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Level vs Non-Level

by Zane T. Insane

When muds started out, they reflected the early D&D and Role-playing games (RPGs). In those days, everything was based on levels. Levels were an easy way of tracking advancement. Now days, however, the mud code base is being expanded and customized to the coders' needs in order to fix bugs, make screens look neater and cleaner, and just to add new features to make game play more enjoyable. Coders have explored the realm of level-less play, providing the player with limitless advancement through skills.
Building levels up

How many levels do you need?

These muds have become very popular among players, many who wish to join in and role-play intensely. People have felt levels are just too restricting and limited. What do you do once you have reached max level? Do you just stop playing? Quit and start all over again. Some players want a mud where they can keep playing and keep getting stronger.

Another topic is that of realism. In real life, we do not sit somewhere and learn some new skill in a few seconds or we do not suddenly get stronger and more powerful just by killing a bunch of monsters. We must train hard and practice every day. How are muds supposed to defend this argument? Well, I have simple answer from my own opinions as an intelligent player. I will address each of these topics individually

Levels vs Non-Levels: The everlasting struggle for popularity

I know some of you out there just can't shake the old ways. Levels have always had a place about Role-Playing games. Some might even say it is the very core of them. Others would simply want to do without them. Muds provide us with the "ultimate RPG": we are able to make/create our own virtual environment and share game play with people from all over the world. We may compete with one another or we may cooperate. Our character may be anything we imagine. But the greatest mud quality is the level of customization: infinite. Coders and Administrators can change their code to anything they choose, depending on their level of coding and imagination. Getting rid of levels is an easy step. The only problem is that gaining levels is one of the easiest ways of tracking advancement from a coding viewpoint. Once they are gone, how do you advance? A meta-type system is usually implemented to where you use XP gained from monsters to practice and train. So instead of killing monster after monster to gain a level to gain the practices and trains to advance, you simply kill monster after monster to gain XP to practice and train and advance. If a player looks at it that way, there really isn't much difference between the two systems. It's all a matter of killing countless enemy after enemy. So what sets these two apart? That goes into the next topic.

Levels: To end or not to end, that is the question

Should there be an end to levels on a mud? By that I mean a maximum level to achieve. Some players say that they should not be limited by levels. But in this player's opinion, I would get seriously tired of that. In theory, if a player were ahead of you when you started, and both of you kept at a constant rate of advancement, you would never be able to catch up and thus always be weaker. With a maximum level, once a player reaches the max, they can't advance and that gives weaker players a chance to "catch up." What to do when you reach max level? That is a tough question for those hack-and-slash adventurers who never took the time to see what all a mud can offer besides the countless slaying of mobiles. Muds have one of the greatest features imaginable: interaction. Players have the ability to talk with one another and make sentient decisions: something computers have yet to attain (well, we don't know exactly what the government does but to the public knowledge AI hasn't been developed). My main goal when I start a character is to attain maximum level, or at least a level of power that I feel comfortable with. Once I achieve that level, I Role-play and player kill more intensely. Player killing does not mean killing random people. I always have motives and logically player killing (not just "I'm evil so you must die" or something similar). To me, the computer-controlled enemies will never match the fun of a human-controlled enemy. The thrill is in having to use strategy, because you can never predict with 100% accuracy what another players next move is. I like surprises. Many players get so lost in computer games that they forget that interaction is what muds are about. If I wanted to slaughter thousands of mindless drones, I'll just turn on a video game.

Realism: The last true limit...

In many muds, Administrators tend to try to make their worlds as real as possible. Often times, however, they get so caught up in how real they must make things, they overlook something even more important: the player's enjoyment. I've heard arguments that levels aren't realistic. Not to sound like a kindergarten retort, but in any mud there is always a stray from reality. How else could you expect to see hit points? In real life if I slashed someone with a sword I would not do damage to their hit points, they would be seriously injured. It's just that in a game, it would not be too fun if you were to be hit one time and die. To me, a realistic mud isn't the ideal mud. A fun mud is idealistic. Overbearing Immortals who have no sense of fun generally kill the mud's player base, this I know from experience. The whole key to a mud is fun, not realism. A mud is somewhere I can go to get away for a little while and be someone else. In the end, we all have to remember that it is just a game and that although we sometimes get caught up in a mud for a while or maybe become hard core players, we all have to face the fact that it is not real. Text on a screen. We all have lives to live, and having fun is just part of it. No matter how hard you try, you can never make a mud "real."

The End: One final statement

All I have told you here is the opinion of one player. No matter what I say, all of you out there will not agree. Some of you will disagree, which is the entire point of an opinion. If everyone agreed with an opinion, it would not be an opinion anymore. I only write this so you will not have a closed mind about all other types of muds which are different from the type you play. All I ask is that you keep an open mind about all types of games. There's every kind of mud imaginable out there, and everyone will find something they like that may be different from what I like. Whether it be levels or no, try all kinds of experiences and see what you like best. And most of all, remember: it's only a game and there's always "quit."

Zane has been mudding for two years and spent most of my time on MUDweiser (one of the Implementors was Matt Steed aka Feroz, who had an article in the June Issue about graphical muds). I am an avid fan of PK intermixed with RP and have plans to start up a mud of my own in the next year. (My name/age are kept secret so you just have to be in the dark about that)