There’s been some talk about ways to reach a wider audience (this forum being kind of an experiment in that itself) and it’s gotten me thinking of other ways too.
I’ve kind of gotten the impression that MUDs are looked down on by the IF community (I don’t know why; I mean, what’s not to love about a game that has mazes and dragons and hack 'n slash combat and deathtraps and undescribed objects and hunger daemons, right? )
But despite that, I still think they’d be an excellent way to introduce people to IF, for several reasons.
1.) I started off playing MUDs. Thanks to this, when I finally discovered IF, there was almost zero learning curve and I was able to get into it right away.
2.) Lots and lots of people play MUDs. Way more than the number of people playing IF, anyway. Why doesn’t anyone ever advertise IF on their forums? mudconnect.com/
3.) Most MUDs have an area called a newbie school, which is annoying as hell for veteran players, but essential in teaching new players the basics. You learn how to move around, examine things, unlock doors, talk to NPCs, manipulate objects, etc. (And of course you learn about combat, but that’s not really relevant here.) Obviously including this in an IF game would break the hallowed memesis, but I’ve always thought the newbie school was better than tossing someone into a game (which may or may not be completely unsuitable for newbies), and making them reading through a dry and non-interactive help file about basic commands, assuming the game even includes one.
4.) Using one of the global chat systems there are always helpful people around to answer questions about anything the newbie school didn’t cover.
5.) It’s a heck of a lot easier to describe IF to a MUD player than to someone who’s never played a text game. “It’s sort of like a single player MUD, but it’s got a detailed plot that you’re the star of and mostly focuses on puzzles and exploration.” versus, “Well, everything is described with text. It’s like, you have a description of a room, like the main character’s living room, and if there’s a couch mentioned in the description you can type ‘look couch’ to examine it more closely, or you could type ‘north’ to go to the kitchen, …and hey, where are you going?!”
6.) MUD players understand the parser, and the limitations of the parser. It can’t be stressed enough how important this is. I’ve tried showing IF to a few people, and assuming they actually get past the first room they generally wind up phrasing an action in some bizarre way and then get pissed off when the game doesn’t understand them. (This is assuming they even get past the stage where they stare blankly at the starting room. Another nice thing about MUD players is that in order to play MUDs they have to have this little thing called “reading comprehension.”)
So, it’s all well and good to target people who like reading books or whatever, but with MUDs you’ve got a nice cross section of people who consider reading fun, people who are capable of using their imaginations, people who are computer savvy, people who are into obscure hobbies, and people who are into gaming in general.
For those last four reasons I think we should be making more effort to get the word out to communities that are into roguelikes and abandonware too. (The Underdogs has always been great about listing and reviewing IF and other indie games, but we could be hitting the forums a little more aggressively too.)
Also, one idea I posted about on the Adrift forums was fanfic. IF based on Harry Potter, or Buffy or anime or some other godawful trendy thing and then advertised on a couple of fansites would probably bring in hordes of new players. (Maybe not the highest quality of new players, but wanting IF to be appeal to a wider audience and then being really picky about that audience is a conflict of interests.)