culture and all that, but the people that don't fit in tend to get weeded out pretty quickly, but there are others that would have been a part of that power posing culture that Auspice mentioned that would really prefer a more tightly knit experience with more structure and rules, and as far as I'm concerned, this is the format, bar none that gets the job done. Nothing else in my experience even comes close.

    I mean, sure this is a small community, and I don't think it's going to last forever. This is as niche as niche gets. Is that a bad thing? The people we have here are dedicated to the hobby. We love it, and we pour so much of ourselves into it. Wouldn't you agree that it's better to have a game of a few dozen dedicated and passionate players, than hundreds of power posers just looking to act out a fetish or a hero fantasy? My favorite hobby is small, weird, and impossible to explain to anybody on the outside, and I like it that way. I'll be around for as long as there's a community to be a part of.


  • Coder

    I agree with part of what @Auspice said: Yes, what sets MUSHing apart from those other games is the style of how we play. IMHO there are two spectrums at work here:

    (Online Tabletop) ...... (Collaborative Writing)
    (Real Time) .... (Tennis Match For Extremely Patient People)

    In terms of style, most MUSHes are closer to online tabletop (sheets, rolls, rules) and hyper real-time. Things like PBP and Storium may have sheets/rules, but ZOMG are they slow. You toss out a pose and wait two weeks for a response. It astonishes me that they manage to hold anyone's attention. MMO RP is real-time, but without the tabletop trappings. It's just emits.

    That said, I agree with @Moonman that playing over telnet(*) is driving away people who otherwise might love our style. Ultimately I believe it will be the death of our hobby.

    I said it in another thread, but the current generation of adults at least can tolerate MUSHing if motivated enough because they grew up on DOS and things like that. The majority in the next generation has never used a command-line tool in their lives. Expecting the touchscreen/mobile generation to learn "bbpost board=title/message" just to play a game is insanity.

    (*) - Since everyone always trots out the "telnet is just a protocol" argument - I'm using it as a shorthand for tools that are limited by our choice of telnet. Command-line-driven, no mouse control, no graphics, no web support, and no basic support (bold text, emojis, editing what you just typed, etc.) that you wound find in every modern text communication app.


  • Pitcrew

    Well I will say one thing. It's probably not a coincidence that this hobby has such a disproportionate amount of people that code for a living.



  • @faraday said in The Death Of Telnet: Is It Time To Face The Music?:

    Command-line-driven, no mouse control, no graphics, no web support, and no basic support (bold text, emojis, editing what you just typed, etc.)

    While that's cool and all, I once again come back to: "How do you do this in a way that allows for a diverse range of games like this code allows for without just creating every game from the ground up?"

    MU has the advantage of being somewhat universal. It doesn't have clicky colored buttons or gif emoji integration (shudder), but you can use the same tools to make a DnD game, a WoD game, a Wheel of Time game, etc.

    Evennia, using an even more standardized language, still doesn't have all the shiny things.

    So, how do you suggest implementing the shiny things you want in a way that doesn't make it just Elvenar.tv or whatever, each game nothing like any of the others?


  • Coder

    I still think some sort of web based game would work, where you could code in buttons for different dice rolls and such, with sheets held on the webpage etc. You could still have our 'style' with an updated interface, it would still be text and still have rooms and sheets just be a /ton/ more accessible.

    The /style/ is something that is going to appeal to some people, but not others, and that is /perfectly fine/. There are still knitting circles for crying out loud, just because something is old doesn't mean it sucks it just means it appeals to a different set of people.

    I would love something that was wholly web interfaced but still our 'style' of RP, with sheets, and staff etc, I dislike the trend now where everything is split between the game and a wiki. I do think something that accessible though would require a /lot/ of staff, just to deal with the accessibility it would bring.


  • Coder

    @derp said in The Death Of Telnet: Is It Time To Face The Music?:

    "How do you do this in a way that allows for a diverse range of games like this code allows for without just creating every game from the ground up?"

    That's exactly what platforms like Ares and Evennia are working on. Evennia is still young. Ares isn't even done yet. I just wish folks (not you specifically) would give them time to try to do the thing before declaring that the thing can't be done.


  • Coder

    What is it that NewMU* games (Ares and Evennia, we just need a new 'word' to encompass these things to differentiates them from MUSH/MUX/Telnet-based games) are going to bring to the table?

    When I logged into either one of these, I am still presented with text-only scrolling output. From what I have seen, they are still done in a command>output interaction.

    What are the plans to completely change the interaction motif, the UX and style of these games?


  • Admin

    @auspice said in The Death Of Telnet: Is It Time To Face The Music?:

    It's not the format. It's largely how we play. If you look at a lot of those places, their play style is vastly different from ours. They don't roleplay like we do, at all.

    There's nothing at all about a web-based game that dictates the style. You can have the exact same environment as for a MUSH, with a far superior interface, and pose the way we all know and love.

    It just doesn't exist quite yet in a way that we can base games on. Obviously the hope is for Evennia, Ares or a newcomer to evolve the platform to the point where that's doable.

    Telnet is going the way of the dinosaurs.


  • Coder

    @rook I do know Faraday is working at real time web integration, and BSU has a web portal which is nice.


  • Coder

    Right, I get that. But just pumping the input/output to a web portal doesn't really change the style of the game.

    If players are still essentially typing in a small box at the bottom of the screen, while the output from the game populates a larger box on the screen, then there is very little change happening here.

    Bear in mind that IRC has that same format. Chat Rooms have that same format. Forums don't, really, so there is a UX style change in that RP circle.

    What I'm asking is: How would you completely redo MU* so that it is not command>output in two windows? Is that even a goal here?

    I dunno if I should continue participating, as I am immediately (by my second post in this thread) coming back to the same 'arguments' and questions that I posted and came to in the other thread.


  • Admin

    @rook said in The Death Of Telnet: Is It Time To Face The Music?:

    What I'm asking is: How would you completely redo MU* so that it is not command>output in two windows? Is that even a goal here?

    As far as I'm concerned, the 'goal' is to let game creators be able - technically able - to design the interface they want.

    With telnet you have basically no options.

    Give game creators such options and someone will eventually come up with a way to cause a shift in paradigm.

    It would also serve to make conversations such as the one you're trying to have actually productive more than purely theoretical, too... because, like it or not, at the moment we can just debate on what could be, but won't be, since there's no platform we can use to make it so. I'm not saying we shouldn't be talking about the possibilities, just that this explains why we're not getting in as much depth as we could - it's because it's sort of futile at the moment.


  • Pitcrew Banned

    @derp

    While that's cool and all, I once again come back to: "How do you do this in a way that allows for a diverse range of games like this code allows for without just creating every game from the ground up?"

    Normally I don't argue for the use of proprietary "apps," but in this case, it's an attractive one so I'll do it. Discord allows for a range of games and events based on something very similar to commands, except you don't need to type in some weird crap like page Derp=yo to send you a private message. I know that to you and I this might not seem like a big deal, but try getting your average non-programmer to not only comprehend how to do it, but to prefer it over anything with a GUI. Having a GUI for that is, to normal people, even normal roleplayers, completely superior. Now just imagine what it's like with anything more sophisticated than that like, "I'd like to roll Strength + Brawl to punch this motherfucker in the head."

    And you can do exactly that. It's easy to write bots on Discord.



  • @faraday said in The Death Of Telnet: Is It Time To Face The Music?:

    That's exactly what platforms like Ares and Evennia are working on. Evennia is still young. Ares isn't even done yet.

    Evennia has been around for 11 years. I would hardly call that 'young'.


  • Pitcrew

    There was a lot of really good conversation on this topic here. There was also some really not good conversation.

    But tl;dr: our platform absolutely is a barrier for new players who would totally embrace our playstyle, and the people who insist that telnet isn't part of the barrier are not correct. There are players who force their way through the barrier and then fit great with the playstyle. Playstyle is less of an issue than platform limitations. The point isn't to change the playstyle, it's to make a more accessible platform to the style that exists.

    The fact that there are people on other platforms RPing in a different style doesn't actually mean all of them don't want better options, and won't adapt and find the MU* style of things an improvement. It means they're stuck for platform options.


  • Admin

    @roz said in The Death Of Telnet: Is It Time To Face The Music?:

    The fact that there are people on other platforms RPing in a different style doesn't actually mean all of them don't want better options, and won't adapt and find the MU* style of things an improvement. It means they're stuck for platform options.

    I seriously think someone out there will eventually develop a platform that feels quite a bit like what we think of as "a MUSH" without ever having heard of MUSHes.

    We just need the outlier who codes the basics (rooms, a customizable CGen, communications, sheets, boards, 'staff' flags, tickets) and that's it.


  • Coder

    @rook said in The Death Of Telnet: Is It Time To Face The Music?:

    How would you completely redo MU* so that it is not command>output in two windows? Is that even a goal here?

    It's my goal. Here's a rough prototype of how you might do scenes. Bear in mind it's only a prototype and I've already changed some things in the current web portal implementation. I'll no doubt change it more before it's done. The only reason there's still a telnet interface at all is for backwards-compatibility with existing players who don't want to switch, though that adds a lot of complexity to the codebase.

    But as @Arkandel says, we can debate it till the cows come home and frankly I'm tired of defending the idea. I'm building it. People will use it or they won't.

    @rnmissionrun said in The Death Of Telnet: Is It Time To Face The Music?:

    Evennia has been around for 11 years. I would hardly call that 'young'.

    People have been putzing around with it for 11 years, yet it's still on a 0.7 beta release and the first real games only seem to have hit in 2016. @Griatch can comment on its status further, but as far as I can tell it's very much still in development.

    ETA: Ares, incidentally, is also 11 years old. I started fiddling around with it back in 2006. And it's not done either.


  • Coder

    There is a crowd of however many that believe that Telnet is the problem.
    There is a crowd of however many that believe that Telnet is not the problem.

    Enter a thread that specifically states "Telnet is the problem", and both crowds will voice their opinion.

    People are getting personally offended by the voicing of opinions, so it seems much less a technical discussion than it is a preference discussion. I have tried to guide both of these threads into some sort of technical planning/dreaming/design direction, and each time people have apparently taken offense.


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